Singing the praises of C. Jane

When you blog, it pretty much comes with the territory that you also read blogs. Blogging can’t work in isolation. Sure, it’s not so much about community as Twitter or Facebook are (perhaps it was once upon a time, at least pre Twitter), but writers have and will always be influenced by other writers, particularly those of the same genre as them.

At the start of my particular journey, I was influenced by friends who were also engaged in this peculiar pursuit. Along the way, I discovered bloggers who were friends of friends, and then became fans of total strangers’ work. Of these, the one that I will always check first in my reader is C. Jane Kendrick.

I’ve read Courtney’s writing for years, probably since early 2008, and definitely prior to her sister’s near fatal air-crash later that year. In many ways, I think we’re quite similar – which is probably why I enjoy her work so much. She’s just a few years older than me; has insecurities about the narcissistic nature of blogging, her body shape, her faith and her writing; she writes honestly and movingly about her relationships, her journey through infertility and life as a family of five.

Over the last year, she’s set about writing her life story, which she concluded in the final days of 2012. The last post in the series brought the reader full circle, to the point in her life when her blog began. Even though I was fairly sure I’d read most of her archives, I clicked the link and went right back to the start. Courtney’s archives got me through a slightly rough start to the year, and became a major tool of procrastination during my essay crisis. (Going through a difficult time? Find an excellent blog and read it from start to finish, you’ll be absorbed and will forget all your woes.)

C. JaneThis is one of my favourite photos of Courtney. As it’s the one Hannah used in her post, hopefully she’ll be happy with me using it too!

As I read, I was struck by how much her writing had developed over the years and how her character and faith had been shaped. But I was also shown something of me, which I hadn’t quite expected. I read post by post, which meant that I had to scroll through the comments in order to get to the ‘next post’ link. Every so often, I’d come across a comment I had left. Sometimes it was on a post that I had remembered commenting on, other times I’d totally forgotten and my words were a literal blast from the past – an indication of how I was feeling on that particular day in 2009, or whenever.

Read through some of the comments, and you’ll also witness some of the ridiculousness that a popular blogger has to deal with. Negativity, trolling, downright rudeness – it’s a wonder that anyone puts anything on the internet! According to more than one commentor last summer, a post in which Courtney revealed that she’d gone bra-less for an entire holiday was the final straw and resulted in them abandoning the blog! To be honest, who needs readers who would be offended by such things – I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t last very long around here! Despite – perhaps in spite – of these comments, Courtney continued. Sometimes comments would be turned off, sometimes she leaves them on. Her choice, as it should be.

I know of several other fans in the British blogging circle. In fact, a few weeks ago Hannah Mudge published an interview with Courtney on her own blog. [Confession: I may be slightly jealous of Hannah. She and Courtney tweet each other. Courtney has no idea who I am. I should get over this. On the plus side, I finally get to meet Hannah at a meeting later this week.] That post focused more upon Courtney’s development as a feminist and it’s worth a read, but also highlights the ways in which her readers respond to the issues she raises.

Some might think it’s odd that many Christian Brits are fans, given that Courtney’s a Mormon. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve been genuinely touched by several of her posts about her faith and spirituality. Yes, there are major doctrinal differences between Mormonism and Christianity, but the relationship an individual has with God has the same importance. [Incidentally, in case I’ve offended anyone by differentiating between Mormonism and Christianity, in Britain, it’s not a Christian denomination.] Yes, her posts are often hilarious (try watching one of her regular Friday vlogs), but they’ve also had me in tears – like when she took the incredibly brave step of sharing the story of an abusive relationship she was trapped in. (Despite him sending threatening messages after she’d begun her life story.) God is crucial in those stories, it’s where she got the strength to leave, to say no, to refuse to be treated the way she had been. God is there in her birth stories (the most recent of which – ‘Squishy’ aka Erin’s birth just over a year ago – is one of the most beautiful in the genre you will ever read), and in stories of loss, confusion, or every day life.

