What drives you? What inspires you to write? What makes you want to start a blog, and keep at it when the chores pile up and sunny days beckon you outdoors?

Whatever that passion is, that’s where you will find your niche.

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced a writing path discussion series on The SITs Girls forum for bloggers who have mastered blogging basics and who are ready to take their blogs to the next level.

Find a niche for your blog

So far, we introduced the writing path by looking at how some bloggers have leveraged a blog into book deals and freelance writing assignments. And then, to get you started on the path to fame and glory, I listed online classes and conferences where you can learn the skills you need while networking with your tribe – the support network of folks who are committed to your success.

Next, we’ll discuss the interests that might drive your blog, but first, I think we need to tackle one important question.

What’s a niche?

The term “niche” is commonly used by marketers to refer to segments of the internet centered around a product. So, for example, the fashion niche might include the online presence of designers, manufacturers, and the online media devoted to following, discussing, and promoting everything and anything to do with fashion.

But I’m more interested in the way writers use the term; Christina Katz defines a niche as a topic that suits your talents and personality.

What’s your niche?

Even knowing this, it’s not easy to pick the right niche – the one that’s right for you right now. Join me on The SITs Girls Discussion Forums as we tackle finding a niche.

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blogger writerMy writing path began with the first word that I jotted down in a shiny new Five Year Diary, the treasured Christmas present of a young girl learning English. And like the journey of a thousand miles described by Lao-tzu, this expedition begins again, and again, with each new step.

In 2008, I resolved to write, but it wasn’t until two years later that I took the first concrete step to do something with my writing besides filling journals. As 2010 rolled around, I resolved to get published and signed up for Christina Katz’ Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff class.

Malcolm Gladwell tells us that we must put in 10,000 hours to master any endeavor, but as much as you may improve as a writer through sheer perseverance, at some point focus is necessary to achieve results.

It wasn’t until I worked through Christina Katz’ Discover Your Specialty & Launch Your Platform, that I learned how to focus my creative energies into one niche – my writer’s platform. In doing so, I discovered that by concentrating on one specialty, I could achieve a level of mastery that would be recognized and rewarded. 

Today, I’m thrilled to be the founding editor of a top-ranked family travel blog, a travel writer at Being Latino Online Magazine, and a published freelance journalist.

For me, it was the combination of online education and real world networking that resulted in my first taste of publishing success. Here are the online writing classes and real world conferences that have helped me get to the next step.

Online Writing Classes

Conferences and Workshops

  • Bloggy Boot CampBlogging and Social Media Conferences for Women
  • Type A ParentOnline hub for digital moms and dads.
  • BlogHerThousands of women from around the world come to discuss, inspire and connect with each other.
  • TBEXTravel Blog Exchange.
  • BlogWorld – Industry wide conference, trade show, and media event for all new media.
  • Social Media One Night StandAn Advanced Workshop for Journalists, Bloggers & Media Professionals at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

Upcoming New Conferences

  • ASJA – American Society of Journalists and Authors, the professional association of independent nonfiction writers.
  • SATW Editor’s Council – Society of American Travel Writers.

Questions? I’m leading a discussion on how to find a niche in The SITS Girls Discussion Forum. We’ll take it step by step, as I show you how to leverage a niche platform into a freelance writing career. Join us!

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Interesting statistics give evidence to a changing educational landscape:

Homeschool Domination
Created by: College At Home

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Texas and Oregon may be more alike than you might think. And Tillamook’s Loaf Love Tour is bringing the Loafter, an orange VW bus on tour through Texas to show just how much they have in common.

 

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pinterest-is-for-bloggersPinterest is the cool new social network. Although it’s been around for several months, suddenly bloggers can’t get enough. Pin addicts are everywhere, and I’m expecting Pinners Anonymous to spring up any moment now.

As Pinterest is still in the Beta stage – admission is by invitation only – there are a number of kinks to be worked out, and bloggers have a ways to go to figure out how to use the medium to their advantage. Luckily, there are a number of blog experts willing to help you learn how to own Pinterest.

But first, a Pinterest Tip

Before I turn to the pros, I have one tip that I want to share. The beauty of Pinterest is that you can create a visual board. So, for example, to keep track of all the blog conferences, I pin an image from the conference website onto my Blog Conferences board. So easy.

