Roughly half of the content and traffic on the internet is in English1, yet English is the mother tongue of only about a quarter of internet users2, and less than 5% of the world’s population.3 We believe that WordPress.com should be for everyone, not just English speakers — it’s why we already serve WordPress in 131 languages — but we want to make it even more accessible.4
To keep so many languages up to date we need to make it radically easier for non-English speaking communities to help with translation. We’re proud to announce our latest step in that direction: the Community Translator.
Introducing: built-in translation
Here’s how it works: enable the tool in your blog’s settings. Then, when you activate the Community Translator, words in need of translation will be highlighted in green. You’ll be able to right-click on them, enter your new translation in the pop-up box that appears, and click “Submit”:
That’s it! Behind the scenes, we pass your translation on to GlotPress, where it goes through a standard process to be approved and then deployed to WordPress.com. In just a few days, you could see your contribution become the official translation.
You can enable the Community Translator right now in your settings page, as long as you’ve chosen a non-English language for your WordPress.com interface:
Then, activate and deactivate the translator by clicking on the floating Globe icon in the bottom right corner of the screen:
More detailed documentation is available on the support page.
We hope this new tool will make translating WordPress more rewarding and help improve the overall quality of translations. We’ll be continuing to work hard on making it easier for people to use WordPress in any language they’d like.
Happy blogging, in whatever language you speak!
Language stats are surprisingly tricky. This “half” is based on wiki (55% English content in the top 10 million sites) and wiki traffic stats (47% English traffic across Wikipedia), along with approximations of Facebook’s traffic (52% English traffic based on ads data), and our own internal data (about 57% English traffic for most sites). For various reasons, all of these sources are likely to overestimate the use of English. ↩
Internet World Stats estimates 28.6% of internet users use English as their primary language. ↩
Ethnologue English and world stats at time of writing estimate 335,491,748 native English speakers out of the 7,106,865,254 world population, for about 4.7% ↩
If your language isn’t not on the list, check out “Who decides which languages are available? I want my language added.” in the Translation FAQ for some links to get you started. ↩
It’s no secret that I love to pore through the street photography tag in the WordPress.com Reader and share images that catch my attention. Join me on another trip around the world as seen through the eyes (and lenses!) of these seven skilled photographers.
This arresting image of a bird in a car — juxtaposed against the unknowing elderly man passing by — mesmerizes me. Taken by Beirut photographer Ghaleb Cabbabé, there’s an element of the macabre about this photograph that I find intriguing. The odd bird and the filthy windscreen create a certain palpable sinister portent. Check out more of Ghaleb’s work at ALICE BACK FROM WONDERLAND.
Photo by Ghaleb Cabbabé
Continuing along with ethereal — perhaps even unearthly — imagery, check out this photograph by Akshay Shaha taken at the Multiplex Theatre in Hyderabad, India. The blurred people walking near the Poltergeist poster look as if they’re ghostly spirits who’ve come to take in a movie, wouldn’t you agree?
Photo by Akshay Shaha
Below, thasveeru‘s image of the two older gents in conversation in Malé City, Maldives, struck me. The man on the left, caught in mid-gesture, and his companion, deep in thought, leave me wondering what they were talking about.
Photo by thasveeru
And now, over to Paris, and Pat Callahan‘s charming photo of an elderly man clearly engrossed in his reading material. His bent posture and calm engagement against the deep red, yellow, and blue of the wall behind him is quite soothing.
Photo by Pat Callahan
From Paris we go to Brighton, UK, below for a bold image of a different kind by Peter, the photographer behind Eyeteeth. The jagged angles, the stark repeating pattern, and the intense contrast captured my attention.
Photo by Peter
From Brighton, we move to Seoul, South Korea, and this image of the bread vendor at TYR Photo. The man’s brightly lit face, his quizzical gaze, blue-striped shirt, and the colorful red and yellow sign are quite captivating.
Photo by TYR Photo
Below, at our last stop on the tour, we’re going to rest — just like this tired pup — in Shanghai, China. I can’t help but find that cute canine face and the dog’s relaxed posture irresistible! This photo is one among a vibrant, colorful gallery on Thatiana Terra‘s site, NEVER CLIP MY WINGS.
Photo by Thatiana Terra
Where in the world have you travelled courtesy of the street photography tag in the WordPress.com Reader?
