(This is the first in a series of Success Interviews that will be published here. I am honored to present Joan Adams to you.)
I recently had the opportunity to interview Joan Adams, one of the top lensmasters on Squidoo.com.
Joan Adams celebrates Mothers Day 2011 with her family
John: Joan, I'd like to interview you and feature you in the next edition of my Act On Your Dream! Newsletter. Let's start with a background question and see where it goes from there. OK?
Question: What is your background and did you ever think you would be publishing information online?
Joan: I was one of four children, grew up in a small southern community, left college to marry and raise our family. I worked secretarial jobs in just about every type of business. My favorite position ever was as Executive Director of a 5 county chapter of the March of Dimes which included not only writing, but presentations and training.
I always had big dreams of writing for a living. When I read Norman Vincent Peale's book Dynamic Imaging in the early 80's, I set my lifetime goals. Those goals included writing to make a difference -- and to earn a living. I was thrilled to publish a Devotional in Upper Room about that time-- and was paid a total of $12 for that. I will never forget the thrill of being paid for my work. That one little publication was validation for me -- it really is possible to make a living doing what I love.
In those days, I had no vision of a computer in my home, much less writing for others to read on-line. But it was not long until my late brother began talking about home computers, gave one to me, and strongly spoke of my opportunities of the future - using that machine! No, I never really dreamed I would be publishing online - but he saw the potential, I must give him credit for what I am doing now.
John: Joan, I remember the thrill of getting paid for the first time for something I wrote, too. It's great learning that we can get paid for doing something we love.
You said your brother spoke about the opportunities of the future and influenced you.
Question: What was his name? Was he older or younger than you?
Question: What about others in your family - do they support or hinder your online writing?
Joan: Mel was the baby of the family - our younger brother. There are 3 of us Tate girls -- and we all write. Ohme aka sister Nancy writes on Squidoo like me. Nancy and I have a wonderful time sharing our Squidoo adventure. We are on the phone most every day talking Squidoo!
Sister Betty co-created an ebook with me called Banish the Blahs and Be Happy! Betty is a professional editor and has been published in southern travel magazines. So, we do all write and yes, we all encourage each other, thank goodness! Nancy and Betty both promote my Squidoo lenses and I am daily thankful for that!
Mel was the most creative of all of us, I think. He had a brilliant mind. And he loved the idea of all the new technology! He adored his first fax machine! :)
I can remember Mel showing me how he could get the weather report on his computer -- long before Windows. That was when we had the C prompt and it seems to me the words were in green. There were no graphics in those days. Just a message across the screen. He laughed when he showed me the updates on the soap operas. He told me over and over to start learning how to be an information broker -- that information was the key to the future. I never did do that, but I did learn the internet via the computer he bought for me, and I like to think he is looking down and enjoying all of this fancy technology!
John: It sounds like Mel was ahead of his time. I'm sure he's enjoying what you and your sisters are doing.
I once bought a book about making money as an information broker, but it never really appealed to me. I did a bit of it as a consultant, and learning how to find and use information online is a skill that has been very useful to me over the years.
Joan, I have a follow-up question about your family.
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that your husband is legally blind and still enjoys playing golf. Didn't you say that he shot a hole-in-one last year? (I hope my memory isn't playing tricks on me today.)
You've written some about him on Squidoo.
Question: Could you give us some links to those lenses and a little about what inspired you to write them?
Question: Does your husband encourage and/or support your writing and Internet marketing activities?
Joan: Yes, John. My husband, Whitey, was declared legally blind in 1988. His vision has very slowly continued to deteriorate since that time. In the 1950's, he played minor league professional baseball and in the 1960's, he was a golf professional - so he has always been an athlete.
Whitey Adams loves playing golf several times a week
He walks every morning, hits golf balls on the driving range every day at least once, and enjoys playing golf 2-3 days a week.
He especially enjoys playing golf with our son and grandson. Total joy to me is seeing the 3 of them on the driving range or walking on the golf course!
Three generations of the Adams at the Masters
The three of them walk alike, and all 3 are super golfers - including the 6 year old! (We do live a block from the golf course - moved here when Whitey was the golf professional at the Country Club in 1975 - so he is able to walk to the driving range and the golf course.)
