A change would do me good

Notice things looking a little . . . different around here? If you’re in a feed reader, perhaps not — but click through and check out the new digs!

I’ve been wanting to spruce write meg! up for the last few months, but the idea of changing themes and recoding portions of the site seemed overwhelming. By chance, though, I came across a layout I really loved on WordPress — Hemingway Rewritten, aptly — and fell in love. I could see the delightful possibilities.

Why the spruce? Well, the last incarnation of write meg! came in November 2010 — three and a half years ago. Since then, I’ve gotten heavily into photography and wanted to showcase larger images . . . and the last layout wasn’t conducive to that.

With everything changing so much in my non-digital life (packing up the condo, moving to the new house, changing offices last year), it felt appropriate to extend my “redecorating” to my online home, too. Plus, it’s midway through the year — a time to consider resolutions, maybe how our time is working or not working for us. It’s a simple thing, a blog layout, but I feel better for having stepped into a new realm.

And new things can be fun! Scary, yes, but also refreshing. I love the simplicity of this larger layout as well as the great white space — and heck, the font is bigger! (Better for aging eyes. You do know I’ll be 29 next month? I set everything to 125% at work. No joke.)

It’ll take a bit to customize everything to my liking, but that’s the fun of it. Just as I’m pushing to get through the drudgery of physically moving all our worldly goods, the hard part of changing here is done. Everything else is just delightful decorating.

Happy Friday, friends! We’ll be painting and continuing our quest to get the new house move-in ready before June comes to a close on Saturday, then celebrating Dad on Sunday.

Hoping for a cool breeze . . . and plenty of strong coffee! See you Monday.


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Year six

Cupcake


I’m back, friends! And not a moment too soon . . . because today is actually write meg!’s sixth birthday, and I wouldn’t want to miss the party.

And by “party,” I really mean a blog post. Because I’m still fighting jet lag, have barely been sleeping, am getting ready for our big move and feel slightly like I’m losing my mind. But, you know, if anyone has cupcakes handy . . .?

(We must party with cupcakes.)

Six years ago today, I wrote my first blog post — which was all of three paragraphs long. I didn’t know what I was doing, had no “vision” for the site . . . I just knew that I liked having an online presence and had created websites before (fan pages dedicated, in turn, to Hanson and ‘NSYNC. Woo ’90s?). Plus, I really missed my English program in college. Missed words and books and reader camaraderie.

I was 22, a year out from the University of Maryland, working as an assistant editor at the same newspaper where I’m still happy to return each day . . . and without a creative direction, really. A friend told me about WordPress and blogs and, given how bored I was on my lunch breaks, I started doing some research.

One of the first book-related sites I found was Rebecca’s, followed by Smart Bitches, Trashy Books — and the whole idea of discussing books really gained momentum with me. I didn’t write my first book review (Jennifer Weiner’s Little Earthquakes) until September, but then I was really on a roll.

If you like statistics (me me me)? Since June 3, 2008, write meg! has . . .

• Published 1,540 posts
• Posted 421 book reviews
• Received 18,209 comments
• Been Freshly Pressed by WordPress (here, here, here)
• Welcomed many pals into my life


Of everything on that list, I’m most proud of the final point. Blogging has shaped me into a more confident writer — but none of that would mean much if I didn’t have folks in my corner. We’re our own little cadre of friendship and sharing and great books, aren’t we? When I was on vacation last week, I missed y’all. Missed your encouragement and thoughts and fun.

I’ll admit that, at times, I suffer the occasional identity crisis. write meg! has no main focus, no singular platform. I write about books, yes, but I also write about cupcakes and decorating and weight loss and photography and, for a while, wedding planning . . . and down the road, I imagine I’ll also weigh in on motherhood and babies and home chaos. (And maybe gardening, because I really don’t know what I’m doing out there.)

But that’s good, I think. It’s me. Dear Melissa wrote a post about this very topic last week, and I nodded along with so many of her points. I’ve never dreamed up write meg! as anything other than my own little corner of the Internet to share anything and everything, and I feel immeasurably fortunate that it’s brought so many kind, wonderful people into my life along the way.

