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Monday, 9 May 2016

2016 A to Z Reflections Post


Another A to Z Challenge is over and what did I think?
I'm so glad I decided to join in at the last minute!!
I was still dithering right up to the last few days; but I have to thank Tracy at Black Boots Long Legs and SENCO Cat Herder at Special Teaching at Pempi's Palace for their encouragement - it definitely helped tip the scales towards putting my name down.

I think Blogger to Blogger encouragement and support is an integral part of the Challenge, and that is plentiful from the A to Z Challenge, whether it's your first time or your seventh - or your third in my case.

What did I enjoy the most?
With all 3 Challenges, it's been the discovery of new blogs, writers or themes, catching up with old friends, the making of new ones and learning about different worlds, both real and imaginary.

My own handmade glass beads - photo courtesy of Born Of Fire

It was also getting over (some of) my fear of talking about my own work.  I normally write about what other people make that I like.  Showing my own work and writing about it feels very different, I have dithered about properly coming out of my bead making closet, especially opening the door into Curling Stones.  Now that I have done this, and the world hasn't imploded, I feel really good; although the temptation to scuttle back into the closet is quite strong!

I always enjoy the conversations I have on Curling Stones with people, it one of my favourite aspects of blogging and it usually offers a different perspective.  This can directly affect what I write (especially if I'm writing on the fly, as I did for this year's challenge) and I love that interaction - I did my G post based on an idea from a conversation I had on my A post comments!


What did I enjoy the least?
Lack of Time - I wish I'd been more prepared with my own writing in order to spend more time blog hopping; I felt guilty that I didn't visit as many blogs compared to previous years.

I simply ran out of time on many days to get around all the blogs I wanted to.  In fairness I did know this would be the case before I started; it was one of the reasons I almost didn't take part.

What did surprise me is that apart from Q, which was a bit close to the wire, there was no danger that any post would be late, as I managed to keep on top of the writing all month.  Keeping up all the way through has taken it's toll, since the challenge finished I haven't done a thing, either writing or making glass beads as I'm still catching up with myself!

If you only read one more A to Z Challenge Blog from start to finish...
I enjoyed many of the blogs I found over the course of April but the one I couldn't wait to get to every day was Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles.

Photo courtesy of Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles

Sophie wrote her A to Z Murder Mystery letter by letter and I was gripped from Day 1!  I've pointed the link to her A post so you don't accidentally come across any spoilers prematurely, although it was written so that you could join in mid-theme and not need to reread any earlier posts as the catch up notes were excellent!

Improvements
A-Z Team - I don't have any suggestions for improvements, the team seemed to be keeping on top of the lists, visiting blogs and removing those that weren't participating as the list shrank quite a bit during the challenge.  I'm very curious about the A to Z lite experiment that I stumbled upon closer to the end of the challenge and how that might work running alongside the main challenge?

My feedback to other participants:
  • When leaving comments please leave an A to Z blog link, or at least your blog name.  On a few occasions I had to give up trying to find out if you had an A to Z blog as I kept finding dead ends.
  • Please consider tidying up your blog layout for the challenge, sometimes it was hard to find the A to Z posts, or figure out if you were taking part or not
  • If I have to log in via my Facebook Account, or any other social media platform I have locked down for privacy, or sign up to a new commenting system in order to leave a comment, I will not be commenting, sorry!  I will try and find a way, but if it's not easy I will end up leaving - sad that I couldn't let you know I'd been and enjoyed your post.
  • This year I came across very few blogs that had CAPTCHA still turned on, so I think that message is really getting through about turning it off for the challenge.  During the A to Z I have to be a lot more vigilant in catching spam comments myself, but I think I managed to delete them all quite quickly!

I would definitely encourage other bloggers to join in next year, it's great fun even though it's a challenge and it can be tough to keep it up, or in my case recover after you have kept up!

Especially if like me you hadn't prepped beforehand and you disappear off to F and have 4 days away in U during L to O - Confused? You'll have to read F and U to figure that one out!

View from the bus this weekend

It's rather ironic that the book to finish on my kindle this weekend was a find from the A to Z Challenge, picked from a Z post by Kathleen Valentine about her characters Zeke and Gabe from her novel Each Angel Burns - and yes I do recommend you go pick up a copy!

