I didn’t win, but at the same time I kind of did.
This past week, the notifications for both scholarships I applied to were sent out. I didn’t win either of them. I can’t say I was entirely surprised; the odds of winning such a competition are extremely low. To find the silver lining though, they each were an exercise in writing, both in conciseness and prose.
What was interesting though, was that for the second scholarship (entry under Another Love Letter) they encouraged applicants to post the photo portion of their application on instagram. I abandoned my instagram account years ago because it was just too much work. I considered (and more or less still do) facebook a one stop shop. However, a month or so ago, I created “The Rambling Traveler” instagram for the days when I’m actually traveling again and have interesting subjects to photograph outside of the drudgery of my daily commute and the chaos of my cubicle. I planned to link the account to this blog so my readers can have a little visual content to go with my paragraphs upon paragraphs. So, since I was logged into that account on my phone, I decided to post the photo on it.
The website Go Overseas, who was offering the scholarship, did all their updates for the contest on instagram. It was incentive to check up on it daily, and one day, reading a comments thread I decided to reply to a post where someone asked which schools people were going to. I commented back to the original poster saying I would be at UCD in the fall studying a Master of Public Health. Several other people wrote that they would be attending UCD, too, but what was most crazy to me, was that two other girls were also going to be in the MPH program with me. They started following me and wondering if they bothered to look at my profile which has the link to my blog, I checked my reader stats. Sure enough, I got two new viewers shortly after they began following me.
This may not sound like much, but I found it amazing that by simply commenting on an instagram photo, I got two new people to read this. Two random people who probably wouldn’t have found my blog through other means. That is when I realized that even though expanding your social media usage is time-consuming, (to me) annoying, and labor-intensive, it pays off. Will they ever come back to read future posts? Who knows. I’m not exactly putting out the sexiest content right now — and the themes aren’t consistent. But, I know what I need to do to increase readership.
Another thing I learned from this instagram incident was that the six degrees of Kevin Bacon is a real thing. Real freaky. One of the above girls who began following me was a seasoned instagramer and had tons of photos. I was skimming through them when I saw someone I thought I recognized. On closer inspection, it was a picture of the girl having crabs with a few other people, one of which was the dad of one of my friends here in Baltimore. Keep in mind: this was a national contest with entrants from all over the U.S. I was so completely confused and commented on the photo, “am I going nuts or is that Ryan’s dad?” She wrote back not long after saying it was, obviously as shocked as I was, and then sent me a direct message asking how I knew Ryan. It turns out, she’s the sister-in-law of Ryan’s brother and although she lives in PA, sees them all the time. It was completely wild. Despite how huge the world is, it can sometimes seem incredibly small. We talked, I added her on facebook (we had one other mutual friend), and now I have someone I know (albeit through the internet) who will be, no doubt, in many classes and program activities with me over the school year.
Despite my social media involvement this past week, I was able to write another letter. This time, to a friend I grew up with who currently resides in LA. Wednesday night, I got home from work and the weather was right, so I took my notebook down to the corner bar to get a beer and sit outside. I wrote up a three-pager and dropped it in the mail Thursday morning. I got Bethany’s address over facebook chat only with the premise that I wasn’t getting shacked up or expecting (pretty much the only two reasons people ask me for my address these days). If she reads this, the jig is up, but I expect she’d get it by tomorrow or so anyway.
To continue speaking of letters, but in a vague way — I had an idea for a site the other day and did some web searches during my lunch break on Friday to see if it had already been done. It appears that it hasn’t so I want to take some time to develop the concept a bit more before possibly pitching it. To whom, I have no idea. But, this much I will say: it involves good, old-fashioned snail mail. I think it has the potential to be really cool, I just need to figure out the fine print details.
Finally, flip-flopping back to digital print, I’m working on a piece for a travel site called The Expeditioner. I found it while looking for sites that were taking submissions and it seems like something right up my alley. They print articles about off the beaten track travel; all things weird, different, and entertaining. The piece I’m writing recalls my couchsurfing experiences in Lahinch, Ireland over New Year’s 2014-2015. I’m a little intimidated, to be honest, but even if it isn’t accepted for publishing, I’m asking the editor provide me with feedback. I’ll post it here if that’s the case, but if I manage to pull something off, the link to the article itself will be front and center. I drafted an email to the editor already, in advance of finishing the article, and I ended with this:
“Even if you don’t feel the spirit move you to post my piece, I would love any feedback you have time to provide. I keep trying to remind myself that this journey is a long, agonizing marathon, and not an easy sprint (which is not that easy either, in reality — I used to hide in the shed at high school track practice to avoid the 100 meter dash).”