This morning (after the storm, the power outage, starting dishes and laundry) I took an ACLU sponsored quiz on online privacy. At the end, I was informed that online, I’m as recognizable as Jackie O.
I love Jackie.
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I’ve had internet access for 14 years. My domain name, wvcottages.com, has been registered to me for 12 years. I’ve been connected through dial-up (RURAL dial-up at that), a T-1 line, broadband and DSL. I’ve designed over 40 web sites, and this is my fifth blog.
I have a facebook profile, and a facebook page. I have a twitter account, a linked in account, an eBay account, an Amazon account, an estsy account, cafepress account, and many more.
I have seven different email accounts.
I buy ink online. Clothes, paper supplies, envelopes, online. I rent movies online, watch movies online, watch the news and the weather — online.
We haven’t had television service since 2001.
I’m in the media business, in the middle of West Virginia and the combination of my location and my inability (or unwillingness) to keep up — I’m considered “outdated”.
Even so, apparently I’m a virtual Jackie O.
I find it difficult to believe, and yet — writers are rarely truly aware of their audience. My picture and words are seen by at least 50,000 people a month — in Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine, on the Hur Herald, on facebook, on this blog. I think the reason I’m such a facebook addict is because of the feedback and interaction. People “like” my comments, and comment in return.
Even so, I notice strange “celebrity-type” situations that sometimes trip me up.
I went to an hour-away part store last week to order a part for one of our vehicles. When time came to record who the part was for when it arrived, the clerk wrote down my name without asking. I must have had a strange look on my face because he said, “I see your face in the magazine every month.”
Another time, I stopped at an out of county road-side stand to buy some produce. There were two men working the booth, but only one stood at the table, the other was over the bank picking up trash. During our conversation and transaction, the man at the table kept saying, “I know you from somewhere.” We tried to think of social situations where we might have met before. Just then, the other man returned from over the hill, looked up at me and said, “You’re the Two-Lane Lady!” The first man said, “That’s it! That’s where I’ve seen you before!”
When I was a county reporter, these things happened often inside that county, and most often with people who at least had a face I recognized. But I find it a little surprising when I’m recognized by strangers, two counties away.
Some aspiring writers are told that everything that could be written about HAS been written about already, and in a much better form than we could ever aspire to create. And yet, the trick is that writers are to express a truth, a common human thread from their own unique perspective.
Good writers are considered good because of their ability to strike that common chord with their readers, because of their ability to express a truth in a way that highlights it for others.
But how much truth do you share? How much truth do readers want? How much truth does the ACLU say is safe? What non-fiction truths are for the public, and what private truths should be expressed through fiction only?
These days, more and more it seems that truth is irrelevant. Every on-screen word, every on-screen image is a facade, a filtered image of truth, where shadows have been removed and only the light show presentation is permitted to shine through. It is fiction, based in truth, but fiction nevertheless.
What image do you have of me sitting here and typing this? Are you picturing Jackie O? Are you picturing a casually dressed, professional woman clicking away at social marketing? Or, are you picturing a woman in a nightgown, with a tangled pony tail, dirt under her fingernails and dark circles under her eyes?
For sure, I’ll have you picture ole’ Jackie as opposed to the truth.
When you read anything, you should consider more than just the story. Consider the source, consider their purpose or agenda, consider tone and level of respect for you, the audience that is the purpose of our scribing. Is the purpose to educate you? Inform you? Persuade you? Manipulate you?
Maybe even just detain you to misdirect your attention?
I learn a lot when I read. I learn about the topic yes, but I also learn about the writer. I learn about the points that are important to them, about their research skills, their writing style, their attitude, their ability to twist and turn words to their advantage, or ability to let the words flow without getting tainted too much by their own character flaws. I learn what the writer wants, and what the writer wants of me.
We all do this in some way. When you read something, a connection is made between you and the writer. That’s why when I introduce myself to people and give my name, they often smile brightly and say, “Two-Lane Livin’.” But until some reader says something to the writer, there is no easy way to know for sure if you have made any connection at all.
