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BBC: ‘Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win’.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book and it feels so good to be back! I’ve had such a busy few weeks, and I hate when people use that as their excuse for not reading, but this time, it’s true – I promise.

I also said I was going to read a different book next, but when the library says “Not Renewable” – your reading order shapes up pretty quick (I’m currently staring at a stack of three books due back this coming Saturday – whoops!).

So, here we are. And from the looks of things, I’ll have a little more time to read in my near future, so consider Blanche’s Book Club BACK.

Our read this week was “Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win” by Jo Piazza, which was a pick on my Summer Reading Guide. Here is the book description from Amazon:

From Jo Piazza, the bestselling author of The Knock Off, How to Be Married, and Fitness Junkie, comes an exciting, insightful novel about what happens when a woman wants it all—political power, a happy marriage, and happiness—but isn’t sure just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it.

Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.

Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.

A searing, suspenseful story of political ambition, marriage, class, sexual politics, and infidelity, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is an insightful portrait of what it takes for a woman to run for national office in America today. In a dramatic political moment like no other with more women running for office than ever before, Jo Piazza’s novel is timely, engrossing, and perfect for readers on both sides of the aisle.

I read this book in 24 hours – it was relatable in some ways, but also just a fun world to jump right into. I was curious how I’d feel reading this book post-2016 election, but it was still a unique story, with a very unexpected ending.

I found it entirely refreshing, and since this was my first Jo Piazza book, I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from her.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Puddin‘” by Julie Murphy. Follow me on Instagram @Orangejulius7 and see my thoughts on the book in real time. Have a great Monday!

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Dealing with a cyber-bully.

Who's behind the screen?

Who’s behind the screen?

Over the last few years, cyber bullying has been on the rise, given that since nearly everyone has a smartphone and/or a tablet, it’s much easier to pester someone behind the comfort of a screen. Cyber bullying happens in school, for kids of nearly all ages, and it happens to adults – celebrities often talk about all of the negative things people message them.

But it’s not just happening to children and celebrities. In fact, I’d venture to say that it happens to anyone who’s willing to put themselves out there, online.

As a blogger – I’m coming up on my 10 year anniversary of – I’ve been putting myself out there A LOT. In fact, even before I had a blog, I worked for years as a newspaper columnist, and that was also a vulnerable situation.

During my years as a writer and as a blogger, I’ve encountered many people who want to cut me down based on various things: the way I look, the way I write, my opinions, my actions, etc.

In college, I had a “confrontation” with someone via MySpace. She didn’t send me messages, really, but instead she posted messages about me to her page. The messages were threatening, so I contacted police. She was a fellow LSU student, so when the police looked into her personal email account, they said she had contacted several people she knew to help her harm me physically.

I only saw her once in public during that time – and she threw ice at me. But I quickly left the area and made it home safely.

In the years since I’ve had this blog, I’ve come across many people who leave comments or send me messages saying they disagree with what I’m saying. And hey, that’s okay. We all have opinions and reasons for why we are the way we are – and isn’t diversity what makes this world such an interesting place?

But it’s when those messages turn nasty, that things go dark. Sometimes, I’ve had people completely lash out at me over something I wrote. Most of the time, it’s just a one-time occurrence; I said something that really struck a chord and then it’s over the next day when I post something new.

But, there are other times when a bully just keeps coming back. I have one such bully who is tricky in many regards. She, or he, has been willing to leave many nice comments from time to time, and has also entered in (and won) many of my giveaway contests – including a free week of organic meals from Green Chef and the opportunity to take my blog class for just $1.

But other times, this person says pretty harsh things about the way I write, my opinions, and in general, attacks my personality.

All of this is totally allowed. I am a firm, FIRM believer in our right to freedom of speech, but I’m not a fan of using it to cut people down, just for the sake of being mean. While this person doesn’t claim to be anonymous, I’m not sure if they sign using their real name or email address – another stipulation of this online world. Essentially, I have no idea who this person is.

Over the past year, she got so mad at me, she took to my online blog class and left it a very harsh review. If she really took the class, and hated it, then by all means, leave an honest review. But, as the course instructor, I can see which students are at which points in the course, and she hadn’t even taken it yet.

She was commenting on things she didn’t know, just to give my class a 1-star rating, which affects the course’s potential to make money.

After this, I reached out to her via email. I wanted to know, really, what I did to make her hate me so much. After all, sure, we disagree on a few things, but that’s okay. I played fair when she entered my blog giveaways and tried to just appreciate her as a reader who challenged me in the way I thought.

But, she never wrote me back. Instead, she just kept leaving nasty comments on my blog – and I decided to immediately put them in the digital dumpster.

Here’s a little known fact about me: words are hurtful. And I have put EVERYTHING out there on this blog – I’ve lost a job over it; I’ve had fights with friends; I’ve been threatened to be sued by my family; I’ve dissed exboyfriends… and all of this personal stuff is difficult and therapeutic all at once to put out there, but it makes me vulnerable.

