blog

Don’t Ruin Good Marketing With a Bad Attitude

Recently a friend of mine forwarded me an e-newsletter she subscribes to. She saw an entry that might interest me. She was right, I was interested. The newsletter talked about hiring writers if you need help developing content to keep your business visible.

The person whose newsletter it is, works locally so I went ahead and sent them an email introducing myself. I told them that I’m a local writer and would be happy to meet with them sometime.

Their response back was a conversation stopper. They had no need for a writer, their marketing department develops the newsletters, and my invitation to meet in person was ignored.
So in other words, this person is sabotaging their business’s marketing efforts.

I question: Why bother sending out newsletters if this is the response you give when someone reaches out to you?

What Went Right

The newsletter itself did what it was supposed to do. Someone on the mailing list received it and forwarded it to someone else – extending the reach of the original marketing piece.

The newsletter elicited a response from the reader. The reader actually sent an email to the person who sent out the newsletter.

This is the response that you want from a newsletter. You want your readers to reach out to you with comments, feedback, questions, even an invite to grab a cup of coffee. Your newsletter is helping you build relationships.

What Went Wrong and Why

I’ve touched on what went wrong. The “sender” of the newsletter cut short any potential for a relationship.

It seemed like the person didn’t know what was talked about in the newsletter.

They were not ready to respond thoughtfully to any interest the newsletter might create.

Instead of taking a grateful appreciative approach, they took the “don’t bother me” one.

It’s all too easy to take them up on that sentiment.

The lesson here is to be gracious and engaged when new contacts reach out to you. Make your goal nurturing relationships instead of stomping on the seed.

Writers on a Boat: Eireene Nealand and Eva Barrows Talk Writing (Part 2)

Eireene Amongst Boats
Part 2 of 2 Part Series

The sun pours in from the cabin windows and from the open hatch above. A cooling breeze wafts into the cozy space smelling of salt and seaweed. The bark of harbor seals, the “ting ting” clang of various ropes hitting against wrapped sails, and the ever-present seagulls squawk overhead. Eireene and I share our thoughts on writing tucked inside the boat docked at Half Moon Bay California’s Pillar Point Harbor.

The Nest: Tales from Bela Rechka, book written by Eireene Nealand, Photographs by Megan Lueneburg, available on Academia.edu for download

Uncommon Approaches to Structure

Eva: I like to base my writing around dialogue. Just focusing on what people would say and then tightening it up and trying to make it sound funnier. I don’t really have jokes, it’s just the situation that’s humorous.

Eireene: Did your family go back and forth a lot?

Eva: Sometimes we’d have a banter.

Eireene: I don’t think I ever learned that.

Eva: You didn’t banter?

Eva Writing in a Boat

Eireene: Yeah, I’m too serious. (laughs)

Eva: But you had music? All of your family members know how to play instruments?

Eireene: Yes. I think it helps to have that. I really write by the sounds of language a lot. So I think I paid a lot of attention to songs. As I write I’m hearing the tones and the sounds. A lot derived from poetry. I love overhearing conversations.

Eva: Right I saw some of your snippets.

Eireene: I’m trying to figure out what to do with the snippets.

Eva: So are you going to take those and make a story?

Eireene: I need to figure it out but I think that’s actually going to be my style. It’s going to have to do with how many conversations I’ve ever heard. Cause I’ve been doing it for years. I have giant files of people’s conversations.

Eva: Do you go back and look at them?

Eireene: Every now and then and I’ll modify them a little bit. And I’ve also learned a lot about storytelling. People are so good at telling stories out loud to each other like in coffee shops. I’m amazed people just visualize the whole landscape and they have a good sense of pacing.

Eireene: Nothing happens in the one little snippet but then you put another snippet next to it…

Eva: It’s like a collage.

Eireene: I like that one little story will connect to another story and deepen it. One sort of becomes a metaphor for the other one.

Eva: You’re kind of like a reporter.

I think a lot about structure. I worry about it and I think about it. And that happens until I know the big structure.

Eireene: I’m more of an arranger. Same with the historical stuff. I just get open to facts and mash them together. I think a lot about structure. I worry about it and I think about it. And that happens until I know the big structure.

Eva: I think of structure as beginning-middle-end, if it flows, if it makes sense, but you have a different scope of structure.

