By Staff Writers Amy Chen & Jenny Miao
The Smoke Signal interviewed Sophomores Shivang Shelat and Anthony Gao, known as the Fantastic Fellows, and Ashley Wang about their respective blogs. Read on to find out their experiences with and hopes for blogging.
Sophomores Shivang Shelat and Anthony Gao began their blog at fantasticfellows.wordpress.com in August 2016. Thanks to promotion through peer support, Facebook, and other social media, the blog now boasts a count of more than 20 WordPress followers, 1,100 lifetime visitors, 3,300 views, and 110 posts. The pair posts their original content several days a week, covering a variety of topics ranging from poetry to artwork to origami. The blog also periodically features guest artwork and writing from classmates and fellow bloggers. Some of their most popular posts include “My Origami Gallery,” a collection of Gao’s favorite works, and “A Trip to the Zoo,” a poem recounting the story of Harambe. The Smoke Signal interviewed the duo to gain insight on their creative process, inspiration, and goals.
The Smoke Signal: Why did you choose to start your blog together rather than separately?
Shivang Shelat: In my head, I’ve always imagined a world, and I want everyone who enters this world to be overwhelmed with inspiration. The reason Anthony and I created this blog was that we had certain skill sets that could inspire everyone who came onto the blog.
The Smoke Signal: What specifically about blogging do you enjoy?
SS: The number of views we get on certain posts inspires us to make more posts just like those. For example, if Anthony creates an origami Batman, I write a poem about it, and it gets thousands of views, we’re definitely going to do it again. That’s because we know that it’s brought inspiration to many people.
Anthony Gao: I also really enjoy the specific comments from very loyal viewers.
The Smoke Signal: How has your experience running The Fantastic Fellows as a partnership differed from running a blog on your own?
SS: In a partnership, you can always rely on the other person. One day you might be feeling down, and you can’t make a blog post that one day. Since you promised your viewers that you’re going to do daily posts, all you’d have to do is go on Facebook and message your partner and ask them to fill in for you.
The Smoke Signal: How, if at all, do you coordinate your posting schedules and topics to avoid conflict?
SS: Since there’s only two of us, we simply relay messages back and forth, clearly outlining what we each want the other person to do.
The Smoke Signal: What inspiration do you generally pull from for your poetry and origami?
SS: In my case, I’ve read many long novels in the past, and each one has certain language that brings out a certain emotion in me. I use that emotion, and I use that example of writing to create my own poetry that evokes the same feeling.
AG: I take inspiration from many origami artists. I also like to make origami from movies and TV shows and other activities that I enjoy.
The Smoke Signal: Your blog has received both positive and negative feedback. How do you respond to this, and what advice do you offer to other bloggers facing similar situations?
AG: I have not received that much negative feedback, but when I do, I use it to better myself and learn from what others have to say.
SS: Running a blog that receives positive and negative reviews is just like writing an essay. The positive reviews you simply skim over, and you enjoy every last word of it. You love them, and they increase your self-esteem. You can use negative reviews for the next essay you write, simply making the best revisions you can and getting boosted in your score. Your English grade becomes an A, and you keep blogging forever.
The Smoke Signal: What are your personal goals for the future of your blog, and do you plan to continue blogging beyond high school?
AG: We plan to blog forever. We hope to blog throughout high school, throughout college, and throughout our young lives.
SS: I can guarantee you just one thing. On my death bed, my small, lithe Indian fingers will be typing the last post I’ll ever do. This blog will go down in the centuries as legendary, awesome, and fantastic.
The Smoke Signal: Do you have any advice for those who may want to start a blog of their own, or those would like to partner in a venture?
AG: Never give up, even when times are tough. You have to pull through.
SS: I think our main piece of advice for people trying to start a blog or a partnership is to know what you’re getting into. A partner is someone you can always rely on and lean on. Before you choose someone to work with, make sure you lean on them first and test their reaction, because you know you’ll be doing that for a long time if you make this commitment. Let me tell you one thing, blogging is a huge commitment.
Sophomore Ashley Wang runs her own blog at ashleywwang.wordpress.com and has gained over 387 followers through email subscription and WordPress, as well as more than 8,900 visitors, since its creation in March 2016. Wang posts weekly, frequently collaborating with companies and leaving reviews for various products. Her posts vary in topic, including but not limited to recipes, travel diaries, styling, miscellaneous tutorials, opinion pieces, and guest posts from other bloggers. In addition to her weekly posts, her blog also features her extensive art portfolio, a math question of the week, a midweek puzzle, her collection of computer aided design sketches, and an occasional bonus question. The Smoke Signal interviewed her to learn more about her blog content and development, as well as her aspirations for the future.
The Smoke Signal: Why did you first start your blog?
Ashley Wang: I started my blog around a year ago, because I found that I like to do a lot of things and share them with people. Online you can share with a wider audience, and people will find what they like directly. I like a ton of different things, but I don’t have a specific passion, so that’s why my blog posts vary in topic so much.
SS: What do you enjoy about blogging?
AW: Blogging means I have an outlet for my thoughts or my ideas. I think it’s fun to try to execute my ideas and write them down.
SS: What skills have you found are the most beneficial in running a blog, and why?
AW: I think the most beneficial skill to have is creativity, and that’s also why I don’t have a set schedule for when I post on my blog. I want to guarantee that the material that I put out is of the highest quality and about the subject that I want to post about. I’m not going to make a post just because I need to post that day. Whenever I have a creative idea,I just write it out and post it.
SS: What topics do you most enjoy blogging about?
AW: I enjoy blogging about food, because I like to put recipes out there, and I also like blogging about things that I’m currently obsessed with. [For example], I really like pomegranates, so I made a random post about ways to de-seed a pomegranate. I like making garlic knots, so I posted a recipe about how to cook them. When a robotics event happens, I blog about that. My upcoming blog post is about laptop stickers because currently, I’ve been obsessed with them. And there will also be some exciting poetry news.
SS: What do you believe is your most memorable or impactful post?
AW: I think my most impactful posts are both of my guest posts. My first one was written by the blogger [Dahlia Ibrahim] who runs the gainperspectiveblog on WordPress as well. She writes inspirational poems, and she reaches a lot of people like that. I wanted to bring some of that onto my blog. The second one was in collaboration with Shivang and Anthony, The Fantastic Fellows, and I think that was very impactful. I know many people at our school read their blog as well, so I thought it was cool to do a collaboration [with them].
SS: What are your personal goals for the future of your blog, and do you plan on continuing blogging beyond high school?
AW: For the future, I plan on having more personal posts since so far there haven’t been that many posts that don’t have a specific topic. Usually I just sit down and write what I want to say to someone, or to people in general, or updates on my life, so I think I want to do more personal posts in the future. I’m definitely going to blog beyond high school because I think, after trying this out, [that] this is something I want to continue.
SS: Do you have any advice for those who may want to start a blog of their own?
AW: My advice is to just do it and not to think about it so much. At first, you’re probably not going to get a lot of views, you’re not going to get a lot of followers, [and] no one’s going to know who you are. You’re going to email people or companies about collaborations and they’re going to ignore you, [so] don’t look at the stats so much. You need to have substance on your blog to be rewarded with what you want.
SS: How has blogging changed you in terms of your personality, writing ability, and views on various topics?
AW: Blogging has allowed me to meet more friends since I’ve talked to people who run WordPress blogs or other blogs online, and we’ve met in real life. After talking for a while, they seem like really cool people. Sometimes we get together and have sessions where we just type away and come up with new ideas, or have suggestions for the other people.
Photos by Staff Writers Amy Chen & Jenny Miao, ashleywwang.wordpress.com, fantasticfellows.wordpress.com, liqsquid.com