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Courage Under Fire - My 2013 A to Z Challenge Reflections #atozchallenge

"I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out." - Roger Ebert

Life is a constant battle where we go to war with strangers, enemies, family, friends, co-workers and (what seems to be the most damaging) – with ourselves. The 2013 Blogging from A to Z Challenge was my opportunity to try and find some answers to the question “What makes life worth living?” by presenting some outlooks on the options that we have with the 24 hours in our day.

Here are some of my experiences that made those 26 days in April exciting, trying and worth every single minute.

The Plan of Attack

A lack of internet access caused me to have to manage my daily schedule wisely while also being as resourceful as possible to carry out the necessary A to Z duties – commenting, posting and visiting. This was my first year as a Co-Host, which added additional tasks such as policing sign-ups, carrying out Twitter shifts and addressing questions or concerns at the A to Z Blog. Add to that the fact that I didn’t have a theme until like three days before the challenge started and you have a recipe for the chaos that involves posting everyday – sometimes on a whim – with only an idea but no outline.

So, I developed a system of what I call “A to Z Hacks,” which included scheduling two posts at a time within the limited timeframe that local libraries gave me to use their computers – which was sometimes two hours and often as little as 90 minutes, depending on the day. When all other ideas failed or I couldn’t figure out what to write for meaty posts, I took advantage of the Wordless Wednesdays meme as well as List-style posts just to get something up quickly without any hassle. I also used the Sundays that we had off as my “catch-up” day during weeks when I was behind by a letter (or two).

Since this was the first year I fell behind while doing the challenge, I posted announcements on my most recent posts, giving visitors either a heads-up (if I was sick or knew that I would be away from the computer) or an update on when they can expect to see latest letters up on this blog. Doing all of these things saved me a lot of time, worry and frustration.

The Battles

I went to places like Starbucks and Qdoba when the library wasn’t a viable option; The WiFi at these places was shoddy – sometimes going down suddenly or becoming very slow.


There were occasions when the connection would timeout while I was in the middle of typing up posts or finding photos; there were days when the computer browser would just not move while I tried to format and publish a new post for the challenge. On another occasion, I had so much to do between visiting blogs, responding to comments, corresponding with the other Co-Hosts about administrative matters and updating my blog that I had to prioritize the tasks that were going to get done immediately and the ones that were going to be put off for the next day, because a Starbucks employee told me they were closing in 10 minutes.

Some blogs that I visited – particularly the ones on the Blogger platform -- had Google+ setup for their comments; it was impossible for me to leave comments on those blog posts because I don’t have a Google+ profile. Since I usually didn’t find this out until after reading the posts and then scrolling to the bottom of them to write a comment, the experience left me feeling like I wasted my time on some (I say some because I enjoy reading a portion of them and would have likely visited a few of these blogs anyway, regardless of their commenting system) of the blogs that were new to me. I did, however, manage to find a way around this and other commenting problems (disabled comments, etc.) – sorta.

If the bloggers were on Twitter, I’d just send them a tweet with one quick comment, just so they would know that I am reading their posts.

The Medals of Honor

Surprisingly, I received some subscribers through a service called Bloglovin’ – which was I found to be interesting given that I didn’t use the service. So because of these subscribers, I signed up for Bloglovin’ just in case it made it easier for other A to Z participants to follow my blog that way.

I also won two blog awards – Holly at It’s all a Matter of Perspective gave me the Liebster Award because she likes the theme that I chose for this year. Although the award was given to me in March, she found my blog because of the A to Z Challenge, so it warrants a mention in this reflections post.

On April 10th, Jean Yates gave me the Very Inspiring Blogger Award because she learns so much from the honest observations that I derive out of movies featured here on this blog; As if I didn’t already feel like the pressure is on…now, I have try to live up to that. Yikes! Much like last year, the comments I received came in heavy loads at the start of the challenge and then shrunk mid-way through April until they all but vanished towards the last few letters. Still, I have no complaints because many of the comments that were made on my posts were some of the most heartfelt responses that one could read in on a blog.

Kristen Dyrr at Random Musings from the KristenHead someone who I am especially delighted to have read my posts because she showed me the best comment love. I was also glad that several other bloggers became regulars among the discussions presented here, including Bev, Sam, Matthew MacNish, C. Lee McKenzie, Suzy Turner, nutschell, Alison, Heather, Nina D’Arcangela, Dee, Bob Sanchez and Jeremy (Hawkins).

Angela Brown at Pursuit of Publishness, who participated in the 2012 challenge and is currently working on her latest YA masterpiece, stopped by many times to share insight on life and all its layers while Maurice Mitchell at The Geek Twins brought his Sci-Fi twist to the challenge this year – I am so happy that he jumped on our alphabet blogging train because of his great sense of community; I noticed his comments on many blogs while doing my rounds of visiting during the challenge.