As I read post after post, I was inspired. I might be blowing my own trumpet, but I sometimes feel that our writing styles are similar – particularly in our relating of ridiculous every-day happenings. But, for a start, she is a lot more skilled than I. Plus, she is way braver than I am. In her writing is true vulnerability and true honesty about where God is in that.

I think bloggers can learn a lot from that. Is there much point in writing a blog that is just a sanitised window into your life? A version of events that has been edited and passed through a filter? Perhaps there is, if all you want is high stats, regular readers and glowing comments. The reason why Courtney’s comments get so divided is because she says what she thinks and feels, she doesn’t sit on the fence and to try and please everybody. I know that I sometimes refrain from being controversial in my writing because I’m scared of negative comments, but am I just kidding myself? There are things I don’t write about because I’m nervous of revealing parts of my life I keep private. (Although I think it is also helpful to make good decisions when your life and the things you might write about relate to other people who may not want to be featured on your bit of the internet.)

The moral of this post?
If you write, read.
If you’re not going to be put off by a writer who sometimes goes days without wearing a bra, read C. Jane.
Simple.

Liz the Licking Vicar – an explanation

The quest to see lizclutterbuck.com become a reality has gathered some pace of late. (i.e. Some important questions have finally been answered, after early September’s dilemmas.) Today, my web designer and I had a meeting at the Royal Festival Hall, working out the answers to some key queries – like colours, banner photos and fonts.

Testing out a font that works perfectly, but may prove to be rather pricey. It’s the website creator’s Macbook & text…

Posting this image on Facebook elicited an exchange that drew to my attention my neglect of the ‘licking vicar’ story. So let me make amends…

Back in April, when we returned to Chateau Duffy for our Easter sojourn, we were graced with Chef Richard’s presence and his amazing culinary creations. One such delight was a dessert accompanied by a particularly yummy cream confection. After scraping my bowl with my spoon, the friend sat opposite me issued a challenge: she would lick her bowl clean if I did too – just so she didn’t feel bad about it. No problem! I duly picked up my bowl, stuck my face in and got to work. I have no shame.

For some reason, no one noticed Rachel the Challenger participating in this activity, yet nearly everyone saw my antics, laughed heartily and took photos. [Sadly the photos taken by someone on my own camera were amongst the few that remained lost even after The Great Memory Card Disaster was resolved.] It resulted in my being awarded the moniker “the licking vicar”, which, in this circle of friends has stuck. When I saw some of this crew in Texas, they wasted little time in sharing the nickname with others – which is slightly unfortunate, given that any mention of it requires immediate explanation.

Needless to say, no matter what the above photo suggests, the licking vicar will not have any place in my new website’s tag line!

Doing a Liz & recreating the Licking Vicar moment on the last night of Chateau Duffy #2.

Quick question

Some of you may remember that a few months ago I decided to make the move from Blogger to WordPress and had acquired lizclutterbuck.com along the way. In fact, I know some of you remember this, as sporadically I’ve had tweets from people asking why it hadn’t gone live yet.

There are several reasons. For a start, the site is being built for me, for free, by a generous friend (who’s also using the process to teach themselves some new skills) and not only have they been busy over the summer, they’d also hit upon a technical hitch that needed resolution. When getting things for free, I don’t tend to hassle!

But some of the blame lies at my feet. Always prone to procrastination and an inability to make important decisions quickly, I’d delayed some key elements of my own contribution to the site – the most important of which was its name.

Look above this post. You’ll notice the title of this blog is ‘Eliza Does Very Little’. It was an unusual moment of inspiration on the quiet night in 2005 when this blog was first created and it’s served its purpose well. But the point of developing a new site was to have a website of which this blog will be part, rather than just a blog. It’s also meant to be more professional looking and less amateurish – so could do with a rather more serious name.

However, there’s a problem: I can’t think of a new name.

