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May readings - article round up

I have a varied handful of articles for you this month, everything from Instagram hashtags to Gaelic poems, to Gene Stratton-Porter.

I'm on Instagram a lot. It's easier to use than Twitter (for me) because I like taking photos and having an Instagram account is akin to an e-photo album. My main sticking point is remembering that I'm meant to be doing authorly type things and forgetting that not everyone wants to share in my obsession with flowers, old buildings, and holiday snaps. It's hard but I do try to keep the personal type posts to a minimum, sprinkling them in here and there so my account maintains a balance of pretty things, books I've read, books I'm selling, my articles, and literary festivals.

There's always something new to learn about social media. For instance, #hashtags so I've saved Mixtus Media's, New Rules for Instagram Hashtags, published a few weeks ago, for regular reference. Hashtags trends come and go so keeping up with the changes is vital if your goal is to increase followers and engagement. If you're not seeing enough movement in your #Insta insights, it could be your hashtag strategy.

There are plenty of hashtags generators around where you type in your keywords and a dozen or so hashtags are spat out at you. I've used them myself they can be helpful in finding new keywords to use, but you have to comb through them. A good half of the words provided will not be useful at all and this is because the generator doesn't have the context of the photo or your own thinking to make judgements on the terminology. One tip in the Mixtus article I found particularly useful is hashtag density. When you type in your hashtag, a list of similar hashtags is generated with a number next to each. This number is the density or how many times the hashtag has been used. You might be tempted to pick the ones with the highest numbers, but in many cases this is the opposite of what you should do.

Think of a swimming pool on a hot summer's day. The most popular pool is crammed full of people. Not much room for you and your friends, and if you can squeeze in, you're hard to distinguish among the crowd. If your goal is to be seen, then being one among many similar is not going to work. You're better off going to the pool with less people where you have the chance of standing out.


My current series of books has included research into ancient Scottish stories, lore, and general culture. I've found a similar sense of connection to Land and Country as can be found in Australian Indigenous culture.  My interest goes back as far as it can into the "mists of time" when people didn't write everything down (so the mists are murky) and a lot of the history that has been recorded has come from other cultures observing from the outside and from a place of invading society (such a common theme between "modern" and "ancient").

An article I'd like to share with you is, Duthchas: The word that describes understanding of land, people and culture by Alan Riach (the National.Scot 16 March 2020). Alan talks about early Gaelic poems that are "evocations of wild or domestic animals and birds." The Song of the Owl" (c1600 by Domhnall mcFhionnlaigh nan Dan)  expresses the unity between land and people, creatures and culture. Or duthchas - the Gaelic word for the sense of belonging to the Land of your people, your culture. Riach goes on to discuss the meaning of the poem, the shared identity it represents, and the beauty of the Gaelic language and the importance of the poets. If you have any interest at all in this area, pop over to read the full article. I could go on and on, but it's much better if you read Riach's words for yourself.


Gene Stratton-Porter. I had not heard of this author until I read The Legend of Limberlost by Kathryn Aalto (Smithosnian Magazine, March 2020). One of my interests is discovering women writers from history and, hopefully, reading some of their work and learning about their lives. Stratton-Porter published 26 books. Of books published between 1895 and 1945, 55 sold close to one million copies. Of those, five were written by Gene Stratton-Porter. Nine of her novels were made into films, five of those by her own production company. Here was a woman who not only wrote, but also was a naturalist, photographer and movie producer. Not at all bad for a woman born in 1863 - youngest of 12 children (anyone born youngest of 12 children really). Read the article because she was an amazing, forthright, determined, ambitious woman and I can not do her justice here.

By the way, Limberlost "was impenetrable swamp and forest, a wilderness of some 13,000 acres" in northeast Indiana. It's been mostly lost to time and industrial progress now though if you're in the area part of it has been restored at the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve. There are some lovely photographs and quotes included in the article from Gene's life and work as well. Truly a brilliant woman.


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