#Blogging: Its Peaks and Pitfalls – How Often Should I Blog?

I won this award a couple of times :)

I won this award a couple of times :)

Three years ago in March, shortly after I published my first book The Same Moon, I entered a new, strange yet oddly exhilarating phase in my life. A friend of mine, who was doing a Social Media MA course at BCU, planted the idea in my head: “Now that you are an author, you need a platform and to start blogging.”

Thanks again, Kevin, for setting up a blog in my name, entitled: My Footprint, My Story, My Life, beginning my journey as a blogger, a foodie, an Indie author, a tireless world traveller and an all round interesting person :-).

Apart from sharing my own experiences, both professional and personal, I promote fellow authors and their work. From the start, I have sought guest bloggers whose expertise and contribution have been valuable in shaping  my site, giving it a more expansive and international feel. I have had fabulous contributions from  Canada, Greece, Japan, Philippines, South Africa, UK and the USA.

Top countries whose readers visited my blog.

Top countries whose readers visited my blog.

On any given day, my blogs are read by people from more than a dozen countries, and overall, they have reached over 150 countries and regions in the world, with nearly 300 posts and 52,000 hits. So statistically, it’s encouraging and even satisfying. I should also think that it has imparted some useful information and touched a number of people who found their way to my site.

Another blog awards bestowed to me :-)

Another blog awards bestowed to me :-)

In the beginning, I wrote one blog a week. Then with the help of my guest bloggers, it became two or more. I became very involved in every aspect in blogging and learnt to do a great deal, from basic skills of sharing photos, links to making my own videos. It was fun and life-enhancing!

Does it help to sell my books? I can’t say. Probably not.

Last week, I read a post by jody hedlund called 5 Qualities Successful Blogs Have in Common, in which she claimed that having a blog is NOT essential to a fiction-writer’s platform.

“Why? Because readers aren’t surfing author blogs consistently if at all. Thus blogs won’t help writers sell significantly more books. Instead of wasting countless hours writing blog posts, writers are better off putting their energy into writing books.”

My commentatorsTo show that I have actually listened to her advice, I am going to reduce my blog time by posting, from now on, once a week, on Tuesdays.

I need to refocus. I planned my next trilogy months ago, yet found little time in developing and progressing it further. I know that my readers would forgive me for spending less time blogging, and more energy and effort spent in doing what I am supposed to do: writing works of fiction!

My Top Posts with most views and comments :-)

My Top Posts with most views and comments :-)

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#Review of Trials of Life

Vanessa Wu rated it 5 of 5 stars 5star

IMG_1421I spent a good while reading this book and returned to it many times to re-read passages and think about what I’d read. It stirred up many emotions because the situations were very authentic and reminded me a lot of my own life.

Although it’s a novel and the events are fictionalised, it has the feel of a documentary. There is a fly-on-the-wall realism about it, giving us slices of the characters’ lives. As the title suggests, these lives do not run smoothly. There are upsets and problems.

Conflict is necessary in a novel. It is exciting to see characters bumping up against obstacles and each other. It shows us what they are made of. And it is exhilarating to see them winning through.

SSBFTOLJUNYINGBOOKSTACKBut because of the documentary style of this novel, you have a sense that not all the conflicts will end happily. In life conflicts can be messy. There often are no real solutions to a problem. People go on annoying us. Bad people persist in their bad behaviour. We get distressed and traumatised and have nervous breakdowns as a result.

In Trials of Life, the situations are all too real and I felt real anger and real frustration in response to what was happening on the page. There are scenes and characters that I recognise only too well. Scenes such as when Dick Appleton is boasting of how he gave his Chinese minders the slip in Xian.  He managed, he says, to spend the night in the sleazy part of the city where he saw teahouses packed with prostitutes. Naturally, the Chinese officials would not have wanted that.

Screen shot 2013-10-23 at 15.45.55But there is a certain way foreigners talk about the Chinese government that makes a Chinese person grind their teeth in frustration. There is a shallowness and arrogance to them in the face of which you are completely helpless. You have no choice but to let them persist in their ignorance while letting them believe that they are superior and you are the stupid one.

