Category Archives: Writing Careers

Teacher Insights- YA Book Review of Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Feel free to chime in if you read Graceling or if you’re considering reading it.

Snapshot of Max, A Teen You Might Recognize

He struggles to finish an essay on Notability this morning before school, but with help from Siri, Max doesn’t have to hear his mother say, “Look up the word in the Dictionary,” as her mother used to cajole. EasyBib.com creates his Works Cited entry for him. Whew. Done. Why do they teach this stuff anyway? He checks his “Here Comes the Bus” app and packs up as soon as his bus enters the target zone in Maps. “Bye Mom!”

Max’s classroom instruction is a mix of lecture, group discussion, and self-guided work via his iPad. When the teacher isn’t looking, he and the others sneak silly pictures of each other and filter them through face-squeezing, picture editing apps or they surf the web, all with earbuds in their ears listening to rap. It’s too bad the school filters out certain websites, but there’s always a work around and he knows the kid in the class that knows all of them. Max nonchalantly touches the screen he’s supposed to be reading when the teacher turns around and stares.

After cross country practice, Max delays doing his work on Canvas to check sales on his Ebay account. Fantastic! It looks like someone finally bid on that skateboard he got for his birthday two years ago. Now, he’ll have money for a better skateboard he wants to buy. Max then checks his stream and likes on Twitter and Instagram. Who’s the bare butt following him on Twitter? Block. He’s not one of those kids. Max takes a moment to Skype one of his 1000 Subscribers to his hobbyist YouTube account. These guys are his best friends and they live all over the country—in Michigan, North Carolina, and California. He knows the friend in California is still at school, so he leaves a note for him on a forum to be read later. He notices that an older teen who posted a YouTube video degrading an eight-year-old’s video already has twenty-five nasty comments deriding the youngster in support of the older teen. Should Max post a comment in defense of the kid being bullied or say nothing? It reminds him of his bus ride home only worse. He decides to play a few rounds of Minecraft, while munching on graham crackers and milk. Then, he opens his lap top and starts to read tonight’s homework and to watch the teacher’s instructional videos.

Does Max sound like a teenager you know? Max lives at home and virtually everywhere else.

graceling

He pulls Graceling by Kristen Cashore out of his backpack. He chose to read Graceling for his independent book project due in a couple weeks. He thought it might be cool because of the sword on the front cover and a woman’s eye staring at him. But, it’s thick and he hopes it doesn’t turn out to be a stupid girl book. The print seems big enough. He probably would have chosen another novel, but the other kids were faster to the teacher’s book shelf.

Questions to Probe in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling 

In “Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century; Moving Beyond Traditional Constraints and Conventions” Jeffrey S. Kaplan notices that “The authors of many articles say, the world of young adult literature is being transformed by topics and themes that years ago would have never been conceived” (11). His and other writers’ observations suggest new questions that critical analysis discussions might address today.

 

  1. Science Fiction in the Post-human Age: Do human values and human nature prevail no matter what the human body endures? (14)

 

  1. Stretching the Boundaries and Blurring the Lines of Young Adult Genre: Are there identifiable markers that identify a novel as a particular genre or as fiction or fact? (16)

 

  1. Identity: What choices have been made in the creation of today’s novels that influence how teenagers are being constructed as adolescents and how do such constructions compare with each teen’s own attempts to form his or her own identity? (16) How do young people find who they are if they live in a seemingly rootless social world? (17)

 

The Appeal of Fantasy to Teens

Fantasy Island was a television show that entranced viewers in the 1970s. Pay $50,000 and you too can stay on an island for three days to have your fantasy come true.

The appeal was as obvious then as it is today. Escape the chaos. Be whoever you want to be. Make your world right again. Live in a fantasy—if only until you finish the book. The danger of the fantasy novel arrives the day a parent discovers that her teenage daughter crawled out of a second-story window to sit on the roof to gaze at the sky willing that vampires exist— clearly influenced by a scene from the tween’s favorite vampire series.

If that same teenage girl had read Graceling, she instead might sign up for judo or fencing. She might kick the kickball a little harder in P.E. or stand up to a bully at the lunch table. In Graceling, the protagonist, Katsa, is gifted with the grace of killing (actually survival) and is capable of outlasting very formidable male characters on her journey to save seven kingdoms. Do any men sweep in to save Katsa? No, but she does fall in love with a man who helps her to identify and to accept who she is. She does the same for him. The relationship is balanced and equal, which is refreshing and a healthy example for both females and males.

