Why writing a first draft is like having a baby

Writing the first draft of a novel is a bit like having a baby. Hidden from view, the most amazing creation is being formed inside of you, and then one day, a small slimy, mass emerges – and you instantly fall in love with it.

Who doesn’t love a beautiful pink, chubby, smiling baby? Even though your baby doesn’t quite look like that yet, you also know babies grow. You have faith in your baby, and can already imagine what it will look like in your head.

So you assume that everyone else will love your wrinkly, red newborn, which cries incessantly and smells strange – because that’s not what you see. You are already looking at your baby with the benefit of birth hormones and nitrous oxide. You know it is the most beautiful baby in the world and everyone will agree with you.

In short, you are deluded.

Writing a first draft, I have discovered, is a bit like that. Growing a book inside you is like being pregnant. So much is going on inside your head that it can begin to take over your entire life, you live and breathe it, think about it during the day, dream about it at night. But it’s all going on inside you – so no one can really understand what’s happening, or appreciate the magnitude of what is taking place.

Then one day you announce you have written a book. Plop.

Some friends will immediately ask to read it. They’re either ignorant of all of the slime and blood still covering your creation, or they just love books (or you) so much, they want to read it, even if it means having the literary equivalent of meconium dribbling onto their laps and never being able to get the smell of sour milk (and poorly formed, clichéd characters) out of their noses.

You can give your stinky newborn book to your best friend or sister or partner or mum to read, but beyond this circle, it’s best to at least wash and dress the baby book before passing it on to the next visitor. After all, you’d like your visitor to come back again and not slink away in embarrassment, wiping vomit from their shoulder, never to look you in the eye again.

And while you may be convinced your book will grow up to be as handsome as Orlando Bloom, this does not give you permission to thrust your infant novel, still in nappies, at the nearest publisher demanding they agree ‘how good (looking) it is.’

And so as writers we must allow our newborn books to grow, to develop. We must wait for them to move through the stages at their own pace, and never be impatient for them to run before they can walk, or indeed, before they can even crawl.

Personally, I am hoping it won’t take 18 years for my freshly delivered, still mewling newborn book to develop to the stage where it’s ready to take on its own life, but I am fascinated to see what happens from here, and how it will grow and change.

paper-1100254_1280

A character by any other name

While my novel has been inspired by real-life people, it is ultimately fiction and so all my characters needed new names when I began to write.

A character’s name is so important, it is worn like an item of clothing that one cannot remove. It distinguishes you and discloses things about you, more than we realise. Choosing a name for my characters was an exercise in finding monikers which were historically accurate, and for some, a fun way to recognise family and friends.

My character Charles is loosely based on Walter Blair, a student who attended Claremont Training College at the same time as Doris and who sadly died in WW1. Although Walter died at the age of 21, there are a number of images of him that survive – his role in the College football and cricket teams meant there were plenty of team photos from his time at the College. This meant that I was able to use some of his physical characteristics when writing the character.

Walter needed a different name when he became a character in my book. Very little of Walter Blair’s life actually informed the character, and besides, Walter was the name I was using for my protagonist’s father. Charles was an easy decision as it was a common name of the time, and to choose his new surname I chose that of a friend whose first name was actually Blair, a moment of quick word association. This was how the character became Charles Morgan, a name that I felt was strong and somewhat refined, and could easily represent a man born into a family of well-bred lawyers at the turn of the twentieth century.

Today, while researching the second convoy of ships to leave Western Australia for the front, I discovered that there was a real-life Charles Morgan from Perth, who also was a Corporal, and who also served with the 11th Battalion, just the same as my fictional character. Real-life Charles Morgan was killed in action in France in July 1916. I also found Private Charles Morgan, a farmhand who served with the 10th Light Horse, the same Battalion as my character John.

I admit I am devastated, and disappointed with myself that I hadn’t thought to check sooner. It was a good name and will be difficult to think of my character by another, but out of respect for the real-life Charles Morgan’s who enlisted in WW1 from Perth, I now need to find a new one (or at least a new surname) for my character.

Immediately after my discovery about Charles, I had a moment of panic when I thought about my other main male character, John O’Meara. This character was loosely based on the real-life John Regan, and even though I kept the same first name, I chose another surname to represent his Irish heritage.

A quick search on the National Archives turned up dozens of John O’Meara’s who served in WW1 as well as the record of a John O’Meara who was a patient in a Queensland mental asylum. However none of them enlisted from West Australia, and so I am content to keep the name.

