Saturday, 27 June 2015

Blog Tips at Winchester Writers' Festival 2015

Unwinding after the 1st day at the festival!
I led an intensive blog workshop at this year's Winchester Writers' Festival. I had eight enthusiastic attendees and five hours in which to share everything I've learned about blogging in the last six years. 

I take hours preparing for workshops because I love to read about successful bloggers and find out what advice they offer. I'm grateful to Joy the Baker and Jim Lin of the Busy Dad Blog, for their top blog tips: 

Tips for a Successful Blog

Consistency is a big deal. If readers feel like they can count on you for consistent, reliable, beautiful content, they’ll definitely come back. 

Being accessible is important. I love readers to feel they can connect with me on Facebook or Twitter. 

Being an enthusiastic and vocal part of a growing community helped my site. I joined baking groups online, and I would comment on fellow bloggers’ work nonstop.” 

“Be authentic, or else you will never enjoy it enough to put the work in. If you aren’t funny, don’t try to be. If you aren’t deep and thoughtful, don’t try to be. 

Make connections. Be social, be useful, be entertaining and be friendly. 

Be patient. That’s why you have to do it because you love it, not because you want to make money from it. It must be a passion, not a job." 

Planning blog workshops forces me to look at my own pattern of blogging and assess what I need to be doing. For blogs to thrive they shouldn't be too random, but have a definite theme, and voice, and fulfill expectations... 

"The narrower your focus, the broader your audience," writer and entrepreneur, Jeff Goins writes. 

Goins sets some excellent questions in this exercise to focus your blog content. I shared them at the workshop and was thrilled to feel a boost of energy in the room as vague ideas developed into clearer ones.  

Two attendees sent me their blogs a couple of days later: Footprint Marketing UK and Kill the Boss - Turning Corporate Bollocks into Comic Fiction - I wish them good luck on their blogging journey!

I'm back in sunny Mallorca now but I will be popping back to England for a week in August. 

My next Blogging and Social Networking Workshop will be on Sunday 9th August in London. 

There are 8 places so book soon - and please don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or Visit my Workshops Page for more information.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Venting Online - Should you ever do it?

Do you ever get a great urge to vent online? Perhaps after a particularly bad day at the office you feel the impulse to update your facebook status to:


Or if you're a writer and sales aren't going too well:


Perhaps you're more of a drip feeder of your woes and post things like:

I don't want to talk about it... 

Why would you write that unless you wanted to talk about it?!
- feeling disappointed *sad face*

I understand it though. Caring friends will rush to leave hearts and hugs and you'll feel loved and happy. Other 'friends' will roll their eyes and unfollow you, but you won't know about them, so it won't hurt. 

Who am I to judge? I'm familiar with the impulse. I've succumbed to sharing my frustrations on facebook, often trying to prove I'm not the sort of person who spills their guts without filter, by adding a humorous photo to lighten it up. 

The sharing gives me a little rush.  But it's a high that lasts only a few seconds. Almost immediately I'll feel immature about having a hissy fit in public. Within ten minutes I've usually taken the post down, concerned that my online footprint will follow me; that word will travel to the last pair of ears I'd like it to travel to.

I believe all social networks require filtering by the user. Filtering is especially essential if you're interacting as a professional. My blog isn't the same as the diary I kept as a teenager.  No one needs that. No one wants to drown in self-indulgent - WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME? WHY IS IT ALL SO UNFAIR? -  drivel.   

So what do you do when you're from the over-sharing generation and you feel a tremendous urge to rant about a sensitive matter to the online community?

Well you:
1) take a deep breath
2) feel and accept the anger / frustration / disappointment
3) redirect it

You vent. But not about the stuff that could get you into trouble. You vent about stuff like:

1. Why do they put serviettes UNDER your sandwich?

2. Why do drivers with the worst taste in music play it the loudest?

3. Why do they call them monkey bars when there are no monkeys?

4. Why don't my socks ever make it into the washing machine TOGETHER?

5. Why do fussy eaters not just order a Margarita pizza rather than ordering something delicious and picking out all the best bit?

6. Why do mosquitoes buzz around my ear but bite my legs?

7. Why don't mosquitoes just bite my whole ear off instead of my legs so I don't have to listen to the b******* all night?

8. Why does cling film exist when after one use it's IMPOSSIBLE to tear off?

Alternatively, you can rant about important things:

9. Why is Fifa doing nothing about the Nepalese labourers dying EVERY TWO DAYS while building a F****** football stadium in Qatar? 