Measuring Graceling to the Questions posed by Kaplan’s Article

Graceling does rub shoulders with post-human age literature. However, the setting, like a fantasy video game, is held in a Renaissance-like world with horses; campfires; hot baths poured by hand; and hunting with daggers or bows and arrows. Because Katsa and anyone, who has eyes with two different colors, is “graced” with an almost super-human skill, in the kingdom of Randa, where Katsa grows up, she is ostracized and feared. She does have a handful of friends, but her skill puts her at odds with most citizens. Her skill makes her valuable. Power-hungry, egotistical kings (Randa and Leck) desire to use Katsa as their thug killer. They employ psychological entrapment to try to manipulate Katsa. Through her interactions with her friends, she learns that she has the power, the will, inside voice, and the choice to be who she wants to be. She learns to accept herself. In Graceling, yes, human values and human nature prevail no matter what the human body endures.

Students will be able to recognize that this is a fantasy novel, however, the idea of embracing and developing special talents might heighten after reading the work. The novel realistically addresses mastering a temper or overcoming a stronger opponent and the fact that most girls are physically weaker than boys. Katsa makes the argument that weaker beings should therefore be trained to become stronger to defend themselves.

Asking students how and why this novel was constructed will provide insight into the lack of novels like it on the market– where a woman saves a man. Graceling was constructed to fill the void of strong and capable female characters who don’t need to be saved. Katsa evolves with help from others, but she is not saved by them. Boys will find capable men who help and are helped by Katsa. Like a journey into a video game, the paths of Katsa and Po – are explored with curiosity about what’s around the next bend.

One Teacher’s Suggestions for Using Graceling with Students

As a teacher, I wouldn’t spend instructional time on Graceling in a middle school or high school setting, however I would use it as supplementary or independent reading or to deconstruct writing with certain students or populations. I love the play of the characters, but would shy away from the descriptions of torture, romantic sex scenes, incest, sadomasochism, cutting, and animal mutilation. Sadly, these are topics that kids today are exposed to and are dealing with, but in a general classroom setting a read like this could spell trouble. I’d be very selective with the book. I think it would be an uplifting read for students who like fantasy, but have a good grip on reality; who could use a self-esteem boost; who are struggling with anger; who are the youngest in their families; who are bullied by peers or adults; who are exceptionally bright but searching for their special talents, career, or direction in life; or those who want to become better writers to learn technique from Cashore’s debut novel.

What Would Max Say?

“For my book report, I chose Graceling, by Kristin Cashore,”

Max mutters while fumbling and looking down at his notecards. It took forever for Max to get half-way through his book pick that has 471 pages. He won’t mention that, of course, because he doesn’t want to disappoint the teacher or get a bad grade. He didn’t finish the book in two weeks because he’s a slow reader and there were cross country practices, meets, and a boatload of homework given by teachers the week after NWEA testing. So, he turned to Cliff Notes to get through the rest of his report.

“My favorite characters in the book are Katsa and Raffin, but Po is cool, too.” He does like Katsa. She’s strong and able to waste entire armies. She reminds him of a few girls on his school’s soccer team. He’d like to meet a girl like that, but not get into a fight with her. He could relate to Katsa. Because of Max’s strength– compared to his little brother’s—his dad told Max to defend his little brother if other boys teased. Once he shoved a kid to the ground for taking his little brother’s books.

“Giddon, a noble, likes Katsa but she doesn’t want to get married. She has a bad temper about it.” He could relate to a girl with a bad temper. Sometimes Max’s older sister was crabby like that and would throw a punch when their parents weren’t looking.

“Katsa and Po fall in love, though Katsa doesn’t want to get married.” Max can’t understand why Katsa wouldn’t want to marry a guy like Po. If she doesn’t want to marry someone who is strong, handsome, kind, and smart then who would she want to marry? Girls are so confusing. He wouldn’t want to fall for a girl who’d push him away. He wouldn’t act like Po. He’d probably find a different girl, though if he really thought the girl was cool, maybe he’d stick around. Maybe. Typical girl story…

“This is a fantasy book. What I would change is to make Raffin heal Po’s eyes in the end. I liked the book and would recommend it…especially to girls.” <Class laughter> He bobs his head and fist pumps as he sits down.

