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Reflections on the 2017 A to Z Challenge


The A to Z Challenge for this year is over, and there has been a week to relax and recharge from the busy pace.  Each year, about midway, I consider making it my last year of participation due to the time involved to do it well, and yet before the month ends I find myself thinking about what I will take on as my theme for next year. :-)  I think that says it all about how much fun it really is, and also how good it feels to participate in a group effort and see it through to completion. 

This year saw me undertaking my most ambitious theme yet, the writing of six-sentence stories each day that were connected by their membership in a ladies church group in a small Midwest community. It is familiar territory to me from my own upbringing, so the story telling came easy, and finding something for each letter of the alphabet was simply a matter of choosing the name for the next character.  However, I realized early on that it was going to be impossible to provide full bio information for each character and still weave the stories together with only six sentences to use, so I opted to go with abbreviated biographical info and provide more of a storyline which, based on the comments I received throughout the challenge, worked out very well.

My stories weren't of great literary merit but I think they were interesting, or maybe it's more that  the characters seem familiar. In the small town of Cottonwood Creek most people look out for each other and support their community, despite a few with problems and issues. I used the stories to convey the message that good things can happen when we work together.

The biggest concern at the beginning of this year's A to Z Challenge was how not having a master sign-up list was going to work.  I had my doubts, as did many.  However, I have to admit that once we got the hang of the linkup html, it worked out very well, with a much more manageable list to review than the massive sign-up list of previous years.  If you were further down on the old lists, you didn't get a lot of visitors, this way there were plenty of visitors and the blogs you took the time to visit actually had a current post. 

I really liked the people who added something about their theme in their daily comment/link, and I think this needs to be encouraged. It enabled me to choose blogs that I might enjoy and relate to, rather than ending up spending a lot of time running through blogs that weren't in the scope of my interests. I visited more blogs this year, and had more visitors on mine than in previous years, which was great!

The very best part of the A to Z each year as far as I'm concerned, along with sharing the experience with bloggers you already know, is discovering new bloggers that write awesome posts and soon become friends that you will continue to follow long after April is gone. I met some really great people this year, and some wonderful writers and storytellers. I also encountered a variety of clever and creative themes that made it fun. You can find a link list of some of my A to Z  favorites in my sidebar.

I plan to be back for next year, and I'm already pondering theme possibilities. As I say each year, I intend to have at least some of the posts pre-written. Maybe next year will be the year I actually get it done! :-)  I've even contemplated doing a "Return to Cottonwood Creek" series for next year's theme, continuing the stories of some of the characters I introduced this time around. We'll see!

Many thanks to everyone who stopped to visit, read, and comment, April was an awesome month! :-)

Drop by the A to Z blog to check out what other A to Z participants had to say about this year's challenge.

32 comments:

  1. The A to Z is always fun, i'm sad to see it end.

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    1. I agree, Mimi, the beginning of May felt a little strange, like something was missing!

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  2. I think in many ways I enjoyed this year more then ever. Personally, I wouldn't mind returning to Cottonwood Creek next year.😉 Then again, I can't help but be curious what other ideas are spinning through your head. So glad the AtoZ let me find you!

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    1. This was my favorite year so far too, Barbara, there was more visiting occuring and that made it fun. I'm glad the A to Z let me to your door as well! :-)

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  3. Josie, i am so thankful to the A-Z for helping me meet you. Getting to know you through interactions on this space has been a privilege . I have thoroughly enjoyed the positive spirit of your theme and the uplifting posts.I really appreciate your style of storytelling- very lucid, impactful, inspirational. Also, i am so grateful to you for having encouraged and supported me throughout the A-Z challenge . It has meant so much . Looking forward to reading and learning more and being friends in this captivating journey .
    Love and best wishes,
    Moon
    https://aslifehappens60.wordpress.com

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    1. Meeting you and following your stories each day was one of the delightful surprises of the A to Z this year, Moon! So much wisdom for one so young, and such a beautiful heart! XOXO

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  4. That's great that you already have next year in mind. I'm glad you took part!

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    1. There are so many possibilities for what to do next year that it's hard to choose! The A to Z is such an exciting event each year, and it definitely revitalizes the desire to keep blogging!

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  5. Your comments about the sign-ups and the challenge where spot on.

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    1. Thanks Val, once again the lesson comes home to me... "Try it, you might like it." I initially grumbled about the comment links plan, but in the end I think it worked out ok.

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  6. like you, I also visited more blogs because their comments persuaded me to visit or rather because I know exactly what they are posting, I know whether to visit or not. and I also added a few blogs to my growing reading list.

    have a lovely day.

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    1. The same is true for me lissa, I'd much rather spend my time checking out new blogs that will possibly interest me than ones I know I'm not going to follow. My reading list grew too, now I wish my free time to read would follow suit! :-)

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  7. I would love to find out what happened to everybody in your story next year in the A to Z!
    Finding Eliza

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    1. Thanks, Kristin! It would be fun to pick up some of those storylines, like Erica's and Uriel's to see how their lives have changed! I suspect there will be changes in Alyssa's too. :-)

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  8. I'm delighted to have found you this year JTS - a perfect example of the joys of the challenge. I'll definitely be swinging back to catch up on the posts I missed in the hectic pace of last month, but I'm delighting in having the leisure now to fully enjoy them all.

