Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cool as a Cucumber

by Catherine Giordano

My news print poetry project requires that I write a poem a day, a “found poem” taken from something in the Orlando Sentinel. Sometimes I find a beautiful poem, and sometimes I go through the newspaper four times and can’t find anything.

Wednesday December 19 was one of those days—nothing!  In desperation I checked the “Ticked-off” column—a daily collection of reader complaints about things great and small. Usually the latter.

I saw a complaint about cucumbers. I turned it into a poem. I thought it reeked of desperation, but it reminded me a little of a very successful poem by William Carlos Williams entitled “I Should Have Told You.”  It’s a short simple poem about how Williams ate two plums from the refrigerator without telling his wife.

Plums. Cucumbers. What’s the diff?  I decided to post the cucumber poem. I entitled it “Ticked Off.”  

It was a Christmas miracle!  It got more than twice the number of hits as the typical poem.  More importantly, it got more than twice the number of ‘1+’s” from Google Circles. (On “Google Circles” a “1+” is like “liking” on face book.) It got more “+1” endorsements than any other poem for the whole year.

I was almost ashamed to post it, and it turned out to be a fan favorite!

Here is the William Carlos Williams poem.  You can read my poem on my blog.  Click here.

I found this picture at
This Is Just To Say                     

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

A New Author Credential

by Catherine Giordano

A magazine arrived in the mail this week and it had my essay in it. The magazine is The Florida Writer, published by the Florida Writers Association. For each issue, they ask members to submit a short essay on the theme they have chosen for the issue.

The current issue asked us to write about children.  I submitted an essay entitled “The Accidental Kidnapper.” It was about adopting my son years ago from Guatemala when he was five years old.  For me it was an adoption; for him, it felt like a kidnapping. (I did not actually kidnap anyone—I just used that title to be provocative.)

I have submitted essays twice to The Florida Writer published by The Florida Writers Association. Both times my essay was selected for publication. So I’m two for two; I’ll have to try again when the theme is of interest to me and try for three for three.

The first time was back in January and I wrote about organization. I’m very organized so it was easy to write on that topic—I just wrote all about my organization compulsion. That time I got an e-mail about a month before publication telling me my essay was selected.

This time, no e-mail (unless I missed or deleted it). I thought I hadn’t made the cut. So it was extra special to turn to the table of contents and see my name.

I’ve also had an essay published in the LIFE at UCF newsletter.  It was entitled “A Beautiful Woman.” The essay is part of my “The People I Have Almost Met” series—a bunch of essays about chance encounters and the relationships that ensue, but only last a couple of minutes at best. This one was about a chance encounter in the supermarket.

It’s great to have someone think my work is worth publishing. My next goal is have that someone be someone who can pay me for my work.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Light and Dark

by Catherine Giordano

Yesterday I wrote about my disappointment to find that some of my page views came from robo-spam and not real readers. Not only was I disappointed to discover I had fewer readers that I thought, but also I was angered by people who have to take a beautiful thing like the internet and try to ruin it. OK—spam is rude, but I can understand that the sender is doing it in the hopes of making money.  But viruses! Why would anyone want to create and send malicious viruses to random strangers?  (I guess for the same reason, someone would go to a kindergarten class and shoot beautiful little five-year-old children. There are sick evil people in this world.)

Now back to my pity party. I’m going to list all my other blogging disappointments, times where I thought something really good was happening, and then I learned it wasn’t nearly as good as I thought.

There was the time I thought my posts were really high in the google rankings, coming up in the top three of searches.  Then I learned that google tailors search results to the individual.  My posts came up high on my computer because google thought that Catherine Giordano is interested in Catherine Giordano. Other people using the same search terms would probably not find my posts at the top of the list. (Isn’t it interesting, strange, and a little scary that there is no longer any privacy. Anyone with access to the data knows more about me that I know about myself.)

I was thrilled when I discovered that Showtime had put a link to my Premium CableReviews blog on the “About Dexter” page of their website in the “In the News” section.  The link to my website was the only link provided. I got so many hits to that review.  The next week, there were links to several other websites and my review was not amongst them.  A week or two later they linked to another review.  This time there was only a small bump in hits because my review was one of several.  Still I appreciated the recognition.