We don’t write blogs purely for ourselves — we write them to be read. For people who live far from family and friends, blogs serve twin readerships: they give the intrepid traveler a simultaneous way to chronicle travels for a broad audience and update those back at home.
We love following the worldly adventures of these four expats and nomads, and we’re sure their friends appreciate the virtual lifeline, too!
Wish I Were Here
Writer J.D. Riso is a self-identified dromomaniac — a person with an uncontrollable desire to wander. Wish I Were Here is her record of a lifetime of global peregrinations, told in in musings and photos.
Her blog isn’t a real-time travelogue, which makes it all the more fascinating. You might find yourself reading about the legacy of Communism in Bratislava, Slovakia; the urban renaissance of Skopje, Macedonia; violence against women in Papua New Guinea; an unexpected epiphany in Narita, Japan; or an unwanted travelmate in Costa Rica. Wherever the destination, J.D.’s keen eye, unflinching honesty, and rhythmic reflections create a strong sense of place, heightened by her well-chosen photos.
Like the look of J.D.’s blog? She uses the Hemingway Rewritten theme with a whimsical custom header.
Travels with Tricia
Tricia is a communications professional and citizen diplomat — a traveler engaged in cultural exchanges, not just tourism.
Her most recent posts take us on a stroll through Genoa, Nevada; a tour of the Enzo Ferrari museum in Modena, Italy; and an afternoon at the beautiful monastery in Ettal, Germany. Past posts let us tag along on trips to Marrakech, Morocco; Toronto, Canada; Luang Prabang, Laos; and dozens more destinations.
For those who finish one of her posts inspired to pack a bag and get on the road, each one ends with planning pointers: maps, logistical information for any locations mentioned in the post, recommended lodgings and restaurants, and other helpful local links.
Are Tricia’s bold photos and clean layout just what you’ve been looking for? You’ll find them in the Photographer theme.
American Life. The Italian Way.
Maura Malfatto Elia moved from Italy to the United States thirty years ago, but still has her Italian accent. She offers thoughtful commentary on both her home and adopted countries at American Life. The Italian Way.
Maura reflects on the differences between the educational systems in the two countries, looks at the Italian influence on the US in a post about Montessori Schools, and talks with other Italians about the experience of being an expat in the US. Her blog is just getting started, but her posts and perspective already have us intrigued.
Maura’s high-impact home page comes courtesy of the new free theme Cubic.
Rob and Diane of Experimental Expats are technically expats-to-be. They’re about to turn the last page on the American and Canadian chapters of their lives and start a new one — in Malaysia.
So far, Experimental Expats has followed Rob and Diane as they’ve prepared to retire, sold their California house, and filed the paperwork needed to become Malaysian residents. In six more weeks, the site will transition to their expat adventure, as they finally touch down in their new Malaysian home.
Experimental Expats has clean menus, a custom header, and a flexible two-column layout — it must be the Twenty Twelve theme!
Want to do a little more armchair traveling? Here are a few more great blogs to fuel your wanderlust:
Oh God, My Wife Is German follows the (often unintentionally) hilarious life of an American expat adjusting to a German wife and German life.
Kate Goes Global follows Spanish-born Katharina as she moves from Spain to Switzerland to the UK, and racks up thousands of other travel miles.
TinyExpats proves that a nomadic life isn’t just for twenty-something singles — this blogger, her spouse, and their two daughters are now in Pardubice, Czech Republic, following stints in Hamburg, Germany; Shanghai, China; and Moscow, Russia.
Om the Road is true evidence of our increasingly boundary-less world — it’s written by an Australian and Hungarian who first met in Peru and now live in Indonesia.
Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do when not in front of a computer.
Two weeks ago, Happiness Engineers Karen Arnold, Marjorie R. Asturias, and Jamil Abreu, as well as Code Wrangler Damian Suarez, attended the sixth annual Hispanicize conference in downtown Miami, Florida. The event, which took place from March 16-20, is billed as the “largest annual event for Latino trendsetters and newsmakers in journalism, blogging, marketing, entertainment, and tech entrepreneurship,” drawing over 2,000 attendees. Marjorie shares her experience meeting and getting to know some of the most influential bloggers in the Latino community.