Eireene: I like the detours.

Eva: Do you usually know what the meaning is when you start or does it appear?

Eireene: By the time I’m done writing it’s totally something else. I usually have the beginning and the ending and I stick with those things pretty strongly. Then I spend years writing the middle.

I like the detours.

Eva: So what do you want to get that down to? A couple of months?

Eireene: I’m learning so much. There’s a structural thing about how the beginning and ending are related that you just have to figure out. You can actually, hopefully, this is how I plan to save time in the future —you can sit and think about that a lot then know.

Eireene Nealand’s stories, poems and translations have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Chicago Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Poetry International, Catamaran, Sidebrow, WHR, elimae, and The St. Petersburg Review, among other places. Her work has received multiple awards including a Fulbright Fellowship in Creative Writing, an Elizabeth Kosova Fellowship, and an Ivan Klima Fellowship. To her degrees from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, she recently added a Ph.D. in Literature from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied proprioception, a neurobiological phenomenon that allows us to see textures and shifts. She currently lives in Santa Cruz, where she writes and translates Russian, Bulgarian and French prose and poetry.

Eva Barrows is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer. Eva writes about local places, people and events on her website www.evabarrows.com. She founded the online literary journal Imitation Fruit www.imitationfruit.com in 2007 and has enjoyed promoting fellow writers and artists ever since. Her writing has appeared in the California Writer’s Club, Fault Zone Uplift anthology, and the San Mateo County Fair’s, Carry the Light fair winner collection.

Writers on a Boat: Eireene Nealand and Eva Barrows Talk Writing

Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay, CA
Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

The bay sparkles. Clear blue skies overhead and fishing boats flit across the calm water. Eireene Nealand and I take over her sister’s green sail boat docked at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, CA.

We tell ourselves that we’re actually going to do some writing once we get inside. Eireene takes my bag of crab cake sandwich and fries so I can keep my balance stepping onto the back of the boat. She assures me I won’t fall in the water.

Eva Getting Used to Boat

She unlocks the cabin hatch, slides it back and moves the ceiling panel so we can make our way inside. We sit across from each other on padded benches with a multi-use pop-up table between us. Eireene heats up water in the micro kitchen lining one side of the cabin. She sips tea and I eat my lunch.

The boat gently sways back and forth. I take out my digital voice recorder. She agrees to an impromptu interview. For a little context, Eireene is a poet, short story writer, European language translator and holds a Ph.D in Literature and MFA in Creative Writing. So, I have lots of questions for her as I’m in awe of her resume.

I start with the basics.

Siege of Leningrad and the Office Breakroom

Eva: What’s your favorite type of project to write?

Eireene: I like writing weird connections with history. I wrote a story about Lake Ladoga the Siege of Leningrad. It was about a girl in California who felt she was suffering then she learned about the Siege of Leningrad and was like “Wow my life’s not so bad!”

I like writing weird connections with history.

Eva: Do you fantasize about Eastern Europe?

Eireene: I did fantasize about the Communist Revolution when I was younger. But then I went and visited and found it wasn’t so romantic.

I did a whole story about that. It was really great that people had a big dream and the big dream had a lot of awful things to it. But how much worse would it be if there was no big dream and there was just awfulness?

Eireene: What do you write about?

Eva: I try to write about something that’s happened to me. I blow it out of proportion like a Seinfeld episode.

Eireene: Do you stay away from politics?

Eva: I keep it casual. In, The Birthday Committee, which is a funny story, I have a character in the office breakroom and she’s watching CNN and it shows a bomb going off in Syria. It’s not really a comment on Syria it’s a comment to the story. It’s a war zone in the breakroom.

Eireene: What kind of settings do you like to write about?

Eva: Things I’m familiar with. A lot of my writing has been about things that’ve made me mad. I want to go back and reinvent the moment. Become empowered in some way. It’s never a big deal. It’s just something that’s bothered me. The settings are small and familiar, the breakroom at work, the college campus out in the back fields, a coffee shop confrontation.

Eireene Not Reading

A Family of Characters

Eireene: It’s interesting a lot of other people have written about my family but they do it in a completely different way than I would do it. They draw on all of these hippie stereo types.

Eva: How many articles have there been?