But it depends on your blog, I guess. 

10. Why am I still ranting when I'm obviously perfectly fine and have nothing more to rant about? 
So, yeah, about that urge? Do you get it? 

My nest novel #PleaseRetweet is a comedy about society's obsession with social media. For the latest news on its release, sign up to my monthly newsletter!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Being a writer has never felt so good!

Everything is swaying. The keyboard is moving back and forth. Sea Legs, Mum diagnoses. El mal de mar, my blind date from this morning replies. 

It wasn't a romantic date. My husband and I haven't been torn apart by our spontaneous move to Mallorca. It's just being a SeeMallorca reporter comes with certain perks. The day before I'd received an invite from Attraction Catamarans to go on their 'Day at Sea' excursion. The organiser said I could bring a friend. There's nothing like the words 'you can bring a friend' to remind you that you left them all behind in London.
Luckily I've made a few friends virtually through a Mallorca inline skating group. When one of the girls noticed I was looking for a companion for the trip she got in touch. I checked her facebook page and finding an absence of pouting selfies and soppy life-affirming quotes, told her I'd be thrilled for her to come.
I'm going to take a moment now to pinch myself. Any minute now I'm going to wake up. 

I don't want to wake up. I'm having this dream where I live on this beautiful island and these people want me to do all these wonderful activities so I'll write about them for their magazine. It's like being able to write suddenly has a value.
Nope, still not waking up.
I went diving for the first time on the weekend. I've never wanted to dive in my life, but the magazine wanted an article about Balear Divers, so off I went. It was incredible. If you get the opportunity, take it. 

I miss it already. I keep day dreaming about fish. Can you daydream within a dream?

It's strange. I didn't feel seasick on the catamaran. Four hours flew by as I chatted to my new friend. Perhaps it was all the photography. I take my role as a reporter very seriously! Part of my research involved chatting to the crew, which led to a free drink.  

No one ever used to give me free drinks for my writing before. I'm living in a state of wonder... I really am. 

Thank you world.   

Thursday, 28 May 2015

New Home, New Novel, New Job. Old Fear.

No more internet cafés for me, I am now fully connected at home!
Home? Does Mallorca feel like home already? Last night on the plane back from doing a job in London, I overheard a mother explaining to her little son that they'd be staying in a hotel. I bet half the passengers would be heading off to holiday accommodation. It made me smile. Not me, I thought, I'm going home.  

Mallorca Reporter Essentials!
After a 25 minute wait at the airport, the bus finally came and my bus pass didn't work. I realised with dismay that I didn't have a cent on me and started to get off. The bus driver waved me on, said not to worry this time. I like my new home, I thought. I couldn't help wondering if that would ever happen in London. Perhaps, but not likely.   
Today is my first day with some proper structure. We've unpacked our boxes, plugged in the coffee machine and have wifi, so it's time to work.

I'm beginning a new novel set in *surprise surprise* Mallorca. It involves a hen party and takes place over five days. If you've been on any recently and had to do any ridiculous dares or challenges, I'd LOVE to hear from you!
First Morning Plotting
As I make notes about my characters and plot I can't help feeling a twinge of fear though. Why are you putting yourself through this again? - my inner voice whines.  This novel isn't commissioned, so I could spend a year on it and never find a publisher. It's a standard risk for writers but that doesn't make it any easier.
I wish I could share news about my third book, #PleaseRetweet. It was supposed to be due out this summer, but now I'm not sure. The publishers are busy and I haven't heard from them in a while. I think I'd go mad if I only had one project on the go, but luckily I have many.
At the moment, I'm excited about my new role as a "Mallorca Reporter". My first post Top10 Attractions in Palma de Mallorca was published in SeeMallorca this week and it made me grin from ear to ear. It's a great way of getting to know the island. 

I found out the travel magazine was looking for writers after a simple Twitter search. Social media can be very effective like that. In fact, Twitter for Writers - Not Such a Waste of Time! is the title of my talk at Winchester Literary Festival this 20th June. I'll also be running a day long Blog Workshop on 21st June, in which I'll tell writers not to blog indulgently about the minutiae of their lives...


I probably should practice what I preach. Then again, I've been blogging for nearly 7 years. As the song goes it's my party blog, and I'll cry write indulgent updates about my life if I want to! Or something like that. I've never been very good at remembering song lyrics.  