The statistics are hard to ignore: with an estimated number of about 53 million in the United States, according to the 2012 US Census, Hispanics represent one of the fastest growing segments of the US population. The majority (62%) speak English or are bilingual. They’re the most active users of social networking sites.
Walking the halls of the InterContinental Miami, I felt the energy driving those numbers. Sponsors eager to tap into this thriving demographic rolled out the red carpet — literally, in some cases — and splashed out on swag-filled, interactive booths. At night, attendees could take their pick: Independent film premiere? Awards ceremony featuring Miss USA? Concert featuring some of the hottest Latino musicians? Yacht party (this is Miami, after all)?
The most memorable part of the event, though, was meeting the bloggers, whose presence was the crown jewel of the conference. It seemed as if nearly all of them had WordPress sites, and they didn’t hesitate to express their love for all things WordPress! They poured into the Happiness Bar, emptied our swag tables, asked questions about everything from Akismet to Yoast, gave lots of hugs, and took lots of photos. Latinos are renowned for their close family ties, and everyone who came to our booth definitely went out of their way to welcome us as part of their blogging familia.
We hosted a full day of WordPress sessions on Tuesday — dubbed WordPress Latino Day! — where we shared tips on getting started with WordPress, popular plugins, and little-known but critical features available on WordPress.com. We also offered several other sessions on SEO, social media, and responsive design. Damian and Jamil conducted popular bilingual workshops especially for beginning bloggers.
Packing up the booth at the close of the conference on Friday evening was a melancholy affair. We’d made so many new friends and connected with an engaging and passionate community of bloggers. Sure, being in the same room with Miss USA and Don Francisco, the longtime host of the Univision powerhouse variety show Sabado Gigante, were pretty thrilling moments, but nothing beats sharing WordPress stories with fellow bloggers.
Special thanks to Kathy Cano-Murillo (of Crafty Chica fame!), PR guru Vanessa James, and Sebastian Aroca for helping to spread the word about WordPress, sharing their connections, and even getting us access to exclusive events! We hope to see more of y’all in 2016!
April is National Poetry Month, and we love each day’s flurry of new posts tagged #nationalpoetrymonth in the WordPress.com Reader and across the internet. WordPressers are busy in the #napowrimo tag as well, participating in NaPoWriMo, Maureen Thorson’s annual project that encourages and challenges poets to write a poem a day in April.
Let’s look at some poetry we’ve stumbled upon recently across the WordPress.com community.
“Me as a Child” series, Silver Birch Press
We’re enjoying the Me as a Child series at Silver Birch Press — poems on childhood by various poets. Consider this excerpt from “Swarm” by Alan King:
She was a sixth grader, who mistook
my lamppost legs and power line arms
for a fifth grader. She was as old as the boys
throwing grass in each other’s hair,
rolling around in a kind of awkward
tango towards manhood.
“I Allow Myself Poetry,” Summer Pierre
Poetry is the largest influence on the comics of Summer Pierre, a cartoonist and illustrator in New York. In “I Allow Myself Poetry,” she illustrates her world, where poetry and comics meet.
I guess this is where poetry and comics meet so clearly — neither art form will most likely pay the bills, but they both go along way to keep on the lights.
– Summer Pierre
“I Allow Myself Poetry” by Summer Pierre
Daily poetic musings, Optional Poetry
C., the blogger at Optional Poetry, is using April as a time for experimentation. Here’s a snippet of a poem from the first day of NaPoWriMo:
Today again I paid
to learn, watching refugees sit and wait
for their bus, and asked the doctor what the term
really means— she couldn’t say
exact qualifications, just that for some
recognized reason, a person had to leave
Astropoetry and art, Tychogirl
Tychogirl focuses on poetry about astronomy, uses found materials, and publishes mixed media art. Exploring the blog is like hunting for treasures.
Poems, Dry-Humping Parnassus
Just dive into Robin Lucas’ poetry category — you won’t be sorry. The Southern California-based poet and writer’s work is unexpected and moreish; here’s a sampling from “Red Flag Waving”:
This verse is not free,
and this poem is no poem— it’s a red flag waving at death,
at the comical futility of the poet’s every utterance be it rational
or absurd, sublime or grotesque; its rhythm is neither tranquil
nor its inspiration divine.
