Well, Health Activist Writer’s Month is going strong. So, in honor of this month (and our #HAWMC) we’ve got some fun Health Activist Tweetchats planned for April. If you’re participating in the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge or simply want to share your two cents about what it means to be a great storyteller – you won’t want to miss tomorrow’s chat.
Join us at 3pm EST on Twitter to discuss – Storytelling. It’s an art, it’s a huge part of being a human, it’s integral to communication, and there’s always some way to improve. Health Activists, in particular, have a very important role in the “storytelling” world – utilizing their personal health experiences (and life stories) to help others. It’s no easy task or small feat – but how exactly do you go about doing it? What’s the best way to tell your story while still being able to invite others into your world and, even more challenging – help them live better and even be able to tell their own stories.
We’ve got a lot to discuss but could really use your thoughts on this topic – especially as more “writers” take to the web. Is there a wrong way to go about storytelling online? Are there best practices you’ve found over the years? What’s something you’ll never share in your blog?
We’ll be here: http://tweetchat.com/room/HAchat# at 3pm EST tomorrow and hope to see you there!
Today I’m honored to present an interview with our HAWMC Winner Ashley Rose, blogger at Tales of SWAGing. Though she was chosen at random from our Top Contributors, I’m really glad she was because she has a lot of fun thoughts to share with us and some pretty entertaining blog posts all HAWMC-long. Ashley is a dedicated Diabetes Health Activist and PWD blogger and also working on starting her doctorate program. It was wonderful to get to know more about the blogger behind the blog and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did…
Amanda: Congratulations on winning our Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge (HAWMC) and being such an active contributor to the challenge all month long. I’m so excited to be chatting with you today, Ashley! Thanks so much for taking the time out to share with our community. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and why you became a blogger and advocate? What made you get involved in the first place?
Ashley: My writing background is random at best. In high school I fancied myself a poet; I wrote for a “zine” and had my own website. I’ve also kept a journal since the summer before college but I never thought I’d be a blogger. SWAG was a class assignment and I planned to delete it after the semester was over. However, the end of the semester coincided with the first annual Diabetes Blog Week and I decided to give it a shot. I knew blogging that week would either help me take ownership of SWAG or realize that blogging wasn’t for me. That week really opened my eyes to my own feelings about having diabetes and I learned so much about everyone who took part in it. It wasn’t until months later when I got a tweet from someone in response to a post that said “thank you for saying what I couldn’t” that I realized what I was doing could be considered advocating. I knew then that even if it felt as though I was talking to myself most of the time, my words could have meaning to someone else.
A: Your blog, Tales of SWAGing encompasses the phrase “Scientific Wild Ass Guessing” (SWAG) – tell us a bit about that and how it drives your blog.
Ashley: I can’t take credit for the title; it was Ashley’s (uhm, a different Ashley than yours truly) idea. It comes from the Diabetes Term of Endearment “SWAG Bolus.” There’s a lot of science involved but at the end of the day, diabetes management still utilizes a lot of instinct. I think the title speaks to the fact that I don’t take myself too seriously, and I certainly don’t pretend to have all of this diabetes stuff figured out.
A: What is your favorite thing to write about?
Ashley: I always enjoy writing about good news or reasons for celebration but I like writing the most when it’s part of something like HAWMC. I learn so much about fellow bloggers when we’re discussing the same topic or writing within the same parameters. Just the tone that someone chooses when writing about a topic says so much about them and their approach to their health (side note: Psych major in the house).
A: What is the toughest thing to write about and how do you decide whether or not to write about it anyway?
Ashley: My general rule is that the posts that are the hardest for me to write are the ones that most need to be written. It’s always hard to write about problems I’m having with my diabetes management. It’s hard to admit when I’m having a difficult time and feel as though I’m suffocating under the weight of it all. That’s when the support of the community is the most crucial and the Diabetes Online Community never disappoints. It may take me longer to actually write the posts that are the most difficult but in the end I’m always glad and relieved that I did.
A: What do you wish the general public knew about your condition?
Ashley: I think my biggest wish is that TV doctors and some publications would just stop talking about diabetes altogether because most of the information they give does more harm than good and I really wish they would stop using diabetes as a threat. I wish the general public realized that the word “cure” is thrown around haphazardly when it comes to diabetes. There is no biological cure and every time that word is thrown around I feel it negatively impacts the support of diabetes research by the general public. I also wish that the public realized just how serious all forms of diabetes are despite their invisibility and just how many of them either know someone with diabetes or will themselves become a PWD.
A: What do you do when you’re not blogging?
Ashley: When I’m not blogging, I’m a student getting ready to start my doctorate program. I’m also a gym rat and a lover of all things shiny.
A: It’s a brand new month, do you have any ideas for what you’re going to blog about in the future? How do you decide what to write about?
