For me, England has always been the Enchanted Isle.
I'm Sue and I've wanted to live in England since I was six years old.
That's when I realised that Robin Hood didn't live in the woods down the road.
But I grew up in East Germany, and for many years my love for England was little more than a pipe dream until the Berlin Wall disappeared, just as I was finishing my studies.
However you looked at it, the world as we knew it changed overnight. Nothing was as it had been before. "No job, no money, prospects bleak" - as it says in the song.
But that wasn't strictly true. My England dream was still there. And once I had grasped that England was now, suddenly, accessible - which wasn't that easy when you've experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall in the centre of Moscow - it needed only my best written English, a couple of stamps and a lot of courage.
Nothing happens until first we dream.
And then, one September morning, I stood outside London Victoria Station and watched the beginning rush hour. I was in the right city, but had arrived several hours early, on the wrong station and - in a time before mobile phones were common - had trouble contacting the people who were already on the way to meet me.
Did it matter? Not a bit!
In the years since that day I've married, moved from London to Sheffield to the Cotswolds to Northamptonshire, gained my doctorate, had a few jobs, written three novels and explored the country.
England has been all I dreamed of as a six year old. But as I've grown older I've learned that our interests colour the way we look at things.
England's history and legends attracted me first. Then its rocks (I'm a geologist) and landscape. And later its food and traditions.
And when I now look at a glossy England brochure, I realise that I see a country very different from the England shown in the brochure. Even though the sites advertised and the images used may be the same.
That's because to me, each image is connected to something else I know about it:
You simply see deeper if you use more than your eyes and the memories stay with you, always.
No. My dream of England is still there. But it changed and it's growing. First, I just wanted to see England. Then, I wanted to explore it. Now, I want to share it.
I want to build the best, most helpful, most informative England web site that food and history lovers can find! And I want to spend all my days doing it!
If you think that my wish sounds crazy, you're not alone. I've dreamed this dream for a while now, but until a year ago it was just another one of my pipe-dreams.
I'm a writer with a passion for England. I can drive a laptop. But I don't know HTML or Java or Turbofish 8 or whatever it is one uses to build websites with these days. I don't know about internet marketing and I'm certainly not a graphic designer. I'm a writer with a passion for England, history and food. So how can I build a website, let alone a successful one that will earn me enough money so I can keep going?
Well, if you've had a look around my site, you'll have seen that it can be done! Essentially England is still a long way from perfect, and miles from being 'finished' but it is 'online' and it grows a little every week.
In August 2008, eight months after the first page went live, Essentially England made it into the top 1% of all sites on the web. And every month visitor numbers and income from the site are growing.
I could never have done this alone. Not without spending many hours and tons of money learning all the technical bits. But a year ago, while looking for ways to turn my writing into a full-time occupation, I found somebody to help me.
That man is Dr Ken Evoy, the CEO of SiteSell Inc. I found one of his books - Make My Site Sell (which you can download for free by clicking the link) - in which Dr Evoy claimed that anyone with passion and dedication can build a successful online business based on information.This was just what I wanted to do! Earn my money doing what I loved! And I was interested (and passionate and dedicated) enough read o
I already had a website, you see. A website that was supposed to help me match my writing skills with paying clients. I had started it with excitement and expectation, but soon grew frustrated with the mechanics of building a site and struggling with marketing terms that made no sense to me. After 18 months this site was precisely nowhere: not indexed by Google, Yahoo or any other search engine, with few links and next to no traffic. Most of the visitors to the site were family, friends and a few supportive colleagues. But clients ...paying clients ...not a single one! As far as I was concerned, only big corporations or games designers could benefit from the net!
I was in a rather cynical mood when I began investigating SiteSell and their flagship product SiteBuildIt (SBI!). Bad experiences do that to you. But I wanted to believe that there was a way to make the internet work for me. I wanted to believe that I could make time for my writing. So I read on.
And SiteSell's website impressed me just as Dr Ken Evoy's book had done. There was little hype and much useful information, backed up by data. (I've already admitted that I'm a scientist by training - solid, unadorned, verifiable data does it for me.)
And then there were case studies. Real life experiences of SBI users. And most of them seemed to be people like me, folks with a passion. I read the lot, and checked out their sites, and their results.... I must have spent three days nothing but reading!
And I felt like I did just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when I first considered coming to England. (Only, at 25 you're far more cocky than you're at 42!) Could I really do this? Was this my way to a full-time writing career? Was it REAL?
Well, to cut it short, I joined SBI on November 29th 2007. Essentially England, was born on December 14th. Since then I've built over 500 pages, have started work on my second site, Web to Success, and begun teaching online business building at the local college.
SBI really does take care of all the tech stuff leaving me free to do the writing. And what this has done to my writing, I cannot even begin to tell! Seeing your site up on the web, reading the comments that visitors send you, watching the traffic grow ... all while writing the next page, and researching the one after that... it's done soooo much for my confidence!
Before Essentially England I loved to write novels and articles, but a bad day at work could ruin a whole weekend's writing. Now, I write all the time: during breakfast and lunch at work, in the car, while out walking, while doing the housework ... probably even when I sleep.
As well as 400-odd pages for my sites, I've written the first draft of my next novel and outlines for two more, plus a few dozen articles! It's amazing what you can do when you believe you can do it. And SBI helped me to believe just that.
Thanks, Dr Ken!
And if you'd like to know how I'm getting on with making my next pipe dream come true, then please look around my site. Or look out for the story of How SBI is Changing My Life, which is coming as soon as I know the ending and can find the time to write it.