Eireene: There’s been two major ones about the idea of a hippie family. I think they do a really good job. A better one than I could do. I can’t get at real life directly. It seems like you’re closer to real life.

Eva: I write about my husband a lot. Like things he does that influence me. He’s usually like “oh god you’re writing about that?” I’m not writing deeply about myself, kind of expressing myself.

He’s the other character in my life.

Eireene: I notice a lot of writers have this break-through moment when they fall in love and write about the other person.

Eva: But I’m not even gushing about him though.

Eireene: Yeah you’re just tracking his behavior. You’re noticing him a lot because you’re happy. One day I aspire to write that kind of story.

Eva: He’s the other character in my life.

**More of our discussion will be posted on the blog next week. Come back to find out how two different writers approach structure in writing.

Eireene Nealand’s stories, poems and translations have appeared in ZYZZYVAChicago Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Poetry International, CatamaranSidebrowWHR elimae, and The St. Petersburg Review, among other places. Her work has received multiple awards including a Fulbright Fellowship in Creative Writing, an Elizabeth Kosova Fellowship, and an Ivan Klima Fellowship. To her degrees from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, she recently added a Ph.D. in Literature from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied proprioception, a neurobiological phenomenon that allows us to see textures and shifts. She currently lives in Santa Cruz, where she writes and translates Russian, Bulgarian and French prose and poetry.

Eva Barrows is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer. Eva writes about local places, people and events on her website www.evabarrows.com. She founded the online literary journal Imitation Fruit www.imitationfruit.com in 2007 and has enjoyed promoting fellow writers and artists ever since. Her writing has appeared in the California Writer’s Club, Fault Zone Uplift anthology, and the San Mateo County Fair’s, Carry the Light fair winner collection.

Write in the New Year: 3 Content Marketing Assessments You Need to Make

The end of the year is a great time to look back and find out if you’ve hit your online marketing goals.
If your attempts to grab attention fizzled out, read on for suggestions about how to stay on track in the New Year.
No matter what type of content marketing you choose to do, present your business in a professional consistent manner. Make a genuine effort to stay in touch with your prospects through valuable content, not fluff!

Case of The Pseudo Blog

Publishing a vibrant blog on your website can produce huge benefits. One of the biggest rewards of having fresh content rolling in on your blog is growing a loyal audience.

But a blog can go wrong in one huge way – abandonment.
If blog posts are infrequent and outdated, your blog is not building a following.
The solution to blog abandonment is creating a publication schedule that you can stick to. The more often there’s an excuse for people to look at your website the better.
Start thinking about how you can stick to a publication schedule in the New Year.

Case of The Old News Website

While you’re reflecting on your business goals, check your website to see if anything needs to be updated.
In a previous post, “Don’t Stink Like a Fish: 6 Ways to Keep Your Web Content Fresh” I outline common website categories that need attention from time to time.
Close out the year by adding new client testimonials, links to company mentions in the press, and check to see if the “About” tab needs a refresh.
Get ready for the New Year by making announcements for upcoming product releases and adding appearances and events to the calendar page.
Make it easy for your followers to know where you’ll be – online and off – so they can plan on joining you!

Case of The On-Again Off-Again Newsletter

People subscribe to your newsletter because they want to hear from you. Keep your fans happy by showing up in their inbox once a month with useful content.
Stay top of mind with a consistent publishing schedule.
Putting together a mini-magazine for your business can be a daunting task. For best results keep your newsletter simple – for your own sanity and to respect your reader’s time.
Combine links to your blog or other websites with some original newsletter content to hold your reader’s attention.
***
What marketing methods have worked for you over the year?
Make a plan to keep them going strong in the New Year. If you need some help keeping up with your content marketing schedule, contact me to strategize with you!

Abundant Holiday Spirit at the Dickens Christmas Fair, Daly City

Christmas Carolers, Photo by John Barrows

They say it’s the smell of roasting chestnuts, the scent wafting through the busy streets of recreated Victorian London at Daly City’s Cow Palace. The warm sweet smell floats on the crisp ocean air even before we make it into the building. Later in the day, a friend would offer me a chestnut to taste. Eager to try it, due to the advertised aroma, I was disappointed when the nut turned out to be ordinary.