In his lifetime, Whitey has had 11 holes-in-one, and 4 of those have been since he was declared legally blind. And you are right, that fourth was this summer! Of course, he says all the holes-in-ones are just good luck -- but he does believe he has something he calls "muscle memory". He also has his golf bag filled with all sorts of practical jokes. People who play golf with him tell me it is quite an experience!
Whitey talking to Jack Nicklaus at the Masters tournament
He knows the home course very very well and when playing here, he only needs help finding his ball after he hits it. On out-of-town courses, his partners must be more active in assisting him. He also directs the local Optimist Club Golf Tournament every year and the Adams Cup.
And oh yes, Whitey totally supports my writing and internet marketing. We worked together in sales for years -- and he knows how much I detested making cold calls! This way, I can work at home and supplement our social security.
John: Joan, I love reading how you write about Whitey, his activities, and golfing with your son and grandson. He is an inspiration to all of us.
It's great that you get so much support from your family in what you're doing now. That makes it much easier and enjoyable than if you were constantly facing criticism and/or non-interest. Family support is a very important part of the quality of life and living.
Now, let's change the topic to your online writing and marketing.
Question: In addition to the lenses you've already mentioned, do you have any websites, lenses, blogs, or other online writing that you would like to promote?
Question: Which of them do you like the most and/or are most proud of? Which do you think could use a little more polishing or content?
Joan: One of the most fun projects in my life right now is a group of blogs - created by a group of dear friends.
The group includes lensmasters you know -- Susan52, stargazer00, tandemonimom, rms aka Robin, treasures-by-brenda and me. Susan made a super lens about our blogging project at We Love Holidays Every Day.
We all post whenever we can on any and all of the blogs, and that is a very good thing. It keeps those blogs active, and none of us feel the total responsibility for the posting. We all have had weeks where we did not post, I think. But most of the time, we try to post on each one every week.
The joy of this is that we have no rules. Nobody is required to post any particular day. We just work it into our schedules as we can. We do have a basic format for posting, and a set of categories.
Our blogs include:
We all search for unusual items -- things that we find funny or interesting or just unusual gifts or ideas. It's great fun just to go out there and catch up on what everybody has posted. We all use our own affiliate programs and we all sign each post (except when I forget as I am prone to do!)
Each blog was started at a different time. Top Rated Gifts is over a year old now. I would encourage anybody to do the same thing. Find a niche, and a few friends that you trust, and just have fun with it!
As to polishing needs -- Tips for Senior Independent Living needs lots of polish.
[Update: This blog has been renamed and moved to a new home. It is now Life After 60.]
I have to admit that at times writing, talking and living senior life gets a bit boring! lol I want to be 25 again! Seriously, I love my senior life -- actually the best part of my life so far. And there is so much I want to say, things I want to be sure I tell my children, wisdom I have learned through the years to share with the world -- and yet, I find myself stuck on that blog from time to time. But I plod along -- believing the information there is very important -- if not now, maybe in the future.
I think Senior Living in the US needs some serious study. And I think those of us who are seniors have a "calling" to tell our stories, write our autobiographies, share our lives -- in any way that we can.
When our daughter was in high school, she asked me to get her a book of wisdom - which I did. I bought a blank journal - a nice one - and passed it around to friends and relatives, who each wrote her a "word of wisdom" as she approached adulthood. She has treasured that book for years and continues to add to it. Often we will be discussing an issue and she will say "that goes in the book!"
Even when we say/write things that the young folk cannot understand now, I firmly believe that the time will come when they will understand. I know my own mother gets smarter every year I live this life. (Mom had early Alzheimer's from the age of 57 and died at 64, I think).
And every lens I have needs polish - so back to work!
John: Joan, I spent about an hour reading your Tips for Senior Independent Living blog and enjoyed it.
I especially liked the posts about the musician playing the violin, the exercise block, crocheting a new Afghan, and the cell phone for seniors. (grin)
I enjoy your writing style and love reading what you write. I'm not so sure that your blog needs a lot of polish, at all.
Now, let's talk about Squidoo a bit.
I'm not sure, but I think I first met you when I was reading one of your Squidoo lenses. I could tell that we shared some interests and similar points of view.
So, here's a couple of questions about you and Squidoo...