So now I am on the lookout for a new surname for my character – and I welcome any suggestions.

pexels-photo-261510.jpeg

Reference:

http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-conflicts-periods/ww1/1aif/1div/03bde/11th_battalion_aif.htm

Starting a New Blog – Mistakes I am Not Making This Time

Today marks the launch of my fourth blog: Fundraising Mums. Actually, if I’m being honest there was that other anonymous blog I started a couple of years ago and then freaked out and stopped publishing. It’s still out there in the virtual world, gathering dust and confusing people.

But Fundraising Mums is the first blog I have set up with an actual business plan. It is not just a place to collate memories like Relentless, nor a way to improve my clicks at WeekendNotes like Perth Food Reviews, and it is not all about me like shannonmeyerkort.com

Fundraising Mums was created because I identified an actual gap in the market and I wanted to fill it. I did my research, engaged professionals to help, I marketed, I sought advertisers, I spent three months working on it before I hit publish.

I am pretty happy with it today – but I cannot wait to see it in six month’s time when it really hits it stride.

Mistakes I made with Relentless

The biggest mistake I made with my first blog was not really thinking about the name I gave it. I was at a blogging workshop with the inspiring Amanda Kendle and even though I should have realised we would be expected to make (and name) a blog, I did not prepare. So gave it the first name I thought of: From Mum to Me.

Did you just wince? Or screw your face up? Because you don’t know what that means?

In my head it meant: I am starting this blog at a time when I am so heavily involved in being a mum to my (then) two daughters that I no longer remember who I am, or what else I am other than being a mum.’ The blog was meant to represent my journey from being ‘just a mum’ to being ‘me’.

But apparently that wasn’t immediately clear to others. You can read more about my ridiculous decision here.

After a year or so and the arrival of Baby Number Three suddenly it dawned on me that the blog should be named Relentless. Because that was what my life with three kids was like.

But it is not that easy to change the name of your blog – there is all this technical stuff with URLs and the like – not to mention the fact that you just confuse people.

Lesson 1: choose a name that not only suits your blog now, but will stay relevant as the blog grows and changes. You must LOVE it and it must make sense to others immediately.

Some might argue that Fundraising Mums is a sexist title that excludes not only Dads but teachers, coaches, grandparents and anyone without kids. I totally get that and I will wear the criticism, but it struck me as being a catchy title that was inclusive of about 90% of potential readers.

Mistakes I made with Perth Food Reviews

There were a few mistakes I made with Perth Food Reviews.

The first was that I was trying to break into an extremely full market already brimming with some top-notch and well established bloggers. Perth simply did not need one more food blog, especially when it was blatantly clear that my primary intention was to send traffic to WeekendNotes.

I am proud of my restaurant and cafe reviews on WeekendNotes and I think they are really useful, but I was constantly being asked by friends ‘where can I go in xxx to find yyy type of food’ or ‘where is the best xxx in Perth?’.

WeekendNotes doesn’t have the ability to search on questions such as this, so my thought was to create a new blog where people could search for particular types of food (Asian versus pub grub), certain styles of restaurant (fine dining versus share plates) or on particular requirements (child friendly versus views).

It was all rather noble, but apart from the cent per view I would receive if people actually clicked through to the WeekendNotes article, there was nothing in it for me. So I lost interest.

Which is a pity because I put in a lot of time setting it up, but it hasn’t been updated in ages and with the rapid rate restaurants go out of business here in Perth and new ones spring up, it is probably already outdated.

Lesson 2: don’t start a new blog unless you are really invested in it. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and be prepared to commit both time and energy in the long term.

I see Fundraising Mums as a long term project, and it utilises all my talents and interests from writing, reviewing, researching, storytelling and project managing. I have hundreds of story ideas – my problem is going to be finding the time to write them all. The other point of difference is that this will be the first of my blogs that I monetise and offer advertising for. I have always been reluctant to put adverts on my other sites thinking it will annoy readers, but when people come to FRM they will WANT to see adverts for innovative fundraising companies. Win win.

Mistakes I made with shannonmeyerkort.com

I’d like to say this is a perfect site considering this is the one you are currently reading, but I acknowledge it is a small group of you who visit (thank you) and the content – while hopefully relevant and interesting to writers – is highly specific and also very personal. Readers often want broader information with no obvious author.

They don’t want to hear my voice, because frankly, they don’t care.

And I respect that.