Then of course, when you expose the truths of your world and your mind, there are also connections you question and examine further, not all of them considered by the ACLU — the government, the occasional angry letter about a seemingly innocent post, the occasional complimentary note from a reader that makes you again wonder…. What it was that made the connection enough for a pen, paper, envelope, stamp, and trip to the mailbox?
I am not a Virtual Jackie O. I’m just a writer in my pajamas, drinking cold coffee, with garden dirt under my fingernails and a tangled pony tail.
Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine was one of the fortunate publications in W.Va. to be selected to participate this year in the WVUncovered Program at West Virginia University. The program is led by the university’s School of Journalism, designed to introduce papers to new media.
Our first workshop session was this past week; two days spent learning about digital photography.
Of course, Frank and I both already have digital cameras, but neither of us use them to their full capacity. We spent two days on campus in Morgantown, Thursday evening and nearly all day Friday, learning about digital cameras, photo composition and lighting, photo cataloging and indexing, and photo editing.
This is just the first of many workshops to come.
Visiting Morgantown and WVU campus was an experience. I haven’t been to Morgantown in more than 20 years, and I haven’t been to a metropolitan city in — years.
Traffic was intimidating. It too an hour and twenty minutes to travel 3 miles from the hotel to campus and find a parking space. If I had not had Frank with me, I never would have made it.
Seem lame? Well, there were three other participants who never did make it there on Thursday evening. One never made it on campus, and two others made it to campus, but never found the right building.
I was taken aback by several things.
First, to a lady who is used to parking meters that don’t take quarters, I thought 75 cents per hour for a parking meter was a little stiff. Luckily, we found a meter that didn’t work right, and got more than three hours for $1.50.
I was also a bit surprised at today’s campus fashion. I didn’t know that mini skirts had gotten so “mini.” Now, I’m no prude but, if you sit down and your entire back side comes in contact with the classroom chair — I believe your skirt is too short.
The other thing I found interesting is how every, and I mean EVERY student walked around with a cell phone or ipod ear plugs in their ears. When lost on campus, we considered asking one of the many students walking around for directions. There weren’t any that weren’t ear plugged or in the middle of some phone conversation.
City life is very different from country life. I didn’t realize it had changed so much since I left the city. For one, I’m rather accustomed to greeting the people I pass on the sidewalk. I at least make eye contact and smile, and was prepared to do so as I walked around campus. But, whenever a student came near, they immediately avoided eye contact.
Inside the classroom however, and inside the buildings, folks became friendlier. If greeted, they responded. If you smiled, they smiled back.
All those involved with the WVUncovered program were very friendly. They were genuinely happy to have us there. We felt extremely welcome in the School of Journalism, and look forward to visiting again.
When I left full-time employment status, one of the first things I did was join the local CEOS (Extension Homemaker’s) Club. When I was a reporter for the local paper I, of course, often covered the goings on of such clubs, but did not feel it appropriate for me to join any specific club or serve on any board.
But truly, my neighborhood CEOS made me feel like a club member anyway from day one. They know where I live, know my husband, his parents, our farm. They know what I drive, when we put up hay, when we go camping.
They are my community, and to them, though I hadn’t yet paid dues, I was already a member. So, when I was finally able, I joined.
Now, meeting once or twice a month with a collection of elderly women may not sound like a good time to many in the younger generations.
You don’t know these ladies.
Food. Laughter. Community service. Friendship. Learning.
Now, doesn’t that sound like fun?
I’ve learned from these women. Not just about gardening, cooking, canning. I’ve learned about faith and duty and friendship, and the responsibilities that come with such things.
I have learned how to cook. How to save money. How to be charitable.
Because of this club, I know how many families are fed by the food pantry we donate to each month. (This month over 250 families were served.) I learned what makes great gifts for those in long term care. What needs victims of domestic violence have in the first 24 hours. I know who cares for our community cemeteries (our club), who cleans our roads (our club), who is in the hospital, getting married, feeling better.