At a breakfast meeting with my web developer yesterday morning [this sounds absurdly efficient – in fact they’d been staying at my place and we only remembered to talk website half an hour before they had to catch a train] we contemplated the options. In truth, unless I have a sudden lightbulb moment, there is only one option – to name lizclutterbuck.com the highly original ‘LizClutterbuck.com’. In the words of the famous advert, it does exactly what it says on the tin, but it’s not at all creative.

So, blog readers, I need your help. Can you think of anything more interesting? Ideally something short and sweet (I’m drawn to a pair of words for some reason, I just can’t think of two) and not at all cheesy.
Suggestions happily received in the comments, via Twitter, on Facebook, in an email or a text, or, if you’re really retro, on a carrier pigeon.

I’d be most grateful!

Not so disgruntled

A week ago, I shared my disgruntlement with Blogger’s recent changes and shared my ambition to get a little more professional in my web presence and convert (at some point in the near future) to WordPress. The following day I received a text from my WordPress teacher asking: “Time for lizclutterbuck.com?” and attaching a hyperlink to a page listing the various variations on that theme that were available domain names. (Which pretty much amounted to anything – we Liz Clutterbucks are a select bunch!)

By the end of the week, lizclutterbuck.com was mine (it currently just redirects to this blog) and plans were afoot for exciting developments. I’m very lucky to be blessed with techy, webby friends who are very generous in their time and abilities, so I’m going to have a lot of assistance in the process. It’s all very exciting, but leaves me with a lot of questions, that you may be able to help me with…
  • What form should the site take? Do I still want the blog to be its main focus, or will it be one component of a larger entity? 
  • Which of the gazillion WordPress themes should I use? 
  • Do I add other aspects of my life to it? [There’s already been a request for sermons. I don’t have a huge back catalogue of them currently, but it’s something I could build upon.] 
  • How do people like to read blogs? Do people dislike ‘Read More’ hyperlinks as much as I do? 
  • What sites do I like and can I get inspiration for my own site from them? 
  • What sites do other people like? 
Fun times. The research phase is now underway, so any suggestions would be gratefully received! In the mean time, I will sporadically burst into spontaneous geeky giggling…

Disgruntled

After many, many years of happy Blogger use, I’m becoming increasingly disgruntled with the platform. I’ve long lusted after the clean, sharp feel of WordPress blogs, but couldn’t bear the faff of moving everything over and learning a whole new system.

But lately, a few things have happened that have begun to change my mind:

  • I’ve taken on the management of a WordPress blog [well, officially a blog hosted on a WordPress site which is apparently slightly different] and I’m being taught how to use it properly by someone who (kind of) knows what they’re doing. Turns out it’s not that difficult and many things are massively more sensible than Blogger’s system.
  • Blogger have rolled out a new user interface that has arrived with many quirks, despite having been in Beta for ages. Lots of things just aren’t working and no one seems to be taking notice of feedback or complaints. Scheduled posts (writing a post to be published later – a very useful feature) hasn’t worked for 3 weeks and hasn’t even made it on to the ‘Known Issues’ page. 
  • I think it might be time to take my online presence a little more seriously and make things look rather more professional. WordPress seems to lend itself to this more readily than Blogger.
I’m not totally decided though. For a start, this could be quite a big, faffing, project and I’ve actually got quite a lot of work and sermon writing (and moving flat) to do between now and mid-July. I could also make quite a massive mess of it if I’m not careful and I’d hate to lose 5+ years of considered blogging and comments. But potentially this could be an excellent summer project, especially if I can persuade my WordPress teacher and professional webby friends to help me…
But I’d welcome your thoughts. Blogger people – should I stay? WordPress people – is it worth it? Has anyone made the switch themselves? Was it a nightmare? Thoughts would be very much appreciated.
In the meantime, Google, could you get your act together please? 
Yours, disgruntled of King’s Cross.