A Poet to Her Son, Words and Other Things
Nicole Marie at Words and Other Things spends her time penning short fiction and poems and is the assistant poetry editor at Philadelphia Stories. Her recent poem on pregnancy and motherhood, “A Poet to Her Son,” is a community favorite. Here’s a sample:
and you -- you are practicing self defense
beneath my flesh; to you, the only world there is.
Spine poetry, Stan Carey
Writer and editor Stan Carey publishes book spine poetry under his “bookmash” tag. We love his latest offering, “After the fire,” in which he finds inspiration in Jared Diamond, David Sedaris, and more:
When you are engulfed in flames:
A bright red scream
From out of the city,
After the fire
A still small
Spine poem by Stan Carey
Poetry from Ireland, Poethead
Christine Murray compiles poetry from Irish and women poets on her site, Poethead. In a post celebrating International Women’s Day, she gathers work from a number of poets, including Nessa O’Mahony and Shirley McClure. Here’s a bit from McClure’s poem, “Mastectomy”:
and on these fine mornings
let me tell you it is good to know that there are two
Where nature meets poetry, Leaf and Twig
At Leaf and Twig, Catherine Arcolio explores the intersection between nature, photography, and poetry and celebrates the natural world with photo posts and succinct poetic musings. She looks forward to spring in “Resurrection,” her post from April 1:
the ground begins
to make itself
Blackout poetry, Ochwoman to the Rescue
We’ve spotted some great newspaper blackout poetry, which is created by blacking out lines and words in a newspaper piece using a permanent marker. Here’s a poem called “Memoirs of a Teacher (Day 1)” from a seventh grade English teacher:
“Memoirs of a Teacher (Day 1)” by Ochwoman
I have not yet taught
President of the United States,
a great foundation,
grand schemes of
comments and creations,
Want more? Dive into the #nationalpoetrymonth and #napowrimo tags, or explore the poetry tag in the Reader.
First, I should note: I am not related to Jennifer Armstrong. But! I have followed her writing closely over the years — first during her years at Entertainment Weekly, and more recently as the author of books like Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted (Simon & Schuster), which offered a definitive history of the classic TV series. Her blog also happens to be a must-follow on WordPress.com: She gives glimpses into her current work (she’s doing a Seinfeld book next) and she’s refreshingly transparent about the business (and hard truths) of being a freelance writer in 2015. I spoke with her via email about the business of writing and tips for how she makes time for her own blog.
You are in the middle of writing a book about Seinfeld, but you are also quite prolific on your blog right now, with posts about your book research and the business of freelancing and book publishing. Do you force yourself into a schedule, or is this more free-flowing, when the mood strikes you?
It’s a little bit of both. I’m finishing edits on my Seinfeld book, so that will no longer be taking up much time very soon. (And it was off my plate for a while right after I turned it in.) I absolutely have a daily schedule for working on weekdays (roughly 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a lunch/rest break from 1 p.m. to 3-ish). And this includes time in the morning dedicated to checking/responding to email, playing on social media, and blogging. I vaguely aim for daily posting, or at least daily thinking about posting; but I don’t force a post if I have nothing to say. I fall off this a bit if I have a lot of pressing deadlines for paid work.
Wait, so you respond to email BEFORE writing? I feel like all the Lifehacker blog posts tell us to ignore email until we’ve pumped out 700 words.
I like to get all my possible procrastination out of the way FIRST. Plus as a freelancer I get a little itchy not knowing what’s going on in my email/not responding to stuff right away. So I do one run at email (I like an inbox-zero when possible), a basic pass at Facebook and Twitter, then blog. I also like to know what’s going on in the world a little before I blog; if everybody’s talking about something that I want to write about, that’s good to know. This honestly often takes up most to all of my morning, but then when I come back to my desk after lunch I can just write up a storm for a few solid hours. I’ve always been better in the afternoon anyway. 3 to 6 p.m. tends to be my most productive time.
Your most recent writing on your blog has been about the business of freelancing, and what I appreciated about your original post and your follow-up post was how explicit you were about what’s required to actually make a freelance writing career really happen. Is it really still possible in 2015?
I do think it’s possible, because I’ve been doing it for three years and seem like I’ll make it another year. I also know other people who are doing it.