My disappointment is that Showtime has not linked to any of my other reviews.  I clicked on the “Contact Us” button to thank Showtime for linking to me and to ask what criteria they use to select which reviews they link to.  I said if I knew the criteria I would try to write reviews that met the criteria—maybe a particular length, for instance.  I wrote several times.  Each time I got a robo response saying my request was received and someone would respond.  No one ever responds. So now, I’ve given up.

I don’t know why those two reviews made the cut and others didn’t. I think all my reviews are equally well done. I think all my reviews are excellent.  I always write positive reviews because I only write about shows I like. I write in a unique style because I identify a theme for each episode and discuss the show in the context of the theme.  I recap the plot, but not in linear fashion. Instead, I tell the story, adding my own comments, the same way I would relate real events. (The episodes usually skip back and forth giving us the story in little pieces. I stitch the pieces together.) I focus on the characters and plots and not on technical issues like the quality of the acting or the writing.)

Another issue—search engine optimization, platforms, promotion, i.e. how to bring attention to my work so people can find my work. There is so much to learn. Further, the learning and the doing is very time consuming.  I’ve barely dipped my toe in those waters.  It feels overwhelming and I don’t understand it very much.

I started blogging because I started giving speeches which led to me writing books which led to me writing blogs. The blogs were supposed to call attention to my books and my speaking career and vice versa. I was hoping for a synergy. I was hoping the blogging would lead to something really good. I don’t know what—life surprises us sometime. So far the blog hasn’t led to the sale of books or speaking engagements or anything else. I’m still hoping.

And that is what it is all about, isn’t it. Try one thing, try another thing; it is hard to know in advance which will be the thing that pays off.  Like Thomas Edison said when he was trying to invent the light bulb—I haven’t failed. I’ve found a hundred things that don’t work.  And now, I’m writing this in the middle of the night because I have a light bulb to provide light.

And now I am going to start thinking about all the good things that blogging has brought to my life, and I’ll write about them in my next post.

This picture is from

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Robo "Readers"

I just learned something new and it really has me depressed.  I learned about referrer spam (often spelled as “referrer spam” with only a single “r” in the middle of referrer.)

Google gives me stats about page views. One of the states I get is information about where someone clicked to land on my page. For instance: google, bing, facebook, etc. 

Yesterday I noticed as a referrer site. Ad Sense is the name of Google’s program that puts the ads on my blog pages. It’s how I can earn a few cents. “Watch dog?”  I was concerned—did I inadvertently do something that might cause me to lose my ad privileges.  Naturally, I clicked on the link to see where it would take me.

Exactly what the spammers wanted me to do!  Later I googled “What is adsensewatchdog?” And that is how I learned about referrer spam.  Spammers do this to trick bloggers into going to their websites. These are often porn sites. The spammers do this to get traffic to their sites and to raise their rankings on google. (The more hits, the higher the ranking for a site.)

Often the link has some innocent sounding name.  When I see the link, I wonder why that website has linked to my blog, so I click on the link. I’m lucky all I got was a bit of spam.  Sometimes, people get very malicious viruses that can’t be blocked by anti-virus software and that could have destroyed my computer.

Some of the innocent sounding robo-spammers that I have encountered are ontimemarketing, escapefrommassachusetts, videoshub, topblogstories, kallery; ourmeets some robo-spammers with names that give them away are are vampirestat, zombiestat, villianstat. Do not click on these referers!
But what really got me depressed was not my computer’s close brush with death, but learning that some of my page views were not real live readers, but robot-generated views.  No human eyes on my precious prose and poetry!

I studied my stats.  I now knew the names of the most widely used robo-spammers.  Maybe 10% to 20% of my views came from this spam.

Now I have precious few readers as it is.  I thought I’d have way more followers and page views after a year of blogging. Learning that I had even fewer viewers than I thought really hurt.

I work very hard to provide good content on my blogs News Print Poetry 2012 and Premium Cable Reviews.  It’s practically my full time job. It hurts to know that hardly anyone wants to read them.