Eva, Hard Cider and Ghost of Christmas Present, photo by John Barrows

Besides the delicious smell, the Dickens Christmas Fair transports visitors to another time and place through many theatrical methods. One of the most obvious conveyances is what people are wearing – royal officers in uniform, Queen Victoria parading in a silk ball gown, unsettled Mad Hatter, and everyone else working at the fair in mid-1800s period correct costumes.

Hundreds of noses are deep inside newspapers

Another striking visual is the use of newspapers. When entering the fair, you’re given a newspaper detailing all of the festive events. Hundreds of noses are deep inside newspapers…a scene that’s extinct nowadays, only to be revived at the Dickens Fair.

Friends at Dickens Fair

Guests are welcome to wear whatever fanciful outfits they’d like or not get dressed up at all. I’m a half-hearted costumer myself. I’ll wear historical dresses I’ve sewn to costume dances but I don’t feel like wearing a hoop and corset all day at the fair. There are too many practical things to consider: clearance to pass people on the London streets, sitting comfortably at a crowded picnic table, and especially maneuvering in tiny bathroom stalls.

A little effort was all we needed to feel like we belonged

My husband and I opted for hybrid costuming. He wore a tuxedo coat, top hat and black jeans. I wore a Victorian-inspired velvet jacket over my normal clothes. A little effort was all we needed to feel like we belonged at the fair.

Mark Twain, Drawn by John Barrows

Last year at the fair, I noticed a parlor room with art easels set up for drawing. My husband, an accomplished artist, would have lots of fun participating in something like that. So he brought his backpack full of art supplies and took part in two different life drawing sessions. A string of interesting characters sat for the artists: Mark Twain and a sprightly green fairy to name a few. Unique participant activities like this are sprinkled throughout the London buildings.

Posing for Artist, Photo by John Barrows

My new partner confirmed that I did, in fact, know the choreographed waltz well.

While my husband was occupied with art, I ran off to Fezziwig’s Warehouse accompanied by friends who met us at the fair. Fezziwig’s is a large dance floor where costumed dancers and performers lead guests in vintage dancing. A live brass band, Bangers & Mash, play polkas, waltzes and other dance music. Free of my husband I got the chance to dance the Congress of Vienna with another partner. My new partner confirmed that I did, in fact, know the choreographed waltz well. It felt strange however dancing in pants when I’m used to a swaying dress!

Weird Science, Photo by John Barrows

My friend and I got in to see the much anticipated Saucy French Postcard Tableaux Revue. The show was an interesting mix of history lesson and naked people. If you’re over the age of 18 and want to get a seat for the French Postcards pick up your tickets early at the telegraph office – seating runs out quick!

Dark Garden Corset Shop, Photo by John Barrows

When Postcards ended for the evening, Cow Palace event security was out in full force. My trio was actually escorted to the exit during the sweep of the building. My husband was surprised at how fast the day went and couldn’t believe it was already time to go. Every trip to the Dickens Fair brings opportunities for new experiences – activities to try, characters to meet, shows to watch. But something that always remains constant is the wish for a very “Happy Christmas.”

Charles Dickens, photo by John Barrows

Plan to Go:

Weekends through December 17th, 2017

10am – 7pm

Cow Palace in Daly City

https://dickensfair.com/

 

10 Things I Love About Freelance Writing

 

San Mateo County Fair where I took home three honorable mentions in writing this year.

This month I’m celebrating one year in business as a freelance writer! Here’s a peek into why writing is my passion.

Learn New Things

In order to write about a person, subject or organization I have to know what I’m talking about. I love to educate myself and expand my knowledge. A trip to the library, internet search, or firsthand interviews are just some of the ways I get the info I need to start writing.

Interview People

Often I get to write about interesting people who do interesting things. One of my favorite interviews so far has been with a Hawaiian musician who belts out a killer falsetto. I learned about his music and got a Hawaiian history lesson sprinkled in for context.

Craft of Writing

With the research in front of me, I sift through it all and make a story out of it. I’m in control of where the quotes go, how to weave the facts in, and I set the tone – funny, serious, melodic.

Being Published!

In the past year, I’ve had writing published in a book, blogs, and newsletters. It’s always exciting to see my words shuttled out for people to read. And I have a few fans! I recently went to a ball (yes, a costume Regency era soiree) where at least three people told me how much they love reading my blog.

