Reflecting on the 2015 AtoZ Blog Challenge


My 3rd year to participate in the Challenge – I’ll be back!


Participating in the #Challenge can be stress free IF you write all your posts ahead of time, and have them waiting in the queue. You can tweak them easily just before publication. It takes a lot of time to research, get your photos ready, do the writing, however brief the post is, and PLEASE, keep them brief. That is if you want readers to give you another try and return. Visiting other blogs is a must if you expect people to find you from the long list of bloggers posted. I can guarantee the people who do a lot of work on their posts, that it is all for nothing, if the post is impossible to read – the typeface on backgrounds that are supposed to be edgy. Clarity is important, without it, why bother to read the information when there are many other sites that are easy to navigate, offering accessibility, and are uncluttered. How much time is a person willing to give to a blog where you have to LOOK for everything, where to leave a comment, or at least a LIKE option so you can say you have been there? If people aren’t interested in your subject, that’s one thing, but to have people never return because your posts are too obscure to navigate, now that’s unnecessary.

STATS FOR APRIL-A WAY TO LOOK AT HOW THINGS WORKED OUT AND WHAT TO RECONSIDER:                                                                               

I checked all my stats on day 1 and day 30. Blog followers 111-129   Facebook Likes 104-106 Pinterest 1,485 -1,506  I sold 20 books, but I know some of those sold had nothing to do with the blog. I bought 3 books because of someones blog I found during the challenge. One of those has proved to be unreadable, which shocks me. I had 1,951 visits during April, average 65 per day. In March I had 245 visits, average 8 per day.  If I had visited more blogs, I know the results would have been reflected in my stats with people who return the favor. I KNOW blogging is way more than statistics, and I don’t suggest that in this feedback to you, but it is a way of measuring your efforts/success. Before April 1, I made sure all my social media stuff was talking to each other. (I do question whether my author Facebook page bears fruit, however much I enjoy my personal Facebook page.) There are so many talented, interesting, knowledgable blogs to follow that are great examples to consider in rethinking your current blog presentation now that you’ve finished the Challenge.


Why would anyone want to take their precious time to read a blog that starts with excuses, apologies for not knowing what you’re doing, I’m not very good at this, my life is a mess, I write to vent my anger, etc. etc. etc. I am just a housewife trying to raise kids, but I love to write when I can. Would you read a blog that sounds like that? I don’t think so. Rethink what you are about, what passion you are sharing, your particular take on the world that you want to share, but for heavens sake, do it with enthusiasm, without apology, and give your reader something worthwhile. Keeping a journal may be a better way to proceed than blogging. I’m just saying…



May 20th, 2015-Upon further reflection…It has dawned on me that after this 3rd year of participating, that I have a question for others who are going to give it a try….what do you hope to get out of all the work that makes the challenge worth while? I have decided that if bloggers have a real goal, the whole thing falls in place and is doable. So my question for you for next year is…..why am I bothering to participate again, knowing what the end results will be based on past experience, if I don’t change the purpose of doing it?

survivor-atoz [2015] - 2

About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her:
This entry was posted in AtoZ Blog Challenge April 2015. Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to Reflecting on the 2015 AtoZ Blog Challenge

  1. Rosie Amber says:

    I loved your short, informative posts Stepheny, I hope the unreadable book wasn’t one I was promoting on my tour posts?

    • Glad you had time to read some of the challenge posts. I love the preparation. And, no, the book I bought was not one you reviewed. Maybe I better stick with your recommendations.

  2. pbmgarden says:

    Congrats on another successful AtoZ. You’ve shared some insightful tips here.

  3. Nadine says:

    Thank you for including my blog on your list. Thanks also for the great reflections. I haven’t looked at my stats yet, but it was a pleasure to engage with so many fine bloggers. I’m sure I’ll do it again!

  4. jazzfeathers says:

    Hey, you took it with such professionality! I don’t think I have that much insight into my stats, although I did see a steep increase in April.

    I also know I didn’t get as much advantage from the challenge in terms of traffic as I could have, because I had to write my posts too. I do plan to write everything in advance next year. I’m still discovering blogs now, and – although it’s fun finding something interesting and new even now – it would have been nice following them during the challenge.

