Posts Tagged ‘LinkedIn’

The Opposite of Anticipation

May 16, 2015

Most of us know that life can often change in a heartbeat. Three weeks ago, my blog post was optimistically entitled, “Living a Life Full of Anticipation”. April had been an excellent month for me. I had lots of interesting assignments and people to interview. I entered several short stories which I felt really good about in contests and I had finally mastered Twitter. I was feeling confident and happy in my writing life and looking forward to a well-deserved, and hopefully less hectic, summer. Then the axe fell.

A childhood friend who had been heroically battling cancer for five years succumbed to it within a two-week period and both his passing and the funeral service were heartbreaking. I received three rejection letters in a row for my stories and an email informing me that I didn’t get into the summer writing conference I’d optimistically applied to. In the midst of all this, we had to drive ten hours to Indiana and back to retrieve our youngest from college, throwing my normal work schedule off-kilter and forcing me to scramble to meet deadlines.

It’s extremely hard to feel like a failure on so many levels. I try telling myself that this is what separates the wheat from the chaff, but somehow I can’t bring myself to care about whether I’m wheat or not. I’m just too emotionally and physically exhausted. I contemplate spending the day in bed but the thought of lying immobile with only my racing thoughts for company isn’t particularly appealing. So I drag myself to my green corduroy chair with a cup of coffee and pick up my journal to write my morning pages. I give myself three simple goals each day.

  • Get up
  • Dress up
  • Show up

For days that require something extra, I add

  • Pick up (your pen)
  • Grow up
  • (Don’t) Give up

Age and experience have taught me that things will get better eventually and that writing will help that process. When times are challenging you can try to work through the forces that assail you by writing about them in a journal, a personal essay, or a poem. Or you can use your writing to escape reality, to take a break from the pain and despair and sadness in the real world by escaping to a fictitious one where you alone are in control of all the outcomes. Words are our friend. They will always be there when we need them most. It’s up to us how we choose to use them.

Living a Life Full of Anticipation

April 22, 2015

One of the best parts of reading short stories is the anticipation. Admit it! When you open the first page (or turn on your Kindle or Nook) aren’t you looking forward to what you might learn, about yourself and others, from the story’s characters and their adventures and mishaps? What does anticipation feel like to you? For me, it’s a quickening of my heartbeat, a sharp intake of breath, or a lightness in my step. Emotionally, it’s a feeling of hope, of optimism, of barely suppressed excitement and, ultimately, a quiet sense of peace and satisfaction.

To write the kind of stories that give your readers a sense of anticipation, you have to allow yourself to experience it firsthand so you understand how it can build and reward you with its pleasurable sensations. Those of us who live in the land of four seasons will find this easy because each season brings new delights for us to anticipate. Take spring, for example. Each day as I walk around Trumansburg or drive to Ithaca or Rochester, I see signs of good things to come. When the winter fences and blockades come down from around the Rim Trail I shout “Yes!” and pump my fist in the air. I’m already anticipating how wonderful it will feel, physically and mentally, to resume my long hikes there and how my muscles and mind will soon become flexible again with my regular tromps through the woods.

Hitting the trail!

When I see farmers plowing their fields, I lick my lips lightly, already savoring the taste of just-picked strawberries, cherry tomatoes off the vine, and corn-on-the-cob. When I see campers appear at Taughannock and Sampson State Parks, a smile comes to my face as a vision of my tent, with me in it, and images of past camping trips fill my mind. I’m anticipating long days at the ocean or the pond, nights filled with s’mores and campfires, and strolling through Provincetown. I usually wonder how I will be ever be able to wait three more months until I can get in my car and head east!

Head of the Meadows Beach at Cape Cod

Not every story you write will be happy or jubilant. Nor will everything you anticipate be as good as you hope. But looking forward to things is an important part of a well-balanced life and a little bit of this goes a long way toward making your world a more colorful one. Try adding a little anticipation to your stories and your own daily existence and you might be amazed at the results!