Do you have any tips to share with me
to improve my own A to Z experience
and / or navigation of my/your blog?

P.S. If you want to get involved and write your own *Reflections Post, all the blogs taking part are here. The A to Z team are interested in your views, whether you wrote and finished, wrote and stopped, or just read the A to Z!  The list is open from now until Friday.

*As long as it's about the A to Z this year, if it's not, or spammy, the link will be deleted.
____________________________________________________

Here's a quick reference link to all my A to Z posts below - ignore, enjoy, revisit or just marvel that it all got finished considering I only decided to join the party at the last possible minute!

My Glass Beadmaking Journey by Mars

A is for Addiction & Adventures

B is for my Beads, Business Cards and a Bead Tester Group

C is for Coring

D is for Diddys

E is for Experimentation and Errors

F is for Flame Off

G is for Glass

H is for Hat

I is for Inspiration

J is for Jewellery

K is for Kiln

L is for Lessons

M is for Mandrels

N is for Naming

O is for Oxygen Concentrator

P is for Passing The Flame

Q is for Quality Control

R is for Rod Storage

S is for Silver

T is for Torch (and how to POOP)

U is for Uttoxeter

V is for Ventilation

W is for Website

X is for X-rated!

Y is for YouTube

Z is for ZigZag Razor

54 comments:

  1. Hello Mars - Wonderful A to Z Reflection post! I thought your suggestions for improvements for other participants was spot on! It was a little frustrating when I still had to fill in the captcha thingy. Looking forward to continue lurking here in the future! :D

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    1. Thanks Amelia and likewise!

      I do think we've shared bosses in the past who are related ;)

      Mars xx

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  2. Hi Mars; Like you, I wasn't fully prepared and had to spend too much time writing instead of visiting. Thank you for dropping by The Doglady's Den when you had the time. I was fascinated that you make your own beads and enjoyed the posts I did read. Thankfully, captchas seem to be fading away. I'm bad about leaving blog links but think I'm easy enough to find. Looking forward to next year. Cheers!

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    1. Yep you were easy to find from your profile link :) I'm glad I finally wrote about my own beads, it was about time as they say! Even those blogs with CAPTCHA, they seem to be getting better at being easier to fill in, it's the ones with wavy letters in upper and lower case with numbers that drive me mad. Onwards with 2017 challenge, no doubt it will still be on the fly for me, regardless of my good intentions now.

      Mars xx

      Mars xx

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  3. Thank you for your most interesting posts and for all your visits to my blog, I have really enjoyed your comments. We all need timeturners - that's the only solution :)
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings

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    1. Yep that's it! Timeturners are a great idea :) I think that's why I was so knackered when I finished, I was really trying to read way more blogs than I had time for, I was grateful for well thought out themes and shorter posts :)

      Mars xx

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  4. I had so much fun learning about your glass beading passion and your style had me thinking about my own hobbies. I did like the question you put at the end of each post, it helped when responding, kicking my brain into gear :)

    And thanks so much for the shout out :D.

    Sophie
    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles | Wittegen Press | FB3X

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    1. Cheers Sophie, it was a very well deserved Shout Out, I was amazed at how well your theme ran and the little details in it - plus the "page turning" element to it as well as the interactive voting!

      I like ended with questions and trying to make them as broadly relevant to everyone who might be reading so people can take part, I really mean it when I say that the conversations I have in the comments are one of my favorite parts of blogging, I love people so getting to them is a natural urge... unless of course I'm reading then I will simply ignore everyone around me... for hours, days and sometimes weeks!

      Mars xx

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  5. Agree about learning so much just through the commenting process. The first day I was really intensely plowing through the participant list, I was wondering why I found so many dead ends, mainly through Blogger sites. Long story short, it is very important you are logged in to the same Google account your blog posts are linked to when commenting on others' posts. Learn something new every day, even when it results in an annoying, headache-inducing project. All fixed; all better now (I hope!).

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    1. That's a funny A to Z story! Glad you got it sorted :) Great reflections post by the way, you clearly learnt a lot from your first year!