    But it was a great experience. I had lot of fun and met lots of fantastic people! 🙂

    • I discovered your blog during the challenge and this is one of the reasons I participate. It is a great learning curve for me and I do believe I am a better blogger today than I was three years ago when I first signed up. I will definitely do it again.

  5. Stephany, thanks for visiting my A2Z reflections this morning. You have some interesting points about the ease of navigating someone’s site. I’ve stumbled into this problem countless times when visiting blogs during the challenge and beyond. I prefer simple, well laid out blogs that are jazzed up with that person’s passions – art, photography, crafts, etc (not loaded with clutter of ads – flashing or not). The posts need to be short, like you pointed out to keep bloggers returning for more of what you offer. I find blogs that are too technical, as in what they are blogging about not as in technology, makes for not-so-easy reading. I had not thought about how unappealing it would appear to someone who stumbles upon a site that opens with an apology. I’m not sure, if I have come across anyone who has done this before or else I sorta took from said posts as this person is being humble by his/her knowledge on the matter. Now, that’s going to stick in the back of mind and I will be more on guard for these sorts of things to see how it changes my perspective. Anywho, it was certainly nice meeting you and reading about your experiences. I think you taught me something in that I need to think twice about apologizing for my short-comings when sharing something new-to-me because after all, if I do it with heart-felt passion then hopefully my message will shine through, right? Have a funtastic week and congrats on finishing the A2Z challenge along side me!

    • I appreciate your letting me know that my reflections had some good points. Remember, no more apologies. You are blogging because you have something to bring to the table. Work hard at it and make it your best, and ENJOY the process.

  6. emilia m. says:

    yes, the lengthy posts were very discouraging. Although few times I found myself fascinated by them 😀 I guess it depends on the blog 🙂
    …and I have to review my “about” part of the blog… not sure how do I “sound” there 😉

    • Tweaking your blog now will be satisfying. I’m sure you saw things while visiting others that you liked or annoyed you. You found something you would like to add to your site. I have found it is worth rethinking pieces of the blog to improve the presentation. Have fun.

  7. One thing I have yet to do with my A to Z posts is check the statistics. I meant to do so over the weekend, but I was working on my book and it just got put aside…I hope they look close to as good as yours!

    (I’m also enjoying going through your A to Z posts – they are great!).

    • Finally getting back to you. How is your book coming? After letting the dust settle after the Challenge, I started a series of summertime posts in June. It feels good to have a focus for the blog again. Take a break and come back and see me.

      • The latest round of editing is almost done, then back out to some agents who have requested to see it – so that’s excellent! I think maybe I’ll have those done by the end of the weekend (or so I hope!).

  8. Thanks for hopping over to my blog this morning. I ran through your blog this evening and enjoyed it very much ~ I especially loved your Italy posts, because, ITALY. 😉

    I have already begun thinking about next year and hope to be able to do a little more in advance than I did this year – although all in all, I was delighted to get back to writing daily.

    I look forward to keeping up with you!


    • After a break, I hope you are back writing again. I started a series of posts about summertime in June. It feels good to have a focus for the writing again. Wish the two of us could have a glass of wine and share our love of Italy. Cheers.

  9. the little princess says:

    Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving words of encouragement for me! I haven’t read your posts during the challenge, but now with time on my hands I do hope to catch up with those posts!

  10. LOL. I know what you mean about posts starting with a downer. We all have bad days but we don’t have to share them every post. Congrats on finishing.

    • Glad you agree with me that blogging about problems, medical, or otherwise, isn’t a great incentive for readers to return. I’m writing a series of posts about summertime during June and love the writing and memories of our childhood summers. Hope you are having a good start to your summer.

  11. anneyoungau says:

    Thanks for visiting and for sharing your thoughts on blogs in general


    • At the beginning of June I started posting a series about summertime while growing up and what kind of a summer is ahead for us now. If you have time, come back to see me. Let me know what you think.

  12. Hi, Stephney. Yes I agree with most of what you say here. I have visited and read it before, but I must have been “liked and commented out” -if that makes sense. (worn out from liking and commenting on blogs) Sue

    • After some down time after the Challenge, I am finally answering you. Hope you are off to a good summer and blogging away. I started a new series of posts about summertime and am having a great time. Come and visit again if you have time.