The Minion Soldiers

My Mighty Madlab Minions were in full swing leading up to and during the A to Z Challenge. They kept this machine well-oiled and running on time – their efforts were a tremendous help this year, given my technical setbacks in April. M.J. Joachim not only managed multiple blogs during the challenge but was also very instrumental in keeping on top of the back-end administrative stuff throughout April. She completed all of the tasks that I assigned to her while also putting in extra help during times when I didn’t have any open assignments, and was always available, prompt and thorough in helping me make sure that the challenge ran as smooth as we could get it this year.

If M.J. is a part of any future minion team, I would make her a Minion Crew Chief, to be sorta like an executive assistant who oversees the tasks for all minions. She also visited my blog often and made it a point to leave comments on additional participant blogs that were in our assigned sections. She rocks! Sheila Scribbles is someone who I’d nickname “Social Sheila” because she was very active on Twitter – utilizing the #atozchallenge hashtag and even adopted use of the #madlabminions hashtag early on when I released it.

Sheila also had the brevity thing down to a science, as she shared her favorite things from A to Z in short blog posts that were easy to read in a flash.

Tami Von Zalez kept me up to speed when dealing with changes to the list and was also very prompt in sending reports about things that needed to be addressed and/or reviewed for further action. Sydney Aaliyah held her own while showing people around Dallas, Texas – complete with places to visit and fun facts about that city. It’s been a treat to have her on my team because she inspired me to get more organized in the handling of all the back-end A to Z administrative stuff.

The De-Briefing

Yes, I lost some battles during the A to Z Challenge – but I still managed to win the war. All that’s left is my hope of having brought some joy to those who read my posts during the challenge.

Throughout April, I learned a lot about other people's lives -- some who have been through divorce, custody battles, self-doubt and suicidal moments as well as individuals who are proud of their accomplishments, giving toward others, and sharing their dreams and goals.

So if this blog post has delivered even an inch of happiness, inspiration or a brief smile, then I believe I’ve done the best I could do during my time as a Co-Host and participant in the 2013 A to Z Challenge.

I would like to send a special shout out to Paula at Paula’s Place for staying course with the challenge all the way to the end. It is because of her that I'm toying around with the Blog Everyday in May Challenge – one that goes straight through with zero days off! As if my life isn’t already hectic; I guess I’m burning for more mountains to climb until I collapse, maybe?! The challenge was tough – I’m not going to lie about it but I still enjoyed the experience and would do it all over again in a New York minute if given the chance.

My Co-Hosts are the kind of leaders that I am proud to stand next to on this journey because they faced much adversity for days or weeks on end and still came out strong.

When Google tried to take Stephen Tremp down, he took to twitter and kept on going, doing what he could to make sure that participants knew where to find his A to Z musings. Technical challenges, health scares, traveling woes, parenting duties, 9-to-5s and related curveballs didn’t stop Arlee Bird, Konstanz, Tina Downey, Shannon, Damyanti, Livia Peterson, Alex J. Cavanaugh, DL Hammons, L. Diane Wolfe or any Co-Host heading up this challenge. They are a group of tenaciously efficient individuals filled with encouragement and understanding.

Would do another A to Z in the future? Yes.

In fact, I'm Co-Hosting the Post A-to-Z Road Trip with Shannon and Tina. We're inviting people to join us in visiting all of the participating blogs between now (signups are open today!) and the next April Challenge.




Over, and out!

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Reader Comments (6)

Great quote from Ebert.

Nicole, you are an absolute blogging champ and a real pro when it comes to teamwork. But that's something I knew already and the reason why I wanted you on the Team. You and your crew of helpers were a big addition to making the 2013 Challenge the success that I thought it was.

Next year I hope you are too busy with film festivals and movie premieres and projects to be a part of the A to Z, but if you are still available I want you on our Team. You are one of my writing heroes.

You also gave me the inspiration for my theme on Wrote By Rote and I thank you for that.

Now for the Road Trip!

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

May 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArlee Bird

Congrats on winning the battle! It's amazing what you have to go though when using networks outside of your own home. And that's a great idea you had writing two posts at once. I think I'll have to use that tactic sometime. And what's this about Bloglovin’? I think I'm going to have to check that site out!

May 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhermanturnip

It was a pleasure serving under you. Great post.

You are a champ. I second Lee's endorsement! I'm excited to be road-trippin' with you and Shannon, and I'm simply amazed at your tenacity for completing this Challenge with such challenging circumstances. Egads! You totally rock, Nicole, and I love how you gave everyone a shout-out of thanks. Much appreciated.
Tina @ Life is Good
Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
@TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTina

I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts during the A to Z Challenge... many of which did make me smile and / or feel sad (depending on the subject matter of course!). I'm one of your Bloglovin subscribers so I'm now staying up to date with all your posts... which I shall continue to look forward to read in future. Now, I'm off to find out more about the Blog Everyday in May Challenge (I'm a bit late to that party though) and the Post A to Z Road Trip!
See you soon.. oh, almost forgot... thanks for the mention!!!!
Suzy Turner, YA Author

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy Turner

Thank you so much for mentioning me! I love the quote, and this was a wonderful post. I love that you mentioned so many people.

#atozchallenge reflections on Kristen's blog: A to Z Reflections

May 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristen Dyrr

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