I’ve learned about my community.
Of course, I’ve learned other things.
I’ve learned, for example, that it takes just as long to load 12 elderly women on a wagon to drive up a hillside than it does for said women to mow, rake and clean an entire cemetery.
I’ve learned that you do not meet without eating, and you do not eat without giving thanks.
I’ve learned that you often merely need to speak a need aloud, and the answer will come.
And I’ve learned about what I call, “The Country Exchange.”
The Country Exchange is based on the following principle:
“Well, if you’re going that way, take this to there.”
Let me give you a simple example.
A friend totalled her Rover. Once the smashed vehicle had been towed to a junk yard two counties away, she realized she left something in the vehicle. So she called the junk yard, they rescued the item, and were holding it for her.
Now, she doesn’t go that way very often, but another friend happens to work in the next town, and does here grocery shopping in the same town as the junk yard. So she goes two counties over from friend A, picks up the item, and returns to her own home county, still a county away from the owner.
In the meantime, friend B and I have been invited to friend C’s house for dinner. Friend B brings Friend A’s item to me, and I thus return home with the item in Friend A’s home county.
Now you can see where this is going. my next move was to take the item to town with me to where Friend A works, so that she could then take the item home.
But it’s not that simple, because today was CEOS Day. See not only did I have to remember Friend A’s item, I also had to bring a covered dish, extra copies of Two-Lane Livin’ for club members, pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House, trial size bath items for Domestic Abuse services, t-shirts for another friend’s son that came to me from a lady in Belpre, cucumbers to drop at the neighbor’s, mail to go out and my bank deposit. Plus, I left the farm with my father-in-law’s empty prescription bottles.
This is The Country Exchange.
If you think it gets crazy at the stock exchange, you should see six women trying to load the right things into the right vehicles to get to the right people after a CEOS meeting.
One person takes the donations for long term care. Another has the box that goes to the senior center. A third has the signed get well cards for members and friends in the hospital. I had the box headed to the newspaper office. Plus, of course, we had to fix a plate from our covered dish lunch for the one who couldn’t come because of work.
I go to town with a full box — I come home with a FULL BOX. This one found the special flour I was looking for. This one brought extra cupcakes for everyone to take home. This one brought her column to the meeting. I got rid of cucumbers, but came home with cantaloupe. Another had saved coupons for our dog treats to give me.
Following our meeting, I stood on a corner in town and watched our members head to their destinations, carrying our community services in boxes, plates and bags. So much taken care of by so few.
I went to the paper office, carrying the original item left in the crashed Rover. I walked out carrying a house fern left for me the day before — to be transported back to Friend B, and empty pickled sausage jars from a recycling center committee member who had left them there for me to pick up so I could make bigger batches of pickled eggs.
All these gifts delivered and received, and I never spent a dime.
THAT is The Country Exchange.
Every New Year’s Eve, people all over the world decide to try new paths, make some improvements, bring some changes to their lives. Others, perhaps like me, have another annual moment when they do the same — the birthday. I now have a third “new year” I respond and react to — the birthday of Two-Lane Livin’.
I realize, my blogging has not been a priority for me this summer. Perhaps there are two things I should share about my blogging habits:
1. When I’m not posting, things are happening.
2. In Winter, I’ll likely wear you out with frequent updates.
This month, we released the second anniversary issue of Two-Lane Livin’ – Volume 3, Issue 1. (The September 09 issue.) By now, we’ve laid our foundation, and we’re ready to build.
By all means, the magazine is our main endeavor, and advertising is our main product. But not many realize that our business name is actually Stumptown Publishing, and their are other projects Frank and I want to work on that aren’t the magazine. Their are venues we want to explore and perfect, and we have been studying.
OUR WEB SITE
I have already mentioned current and pending changes for our web site. Two years ago, I didn’t have the knowledge to design a web site that could do all the things it could (should) do. I upgraded my design software and found that I hated the program. Then, my blogging brought me to WordPress, and I have been learning. This two-year anniversary seemed to be the right time to apply what I have learned to our magazine’s web site.
So, our online edition now has an RSS feed (already included at wvnewsline.com), better presentation, and allows for comments and interaction. Within a few weeks, we’ll be working to integrate audio and video projects created by WVU students.
By all means, when we started Two-Lane Livin’, with our web needs, I was certainly in over my head. Over the last two years, I have basically been treading water while the rest of the world was swimming competitively. I’m ready to see what I can do.
I know there are going to be glitches. I’m not completely happy with the new site as it is, but I still think it looks good enough to launch. I realize that it is a huge internet “faux pas” to launch a web site under construction, but I’m to the point where I think folks will understand. It doesn’t LOOK like it’s under construction, and I’ve come to look at our online edition as a work in progress — a creation that has to flex and grow with this publishing revolution and the new technology that appears every day.
When Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine launched, Frank and I also began some home-based internet courses through American Writers and Artists, Inc. Specifically, we have been fine tuning our education in travel writing and photography – me in the writing courses and Frank in the photography courses.
We are nearing the end of our training. Now granted, it doesn’t take most people two years to finish these courses. But Frank and I have been launching and producing a magazine in the same time frame. We’ve worked through the courses at our own pace, reviewing and renewing our knowledge when time allowed.
We enjoy travel. We enjoy traveling to secluded places, out of the way places, unpolished locations. Frank takes hundreds of photos wherever we go. It only made sense to develop these gifts and habits and use them in our magazine. But, everything in Two-Lane Livin’ is designed to be positive. And would mean travel articles we write would also need to be positive – not journalistic reviews from an objective traveler.
That’s why we decided to use our services for travel “advertorials.” Not as travelers come to review and judge the location and experience, but as professionals there to market and promote the features and benefits of the destination. We will be offering this service for a fee, however, a full page feature in Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine – reaching over 35,000 readers – is included in the package.
CUSTOM PUBLISHING NETWORK
In making the rounds for Two-Lane Livin’, I ran in to many, many people who were needing printing and publishing services. Business cards, rack cards, web sites, posters — you name it, it seems someone has asked me about it. At the same time, I have met folks who offer such services: proofing, printing, copy editing, web design, book cover design, etc.Each of these people has a special niche, skill, talent, ability of their own.
It occurred to me that really there just needed to be a way to connect the right project with the right person.
And so, we created a Custom Publishing Network. Project requests come in through our office, and we send the details out to our network. Quotes, turn around times, etc, come back in to us, and are then presented to the client. The client chooses the network option that best suits them.
It’s a simple concept really. The network (so far) includes four designers, two copy editors, two writing technicians, and five printers. We already have two book projects coming into the network, and have been approached for a new business marketing package. The book projects alone will need the services of at least three of the network members (who have never met by the way), and the client can find them all “under our roof.”
I haven’t yet created the web site for our network yet. That’s one of the “under construction” sections yet to come.
THE PRINT EDITION
All this talk about changes, some may fear that Two-Lane Livin’ in print is no linger a priority. Not so. The print edition is also seeing some improvements.
First, our spot color pages have all been converted to full color pages. Our Reader’s Page was a spot color page, but we began receiving so many beautiful photos, we really wanted to present them in color. Also, the requests for full color ads are on the rise.
We also changed the main body text for the magazine from Times New Roman to Gill Sans. This change will allow me to fit more words on the page, make it easier for the reader to read it and — hopefully give what so many call, “The Two-Lane Paper” more of a magazine look. I will likely never use magazine layout styles (too much white <wasted> space), but I do want readers to get a tighter grasp on the fact that we’re NOT the news.
Starting next month, we will also be featuring an antiques column, made possible by a “column exchange” with The Marietta Register. The Register will be using Two-Lane Livin’s “Only Organic” in exchange. This is a neat trade I think. The two publications serve different regions, so there’s no real worry about readers having read the piece in the other publication.