Thank you, thank you.

So many of my biggest moments — happy, sad, joyous, uncertain — have been pieced out and sewn together with words right here, and I can’t imagine not making my way to this space each weekday.

I hope I never do.


Life lately — and a little sanity break

Leaves


It’s probably a surprise to exactly no one that, five days from my sister’s wedding, I’m starting to freak out. Not because my baby sister is getting married (!), but because there is much to coordinate and figure out and settle. People to wrangle, decor to set up, logistics to configure. Jewelry to acquire. Speeches to finish. Family to hug and catch up with and, you know, an entire wedding to help coordinate.

Also, my baby sister is getting married. On Saturday.

I just. cannot.

They’ll be off to Hawaii shortly and I will begin the arduous task of packing up my childhood bedroom — for real this time — and moving my belongings to Spencer’s in mid-October. We’ve been getting things organized in prep for my move, and I’ve finally crossed from anxiety to wanting to just tackle that project. Though I’m only going 20 minutes away, the idea of moving most everything I own is daunting.

Daunting.

To say nothing of changing my addressand nameon everything associated with me. That should be fun!

So life lately: barely controlled chaos. Not to mention all the remaining details we must tackle for our own wedding happening in five weeks or so, but I actually feel calm about that. Weird, right? I mean, Spencer and I are in it together, we have a good team in place, most everything has been purchased and several vendors actually paid off . . . it could be much worse. I’m methodically going through my spreadsheets and lists, crossing things off as I go, and I feel less panicky than I’d expect.

But I’m sure that will come.

Some days I feel very overwhelmed. I can’t sleep. My stomach hurts. Other times I feel content, calm, relaxed. It’s a day-by-day, almost minute-by-minute flux . . . but I guess that’s how everyone feels before big occasions! Right now I’m focused on Katie and making her big day fantastic, and I know everything will come together beautifully despite some hiccups. All will be well.

As I’m wading into a pool of wedding and life madness, I’ve decided to take a wee little break from the blog. Though I’ve always written here because I enjoy it (and absolutely still do!), I feel guilty when I go days without posting . . . and I need to stem that guilt. I don’t like thinking I’m letting aspects of my life “slide” while I reorganize, regroup and adjust, but the truth is that I simply can’t keep up with everything right now.

To preserve the frayed edges of my sanity, I’m taking a vacation and will plan to return refreshed — probably in a week or two. I might not come back to posting five days a week at first, but we’ll see. I’ll write when I feel comfortable writing then retreat into a land of tulle, lace and moving boxes when I must.

Send your good thoughts! Your encouragement! Your wisdom! If you feel so inclined, send me a pumpkin spice latte! . . . Goodness knows I’m going to need all the caffeine I can get.

And I will definitely still see you on Instagram. I’ll be the one (finally) eating — and documenting — her feelings.

xoxo


Celebrating five years of write meg!

five years


When I started write meg! on June 3, 2008, I was one year out of college and reaching the end of my bookseller days. A friend has recommended blogging — and WordPress — to me, calling it his “creative outlet.” As I was slightly bored and feeling pretty directionless without college classes to give my days structure, a creative outlet sounded pretty good to me.

I created the site on a whim, set up a Gmail address, and named it based on my desire to make a career as a writer. Or a novelist, more specifically. I wrote a few posts on this and that, and it was fun — but nothing really had traction. My post on a trip to the Newseum netted me a dozen visitors that July afternoon, and I thought I had made it, friends. I mean, twelve people?!