And when someone calls me a cow or says I’m a bad writer or self-absorbed… I just want to hide under my bed. And I don’t know if that feeling will ever change.

The scary thing is… dealing with a cyber bully is difficult. You can’t call the police over someone who simply hurts your feelings or ruins your online business reputation. In fact, I don’t even know this person’s name or location – yes, I can see IP addresses, but there are IP blockers and scramblers that can disguise their location.

It’s tricky, and no matter how much you tell yourself you can handle it, or you’ll just toss the comments in the trash, you still see them. It’s not fun.

I’d honestly feel a little better about people who leave rude comments on my blog, if they had a blog. I have never seen someone leave a mean comment, who links to their blog. If you’ve got so much to say, start a blog!

But, I know it’s not about that. It’s a personal attack for a reason I usually don’t know. I will say, that it gets a little easier over the years, but it will probably never be emotionless. Suffering from an online bully? Here’s some advice from the official Help Guide:

  • Unplug from technology. Taking a break from your computer, tablet, iPod, video games, and cell phone can open you up to meeting new people.
  • Find others who share your same values and interests. You may be able to make friends at a youth group, book club, or religious organization. Learn a new sport, join a team, or take up a new hobby such as chess, art, or music.
  • Share your feelings about bullying. Talk to a parent, counselor, coach, religious leader, or trusted friend. Expressing what you’re going through can make a huge difference to the way you feel, even if it doesn’t change the situation.
  • Boost your confidence. Exercise is a great way to help you feel good about yourself, as well as reduce stress. Punch a mattress or take a kick boxing class to work off your anger.

About six months ago, I wrote a series of posts about an ex. Although I changed his name, he got very (very) upset when people thought they knew who I was talking about. Even though the posts didn’t say anything negative about him, he was embarrassed (for reasons I’m still unsure of), and he went to great lengths to try and get me to take down the posts and/or stop posting them.

He threatened to sue me, told other people to threaten to sue me, and even made up lies about potentially losing his job (even writing a fake email from his boss) to try and get me to take down the blogs. And yes, it was a difficult decision to make: do I please someone I once had a friendship with, or do I continue to write about my life?

I chose the latter and paid for it emotionally – pretty sure there’s a giant group of people in my hometown with voodoo dolls of me (explaining my severe back pain and frequent headaches), but that is the risk I took. I’d be lying if I said I felt good about it, even all these months later, but it was my choice and I did what I could to write about the events and not the person.

It always helps me to just remind myself that I write this blog for me; and I’m not perfect. This blog is the story of my life and everything in it, and it’s not always pretty, not always agreeable, and maybe it’s not even good. But It’s never about that. It’s just a place for me to be me. And if you’re going to attack me for that, then yes, your shit is going in the trash.

Pic of the Week… And a GIVEAWAY!

My Blogging book, in print!

My Blogging book, in print!

I’m about halfway through the summer semester of my blogging class, Blogging for Beginners (through LSU Leisure Courses), and I received a shipment of my “textbooks.”

This book, “Blogging For Beginners: 51 Blogging Tips,” is a compilation of the tips I offer on my class blog, Blogging for Beginners. I know, I get really creative with these names.

While I put this book together last year, it’s the first year I started making the book a requirement for the class. Not to toot my own horn, but I think it offers lots of great information for beginners, and even though most of my class is dedicated to living online, I think we still live in a world that likes something to hold onto (literally).

So, I ordered 15 copies for my students, and this was the first time I got to see them in print. I must say, it was a cool feeling. They look beautiful!

If you have a Kindle (or the Kindle App for iPad), you can purchase a digital version of the book here, or get the pretty printed version here.

Or, if you’re still reading… you can *WIN* a free copy! That’s right, it’s my first giveaway! To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post, telling me what you’ll use the blog tips for: writing a new blog? Perfecting your current one?

I’ll randomly select a winner (using Random.org) Wednesday (June 18) night at 9pm, central time, so get your comments in before then! I’ll post the winner on the blog Thursday, June 19 — so let’s do this thing!

Happy commenting!

Hey, teach!

After weeks of prepping, I had an interview yesterday to determine whether I could teach a class I created all on my own: Blogging for Beginners.

I got the class!

I will say, right from the start, I never ever thought I would teach. However, over the 10 years of my writing career, I have felt a want to show others just how amazing such an outlet can be. Over these years, I’ve been inspired by people and their stories. However, before all of that were some great teachers who lit a fire within me I didn’t even know I had.

And so, I took ahold of an opportunity placed in front of me. I know I love to blog, and I want to show others that it’s easy and fun! The course I have created will teach how to start and maintain any and every type of blog. It will be an interactive class, so my students can get my help as they work.

I am really excited to meet my course participants and see what kind of blogs they’ve been thinking of. I am also looking forward to learning even more about blogging.