      I love the conversation part of blog hopping, and blogging in general, it helps me think about what I write a lot more clearly than if I'm just bimbling along by myself :)

      Mars xx

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    2. Agree - echo chambers can be very peaceful or very boring.

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    3. Lol, very well said! Totally agree :)

      Mars xx

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  6. Thank you SO much for the kind words about EACH ANGEL BURNS! I'm happy that you enjoyed it and appreciate the plug!

    @Kathleen01930
    Blog

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    1. Absolutely loved it! It was also finished in a lovely location as you can see from the pics!

      Mars xx

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  7. I always start the challenge with forgetting to leave a sig with links to my blog, but by week two it becomes habit.
    Congrats on finishing the challenge.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

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    1. Yep I never leave them for 11 months of the year and then try to remember them religiously for the full month! I keep a sticky note on my desktop of the html written out so I can cut and paste... and then I do something in between and sometimes cut and paste something random at the end of my comment!

      Mars xx

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  8. Mars, I really enjoyed following you during the A to Z Challenge and am still amazed by what you're able to do!

    Congratulations!

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

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    1. Thank you and same to you too, yours was a great series!

      Mars xx

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  9. Mars,

    Thank you so very much for dropping by - sorry you missed the story, but for copyright reasons I decided to take it down, but the story is intact and on my pc ;)

    I absolutely love your glass beads and such a brilliant A-Z topic. My wife would die if I showed her (Troll beads are a love of hers), as she'd be instantly smitten with your work.

    I admire your skill and artistry, and about 5 years ago wondered how someone might get into making the very things you produce, but decided it was best left to those with the talent :)

    I've started posting tiny snippets of writing, just things prompted by a feeling, emotion or memory, and place music to emphasise the feeling/emotion/thought.

    I'll be doing another set of letters for next year, but going graphite. You should take a peek at last year's A-Z as I created a different alphabet for that one.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog as time glides by.

    And grats on finishing this year's A-Z Challenge :)

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    1. Cheers Mark, your wife clearly has lovely taste in beads, big fan of Trollbeads here.

      If she hasn't already been visiting them, the UK now has a range of concept stores for Trollbeads, wall to wall Trollbeads, and a lot of the stores, big and small alike are holding beadmaker events where you can have your own personal Trollbeads bead made whilst you watch... usually free with a minimum spend in store... anyway back to the A to Z...

      Thanks for your kind commments, my beads have certainly come a long way from the lumpy things I made when I first started, but if you like making things I would recommend taking a lesson to have a go, just be aware that it's rather addictive!

      Will have a look at your other letters and dip back in in time, got to go visit a few more on my list for this evening though before bed.

      Mars xx

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  10. I hear you about the blogs requiring a special commenting service. I was going to leave comments on a few such blogs until I saw I'd have to go through the whole rigamarole of registering with a unique to the blogger service. The only exception I made was for a blog post which had a really offensive, hurtful, ableist meme saying Autistics and Aspies have been "taken away" and are in need of a "cure." I couldn't let such ableist nonsense go unchallenged.

    Your beads are gorgeous! I love handmade jewelry, and jewelry in general. Necklaces are my favorite, though I also obviously love earrings, seeing as I have nine ear piercings so far.

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    1. Thank you! I too love jewellery, you might not have guessed ;)

      With regards to social media platforms I have a few that are locked down, but even those I use for the blog I don't want to have to sign in to comment, I just want to be able to comment in a straightforward manner.

      Glad you left a comment regarding that meme, there's too much crap like that about!

      Mars xx

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  11. I couldnt agree with you more about the commenting. Last year, I really dropped the ball on responding to comments and replying. This year, I made that extra effort and really noticed a HUGE difference.

    Congrats on completing the challenge!

    Mary
    Jingle Jangle Jungle

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    1. I saw a few blogs this that had so few (or no) comments on during the challenge and did wonder if they were super unlucky or just not visiting other blogs in the list.

      Mega congrats to you for completing the challenge, and I hope you're better after your fall soon.

      Mars xx

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  12. You make some excellent points particularly about commenting, and the difficulty of finding the comment box on some sites.

    Visit Keith's Ramblings

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    1. Thanks Keith, I was probably far more conscious of it this year due to having limited time, especially if I really wanted to leave a comment!