I didn’t have a vision. I wasn’t “branding myself.” I had no real goal beyond keeping an online journal of sorts and, eventually, sharing my love of reading with others. I was 22 and still fresh in the working world; my experiences in an office environment dominated most of my posts. I wasn’t sure I had anything interesting to say, but I’ve run websites — mostly dedicated to Hanson, ‘NSYNC or completely emo poetry — since I was 12. Starting a new one in my twenties was a natural fit.

second designBeyond my personal musings, the book reviews began to appear. I accidentally discovered book blogs in the fall and, like a crash of lightning, I’d found my calling. Books! I could write about books! I missed my endless discussions of Shakespeare and Eudora Welty in English classes, and the chats I’d share with Borders customers were coming to a close. Thinking about sharing my reading life online was like peeking into a long, cavernous hallway. I didn’t know what was hiding behind all those closed doors — but I couldn’t wait to find out.

When people ask if I run a book blog, I say yes. When they ask if I pen a personal blog, I say sure. write meg! has never been anything but exactly what I’m feeling at any moment: a home for my wayward thoughts; a place to explore everything I love.

Have I had blog-related existential crises before? Sure. From time to time, I wonder what I’m really “doing” by spending so many hours — hours and hours — discussing life and books and photography and love and cupcakes right here. At a time when I could have been writing the next great American novel (ha) or going to medical school or something (double ha), I’ve dedicated five years of my life to chronicling the thoughts buzzing around my frizzy-haired head.

But it has been worth it. Tenfold.

I think about all the friends I’ve made (YOU!) and the places I’ve explored and the books I’ve read and the recipes I’ve tried and the overwhelming camaraderie I’ve felt through my participation in the blogging community, and I can’t feel anything but deep affection. Love. I don’t know if I would have believed I’d still be running write meg! five years on from June 3, 2008, but here I am: approaching my 28th birthday; a newspaper columnist; a soon-to-be married woman.

Life. It keeps moving and moving.

I wanted to write something BIG and IMPORTANT on my fifth anniversary, but all I can scribble is something that’s always held true: I’m so happy you’re here. Whether I was writing for one or a thousand, this space has helped me make sense of the world. Of my world. To be blunt, it’s made me feel less alone at times when I felt very lonely.

You’ve supported me. You’ve cheered me on. You’ve congratulated with me. When necessary, you’ve commiserated with and comforted me.

Thank you. I am so grateful.

As I wrote in 2010, blogging has given me the confidence and support to change my career path. Once a quiet editor for three suburban newspapers, the “secret” of my blog leaking is what led to getting my newspaper column. My posts at write meg! stretch across the world, and my musings in my corner of it reach 50,000 readers in print. Seeing my byline weekly in my hometown paper is truly a dream come true, and I don’t think I would have ever been given that chance without the blog breaking the ice.


Some fun stats —
because numbers can be fun!

• Total blog posts: 1,334
• Total book reviews: 378
• Total visits: 544,128
• Total subscribers: 6,740
• Total comments: 14,774
• Most viewed post: Review of Something Blue by Emily Giffin (18,976 views)
• Most views in one day: 4,555 (for the Key lime cupcakes)
• Freshly Pressed by WordPress: twice! (for this and this)


It was true three years ago, and it’s true now: blogging has made my life pretty awesome. Thank you.


Half a million

Cupcakes


Yesterday morning, write meg! quietly hit a milestone: 500,000 page views.

Half a million views. Of my posts.

That’s not unique visitors, friends; WordPress doesn’t divulge that information to yours truly. But regardless, half a million views feels pretty . . . well, pretty huge to me.

My blog will turn five years old (!) in June, so I’ll save the sappy memories for then. In the meantime, thanks for coming by. As the years have progressed, write meg! morphed from a personal blog to a bookish one . . . and is now somewhere in the middle: a sweet literature-laced hybrid of the two. While I don’t have a real blogging “identity” or fit into a niche, as professionals decree, I know that I love this space and all its incarnations — and our community.

Onward!


Who I am


On a June afternoon in 2008, I sat down to pen my first post on write meg! I was 22, a recent college grad, and desperately searching for a creative outlet after taking a newspaper job in my hometown. Though I enjoyed my work as an assistant editor, I missed school — and the freedom and joy of writing poetry and reading all day. (Seriously, that was my life. And they actually gave me a degree for it.)

Four and a half years later, I’m still at it — and loving it. I “outed” myself as a blogger to my real-life acquaintances years ago, and that knowledge helped move me from an assistant editor to a real-deal one — and earned me a newspaper column. This blog is my “home” on the Internet — and the vessel through which I’ve met countless friends (like you!).

Honestly, I can’t imagine my life without blogging — even if, over the years, it’s changed and grown. After getting sick a few weeks back and not posting for a few days, my dad asked if I could ever see an end to the site. Thinking for a few seconds, I shrugged. “I don’t think so,” I said. “I don’t know what I would do.”

And I don’t.

As I welcome long-time friends and new ones to write meg! (hi to Story of My Life readers!), I’d like to introduce myself — in all my frizzy-haired glory.


In no particular order, I am . . .

• A writer. Having penned my first “novel” on a bunny named Carrot in second grade, my world is strung together by words. Writing is a daily meditation, a form of therapy, a salvation. It’s the way in which I present myself — and the lens through which I understand myself and the world. I can’t not write, and I couldn’t ever stop being a writer.

• A reader. Couples nicely with the first one, eh? My purse feels way too light and weird without a paperback in it. My blog was initially born of my desire to talk about what I was reading, and my reviews are an important part of write meg! But more than the reviews? I love just chatting books with y’all. Reading is a daily ritual as important as sleeping or eating. I make time for it — always.

• A girlfriend. It took years, tears and many a dud relationship to find Spencer, my own princely scientist, but I feel grateful every day for his presence in my life. Whether we’re watching “Downton Abbey” (I converted him!), traveling, hanging with my family or wandering around Southern Maryland, our time together means everything to me.

• A Marylander. I’m incredibly proud of my small, Old Bay-scented state — a place I’ve called home since birth. Our proximity to Washington, D.C., often means we’re combined with other residents of the metropolitan area — but I’m happy to be a true-blue Marylander. And sorry, our state flag is totally coolest.

• A daughter. And a sister. Over the years, my mom and dad have morphed from parents to friends — and I feel fortunate to have a strong bond with them. My little sister is my best friend, confidante and cheerleader — and someone I’m proud to know.

• A baker. I’ve developed a reputation as the Cupcake Lady — and can’t show up to a summer party without the popular Key lime variety. Baking is very Zen to me, and I totally stress bake. If something bad has happened, I’ll probably show up with angel food. It’s just my way.

• A traveler. My parents started carting my sister and me around the U.S. as kids, showing us the wonders of everywhere from Williamsburg, Va., to the Grand Canyon. London is my absolute favorite city — a place I’m so obsessed with seeing that I visited three times in five years. But I’m also pretty fond of California, especially San Francisco and Yosemite. And, you know, just about everywhere else. I’m not really picky. Hand me a plane ticket and I am gone.

• An iPhoner. I’m shamelessly addicted to technology, friends, and my iPhone — last year’s Christmas present — is surgically attached to my hand. I’m trying to get better about tuning out, even going so far as to put my phone on the other side of the room, but hearing the “ding!” of an email is enough to send me scrambling. It’s bad.

• A photographer. Since buying my first “big girl” camera in 2010, I rarely leave home without my Canon Rebel. I grew up posing in front of my mom’s lens, but it took joining a photography club with my mom, meeting Spencer and making my own camera purchase for me to really get hooked. I’ve learned so much in a short time — and can’t wait to document all the exciting life events to come! For now, I settle with slamming y’all with photos on Wordless Wednesdays. And I’m all about Instagram, too.

• A Diet Coke drinker. Despite my efforts to quit in the past, I’m addicted to my morning diet soda. If a cup of coffee happens to be left unattended, well — I might partake. But nothing beats the refreshing zest of a Diet Coke. My officemates report they know I’m in the building when they hear the crack of my can — a habit five years strong. I’d say I’m not proud of it, but that would be a fib. (And okay, I never really tried to quit. That was a beautiful daydream . . . once.)

• A dog lover. My golden retriever is a riot and a half — and such a good buddy. He’s our second family dog, behind my dear girl Roxie, and I believe a dog squeeze can cure what ails you.

