Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Joy of COG

...or, What the Carnival of Genealogy Means to Me

poster courtesy of the inimitable footnoteMaven, who has been designing COG posters since the 28th Edition

In the beginning...

Mid-December 2006. I had been blogging quietly for nearly a year, at a different blogging platform, with an audience of one: myself. I found a few other genealogy blogs (four, to be exact), one of whom was Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings. He had highlighted something that was new to me, the Carnival of Genealogy.

I had never heard of a blog carnival before, much less the Carnival of Genealogy (COG). I discovered upon reading it that it was similar to an online magazine, except all the articles (posts)--focused on one theme--were written at each of the authors' (bloggers') blog sites instead of at one online location. The Carnival post listed at the Creative Gene blog was like a table of contents listing each submission with a descriptive paragraph and a hyperlink to the full article.

Aha! Here was a way to find more genealogy bloggers, and perhaps a few more readers as well! I quickly wrote out my first submission for the 14th COG, whose topic was Genealogy Gift Giving, My Genealogy Gift List: Victoria's Secret? Never!

Wow! Jasia, the host of the COG, wrote a very kind description: "You have to read this one... written tongue in cheek, Miriam gives a good giggle while telling us whose secrets she'd really like to discover! Very clever!" And I noticed my blog got more views than all the previous views combined! Furthermore, I received my very first COG comment from Lee Anders: "Love your post! Who has a need for Victoria's Secret when there are juicier secrets out there just waiting to be uncovered?" Needless to say, I was hooked!


Let Me Count the Ways
Participating in the COG has multiple benefits. First, there's the focus one must take to write a quality article. It sharpens thinking and writing skills. I can't tell you the number of times I've gone to prepare a post and in looking at the corresponding genealogy research necessary for the topic, I end up going a little deeper into my analysis of the sources, timelines, and documents involved. Sometimes I make new discoveries! The COG is good for writing, but it's also great for research!

Next, there's the reading; having others read your post and reading other submissions. The COG definitely increases traffic to your blog, but it also creates a "paper trail" for other relatives researching the same ancestors. Years after I've written a post for the COG, I'll get a comment from someone whose Google search on an ancestor led me to my blog. Again, the COG is good for readership, but it's also great for making genealogical connections! Also, by reading others' submissions, you get exposure to different writing and research styles, and who knows? You may just discover you have a distant cousin who's also blogging the COG!

And then there are the connections: not just the possibility of connecting with distant cousins, but the camaraderie that grows between yourself and other COG bloggers. Some of my closest friends are those I have never met in real life! We write and we read each other's blogs. We laugh and we cry. We pray for them when they're going through personal rough spots and we do the genealogy happy dance when they break through a genealogy brick wall. We end up being Facebook friends and Twitter followers and we email and instant message and Skype each other. And for all that, the COG is alone worth it!


My Faves
I have a few favorite COG editions, and they tend to be annually themed, traditionalist that I am. They include the Resolutions Editions (January), the iGene Awards, a.k.a. the "Best of the Best" (February), the Women's History Month Editions (March), the Swimsuit Editions (June), and the Wish List Editions (December).

Of all the ones I've written, my favorite are My Genealogy Gift List: Victoria's Secret? Never! (14th Edition - and my first COG submission), Childhood Food Memories (16th), the two I wrote for the 18th Edition, 5 Tips for Michigan Internet Research and Recommended Reading for Michigan Research, One Woman: Barbara Dorothy Valk, Missionary to Central Africa (20th), Eight Generations of Mothers (24th) and A Polar Bear in North Russia (30th).

Two submissions that are among my favorites were actually written by my parents. My mother wrote her school day memories in Mom, How'd You Get So Smart? (48th), and I copied an article my dad had written years ago for an association newsletter, "Pygmy Goats in Alaska" (53rd).

I also hosted my first COG last August with a theme I picked myself, Disasters! (77th). Although time-consuming to create (which leads me to credit Jasia as a superwoman to do this first twice a month and now once a month!), it was a lot of fun and very interesting to put together.


Ups and Downs
Writing for the COG isn't always easy. By looking at the list of my COG submissions at the bottom of this post, I can see periods when my computer wasn't working, my life was chaotically busy, or my writing had hit a slump.

I'm not the only one who rollercoasters. A short while back, some of us "oldtimers" had an email discussion bemoaning our lack of posts, creativity, and motivation, and our writers' blocks. The only thing to do is to pick yourself up and keep going. Sometimes those bursts of great writing come forth only after forcing yourself to sit down and write.

I don't always submit my posts in a timely manner. I've missed a few deadlines but published my posts anyway, because I knew I had something that needed to be said. I've recycled a few old posts from time to time to use, either because I wasn't feeling creative, or actually when a few old posts fit the COG theme perfectly. Good writing takes time, and my usual COG post takes me approximately two to three hours to write.

But all in all, I have enjoyed writing for the COG and I hope to increase the amount of my submissions after a lean year of blogging in general.


Back to the Future
If you've never written for the COG before, I encourage you to do so! I wrote a tutorial here at the Bootcamp for Geneabloggers blog on how to submit a post to the carnival. If you've never hosted a carnival, then I also encourage you to contact Jasia and let her know you'd be willing to do so. She's always looking for more hosts!

I look forward to many more years of future COGs as well as to its natural evolution. There can only be better things to come as our writing and research improves!

Jasia, thank you for starting this wonderful event, for keeping it up despite all the hard work and times of discouragement. Your carnival has been a wonderful example for many other genealogy-based carnivals and you deserve all the accolades that come your way!


My COG Submissions

14 - My Genealogy Gift List: Victoria's Secret? Never! (Annual Wish List Edition)

15 - My New Year's Genealogy Resolutions for 2007 (Annual Resolutions Edition)

16 - Childhood Food Memories

17 - "I'd Like to Thank the Academy"

18 - 5 Tips for Michigan Internet Research and Recommended Reading for Michigan Research

19 - 185 River Street

20 - One Woman: Barbara Dorothy Valk, Missionary to Central Africa (Annual Women's History Month Edition)

22 - Bob and the Cow

24 - Eight Generations of Mothers

26 - Six Generations of Fathers: The Midkiff Men and Spokane, Washington: Home of Father's Day

28 - Origins of Our Surnames

31 - The Legend of Joseph Josiah ROBBINS

32 - A Polar Bear in North Russia

34 - 29 East LaCrosse: Haunted or Not?

36 - Loving Genealogy...For Over 30 Years!

37 - Dear Sinterklaas (Annual Wish List Edition)

39 - The Midkiff Family: Y2K Ready

39 - My New Years' Resolutions for 2008 (Annual Resolutions Edition)

41 - Guests for Dinner

42 - AnceStories Presents the iGene Awards (Annual "Best of the Best" Edition)

43 - Technology and Genealogy

45 - 1967 Model No. 1

46 - Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

48 - Mom, How'd You Get So Smart?

49 - In the Good Old Summertime (Annual Swimsuit Edition)

51 - An Independent Man: John WILKINSON, Jr.

52 - What's Age Got to Do With It?

53 - "Pygmy Goats in Alaska"

54 - Our Family Language

55 - Digital Show and Tell

56 - Miriam's Ten Essential Genealogy Books

61 - Advent Memories No. 18: Christmas Stockings and Advent Memories No. 3: Holiday Foods

62 - All I Want for Christmas Is... (Annual Wish List Edition)

63 - Resolutions (Annual Resolutions Edition)

64 - Winter Photo Essay: Marie Lewis

77 - Fire! (my submission)

77 - Disasters! (hosted)

82 - My Favorite Genealogical Society

83 - Eight Musical Things About Me
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