Question: What brought you to Squidoo? Do you think it was a good decision to publish there?
Question: What is the main focus for your lenses?
Joan: Wow John! Thank you re the senior blog! I had about given up on it! Will get back to work out there!
I was in a Master Mind group at the time. We met once a week via the telephone from around the world. That group is still in existence though over the years we have lost members and added new ones. The leader of the group at that time was Rob Mills. Rob had helped me set up my first website and sales page for my e-book. He really worked hard to teach me, but the concepts were way over my head. He ended up doing most of it for me, to tell the truth. :)
He kept telling me that I needed to try Squidoo. I continued to say no. This went on for months!
Then one day, I tried it. I made a lens and ran away fast. I was totally overwhelmed. Rob continued to encourage me and in a few weeks, I returned and have been at Squidoo ever since.
Rob was right. Squidoo is a perfect venue for me. I like the neighborhood most of all. The people at the Squidoo are really great and many of them are now dear friends. I also like the attitude of headquarters at Squidoo. Problems are easily solved, challenges are fun, and the forum is just a good place to be. Yes, I am glad I decided to publish there. I wish I made more money each month with my lenses, but I never regret publishing at Squidoo. I am learning each month, and I like to think I am becoming a better lensmaster.
My focus at Squidoo? Oh, my! I don't think I am focused! :)
If all of my lenses had to be put in a general category, they would likely fit under Home and Family. I really would not know how to write about anything else. I write about everything from shower curtains to music to aids for the blind.
John: Good morning, Joan.
I was looking at your Lensmaster page on Squidoo and see that you have over 200 lenses now. I don't know anyone else who has created as many. It seems that you really do like publishing on Squidoo.
I know what you mean about having (or not having) a focus on Squidoo. Most of my first lenses are unrelated to each other, but more of them in the future will be used to promote locally owned small businesses in Murphy, NC and to promote the products I have in my Cafepress and Zazzle shops. I like to tell people that I have an eclectic mix, rather than a lack of focus. (grin)
I've been wondering for a year or two whether it is better to build an online presence that we own and control or if it is better to publish on sites like Squidoo. I really haven't come to a conclusion, yet, so I continue to do both. I'm a real propeller-head geek and I've built lots of sites on the Internet, but most of them have never gained traction and gotten very successful. I'm sure I've learned a lot in the process, but I've also wasted time and effort, too.
For example, one of my hosts sent me a notice a couple of days ago that someone had broken into one of my sites and loaded several phishing scripts. The security team at the host removed them and I had to go in, change my password, delete several directories of old outdated material, and upgrade a couple of scripts to the latest version in an attempt to stop these lowlifes from making it difficult for people who visit one of my oldest, and hopefully trusted, websites.
This is one of the reasons that I'm less thrilled about developing my own sites on general-purpose hosting accounts.
I'm continuing to narrow my focus on what I'm promoting and where I'm publishing, these days. I'm sure that any new websites I build will be powered by SBI because it is almost impossible for someone to install phishing and other malicious scripts on sites they host.
Also, there's the issue of being seen. It is not true that people will magically find you if you build a website or start a blog. There are over 100 million active domains on the Internet these days and thousands are being added every day. The great majority of them get only a few dozen views per month. I'm lucky that most of my sites and blogs get several thousand page views every month. It has not been easy, but I feel like it was worth all the effort.
But, then again, I'm a programmer, ex systems administrator, Unix geek, and I've learned dozens of ways to build an online presence. Still, the great majority of them failed. So, that was time and effort that was wasted.
I'm wondering if it is better to be a small fish in a big ocean or a giant fish in a small pond.By that, I mean is it better to be one of thousands of publishers on a popular site like Squidoo.com or the only publisher on my own blog or website.
Since you're not technically inclined, it seems that Squidoo has made it easier for you to publish all you have using their service.
Many so called "gurus" state that the only way to build a business is on a domain you own and control. I think there is some truth to that, but it is not totally true. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts about that subject.
Question: Do you think that publishing so much on Squidoo can be a bad thing? (You have no control over what they decide to allow and deny, you don't own the domain, and one day something could happen and you'd lose all your hard work, among other things.)
Question: If there were no sites like Squidoo, what do you think you'd be doing now? Would you still be writing and publishing online?