Your posts are also transparent about finances — like what you might be able to get from a book deal — and it seems like you look for a very delicate balance between being helpful and encouraging to those who want to pursue a freelance career, but clear about the realities of the publishing business right now.
No matter how many times people tell you how hard it is to be a freelance writer, you never truly understand until you do it. I guess we all like to believe we’ll be the exception. And that’s okay, as long as you’re prepared mentally. I teach at Gotham Writers’ Workshops, and sometimes I get students who are clearly thinking they’re going to just become freelance writers. It’s hard for me, even with lots of experience. If they still want to do it, that’s great; I just want them to know the reality.
In that same vein, I think my approach in general when teaching writing and doing one-on-one coaching with writers is exactly what you said: being encouraging while still being very tough-love realistic. I don’t want to get too “boo hoo writing is so hard!” Because it’s a great job. But you have to have a specific temperament that’s immune to rejection and loves the hustle. These traits don’t come naturally to all writers. I also think it’s important for us to talk a little more openly about money. There’s something specific to writers that makes us shy about it. Maybe because of writing’s proximity to art, like we’re supposed to be doing this only out of the depths of our soul and money shouldn’t matter? Writing really is a skill, and journalism definitely is. We should be paid for our work. Other professionals enjoy their work, too, and get paid decently for it.
Based on your past experience, what does the freelance market look like right now? Is it better or worse than it was, say, five years ago? I feel like we’ve seen a lot of new media startups take off, but it’s unclear to me whether many of them are using freelancers or simply hiring full-time staff.
Exactly! I am always loathe to say things are getting “worse,” though it certainly seems like it was more fun and profitable to be a freelance journalist, say, in the 1960s (or ’70s, or ’80s, or ’90s …). There are tons of startups now, and with venture capital. (That’s key because they don’t have to be profitable for a while, and yet they still have gobs of money.) I’m hopeful that this will work out well for freelancers. Those places are staffing up, but I’ve also successfully pitched a few. I certainly have a long list of targets right now! There’s also a lot more demand for the kind of stuff I write — pop culture stuff. So it’s still early to tell if Vox and the like are going to make a difference for us, but it does seem like the more outlets needing material, the better off we all are.
Do you think this influx also creates an opportunity for established freelancers to “auction” their stories to a highest bidder? Say, similar to book publishing’s system? It feels like online publishers for a long time benefitted from the lack of competition for story pitches, allowing them to keep their rates down, and I wonder if that is changing too.
I hope so! I do feel like I have a few more options, and find myself sorta auctioning them in my head. That is, strategizing to start with the place most likely to pay well. Some digital outlets also pay surprisingly well, which is a change that just started to happen after the terrible “free” trend of several years. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with a few digital outlets recently when they told me what they’d pay for something.
Beyond the freelancing advice on your site, you’ve written a lot of great posts about your books in progress—including your forthcoming book on Seinfeld. Do you have a strategy for how you write about your books that aren’t yet released? Do publishers have “feelings” about how much you share and when?
I used to think I shouldn’t reveal ANYTHING. But honestly, the more I’ve read about this, the more I think the opposite is true. Little tastes of books get people excited, and sometimes I sort-of “workshop” stuff online. If people seem excited about it or have questions, maybe I’ll put even more in the book. Also, when I’m really in the thick of a book, it’s hard to blog about anything else! I’ve shared more about the Seinfeld book than any other I’ve done, and it feels like it has gained me followers and helped build excitement for the book, which is great. And so far my publisher hasn’t expressed any feelings! I do know that with previous books, they didn’t want EVERYTHING online. But a little bit strategically seems to work.
I think that makes a ton of sense. How did the Seinfeld book idea first come together for you?
Well, I write about TV shows, and it’s hard to imagine a show that’s had more cultural impact. It’s as simple as that: This is a show that went off the air 17 years ago, and somehow people are still constantly talking and writing about it! If you write books about TV, you can’t do better than that.
Were you always a fan? I remember not really loving it (or perhaps more appropriately, not getting it) when it first aired.
I don’t think I’ve ever identified as a Seinfeld Fan (with a capital F). That made me nervous at first about tackling the book because I know how passionate some of the fans are. (Many, many people are sure they are THE biggest Seinfeld fan.) I always liked it and thought it was smart. I’d almost always watch the reruns when I encountered them while flipping through channels. I never got tired of the show. (Miraculously, I am still not.) But I think not identifying as the biggest Seinfeld fan ever helped me, ultimately, in writing the book. It gave me some distance from the show and the phenomenon.