Pin-Albany-Kid-Family-TraveOr, it would be so easy if bloggers took the time to put an image on their site that is pinnable. You see, it turns out that many sites put their logo – or blog conference information, for example – on the header. And, in many cases, the header is not pinnable.

That’s why I created a pinnable logo – my business card, if you will – on www.AlbanyKid.com. It sits on my sidebar so that anyone who wants to remember what my blog is about, can see do so at a glance.

Albany Kid Family Travel screenshot

Why You Should Be In Pinterest

  1. Pinterest Drives More Traffic Than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn Combined [STUDY] – Traffic stats prove that Pinterest is now the social media darling of “brides-to-be, fashionistas budding bakers” and retailers.
  2. Why Pinterest is 2012′s hottest website – If Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of Mashable, says Pinterest is hot, then it must be so. Find out why.
  3. 35 Brilliant Bloggers Talk about Pinterest – All the cool kids are doing it. HUGE roundup of smart tips for using Pinterest in a gadzillion niches.
  4. Pinterest for Brands: 5 Hot Tips – Mashable shows how brands are using Pinterest to promote a lifestyle, crowdsource, run contests or a focus group, and inspire a team.
  5. What is Pinterest & Why You Should Optimize For It – Kristi Hines (Kikolani) explains the value of Pinterest for marketers on SEOGadget, but all bloggers will appreciate the visual illustrations.

pinterest-is-for-bloggers

Pinterest Social Media Lessons

  1. Beginner’s Guide to Pinterest Basics – A good place to start, Allison on BlogWorld, shares tips on how to drive traffic for newbies (and pros too) and she follows it up with 7 Cool Ways to Use Pinterest.
  2. Pinterest and Blogging: The Good, The Bad and The Huh? – The Nester tells us that Pinterest is now a top referrer to her home style blog. She gives the stats, best tips, and pitfalls.
  3. Get the Most Out of Pinterest – Don’t miss these tips from Colleen on www.mommiedaze.com, she makes sense of pins and permalinks and steers you clear of pin errors.
  4. Add Pinterest Pin It Button to Every Post & to GetSocial – The title says it all. This short tutorial from Brittany on www.mommywords.com will help you get your blog posts pinned. End of story.  (Another option is to install the Social Discussions plugin, as seen on www.AlbanyKid.com and explained on 6 Ways To Add Pinterest to WordPress.)
  5. Pinterest How-to: How to See If Your Content is Pinned on Pinterest – A super simple tip to see who has pinned your website content on Pinterest from Momcomm.
  6. Pinterest with Friends: How To Contribute & Curate Boards Together! – Get by with a little help from your friends, oh Amanda shows you how.
  7. Pin It Friday – Link Up Your Favorite Pins – Susan at www.5minutesformom.com hosts a linky every Friday where you can share your favorite pin of the week.

Sandra Foyt on Pinterest

Pinterest Boards to Follow

  1. 21 Must-Follow Pinterest Users – Mashable offers a lovely of  list who to follow, but I think that who you follow on Pinterest is going to depend on your interests. I started out by following too many people when what I should have done is to be selective about which boards to follow. Otherwise, my incoming stream ends up being full of pins that don’t interest me at all.
  2. Pinterest Top Five Most Repinned Items - The coolest of the coolest, 52,925 repins and counting.
  3. Sandra Foyt on Pinterest – Follow all of me, or some of my boards: Social Media Lessons, Road Trips, Family Travel, Storybook Travel, In the Garden, Photography Lessons, It’s Funny, and many more – including collaborative boards like: Family Travel Inspiration and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  4. Kelby Carr on Pinterest – Kelby, founder of Type A Parent and author of the upcoming “Pinterest for Dummies” book which will be published by Wiley late 2012, plays show and tell with her boards.

And that’s what Pinterest is all about, after all. Show and Tell. Who do you recommend following on Pinterest? Or which boards?

Psst! Need an invite? Tweet me at @sandrafoyt, and I’ll hook you up.

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typeaI’m in Asheville, NC for Type-A Parent Conference. It’s a three-day affair that promises to enable and empower bloggers to take their sites to the next level. And it delivers!