      Mars xx

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  13. Brilliant reflections post! Agree with all points. The blog signature really should be mandatory.

    And I love that you made your badges into a collage. How cool is that!

    Best wishes,
    Nilanjana.
    Ninja Minion, A-Z 2016
    Madly-in-Verse

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    1. Thanks, blog signatures do make life so much easier, I love to be able to read someone's comment and immediately jump to where they live on the internet to return the visit!

      I have a bit of a thing for collages, it occured to me that if I keep joining in I'll end up with a long list of survivors badges in my side bar and whilst I do witter on sometimes it ends up making my shorter posts look messy... so I plan to use it in the sidebar once I get round to it. Have only just changed my layout to the "normal" one as I tend to rearrange it a bit during April to make things easier for A to Z visitors.

      Mars xx

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  14. Excellent reflections - you picked up on some points I missed but agree with. Look forward to seeing you again, virtually speaking...

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  15. Advice... just jump in the water swim from side to side and not worry if you get wet... there are many people in the water too... We made it...Hope you had a great time, thank you for your Reflection!
    Jeremy [Retro]
    AtoZ Challenge Co-Host [2016]

    T-SHIRTS, MUGS, FREE MAGAZINE... OH MY!

    HOLLYWOOD NUTS!
    Come Visit: You know you want to know if me or Hollywood... is Nuts?

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    1. Hi Jeremy,

      Great job on the designs (again), yes very good advice! I still keep meaning to buy the 2015 t-shirt as I think that was my most favourite design :)

      Mars xx

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  16. Thanks for the shout out, Mars and I am so pleased you posted for the Challenge as your own bead creations were just marvelous to look at :) I quite agree that actually finding the blog post of the day was really tricky on some bloggers' pages - ever so fancy but so hard to navigate and when time is of an issue you just give up! Looking forward to the Road Trip now and a bit of a less hectic blogging life :)
    Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

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    1. Ooh was just recommending the Road Trip to someone else, I won't be signing up, it's a FAB idea but I'm planning to do some more actual road trips this year so I know I won't have the time between the day job, the bead job and the blog job lol!

      You're welcome on the shout out, between you and Tracy you definitely made up my mind for me and I'm so glad you did! But less hectic is good, looking forward to going back to 1 or 2 posts a month and actually making some more beads once I've had even more sleep :)

      Mars xx

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  17. I really enjoyed your A-Z this year, and whilst all 3 years of the challenge have given interesting posts I think this year has been the best so far.

    I love reading about your glass making journey, and I know I will be a proud wearer of your beads at some point.

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    1. Thank you Debbie, that's really touched me tonight reading this.

      It's been a big step for me to actually follow through with my resolution to talk about my own beads (rather than just talking about writing about them), even though I said I would at the start of the year. I don't mind mentioning them in the context of a bracelet but I've had a bit of a writer's block, or more accurately writer's fear about it. The A to Z has definitely been a good start I think.

      Thanks for reading!

      Mars xx

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  18. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I think most of your comments are right on . I too found myself short of time even though I prepared ahead of time.

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    1. You made some great points about real life vs blog life and next year I aim to get a better balance :)

      Mars xx

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  19. I loved Sophie's posts, too. So fun! It was an interesting challenge this year, for sure.

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    1. Yep I was totally impressed with how well it worked, I've seen stories done before but they were much harder to join in with if you didn't follow from the beginning, I thought Sophie's was genuis and great fun!

      Mars xx

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  20. I've said it before, but I will say it again: I really am so happy that you joined in this year! But I completely understand the desire not to go near a website for a while :D

    And I very much know what you mean about the fear of talking about your own work. I get very excited about my beads, but I know that they appeal to really such a small audience so I'm always nervous posting anything about them!

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    1. Yes, I can just about reply to comments and make comments on other blogs at the moment lol!

      I am really glad I joined in, it's beeen a fab challenge, and the challenge bit has been more personal this year, hopefully I will continue to write about my own beads when I have something interesting to say about them without dithering so much about it!