I wonder if working on something that has had such a huge cultural impact presents its own challenges when putting together a book—the material is plentiful, but perhaps too plentiful?
And yes, there is tons of information! Ultimately that ends up being a good thing when you’re writing a book, but it was more challenging to organize than my previous books. The other challenge is finding anything new to say about it! But I’m happy to report that I did get a few “scoops.” I also tried to look deeper into how and why the show struck such a chord and continues to have such relevance to this very second. That, to me, is what makes the show unique among its contemporaries, and even among all other classic TV. It feels like it’s still on today, it’s so pervasive in our culture, even though the last episode was filmed in 1998.
Back to your blog: Do you have friends or colleagues with whom you share your draft posts before you publish them? Or is it more of an off-the-cuff process for you? I’m just wondering whether there’s a process for professional writers when it comes to when you decide you need or want a second set of eyes.
I don’t usually do that much with blog posts; only if I’m writing something delicate that I want to make sure comes through the right way. Otherwise I usually churn out a post and move on. But I am generally a huge fan of having people read stuff, especially longer pieces. I won’t turn any book or proposal in without doing this. I’m lucky in that my partner turns out to be a great editor (though he’s not a professional). I also have some friends I go to over and over for this, most often my friend Heather Wood Rudúlph, with whom I wrote Sexy Feminism. We ran a website together for about eight years, so we know we collaborate well. We read each other’s stuff and have monthly-ish phone meetings to bounce pitches off of each other. I love doing this as a freelancer because we don’t have the advantage of story meetings like staffers do. Ideas always get better when you talk about them.
Registration for March’s Blogging U. courses is now closed, and both courses have started. Check back later in the month to learn more and register for April’s offerings!
Blogging 101: Zero to Hero — March 2 – 20
Blogging 101 is three weeks of bite-size assignments that take you from “Blog?” to “Blog!” Every weekday, you’ll get a new assignment to help you publish a post, customize your blog, or engage with the community. Whether you’re just getting started or want to revive a dormant blog, we’ll help you build blogging habits and connections that will keep you going over the long haul.
You’ll walk away with a stronger focus for your blog, several published posts and a handful of drafts, a theme that reflects your personality, a small (but growing!) audience, a grasp of blogging etiquette — and a bunch of new friends.
Photography 101: A Photo a Day — March 2 – 27
Photography 101 is a photo-a-day challenge. You’ll publish new posts, make new friends, and hone your photographer’s eye.
Photography 101 is a four-week, intro-level course open to all, from new bloggers to hobbyist photographers to pro-shooters. Use the camera you like: a phone, a point-and-shoot, or a dSLR. Each weekday, we’ll give you a new photography theme and tip — we might share advice on composition, tips on working with different light sources, or image editing ideas — and the community critique will inspire and motivate you.
How do Blogging U. courses work?
Blogging U. courses exist for one reason: to help you meet your own blogging goals.
Courses are free, flexible, and open to all.
You’ll get a new task to complete each day, along with some advice and resources. Do them on your own time, and interpret them however makes sense for your specific blog and personal goals — we’re not grading you, we’re not checking that you complete every task, and there’s no “wrong” way to use the resources we give you.
You’ll receive each assignment via email. Each assignment will contain all the inspiration and instructions you need to complete it. Weekends are free.
Each course will have a private community site, the Commons, for chatting, connecting, and seeking feedback and support. Daily Post staff and Happiness Engineers will be on hand to answer your questions and offer guidance.
How do I register?
While you’re free to register for both, we encourage you to try one course at a time, to be sure you get the most out of the experience. All courses will be repeated throughout 2015.
To register, fill out this short form. Registration for each course remains open until the day before the course begins. You won’t receive an automated confirmation email, but you’ll receive a welcome email with more detailed instructions before your course(s) begin.
Registration for these courses is now closed. We’ll announce April’s Blogging U. offerings later in the month!