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Camino de Mallorca - Walking to Magaluf

When I tell people I don't know how to drive, their eyes widen in surprise and I can see them trying to resolve the problem.

"You'll have to get a motorbike then," they say. 

I used to enjoy the idea of riding a Vespa over the cobblestones of some idyllic Italian town, but now I'm convinced I'd be a danger to myself and everyone else.

"Does your husband drive?" is the follow up question. They relax once they know one of us is useful.              

From the response, it would seem that living in Mallorca without a car is madness. Well, today, without husband / driver, I was determined to overcome the obstacle of distance. I needed to get to Magaluf for research purposes.  The characters in my novel are on a hen party and they may well end up there. It was necessary I checked it out.

How far away was Magaluf? Well, nearer than I'd previously thought, since I'd previously thought it in Greece. I saw a clip from a documentary on the resort once; drunken teenagers comatose on the floor, police breaking up fights, vomit and litter strewn across the streets. I remember feeling very sorry for the Greeks. 
After rifling through a drawer of maps and leaflets the previous German occupants had left (stopping to giggle for a bit over a 'Gute Fahrt'), I ended up with a map of Mallorca. Magaluf looked a finger print away. I got a ruler and tried to calculate the distance using the scale. I estimated 8- 10km. It would take time, but physically, I was capable.
Equipped with water and an orange, I set off.
It was a long walk, but it was very pedestrian-friendly. Much of the journey took place on a tree-lined path, with box trimmed hedges coated in fine dust separating me from the road. It was hot but there was a gentle breeze. I saw vineyards and the first signs of mountains in the distance. 
An hour later, I paused to eat my orange under a tree and thought of my Dad, because he'd always peeled the oranges on walks when we were little. Was this nostalgia or heatstroke? I sipped my water and pushed on.
I arrived at Palmanova two and a half hours later. The sea was a stunning blue, the distant boats a blinding white. English voices carried in the air. Restaurant menus offered options familiar to the British palate like pizza and roast beef. Topless young men paraded burns so bad I had to stop myself suggesting, in a maternal voice, to put on some aftersun and cover up for a bit. I was clearly closing in on Magaluf and it was time to eat and get my energy up before the final leg.
On my way over to Mallorca, I'd met two young girls heading out to work in Magaluf on the plane and they'd warned me about Spanish food. Funny as it's the food I've grown up on and it's one of the things that excites me about living in Spain again. 
Among the British pubs and tributes to Blackpool, I sought out a tapas bar, tucked into a deliciously spicy frito de marisco and a caña, and basked in the great sense of achievement that came with having fulfilled my mission WITHOUT A CAR. And I seriously considered the idea of walking around the whole island, a sort of alternative to the Camino de Santiago.
Of course, by the time I got to Magaluf, I was far too knackered to do any exploring. I got the bus straight back, which for only 1.50, seemed a bit of an affront to my aching legs.

For more Mallorca Pics follow me on Instagram @emilybenetauthor


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Alone in Mallorca - Blogging to Stay Sane

First evening alone - a good start!
What do you do when you move to a foreign land and you don't know anyone? 

Obviously you go get your nails done. At least that's where I went to seek out emotional support. I had hoped for a lively woman my age who would chat easily, invite me out for a drink that evening and within days become a really great friend. Too much to ask from a manicure? Yes. 

The reality was a surly, middle-aged woman who wasn't interested in talking, but did say I was bound to meet other Brits soon enough. I felt a bit miffed. For the record, I haven't moved to Mallorca to seek out an ex pat community. I've come to meet all nationalities. Technically I'm not even an ex pat anyway, as I'm half Spanish, though evidently my accent needs a polish. 

The woman only softened when it was time to pay. Did I seem too desperate? I hadn't spoken to anyone in two days and I have no reliable internet connection at the moment. In fact if this blog goes up, it's because I've found an internet cafe*. (*The noughties called, it wants its internet cafe back!) 

As I left the nail salon, a treacherous voice whispered: Why did you leave the country where all your friends are? But another voice, who has been through this once before, replied, Patience, it will all be worth it... 

Since my time at the nail salon had failed to fulfill my emotional needs, I embraced retail therapy instead. There's a brilliant Chinese shop beneath our flat. In Spain, a Chino shop sells everything under the sun; from mops and buckets, to earrings and dog food. I LOVE CHINO SHOPS and I started to feel more upbeat as I wandered up and down the aisles finding things on my list. 

