May 14, 2009

Best Drummer and Garden Designer of Santa Barbara talks about his blogging secrets...

There is constant discussions whether it is worth to write a blog, how to do it, is there a sense to keep a blog alive, why others abandon blogging etc.
I decided to take part in the discussion by posting not only my own opinions, but also by inviting other passionate bloggers to talk about their own reasons for blogging and also sharing their experience how blogging is impacting their life.

Ewa: Please introduce yourself to our readers.

BG: Billy Goodnick here. I’m a 57 year old landscape architect, educator, writer, TV-host and rock and roll drummer living in one of the most perfect places on earth – Santa Barbara, California (that’s in the United States – that country sandwiched between Canada, known for plaid lumberjack shirts, and Mexico, where Mexican food comes from). I’ve been involved in plant-related stuff for over 35 years, working in retail nurseries, mowing lawns, working my way up through construction, then design. I finally got sick of going to the chiropractor and got a degree in landscape architecture about 25 years ago.

My full-time gig is City Landscape Architect for Santa Barbara, where I manage all the projects for the parks and recreation department. Not glamorous, but I enjoy doing good things for the public and visitors, and enhancing an already beautiful environment. We have a history of some grand and amazing public gardens and private estates and can grow plants from around the world (but our Rhododendrons and hostas suck).

I’m passionate about creating landscapes that are gentle on the planet – right now it’s called “sustainability”, which means so many things to different people. For me it means creating gardens that function like natural systems; gardens that don’t need to be put on life-support to survive. Southern California is a semi-desert, so I rant and scream about wasteful practices and try to move the design conversation in a saner direction.

I’m also thrilled to have been chosen as a new contributor at Fine Gardening Magazine’s web site, where I write a column called “Sustainable Landscapes: Cool Green Gardens by Billy Goodnick.” Come find me and leave your comments. I’d love to meet you.
If I’m not teaching or writing or designing, I’m laying down a funky, skanky groove on my drumset, playing for King Bee. If I had only one thing I could do in life, it would be drumming.

Ewa: What blogs do you own, which one is your favorite, and why did you start it? How long are you blogging?

BG: My original blog, which is still up and running, is Garden Wise Guy, which is also the name of my TV show I co-host with landscape architect, author and crazy guy Owen Dell. I started my blog late one night when I was cruising around Google. I don’t think I even knew what a blog really was, but that’s never stopped me from getting lost on my computer. So I clicked a few buttons, picked a template and thought, “What the hell am I going to write about? Well, I’m a teacher, so maybe I’ll offer design ideas. I’m also very opinionated, so this will be an opportunity to rant and rage about the ugly and bone-heaed things people do in the name of gardening.” I was off and running.

My blog attracted the attention of a Santa Barbara-based news and info website called It’s a great place for locals to get up-to-date news, find out what’s happening and enter a few nutty contests. They offered me a bi-weekly column in exchange for a banner ad. Now I’ve got lots of consulting work flowing in. Thanks Ed!

But the big news is that starting on April 29, I launched my Cool Green Gardens blog at Fine Gardening Magazine’s web site. This respected and informative publication might not know what they’ve gotten themselves into, but Kate Frank, the web editor who invited me in, says that Taunton Press (publishers of FG and a host of other great magazines) wants to “loosen things up.” My pleasure. I’ll be writing with a West Coast perspective on issues related to sustainable landscaping and whatever leaps the synapses of my brain and comes flowing out of my fingers.

Ewa: What is the number 1 thing you learned about blogging that has impacted your bottom line, that thing that makes the difference between succeeding and failing in blogging?

BG: Well, I guess that leaping to a national audience at FG from my humble beginnings could be called success. As for the bottom line, I’m taking the long view. I’m retiring after 21 years working for the City of Santa Barbara and have my eye on getting some national attention, whether it’s as a speaker, TV host, writer or spokes-model for the next new TV gotta-have kitchen appliance. Blogging seems to be moving me in that direction, so maybe there will be a “bottom line” that has a dollar sign and a zero or two following it.

Blogging has brought a lot of wonderful people into my life including other bloggers, designers, writers and just plain folks. That counts for something.

What I’ve learned about blogging is to post frequently (not that I have lived up to that ideal) and to be myself. By nature, I have strong opinions but always express them with large doses of lively, though twisted humor. I also avoid claiming to be THE authority on any subject. There’s always someone out there who knows more than me.

Ewa: Can you say, that blogging changed your life? In what way? Do you see difference before and after blogging?

BG: Changed my life? As the surfers along our beaches say, “Duh, dude!” If someone had asked me two years ago if I was a writer, I’d refer them to my salvaged grocery shopping lists and a few successful grant applications I’ve written in my professional life. Now I’m a member of the Garden Writers Association, hanging out with writers, also freelancing for a few magazines and stepping into an active retirement that will be partly funded with my writing gigs.
I’ve also gained a knowledge of myself that I would never have uncovered. I blog the way I talk, but by having to dig down into my mind and form coherent opinions about what I see, feel and how I design, it’s given me a greater self-knowledge.

Ewa: If you have to bring instant visitors to your blog in the next 30 minutes, what steps will you follow?

BG: Simple. I’ve dreamed about this. I’d stage a hostage situation and offer to free them only if at least 100 people promise to log onto my blog and leave worshipful comments. I sure hope they give me a laptop and internet access in jail or all this would be a waste of time and probably hurt my credit rating.

Ewa: What are your top 3 traffic sources for your blog?

BG: I get a lot of hits from people who read my bi-weekly column at Edhat. Did I mention that I’m at Twitter as @gardenwiseguy? From the day I entered that world, my hits increased by 25% and haven’t dropped since. If you blog and you’re not on Twitter, you’re really missing out. That’s also how Kate at Fine Gardening found me. We were exchanging messages about gardening, she followed a link to my other writing and offered me that fabulous gig. The other consistent source is GardenRant, perhaps the best blog around. Those four ladies dish it out with energy and style, covering a great range of timely topics and having a lot of fun along the way.

Ewa: What else would you like to share, something that our readers can immediately apply to their blogs and see results fast?

BG: Be real, update frequently, be generous in linking to like-minded bloggers (I avoid the ones who write about house plants or what their cat vomitted up on the couch) and visit and comment at as many worthwhile sites as you have time to visit. Put yourself out there, take a chance, stay up late.
Wanna find out more about what I’m up to? Here’s a one-stop click at my Google profile.

Ewa: Thank you Billy.


Helen/patientgardener said...

I really enjoyed this post - off to find gardenwiseguy on twitter

Garden Wise Guy said...

Ewa: thanks for asking me to contribute to this post. You're doing wonderful work and I'll certainly be asking you to contribute at my blog soon. Wonderful to know you and your lovely blog.

Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" said...

You selected a great talent in our garden community to interview. Love that Billy!
Shirley Bovshow

F Cameron said...

Great interview! Thanks so much!


Anonymous said...

Lovely blog! I just discovered due to Billy Goodnick, who I just discovered yesterday on Twitter... all roads lead... Thank you for what you contribute, and I'll be back soon, for I'm off to the garden. ;)

Unknown said...

A fantastic post, well done to you both and thanks for sharing this. I just started blogging and not really up to speed on it so tips and encouragment like this are very useful. Again well done on your work.

EAL said...

fun interview!

Herry said...

Nice images...It's really a great thinking.