I am the first to admit that I tend to spend more time on blogs that are less personal. Why? Because I make the (perhaps incorrect) assumption that the information is more universal and therefore, perhaps more relevant to me and my situation.

Lesson 3: personal blogs will attract like-minded followers who will engage and support you, but chances are you will have far fewer readers than a blog which is more universal and objective. Decide on your tone and style as well as your content, as this will influence people as to whether they want to feel involved personally, or more remotely.

Fundraising for schools is relevant to me (next year all three of my children will be at school) but it isn’t personal. I can invest more of my time in FRM without necessarily investing more of myself and my family. There is already plenty of that here and on Relentless. FRM is more business-like and while I really enjoy sharing great products and ideas, it’s not all about me, and frankly, that’s a good thing.

What are the main lessons you have learned from starting your own blog? What mistake won’t you be repeating?

PS. I have actually released my first book on Amazon: The Brutal Truth About the Third Child. You can buy it here. It will actually be FREE for July 1 and 2.

But that’s a story for another day.

1,000,000 Clicks and Counting: How to write a viral blog post

On Monday the 13th of February in 2012 I sat down at the kitchen table and bashed out a post for my blog Relentless. I was about a week short of giving birth to my third child, and it was a tongue in cheek comparison between the first, second and third pregnancies. Much of it was based on experience, some of it was – shall we say – writer’s liberties.

It took me a bit longer than usual because of how I structured it, but when I was done I was pretty happy with it. I gave it a title and hit publish. Then I forgot about it. For about four hours…

‘The Brutal Truth About the Third Child’ quickly become my most popular post. By mid afternoon it had been read 4,500 times, by bedtime on Tuesday it reached 10,000 views. Within a month it had been read around 25,000 times. Two years on it has been read on my blog a quarter of a million times. But these numbers are relatively small, and it was only when other websites asked to republish the post (and I allowed only three other sites to do so) that the numbers went viral.

When the post was republished on ScaryMommy, a hugely popular and very funny site in the US, it was shared over a million times in the first five days. ScaryMommy founder Jill Smokler said she’d never seen anything like it.

I’d like to think I could match its success, but in the years since I have tried and failed. But something resonated with readers, so today I am going to pick apart the anatomy of ‘The Brutal Truth’ and list the seven key essentials for writing a viral blog post.

20141028_111050

1. Sharable Headline

Unless they’re your mum, most people won’t read a blog post simply because you’ve written it. You’ve got to give them a reason to click, and by this I mean a killer title.

For some reason, negative headlines seem to be more popular than positive ones. Therefore while my choice of the word ‘brutal’ was dumb luck at the time, I realise now it was inspired dumb luck. Everyone wants to read horrifying things, they want to be shocked. If I had called it ‘The Exciting Truth About the Third Child’ or ‘The Inspiring Truth About the Third Child’ no one would have bothered reading.

I’m bored already.

2. Killer content

A great headline might make people click, but unless what you have written is gripping and well paced, people won’t read to the end, and they sure as hell won’t share. Shares are what makes a post go viral, and it also makes it almost impossible to track.

A few months after I published ‘The Brutal Truth’ a friend sent me an email she said had been making the rounds. It was really funny and she thought I’d like it, since I now had three kids. I scrolled down and sure enough, there was my post. It had been cut and paste into the body of an email and was being forwarded. Unfortunately there was no link to my blog nor any mention of who wrote it.

3. A Little Bit Longer

When you think about all the blog posts your friends have been sharing and reposting and saying ‘you have to read this’, they probably all tend to be a bit longer than the average blog post, which runs between 500-800 words. The Brutal Truth was a whopping 1,900 words, which breaks a number of blogging rules, but it didn’t seem to make a difference to readers. Perhaps people are more likely to share something they have invested more time in, and short crappy posts can make people feel ripped off. ‘I wasted my click!’

4. People love lists

So many viral posts are lists of some form, and this is apparent in the title. Seven Reasons Why Cat People are Better than Dog People. Nine Things You Can Learn from Your Fetus. Five Things Only a Pregnant Woman Will Understand. (Feel free to use any of those titles and write your own viral post, by the way).

Lists are popular for a number of reasons. We are all lazy readers these days and the way we read text on a screen is different to how we read hard copy, and we are much more like to scan and skim read. Lists make it easy to do this. It increases the amount of white space on the screen, making it easier on the eye.

And for some reason, odd numbers have a bigger impact than even numbers. It’s true – have a look at the next ‘list’ post that comes your way.