• A friend. Though my circle of buddies as grown admittedly small since entering the working world, I really value the friends in my life. Though it might sound odd, I hope I’ll someday be described as someone who had a friendly word for everybody. And I really treasure my blogging connections. You make my world so much warmer.

• A questioner of things. Though I’ve been out of college for more than five years (!) and done with high school for nine (!!), I try to stay inquisitive. I love learning new things, often devouring books and documentaries on my favorite subjects (like the Dust Bowl), and will always consider myself a student.

• A letter writer. I believe very strongly in the power of the written word — and “real” mail is important to me. As a devout member of Postcrossing and a letter-writer on my own, I love nothing more than a personal note . . . and seeing someone else’s handwriting. In our digital world, that connection is powerful.


So there’s probably more . . .

. . . But I don’t have to hit you with everything in one post. I look forward to sharing more thoughts on books, writing, love and food as we sip coffee (or Diet Coke!) along this crazy path together.


—–

Whether you stumbled upon me years ago or are just tuning in today, feel free to introduce or re-introduce yourself in the comments. Blogging is all about connections — and I’m really happy you’re here.


P.S. I’m guest-posting today about my trip to Wales and the experience of reading I Capture the Castle actually in a UK castle at The Worm Hole. Stop on by!


Book review: ‘Sad Desk Salad’ by Jessica Grose

When Alex Lyons lands a gig writing snark-tastic posts for Chick Habit, a Jezebel-like website geared toward women, she’s delighted — especially since the job doesn’t require her to leave her tattered couch in New York City. The 25-year-old writer may have loftier goals, sure — ones that would take her beyond commenting on a celebrity’s erratic behavior. But for the moment, Chick Habit fills her need for a steady paycheck and allows her to stay in a place she loves with Peter, her supportive boyfriend. There’s time to branch out later.

Or so she thinks. As Alex learns Chick Habit may be bought out and a new hater website — Breaking the Chick Habit, designed to sully the reputations of CH’s core writers — launches, Alex feels intense pressure from the higher-ups to rake in the page views. A website’s stats are its lifeblood, after all, and the CH women are in competition for the most controversial (i.e. viral) stories.

After a shocking video lands in Alex’s inbox, our narrator must decide whether to publish a story that could potentially destroy a young woman’s life and career — or push forward in her own interest, darn the repercussions. But when her digital world collides with her real one, the consequences could be extreme.

Jessica Grose’s Sad Desk Salad is a fast-paced peek behind the world of online superstardom. Grose herself is a former editor at Jezebel, one of my favorite ways to spend my lunch hour while eating my own “sad desk salad,” so I was really looking forward to a peek behind the HTML, if you will. (Bad blogger joke  — sorry!) With its frenetic energy, witty dialogue and snappy characters, Sad Desk Salad was a fun way to spend an afternoon. And a clear reminder I could never make it in New York.

Narrator Alex is quick to draw readers into her world. The story spans a single week, and this glimpse at the complicated and fast-paced world of online journalism — or online gossip, depending on your perspective — was eye-opening. But for all the snark and attitude, the book also raises interesting questions about the ethics of sharing (and oversharing) in our digital age. Though no easy answer exists, it gave me something to chew on.

For readers interested in online publishing, blogging and our American celebrity culture, Sad Desk Salad is a quick read — and a fun one. Though no character outside Alex really gets beyond two-dimensional status, I felt connected with our narrator and hoped she would emerge relatively unscathed. (And shed the disgusting eyelet muumuu she dons for half the book. Ick.) I wished we could have gotten to know Molly, an aspiring editor from the Midwest, a little better — especially as she felt the most stereotypically bouncy and “New York, gee golly, YAY!” of the cast. Still, everyone served a purpose.

Fans of “The Devil Wears Prada” and avid readers of Jezebel, among other sites, will likely find much to enjoy in Sad Desk Salad. I whipped through it at lightning speed and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up Grose’s next book.


3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0062188348 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review