Be Yourself on Paper-The College Essay

April 17, 2015

Guest Post by Lucia Tyler,  Ph.D., Tyler Admissions Consulting

Dr. Lucia Tyler

Dr. Lucia Tyler (photo credit-Jim Mason)

Students dread the college essay. Why?  Often they have not reflected on their life or practiced writing about it.  This is the perfect opportunity to show a college who you are beyond the numbers—beyond the test scores and the GPA. In a way, it’s like a one question interview on paper. This is an opportunity to show the human side of your application.  The object is not to impress but to be memorable.  Think about the stories in your family that are repeatedly told.  In my family, they are either usually funny, sad, or scary. For instance, there was the time that my son tried to rewire the TV set….. at age 10.

Getting started is often the hardest part.  Story-telling is key to the process.  It can be helpful to review meaningful incidents in your life and relate them to a family member. “Remember the time that I got separated from the family on vacation in Mexico and found my way back to the hotel alone with my minimal Spanish?”  You might ask a friend or family member to tell a memorable story about you if you can’t think of one.  Sometimes it even helps to record these stories or write notes about them.

Reading essays that Ivy League students have written for publication in a book of winning essays may be discouraging and actually delay you from beginning your essay.  How can you compete with a Harvard student who graduated with honors while living with drug addicted parents?  This is your story to tell and that’s what colleges want to hear.

The Common Application has a general essay that is submitted to all schools.  You need to relate your essay to one of the prompts provided.  If you choose a topic describing an environment where you feel comfortable and then talk about how your sister loves to go rock-climbing with her friends, the reader will note that you didn’t respond to the prompt.

Key points to remember about the essay are to tell your story, use a conversational style, answer the prompt, and proofread the essay carefully for errors.

I’m always willing to consider guest posts related to writing for my blog. I’m also interested in posting about writing issues on your blogs. Either way-feel free to get in touch!

Boris Fishman’s Tips for a Successful Writing Life

April 15, 2015

I had the good fortune to hear Boris Fishman (A Replacement Life) speak at Writers & Books in Rochester the other night. I always find published writers’ talks helpful in terms of learning about concrete steps I can take to improve my writing and to plan for future creative endeavors. Boris was a lively and informative speaker who didn’t pull any punches.

Boris Fishman at Writers and Books

Boris Fishman at Writers & Books

 

Here are a few things I learned from him about the writing process:

  • Treat your writing like the job it is, not just something you do in your spare time. Create a work schedule where you read and write for a specific amount of hours each day.
  • Eavesdrop shamelessly! This will help you immeasurably with perfecting different styles of dialogue.
  • A high-concept title is crucial to the success of your novel.
  • Sometimes it can take a really long time to write your novel. Boris wrote six drafts on his own and then several more with his agent’s help before he was finally published.
  • Attend writing conferences that are in an intimate setting with a focus on craft, rather than large “writing-lite” symposiums.

Boris also talked to us about his journey down the path to publication. Some tips I found most helpful were:

  • It helps if you can exhibit some familiarity with the publication, agent, or editor you’re submitting to. You can show this by saying something meaningful about them or their publication in your query or by showing how your idea dovetails with their mission or goals. It’s not the subject matter of your book that matters as much as having an “editorial affinity” or other professionals who care about the same things you do.
  • Persistence often pays off. According to Boris, you should send a minimum of five queries to an editor before giving up and you need to become indifferent to rejection. (As a side note, I’ve frequently heard that men are often better at ignoring rejection than women who tend to give up submitting after only two tries).
  • Establishing an online presence is a must! Boris recommends a website, creating an author page on Facebook, and joining the Twitterverse. He explains that readers love feeling live they’ve been part of the process with you and that most publishers are huge fans of Twitter. Boris also uses email blasts and makes it a point to write back to anyone who contacts him.  He urges writers to “own” their successes and triumphs, by saying things like “Hey guys, I have great news” instead of using what he calls “humble brag” on all their social media sites.
  • Most importantly, he says, detach your sense of self-worth from the commercial success of your book. Once you transition from “Please like me” to “I don’t care if you like me or not” you will become a better writer. Though it can be difficult, remember, you have the right to write your story the way you want to.