Ashley: This month I’m taking part in Diabetes Blog Week. I also plan to tackle the HAWMC wrap-up post and the DSMA Blog Carnival topic. I have my 3rd Diaversary and my quarterly endocrinologist appointment this month so I’ll be writing about those, too. Generally speaking, if there’s something to celebrate, own up to, or something in the world of diabetes that’s making me angry (ie: diabetes myths), I blog about it.
A: What upcoming projects or links would you like to share with our community so more folks can connect with you and check out your work?
Thanks Ashley! It was great to get to know you during HAWMC and to have connected over blogging! We hope you’ll continue to share your work with our community and keep doing what you do!
If you haven’t yet, be sure to:
Everyone’s favorite (and sometimes most awkward) yearbook feature has made its way to the WEGO Health Blog! After a year of spending time with your class, it was interesting to see how the titles were divvied and we decided to commemorate the end of HAWMC in the same fashion! Lovely WEGO Health Intern Emily K compiled our very own Superlatives for HAWMC! Consider this the HAWMC Hall of Fame – let’s see who has been inducted and what superlative they are taking home…
So I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out these wonderful posts and the amazing Health Activist HAWMCers that wrote them – their passion keeps me going and will inspire you too!
Congrats to everyone who participated in our Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge! Lots of people joined us for a prompt or two and some really went the extra mile to contribute tirelessly to their blogs, keeping up with our prompts and proving their dedication to the art of blogging!
Let’s meet these HAWMC Top Contributors and see an epic post I’ve hand-picked from each shall we?
Julia is a Sjogren’s Syndrome Health Activist and blogs over at Reasonably Well!
Julia wrote a handful of pretty amazing narrative posts inspired by HAWMC prompts – but you should definitely check out her Day 22 post “Take This And Don’t Call Me In The Morning.”
Jess was inspired by our 13th challenge and wrote a beautiful post prompted by the sentence she found in a book, “And I turned around” check out how she turned that into a whole blog post.
On Health Activist Choice Day 2, Joanna borrowed a prompt from February’s First Friday Prompts (bonus points from me for that, Joanna!) and write about “How do you manage your own personal health and the “health” of your relationship?” Check out her post here!
Check out Diana’s Spirit Animal – the unique Armadillo – and how that relates well to her experience living with migraine disease.
I like how Crystal wrote about her writing room and shared the colorful items she has on her desk in her HAWMC Day 20 post here!
Be sure to check out Rachel’s HAWMC Day 27 post when she tackles an infamous Eleanor Roosevelt quote and how, over time, it became a really great reminder of how she has overcome negativity.
I learned a lot from Nessie’s post on Misconception Day. Check out “Truth or Dare” and see what you learn about autoimmune arthritis or psoriasis.
Jamie is a Migraine Health Activist blogging at Chronic Migraine Warrior!
How great is Jamie’s portmanteau from Gobbledygook Day, “Chrain” – short for, of course, “chronic pain.” Check out her whole post here.
And of all these top contributors we selected a winner of our HAWMC Amazon Gift Card! Congratulations to Ashley! (Stay tuned for an exclusive blog feature with her later this week)
Ashley wrote a great post on our Choice Day that doubled as a DSMA Blog Carnival Post. See how other relationships inspired her to take care of herself in her post “Relations**t.”
And now that you’ve seen our Top HAWMC Contributors (and hopefully read their work and added them to your Folks To Follow list) why not congratulate yourself by adding this banner to your blog for joining HAWMC. You can link your April 2011 posts to it and show off the awesome writing you did last month!
Though our Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge has officially ended because of the beginning of the beautiful new month of May, I’ve got one more prompt for you to consider! Look back upon April and write about your HAWMC experience en masse. Now, don’t worry – you don’t have to write this post today or even tomorrow – but I think it would be a good way to put the proverbial bow on the whole HAWMC endeavor.
Whether you did every daily challenge or cherry-picked a few favorite prompts – your blogger-abilities were put to the test and, more importantly, put on display! I had the opportunity to “meet” new bloggers with individual blog-voices and enjoy the unique stories you all tell. I know your passionate blogsploration will only continue to grow from here and, I hope you had a lot of fun trying to write a little differently than you might normally.
Some of you affirmed your distaste for writing poetry (but I’m so glad you went there anyway!) and others eagerly took advantage of a time given to rhyme.
What’s awesome? You have a whole archive in your blog of your April 2011! Now you can revisit these posts for ideas when you might feel writer’s block or Blogger Burnout – and you also have proof that, hey, you’re great at what you do! (If you haven’t yet, make sure to go back and tag all of your HAWMC posts so you can find them again (or link to them) in your blog.)
When you feel ready to recap your HAWMC experience, I hope you’ll share it with us here. We’d love to see what you really connected with and what part of the challenge was, well, a challenge. We’re planning to do this sort of activity again (perhaps late in 2011) so your feedback is a) super-important to me and b) can be implemented to make the next blog challenge even better! A few things to consider: What was it like to write creatively about your condition? What did you learn about writing and blogging through HAWMC? Which prompt really inspired with you? Which prompt(s) were your least favorite? What do you wish you’d had the chance to write about? Whose post(s) did you love? How can we get even more bloggers involved next time?
