Friday, November 6, 2009

No Time to Read the Classics? Try These 140-Character Synopses

No Time to Read the Classics? Try These 140-Character Synopses

Love it or hate it, social media is not only ubiquitous - it's here to stay. Some are disputing whether twitter is simply a fad - or whether the microblogging mechanism is supplanting e-mail. Probably, as with all issues having two sides, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Now we've got the literary classics boiled down to 140 characters. And you, too, can vote for your favorite entry in HuffPost's "Twittature Contest."

Here's my favorite, a summary of Nabokov's Lolita:
Erudite horndog marries a cougar so that he can get his hands on her hot underage daughter, who doesn't end up aging well. Kills a guy, too.

I'm actually of a mixed mind about this whole summary process. There's something really sad about reducing the greatest works of literature to 140 characters ... but, it's heartening to know there are still a few people out there who have read/are still reading the classics.

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write | Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Queen of Decluttering to the Rescue!!

Queen of Decluttering to the Rescue!!

Please permit me to tell you a short story.

Girl meets boy. Girl likes boy. Girl invites boy over. Girl realizes home is a cluttered mess and she has no time to clean before boy will be over to see the mess.

Enter Barbara Chavarria - Queen of Decluttering.

When I asked Barbara to help me straighten my place up before I had my boyfriend over for the first time, I expected her to do the basics like dishes, dusting, vacuuming ... and that ring around my toilet bowl that never seems to go away. Little did I realize that I had hired not a cleaning person, but a miracle worker!

Barbara not only cleaned my house, but she organized it from top to bottom. Boxes that had been sitting in my spare bedroom for months, waiting to be "unpacked," suddenly really were unpacked. All my stationery? In one easy-to-reach place now. Desk? Clear, so that I can and do use it - often! Craft supplies? Sorted and organized. Votive candles and tea lights? In one neat bucket in the hall closet.

This was the best money I think I've ever spent on myself, worth EVERY penny. Thank you, Barbara, from the bottom of my heart.

Oh - and the boyfriend? He's a keeper!


Some experiences just cry out for a testimonial. This was one of them! If you're in the Phoenix area and have any spaces that you've been "meaning to get to," please give Barbara a call! She's fantastic. The holidays are coming. Give yourself the gift of a well-sorted pantry, neatly organized holiday decorations, or a tidy place for those out-of-town guests!


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Literature: A List of Books that Explain and Capture the Mood of the Day

Halloween Literature: A List of Books that Explain and Capture the Mood of the Day

Most of us are familiar with Washington Irving’s creepy classic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In his own incomparable fashion, Johnny Depp portrayed the cinematic version of the horseman-hunting constable. However, Horseman is far from the only piece of fright-full literature. Think also of Poe’s eccentric poetry and prose. Shelley’s Frankenstein. Stoker’s Dracula. Stephen King’s everybook. Even Ann Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” have become modern classics. And speaking of modern, first there was Harry Potter. Now we have the whole Twilight craze initiating a new generation into the horror genre. Of course, there’s a new spin on an old classic, with the mashup ( Pride and Prejudice and Zombies threatening to unseat Twilight and fellow vampiric lit pals.

Here are a few brief reviews some Halloween books and anthologies, along with a few others of interest to those with a fascination for the macabre.

Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life – Jack Santino has pulled together 13 essays examining history and legend of Halloween. These writings question our concepts of religiosity and spirituality while they contribute to our understanding of Halloween as a panoramic reflection of our cultures’ past, present, and future identities.

The Halloween Encyclopedia – In one comprehensive volume, Lisa Morton explores the history, mythology, fortune-telling lore, and harvest legends surrounding Halloween. It’s a great source for the origins of all those scary stories you've read or heard about in literature and legend.

Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night – Perhaps picking up where Jean Markale leaves off in the The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween, Nicholas Rogers dives into the complex history of this holiday, rooted in Celtic and Christian ritual. Halloween has morphed from a ritualistic ethnic celebration to a day that marries street festival, fright night, and colossal commercial enterprise.

A Halloween Reader: Poems, Stories, and Plays From Halloweens Past – Lesley Pratt Bannatyne gives us her perspective on the history of Halloween, including literary gems from the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, James Joyce, Robert Burns, and others. This book is scary fun for any time of the year. In her introduction, Bannatyne explains: "What makes the older Halloween literature so enthralling is that it lets us travel back and forth to the land of the dead without consequence."

Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: The Disturbing Demises of the Famous and Infamous – Some people live and die by Jon & Kate. This book is for those who prefer to dish about the scandalous deaths of celebrities, from Napoleon to Jayne Mansfield. Perfect for boning up on your party chatter before heading out on the town.

On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears – This well-written book, by Columbia College (Chicago) professor Stephen T. Asma, takes a long view of the origins of the monsters in our human psyche. The last chapter explores the future that we may inhabit with our insatiable desire for all things technological.

The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween – For those curious about the pagan origins of Halloween, Celtic scholar Jean Markale explores "the shadowy zones" of All Hallows' Eve. Though the name derives from the Christian “All Saints' Eve,” Halloween has actually be traced back thousands of years to Samhain, the beginning of the "dark half" of the Celtic calendar. Markale describes this feasting and celebratory festival, as well as other details about the pagan origins of what has become a costume-festooned ritual.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." So begins Seth Grahame-Smith's update of the beloved Jane Austen classic, featuring new and improved scenes of zombie pandemonium. As the story opens, a mysterious plague has befallen the quiet English village of Meryton — and the undead are run amok! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to eliminate the zombie threat, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. A delightful back-and-forth banter ensues between the two lovers — while our heroine simultaneously wages war against the hordes of flesh-eating undead. Chock-full of romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and rotting corpses galore, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece into something high school juniors might actually want to read.

The Vampire Archives: The Most Complete Volume of Vampire Tales Every Published –Weighing in at 1,083 pages, this tome (edited by Otto Penzler) is not for the uninitiated, as it requires a significant commitment. This bible of vampire tales starts with 19th-century, pre-Dracula stories and poetry and marches into the 21st century with selections by horror heavy-hitters Stephen King, Anne Rice, Dan Simmons and Ray Bradbury. Some of the stories are silly, some are gruesome, and many are eerily disturbing. Includes informative capsule bios of each author — many of which are quite stories in themselves.

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write | Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Want to Be a Better Writer? Become a Better Reader

Want to Be a Better Writer? Become a Better Reader

Every craft takes practice. Think about it - the best athletes spend hours on the court, the ice, the field. Gourmet chefs take days, weeks, months to perfect a single recipe. So it stands to reason that in order to become a better writer, you should practice by writing every day. Ray Bradbury said as much to an audience of college students at the University of Arizona in the late 80s. [As a blogger, writing daily also really helps with your SEO and "Google juice."] However, it takes more than just practice to become a better writer. It also takes immersion in reading the writing of others ― and not just the same sorts of things you write.

We've all heard about writing styles, but have you ever stopped to evaluate your reading style? Chances are that if you’re a writer, you already are a pretty good reader. But chances are that you also tend to stick with one or two primary genres. Do you prefer modern fiction? Tend always toward sci-fi? Were the last 25 books you purchased real estate and/or business books? Shelves filled with sports bios and autobiographies? Floor, desk, and bedside table strewn with self-help literature? There’s nothing at all wrong with reading a lot in one subject ― however, you will stifle your growth as a writer if you fail to read beyond that single genre. If you really want to improve your writing, you've got to be willing to read across multiple genres, voraciously consuming anything you can get your hands on.

Yes — this also means reading the stuff you don’t like. Here's a thought: take some time and try to figure out why you don’t like it. Is it too technical? Is it the style that bothers you? Do you find the voice or characters problematic? The further you study the work that troubles you, the more likely you’ll find yourself either growing to like it, or at least developing an appreciation for it. At the very least, you will learn how to avoid doing the same things in your own writing.

Studies have shown that fewer than 10 percent of all people who buy books ever read past the first chapter. What kind of reader are you? Do you tend to have several books going at one time? Do you read in spurts, one after another for several months, then taking a complete reading sabbatical for a while? Do you find yourself so hungry for reading material that you will literally read the back of the cereal box if the newspaper arrives late on a weekend morning?

To begin improving your writing, let everything you read influence you. You obviously want to read books, journals, and literature within your industry and allied trades. You also want to read your competitors’ blogs, articles, and other materials, as well as regularly attending industry workshops and seminars. Consider keeping a journal with notes from your readings. When you come across things that particularly speak to you, jot them down, or record the thoughts and ideas they trigger for you.

If you write nonfiction, read fiction — good fiction you can begin to model. In her inaugural novel, The Good Mother, Sue Miller described a scene in which the main character cut her leg shaving. For me, that single, tiny detail gave authenticity to the entire story. Nelson Demille, in Cathedral, achieves a similar effect when describing the background characters whose necks eventually began to ache from craning up for hours at a time to watch construction of the magnificent church.

Whether you enjoy fiction or not, find and read good stories so that you can become better at telling good stories. As Internet guru Joe Vitale teaches, the most hypnotic writing always tells a story. Even your nonfiction should connect emotionally with your readers because it tells them a story that grabs their attention and draws them in.

Mimic the styles and phrases that appeal to you in others’ writing. Practice using them yourself until you feel confident and comfortable and can make them your own. Explore a wide range of books for design ideas. If you are in the process of landing a traditional publisher, check out books similar to the one you’re writing for possible publishing contacts.

Venturing into a bookstore can be an intimidating experience for virtually every aspiring writer, but it doesn’t have to be. In all likelihood, you won’t be the first to tackle your subject; unless you’re on the cutting edge of medical or scientific research, your idea probably won’t be brand new. That in no way implies that you shouldn’t write it. Human beings learn through repetition, meaning that most of us need to hear the same messages again and again before we finally assimilate them. So don’t worry that there are other titles similar to yours on the store shelves. Ever notice when you purchase a book on Amazon how they give you a list of other books selected by readers who purchased the book you bought? Ever notice how frequently they’re on the SAME subject?

Don’t let the vast numbers of pre-existing volumes scare you. Don’t let others’ good writing intimidate you. Rather, allow them to inspire you. You can do it. You have a message to share, something important to say, and it’s essential that you convey that information to the world. What is your purpose? Your passion? If you aren’t sharing your knowledge and your expertise, you are welching on your agreement for being in this life in the first place.

Get out there. Read more. And become a better writer.

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write |
Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Google: The Source of All Knowledge Technical

Google: The Source of All Knowledge Technical

I LOVE the Internet. Not like. Not love. But LOVE. I remember back in the day when I worked at Lehman Brothers (yes, that Lehman Brothers) and I subscribed to a twice-weekly e-mail quiz game called something like "Name That Movie." The author would provide details about two films per game, usually including the year and a fairly detailed plot description, and the players would have to guess the name of the movie. That was when I became an IMDB addict! It was also when I learned that virtually anything we wanted to know (how long the Amazon River is | roughly 4,000 miles; who starred in the first Apple commercial that ran at halftime during the 1984 Superbowl | Anja Major; the lifespan of the average goose | 25 to 30 years!) was now available at our fingertips.

This was wayyyyyy before Wikipedia, when you really had to work for your information. I had an unfair advantage in the area of research, though, having grown up in libraries. My dad introduced me to the card catalogue when I was in second grade, to do research for a paper about the Great White Shark. I carried that knowledge into my first real job as a librarian at the Arizona Daily Star while I was in college. Back in the late 80s/early 90s, just before the Internet, people who wanted to know trivial information would call the newspaper to ask all sorts of random things. In a million years, I never, ever would have thought to call the newspaper to find out things like:
  • How do you spell Schwarzenegger?
  • Is Anthony Quinn really Greek?
  • How are Muriel and Margaux Hemingway related to Ernest?
  • What are the names of Santa's reindeer?
  • I know there's Doc and Sleepy, but who were the other 5 dwarfs from Snow White?
  • What are the words to "Auld Lang Syne"?
To quote Dave Barry: "I am NOT making this up!" It's been nearly 20 years since I left that job and I still remember the questions the public used to call and ask. The best were the bar bets. ("What was Johnny Unitas' nickame? My friend says it was "The Golden Arm, but I'm sure it was Mr. Football.") We didn't take so many of those calls in the Library - they usually went straight to the Sports department.

Fast-forward to today, when the Internet has become an indespensible tool, not just fining the answer to frivilous questions - although I admit I still use it to settle the occasional bet with my sister - but also for gathering all kinds of work-related information, including the latest on the new FCC ruling about testimonial use in Web sites.

Interestingly, though, I recently forgot TWICE to go there first for help with technology issues. I know - technology issues! The first problem was a piece of malware that had inserted itself onto my laptop and proceeded to cause weeks of headaches and frustrations. I was at my wits' end and ready to pay a computer tech a couple hundred bucks to fix it, when it suddenly dawned on me to look up the solution online. And there it was. Took about 20 minutes and no dollars - and my computer was free of the malware.

Then on Sunday, my Canon multiuse printer had a paper jam. Turns out it's a very common problem for this particular model of printer. There was no way to grasp the sheet to pull it out - gently or otherwise - because only about a quarter of an inch of paper was in view. Of course, I was in a hurry when it happened and had no patience or time to try to fix it, so I made due. Last night, I sat down with the same printer while I was calm and unrushed, but had no better  luck. Then it occurred to me that the manual might hold the solution ... but, since I had help rearranging my office a couple months ago, things got moved around and I had no idea where the flippin' manual was.

Suddenly, the light went off, bells clanged, and I did a happy dance. The Internet to the rescue! Google, to be specific!! Why hadn't I thought of it sooner? No matter - I thought of it now. So off I went in search of an answer ... and minutes later, there it was. "Remove the paper carriage and approach the jam from the 'underbelly' of the printer." If the writer of those precious words had been in the room with me, I would have kissed him (or her).

I remember many years ago, a tech guy showing me how to perform what is now a routine maintenance procedure on my PC. He said something that has stuck with me ever since: "It's easy when you know." Truer words were never spoken. Everything is easy when you know how to do it. It's when you don't know how that you have to stop, take a breath, admit momentary defeat, and then marshall your resources to go find someone who does know how. That could be your business partner, office mate, spouse, child, neighbor ... or the Internet.

So before you take a hammer to your computer, haul your vacuum cleaner to the Dumpster, or let the clock on your DVD player continue to blink 12:00 12:00 12:00 ad nauseum ... remember, somewhere, there is someone who knows the answer to your question/problem. All you have to do is find them and ask.

  • S-c-h-w-a-r-z-e-n-e-g-g-e-r
  • No
  • Grand-daughters
  • Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen (and Rudolph)
  • Grumpy, Happy, Sneezy, Dopey, Bashful
  • Should old acquaintance be forgot,
    and never brought to mind?
    Should old acquaintance be forgot,
    and old lang syne?


    For auld lang syne, my dear,
    for auld lang syne,
    we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
    for auld lang syne.

    And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
    and surely I’ll buy mine!
    And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
    for auld lang syne.

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write |
Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Every Single Thing You Write Is a Story

Every Single Thing You Write Is a Story

Every writer — from novice or aspiring writers to the pros and everyone in between — occasionally gets nervous or stuck when it comes to sitting down to craft a new blog post, article, memo, etc.

Here's a tip I give all my clients and students:

Think of everything you write as a story. And when I say everything, I mean everything! Even your grocery list is the story of what you will eat this week. Recently, I was going over my checking account statements for the past three months, and I was gently surprised at some of the things I saw there. The process was a reminder to me of where I’d been and what I’d done in that time; it was a unique glimpse into the story of my life for those 12 weeks.

Writing your stories is that easy. Just sit down and let the stories come to you. And then, in your own inimitable way, write the first one down, as if you were telling it to your closest friend.

Stories abound. Practice telling them — and writing them — and you will soon master the craft. Make a point of incorporating at least one story into each blog or article you write. In other places, use your written and verbal stories to promote your product or service, and watch the effectiveness of your marketing and networking improve exponentially.

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write |
Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Using the Art of Storytelling to Enhance Your Public Speaking

Using the Art of Storytelling to Enhance Your Public Speaking

What was the first story you remember hearing as a child? Little Red Riding Hood? Sleeping Beauty? Snow White? Hansel and Gretel? Johnny Appleseed? Maybe something from the Bible ... like the story of Noah and the Great Flood or Moses leading the Pharaoh's chariots across the Red Sea? Regardless of what your first story was, chances are you have a cherished memory of a parent or older loved one reading or telling you a story.

Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture, across every land as a way to entertain, educate, preserve culture, and impart moral values. Through stories, we use words, images, and sounds to convey the details of events, both real and imagined.

Storytelling differs from reading in that the oral tradition - the habit of handing down a story, whether it was an anecdote or a tall tale - required committing the stories to memory, and then passing them down, generation to generation. Once we developed written language, though, we largely lost the art of telling storeries. And it is an art.

I had the privelege of attending the final evening of the Mesa Storytelling Festival this weekend. Now these weren't campfire ghost stories or the jokes you hear at the start of a Toastmasters meeting. These were storytellers who have honed their craft to weave word pictures that leave you laughing till you cannot breathe. Each of the tellers, as the MC referred to them, was diverse in their ethnicity, skill, and style. One wove a tale of her granddaughter's first outing to the library, where she proceeded to strip naked and run through the stacks, a literary pixie gone mad. Another told the folktale of a Japanese woman's awesome "skill" at breaking wind. We heard one man's tale of the weeks of insecurity, research, practice, and nerves involved in the preparation for his first kiss. We heard a story of Baby Hawk's efforts to learn to fly.

However, my boyfriend and I both agreed that we preferred the Native American woman teller, Dovie Thomason, who told an epic folktale of how death came to the world because First Woman needed to have the last word in her every conversation with First Man. It was funny and wise and insulting and breathtaking and tragic - and her telling of the story was nothing short of magical.

Although I'd taken a storytelling class a few years back from my good friends Steve and Resa Ferreira, I was completely unaware until this weekend that there is a Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College. Enchanted by my experience this weekend, I am intrigued enough to want to investigate the program further ... and perhaps sign up for a class or two.

I find storytelling fascinating because it seems to me to be the perfect marriage between the art and spectacle of a poetry slam and the professional presentation involved in public speaking. Ever since seeing a poetry slam competition in the spring, the winners of which were headed to D.C. to represent Arizona in a national contest, I've begun approaching public speaking from a new perspective. There are so many different methods - and so many ways to improve. Some professional speakers take standup comedy classes. Some focus on technicalities like vocal variety and perfecting their stage movements and gestures. Others are adept at developing audience rapport, while still others master the INSPIRATIONAL PERSONA.

But what I am starting to see is how these art forms of poetry and storytelling - generally held in strict abeyance from anything as boring as professional speaking (and vice-versa, no doubt) - can truly enhance our ability to connect with an audience. If you're a professional - or aspiring professional - speaker, I highly advise getting yourself to a high-caliber poetry slam or a storytelling festival. Open your eyes, ears, mind, and heart - and I promise you will not only learn a lot, but you will be delighted and awestruck in the process.

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write | Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Funny Pictures of Inexcusable Grammar Errors

Funny Pictures of Inexcusable Grammar Errors

Every now and again, I get on my rant about proper grammar STILL being important. It's a sign of education, refinement, professionalism, and attention to detail. No - I don't think it's everything.

I've often expressed my belief that skill at spelling (or lack thereof) is not an indicator of intelligence. And I suppose neither is grammar. But it is an indicator of your willingness to take the time to make things correct. Honestly, there's no excuse for poor grammar - because the rules are always the same. They don't change from day to day or week to week. And they make a LOT more sense than some of the complicated spellings of English words, whose rules have more exceptions than pretty much any other language.

The thing is, proper grammar is especially important in writing that gets posted for the public to see.

Huffington Post ran a piece on Thursday with images of funny uses of "random" quotation "marks." They inspired me to look for examples of my own pet peeves. Here, in no particular order, are some funny pictures of what I consider inexcusable grammar mistakes.

WARNING: These probably won't be all that funny to you if you're not something of a grammar nerd.

I'd like to get me some deep-fried Oreo's
at a place that's open 7 days, including Sunday's.

Or Oreos ... I mean, what's an apostrophe thrown in here and there?

These guys are also probably open 7 days, including Sundays!

Apostrophe before the R or after the R ...
what's the difference, really?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You can tell its a great day when a dog wags it's tail.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

But it's going to be a bad day when
you're car won't start and your running late.

I would apologize for the F-bomb, but I can't because he/she is right!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Me and John went to the U2 concert on Tuesday.

John and I sure screwed up this otherwise gorgeous picture, didn't we?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Who can't Use a few good Random capital Letters?

Ye parents, beware the dangerous building sites!

OK, there's nothing technically wrong with this sign,
but it came up in my search for images of random capital
letters, and I just thought it was pretty damned funny.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And it's "always" fun to throw in "random"
quotation "marks" any old place.

These are my favorites from the HuffPost piece mentioned above:

 Maybe it's meat service, maybe not.

So is it God we're thanking, or just someone who thinks they're God?

 Here we've got the apostrophe issue, a comma
rather than a period in a dollar amount, with two
incorrect uses of those random quotation marks.


For answers to your questions about GRAMMAR, writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write | Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Guess What, You Smelly, Stinky facebook Hackers? I Send You LOVE!

Guess What - Smelly, Stinky Hackers? I Send You LOVE!

What a day! Thank GOD I don't have them very often. First, I left my cell phone at home when I left the house in the morning. Then, I had a bike accident that left me a little battered and with some nice strawberries. Later, I was on my way to a networking event with my friend Joey Sampaga and we were rear-ended by a woman who was simply not paying attention on the freeway entrance ramp.

But the thing that took the cake was having my facebook account hacked - and having the hackers send loads and loads of fake messages from me to all 785 of my friends, as well as posting spam video links on many people's walls. That was a fun one to try to contain.

Yes, it was a pain in the ass because it prevented me from getting other important things done. But the lovely thing it did was give me an oddly motivated yet truly special way to connect with some of those friends.
Thanks in particular to Arthur DeKarski for his great advice and support.
Thanks, also, to everyone who sent notes of support - things like "I knew you'd never send a message like this. Just look at the spelling!"
Thanks, as well, to those who posted on their own walls to delete the spam messages because I'd obviously been hacked.
And apologies - although I can't really take responsibility for someone else's ridiculous behavior - to all of those who were perplexed or annoyed by the messages. All I can say is, I suppose this is the price of admission for a great, free application like facebook. NOT condoning - just saying it happens sometimes.

My own questions are:
  • Why aren't these obviously talented individuals spending their talents on something worthwhile, like curing cancer or solving the healthcare debacle or building cars that run on dog poop?
  • What's in it for them? How limited and uninspired do your lives have to be that this can really be fun for you? It reminds me of the idiots who are going around spraypainting primer over Phoenix-area license plates. Would I love to get my hands on those jerks!

The thing I decided to do, though, instead of getting angry, is to send the hackers - whoever they are and wherever they are - LOVE. Seriously. Not phony, fake love. But genuine, real, loving energy. Of the kind that says, "Yes - you may have caught my attention and disrupted my life - and the lives of those in my circle - but you have not made me angry or bitter or seething or ruined my day. After all, if you'd wanted to do that, you'd have chosen a different day!"

So thanks to the great friends. Sorry to those who were inconvenienced. Love to the hackers!

Peace out.

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write | Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Measuring Your Marketing ROI

Measuring Your Marketing ROI

We all know how invaluable marketing is to the success of our businesses, yet a very small percentage of business owners bother to track their metrics to determine which types of marketing are acutally working for them. You may be familiar with the quote, often attributed to Peter Drucker, "What gets measured gets done."

More importantly, in my opinion, when it comes to marketing, what gets measured indicates what you should do more of - and what you should slow down on, or release entirely.

Say you love doing trade shows and expos ... but you generally net one client per event. Let's look at the time investment there. You've had to register for the event, prepare your materials, purchase necessary items, pack your car, drive to the event, unpack your car and set up the booth, spend from half a day to the better part of a week there, dismantle your booth and repack your car, drive home, and respond to any leads you received in a timely fashion. To net ONE client. And that's not even factoring in any monetary costs!

In such a situation, you have a few options:

(1) Get some training to find out what you might do better to increase your lead generation at these kinds of shows.

(2) Bring in a partner or assistant to help you.

(3) Share your booth with someone in an allied business.

(4) Rethink your strategy altogether.
Now I'm not suggesting that trade shows and expos are a bad method of marketing. I'm simply saying that you need to make sure the places you're investing the most time are repaying you on a scale that makes that investment worthwhile.

Below are the contents of a worksheet I use with my clients when we're sitting down to investigate the best ways for them to start getting traction with their marketing. While the first 3 columns are important for shining a light on where you presently focus your attention (and where you might think about getting more training or assistance), I encourage you to pay particular attention to the last column - because this is where you can see how well the time you're spending is really paying off.

If you get most of your business through networking, but you're spending 80 percent of your time blogging, it might be time to rethink your strategy.

I would NEVER suggest utilizing just one method of marketing; nor would I suggest trying to implement all of them at once. Start with what is simplest and works best, and build from there, adding one or two new strategies, as appropriate. Try them out - if they work, do more of them. If they don't work, put them aside for the time being.

Remember that the market changes - so what works today might not work tomorrow, and likewise, what didn't work last year might be perfect today.


Rate yourself on each of the following, using a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest). The results might surprise you.

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write | Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Disagreement vs. Judgment: What's the Difference?

Disagreement vs. Judgment: What's the Difference?

We're one, but we're not the same
We get to carry each other
Carry each other
 "One" by U2

I had a conversation with my sister recently about trying to stay out of judgment, regarding others’ decisions and behaviors. We mused together that every human alive has “stuff” – life experiences, points of view, emotions, education levels, past and present relationships – that cause us to relate to the world the way we do. Because we are relational creatures, human nature is to respond or react when someone behaves in any particular way toward us. Of course, the more like us they are – or the more positive, pleasant, funny, or agreeable – the more we tend to have a positive, pleasant, humorous, or agreeable response to them.

But what happens when we encounter someone who behaves in a way that is counter to our nature or worldview? What if we’re one way, and we meet someone whose demeanor is generally belligerent, funny, happy, serious, thoughtful, melancholy, giddy, scattered, withdrawn, or in some other way different from our natural state? Is one of us right and the other wrong? Of course not. And that was the gist of our conversation ... how we often forget that different (i.e., other) does not equal wrong. Their way is not the right way, but neither is ours. We all just are.

That having been said, what if Mr. Belligerent regularly cuts people off in traffic, offers the one-finger salute when you slide into a parking space before him, takes the last of the coffee in the breakroom without ever refilling the pot, screams at his wife in public for forgetting to pick up the dry-cleaning, and kicks the dog as he comes in the door from work? Are those acceptable behaviors?

I would venture that taken singularly, one episode at a time, while they may not be acceptable, they may perhaps be forgivable. As a pattern, though, and particularly if you had to live with this guy, who wouldn’t be inclined to want to sign him up for an anger management class?

So where’s the compromise? At what point do we recognize that we are all individuals and there really is no right way to be, yet understand that someone who is set off by any little thing could be the next episode of road rage waiting to explode on an unsuspecting innocent bystander?

I believe the compromise lies in separating the behavior, perspective, or opinion from the person. Now I’m no shrink – so please don’t mistakenly perceive me to be treading in areas where I am uneducated and underinformed. This is just my common sense speaking. People are entitled to be however and whoever they are without my raining down judgment on them for not doing things the way I would do them. Objectively, though, I can still stand aside and know, intuitively, that a happier demeanor would probably bring someone more peace and greater overall health. I can allow an individual his or her space to be whoever and however they truly are – but if they’re committed to anger, a blaming/victim mentality, complaining, or illness, it’s unlikely that I will choose to spend much time with them.

We obviously see everything through our own lens, and judgment is a funny thing because it is a direct product of our own perception of the world. The other night, I was invited to fill in as the fifth girl on a slow-pitch co-ed softball team, so the team could avoid a forfeit. Let me tell you that the last time I played organized softball was back in college ... many moons ago ... so I was not surprised to be installed at the position of catcher. The interesting lesson from that night (besides the fact that I need to listen to my trainer and do more sprints to avoid hurting myself running the bases) was about perspective.

In my position as catcher, I was a foot or two from the umpire for most of the game, and able to see most pitches and plays from roughly the same angle as he saw them. Time after time, both teams complained about the calls, insisting he was calling balls that were strikes and vice-versa. They booed and bitched at his decisions regarding fair and foul balls. Guess what. From my point of view - shared with the ump - there was only one instance when he made a call I disagreed with. But we were standing in the same place, looking at things from the same visual perspective. All the others were hurling their reactions at him from other perspectives around the field.

Hmmm. How often, I wonder, is the same true about the rest of our lives? When we see a heavy person walking in the mall, what is our first instinct? Well, what if they are 212 pounds now, but feeling great about themselves because six months ago, they tipped the scales at 285? Who am I to make a critical judgment about their weight? And even if they’re on the way up, not down – it’ may not be healthy, but it is their life ... their choice ... and I have little right to make snap judgments.

I recently attended a meeting where the woman sitting across from me described living in an abusive marriage to an alcoholic. In spite of having two children at home who are daily witnesses to this man’s ugly behavior, this mom has determined that staying with her abusive husband is the best course, for now ... because he is a high-powered attorney who has so much pull with the judges and police departments that she is fairly certain she would never receive custody if she were to divorce him. Another lady at the same meeting, upon hearing these details, immediately commenced inveighing the mom with all the logic and reasons why she MUST leave her husband at once. Thing is, while she may have thought she was being helpful, what she was really doing was pouring out her judgment on a mother who is truly in an unenviable situation and simply doing the best she can, given her circumstances.

It’s so easy to want to correct things for people. To judge their decisions, tell them what they’re doing wrong, and offer our omniscient perspective about how they should fix the situation. God, how arrogant.

A dozen or more years ago, I was introduced to relationship expert, Ellen Kreidman. She was the one who opened my eyes to the insidious nature of thrusting our opinions, values, and beliefs on others, unasked. Many people want to talk, to vent, to work through their problems ... but unless they say words to the effect of, “What would you do?” they are not asking our opinions. And until they do, the best thing we can do is keep our mouths shut. This obviously won't work in a contentious business negotiation - but it can offer a new perspective on how we handle disagreements in general.

I believe that judgment is a part of human nature. And it’s not all bad. Taking stock of the world around us helps us measure our own progress, success, desires, and growth. It helps us know which people, things, and goals we’d like to move toward, and which behaviors and attitudes we might like to leave behind. It’s what we do with the judgment that matters. Do we simply make observations for our own benefit, or do we observe and then use what we observe to begin the labeling, gossiping, denigrating process? Used for the former, it is a constructive tool; used for the latter, judgment becomes a corrupting influence that stifles our creativity, growth, relationships, and the very development of our souls.

PS - I got to see U2 give the most amazing concert last night. Their first encore song was "One."


For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write |
Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

13 Business Success Strategies for Introverts

13 Business Success Strategies for Introverts

Many business owners and entrepreneurs are outgoing folks who find it easy to socialize, meet new people, and start conversations with strangers. For them, networking ― a most necessary component to creating and sustaining business relationships ― is easy, or at least not a dreaded chore. Excited to bring new friends and acquaintances into their circles, they are energized by people-meeting opportunities. Those running home-based businesses or one-woman shops often eagerly anticipate their various meetings, luncheons, and mixers.

But what about the introvert business owner? The person for whom meeting new people can be severely challenging, if not downright painful? Is networking any less important to their business success? Definitely not. Even when you own your own company, doing business requires meeting a lot of people. Sometimes, just following up with new prospects, contacts or clients can push an introvert beyond their comfort zone - never mind actually getting out there to make pitches, give presentations, or attend trade shows and exhibitions.

I had a friend who was a brilliant financial advisor. One-on-one with people, he was confident, self-assured, and very, very good at his work. The problem was that he had a very tough time getting out to meet new people. He'd put event after event on his calendar ... but seldom go. Or, he'd go once to a new group and never go back, always with some excuse about how the group was a poor fit, he didn't like their message or method, he felt uncomfortable, etc. Honestly, I don't think any group would have felt comfortable for him because he was just naturally an introvert.

Not all introverts, however, are paralyzed by the thought of interacting with new people. I love the title of Mark Dykeman's blog, The Mighty Introvert. In one post, Dykeman writes, "Introverts tend to enjoy having solitary time for thought and reflection. We are not as dependent on other people as extroverts are. Introverts are often quite happy to spend time alone." Though introverts can function well in groups, they tend to find personal interaction exhausting. "After awhile we feel drained and frail like Superman does after being exposed to Kryptonite, his great weakness," Dykeman continues.

So what is a highly introverted individual supposed to do when dread overwhelms their every effort to get out there, prospect, and meet new people? Here are a few tips that might help introverts in networking scenarios:

1. Strive for balance. Realize that spending time with people is equally important as spending time alone. If you're extremely introverted, you may consciously or unconsciously overlook the benefits of socializing with others - things like learning new information, developing relationships, personal growth, and just plain fun.

2. Practice socializing. Like most other skill sets, introverts can learn to develop or improve their social skills. Many introverts tend to avoid social activities like networking events because they are uncomfortable or worry they might not know how to behave in a given situation. This is the time to put that cliché to work: feel the fear and do it anyway, knowing that the more you practice, the easier it will become.

3. Fake it till you make it - another cliché with a real purpose.You might be surprised to find that some of the folks who seem like the biggest extroverts at your networking events are actually incredibly introverted. They have simply learned to exercise their social muscles for an hour or two at a stretch. Such an event may deplete them afterwards, but they know the value of meeting new people and are willing to endure discomfort to do so.

4. Avoid labeling extroverts. If you tend to experience extroverted people as superficial, aggressive, or annoying, no one could blame you for preferring not to spend time with them or adopt their outrageous ways. However, if you can find a way to broaden your vision of an outgoing person, you may be more likely to want to interact with them. And who knows - as unlikely as it may seem, you could actually learn a thing or two from an extrovert!

5. Recognize the limits of online socializing. Meeting and connecting with people through social networking is much less intimidating than face-to-face socializing, but in spite of what the gurus may tell you, it can never take the place of real human contact. Certainly you should continue to build your social networks via twitter, facebook, and the like, but make sure you don't put all your energy and attention there, to the complete exclusion of live events.

6. Look for opportunities everywhere. The more chances you have to interact with people, the less importance each single meeting or event will have. This will actually relieve stress, rather than compound it.

7. Play up your strengths by putting others first. Worry less about what you should say, instead listening carefully to your conversation partners. When the time comes for you to speak, you will be able to weave their interests into your conversation.

8. Realize that self-promotion is not bragging. Introverts sometimes hesitate to speak up because they're worried that they lack particular expertise or knowledge. However, planning (and, if need be, rehearsing) for your meetings ahead of time will give you the confidence to discuss your strengths and abilities as the proven facts that they are.

9. Refuse to let yourself be cowed. Don't assume that others have more right to speak up than you do just because they seem more confident than you feel. You don't have to respond quickly; your quiet thoughtfulness may give you invaluable insight. If someone asks you an uncomfortable question or appears to demand an immediate answer, speak to the things you do know and ask questions that encourage others to share their knowledge and opinions.

10. Create a success mindset. Rather than fearfully imagining a networking breakfast as a place where you might be interrogated or judged, imagine it as having coffee with a circle of supportive friends and colleagues. Sooner than later, that will become your experience.

11. Use the written word to shine. Being an introvert can be an advantage when it comes to drafting e-mails, reports, and other written materials geared toward your niche audience. Identify the core of your clients' needs; then use your writing strengths to promote yourself by matching your strongest capabilities to them.

12. Remember that the telephone is your friend. In general, introverts prefer lots of time to plan their thoughts, as opposed to speaking off the tops of their heads. Before the time comes to make those important phone calls, create an outline of your key points, including all foreseeable responses to potentially challenging issues or questions.

13. Implement one small change at a time. Many people remain shy because they have built their perceived deficit into such a giant obstacle that they come to believe overcoming it is impossible. Making small changes to expand your comfort zone will help create the momentum to take bigger steps, over time. Rather than setting a goal to become the Queen of Networking, set a goal to meet one new person at the next event you attend.

And if you happen to be an extrovert who reads this, please remember that not everyone has as easy a time as you do when it comes to meeting new folks. You can make it easier by reaching out to the quiet folks and introducing them around ... just make sure you don't overwhelm them with your lively, outgoing nature!

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write |
Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Three Most Dangerous Words in the English Language: "I know that"

The Three Most Dangerous Words in the English Language: "I know that"

How open are you to learning new things? While I've no scientific proof of this, I'm willing to bet that those who succeed are much more open to new ideas and possibilities than those who think they already know everything - or that their way is the only way.

When you say "yes" - or at least "maybe" - an endless array of possibilities belongs to you. When you say, "I know that," you are not only saying "no," but you are digging in and proclaiming, "You can't teach or give me anything new because I'm already all full. There's no room for any new|different|inspired ideas." It's as though the metal shutters slam closed with a reverberating "CLANG!"

So imagine being 20 years old and thinking you know everything. Perhaps it's just a human right of passage, a phase we all go through. I have relatively few regrets in my life, but one of them is that I didn't listen to my college advisor when he told me I needed to take more poetry. "No, sir, I don't. It sasy right here in the course catalogue that I can graduate with my degree in nonfiction writing with two poetry classes - and I've taken two poetry classes."

My advisor put on his glasses and examined the line I pointed to with my know-it-all index finger and said, "Well, I'll be damned." He knew he had lost the argument, but he tried valiantly to change my mind. His exact words were, "You will regret it later if you don't take more poetry."

And my know-it-all response was, "No, I won't." I hated poetry and was terrible at writing it. It was boring and I just didn't see the point. So, at the time, from my very limited vantage point, I thought I knew how I would feel in the future. Was I ever wrong!

Turns out, sometimes it's a good idea to listen to the older, wiser advisors in our lives. Particularly since this advisor happened to be none other than Richard Shelton.

Richard Shelton is an Arizona writer, poet, and emeritus Regents Professor of English at the University of Arizona. He has written nine books of poetry; his first collection of poems, The Tattooed Desert, won the International Poetry Forum's U.S. Award. His 1992 memoir, Going Back to Bisbee, wond the Western States Book Award for Creative Nonfiction in 1992, became a New York Times Notable Book, and was selected for the One Book Arizona program in 2007. In 2000, Shelton received a $100,000 grant from the Lannan Foundation to complete two books. You can practically count the living poets who get paid for their work on one hand - so this accomplishment alone is astonishing!

If that weren't enough, Shelton's poems and prose work have appeared in more than 200 magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, and The Antioch Review and have been translated into Spanish, French, Swedish, Polish, and Japanese.

Back in 1974, Shelton established a writer's workshop at the Arizona State Prison, and a number of books of prose and poetry written by men in Shelton’s prison workshops have been published. His latest book, Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer details this experience. It won the 2007 Southwest Books of the Year award.

So now I can't help but wonder what I could have learned from this man, if I had simply had the common sense not to think, "I know that." While he doesn't come to the top of my mind as one of the people who's been most influential in my life, I really wish I'd heeded his advice back then: "You need to take more poetry." My life is great now - but it could be richer, fuller, more lyrical, and filled with much more beauty and joy if I'd known to avoid the three most dangerous words in the English language. The good news is that it's never too late to start learning something new!

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write |
Market | Design, where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Taking a Page Out of These Musicians' Playbook

Taking a Page Out of These Musicians' Playbook

Last night, it was my turn to decide what my boyfriend and I would do: dinner, movie, pool, the State Fair (where Bob Dylan was playing), etc. Not a big Bob Dlyan fan, the State Fair didn't really interest me and, uncharictaristically, I didn't have much of a backup plan. Now John is a former musician whose rock heroes are The Who and Bruce Springsteen. So imagine my surprise when he suggested that The Commodores and Kool and the Gang were in town. He told me he'd found tickets on craigslist for $20 each, so we decided to go.

Wow - I am so glad we did!

I love live music of all types - but the best live music in the world happens when the performers are enjoying themselves onstage. You've just got to figure that after performing the same songs again and again, night after night for years on end, it might get a little boring. But you couldn't fake the enthusiasm that the members of The Commodores and Kool and the Gang brought with them to last night's concert at US Airways Arena. These guys formed their bands in 1969 and 1964, respectively! That means they've been playing music for my whole life! I remember listening to their hits in junior high school - and more than 30 years later, they were still energetic, enthusiastic, friendly, and absolutely infectious!

Not to mention that for old dudes, they can MOVE!

The members of The Commodores met as freshmen at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1967 and signed with Motown in November 1972. They originally called themselves the Jays, but had to change their name because of the similarly named The O'Jays. According to Wikipedia, to choose a new name, band member William King opened a dictionary and randomly chose a word. "We lucked out," he remarked with a laugh when telling this story to People, "because we almost became The Commodes!"

Watch The Commodores perform Night Shift.

Kool and the Gang got their start in 1964 in the Jersey City projects. They were teenagers studying Miles Davis albums and James Brown singles and jamming in basements, who formed an instrumental band called The Jazziacs. They changed their name to Kool and the Gang and were signed by Gene Redd to his new record label De-Lite Records in 1969. They first hit the pop charts with the release of their eponymous debut album.

Watch Kool and the Gang perform Ladies' Night.

All I've got to say is that I hope I'm still this enthusiastic about my work after a lifetime of it! What would happen if we all brought this kind of energy and life to the job, day in and day out?

No, it's not especially realistic - or necessary - to sing and dance like these Motown greats ... but what does your version of that look like? Do you love your clients? Is your first goal to see them go away happy and telling people about their fanstastic experience? And if you don't still have this kind of enthusiasm for your career - perhaps it's time to either make a plan to regain it ... or find a new line of work.

How can you take a page out of these entertainers' playbook and begin applying it to your business today?

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write | Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Six Tips for Making Your Writing More Succinct and Easier to Read

Six Tips for Making Your Writing More Succinct and Easier to Read

Americans, as a rule, tend to overwrite. A LOT. When I teach writing, I always tell my students to finish their document, edit and proofread it, making it as perfect as they possibly can - and then go back and cut it by 25 percent.

"What? Twenty-five percent? That's impossible!" they always groan.

It's not impossible - it's imperative, if you want your writing to be tighter, more fluid, and easier to read. Here are six tips you can begin applying today.

1. Eliminate the word that. This seems like a small detail - and it is. However, throughout the course of a longer document, every extra word contributes to the clutter and makes your writing just a little clunkier and more difficult to read. The word that is one of the most overused.


The Internet is a tool that most of us now take for granted,
much like the way that the telephone used to be.

The Internet is a tool most of us now take
for granted,
much like the telephone used to be.

For a reduction of 4 words.

I on a team of editors who work on a holistic health journal, published bimonthly in Scottsdale. One of the other gals on the editing team is overzealous (and often incorrect or extraneous) in her use of that. The publisher and one of the other editors find it funny that for ever instance of the word that Lynn adds, I remove two. They've even made a sport of it, keeping track with cross-hatches as we go through the editing process. Last issue, Lynn added 11 thats; I removed 23. Fortunately, the team votes on consensus, and the majority tend to agree with me.

2. Use adjectives instead of prepositional phrases - particularly of.


Kathy knocked over the glass of soda and spilled it all over the photo of her family.


Kathy knocked over the soda and spilled it all over her family's photo.

For a reduction of 4 words.

3. Use fewer, stronger adjectives.


That big, mean, ugly, green beast known as jealousy consumed Phil when he saw his girlfriend flirt with the young gas station attendant who had the looks of a model.


A monstrous jealousy consumed Phil when he saw his girlfriend flirt with the handsome, young gas station attendant.

For a reduction of 12 words.

4. Avoid redundancies.


Ensure that you have a healthy mind and body through activities like yoga, taking short walks, going to the gym, or playing sports that will enhance your physical and mental health.


Preserve a healthy mind and body with activities like yoga, short walks, working out, or playing sports.

For a reduction of 14 words.

5. Wherever possible, eliminate wordy consttructions. You can make easy changes like:
Rather than has the ability to, use can.
In place of at this point in time, write now.
Instead of due to the fact that, use because.
In place of in order to, write to.
Rather than in the event that, use if.
Instead of prior to the start of, use before.
For a reduction of 3, 4, 4, 2, 3, and 4 words, respectively.

6. Watch for your pet word or phrase - things like regarding or having said that - and use it sparingly. If you overuse it, it will stand out in your reader's mind, potentially distracting them from your message.


NEVER use in other words. If the other words are better, use them instead!


For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write |
Market | Design where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!