My Trainers' First Outing in Mallorca
Lists, I feel, are key to survival while alone in a new place. Well, they are for me. Maybe you're unfazed by being alone. My husband is arriving in 4 days and I'm really looking forward to his company. Meanwhile I'm writing lists to focus myself and not succumb to a strange urge to just sleep. 

My list ranges from going for an exploratory run (TICK) to buying rubbish bags (TICK) to writing a blog (TICK) and buying a cork board to carry on plotting my novel (TICK). 

I feel much better for writing all this down. It was either blog or start talking to myself. Thanks for reading lovely people. 

Right, next on my list is finding an internet cafe... found one!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

House Hunting in Mallorca – A Dollop of Destiny

Destiny; do you believe in it?

After a crack of dawn flight, a total of seven hours travelling, I arrived at my air bnb in Mallorca to find no one to greet me with the keys and the owner not answering their phone. My husband was flying in later that evening, so I was alone, the first to set foot on this island we hoped to soon call home.

48 hours previously we'd cleared out our London rental flat. You don't know how much stuff you've got until you move. It had been a race against time packing up and cleaning the flat and I hadn't slept properly in three days. I was knackered, hungry and bursting for the loo. I just wanted to get inside the apartment and put my suitcase down.

I rang the owner again. No answer.

Welcome to Spain, I thought, feeling sorry for myself.

When the owner finally did call back, half an hour later, it was to tell me I would have to get a taxi to pick up the keys since she was currently away from the island. It was 2pm. I had left my parents' house in London at 5.30am that morning and I had already been in a car, a train, a plane and two buses. Since I wasn't trying to set a record for how many modes of transport I could take in a day, I certainly did not want to now catch a taxi.

“What do you want me to do?” she said sulkily. “If you get the taxi then you can get on with enjoying your holidays.”

I told myself that this was just a little obstacle and I wasn't going to let this rude woman dampen my enthusiasm for my new life. So I rolled my suitcase down the hill to a better area to hail a cab and waited for her to send me an address for the pick up. The address didn't come.

“I'm trying to solve the problem,” she said, when I called her again. “Go back and wait outside the apartment.”

So I wheeled my case back up the hill, hid in the shade outside the block of flats and tried to forget my aching bladder. And I waited...

And waited...

And waited...

40 minutes later, still no one had appeared with the keys as promised.

“Oh, my colleague can't come now,” the owner said when I called again. “Can you get a taxi?”

I lost my temper. Fat lot of good it did too.

She said it wasn't far. The taxi driver said it was very far. Guess who was right?

By the time the taxi metre had hit 20 euros I had told him my life story. How we had spontaneously decided to pack up our lives in busy London in favour of the climate and lifestyle of Mallorca. He sighed wearily and told me I had come at the worst time, that flat prices would be exorbitant and that living in Palma was una mierda because of the noise.

This is where the destiny bit comes in. The taxi driver then gave me the number of his friend, Pedro, who had a flat to rent.

Pedro's flat was classic A Place in The Sun material. In the right location outside of the city, a good size, a great price but with the décor favoured by Spanish Abuelas in the 1950s. You know, garish tiles all over and ornaments you want to bury in the ground. Still, we considered it as we wandered down the road, not knowing quite where we were going. A few minutes later we stumbled upon an estate agent, an estate agent we wouldn't have come across if we hadn't visited Pedro's flat, which we wouldn't have known about if it wasn't for the taxi driver which... well, you get the idea. 

 We went inside.

“No I don't have anything,” the lady said, when we told her what we were looking for. But then she sat down at her desk as if she'd suddenly remembered something. “Actually... there is one.”

Five minutes later she had driven us to it.

“It's a good life for a car,” she said, referring to the car park which had an incredible view of the ocean.

In we stepped into a polished flat with the terrace of my dreams. I was drawn to it, completely and utterly distracted by how perfect it was. Large, covered and with a sea view. I imagined myself writing out there, working long hours without feeling like I was working at all. My heart swelled with excitement. Looking over the terrace, the elegant, communal swimming pool glittered below, perfect for a quick break from my word count.

We went back to visit the flat that very afternoon for another look and made up our minds there and then that it was the one.

We've been told to tell people that Mallorca is horrible so we won't be inundated with visitors all year around. I think I'm going to struggle to be convincing though. If you don't like sea, blue sky, friendly people, delicious food, it really is hell on earth.

As for me, if all goes well, I'll be moving into the flat next week. I'm beyond excited.