In fact, if you have a minute – I made a quick survey with a couple of these questions and would love your thoughts! You can take it here and share as much or as little as you like about your HAWMC experience.
As I mentioned in our 30th prompt post – stay tuned because we’ve got a lot of HAWMC to recap here on the blog and over in the WEGO Health Community – so even if your resting your writing-brain, come back and check out what we loved most.
It’s the last day of April! We finished the Health Activist Writer’s Challenge! Congrats to everyone who made it through and anyone who joined us for a prompt or two.
And though the challenge itself ends today, be sure to stay tuned for the first week of May because, though we’ve got a new theme for May (and lots of posts to go with it) – we’ve got a whole lot of HAWMC to recap, a winner to select and announce, and discussions to continue here on the blog. It’s going to be great.
But without further ado, here’s our 30th prompt of April…
Gobbledygook Day. In health communities there is a certain lexicon that only those on “the inside” can understand. Whether it’s a hashtag, an abbreviation, or something related to maintaining your health – making up words or being creative with words we use often is a good way to build community and it’s also just fun to have an inside joke that you share with others you connect with.
What is the new word? How do you pronounce it? What does it mean? Be sure to use it in a sentence.
Will you use this word beyond today’s HAWMC post?
Health Cliché. A cliché is “an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, rendering it a stereotype, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel. The term is frequently used in modern culture for an action or idea which is expected or predictable, based on a prior event. Typically a pejorative, “clichés” are not always false or inaccurate; a cliché may or may not be true.” We hear them all the time, especially in writing online and in conversation with people we don’t know that well. And the worst is, perhaps, when someone says something they think is helpful or novel – but it’s actually been said 1,000 times before.
As writers, we’ve been conditioned to actually avoid clichés because they aren’t effective writing. But it’s ok to write about cliches – so let’s do that today. Start out by thinking of a health cliché that really bugs you. What are you tired of people asking you or saying to you again and again about your health or health condition? Write it down. Then, instead of critiquing it (as we often do) – today, reclaim it! Take that cliché back and turn it around so you make it something you could be comfortable hearing or even wearing around on a sandwich board. What if you could always reclaim those phrases, those words, or those expressions related to your condition? By putting yourself in the control room and not letting others dictate your verbiage, you can show your community that it’s not what you say but what you mean.
How did you reclaim the cliché?
“I used to be ____ but I’m not any more.” This is a prompt I am borrowing from an exercise I did once in a writing workshop. The idea is: you start every paragraph of your short story (or your poem) with the sentence “I used to be…” and end each with “but I’m not any more.” Believe it or not – this sentence makes for a really emotional piece of writing.
Whether you want to write a poem or a more traditional blog post format today, go with your instincts. As Health Activists, you’ve taken a unique, empowering, and challenging journey from patient to advocate, then to now. From observer to presenter. Or just from past-you to current-you. And you’re going to continue to evolve into future-you. That’s something we all have in common.
So think back to when you got started – what were you like back then? How have you changed? Whether you were carefree or fearful, naive or hopeful – that’s an important stage in your health blogger story. Your achievements – no matter how “small” or gradual – are important to gauge, not only for your own affirmation of bloggerdom, but also as an example to your community or anyone in your life who looks up to you. You can write about your Health Activist journey or about “growing up” in general. You’ve inevitably progressed, think about how today.
You can think of today’s post as a list of “I used to be ___[fill in the blank] but I’m not any more” sentences (that would make an Anaphora poem) or you can use the sentence as a paragraph-starter.
How did writing this post feel?
Quote prompt! Today use a quote to set you off and writing. Pick a quote that inspires you positively or charges you negatively.
This is a good idea to come back to if you’re ever feeling a bit of Blogger Burnout or just want to give your blogging-engine a jump-start. Grabbing a quote from a famous speech, a fellow blogger, a news article, a poem, a song you like (or think is hilarious), a movie, or someone you know can be the perfect little push you need to get writing.
You could start by paraphrasing the quote, putting it into your own words, or by explaining what you think the quote means. You could also start by responding to it directly, without thinking, and free-write for a bit. (Make sure you cite your source (if you can) and give whoever said it “first” a little nod.)
Do you have a favorite website for finding quotes? Share it with us!
How did you incorporate the quote into your post for today? Any advice for future quote-integration?
Spirit Animal Day. A spirit animal (or power animal) is a figure used to represent one’s inner qualities embodied by an animal. Tracing back to ancient spirituality, you can think of it as a patron saint or guardian angel-animal. A spirit or power animal “guides, helps or protects individuals, lineages and nations. In the shamanic worldview, everything is alive, bearing an inherent virtue, power and wisdom. Power animal(s) represent a person’s connection to all life, their qualities of character, and their power.”
Give your health or condition a spirit animal. Write today about it as though it is that animal. What qualities of the animal do you or your condition possess that are positive? How is this animal a metaphor for your experiences? What qualities of the animal would you love to tap into when needed?
What animal did you choose?