  13. Oh, Stepheny, I also started following Nadine during the challenge! Isn’t she a delight! This Challenge was a success on so many levels for me. I had a blast! Folks responded well to my theme. I found others I really want to stick to reading. I expanded my horizons. It revived what I love about blogging. Sharing with other people! Like you, I saw my numbers go up across the board. And that’s a lot of fun, too, even if it is just a side benefit of all this other activity.
    ~ We made it!!! ~
    Stopping in from Life & Faith in Caneyhead.

    • Enjoying your blog, Barbara. Wish we could share a summer afternoon in the garden getting better acquainted. I’m a happy girl writing this new series about summertime during June. Hope the Livin’ is Easy for you just now.

  14. vwaldeck says:

    Thanks for popping over to my blog . Enjoying your blog too. The A to Z Challenge was a great experience .

    • Sorry to be so long in answering your comment. I got busy writing a series of new posts about summertime this June. Hope your summer is off to a good start. Come back and see me when you can.

  15. danandjaye says:

    What an elegant way to theme your A to Z posts! Will your new book also be available in Kindle form sometime soon?

    • Pleased you liked the theme for the challenge. I loved creating the posts. Not sure when Facing East will be available as an e-book. At the moment the first novel, Greening of a Heart is a e-book, but not in paper. Eventually they will both be available in both forms. Thanks for asking. Come back and see me when ever you have time, though taking a bit of a break after April.

  16. patgarcia says:

    All I can say is Amen to your thoughts. I for one did my blog posts fresh every morning, because I wanted to see how well my creativity flowed in putting together a concise article under 300 words under pressure.
    I enjoyed the challenge but I too skipped a blog when I thought the blog owner was venting or complaining about the world being crapped. I did not want to hear it.
    I am sorry that I missed your blog. I started out as number 1016 on the list and so I started visiting blogs that were behind me or ahead of me or on the side of me. Then I noticed that my number kept changing. Good thing it did, because that showed me that the hosts were doing their jobs and removing those blogs that were not adhering to the rules.
    So now I am following your blog, and I will take the time to come back and read some of your A to Z Blog Posts.

    • This is what I love about the challenge. I feel I have made a new blogging friend today with you spending time with my blog and deciding to follow. It is a lot of work, but I love the research and planning. I was feeling smart because the planned publishing of the new novel tied in with my theme this year. Somethings are meant to be. I think we are like minded when you too dislike the venting, complaining. Not the two of us! Best face forward, loving what we are doing, blessed to be doing what we are doing. Shalom, indeed!

  17. M.R.R. says:

    It is preferable when someone keeps their blog easy to navigate. What also gets under my skin is when there’s a load of stuff in the sidebar that you can barely make sense of, especially when it ends up squishing the actual post.

    • Your comment makes me feel better because I hoped I wasn’t being super critical of the exact things you mention. It must be the template that drives some of these things because why would the content of the post take a back seat to all the “stuff” that is happening around it. I hope you found my blog free of distractions. Would appreciate your opinion.

  18. Arlee Bird says:

    You succinctly covered the important points of A to Z in this post. Thank you for this Reflections post that could serve as a guide on how to do the challenge the right way.

    I especially like your “On Last Thing” point. I’ve mentioned this before as well. We don’t read blogs to hear excuses but to get reasonable information. Just get to the point and write without apologizing for it. The readers can decide whether you are a decent writer, your topic is worthwhile, or whatever it is about your blog that will turn them off. I don’t need you the blogger telling me ahead of time why I should be turned off.

    You said this well, Stepheny and I think it’s something that needs reminding now and then since there are a lot of bloggers who do this.

    Great Reflections post! Thanks

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    • A thought about reading reflection posts for next year. I am finding new blogs through their reflection link, where I leave a comment. BUT, if this is my first visit, a whole bunch of blogs leave me no way on that reflection page to go back and see what they were doing during the challenge. Seems a shame not to be able to check out their theme etc. while visiting their reflection. I have added at least five new blogs to follow at this point, and am still getting new followers who obviously have checked back on me. Seems like a missed opportunity.

      • Arlee Bird says:

        I have not found any blogs such as you describe yet. It seems to me that if you are able to arrive on their Reflections Post page there should be some way to get to their archived posts. If you run across another let me know the link and I’ll check it out.