April Showers Bring…Inspiration!

April 8, 2015

April showers bring mud, and lots of it, at least in my little corner of the world. It sometimes feels like you’re walking in quicksand and that everything around you is brown and depressing. The colorlessness of the landscape makes it easy for artists to slip into a slump, even to feel like what they’re doing doesn’t really matter to anyone but them. If that’s how you’ve been experiencing life lately I’d like to suggest that you set aside some time to explore other creators’ work as a way to jumpstart your own, That’s the great thing about the artistic life, ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, not just other writers. Two things I’ve done over the last week that were not only inspirational, but free, include taking in a new exhibit at Cornell University’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, and attending an art opening for one of my favorite local artists, Alice Gant.

Staged, Performed, Manipulated (through June 7, 2015) challenges you to think outside the box, or more aptly, outside of the frame. What you’re looking at is not what you were expecting to see and the provocative photos lead you down all sorts of imaginative paths and potential storylines. Some challenge stereotypes and expectations you may not have even know you had, like Renee Cox’s, Yo Mama’s Last Supper, where the artist herself is shown as a nude Jesus and all the disciples are African American, with the exception of Judas, who’s white. Others are unnerving, like a diorama that shows a gang of middle school-age boys in a variety of obviously and subtly threatening poses. The first thing that comes to mind is William Golding’s chilling classic, “Lord of the Flies. However, when you look even closer at the tableau, it becomes even more disconcerting to realize that each image is actually the same boy, just in different clothes. Another particularly memorable photo is the brightly colored one that greets you as you enter the exhibit is Yasumasa Morimura’s, Self-Portrait (Actress) after Liza Minnelli 1. This photo is guaranteed to unwittingly draw your gaze to a specific region of the actress’ body, whether you’re a male or female. This isn’t a huge exhibit but museum curator Andrea Inselmann did a fabulous job with it, so don’t make the mistake of rushing through it to get to the next room.

Alice Gant is a textile artist and fellow TBurger. I have long been a fan of her colorful and joyful banners and even have a blue heron of hers hanging in my dining room! When her grandson was born in Amsterdam, she made him a small soft cloth book which she and her family enjoyed so much that she created a larger  “Softer Books” exhibit. With her typical attention to detail, Gant stitched several long horizontal pieces together, using a technique she invented called “neo-reverse applique”, each of which can be folded into a book.

20150403_185808

There was a woods-themed one, an ocean-themed one, and my favorite, “The Curious Pets of Trumansburg”.This week make it a goal to get out of your home or office and seek out some art in a different medium than your own. Seeing other creative people’s work can be so much more motivating to winter-weary writers than a scolding or a bribe. It definitely worked for me!

20150403_181937

Barrio Cafe in Phoenix-Not your Average Bodega!

March 31, 2015

The absolute best meal we had in Phoenix, hands down, was our first one at the Barrio Café on the corner of Thomas and North 16th Streets. From the outside, Barrio looks like just another unpretentious neighborhood eatery, just our type of place. But appearances can be deceiving! Once inside, we quickly discovered why this establishment has earned the reputation of being one of the trendiest and most authentic Mexican restaurants in the area.

Barrio Cafe

Barrio Cafe

Though it was past lunchtime, the friendly spiky-haired waiter told us there would be a short wait and invited us to sit at what must be the smallest bar I’ve ever seen. My husband and I took two of the three seats and (rather boringly) ordered Mexican beer. We then proceeded to ogle the man in the third seat’s lunch, which was a work of art, with the various colors and texture on the plate effortlessly complementing each other. Perhaps feeling dismay that we hadn’t ordered one of the Barrio’s signature margaritas, an older man came behind the bar, went to work mixing, and presented me with a small glass of a seashell pink beverage. Though I don’t really care for tequila, I didn’t want to offend him so I took a sip. Muy delicioso! Called “Organica Margarita” it contains Tierras Organic Silver Tequila, and agave nectar, pomegranate, grapefruit, and fresh lime juices. When I return I’ll definitely order a whole one for myself.