Several years ago, writer Ann Morgan noticed that she didn’t read much literature from countries outside of the United Kingdom and United States — and had yet to dive into stories from around the globe. From this realization, her blog, A Year of Reading the World, was born. You can read about Ann’s journey in her new book, Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer, available now in the UK. (The US version, The World Between Two Covers, will be released on May 4.)
I chatted with Ann about the blog-to-book journey and her experience of reading and blogging about literature from 197 countries.
For readers new to A Year of Reading the World, can you talk about your original project — and how the blog came about?
A comment someone left on a blog I wrote four years back, A Year of Reading Women, got me thinking about how little literature I read from countries other than the UK and US. The more I thought about it, the stranger it seemed that I would limit myself to such a small proportion of the world’s stories. The next year, 2012, was set to be a very international one for the UK, with the Olympics coming to London and plans for big celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, so I decided to spend it trying to read a novel, short story collection, or memoir from every UN-recognized country (plus a couple of extras) and blogging about each book.
As I didn’t know what to choose or how to find books from some places, I asked the world’s book lovers to offer suggestions. I registered the domain name ayearofreadingtheworld.com, set up the blog on WordPress.com, and put a call out on social media. Before long, I was inundated with recommendations and other offers of help.
Reading your way through nearly 200 countries requires discipline! How did you stay motivated as a blogger?
It wasn’t easy. I had to be very organized. I calculated how much I needed to get through each day (around 150 pages to stay on track to read four books a week), and made sure I stuck to it. This meant reading for two hours on my commute and an hour or two in the evening. I sometimes read during my lunch break, too. And on Saturdays I spent the mornings in bed with a book. I got very good at reading at odd moments — while walking along the road and going up escalators, for example, and on the exercise bike at the gym.
The author, reading in Crete.
Reading was only half the battle — writing the blog posts and doing all the research to find the books took as much time, so I got up early to work on this before I left for work.
For all the hard work, though, it was a lot of fun. The generosity and enthusiasm of my blog’s followers around the world helped me source titles. Readers posted kind comments every day, and this kept me going and cheered me across the finish line.
How did your book deal come about?
The UK book cover
When I started the project, I had no clue it would lead to a book. But three or four months into the year, media interest was starting to build with the Olympics approaching, so several people suggested that a book might be a good idea. I’d always wanted to be an author, so I put together a short book proposal and sent it to a handful of literary agents.
Several were interested in it, but one in particular — Caroline Hardman at Hardman & Swainson — seemed to look at the project the same way I did. We also got on well personally, which was a bonus.
After I’d signed with Caroline, I spent the next few months shaping the book proposal and writing sample chapters (and, yes, I was still reading the world and earning money to pay the bills during this time!). Caroline sent the proposal out in September 2012 and within half an hour an email came from my editor, Michal Shavit at Harvill Secker/Random House, making an offer for the book.
What about the blog-to-book process? Did much of your post content end up in the book?
The US book cover
I spent about a year-and-a-half, on and off, writing and rewriting after I got the deal. In the end, none of the material from the blog made it into the book. In fact, only a few paragraphs from the sample chapters are in there.
The main challenge was finding the right form for the book. I remember a meeting where Michal told me that I needed to let go of the blog, and she was right. There would have been no point giving a blow-by-blow account of the year because that already existed on the blog. I needed to find a way of taking the insights that quest gave me and shaping them into something new.
In the end, the book became a space for exploring the big questions that arose during my adventure. There were issues like cultural identity, translation, censorship, and how the internet shapes our reading that I didn’t have a chance to consider in depth on the blog, but was really interested to research more thoroughly.
I love both the UK and US covers of your book. Beyond the cover art, is there a difference in these versions?
Thanks! No. Although they look very different, they are actually the same book. The UK title was too close to something else Liveright/Norton — my US publisher — publishes, but apart from this, my US editor, Elisabeth Kerr, was very keen to keep the text exactly as it had been in the original.
With your Book of the Month posts, you’ve kept your blog alive, post-project. Do you have other plans for the blog, post-book release?
The coming year looks very exciting with lots of invitations to travel, speak at events, and take part in reading-related initiatives. I plan to record my experiences on the blog and take the many people who’ve supported the project for such a long time — and the new subscribers who sign up every day — along for the ride. Now and then, if there’s a book-related issue that I have something to say about, I’ll write about it on the blog, too.