Project Variety

I have written about so many different things this past year: camping, film festivals and construction projects to name a few. I’m constantly challenging myself by learning new subjects and switching gears from project to project.

In Person Networking

As a solopreneur I need to get the word out about my writing services. One of the ways I do this is through going to local networking meetings, and mixers to meet the community. I’ve picked up a few clients this way and met with people that could be future interview subjects.

Local Travel

The focus of my blog is the exploration of the beautiful San Francisco Peninsula. With so many points of interest in close proximity, I don’t have to worry about running out of content to write about. Experiencing where I live has been refreshing and gives me a greater appreciation for the area.

Creating Publications

I’m also celebrating ten years of publishing Imitation Fruit, the online literary journal that I created and edit once a year. The skills I developed working on the journal and doing layout at a print shop have equipped me for taking on newsletter publications for clients. I’m currently newsletter editor for Midpen Media Center and enjoy the publication process and project management aspect.

Solve Problems

I love to be the one with the answers and the ability to pull off writing and publication projects for clients. I can step in and produce newsletters, examine websites for areas of improvement or take on writing assignments that need to be done.

Work in PJs

Umm yeah, freelance writing has its perks!

Get Lost In a Hay Maze at Arata’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay, CA

Pumpkin Minotaur, Photo by John Barrows

I thought the window of opportunity to get lost in the gigantic hay maze at Arata’s Pumpkin Farm in Half Moon Bay was closed. I’d been looking through pictures taken late September a few years back. The pictures captured green corn fields, dingy yellow stacked hay bales with orange pumpkins dotting the dusty earth. It was already mid-October. I realized it might be too late in the month to spend an enjoyable afternoon at the farm.

Farm Equipment, Photo by John Barrows

Last year, my husband and I went to Arata’s the weekend before Halloween. Which was a big mistake. All of the parking spaces around the perimeter of the farm were taken when we got there. Farm staff directed us to drive up to the top of a hill. Pumpkin hugging pedestrians swarmed around our car on their way back up the hill. After much searching, we arrived at a muddy parking spot on the hill’s plateau. Then we became a part of the stream of people bounding downhill to the festivities.

Pick a Pumpkin, Photo by John Barrows

Once inside the farm I realized I wasn’t going to enjoy myself. People were standing in half-hour long lines to get tickets to the amusements and to buy pumpkins. The hay maze itself was full of frolicking children and parents. Yes, that’s what the maze was created for but I was used to a relaxed saunter through the maze not a frenzied push. So we wound up walking around the farm to stretch our legs, then hiked back up to the car without a 30lb gourd and slowly drove through the crowd back out to HWY 1.

So when I started thinking about the pumpkin farm this year it was already coming up on two weeks before Halloween. But my mind started plotting a way to go to the farm and enjoy it even though it seemed like the odds of having a great time were slim. I kept my work schedule light for Friday and asked my husband to take Friday off too. We made our escape mid-day and headed to the coast.

Start of the Maze, Photo by John Barrows

In years past we’d stuff a backpack full of sandwiches and drinks to eat inside the maze. I’d bring a beach towel to spread out on the moist ground in the nook of a dead end. Maze-goers gasp in surprise when they stumble upon us eating our deli sandwiches. We shake our heads at them and say in unison “dead end.” But this year we stopped at a seafood restaurant on the way to keep things simple.

South HWY 1 greeted us with views of crashing waves, clear blue sky over the ocean and brownish green rolling hillsides. Turning into the farm we had our choice of front row rock star parking spaces. I stepped out of the car to notice an autumn chill that hung on the air even though the sun warmed my skin.

We weren’t the only ones at the farm on a Friday. A school bus load of kids and plenty of families were around picking out pumpkins and participating in the festivities. But there was no problem getting our maze tickets and we were quickly on our way to getting utterly lost.

Picking a Path, Photo by John Barrows

The epic play structure was vast enough, twisty enough, tall enough (four bales of stacked hay) to obscure the view of average height participants. We had the choice of portals to take to get into the heart of the maze. After a few wrong guesses we found the right path.