Chinese people are not hoodwinked by their government. We know that China is not perfect. But foreigners often believe that they know what goes on in China far better than we do because they are not ‘brainwashed’. They are experts by virtue of being outsiders.

Being reminded of this is in dialogue that is all too authentic stirred up very real emotions in me. But Dick Appleton, I should stress, is a particularly villainous character. He is not your typical foreigner. He is rotten to the core.

Me & my booksA large part of the book is focused on an employment tribunal and the events leading up to it. We learn in bitter detail what kind of a man Dick is and what Pearl suffers at his hands. I know how hard this must have been to go through because I faced a similar situation in my own career when I was forced to quit my job. But I have to give credit to Pearl and to the author of this book, Junying Kirk. Pearl challenges Dick. She faces her demons and Junying faced hers, I am sure, in writing this book.

It is a stirring story that must draw on very personal experiences. It is free from artifice. Sincerity is in every line. It succeeds in documenting with great accuracy the trials and also the triumphs of an academic life split across two very different continents. Anyone who reads it can’t fail to be moved. And it will, I hope, allow English-speaking readers to get a better grasp of what it means to be Chinese.

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368816_100002597547822_1156394229_nAbout Vanessa Wu: Born and raised in China but educated on a diet of classical Western literature, Vanessa Wu is passionate about books and loves to share what she reads on her blog. Originally her blog was going to be devoted to intelligent, sensitive and modern stories of the sort women could feel proud to have on their bookshelves. However, her love of  writing in all its forms and her addiction to variety made it impossible to resist sharing with her readers the occasional guilty dalliance with something more outré. Her reviews therefore sometimes include fresh appraisals of old classics such as works by Dickens, Melville, Hawthorne and Conan Doyle. While she doesn’t neglect new works by indie authors, she also pays homage to the traditional publishers, especially those publishing erotica, a genre in which she is something of an expert, or so she claims. In fact she has fearlessly shared with us her thoughts on the most erotic novel ever published, which, according to WordPress, is by far the most popular page on her blog. I am not going to tell you what it is. You must go to her blog Intense Sensations and find it for yourself. And perhaps you will also discover there some of Vanessa’s own elegant contributions to the erotic literature of the West, her carefully crafted stories in which character is more important than cup size.

Other links to her writing: Amazon & Smashwords.

Junying’s Note: This review was originally published on the author’s fabulous blog Intense Sensations and GoodReads. I am very grateful for her kind permission for me to reblog it on my site.

Posted in Author Support, Book Reviews & Excerpts, China & East Asia, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stunning #Slovenia (2) – #Ljubljana, #Piran and a Long Journey Home

Pretty Piran in Slovenia

Pretty Piran in Slovenia

Last week, I promised to share more of my wonderful exploration of Slovenia, tracing some of our footsteps across this beautiful country, including  such gems as Lake Bled and our scenic drive through the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park.

Today I continue our travels in stunning Slovenia and I’ll show you more great sights.

Next on our itinerary was Ljubljana, the vibrant city in the heart of the country. Its location at the crossroads between Slavic and Germanic and Latin cultures has played a significant role in shaping its history and culture. During WWII, it was occupied by Fascist Italy and remained the capital of an Italian province until the end of the war. Then it became the capital of  Socialist Republic of Slovenia, part of the former Yugoslavia, until Slovenia became independent in 1991.

A glorious evening greeted us on our arrival, and we could not wait to get out and explore. We took a leisurely walk from our modern hotel on the edge of the city, and found a really cool restaurant where we treated ourselves to the fabulous local cuisine. A drink to accompany a fine meal rounded off the day perfectly.

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Following a sunny morning with more sightseeing, we happily set off to Piran (Pirano in Italian), a town in southwestern Slovenia on the Gulf of Piran on the Adriatic Sea, once part of Roman Empire, next taken over by Venice and then belonging to  the Austro-Hungarian empire. Now it is a major Slovenian tourist attraction.