I still get a lot of recommendations for new books from blog visitors, so I’m still updating the list and will carry on doing that. And of course the Book of the Month posts will continue. It’s hard to know what the future holds, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading the world in one way or another for a long time to come.
Read what’s new on Ann’s blog, A Year of Reading the World. You’ll find Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer (UK version, available now) and The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe (US version, available on May 4) on Amazon.
It is with great excitement that I announce the opening of ticket sales for the Press Publish conference series we teased here earlier this month!
After scouring the web for bloggers with inspiring stories, successful blogs, and unique voices, we’ve confirmed the speaker lineups, and are thrilled to be including popular WordPress.com bloggers like Katherine Fritz, Jerry Mahoney, Emily Austin, and Russ Crandall. Here’s our collection of featured blogger speakers:
You can see who’s speaking where by checking the event pages for Portland and Phoenix.
In addition to notable bloggers, we’ve hand-picked a variety of folks who work behind the scenes here at WordPress.com to present tutorials and provide one-on-one site help to our attendees. Our roster is filled with friendly faces happy to help you with your blog — they do it every day, after all!
Each event will be a little bit different and will feature different speakers and staff, so if you are thinking of traveling to attend, make sure you check out both events before deciding.
Portland, OR: Saturday, March 28, 2015
We’ll be in downtown Portland at a historic hotel, running two tracks of presentations alongside ongoing tutorials and open help time in the Happiness Lounge. We’re especially looking forward to the pre-registration mixer on Friday evening, which will be combined with a live Longreads storytelling event. Stories! Blogs! Bloggers! Fun!
Phoenix, AZ: April 18, 2015
The Phoenix event is being held at a beautiful art & history museum, and will run one track of presentations along with ongoing tutorials and help from Happiness Engineers. Lunch outside in the plaza is sure to be lovely, so if you live in a state where winter seems to last forever, maybe a little sunshine getaway to Press Publish is just the ticket!
Full speaker lists and event information are available on the Press Publish site. Hope to see you there!
It’s in the grip of North American winter that I often dream of escape to warmer climates. Thanks to the WordPress.com Reader and the street photography tag, I can satisfy my travel yen whenever it strikes. Here are just some of the amazing photos and photographers I stumbled upon during a recent armchair trip.
My first stop was Alexis Pazoumian’s fantastic SERIES: India at The Sundial Review. I loved the bold colors in this portrait and the man’s thoughtful expression.
Photo by Alexis Pazoumian
Speaking of expressions, the lead dog in Holly’s photo from Maslin Nude Beach, in Adelaide, Australia, almost looks as though it’s smiling. See more of Holly’s work at REDTERRAIN.
Photo by Holly
In a slightly different form of care-free, we have the muddy hands of Elina Eriksson‘s son in Zambia. I love how his small hands frame his face. The gentle focus on his face and the light in the background evoke warm summer afternoons at play.
Photo by Elina Eriksson
Heading to Istanbul, check out Jeremy Witteveen‘s fun shot of this clarinetist. Whenever I see musicians, I can’t help but wonder about the song they’re playing.
Photo by Jeremy Witteveen
Pitoyo Susanto‘s lovely portrait of the flower seller, in Pasar Beringharjo, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, captivated me. Aren’t her eyes and her gentle smile things of beauty?
Photo by Pitoyo Susanto
Arresting in a slightly different fashion is Rob Moses‘ Ski Hill Selfie, taken in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The juxtaposition of the bold colors and patterns in the foreground against the white snow in the background caught my eye.
Photo by Rob Moses
Further under the category of fun juxtaposition, is Liu Tao’s photo of the elderly man in Hefei, China, whose fan reminds me of a punk rock mohawk.
Photo by Liu Tao
From Hefei, we go to Havana, Cuba, and Edith Levy‘s beautifully ethereal Edificio Elena. I found the soft pastels and gentle shadows particularly pleasing. They lend a distinctly feminine quality to the building.
Photo by Edith Levy
And finally, under the category of beautiful, is Aneek Mustafa Anwar‘s portrait, taken in Shakhari Bazar, Old Dhaka, Bangladesh. The boy’s shy smile is a wonderful representation of the word on his shirt.
Photo by Aneek Mustafa Anwar
Where do you find photographic inspiration? Take a moment to share your favorite photography blogs in the comments.