Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating four years of blogging at Minnesota Prairie Roots July 15, 2013

Me and my camera, a tool in the writing profession I love.

Me and my camera, a tool in the writing profession I love.

FOUR YEARS AGO TODAY, I launched Minnesota Prairie Roots.

As the adage goes, “time flies when you’re having fun.” After writing more than 1,400 posts, I’m still passionate about blogging.

My approach to blogging hasn’t changed since publishing that initial post on July 15, 2009. I pledged then to write from the heart—about everyday life, about places I visit, things I do, observations I make about the world around me.

I told you then, and I’ll repeat now, that my writing reflects my down-to-earth personality and my appreciation for the simple things in life. I am the real deal. I really do like small towns and gravel roads, the prairie and sunsets and endless skies.

I’m the woman who hangs clothes on the line, relishes a good book, shops garage sales, savors the tang of rhubarb crisp, breathes in the intoxicating scent of freshly-cut alfalfa and appreciates Minnesota, the place I’ve called home for nearly 57 years.

Via my posts, I strive to show you those ordinary, yet extraordinary, people and places often overlooked.

To you, my readers, thank you for supporting Minnesota Prairie Roots via your readership and your comments. Some of you have become my real life friends, an unexpected blessing along this blogging journey.

I am also grateful to individuals like Bob Collins at Minnesota Public Radio for featuring my work in his online NewsCut column and to the folks at MinnPost for often choosing my posts for Minnesota Blog Cabin. Both have introduced my work to wider audiences.

Twice my work has been Freshly Pressed, meaning my posts have been selected as among the best in the world for a single day on WordPress.com.

Four years ago I was averaging about 50 daily views. Today that number is close to 700.

I also owe deep thanks to my dear husband, Randy, without whom I could not continue to pursue my passions of writing and photography. He has always been my strongest supporter and I am grateful for his encouragement.

My goal remains to someday earn money from blogging. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But a writer and photographer can dream. I’ve already sold quite a number of photos through my blog. So if you need/want a photo for professional or personal use or need a proofreader, editor or writer, contact me. You’ll find my email on my “About” page.

In all I write, photograph and do, and how I live my life,  I remain true to my values and upbringing rooted deep in my native Minnesota prairie.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Tips to successful blogging from Minnesota Prairie Roots December 3, 2010

I AM NOT NECESSARILY the self-promoting type, which, for a writer, likely spells missed opportunities.

While I appreciate positive comments, even glowing praise and public recognition, I struggle with marketing myself. I’ve turned down invitations to speak to groups because I dislike giving public presentations. Not that I can’t, and won’t, but, given the choice, I’d rather not. I’m at that place in my life where I don’t feel pressured to do what others expect.

I’m not on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any social networking site that would likely benefit my career.

Rather, I have focused my energy on writing, simply writing, and not shouting to the world, “Hey, look at me, I’m great!”

But today I’m going to shed my conservative Minnesota Lutheran, avoid-the-spotlight persona and share my thoughts on blogging, which in my humble opinion, I’ve become quite good at during the past year. Even writing those words, though, makes me feel uncomfortable and boastful.

Yet, numbers don’t lie. Since launching my Minnesota Prairie Roots blog on July 15, 2009, my readership has soared. A year ago my views totaled an unimpressive 896 for the month of August, my first full month of blogging. This August, I had 6,132 views.

But the numbers get even better. The past three months, my views have scooted close to 10,000 per month with 9,623 views in September, 9,573 in October and a record 9,976 in November. That’s a current average of 332 daily views.

Maybe those numbers are small potatoes in the blogging world. I don’t know and I really don’t care, all that much. I’m happy with where I’m at, although getting paid for blogging would increase my happiness quotient substantially.

 

The homepage of WordPress.com, chose my "In Praise of Preserving Country Churches" as one of 11 featured posts from among 300,000-plus world-wide on July 10. There's my post in the lower right.

I’ve been featured on the home page of WordPress.com on “Freshly Pressed,” chosen from among hundreds of thousands of bloggers world-wide for that honor. That July 10 selection pushed my views to an all-time high of 1,052 on a single day.

I’ve been categorized among Minnesota’s best bloggers on at least two online publications.

At MinnPost, my posts have been featured numerous times on “Minnesota Blog Cabin” by Justin Piehowski who, weekdays, “surveys hundreds of Minnesota’s best blogs looking for the best of the best.”

Bob Collins, who writes the online “News Cut” for Minnesota Public Radio calls Minnesota Prairie Roots an excellent blog and one of his favorites. “This woman can write,” he wrote in a recent tweet. To get that kind of praise from a respectable media outlet like MPR confirms that I really can blog, and well.

And get this, Minnesota Twins fans, I even made Joe Mauer’s official Web site on June 11 under the section “Joe’s Kemp’s Dairy TV spots,” posted by his mom, Theresa Mauer. She links to my June 17 Minnesota Prairie Roots post, “I may not be Joe Mauer’s mom, but I’ve got it.” Let me tell you, getting onto Mauer’s Web site certainly drove traffic to my blog.

I’m not sure how I’ve managed to achieve all of these honors or grow my readership beyond family and friends. Mostly, I’ve stayed true to my down-to-earth self, writing about my everyday life, the places I visit, the things I do and observations I make about the world around me. In other words, I really haven’t changed how I write because my writing has been noticed.

My writing isn’t particularly opinionated. In fact, the topics of my blog posts seem rather ordinary to me. Perhaps therein lies their appeal. One reader (I must divulge that she is my cousin) says my writing makes her feel good. She likes that I don’t gripe and complain or have an agenda (usually). Another reader, who is a native Minnesotan and New York Times bestselling author living in California, says “Reading your e-magazine is almost like visiting Minnesota again.”

Whatever the reasons for my success, I’m pleased that folks continue clicking on Minnesota Prairie Roots. This validates me as a writer.

Recently a writer-friend asked for blogging tips. After some thought, which really made me examine this blogging passion of mine, I created a list that has proven successful for me.

Even though directed at blogging, these suggestions can apply to writing in general:

  • Keep paragraphs short. Big blocks of copy can be daunting to readers.
  • Use catchy, creative titles.
  • Categorize and/or tag your blogs. I did not tag initially. Big mistake.
  • Use photos. Readers find blogs paired with artwork to be more visually-appealing and interesting.
  • Keep a constant list of blog topics in your head or on paper. This means remaining attentive to everything around you. Almost anything can become a blog post. I never run out of ideas.
  • Engage all of your senses when you write. Paint a picture with words.
  • Use strong verbs. I avoid forms to “to be” whenever possible.
  • Sometimes what you think are the most mundane topics turn out to be the most interesting to readers. Do not underestimate a topic.
  • Story-tell with quotes in a style of creative nonfiction. I always, or almost always, use present tense when I write in this style.
  • Proof your writing to assure that you publish an error-free piece.

Now, with this post I’ve likely broken many of the above guidelines—too few images, too many weak verbs, too many long paragraphs. But this is not my typical writing style or topic. I’ve dared, for one day, to step outside of my comfort zone and promote myself. Thank you for indulging me.

IF YOU ENJOY READING Minnesota Prairie Roots, tell me why. You, after all, dear reader, have encouraged me through your views and your comments. I am grateful for the 72,986 (as of 2:15 p.m. December 2) views I’ve gotten during the past 17 months of writing for Minnesota Prairie Roots. Very grateful.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling