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Blog mentor
Blog mentor

Get a “Blog Mentor”! Why It Takes a Village To Raise a Blogger

On The HerStories Project blog today, Stephanie and I are delighted to feature a friendship essay by writer, blogger, and social media extraordinaire Nina Badzin.  Check out her essay, “The Case for a Friendship Break.” I’m sure many of us can relate to her experience of needing a little time and breathing room in a friendship.

I don’t know Nina Badzin at all in “real life.”  But based on her generosity, warmth, and powers of connection, I’m sure she is a terrific friend.  For me, I count Nina as one of several “blogging mentors” that I’ve accumulated in the past months since I started a blog.

What is a “blog mentor”?  Again, it may not be someone you know in real life.  In fact, this blogger may not know that you exist at all.

When I was a teacher, I had a few education mentors who guided me in the art, craft  and skills of teaching: classroom management, professional development, relationships with parents.  They served as emotional and professional support, and I also frequently went to their classrooms to watch them in action.  For a beginning teacher, there is nothing more valuable than watching a master.  Excellent teachers make it look so easy, and good mentors break it down for beginners to decode the mystery of how good teachers do their job.  In academia, I’ve also sought out scholar-mentors, several researchers and teachers whose interests align with mine and whose writing and scholarly styles I admire.

When I was a first-year teacher, I was a disaster.  I was so bad.  Just terrible.  I had a degree from a great college, impeccable academic credentials, graduate school fellowships, writing experience…. I had read stacks of books about teaching pedagogy.  How hard could it be?  It wasn’t until I had a few experienced teachers take me under their wings that I started to figure out what I was doing, and I became a good teacher.  I found my own style, my own personality as a teacher, adopting tips, advice, and habits from experienced colleagues.

Unfortunately, I approached the start of my blog the same way that I began my teaching career:  I read books about blogging.  I researched it, way too generically.  But in reality I had no idea what my voice as a blogger would be.  Why was I doing this really?  It didn’t take me long to figure out that the reality of good blogging — just like good teaching — is way harder than it looks.  I thought that if I were a decent writer who had a few interesting things to say and researched my topics exhaustively, that would be enough.

Of course, it wasn’t.  And I searched for blog mentors, other blogs whose formats, designs, writing, interaction style with their audiences, and just general style and content I found appealing.  I “stalked” a bunch of blogs and then got serious.  What was the right combination of blogging traits that I needed to find a style all my own?

And here were the results, my blog mentors:

1.  Nina Badzin:  for advice about Twitter, for blogging tips.  She helped me to see that many of my first instincts about Twitter were right; there was no use in pretending to be someone that I am not.  And she has a wide range of interests — publishing, book reviewing, parenting, Jewish life, culture — and she inspired me to write about what I know about and truly love.

2.  Julie DeNeen:  for blog design and community.  Julie’s group (the Bloppy Bloggers) have been an unbelievable source of support.  It’s a Facebook group where bloggers talk about their blog issues, ask questions, support each other, and read each other’s work.  I’ve met so many fantastic bloggers there, including my HerStories collaborator, Stephanie Sprenger.  And without Julie, I would have no blog.  I would still be flipping frantically through my WordPress guide pages, probably in tears, hopeless, my blog destroyed from my ignorant tinkering.

3.  Science of Mom:  for blog content, style, and approach to parenting topics.  Alice Callahan of the Science of Mom is a writer and former research scientist.  When I first read her blog, I literally gasped.  This was so much like I wanted to be as a blogger and writer.  Her parenting blog has heart and is a pleasure to read, but she doesn’t shy away from the complexity of issues and research facing parents.  And on a personal level, Alice is immensely generous, helping me with one of my first guest posts on her site and serving as a sounding board for many of my ideas and questions.

4.  PhD in Parenting:  for her mix of feminism, parenting, and political advocacy.  Annie is a pro.  She tackles tough, controversial issues, but is fair-minded and is a receptive listener to her readers.  From her and other feminist bloggers, such as Mamafesto and Blue Milk, I learned that you don’t have to check your feminism at the door when you become a “mommy blogger” (whatever that is or whatever that means).

There are a few others who have proven indispensable, such as Joanne Bamberger of The  Broad Side and Suzanne Barston of Fearless Formula Feeder.  Both of them have also been generous with their time, platform, and advice.  Alison Lee of Writing, Wishing, as well as her own consulting company, Little Love Media Company, has incredible insights into the world of blogging.  Alison is a social media dynamo with a work ethic that cannot be matched who has given me endless tips on blog strategy.

My advice to new bloggers?  Ditch the guidebooks and find a set of bloggers that compliment each other and help you to find your own path.  You have a voice that is distinctly your own.  Don’t imitate your mentors but connect with them and learn from their strengths.



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  1. Alison says:

    Jessica, I am so honored to be included in your really awesome list of mentors. Thank you so much for your kind words!

    You have a great list of women here, you will surely go far! Not just with their knowledge and support, but by your own persistence, tenacity and willing-to-do-and-learn attitude.
    Alison recently posted…The Good StuffMy Profile

  2. Nina says:

    I am so touched!!! Really, this post means a lot. I really like to help people as I too looked to others who had been in this gig longer when I first started a few years ago. Your blog is fantastic. I’ve admired it from the start and look how you are growing so quickly with TWO blogs. I will be sending out this link tomorrow but I’ve overtweeted and over-FB’ed a bit today so better to wait until I’m not annoying people! (That’s another tip right there!)
    Nina recently posted…When a Friendship Needs a BreakMy Profile

  3. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who stalks other blogs to see what works for them and, truthfully, to see what I like and don’t like and maybe want to leave off mine. Didn’t know a couple of these, so thanks for the tips.

  4. Lindsey says:

    I love this entry!! I couldn’t agree with you more as to the advice to new bloggers. And I certainly had people who helped me figure out my voice, what I was doing, what I WANTED to do. Though the truth is I’m still figuring all of those things out. I was incredibly happy to meet two of my early writing/blogging mentors in person and to watch them grow into important teachers. xoxox

    • Jessica says:

      You’re so lucky to meet yours in person! I would be starstruck, like meeting a celebrity. This is such an important part of blogging that I hadn’t counted on: teaching. As a former teacher, I appreciate this role. I think every blogger — whatever level, whatever genre — can help other writers in some way by giving feedback, and it truly helps your own growth as well.
      Jessica recently posted…Get a “Blog Mentor”! Why It Takes a Village To Raise a BloggerMy Profile

  5. Harper says:

    Great post! It’s amazing how difficult it can be to do something you’re good at. It all comes down to community and great women like these who are willing to share what they’ve learned along the way, including Honest Mom, where I found this post today!
    Harper recently posted…Dear MinivanMy Profile

  6. Jessica says:

    I am so lucky to have a great group of local bloggers. They have become more than just my mentors, they’re my tribe and my friends. And this is so completely true. I’ve learned so much from my various blog communities that has made me much better than I would be otherwise.
    Jessica recently posted…Boston’s Drool Baby Expo 2013My Profile

  7. Kelly says:

    Well put & I have recently arrived at the same conclusion. I have a group of bloggers I look to for guidance ( even if they don’t know I am!)
    Looking out for your email..please send again don’t c it anywhere!

  8. Katia says:

    What a terrific post! I am going to share on Twitter. So true that it takes a while to find your own voice. I have the same approach, I always read and prepare myself for ages, whereas sometimes you just need to take a plunge. I am curious to read more from your mentors, thanks so much, Jessica, for another great article!
    Katia recently posted…Rap, My Mama and Fitting inMy Profile

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you, Katia. I constantly feel like I’m still finding my “voice”! Yes, definitely check out my “mentors”! They’re terrific. I’d love to hear from other people about who their “mentors” are….

  9. vinma says:

    What a great tribute to the blog mentors in your blogging career! At the same time, your post is a resource to other bloggers in reaching out to the right avenues so that they could be guided in the right path.Thank you for introducing us to this awesome women! Worth checking out! Happy SITS day to you 🙂
    vinma recently posted…Spicing Up Summer with BBQ Fish!My Profile

  10. I’m a new blogger too, and I can’t tell you how valuable it’s been to ‘meet’ other bloggers and learn from their insights and advice. I was inspired to start my blog after I started following an extended family member’s blog. She is my #1 blogging mentor and has been a tremendous help & inspiration to me. Agree that Alison from Writing, Wishing is FABULOUS!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…Quest for the Perfect Sports BraMy Profile

  11. As a teacher and a blogger enjoyed your post. I’m one year from retirement and I’ve decided that next year I’m going to be the best teacher I can be. As to blogging, it will improve when teaching is over. I am working at that this summer but full-time teaching and my novel writing leaves less time for blogging improvement than I want. Enjoy your SITS Day.
    Sheila Skillingstead recently posted…Some character studiesMy Profile

  12. Great post Jessica! You are so right about not relying on the study method to learn about blogging. When I started my blog almost two years ago I received this massive book as a gift from my well intentioned hubby. I love to read, but it did not take long for me to lose interest, LOL. I learned to read what others had to say and share our common loves. This helped me grow in so many ways and I count these on line friendships as some of my besties ♥

    Suzanne Rudge (MapleMouseMama) recently posted…Video! Unboxing Disney’s MagicBand and AccessoriesMy Profile

  13. Neti* says:

    Before I started a blog, I wrote a 2 page monthly newsletter for my lady friends and delivered to their email box in a pdf format. That newsletter grew into a blog and life goes on. I continue to stalk other bloggers that have some content I like. Thanks for the insight.
    Neti* recently posted…Eloquii SaleMy Profile

  14. Fantastic post! And fantastic advice. I thought I knew how to blog because I was a writer. So wrong! I didn’t know the first thing about blogging. But the women bloggers I was able to connect with through SITS and Honest Voices — both fantastically supportive groups of women — have helped me enormously by fielding tons of newbie questions, sharing posts, and offering support and wisdom. The community of women bloggers is amazingly generous. And the advice to find some mentors and reach out — because I’ve found most to be very approachable and willing to help — is spot on. Thank you!
    Norine of Science of Parenthood recently posted…Lunch Box Remainder PrincipleMy Profile

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