This being my second TypeA, I’ve come prepared to maximize the gain by sharing coverage of the workshops with friends. Now, I’m not the Liveblogging Queen – that’s Christina at www.CutestKidEver.com, but I’m giving it a shot.

How many of us struggle with juggling Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and way too many other Social Media platforms?

Debba Haupert, of Girlfriendology, shared tips for staying sane and benefiting from these mediums in Power Networking Across Social Platforms:

1. Pick an objective – It’s essential to know what you’re trying to get out from social engagement.

2. Build a list - Know your community so that you tailor the frequency and content of your updates; don’t make it daily if that’s too much. Your list is valuable, one estimate puts it at $80/per person. Make sure that the email subscription opt-in is in a prominent place.

3. Survey your Community – You might think they’re just like you, but often they are not. Ask your community how and where they engage online, ex. might be on Facebook, not Twitter. Don’t be afraid to do ask, you can use SurveyMonkey.com.

4. Plan your updates to fit your community’s schedule & likes. For example, if your audience checks Facebook during lunch, you might want to plan updates to amuse the lunch crowd.  Keep in mind that 47% of population is on East Coast time. Debba’s workflow has Facebook and LinkedIn updates going to Twitter, but not visa versa. Be consistent so audience knows what to expect.

5. Schedule your updates. (Hootsuite, Tweedeck, Social Oomph) Since Debba has a backlog of evergreen blog posts, she pulls those out as “Classic, Favorites, MVP, etc.” and puts them out on Facebook. Her other Facebook updates includes videos and quotes.

6. Make it easy to share content. Add Facebook LIKE buttons and other sharing buttons. Debba recommends the “Suggest This” WordPress Plugin.

7. Engage your community. Ask your community to share the content. Once a week, Debba asks her community to share her blog with others.

8.Share! Share every blog post, guest blog, etc. Make sure to remember to include a link back to your site.

9. Create a conversation. Don’t hog the conversation, listen.

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Waving goodbye to my daughter at John F. Kennedy Airport was one of the more gut-wrenching experiences of my life. Not just any airport, I was dropping her off at one of the most-traveled intersections on the world.

If I could have stayed to see her off, to be certain that she made it on the flight, I would have. But, as luck would have it, my own flight was to take off from LaGuardia Airport a scant hour after hers. All I could do was to watch her check her bags curbside, give her one last precious hug, and watch her walk away through the glass doors.

There was little concrete reason to worry, but it was the idle, nameless fears that had my stomach in knots.

Would she make it on the flight? Would her flight make it to her destination? Would her grandmother meet her flight? And what will happen in a month on an island full of sun-kissed teenage boys?

And then there is the fear that I hesitate to name: would this experience signal a new independence, a severing of the apron strings?

It is inevitable, I know. With each necessary step toward independence, my daughter takes a step away from me and toward the wide-open vista of adulthood.

I would not halt this progress; instead choosing to encourage her toward becoming the fierce woman that she is meant to be.

No, I would not hold her back, but I will take a moment to acknowledge that I miss the closeness that we once shared when every waking moment, and many nights as well, my daughter was a fixture on my hip or breast.

That was a long time ago, practically another lifetime ago.

Today, I’m in transit, headed to a conference of my peers, taking a step toward my own independence, because, you know, there is no expiration date on becoming the woman that I was meant to be.

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Hey Sis,

More than halfway into the Freihofer’s Training Challenge, I have yet to discover my inner runner. Every time the iPhone sounds the morning alarm, an epic battle ensues behind closed lids over who will win – the sneakers or the pillow.

Look for me about 20 seconds into the commercial.

On Nike’s side is the public nature of this endeavor. Not only have I signed up to blog about the Freihofer’s Training Challenge, I have even gone on record in a TV commercial for the the race to declare that “If I can do it, you can do it.”

Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if I dropped out now?

In case you missed it, here is the running journey so far:

Con Cariño,

Sandra

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Hey Sis,

 

My days as the teen columnist at Kids Fun Plaza have come to an end. It was a good run while it lasted. The magazine gave me my first publishing credit, even as it gave me a chance to experiment with article formats.

 

But it wasn’t a good fit for me. I found it difficult to keep up with the demands of writing weekly blog posts on top of my own blogs, but even more challenging was the focus on writing about parenting teens.