        Arlee Bird
        A to Z Challenge Co-host
        Tossing It Out

  19. pempispalace says:

    Thank you, Stepheny for visiting & commenting on my reflections post. I do agree with you that some blogs were difficult to read – blue type on black background is one I remember! My posts were long because of what I wanted to discuss and share but I might be changing this for next year and go completely off topic!! Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

  20. Shonna Slayton says:

    Stepheny! I’m so glad you found my blog again this year. I remember all your lovely garden photos from last year and still follow you on Pinterest 🙂 I never made it to your blog during the challenge, but hope to get caught up on more blogs during the road trip.

    @ShonnaSlayton from
    Shonna Slayton YA Writer – Blogging the 1940’s from A to Z

  21. Hi Stepheny, thanks for visiting my blog – I’ve added a ‘follow by email’ button just for you 🙂

    I like your ‘one last thing’ paragraph. It makes complete sense to let your blog reflect the happy, positive, professional person/writer you really are.

    My blog (me) and my books are very different in tone – I do wonder what people think of them if they’ve read my blog first.

  22. Sunni Morris says:


    Thank you for visiting my reflections post. I missed your blog entirely during the challenge but will go back and read all of your posts as I have time. I’ve found a few I missed on the reflections list.

    My posts are in my archives along the right margin of my blog (scroll down past all the cats pics). I probably should move it up higher. I didn’t think of adding a list to the reflections post as I’ve seen some bloggers do.

    Congrats on your participation and finishing of the challenge.


  23. Hi Stepheny. I too was pleasantly surprised with the increase in traffic on my site during April. The challenge now it to hang on to as many new readers as I can! Thanks for visiting me.
    Keith’s Ramblings

  24. Excellent tips and advice for the challenge. I actually popped over after reading a comment that you left on another reflection post, but now I remember being here during the challenge. I remember reading about Lincoln Park. There are so many participants in the challenge that sometimes it’s hard to remember the names of blogs or to put a name with the blog title. You offered the other blogger some useful tips so I knew I would benefit from your reflection post. It’s clear that your hard work and preparation contributed to the big increase in your blog stats and we could all take a lesson from you.

    This wasn’t my first year, but it was the year of my biggest mistakes , beginning with not preparing all my posts in advance. Since the challenge I have finally learned how to add my posts to the queue and schedule a date and time for publication. I realize now, that my crime fiction murder mystery wasn’t such a good idea because people who dropped by in the middle didn’t want to play catch up . It would have been a good idea if I had signed up sooner and had more time to promote it . I also learned that I need to write shorter posts. I also need to figure out how to switch my commenting forum back to blogger from Disqus. Disqus is the worst. I hate it, but I don’t know how to switch back without losing all my comments .
    Thanks for all your tips. And congratulation on the release of your book.

    I am number 424 on the reflection post sign up list.
    Melissa Sugar

  25. Mike Spain says:

    Congratulations on another successful A to Z: Challenge

  26. Good stuff; love your matter-of-fact way of writing! Definitely important to ask oneself for one’s reasons for participating again if one doesn’t do anything differently from the year before. I’ll be asking myself this question before I join in next year.

    I’m also taking away from your post, to write passionately, share with purpose, enthusiasm and without apology. You made me think some about Maya Angelou 🙂 #aNoviceMumComment – thanks for dropping by my reflection post.

  27. Fab reflection post! I totally agree with you about making it too difficult to comment. If I have to navigate through pages and pages just to comment, I often don’t bother. This was my first year doing the challenge – I gave it a go because it looked fun and it was. It made me realise that writing at least one post a day is actually pretty doable. I’ll be joining in next year’s for sure. I’m not sure I specifically want to get anything out of it as such, but its a fun way to find new blogs and my readers seemed to like it this year!
    Popping by on the A to Z Road Trip

  28. Tarkabarka says:

    Hi! Thank you for the Road Trip visit! 🙂 I like your theme, and I happily read some of your Italy posts (I love Italy). What a fun theme to have! And good reflections, too. Answering your question, the part I love about A to Z is discovering new blogs I want to follow during the challenge, and even after 🙂 Which means I find most of the fun in visiting around.
    Congratulations on the book! 🙂

  29. wendyj59 says:

    I’m dropping by on my A-Z Road Trip and your comments certainly got me checking my blog and updating my profile! It was my first time doing the challenge and my stats did improve. My aim was to get back into blogging regularly after a bit of a break and I achieved that. Some things I would do differently so lessons to be learned. I’ll be back next year 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s