Things I’ve Learned in Four Years of Blogging

Blogging advice

Today marks the four year anniversary of Suzie Speaks.

Four years, 838 posts (if you don’t count the hundreds that I’ve deleted), a collective following of nearly 19,000 people, nearly 780,000 views, the biggest blogging hashtag of the weekend, an amazing Facebook group and three awards.

Since starting the blog I have quit my job, got engaged, gained a brother-in-law and gorgeous squidgy niece, travelled, attended events, reviewed everything from restaurants and cocktail bars to theatre shows, hotels and products, made a whole bunch of new friends and experienced things that I could only have dreamed of in what I consider to be my previous life. What an unbelievable journey.

The blog began as a simple online journal – an outlet to try and calm the stress and anxieties I was experiencing at the time. There were no expectations or dreams, just a desire to write. However, as my blogging knowledge grew, I found a community, started to develop promotional strategies, learned a great deal about social media and, as a result, now have a whole list of things that, if I could go back and start again (not that I would want to, mind you), I would do differently. Continue reading

2016: A Year in Review

Image: Chris Barker (@christhebarker)

Image: Chris Barker (@christhebarker)

I sit here on New Year’s Eve, waiting for evening to start and the chimes of Big Ben to invite 2017 in. We have done the exact same thing as we did twelve months ago – we’ve had our own little buffet of snack foods, during which we have eaten far more than either of us should have done, I’m sitting in the exact same spot, watching The Bloke quietly snoozing on the other side of the couch, and judging by the photographs I took, I’m even wearing the same jammies as I did last year.

And yet, the world seems a very different place than it did a year ago. We’re no longer part of Europe. We have a new Prime Minister. The middle-eastern crisis is worse than ever. The daily news seems to have been filled with hatred, war, poverty and hardship. President Elect Donald Trump is getting ready to move into the White House. We have lost some of the greatest actors, musicians, sportspeople, comedians, writers and talented human beings that ever walked the earth. I did make a ridiculous attempt to document exactly who had passed away this year, but nothing that I could produce is more effective by the Sgt. Pepper inspired image, created by British artist Chris Barker (@christhebarker). And sadly, he’s had to add even more over the last few days with the loss of George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Continue reading

A Post-Christmas Catch-Up, a Facebook Launch and a Pinterest Promo Opportunity!

I always find this a strange time of year – between the two main celebrations. Christmas is over but the decorations are still up, the turkey has been eaten but the party plans are being made, the sales have hit but everyone is broke…

I’ve taken a few days to try and catch up a bit and yet seem to have made little progress. Christmas was nice – we sat around the table and ate the food that my VERY heavily pregnant sis and my brother-in-law cooked, accompanied by a crying Dougal (my other sister’s pug), who looked very fetching in his Christmas jumper. We had races with the wind-up penguins that were in our crackers, then sat and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon while the dog fell asleep on my mum’s lap.

Continue reading

The Obligatory Christmas Train Journey Post…

It’s 7.30am and I’m on a train up north to spend Christmas with my family. I feel like I’ve written that sentence so many times…

I discovered that tickets to Manchester – my usual destination – were really expensive and there were no connecting trains to Bolton, so I managed to bag one to Wigan instead for £8.50. The only trouble is, it was at 6.15am. It’s worked out well so far – there’s a storm set to hit the north later on this morning, by which time I should be happily relaxing in my jammies at my Mum’s house. The carriage is pretty much empty, so I’ve taken advantage of that and sat at a table with a power socket to charge my phone. There’s the usual whinging toddler (“But whyyyyy? Nooooooo, I don’t want that! Muuuuuum I waaaaant thaaaaat”) so I’ve put my headphones in and am listening to The Backstreet Boys. They’re not normally my travel music of choice, preferring 80’s rock anthems usually, but it feels like a Backstreet Boy kind of day. Continue reading

If We Were Having Coffee #17

coffee and coversationIf we were having coffee, I would tell you that it is an absolutely glorious day here. The sun is shining, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and it’s beautifully hot – the start of what is predicted to be another heatwave. Good. I love the sun – we seem to spend months on end in the cold, rain and dark in the UK, so any change in the weather is always welcome (although I know that after a few days there will be a number of miserable people who have had enough – us Brits always like to complain about something!). I’ve taken the opportunity to appreciate it already this morning by going for a walk, the cats are indulging in a lazy snooze in the sun and The Bloke has taken himself off to one of the main parks in the city with his camera to go and bother some squirrels. I have given him the nickname of ‘Walker the Squirrel Stalker’ – he has some amazing pictures of them… in their hundreds…

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve had a fabulous week – one that I can look back on with a genuine smile. Continue reading

The Bloggers Bash 2016

The Bloggers Bash. I’d been organised for months. The Bloke and I decided to turn the event into a long weekend away, so we arrived the day before and had a ‘Bloke and Suzie’s Day of Exploring London.’ Consequently, on Saturday morning I was knackered, but a combination of nerves and excitement meant that I had been awake for hours. The Bloke went off with his camera for the day and despite the fact I had already worked out my make-up and hair look, by the time Steve (Steve Says) arrived at the hotel to meet me for brunch I still wasn’t ready. And, I realised, I was wearing the exact same outfit as the year before.

Me and Steve, after i had managed to sort out my hair and make-up...

Me and Steve, after i had managed to sort out my hair and make-up…

Dammit. It’s a good job that my readers don’t rely on me for fashion advice…

My hotel was only a short walk away from the venue, so we arrived a little early and promptly stood outside as it appeared to be locked. Eventually, I rang Sacha, who told us to come on up, and it was only then that we realised that neither of us has actually bothered to try the door.