Joan: If I had not found Squidoo, I would be writing ebooks. I have been fascinated by the internet world since the beginning. And I can be pretty stubborn too. I am determined to prove I can make a living on line.
Too much Squidoo? No, I don't have any fear that Squidoo will disappear any time soon. I am writing articles and learning to do Hubpages. But Squidoo is home to me. With over 7000 visitors to my Squidoo lenses in the past 7 days, I am reasonably pleased with my traffic there. And whether we realize it or not, those of us who write on Squidoo are developing a following as well as friendships -- people who will always recognize our name on line.
I am Presbyterian by birth, John. I do firmly believe that Squidoo was put in front of me to help me develop my internet skills. And no matter where else I publish on line, I will always feel that Squidoo was my education. Pat O'Bryan was my introduction; Squidoo has been and continues to be my education. I work constantly to improve my marketing and writing skills. And each month, I do make a little more than the month before.
I have no desire to "own" sites. I really really hated trying to build websites. I am learning about WordPress with my WordPress blogs. If I do decide to "own" a site, that will be my choice, I think. To build blogs instead of "websites".
In fact, I am starting a series of blogger blogs now. Always something it seems -- a new technique, a new marketing idea, a new platform to try.
John: So, you'd rather be a writer or content creator than owner and administrator of a site of your own. I can understand that, especially if you don't like dealing with all the technical issues.
I don't remember if we talked about this in this interview or not, but sometimes it's better being a small fish in a large ocean (a lensmaster on Squidoo, for example) rather than being a giant fish in a small pond (the owner of a site with almost no visitors). Plus, it takes a lot of time and effort (and money) to build sites and attract readers. So, writing lenses on Squidoo and blogging on sites managed by someone else frees up your time to concentrate on what you want to do most.
Right? Now, let's move on with another couple of questions...
Question: Do you have something you want to write about that you have not been able to do for some reason?
Question: When you're not writing and publishing online, what do you enjoy doing?
Question: is there something else you would like to say here, or would you like to suggest a question I didn't think of?
It's been a pleasure interviewing you, Joan, and even though I've known you for a couple of years or so, I learned some new things about you and what you're doing.
I hope you have continued success with your writing.
I'm looking forward to reading all about your new home at the beach and all the fun things you're doing when you achieve your dream.
Joan, I was just looking at this lens...
You're one of the top 100 lensmasters. In fact, your one of the top 10 lensmasters.That's quite an accomplishment! Congratulations!
Joan: I had not seen that list lately, John! I think #7 is the highest ever for me! yahoo!!!!!!!!!!!
When I am not on Squidoo, I am playing with the grands -- our # 1 pastime! They are pure delight and joy! and they live close by! That's even more fun!
We enjoy line dancing or the SC Shag. I enjoy Bunco and in fact, I am playing Thursday night!
I love Harrah's Cherokee -- but that's a very special treat! I don't get up there but a couple times a year, but I do love the penny slots!
I read 2-3 books at a time. Always reading. Constantly!
On TV, I like American Idol and America's Got Talent best! Other than that, I watch Fox News and the home decorating shows. I am not one to just sit and "watch tv". I am forever into some project.
Right now we are busily getting ready for Adams Cup Golf Tournament. The dinner is tomorrow night and I must finish making the place cards before Whitey starts pacing.
Did I answer all your questions? this has been a fun on line interview! Thank you!
John: Thank you, Joan.
(You can create your own lenses about your favorite topics at Squidoo, too.)
If you would like to comment on this interview, please see the link to the Success Interviews - Joan Adams discussion on our Act On Your Dream! page on Facebook.
We conducted the interview off and on during 2010, while I was undergoing chemotherapy and not getting very much done.
Over the last year, there have been quite a few changes for Joan.
Last year, she had over 200 lenses on Squidoo, and now she has over 300.
One of the sites that hosted some of her blogs has closed, so the blogs have been moved to a different service, and that's a lot of work.
Their book, Banish the Blahs and Be Happy! is no longer offered online. The book is being revised with a scheduled release date of 2012.
Joan's Tips for Senior Independent Living blog is now Life After 60 and Joan invites you to come visit.
One thing is for sure. You won't find Joan sitting around doing nothing, very often. She's writing just about every day, and loving it.
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