As you know, I realized earlier this year that my children’s stories have ceased to be my story. I can’t freely write about my personal experience with teens, and in any case, I would prefer to stick to writing about family travel.

So that’s it, I resigned from the Kids Fun Plaza publications, but here, in case you missed them, are my posts on the Kids Fun Plaza blog:

Con Cariño,

Sandra

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Siempre ha sido mi sueño de compartir una vacación de voluntariado con mi familia.

Así que cuando me enteré de que LATISM, la organización de los latinos en los medios de comunicación social, estaba planeando proyectos de desarrollo sostenible en la República Dominicana este verano, me parecio que este programa va ser perfecto para nuestra primera vacación de voluntariado

 

Ana Roca-Castro describes the LATISM Sustainable Development Projects

Me enteré de LATISM de Ana Roca-Castro, editor de Kids Fun Plaza y fundador de LATISM, . Un líder de la comunidad, Ana es el que me llevó a pensar en los emprendimientos sociales. Ella me ayudó a definir una idea que habíaestado lanzando en mi cabeza que es para crear un cambio social con los principiosempresariales (más sobre esto otra vez!)

Proyectos de desarrollo sostenible LATISM son tres: un campamento de verano, la construcción de una sala de informática, y la conexión a través de Libros Mamá Mamá. Ese es el que realmente me emociona porque creo que las herramientas de medios sociales ofrecen oportunidades sin precedentes para contratar y para permitir a las organizaciones de base a través de un modelo ecológico hiper-conectado de comunicación.

Si bien tengo muchas ganas a la tutoría una bloggera, a mis hijos ya están planificando varios talleres que esperan al plomo. Hasta el momento, se habla de los talleres se centró en los cómics, hacer videos, y skimboard.

No estoy exactamente seguro de lo que nos estamos metiendo, pero sé que será una aventura!

Interesados ​​en aprender más sobre Sostenible LATISM de Proyectos de Desarrollo? Haga clic aquí para obtener más información.

Participe:
Incluso si usted no puede asistir a la República Dominicana este verano, hay un númerode maneras de participar en este proyecto. Aquí están algunas ideas en el blog LATISM:

  • Organizar una colección de útiles escolares, juguetes y ordenadores portátiles usados​​,cámaras flip y cámaras digitales en su Tweetup LATISM siguiente, en la iglesia, sutrabajo, familia de la escuela, o en cualquier lugar donde usted tiene influencia.
  • Alquiler de las mamás y los adolescentes campamento entrenará prestación de servicios cibernéticos.
  • Comprar los productos de la LATISM Sostenible de comercio electrónico cuando esté listo a finales del verano

 

Family Travel for Social Good

 

It has always been my dream to share a volunteer vacation with my family.

So when I heard that LATISM, the nonprofit organization of Latinos in Social Media, was launching sustainable development projects in the Dominican Republic this summer, I jumped right on it.

I first heard about LATISM from Kids Fun Plaza publisher and LATISM founder, Ana Roca-Castro. An inspiring community leader, Ana is the one who got me to thinking about social entrepreneurship. She helped me define an idea that I had been tossing around in my head which is to create social change using entrepreneurial principles (more on that another time!)

LATISM’s sustainable development projects are threefold: a summer camp, building a cyber room, and connecting through Mama por Mama. That’s the one that really excites me as I believe that social media tools offer unprecedented opportunities to engage and enable grassroots organizations through a hyper-connected ecological model of communication.

While I’m looking forward to mentoring a bloggera, my kids are already planning several workshops that they hope to lead. So far, there is talk of workshops focused on comic books, making videos, and skimboarding.

I’m not exactly sure what we’re getting ourselves into, but I know that it will be an adventure!

Interested in learning more about LATISM’s Sustainable Development Projects? Click here for more information.

Get Involved:

Even if you can’t make it to the Dominican Republic this summer, there are a number of ways to be involved in this project. Here are a few ideas from the LATISM blog:

  • Organize a collection of school supplies, toys and used laptops, flip cameras and digital cameras in your next LATISM Tweetup, at church,  your job, family, school or anywhere where you have influence.
  • Hire the moms and camp teens we will train to provide cyber services.
  • Buy the products from the LATISM Sustainable e-commerce when it’s ready at the end of the summer

More Spanish Friday:

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