Guest Post by Kristin Shaw of Two Cannoli
In 2011, my friend Christine sent me a link with a note: “Read this link – I think you write a lot like her.” The link was to a small blog with about a thousand fans on Facebook. I wrote to the author, Rachel, to introduce myself and tell her how much I enjoyed her work. We started to correspond slowly about the challenges of motherhood, and I liked her immediately. I launched my blog shortly after that. As I started to get to know Rachel, I began reading essays from Devon Corneal at The Huffington Post, and I found myself again introducing myself to a total stranger, and telling her how much I identified with her words. I introduced Devon to Rachel, and the three of us became online friends.
One day near the end of 2012, Devon tweeted a link to one of my posts, called “In Celebration of Do-Nothing Days”. Her editor at HuffPost saw the tweet, read my post, and mentioned to Devon that she liked it. Devon made the introduction via email, and that was it: I was immediately asked to re-post my essay at HuffPost Parents, and I was given access to submit posts at will. I was jumping up and down for joy! To this day, it really does give me a thrill. My first post didn’t set the world on fire, but a few months later, my essay “Dear Future Daughter-In-Law” generated more likes than I would ever have seen on my blog, at the time, and I was featured on a HuffPost Live segment. It seems that people have a lot to say about mothers-in-law.
A hard lesson I learned was on one of my first posts, which I called “No. Yes. Sometimes. Never.” on my blog, about the different kinds of love I had for my son and my husband. HuffPost changed the title to “You Love the Baby More Than Me, Don’t You?” and it was promoted as “The question I never want my husband to ask.” The trolls came out in full force, calling me all kinds of names and questioning my husband’s manliness. Most of them didn’t even read the essay, they were just responding to the title. The two things I learned: I needed to write better headlines so that they wouldn’t be changed (and this has worked well ever since, with no edits to my headlines), and to never, ever read the comments. What matters is my content, not the opinions of people I don’t know and will never meet. Those who care about me will let me know they like it directly, or on my Facebook fan page, with much kinder results.
Later, I asked my friend Alexandra Rosas to collaborate with me on a post from the perspective of a mother just beginning her journey, and a mother with a nearly grown son. We called it “What Will I Know?” and it generated 37K likes, which is, to date, one of my most popular essays. In 2014, my post “The Weight of Motherhood” was shared widely, with 183K likes, and was translated to German, to my great delight. This post alone brought me hundreds of new Facebook fan page likes for Two Cannoli.
I have read that some bloggers don’t like to contribute to The Huffington Post because it doesn’t pay, or because less-promoted posts don’t get any traction, and I understand. For me, however, it has been wonderful in many ways. They don’t mind if I cross-post, or post to my own blog first. The editors are kind, and I have built a relationship of mutual respect. I know for sure that my first post at HuffPost Parents was a springboard for other assignments, and boosted both my resume and my confidence. Plus, just about anyone with a computer knows the Huffington Post by name.
Because of the post I talked about above (the one that brought all the trolls to my doorstep), I was asked to write two chapters in an upcoming book by Today show correspondent and author Carolyn Savage. That experience, in turn, introduced me to several other authors I admire.
I’m a believer in what comes around goes around, so I have introduced writers to each other and brought them in for projects where I think their voice would be a fit; I have seen it come back to me tenfold. For instance, I was a guest on my friend Poppy’s podcast for the Blogging Betties, and I talked about setting writing goals and knocking them out one by one. Kate Hood, a fellow co-producer of the Listen To Your Mother show in DC, sent me a message and said, “Hey, I heard you say that you want to be published at Washington Post’s parenting blog. Let me introduce you to the editor.” Allison Slater Tate reached out and offered the same. When someone comes to me and asks how to reach an editor, how to pitch, or how to structure her resume, I make time. I’m not claiming to be an expert, by any means, but I want to help where I can. If we writers don’t help each other, we’re spinning our wheels.
I’m now even more focused on writing high-quality posts I can pitch to other sites, both paying and non-paying. I’ll never forget that first thrill of syndication at an international news site, and it has been an excellent experience for me. They’re always looking for new content, so my advice to new writers is to keep pitching them. If it’s right for the site, they’ll want it.
To this day, my friendships with both Devon and Rachel (her site, Hands Free Mama, has exploded, and one of her posts had 1.5 MILLION likes on HuffPost, which is epic) are growing and thriving, and I count them among my closest friends. Thank heaven for blogging!
Kristin Shaw is a freelance writer, 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year, and co-producer of the Listen to Your Mother show in Austin, where she is the mother of a mini-Texan. Her work has been featured at The Huffington Post; Washington Post; Brain, Child; Erma Bombeck Workshop; In The Powder Room; and Scary Mommy, among others. Shaw is also a consultant in the aviation industry and Director of Social Media for Airport Improvement Magazine. Follow Kristin on Facebook and Twitter.