Our entrees were wonderful. Mine was Suiza-a Mexican City-style enchilada with layers of chicken and cheese and a delicate creamy tomato sauce topped with crumbled chorizo and red onion. Neil got pork tacos with tangy pickled red onions which contrasted nicely with the sweet and smoky pork, giving your taste buds an unexpected little “zing”! But what really blew me away was the “Esquites” which I’ve sampled before in Dallas, as “street corn”. It was this amazing, tongue-pleasing combination of firm, yet extremely juicy, bright yellow corn kernels that were so sweet that each individual one literally exploded in my mouth. The corn was topped with crumbled cotija cheese and completed by a generous drizzle of chipotle cream sprinkled with cilantro and fresh lime juice. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven with each tiny bite and my eyes threatened to fill with tears as I spooned the last succulent morsel into my mouth, scraping the sides and bottom of the crystal goblet it was served in to make sure I didn’t leave a single crumb behind.

Don't miss this!

Don’t miss this!

I am 99.9% sure that I could never make any of these dishes at home, making them the perfect vacation food. The two of us left with the mutual understanding that this restaurant was at the top of our all-time favorites list.

The second-best meal we had in Phoenix was at Joyride Taco House on Central Avenue. The food and drinks were fresh and tasty, the atmosphere upbeat, and the servers friendly and enthusiastic. For those of you on a budget, they have Happy Hour prices too!

Tucson-A Word Lovers Paradise!

March 25, 2015

The Tucson Festival of Books exceeded my wildest expectations, despite occasional frustration of long lines for many of the author conversations and panels and the limited seating in others. I could write pages about the six discussions by famous writers that I was able to participate in, which included:

  •  Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel
  • Ridley Pearson and Luis Alberto Urrea
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Gail Sheehy
  • Ally Carter, Jenny Han, and Sarah Mlynowski
  • Marja Mills

But, because today is Arts Advocacy Day, my Festival post is going to highlight The Tucson Youth Poetry Slam (TYPS). Attending a poetry slam has been on my “to do” list forever, so TFOB seemed like as good a place as any to finally do it. Billed as “Young Voices of Southern Arizona” and with an irresistible call-to-action, “Youth! Voice! Equity! Power!” this one, under the umbrella of the group “Spoken Futures, Inc.”, seemed particularly appealing.

Tucson Youth Poetry Slam participants

Tucson Youth Poetry Slam participants

My friend Melissa and I took our seats with anticipation, unsure what to expect. We knew the basics of a slam; that it’s a spoken word contest with a time limit and no censorship, though poets are encouraged to choose their words for the greatest impact, rather than shock value and no “hate speech” is allowed. The Tucson group welcomes all languages and styles of poetry and the group’s goal seemed to be building community rather than tearing it down, which appealed to both of us. We were blown away! If you want to hear what’s on teens’ minds these days, in no uncertain terms, this is the place to find out. They’re not professional poets but their concerns and observations are spot-on when they speak about things that are important to them and their futures. Here’s a few lines to illustrate this:

On getting a GED: People roll their eyes and tell me “Good luck with that”.

On undocumented immigrants: We fight every day and we barely make a sound.

On health and family issues: I was dealt a hand that might cause others to fold.

On self: I hold onto things that break too easily, like pencils and people.

On school budget cuts to the arts: You already have 24% of our life; what more can you take from us? Art-there’s no money in it, only numbers count. You steal the only color we’ve got.

And, on why they write poetry: I don’t write to be questioned. I write to be understood.