It was easy to see why – Piran is pretty! It reminded me a little of Venice, which of course, is not too far away, just across the Adriatic sea. I could almost see it on a clear day, as we sat by the sea sipping a cool drink washing down fresh seafood for a late lunch. The pictures below give you a glimpse of its enchanting beauty.

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A word of warning: if you are driving there, as we did, you will have to park just outside the quaint town and take a walk to where you need to go. It is not built for the car.

Again, we were lucky in terms of weather. By then we had definitely left the cold and wet days behind. We were treated one of the best sunsets and made the best of it.

Sunset in Piran

Sunset in Piran

Our one-week holiday was near the end, when we travelled to a northeastern Italian city of Udine on Saturday, 25 miles from the Slovenia border. We were due to fly back on Sunday from Trieste.

Guess what? That Saturday fell on the 17th April 2010. Remember the volcanic eruptions of Eyjafjallajallajokull in Iceland? For six days between 14-20 April, air travel was disrupted across western and northern Europe, and as fate would have it, our return flight from Trieste was cancelled, with no definite answer as to when it would resume.

Nobody knew how long the volcanic eruptions would last, and apparently when it last happened back in 1827, it lasted two years! Damn!

No flight, so how else could we get home?

Stuck in Udine

Stuck in Udine

We thought of train, and went to buy tickets. We didn’t mind the detour, Germany, Belgium, Holland, as long as we could get tickets. No. Sold out. Everyone wanted to get home to somewhere in Northern Europe.

So we went to hire a car. Between Udine and England, it was only over 1200 miles, across land and sea, but it was do-able. The problem?

“No, you can’t hire a car to drive all the way to England,” the girl behind the Europa counter told us.

“Why not?”

“You just can’t. You have to hire a car in Italy and return it in Italy. The hire another in France and return it in France.”

We found out that we could hire a car to drive all the way back to England, but that hire would set us back three grand, in pounds, and only one or two companies did that, and they were running out of cars.

In the end, we hired a car in Udine which got us to the Italian French border at Courcheval. We took a bus the next morning through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Chamonix, then a taxi to Sallanches followed by a short train journey to the next car hire office near Bonneville. Then it was just a 750 mile drive North to St Malo from where John had managed to book us passage on a ferry to Portsmouth.

This booking had taken three hours on line, and there was only one crossing free. Racing against time we stayed in a Rouen hotel before a last dash to the ferry in the morning. Dumping the hire car with hundreds of others at the port side we walked on board and breathed a massive sigh of relief  as we sailed out into the English Channel bound for home.

Boarding to Go Home

Boarding to Go Home

On board we met a couple desperate to communicate with home and John allowed them to use his mobile to Skype the UK. That act of kindness led to them offering us a lift from Portsmouth in their Range Rover at high speed all the way to Redditch near Birmingham. One more train journey of an hour and we were walking down our road.

Home, at long last.

All in all, it took us 72 hours, by car, bus, taxi, train and ferry, instead of the three hour flight we had booked.

What an epic!

The Smile Said it All :)

The Smile Said it All :)

Posted in Social Media & Photography, Travel Logs, True Life Story, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Attending #GraduationCeremony of #NFTS at #London’s @BFI Southbank

Tao, New Graduate of NFTS

Tao, New Graduate of NFTS

On the last day of February, 2014, I boarded a southbound train to the British Capital. London was calling, again, and it was not for tourist reasons but something very special.

Over quarter of a century studying, working and living in the UK, I am no stranger to graduation ceremonies. Being one of the most educated persons of my generation, with at least FOUR postgraduate degrees on this side of the world alone, I have attended two of my own graduation ceremonies, one at University of Glasgow, and the other at Leeds Metropolitan University. The pictures below will give you an indication of how proud I was when I got there – the day when all my sweat, stress and loss of sleep was deemed a worthwhile effort.

Academic Achievement in Glasgow & Leeds

Academic Achievement in Glasgow & Leeds

Time has marched on. Although I have not stopped learning, which I know I never shall, I have stopped myself from trying to obtain any more degrees, despite the temptation ;).

Time has come for me to watch the younger generation being awarded for their learning efforts.

