Looking Back and Looking Forward

Sheila, on the road somewhere between Bethesda and home.

Recently I took a hard look at my website and decided it was time for some changes, even though the design was only three years old. But a lot has changed for me in that time.

When I first started writing, everyone said, “you need a website.” So I made a website, all by myself. There are plenty of programs and templates out there, and it wasn’t particularly difficult at the time. Actually I’d had a website for years before that, when I was managing my own genealogy research business, and it worked well enough to attract enough clients so I didn’t starve.

But the world of computer technology moves a whole lot faster than I do, and I was not prepared to deal with the changes. I found a professional to do it for me, after looking at a lot of other people’s websites to see what I liked.

It was fun back then to decide what I wanted to include, since the website is possibly my first or only introduction to readers. When you have a limited number of pages, how do you decide what parts of you should put out there? Your books, of course (although there weren’t many when I first set up the site). How to get in touch with the author. Where you’ll be appearing. Pretty pictures, because people like pictures, not just big chunks of text.

But somewhere in there you have to tell people about who you are. How do you make yourself come across as a real person to someone who happens to click on a link or who sees one of your books on a shelf? Who are you, and what face do you want the world to see? That’s harder to put together.

Of course I put in a section on genealogy, because that’s one of my passions, and it runs through almost everything I’ve written in one way or another. Who and where we came from made us who we are today, on some level—biological, cultural, historical. But how does that matter in your own life now? I’m allergic to ragweed (thanks, Daddy), and I have soft teeth (my mother’s contribution), and I have a knack for handcrafts (my grandmother’s gift). And I love to read (I can thank a lot of ancestors for that one!)—I don’t know if that’s genetic, but I certainly grew up with plenty of readers and books.

But readers don’t want to know about my teeth. I hope they’re more interested in the roundabout story about how I started writing at all, and how I found I couldn’t stop. And why I write what I write.

Header old

The old version

When I was putting together the new website (with the help of my talented designer Maddee James), I was surprised that it came out much simpler than the old one (just look at the difference between the former header and the new one). When I created that last one, I had no idea who I was or where I was going as a writer. Over the past few years that’s come together in a more focused way. I’ve learned a lot. And now I think that visually for a website, less is more. Fewer pictures but more interesting ones. Short paragraphs that hint at a deeper story (come talk to me at conferences if you want more details!).

Header new

The new version

How would you define yourself with only a couple of paragraphs and a handful of pictures? (If you have trouble answering this, you’re not alone: I asked my husband and he had no idea where to start.) Or make it simpler: what are the three most important things in your life, that you would want to share with other people?

[To those followers who aren’t at the Malice Domestic conference this weekend and who leave a comment here (I hope you will!), I’ll be traveling most of Monday, but I promise I will read your comments!]

12 thoughts on “Looking Back and Looking Forward

  1. Lovely new website. I love the picture of the rolling fields. Nice look to the site and easy to follow to your blogs. Very nice.

    Doris

    • Thank you! The landscape picture is one I took myself, at one of my all-time favorite places in County Cork (site of the Drombeg Stone Circle, behind where I’m standing). It seems to essentially Irish, and I visit it every time I’m there.

  2. Looks great!

    Just a few pictures? Maybe the picture I have on my blog for one, with the main things I review. Then a picture of mud and and of ultimate Frisbee.

      • Must give credit where credit is due. Meg Mims is the one who pushed me to create that it and helped me brainstorm it a bit.

    • Great to meet you at last at Malice! I think if I could have only three choices, it would be something Irish, a cemetery, and food (on a plate, at a farmers’s market, or whatever).

    • That picture always makes me want to be there. Interesting note: it was privately held land until only a few years ago. Wouldn’t it be great to have your own prehistoric monument?

  3. I really enjoyed finding out more details when I met you at Malice! I agree that there’s a focus to the new header, one of relaxation and ease, but also some mystery. I love that the letter “i” in your first name is a little shorter than the other letters as it creates a sense of movement and interest. And I have no idea how I would describe myself with a paragraph and a few pictures. I’m sure I would have to think about it for a while and have at least a few revisions before I was satisfied.

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