      Know what you mean, I have to remind myself how excited I am and happy to read when others, like yourself, write about their work and the process... I love it! I think it's also that thing about self promotion, now that I'm selling my beads, so channces are what I write about is for sale (or sold), it's the opposite of what I do generally in the blog... as everything else is not for profit as I've bought it for myself :)

      Will continue to give myself a good talking to ;)

      Mars xx

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    2. I was really bad about posting anything on Twitter for this challenge. I definitely would improve on that next year.

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    3. Twitter is great for blogging, especially the A to Z, my one regret is I didn't manage to join in any A to Z Twitter chats this year, but again, a byproduct of being so busy!

      Sounds like you are already thinking about next year? ;)

      Mars xx

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  21. Well done to you for putting your work out there - from what I've seen it's very good and you should be proud of it :)
    Debbie

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    1. Thanks Debbie! The A to Z has been a good challenge for me in that respect, even showing my uglies and very badly made beads for the post on Quality Control :)

      Mars xx

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  22. Excellent Reflections post Mars! I'm glad we connected, even though it's at the end of the A-Z. I'm fascinated by beads (I make beaded gemstone jewelry) and love glass beads. Thanks for posting the link to all your A-Z posts as I'll look forward to going back to read them.

    Doing this on the fly for you really worked! Congrats. And I can imagine how difficult it was for you to decide to write about your own work. Self-promotion is the hardest thing to do, I think. I'm glad you did it!

    And I love Kathleen Valentine's A-Z. I'm going to be getting some of her books too. I love her writing!

    So happy to hear that you enjoyed the challenge. Thanks for stopping by my place today and I look forward to following your blog. This is the best thing about the A-Z: you still keep meeting people after it's all over~ :)

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Thanks Michelle, it worked out better than I thought given I was still having so many doubts a few days before.

      I'll definitely be going back to Kathleens blog as I really enjoyed Each Angel Burns, so will probably dip into more of her A to Z as a starting point.

      Yay for jewellery lovers, I think I fall in the middle, as in I make "finished" components with my lined beads, but rarely make full pieces myself although I do have a pendant mould for fusing which I've yet to try! It's on my list along with a 100 other things I want to do, trouble is the FT day job does get in the way rather :)

      Look forward to seeing you again virtually speaking.

      Mars xx

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  23. Thank you for stopping by. Returning the favour. I'm always envious of creative people - I'm not the least bit artistic. Like you I'm hoping to catch up on more blogs now the challenge is over :)

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    1. Hi Wendy, I loved your theme even though I discovered it after the challenge! I'm fascinated by the stations and their history.

      Weirdly I don't think of myself as a creative person, I just like playing with colours!

      Mars xx

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  24. We did try to weed out those that required Facebook to comment.
    Wish we'd had a SF label this year - maybe I would've found more like-minded bloggers.

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    1. A SF label sounds good for those who wish to read more of their own genre, someone else somewhere else suggested a FF label for flash fiction which I thought was a good idea - I don't normally read it but for the A to Z challenge I love FF!

      Mars xx

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  25. Awesome reflections, Mars! I'm with you on the suggestion (impassioned plea) to leave followable links on comments... Too much time spent wading through abandoned blogs and links to profiles that required sleuth abilities I do not have in order to find an A2Z post. But, all in all, a good year. I'm glad it felt like that for you too :)
    Guilie @ Life In Dogs

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    1. Yep thoroughly enjoyed it, the links bit would just make things a lot easier to be able to follow through to return the visit, so instead of the time spent searching (as I always tried to find one) I just think I could feel less frustrated and also spend more time reading another blog or two.

      I mentioned on another blog post that people who are taking part as readers, but who don't have blogs of their own, if we could find a lovely way of knowing those people so we don't try and find the blog, that they don't write :)

      I obviously recognise my own regular readers/commentators, I mean new (to me) readers who are browsing the challenge list as I realised that had I taken part this year but just as a reader, people would have been following links back to me and wondering why I wasn't A to Z posting!!

      Mars xx

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I love saying hi to people who've read my blog, or are just passing through via the A to Z, or anyone not a spam bot!

P.s. If you use an iPad/iPhone and are having trouble leaving a comment on Blogger, you might have better luck using a browser that's not the default iPad one... Then from the "Comment as" drop down menu choose Name/Url (you can leave URL field blank or add your web address) or Anonymous and (hopefully) away you go! Mars xx