Don’t we all…April is National Poetry Month and I’d like to encourage you to put aside a few hours and attend a youth poetry slam in your town or city. Don’t go alone, take a friend, young or old. I promise, it will be worth it!

What’s in my Phoenix, Arizona Travel Journal?

March 20, 2015

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Southwest. I prefer cool weather, lush vegetation, and lots of bodies of water over spiders, cacti, and heat, even if it is “dry heat” as we are constantly reassured by those who call The Grand Canyon State home! However, I now have two friends from elementary school living in the Phoenix area so I have decided that I need to broaden my horizons and discover some ways to make my time in Arizona as enjoyable as possible. While planning my trip there, I realized that, with the Tucson Festival of Books taking up the majority of my stay, I would only have time to visit two attractions. Here are my choices:

The Phoenix Zoo

My husband and I haven’t been to a zoo without kids in years, so this was a very different experience for us. The Phoenix Zoo, established in 1962 (the year of my birth!), and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, is one of the nation’s largest non-profit zoos. The Zoo prides itself on its commitment to conservation, as well as its ability to inspire visitors to become supporters of, and stewards for, the living creatures who reside there. We began our journey on the Arizona Trail where I learned a few new facts. For example, Arizona is the only state to have four deserts within its boundaries, all unique in their own ways. Interpretive signage also taught us about convergent evolution. This concept highlights species that are from different lineages or that live in different countries or continents, who develop similar traits. Sidewinder snakes, like rattlesnakes, are a great example of this. Though they’re miles apart, sidewinders in Arizona, the Middle East, and Africa all use a similar method of locomotion which give them traction on shifting desert sands. We were able to see dozens of types of desert snakes up close and personal, along with lizards, spiders, and mammals. My favorites were the self-important chuckwalla, the feisty javelinas, and the lurking vultures.

 

The Arizona Chuckwalla

The Arizona Chuckwalla

There was also an Africa Trail where we strolled through “Monkey Village”, the only walk-through squirrel monkey exhibit in the United States. It’s an open exhibit where tiny monkeys scamper through bushes and trees just inches away from you. As expected, they’re playful and adorable! My very favorite exhibit however, had a literary connection (surprise!) In the Zoo’s “Forest of Uco” dwells a pair of bears that many of you will remember as a single young bear who arrived in England from “Darkest Peru” with a note attached to his coat that read, “Please look after this bear”. The Andean bears that reside in the Arizona zoo can only be found in the tropical Andes (South America) and are currently an endangered species. They are soft-furred, shy, and lovable, just like the much-adored bear created by Michael Bond. The only difference is that the real bears don’t constantly crave marmalade!

The inspiration for Paddington Bear!

The inspiration for Paddington Bear!

The Phoenix Zoo allows coolers and has a picnic grove which will appeal to those on a budget, since the adult admission is $20. If you’re not watching your pennies, there are plenty of extras for all ages, including a 4-D Theater, Camel Rides, and a Giraffe Encounter. I recommend that you allow yourself at least half a day to fully experience the zoo and don’t forget water, a camera, and sunblock!

 

The Musical Instrument Museum

This relatively new Museum, which received a Travelers Choice mention on Trip Advisor in 2014, was another $20 well spent, though we initially balked at the price. MIM is open daily and is another place you’ll want to allow yourself at least four hours for. Even with this amount of time, it’s unlikely that you’ll make it through all the exhibits; there is simply too much to see, hear, and do. Once you’ve paid, you’re given a set of headphones which allow you to wander around listening to the plethora of musical selections that accompany each section. A musical performer or genre is featured in each exhibit, along with their instruments and costumes or accessories. The Artists Gallery on the first floor was wonderful. Some of my favorites were Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Pablo Casals, John Lennon’s “Imagine” being sung all over the world, and a brand new discovery, ukulele player, Jake Shimabukuro. Check out his incredible skills at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snPQ1z5FoqQ . We both liked the special exhibit, “Beyond the Beat: Drums of the World, open through June 21 of this year, and the Mechanical Music Room, featuring things like calliopes and music boxes. No one was working in the Restoration Gallery, but I was able to see a video of a woman who worked on restoring Elvis Presley’s guitar which was fascinating. Most surprisingly, what we didn’t enjoy at all was the Experiential Room. There were too many rules and the volunteer kept hovering over, and scolding, everyone there. Sadly, we ran out of time so we’ll have to return to visit the second floor.