We were greeted by an already large group of people, full of hugs (I got the Huge Hugh Hug – try saying that after a couple of pints – that I had been promised), offers of cake (baked by the lovely Geoffle, who was sporting a rather fetching bright purple beard), and Ali (who had flown in from Ireland) registered us, gave us our name badges and pointed us in the direction of the bar. Perfect.

And what an awesome afternoon it was. I got the chance to catch up with people I met last year and I was introduced to many new ones in person that I have been talking to in the blogosphere for a while. With so many people involved, an explanation about every part of it would turn into an epic 5,000 word post, so here are just some of my highlights: Continue reading

I Think My Liver May Be Upset With Me…

It’s been an absolutely killer half-term (in the positive sense of the word, of course), filled with friends, fun and an epic amount of food and cocktails.

The excitement of last week led to a number of celebrations with some of my friends over several days. We took the opportunity to catch up the on the recent events of each other’s lives, talked about life, love, eyebrows and weddings (one of my friends got engaged a few months before me, so is currently in full wedding-planning mode), ate some yummy lunches and washed them down with a large amount of raspberry mojitos (well I did at least – they were a bit more adventurous in their choices). I did attempt to take some pictures:

However, the wind seemed to be against me at one point: Continue reading

Oh My Gosh…

It’s been an amazing few days.

I won’t go into a massive amount of detail as yet – I have a whole series of posts lined up for them, but in the last three days I have attended a ‘Meet the Artist’ event with Willard Wigan, MBE, at the exclusive Colmore Club, been to the grand reopening of The Body Shop on New Street, and then this afternoon had an informal meeting with the lovely director of a networking company about building and delivering a series of workshops about blogging to local entrepreneurs, business owners, bloggers and anyone else who is interested throughout the year.

Holy sh*tballs. Little old me. Talking about blogging. To people who want to listen to me do so. (To be fair, many of my family and friends and polite enough to listen to me get on my soapbox about it, but I have noticed that their expressions often become a little glazed over after a while…) Continue reading

How I Changed My Life in 2015

imageI started preparing this a few weeks ago, revisiting my posts from 2015 to get an overview of the year. It didn’t take long to realise just how much my life has changed in such a short space of time.

Indeed, 2015 has been the most frightening, busy and truly incredible year of my life.

Instead of setting myself the usual list of resolutions that I knew I would inevitably ignore, I gave myself one mantra that I would follow: this was the year I would take the risk. And I did just that, making the decision to quit a ten-year permanent, secure and successful teaching role and start out on my own. Continue reading

Great Birmingham Run 2015: I Did It!

In a moment of madness earlier in the year I signed up for the Great Birmingham Run… all 13 miles of it. As a cheese eating, chain smoking carb lover with a large bottom it wasn’t the most sensible decision I’d ever made, particularly when I followed my sign up and payment with two months of procrastination!

Over the summer, I started training regularly, building up my fitness levels, stamina and distance with several of my friends, and I started to feel a lot more confident about it. I purchased some decent running gear, changed my eating habits a little and lost weight. It was looking good!

Then, in September, I went to Barcelona, and managed to burn my feet so badly that they swelled up to double their size, taking a fortnight to go down, which was a bit of a setback. I started running again once they had gone down, but then was hit with a bad dose of the flu and a nasty cold, which knocked me out for the two weeks leading up to the race.

However, yesterday was the big day, and I was determined to do it even if it meant walking! My mum came down to stay so she could watch me run, and she and The Bloke planned to go to various parts of the track to cheer me on. It was perfect weather, being quite cold, and when I arrived the atmosphere was electric, with thousands of runners from all over the country warming up and getting ready.

As we set off, I felt good. In fact, for the first seven or eight miles I felt reasonable – I went at a steady pace, controlled my breathing and made sure I wasn’t putting too much pressure on my knees. I saw The Bloke and Mum at the 3 mile and 8 mile mark, and saw several of my colleagues and students cheering us on along the way and it spurred me on to carry on. However, by mile 9 I was beginning to hurt. Nothing bad, just a mild ache in my thighs, so I slowed down and kept going. By mile 10, however, it was getting worse, and I hit the wall that I’d heard so many runners talking about. By mile 11, the only thing I could do was walk – we hit the mother of all hills and there was no way I’d be able to make it up there by running without passing out. In fact, I walked mile 11 and mile 12 and it was agony – I felt every single step and it seemed to go on forever. By this point, all of those around me did the same thing – we took advantage of the Jelly Babies that were being handed out to keep up our blood sugar levels, made conversation and cheered each other on, and it lifted my spirits.

And then we saw the finish line at the bottom of Broad Street, and we started to run. I could see The Bloke and Mum waiting and cheering, and as I crossed the finish line I felt an enormous sense of relief. By this point, I couldn’t feel my feet or legs, I was shaking and desperate to get my medal and go home. I got a huge hug from both of them, and they were very patient as I hobbled my way to get a taxi.

13 miles.

I managed to do it in under three-and-a-half hours, exactly the time I had been going for, which I was really pleased about. However, despite stretching down and following all the recommended steps afterwards, by yesterday evening I had completely seized up from the waist down. I didn’t know that I was capable of hurting so much!

Still, I bloody did it, and I’m proud of myself! Will I do it again? Never. However, I may just sign myself up for a 10k next year… Possibly.

There’s still time for you to add the the huge amount of generous sponsorship that has already been donated to the Just Giving page I have set up, with all proceeds going to Dementia UK, in memory of my grandfather…

http://www.justgiving.com/suziespeaks

Thanks to all of you who gave so much support over the last few months, and to everyone who joined in my live tweeting yesterday during the race!