I practically beg readers and friends—I take that back—not practically, I actually beg readers and friends to read, share, and leave a comment. Virtually no one does.  Now I know one reason for the low rate of comments is that my readers are not humans, but robots. However, the 80% who are humans are doing very little reading, sharing, and commenting.

When I add the spam to whatever percentage of people that land on my web page while searching for something else, it’s very depressing.

I’m going to finish out the year because when I make a commitment, I follow through.  Next year?  I don’t know.  I think my ‘career” as a blogger may be over.

I very much enjoyed blogging, but it kind of takes the fun out of it to know that I have so few real readers.

I think I need to work really hard on trying to re-establish my market research business that fell off a cliff because of the recession.  That job pays me real money, and I need some real money.
On the plus side, the blogs “forced” me to do a lot of writing. All this writing has made me a better writer. A paid published writer in books published by real publishers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Politics of Raising Taxes

by Catherine Giordano

It's been a few weeks with no political posts. Today, I saw a letter to the editor in the Orlando Sentinel about taxing the rich to increase the prosperity of the United States. I couldn't resist turning it into a poem. I had already done my poem for the day so this is a bonus poem.

Raising Taxes

Higher taxes?
I’m fine with that.

Higher taxes on the wealthy
are important to prosperity.

We are a more cohesive society
when the gap between rich and poor
is not as enormous as it is today.

Extreme inequality
is the way
of banana republics
not our democracy.

Higher taxes for me
and my family—
Bring ‘em on.

© 2012 Catherine Giordano

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Doing Too Much Trying

Yesterday I absolutely could not find a story in the news paper to use for my poem.  Finally, in desperation, I looked at the Horoscopes column.  Yes, I could take a line from each of a few of the months and weave them together in a poem.  A sorry excuse for a poem, but a poem.

Then a funny thing happened.  I started to like the poem. It expressed how I feel right now.  Overwhelmed. It included the little pep talk I give myself at times like this. I told myself that I was taking care of the problems.

Second stanza is me telling myself—who are you kidding?

Third stanza, especially after I changed out one of the lines, is about me restating the problem.  I thought using inversion on the first line to turn it into the second line was just a cheap trick.  But when I read the poem at my poetry seminar today, everyone liked that line the best.  The instructor said it was not just a trick because the inversion added to the meaning of the poem   

The fourth stanza, only one line long, with just a little bit of tweaking, resolves the poem with a happy ending. 

You can see the two versions of the poem below. 

I called the poem Horos because the rules for news print poetry say that the title must come from the headline.  Dumb title!  No, not so much.  “Horos” means dance in Greek, and dance is an apt name for this poem.  The poem is about the dance I do with my emotions when I am feeling overwhelmed. 

I liked the poem because beginning each line with an “ing’ verb, reminded me of waves coming again and again and again. (It also provided rhyme.)  And the short spare sentences suggest weariness, problem piled upon problem.  

And last but not least I found the most wonderful picture to go with the poem.  (See it below.)  a little sailboat all alone on a big ocean trying to make it home amidst the roiling waves.  The waves aren’t that high, but just high enough so it is not smooth sailing. It's the little sailboat that could.

This painting of a sailboat is from Laurie Justus Pace.
Horos  (News Print Poem)                                        Horos (Revised)

Feeling overwhelmed right now.                                Feeling overwhelmed right now.
Chipping away at the problem.                                   Chipping away at the problem.
Clearing the slate.                                                       Clearing the slate.

Walking the walk …                                                   Walking the walk …
    or just talking the talk?                                               or just talking the talk? 

Trying to do too much.                                               Trying to do too much.
Going beyond the call of duty.                                   Doing too much trying.
Seeking a conclusion.                                                 Seeking a conclusion.

The rest of the way is smooth sailing.                         Hoping for smooth sailing.

So, now I have explained my poem.  If I have to explain the poem, it is not a good poem.  But you guys got the poem without the need for explanation, right?
Also, I know a lot of people feel overwhelmed around the holidays.  Overwhelmed with too many things to do; overwhelmed with emotions.  So I hope my little poem helps you out with that.