After several years of stalking through the Arata Farm maze I’ve noted some tricks that can help you make it through in better time – if that’s what you’re going for. If you’ve hit a place in the maze where there are several choices to make, wait and see if people come out frustrated from one of those paths. Then don’t go that way. Notice if people leave trash inside the maze, you can use this as a marker and know you’ve already tried the route with the soda can. Also the maze builders like to put in gates made of hay. Go through these gates – they were put there for a reason.

John Found One, Photo by Eva Barrows

Once we made it out of the maze we scrutinized pumpkin size and shapes. My husband picked out a tall medium 20 pounder. I was surprised to find a bin full of orange pumpkins with what appears to be legions of bulbous green and orange warts. I decided to go for the diseased looking pumpkin because I won’t need to decorate it at all. It was born scary.

Scary Pumpkin, Photo by Eva Barrows

I don’t recommend going to Arata’s this coming weekend. It will be a mad house. Mark your calendar for the end of September or first two weeks of October next year to discover the maze. Maybe I’ll see you there!

In a Writing Rut? Plagiarism Isn’t the Answer

Hey, writing is hard even for professional writers. Nowadays everyone from established businesses to solopreneurs has to crank out blog posts, newsletter articles, social media conversations and more to build their audience. Most likely the focus of your business is on a widget or service that has nothing to do with mastering the skill of writing. So when those deadlines loom to get something new posted, cutting and pasting a great article (someone else wrote) into your layout might seem like the perfect solution. But it’s not.

The word for taking someone else’s writing and putting your name or your company’s name on it is plagiarism – which is another word for stealing. Writing is like any other product. It takes time to research the subject matter and tons of thought goes into crafting the message. So yeah, if someone’s writing is stolen they’re going to be upset.

Let’s look at three ways to create fresh content to broadcast to your followers. The best part is you’ll be proud of the content because you can legally call it your own.

Write it Yourself – This is a no-brainer. You’re the expert. We want to hear from you about what’s going on in your industry. Tell us about what you deal with every day and how your products or services are helping people out. If you’re having trouble coming up with things to write about check out my article on just that, “7 Tips to Finding Your Next Writing Topic.”

Hire a Ghostwriter – In this scenario, you can put your name on a professionally written article and take full credit for it. That’s because you hire a writer – and let them know that it’s going to be a ghostwritten piece – to write as if they were you. They’ll perform the magic behind the scenes to make you look great in front of your readers.

Link Up – This solution involves you (or your ghostwriter) writing an introduction to your topic of choice then listing one or more articles that you’ve enjoyed on this topic. Refer your readers to these articles with a live link and a short reason why you think they should read it – without giving away the heart of the piece. Then cap off your article with your words of wisdom.

These solutions enable you to create valuable resources for your readers without stooping to anything shady. If you’re looking for a ghostwriter you can find me hiding under my desk! Booo.

Why Lodi? Fun, Food and Wine in California’s Central Valley

Wine Grapes, Photo by Eva Barrows

I never really thought about Lodi and I wasn’t sure where it was on the map of California. Visions of swinging metronome cow tails propelling flies and golden fields of waving grain pop into mind when I read the Evite inviting my husband and me to Lodi for a family celebration.

The town of Lodi is located in the vast farming region of California’s Central Valley, I learn as my husband researches area hotels. We decide to make a weekend of the trip not wanting to feel rushed to get back to the Bay Area after the festivities.

Chicken at Winery, Photo by John Barrows

The family party was held at Micke Grove Regional Park where there’s a ton of things to do. Kids enjoy a small zoo, carnival rides, playgrounds and other activities. The large picnic shelter booked for the party shaded us from the 90-degree summer heat. Cupcakes exposed to the sun’s rays melted into a sweet congealed mess.

When it was time to say goodbye to the family, we found our hotel on a long strip-mall motel lined thoroughfare. Some establishments screamed for remodels or even tear downs. Thankfully my husband picked out a fresh looking AAA approved hotel. The blue swimming pool called out to me from across the parking lot to take a refreshing dunk but my travel partner wanted to explore downtown instead.

Wine Tanks, Photo by John Barrows

So we got back into the car and directed the GPS to navigate the way to Lodi’s historic region. The Lodi marque that stretches across the main road into downtown welcomed us. The arch was reminiscent of Spanish colonial architecture – white adobe bricks, red Spanish tiles and hanging brass bells. Surrounded by early 1900s buildings showcasing Lodi’s flourishing industries – bridal shops, breweries and wine tasting rooms.