5. Make it urgent

The blog has to be written, titled and marketed in a way that makes readers feel that if they don’t read it, they will be missing out. No one likes being the person who hasn’t heard of the hottest new trend, so you need to create the desire for people to click. Sometimes this is by writing about a controversial topic, or giving an ordinary topic a controversial spin. You should never tell a reader what to think in the title (eg don’t say ‘ten things you must know about packing school lunches’ but say ‘ten things you should know about packing school lunches’). It should make them desperate to read it.

Like you all now want to read about school lunches.

6. The curtains should match the carpet

It should be obvious, but if you’re going to use a really dramatic, negative, punchy and urgent headline, make sure the blog post is actually about that topic. Don’t use controversy to attract readers and then waffle on about your cat. That really pisses people off.

7. Be different and specific

Everyone is a writer these days. All you need is a computer and an internet connection, and away you go. There is a lot of great content out there, but also a lot of crap, and it makes it a lot harder to be noticed when there is something like half a billion blogs in existence and more being published every day.

How can you stand out in such a noisy crowd, when we are all shrieking ‘look at me, look at me’?

You need to find your niche and you should work with what you have. I am a mother of three now. 90% of the random traffic to Relentless are people who have googled topics to do with having three kids. Should they have three kids? How to tell their husband they’re pregnant with number three. How to cope with three kids. That’s what people want to read, and I’m fine with that. Sob.

The brutal truth though, is that you can’t actually write a viral post. There are no ‘rules’ or guarantees, otherwise we’d all be doing it, all the time. And I’d be very rich because I would put advertising on my site and cash in on my own success. Readers are a fickle lot, one day they want to read about grumpy cats and the next day they want awkward pictures.

My advice: keep writing if that’s what you love. And maybe one day, you’ll get lucky.

Should I Let Other People (Re)Publish my Posts?

This is an issue I have been grappling with for a while: should I let other websites publish my posts on their site?

What about SEO and duplicate content? Will Google freak out? Will readers get annoyed when they see the same post in multiple places? Will I be losing blog traffic? Will I be making other people money at my own expense? Will it affect my blog’s ranking?

On the other hand, will I be getting great exposure? Will I have access to thousands of other readers who wouldn’t normally come across my work? Is this actually the big break I am looking for?

The answer is: I don’t know.

I recently found this article by Kathryn Rose, where she discusses the topic of duplicate content, along with something called rel:canonical tags (which I’d really like to more about if anyone can translate), but the article focuses on when you guest post on someone else’s blog, and then republish on your own.

My specific question is whether I should let other sites republished my content. Do the pros outweigh the cons, especially for new writers, and are there circumstances when it is a bad idea?

In January 2013, iVillage Australia (23,000 Facebook likes) asked to republish ‘A Letter of Apology to my Middle Child’. I agreed on the basis that they were a respected Australian site with a decent following. It was the first time one of my posts had been republished and I was pretty flattered: apparently the editor followed my blog Relentless. Shortly after they asked to republish The Brutal Truth About the Third Child but at the time I refused, since that single post was bringing in about half my blog traffic.

Nothing much happened for a year, then suddenly in February 2014 I had multiple requests to republish The Brutal Truth About the Third Child. First was the UK site Best Daily (31,000 Facebook likes), then came the US site Scary Mommy (164,000 Facebook Likes), the Australian site Mamamia (123,000 Facebook Likes) and finally News.Com.Au (113,000 Facebook likes).

These are big sites, and have brought me an enormous amount of exposure.

Scary Mommy recorded over 1 million shares of my article in the first week, with the editor Jill Smokler saying that only 6 or 7 posts published on her site have ever recorded those sorts of numbers. My Facebook followers have tripled over the past couple of weeks, and Relentless (and this blog) is seeing a lot of traffic coming from these sites.

So I think the first point to make is that compared to my modest number of followers, these sites are massive. The exposure alone is worth the price of possible issues with ranking (though I doubt my ranking was that impressive to start with). So while it would make little sense to allow a site with a smaller fan base than your original blog to republish a post, there are plenty of benefits of being republished on a much larger site.

What about money you say? Those sites earn money from advertising, and people reading your article are probably earning them money.

True. Sort of. In the case of Scary Mommy, Jill puts her money where her mouth is, and Scary Mommy Nation raises money to help feed families who are in need of support. I’m happy to donate my words to an awesome cause like that.

The other sites are commercial, and yes, in a roundabout way my post might be making them a (tiny) bit of money. But I made the decision long ago not to monetise Relentless (maybe it is a decision I will regret) so every time someone clicks on Mamamia and not Relentless, it is not as though I am losing money I would otherwise make.

What about duplicate content?

I’m still scratching my head over this one, because Brutal Truth has now been published on three major sites in three different countries, in addition to my original Blogspot post. That means there are four sets of identical information out there (actually, the version on Best Daily isn’t identical – they wanted me to cut it down to 500 words, an impossible task considering the original is 1,900. We settled on 1,200 words).

So far Google hasn’t seemed to spit the dummy, but what will happen if it does? When you Google ‘The Brutal Truth About the Third Child’ the original blog still comes out on top, closely followed by Mamamia. Scary Mommy had the decency to change the title of the post so that I wouldn’t lose my original traffic, and Best Daily also changed it considerably. Mamamia didn’t change the title of the post, even though I asked them to, and I suspect with their followers it’s likely it will overtake Relentless on the rankings soon enough.

I have also decided that enough is enough, and I will have to say no to future requests to republish The Brutal Truth. It’s out there now, it’s a bit like a mogwai that got fed and now is a gremlin, threatening to take everything else over. I would like to see some of my other babies get some attention.

Another thing I didn’t plan for once the post was republished on big sites, was smaller sites then duplicating their content, with or without my permission. I have found  brutalised versions of The Brutal Truth, chopped and edited to pieces, without my name or blog mentioned anywhere. Needless to say, I have written some strongly worded letters asking them to cease and desist.

So what are lessons I have learned from this, and should you let other sites duplicate your content?

I think for someone in my position, the answer is an overwhelming yes.

I wasn’t make any money from the post anyway, so it’s no issue that commercial sites might be making a few dollars from my post. (It would be nice though, if I could cash in on my own success though.)

The enormous number of new readers is something I could never have hoped to achieve from my own modest blog, and it means that my writing – and my name – have now been seen by millions of readers that otherwise would never have stumbled across Relentless.

I have seen a boost in my Facebook followers and my blog readers.

Finally, I would like to think it paves the way for me to approach these sites (and others) with original work in the future, and hopefully negotiate a payment for new work. Which (I sometimes need to remind myself) is the whole reason for me being here.

 

What are your thoughts on having similar stories published on multiple sites? Is it annoying? Is it dangerous?

How to Unblock Bloggers Block

Feast or famine.

Flood or drought.

Inspiration or desperation.

Do these sound familiar to you? As writers, do you find that it’s all or nothing when it comes to your writing?

People who have been reading my other blog Relentless over the years can see that I tend to write in spurts, and can either publish a number of posts in a relatively short period of time, or my blog comes to resemble the literary equivalent of an abandoned Old West town, with spinifex rolling across the screen.

I recently attended some workshops at the Perth Writer’s Festival and found just being in a room of writers was enough to get my writing mojo back. I have been thinking about what inspires me as a blogger so here are my top tips for unblocking bloggers block. If you’re a novelist, click here for my top tips for unblocking writers block.

20140226_105108

During times of feast, prepare for the famine

When things are going well and the ideas are coming thick and fast, write them down. Keep a single book with all your writing ideas, even if you write in different genres. When times are good you probably won’t have enough hours in the day to act on everything, so leave them (with sufficient details and notes) so that when you are blocked you can go back and look at previous ideas.

What worked before, might work again

Look through your stats and see what has been popular in the past. What have been your five most read posts? Try and figure out what was special about those pieces – what made them resonate with readers? Was it the content or the format? Was it funny or thought-provoking, controversial or sad. Find what your readers respond to and write more like that.

Sometimes the answers for future posts can be found in your readers’ comments. See what people have responded to, and find out if they have asked any questions about you or your post.

Similarly, why not write a follow-up post about one of your popular articles or a Part II, like this follow-up to The Brutal Truth About the Third Child which ended up winning a writing competition at Parent Express.

Change it up

If you have an idea for a post but for whatever reason it’s not working try changing perspective. Perhaps you always write from the first person, but this time it’s not flowing. Pretend to be your child, your dog or a stranger writing about the same thing.

If you can’t change perspective then play with the format – rather than a straight story from your own point of view, write a letter or make a list. ‘Top 10 reasons why…’ posts tend to be popular as well as any list article that claims to be the ‘best of’.

There is a degree is universalism in these types of posts, the title gives the impression that they are relevant to a wider community, and isn’t simply a story about you.  What would you rather read: ‘My horrible day at the shopping centre’ or ‘Ten reasons why taking your toddler to the shops is bound to end in tears?’

Figure out what brings readers to your blog

Most blogging platforms offer easy stats programs which will tell you what search terms people have used before ending up on your blog. For Relentless at the moment they tend to be terms like: ‘advice on having baby number 3’, ‘planning for baby number 3’, ‘should I have a third child’ and my favourite ‘how should I tell my husband we’re having baby number 3’ (while offering him a stiff drink, dear).

While it is interesting to find out what random terms brought people to your blog by mistake, it is also a great tool to see what your readership are actively searching for. Why not offer them what they are looking for.

Based on the search terms people use before they come across Relentless I could easily write a series of posts dedicated to specific questions about having three kids: “How to tell your husband you want three kids”, “What happens when you want three kids and he doesn’t” or “How to prepare for the third child”.

All really good ideas I don’t have time for right now, so I will write them in my ideas book (see point 1).

Be a thief in the night

There is no copyright on ideas, I was told once during a writing workshop. While I wouldn’t advocate merely pinching someone’s idea carte blanche (that’s boring), I certainly think that finding inspiration in other writers’ posts is fair game.

When you read something that makes you feel happy/sad/angry/motivated ask yourself WHY did this evoke such a reaction? Now figure out how you can take that reaction and write your own post. Have they left any part of this story untold? Is there another side of the story? Could you tell your own version?

Sometimes it might be the title of the post that strikes a chord: write it in your book, give it some times to marinate and then begin your own post. It might (and should) be an entirely different article than the one from which you got your inspiration, but now at least you’re over your bloggers block.

What other ideas do you have for overcoming bloggers block?

A Writer By Any Other Name

Sometimes all a writer has is their name. And sometimes they don’t even have that.

Words are intangible. When you speak them, they do not last. They can be misheard, or forgotten, or misquoted. They can be claimed by someone else.

When you write online as I do, it is easy for your words to be separated from your name.

Not long after I wrote The Brutal Truth About the Third Child, a post about the differences between my three different pregnancies, a friend sent me an email with the comment ‘here’s a really funny story about having three kids, I thought you might like it’.

I did like it. I wrote it.

She had been sent an email with the body of my post cut out of my blog, and she had simply forwarded it to me. I am sure that whoever did the initial cutting and pasting did not mean anything malicious by it, indeed, they must have enjoyed my writing enough to send it to friends. But they had removed my name from the piece, and therefore took the one thing that linked me to my words.

Watching the stats for that one post, as it went a bit viral and bounced around the net, I was stunned by the numbers of people who were clicking on my blog to read that post.

But I was equally stunned by the fact that the numbers were not changing significantly on the hundreds of other posts on my blog.

Didn’t they like me? Why weren’t they sticking around and following my blog?

It has taken me a while to realise that – with a few exceptions – readers don’t care about the writers. They care about words, they care about stories and how they make them feel, but they don’t really care about the person who put they words together.

I prove this to myself almost every day when someone sends me a link or shares a post, which I then click on and read, laugh or frown or weep, and then click away again. I might click ‘like’ or share the post, but rarely do I stay to poke around the blog. Why? My time is short, my attention span limited, and sometimes I can see that the post is not reflective of the rest of the blog.

For whatever reason, it seems it is the individual piece of writing that has life and is important, not the individual who wrote it. As someone who writes for a living, this has been a bitter pill to swallow. While there are beloved family and friends who will read whatever you write because you are you, they tend to be the exception, rather than the rule.

So this is why I feel that having your name attached to your writing is important. It might be an exercise in futility because of everything I just mentioned, but every now and then, someone will see your name and begin to associate your words with a person, and a relationship is forged.

So why is it then, that everyone keeps getting my name wrong?

The first time I was published in the newspaper, having won a short story competition, my name was written as Shannon Meyerkor.

Then, when I published an article about having a caesarean section in Offspring, a national parenting and lifestyle magazine, I was credited in the front of the magazine as Shannon Meyerkart.

Most recently, in a story in the Sunday Times where I was interviewed about my article about share food etiquette, the caption under the photo has me as Shannon Merykort.

I have to admit, I like Merykort the most so far. It makes me sound happy.

When I read stories to my children before bed, I make certain I always read out the name of the author and illustrator after I read the title. It is their link to the stories that make my children happy, and I want them to understand that a person somewhere, behind a computer, has put these words together: it is their livelihood, it is their talent, it is their gift.