In a previous post Happy Birthday Tao, you might have read how my son overcome huge barriers of language, culture and personal obstacles, and went on to gain a Birmingham City University BSc in Music Technology.

Tao with proud parents

Tao with proud parents

Photo time for Tao and Grandpa Colin

Photo time for Tao and Grandpa Colin

Beautiful Symphony Hall in Birmingham

Beautiful Symphony Hall in Birmingham

In the beginning of 2009, on a very cold January day, three of us, John’s Father, Profession Colin Kirk, John and myself, were honoured guests at Tao’s graduation ceremony. When Tao’s name was called, John was able to snap his picture at close range. Being in senior management at BCU, John was right there, sharing the stage with his stepson.

The BCU ceremony was held in the fabulous Symphony Hall in Birmingham. It was a most memorable occasion when three generations shared the joy and sense of achievement in such a wonderful setting.

Various qualifications and three graduation ceremonies later, I was still as eager to attend another, when Tao invited me to his graduation at BFI on the Southbank of the River Thames. John was tied up with finalising three big deals, so Mum has to do the honour of representing the proud parents :).

Wow, I had to say that this most recent academic celebration was something that stood out and ‘wowed’ the heck out of me. The NFTS (National Film and Television School) graduation was extraordinary – Guess I should have expected it, shouldn’t it? The School has produced some of the most creative people in the Media world, including a number of Oscar winners (Six Alumni Academy Awards so far, and 114 NFTS graduates are involved in BAFTA and Oscar nominated films this year – quite an achievement!)

All Diploma Graduates with Icon Director and Industry Representitives

All Diploma Graduates with Icon Director and Industry Representitives

One of the things that set the NFTS graduation ceremony apart was that no one needed to hire special gowns and “mortar boards” to mark the occasion. ‘Smart casual’ was the dress code and the speeches were short and to the point.

I very much enjoyed the speech by famed British film directer Ken Loach, He not only praised the new graduates for their hard work, he passed on some practical advice. I laughed when he told them that it was time for them ‘to make a living’, and making a living is not easy. We know how true that is and how hard it can be to find suitable employment!

This wise man talked about ‘exploitation’ within the industry, especially that of young people. He  warned them not to work for nothing, because someone somewhere was making a profit out of their hard work and time. In order to avoid being exploited, he advised them to join a union. Together they would be stronger! I must admit that I wished someone had told me this when I was starting out!

Film Director Ken Loach gave a great speech

Film Director Ken Loach gave a great speech

And I can confirm how right Ken Loach is. I did join an union when I had a ‘proper’ job once and the union did fight for me when I needed them!

Sir Michael Caine was awarded a Fellowship during the ceremony – he was not there to accept the award in person, but he gave a short speech on the screen – he showered more praises on the NFTS graduates with whom he had worked, and gave his blessings to the new talent now joining the British film and TV industry.

Sir Michael Caine sent his congratulations

Sir Michael Caine sent his congratulations

Personally for me, I was hugely impressed with what I saw and heard during the ceremony. I was particularly proud of my boy when he, together with his course mates, was filmed talking about their work experience at Sky.

All film and TV programmes need a good sound engineer - Tao at Sky

All film and TV programmes need a good sound engineer – Tao at Sky

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As a matter of fact, six out of nine on his course have been offered work at Sky, and Tao is due to start his work there this week. His course, Broadcast Production, was the first of its kind in the UK, and it was sponsored by the the Media Giant Sky.

Finally, I am thankful:

To John, for spotting the Sky Scholarship on a twitter chat and then encouraging Tao to apply;

To Tao, for going ahead and worked diligently for a year;

To NFTS and his tutors, for giving the best education and practical skills which will serve him well in his future career,

And To Sky, for a bursary for Tao to study the course and a chance to work in one of the largest and best media companies in the world!

Tao with one of his tutors

Tao with one of his tutors

Tao with two of his course mates, Ollie & Sam

Tao with two of his course mates, Ollie & Sam

Posted in Arts & Culture, Entertainment, Social Media & Photography, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments