Saturday, March 12, 2011

I'm Back

I blogged every day for the month of May and loved the experience. And then just as diligently as I blogged that month I dropped off this blog and realigned my focus to my fashion blog. That has been the big passion of mine and the big emphasis in my blogging life during 2010.

But... I finally did the thing that I have been dreaming of since 8th grade. I published a book. And so, with that new milestone in my writing life I feel the need to pick up blogging again at WBTC in order to document the weeks and months ahead and this whole crazy event. Insane - I know.

I'll be sharing all the details and hopefully connecting with other Indie writers through this portal. No, I'm not leaving the fashion blog behind. It's still a HUGE passion of mine and it will continue to be in the months and years ahead. But now I will be posting here as well.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Final Day of Blogathon 2010

Wow. I can't believe I have successfully posted every day during May for the Blogathon 2010. To be honest, I didn't think I was going to be able to do this. But I pushed forward and learned a lot as a result. The lessons I've learned in the last 31 days....

1. Every post does not have to be award winning quality. They can be short, brief, witty, fun. No matter what, they shouldn't just fill space, but they should add information to the conversation.

2. Picking a theme for a week's worth of posts can be an easy way to write often and develop a theme. Plus it means shorter posts, so readers are hopefully more likely to read the entire message. (For me, the niche writing posts were great and I plan on doing more such posts.)

3. Commenting on other blogs, or sharing posts, is a great way to get your voice out there and to continue the conversation with readers and fellow writers/bloggers/journalists.

4. I also realized that I see blogging as a conversation between the writer and the readers. This is something I'd always known and felt but never fully articulated until this month. And it seems to be a belief that not everyone shares or fully understands. Now, I want to write more about this in the weeks ahead.

5. I need to spice things up with more entertaining content, something more than just text. Video, pictures, whatever...

6. Pre-posting is the way to get content up on the weekends, and not have to think about it when away from the computer and taking time to disconnect.

7. There is just not enough time in the day to do everything and write everything I'd like to. (Not that I just learned that this month, but I saw it more clearly this month as I tried to view the other blogs contributing in the Blogathon and failed miserably.)

8. I also acknowledge that I don't think it is necessary to post daily. Although, I do want to post more frequently than I did the months before this Blogathon.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The story is in the details

As we were driving down to Nashville yesterday, my travel buddy turned to me in shock that her AT&T network wasn't strong in the boonies of IL. I laughed since my Verizon signal was as strong as usual.

She told me, "I just don't understand, AT&T says it covers 97% of the country."

I thought about that and the commercials I have heard recently and realized that message was exactly what the phone company wants its customers to hear. But the truth of the matter is that the ads say they cover 97% of the population. So big cities, that are more population dense are covered while the sticks in rural IL or MO are not covered.

It got me thinking... for writing it is also about the little details and getting to the bottom of what someone is saying. Are we talking 97% of the country or 97% of the people here? It's the journalists job to ferret out the details on these vague and often purposely misleading statements.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Article Writing is like Country Music

This morning I woke up at the God-awful hour of 3:30am to begin a road trip down to Nashville, TN. As I drove along, and my road trip buddy slept in the passenger seat, I was listening to the endless amounts of country music. The songs, which almost all tell an actual story from beginning to end, are the perfect example of what every good news story should be.

Who, what, where, when, why and how. Take Luke Bryan’s ‘Rain is the a Good Thing’ Who: the main character and his girl. What: thankful for rain that brings lots of good things. Where: The farm, the barn. Why: It makes his girl frisky. How: riding out a thunder storm in the barn… um, yeah…

Entertaining. Or at least interesting to read.Not every story are going to be as catchy as a Brad Paisely song. (Check you for Ticks, Water)

Short. There is the occasional need to tell a story that is equivalent to the length of American Pie, but usually stories can be told better and more clearly with less words and more direct writing.

Descriptive. It’s not enough to just tell the story. In these songs there are only a couple verses and a few rounds of the course. It all needs to fit, which means the words need to be specifically chosen. Old school Kenny Chesney, "big orange ball sinking in the water..."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Buckle down

Today I had to revise a short piece I wrote and then write a long profile article on a very interesting company. I love this kind of writing. Honestly, I do. But sometimes it's impossible to concentrate. I mean it's beautifully sunny and warm out today. I sat in one Panera and was so cold from the blasting AC that I needed to leave before I lost my finger tips. I moved to another Panera and had two tables that seemed to be in a 'who can talk louder' competition.

All of this is to say, I was mega distracted. I allowed myself a 30 minute blog-reading distraction, filled up my cup with Dr. Pepper and then put my headphones on and told myself I wasn't allowed to get up for anything until everything was done. And... mission accomplished.

Sometimes, I think we need to work at psyching ourselves out. Give in a little and then buckle down. No distractions. Shut up twitter. Put your phone on silence in your bag. Pick music that is simple and non-singalongable. And then attack the words and thoughts ahead of you.

What do you do to concentrate and get that pending piece done? Any tricks?

In college I used to wear a study cap. Whenever it was on my head I knew that was the time to do nothing but study. Oddly enough it worked wonders.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kill them with Kindness

Sometimes there are days in a freelancer's life when everything seems to be going wrong. Sources flake out of you. Editors are breathing down your neck. The words aren't flowing. It's rough. (Thankfully for me today is not one of those days, which is why I opted to write about it now.)

I've found often times the sources tend to be the most frustrating thing. They want to review their quotes and have small changes they want to see fixed. They won't return phone calls, or don't like being put on speaker phone. Sometimes the men think that you must not know too much since you're a girl, which I find to be especially true in business writing. All of this can lead to a difficult interview, in-person or over-the-phone.

The best solution, is a two-fold approach. First, kill them with kindness. Make it apparent you are on their side. Just searching for the facts. Not out to malign them or their reputation. Second, help them see you are knowledgeable about the subject matter. You know what you are talking about. You are aware of the terms and players.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Facebook Changes Privacy Settings... Again

If you've been following this debate about Facebook and are aware of the uproar some are making and the completely lackadaisical approach others have to it all, I'm sure you have an opinion. Here's the latest from the Washington Post.

I, personally, have tried to keep my Facebook account secure and private. I don't usually accept friend requests from colleagues or clients and I make it so almost all my settings are for 'friends only.' However that doesn't prevent people from finding me and creeping on me a little. (Here's an article I wrote for another blog several weeks ago. It's all about how easy it is to start for FB information about a person and wind up with their children's names and a picture of their house, thanks to the internet.)

What do you think about privacy controls? Should they be strengthened? Loosened? Does it not matter?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Music to Write to

So, as most good journalists I tend to be a procrastinator and a perfection-seeker. Two problems when on deadline. I wrote, re-wrote and perfected a piece last night, which became early this morning, which lead to little sleep but a killer piece.

With that in mind I have absolutely NO brain power left. But, since I want to keep up this winning streak of posting every day in May (it's the 25th for goodness sake) here is a list of some of my favorite songs to listen to as I try to get into the writing mode.

What songs help you concentrate?

3am (acoustic) - Matchbox20
Everybody Knows - Dixie Chicks
Better That We Break - Maroon 5
Breathe - David Gray
I Don't Trust Myself - John Mayer
Marry Me - Train
The House That Built Me - Miranda Lambert
Cry On Command - Gloriana
Syrup & Honey - Duffy
The Best of My Love - The Eagles
Closer To Love - Mat Kearney
Rainy Night in Georgia - Chris Young
Spies - Coldplay
Falling Apart - Matt Nathanson
Autumn in New York - Ella Fitzgerald
Cry on Demand - Ryan Adams
Talkin' Bout a Revolution - Tracy Chapman
Time and Time Again - Counting Crows
I'm About to Come Alive - David Nail or Train
Man to Man - Gary Allen
My Life Story - Gladys Knight
Simple Man - Shinedown
Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone - Al Green
Stupid Boy - Keith Urban
Hallelujah - Rufus Wainwright
Blue Eyes Blue - Eric Clapton

Monday, May 24, 2010

Haiku the day

I don't think I've written a Haiku since grade school. But for the May blogathoners, we are being challenged to write a Haiku today. Trying to get the syllables just write was a bigger challenge than I would have thought. You try it!

Click, clack of the keys
Typing my words into thought
Short, brief, to the point.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Quotes to live by...

In keeping with the more relaxed weekend themes, here are a couple of m favorite journalism/writing quotes.

"Journalism can never be silent: That is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air." - Henry Anatole Grunwald

"Generally speaking, the best people nowadays go into journalism, the second best into business, the rubbish into politics and the shits into law." - Auberon Waugh

"The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug." - Mark Twain

"In journalism, there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right." - Ellen Goodman

"I became a journalist to come as close as possible to the heart of the world." - Henry R. Luce