THREE’S A CHARM
I’m excited about these new developments. I see a whole new world of possibilities for us in our upcoming third year. The rest of the world may be gloom and doom about magazines and publishing venues, but I don’t see that for us. Here in Central West Virginia, we have the potential to grow. We’ve spent two years forming our roots, and it seems that we’re working to bloom and produce fruit just like our garden.
Oh – and speaking of the garden – that’s the other reason I haven’t been blogging so much lately. The garden’s coming on. Pickles, salsa, beans, peppers. Lots of canning and freezing happening every day.
In fact, I think I’ll wander out to the garden to see what awaits me now. And when I return? I’ll work on our new online edition a little more. I’ll have updates from the new issue online soon.
In August, with the release of the September issue, Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine will celebrate two years of serving and creating life-long learners in Central West Virginia.
In a region where the local newspaper’s lifestyle section is slim to non-existent, less than 50% of citizens have Internet access, and resources are thin, Two-Lane Livin’ has come forward as the region’s source of useful, practical and entertaining information.
As expected, the magazine is enjoyed by citizens who have made a habit of reading and learning in their lives. But, the free magazine has also connected with a new audience.
Susan’s husband, for instance, who (as Susan wrote in) “reads Two-Lane Livin’ cover to cover, and he doesn’t read anything.”
Cover Price and Distribution
Two-Lane Livin’ has combined the readership of the county newspaper with the readership of the regional trading guide. The magazine reaches into 16 counties, laying over into the coverage of two trader magazines. It has a larger coverage region than the Weston/Glenville FM radio station, and encompasses a region divided in coverage by three different television stations.
Because the magazine is free to readers, distribution locations can include libraries, senior citizen’s centers, waiting rooms and social service offices. Two-Lane Livin’ doesn’t ask the reader to seek it out at the news stand. Two-Lane Livin’ magazine reaches out to all readers, wherever they are.
You can find Two-Lane Livin’ magazine at over 500 distribution locations. Hair salons, barber shops, mom and pop stores on backroads, towns that have only a post office. Sure, we deliver to GoMart and other typical news outlets, but we also deliver to class rooms, community centers, long term care facilities, taverns and laundromats.
The Lady at the Laundromat
On a recent delivery to a local laundromat, I met a devoted reader. Dressed in a black mini skirt, sitting on the bench out front smoking a cigarette, she watched me gather copies from the truck bed, and approach the front doors.
“Hey you,” she said. Blowing out smoke as she talked, and looking at me with black lined eyes.
“Yes?” I asked, looking at her in surprise.
“Is that the Two-Lane Livin’?”
“Yes, it is.” I said, holding the copies out to show her the cover.
“Can I have one?” She asked. “I love that paper. It’s the only thing I read.”
Of course, Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine is enjoyed by a variety of people. Men, women, young, old, rich, poor, learners and — those who may have lost their lust for learning. Two-Lane Livin’ has reached into the nooks, crannies, valleys and glens of Central West Virginia to offer the region the information they need to improve the quality of their lives.
We’ve opened an outlet for their photos, their essays, their stories. We present them with articles written by their neighbors, their friends, their associates. Two-Lane Livin’ is Central West Virginia written and produced and created by the combined efforts of Central West Virginians. As a result, it is embraced by Central West Virginia readers — and others beyond the region.
You Can Contribute
Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine allows readers to contribute photos, stories, poetry and essays. We’ve provided readers with a free outlet for their creations, and a free source for practical learning.
Of course, we’re funded by advertising and are always seeking contributing sponsors. By advertising in Two-Lane Livin’, not only are you building a strong branding image with Central West Virginians, but you are also fostering their education and paving their path to a better quality of life.
Your business brand can become part of this Two-Lane Connection. Use your advertising dollars to contribute to life-long learning in Central West Virginia. Visit our web site to learn how.