happy birthday, alphabet soup!

Ready, set, go!

A-B-C. 1-2-3.

Zee leetle blog, she is three!

Hard to believe. Time sure flies. Why do I keep talking in three’s?

Can’t help it. Oops. Did it again ☺.

Wow. We’re up to 950+ posts, 14,000+ comments received, and 5500+ images uploaded. I’m happy to report that although blog reading in some circles is down, my readership has doubled in the past year. By now, I should own stock in flickr, Campbell’s Tomato Soup, and Earth’s Best Organic Alphabet Pasta. And of course, I’m pretty sure Sir Paul, Bobby Dylan (wearethisclose), and George Clooney have all been asking about me.

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it’s my first blogiversary!!

from left to right: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, lemon, and mixed berries — enjoy!

Happy Birthday alphabet soup!

So glad you’re here today. Make yourself comfortable and help yourself to a cupcake!

I can’t believe it’s been a year since my very first blog post. As I mentioned back in February, this whole blogging thing was an act of great courage for me.

Over the past year, I’ve participated in Robert’s Snow: Blogging for a Cure, Poetry Friday, Nonfiction Monday, and two Carnivals of Children’s Literature. I’ve interviewed authors and illustrators I’ve long admired, tested some new recipes, posted lots of my favorites, reviewed some picture books, and ladled out celebratory bowls of alphabet soup. Most important, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting you!

As of today, I’ve written 363 public posts and received over 3600 comments. I’d say that’s pretty good for someone with limited computer skills, social anxiety, and a big old case of writer angst. Blogging is liberating, but scary. I’ve still got a lot of growing and learning to do here, but I’m proud to have taken the first step.

Recently, Becky Levine asked me why I decided to do monthly themes. The answer to this is related to why I decided to focus on food in addition to children’s books. I don’t consider myself a great cook, by any means, but I needed some kind of hook so people would remember my blog. In the kidlit blogosphere, there are so many outstanding book review blogs, industry info blogs, agent/editor blogs, and a million trillion personal writer blogs. Even if someone doesn’t like to cook, everyone has to eat. Even if someone doesn’t know me from Adam, they just might remember the blog with all those dang recipes that I have to keep scrolling through.

I didn’t realize until recently how much of my reading and writing naturally seems to revolve around food. Since my first book was called, Dumpling Soup, alphabet soup seemed a good name for a blog. My current writing projects include a chapter book about a girl who orders an uncle via mail order for her alphabet museum, and an easy reader/picture book series about duck and panda chefs. This year, as I blogged my way through soup, chocolate, chickens, eggs, tea, and pie, I collected all kinds of tasty ingredients for new projects.

Besides feeding my other writing, the monthly blog themes keep me on track, and reduces some of the “what am I going to blog about today?” stress. I stay flexible, though, and without prior notice, will “lapse” into such topics as Bob DylanPaul McCartney, and my muse, Tom Selleck. It’s always good to add spice and stir the pot.

What are some of my favorite posts, aside from the interviews? Well, I like this photo blogthis bookish one, and this Poetry Friday post. Blowing off steam with my official 2008 No Soup List, felt good. As for food posts, I salivated the most writing this one.

Surprising things I learned:

A lot of writers and artists don’t cook.

Often when you think you’ve written something interesting or worthwhile, nobody comments. Yet you can throw something random out there, like a meme, and lots of people comment.

Just when you feel like your blog is a total failure, someone will say or do something really nice.

If you are brave enough to ask, most people are more than willing to help.

I don’t think any earth-shattering changes are in store for alphabet soup in the coming months. I’m still trying to find my sea legs. Previous to coming online, I had lost touch with the children’s publishing world. Because of health issues, I had stopped writing and submitting for at least 7 years. When I returned, I found it was a whole new ball game with different rules. So I’m starting from scratch. I think trying to rise from the ashes is more difficult, emotionally, than breaking in as a new writer. That’s why I’m grateful for all the resources available online, especially the blogs of teachers, librarians, and, of course, other writers. alphabet soup is more than just a blog, it’s my coming-out party.

Since I don’t have a sitemeter on this blog, my only indication that anybody (other than my devoted father) is reading anything are your comments. I know how many wonderful blogs there are out there to keep track of. So if you’ve taken the time to read any of my posts and/or leave a comment or two, thank you very, very much. You alone helped me get through this first year. And thanks for your blogs, which continue to inspire and delight.

Now, since you’ve been such great guests and didn’t drop any cupcake crumbs on my keyboard, here are some photos of the official alphabet soup kitchen, the first kitchen I actually designed all by myself!

The cabinets were custom made in New Hampshire and trucked down to Virginia. They are painted maple and stained birch and cherry. I had to draw all of them on graph paper to scale (a very hard thing to do for someone who isn’t good at math). I was SO afraid everything wouldn’t fit together in the end. Although this is my favorite room in the entire house, I’d love to have a personal chef working there instead of me!

I named every room in the house, using stand-up letters. Kitchen = patty cake.

 Len, aka sous chef, busy grating carrots at the sink.

Eating and sitting area opposite the island (Albert and Ursula at the table.)

Behind me = baking center. Special tea corner cupboard on the counter, right of sink.

Close-up of baking center, inspired by the cupboard in the Waltons’ kitchen!

We’re having spaghetti tonight, if you’d like to stay.

If not, thanks again, and see you next time!!

Special thanks to:

Sara Lewis Holmes of Read*Write*Believe, for inspiring me to blog, and for commenting every day when I first started out.

Jules and Eisha of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, for mostly everything I’ve learned about interviewing, and for setting the gold standard for in-depth, passionate, spontaneous reviews. Their reviewing is an art form, taken to the next level.