The Lodi Beer Co. was our choice for dinner and we didn’t regret it. Beer brews in large vats that fill the center of the room with restaurant seating placed around them. Beer label banners full of colorful artwork hang on the walls like heraldry banners in a castle. When our food and beer arrive we fall in love with our meal. The food I had in Lodi was delicious everything from the hotel make your own waffle breakfast to our pub food.

John on Winery Grounds, Photo by Eva Barrows

During our time in Lodi, we put the proliferation of wine tasting rooms and local winery marketing together and decided there must be some wineries in the area worth visiting. On checking out of the hotel the receptionist recommended Michael David Winery.

On the way there we passed new housing developments with modern shopping squares complete with Starbucks on the way out to the fields. Pretty soon we were amongst hundreds of rows of grape vines.

Sunflower in Garden, Photo by John Barrows

Michael David was a wood-paneled ranch-style building with a wrought iron fence protecting it from the road traffic. A homey diner with sturdy wood furniture serves breakfast and lunch and shares a room with a gift shop selling local produce shifting off into a wine tasting bar. The room was packed with people waiting for a seat in the diner. I followed someone I saw go outside near the wine bar.

Water Feature, Photo by John Barrows

Once outside trickling water, outdoor furniture – couches, glass-topped tables, oversized shade umbrellas – and a second tasting area in a modern building were before me. The large fermentation tanks set just outside the public area of the winery with colorful billboard-sized wine labels wrapped around them.

First, we went to check out the grounds. The water feature was a huge rocky pool with waterfalls creating soothing background noise. Several wine-sipping nooks were set up around the shaded pool from above and below. A bridal party in flowing resort wear took over the largest sitting area where bottles of wine were shared.

Eva and Grape Vines, Photo by John Barrows

Bocce ball courts were set up near a flower garden full of colorful blooms. Small kids romped in a gated children’s play area with a slide and Wild West façade. Right next to the play area was a chicken coop with several red hens. This extensive wine sipping area abutted the onsite grape vines. Large purple grapes hung on the healthy vines.

We went back to the quieter tasting room in the modern building. The room had high ceilings, wood beams, and extensive windows. The cool countertop felt good under my bare arms as the day was already a hot one. My husband and I shared a tasting of limited and reserve wines, keeping tabs of which one we liked the best. We decided on the 2015 Ancient Vine Cinsault made from Lodi grapes.

A little tipsy after the wine tasting we relaxed in the shade next to the water feature. The sound of clinking wine glasses and laughter drifted on the warm breeze.

Don’t Stink Like A Fish: 6 Ways to Keep Your Web Content Fresh


Browsing the web you’ll come across sites that look like they haven’t been touched since the day they were launched. A “What’s Happening” page full of events from three years ago or an attempt running a blog fizzled out after three posts point to abandoned websites. Visitors question if the business is legitimate or if they’re still in existence. If you want to engage potential customers and build an online audience you can’t let your content fester and stink like a dead fish.

Keeping your website current may seem challenging but it doesn’t have to be. The good news is you’re already making news as you grow your business. You just have to identify things to add to your site.

If you’re thinking that you haven’t done anything worth adding to your website in a while then it’s time to swim out the door and do something. Having a website should motivate you to stay active in your industry so you can have something to share with your visitors.

Easy Website Updates that Keep Your Business Swimming Strong

Front Page – The most visible web page of your site is a place to get to know you and your business. It’s an opportunity to display important or major new offerings, products, promotions or insights.

Event Page – Get out and do things – tell us where you’re going to be so your followers can come visit you!

About Me – Every six months to a year look this page over. I bet you’ve done something new you can add to this page to keep it current.

Credentials – Good job! You have a new certification, award, or license to enhance your knowledge and skills – Let your visitors know you’re serious about your business by updating this info.

New Clients + Testimonials – A strong list of people you’ve worked with and happy client blurbs always look great and build potential client’s trust in your brand. Keep this updated so we know you’re still making people happy.

Publications – Have you published an article on another website? Has someone written about you and your business? Keep an ongoing list of links to these publications on your website so we can learn even more about you.

Just by adding, updating or moving around information, you stir the water of your site and prevent it from going still.