Mechanical Music Room

Mechanical Music Room

The breadth of musical history, past and present, contained within MIM’s walls gives you a sense of the impact that many talented and committed musicians have had on all of us over the years. Additionally you will be reminded of how music continues to have the ability to move and unite us all.

Toby Keith's guitar

Toby Keith’s guitar

The Tucson Festival of Books is Almost Here!

March 11, 2015

In the past, I’ve posted about supplies to take to writing events. But this evening, I’d rather focus on what I hope to accomplish at the 2015 Festival. Besides hearing famous authors speak about topics they’re passionate about, attending the Rock Bottom Remainders literacy-benefitting concert Friday night, and being surrounded by some of the best books of this century, I hope I have the chance to:

  • Reconnect with some of the authors and writers that I’ve met (Southwest Valley Writers Conference), interviewed (Rochester Teen Book Festival), or heard read their work (Cornell University Creative Writing Talks)
  • Learn some new writing techniques and gain some different perspectives on ways to become a better writer, both in terms of entertainment and for social change
  • Discover a whole new batch of LinkedIn and Twitter connections
  • Be as prepared as possible so I don’t have to waste precious time standing in line to get water, dealing with sunburn, or trying to find food
  • Make some contacts in the publishing field, both fiction and nonfiction books
  • Buy as many books as I want, both for my own reading pleasure and as gifts for others, and have the authors autograph them whenever possible
  • Discover all sorts of blog posts just waiting to be written
  • Spend the entire weekend luxuriating in the world of books, just like the proverbial kid in the candy store

Tucson, here I come! I’ll look forward to sharing my adventures with all of you along the way!

All Work and No Play? No Way!

March 4, 2015

Much of what we write is serious. News stories, feature articles, newsletters, and press releases should be compelling, but also accurate. Though these are all challenging and rewarding writing projects, sometimes writers, like anyone else, need to let off a little steam, to add a bit of frivolity to the mix. This is not a waste of time. Attempting to write in all different styles stretches you creatively and makes you a more flexible, and overall better, writer. Plus not everything you do needs to be life and death serious. We all enjoy reading humorous pieces and most of us like to be entertained. Skip the sitcoms once in a while and seek out a few opportunities each month that will allow you to express the wacky and witty sides of your personality! Sometimes you can even get paid to do this.

One of my favorite writing assignments is penning theatre reviews. Reviews allow you to speculate, make connections, and interpret characters and their motivations in ways you don’t usually employ when writing for newspapers. They also require you to use all your senses and to be attentive to detail, as they need to include information about the setting, directing, and sound and costume design. Another bonus is that you get to use language in a different ways than you may ordinarily. Words that you haven’t thought of in a long time tend to come out of the closet, adding a dash of spice to your commentary and analysis.

In my Valentine’s Day post, I mentioned that I was going to work on a poem for the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. I finally finished it this weekend and I spent most of the afternoon in my corduroy chair snickering and chortling and guffawing to myself. My family couldn’t figure out what was the matter with me until I offered to do a dramatic reading of my efforts. Soon they were rolling their eyes and snorting with laughter too. The consensus was that my poem was so ridiculous that it actually stood a chance of winning at least an honorable mention! One of my friends asked with horror why I would want to write a “bad” poem. To that I say “Why not?” Everything is worth trying at least once. If writers were afraid of failure then there wouldn’t be much for us to read.

So dare to play with your writing occasionally. Try a haiku or a limerick. Experiment with fan fiction, using favorite childhood characters. Write a silly song or a melodramatic soap opera episode. Most of all, have fun!


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