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    1. Thank you Deborah! Yes, finding new blogs that you enjoy reading is what the A to Z is really all about, and meeting nice people in the process! Like you, I'll be around to read more of the posts I wasn't able to keep up with in April, I'm enjoying them more now too! :-)

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  9. Glad the Challenge worked out well for you and you got an increased number of visits. Each of your posts was heartwarming, it did feel like a community where people look out for each other.

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    1. Thank you, Nick! I had fun writing those little stories, maybe wishful thinking on what small town life could be. I was happy when I left there at 18, but now as I am older, it sounds pretty good. :-)

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  10. Great reflections! Agreed that it is much better to have a hint at least of what people are writing about, which wasn't evident with the old link system. I, too, would love to hear more about the folks in Cottonwood Creek.
    Janet
    Man It’s May

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    1. Thank you, Janet! I really liked it when I could go through the A-Z comments and spot ones that sounded appealing. It made much better use of my time. I think they should require that of next year's participants. I am happy that you found my Cottonwood Creek stories enjoyable. Mission accomplished! :-)

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  11. As I said at the beginning of the challenge, we both had the idea of telling tales of a community. Whilst mine was tongue in cheek, yours was so believable. Your comment about your upbringing's influence on your stories explains a lot. I too based mine on my past - my pub, my fellow villagers, my life in the country and by the sea. Two similar ideas, two different interpretations. Josie, I loved my visits to Cottonwood Creek and I'm certain there's a lot more you can tell us about it's people. Amble Bay? No!

    Amble Bay: Reflections and other things

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    1. I thought it was wonderfully fun that we both took the same idea and ran with it in our own ways, Keith! I loved visiting Amble Bay each day. Your stories were clever and fun and made us really feel like we'd come along with you to explore the village! I did leave a lot of loose ends in my very short tales, so it would be easy to continue them, though I don't think I'd revive all 26 people, that was a bit much! ;-)

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  12. Josie,

    The thing I liked about linking in comments was the description of each person's theme but some didn't do that which seemed a big waste on their part. I felt failure to do so was like saying, "Hey don't visit me because I don't care enough to tell you enough here to get you over to my site!" Hmm, I wonder if my signature ever said the same thing to folks? Oh well...I enjoyed your theme and how you handled it. I need to go back to read more of your posts when time permits. I think if the A2Z Team continue with the comment link up route then it would be nice to have theme code we could assign to our URL and this would help those who are looking for particular bloggers. That's the one thing I missed with this round but I had fun anyhow and just did things my way. It may not have been the best way but it was mine. :) Thanks for your sharing your look back on this annual event and for visiting my reflections post! Have a good day, my friend.

    ~Curious as a Cathy
    Watercolor Iris Mother's Day card

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    1. I totally agree with you about how much effort people put into their link-up comments, and the need for a theme code. I used the same format each day to save time and keep it simple, but at least it told people what to expect in my posts. I suspect that many found the whole process a little intimidating and next year will be easier. It was rather nice having a much smaller group of participants, it had become so huge that it was overwhelming. I loved that you used your posts to explore a new area of creativity! In a way I did too, as serial stories are still a new process to me, continuing something requires a bit more thought and effort than a one-time tale. :-)

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  13. You had a great theme for this year's A-Z. I love the concept of 6-word stories. And especially how it all fits together!

    With Love,
    Mandy

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    1. Thank you, Mandy! It was a fun undertaking, an attempt at something different than I've done for the A-Z before.

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  14. You had me smiling and nodding in agreement all through this Reflections post. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I think a good many of us question our participation in this Challenge, but then we start to thinking about it and realize what a good time we can have doing it. It's a lot to do with attitude. You've got it right I think.


    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Thank you, Arlee! The one year early on that I opted not to participate, I ended up wishing that I would have, April wasn't much fun that year! I was sad that despite my best efforts, and for reasons beyond my technical expertise, I was unable to comment on your posts. I have this happen with just a couple blogs, and even using a different device doesn't seem to help. I wish I knew why. I really liked what you were sharing!

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  15. Josie, you are sooo wonderfully analytical. What a remarkably positive way of capturing the blogging challenge. Keep this up and you'll be running it next time!!

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    1. Oooh,no! I have a very clear understanding of what a massive undertaking that must be! It was more than challenging enough just to get my stories written and posted each day, and then get around to read and comment on some others! I was delighted to see you joining in, and will look forward to your posts again next year!

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  16. Well done on making it to the end of the challenge. I agree with you about finding new bloggers through the challenge. So many of my regular blogs that I read now were discovered in previous A to Z Challenges.

    Cait @ Click's Clan

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    1. Thank you Cait! The same is true for me, many of the blogs I follow regularly, and the people I have come to view as friends, began as fellow participants in A - Z Challenges. It's a really great way to discover bloggers who belong to your tribe! :-)

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)