“Did I get a good grade?”

Of course, not every teenage boy or girl will see Graceling this way. Setting up students with plenty of time to read the entire book, thoughtful focus questions, and subsequent discussions will make the read more meaningful.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Cashore, Kristin, Jeffery C. Mathison, and Cathy Riggs. Graceling. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2008. Print.

 

Kaplan, Jeffrey. “The Research Connection- Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century: Moving Beyond

Traditional Constraints and Conventions.” The ALAN Review ALAN 32.2 (2005): n. pag. The Alan

Review. The Alan Review, Winter 2005. Web. 26 Aug. 2016.

 

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Filed under Education Strategy, Women Writers, YA Book Reviews & Teacher Insights

Free Learning Modules to Work On Over Lunch

Embracing lifelong learning ought to be the standard and not the exception. Consider updating your skills by spending an hour before or after work or during lunch in one of hundreds of available free learning modules.

Image courtesy of M. Martin Vicente- http://www.flickr.com/photos/martius/

Image courtesy of M. Martin Vicente- http://www.flickr.com/photos/martius/

Tag Manager Certification

If you own a website, you’ve undoubtedly placed Google Analytics and other tags in your headers to measure various results.  Google Tag Manager eliminates extra lines of code, which increases your website’s speed. Add one container code to your site from Google Tag Manager and then fire everything else you need from Google through Tag Manager. You can create triggers for Google Analytics or Adwords. According to Krista Seiden of Google, over 80,000 people worked on improving their knowledge of Google Tag manager this summer. If you miss the course, there are still free modules on the site to learn at your leisure.

Adwords Certification

Get certified for Google Adwords. Did you know that CPM is phasing out and vCPM will soon be the standard for impressions? Even if you’ve been working in the space for years, there’s always something new to glean. Start learning the essentials of Adwords marketing and display advertising or refine your skills with more advanced courses. Google’s training modules are easy to manage in corners of available time and the certification exams are free to Google Partners. Microsoft offers its own training for Bing Ads, too.

SEO Training

Google provides this free guide on the basics of SEO. If you’re more of a video person, check out all of the webmaster videos Google offers on YouTube. Don’t expect to be a master of SEO after watching a few videos, but do expect to be better prepared to ask decent questions of the digital markers in your life.

Social Media Marketing Insights

Find out more about social media marketing from Twitter, Facebook, and G+ or check out this decent blog post with other do it yourself training ideas.

Writing, Business, and Other Free Classes

Even the rules of grammar, punctuation, and formatting change over the years. If you’re used to typing two spaces after every sentence, for example, it’s time to retrain yourself to type just one. How do we know? We read and always strive to keep a pulse on the latest. Peruse this list of 10 free writing courses or jump into the latest Ted talk. Colleges know that the smarter you become, the more you’ll value continued learning. Universities like MIT now offer hundreds of free online course materials. Improve your semantics, management, analytical, and programming skills or something else.

Find an hour in your day and start the journey. You’re never too young, too old, too ignorant, or too smart to learn.

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Filed under Apps & Tools, Content, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Writing Careers

How to Profit from Content Writing (What’s Changed?)

Content writing is an ever changing, rapidly expanding profession. How do you profit midst the competition and changes? Influenced by search engine optimization and an audience which has become used to accessing large volumes of content on an instant basis, the content writing market will continue to evolve. Understanding what makes content useful for customers will help one to profit, additionally knowing technological changes will allow a content writer to adapt to these changes and become more marketable.money

Quality Opposed to Quantity

Today content marketing is about writing high-quality informative pieces. With a seemingly unlimited number of sources and endless possibilities for information persons, searching the internet are looking for something useful, informative, and of a high-quality. Gone are the days where the sheer amount of content written with the right amount of keywords alone would drive someone to your site, or service. In today’s market, it is about finding a balance between a solid body of content of high quality and quantity. Content writers as such should shift focus from how much they write to the overall quality of writing. Offering one or two high-quality pieces will further add to a portfolio while at the same time will result in a customer receiving higher benefits than four or five lower quality pieces.

Target Audience: Personal as Opposed to Mechanical

Once upon a time search engines only looked for key words. Content was used to drive people to your website and built solely around a select number of words that the search engines would be able to find. As search engines have evolved, so has the content needed to achieve the same results. In today’s market with ongoing development and sophistication of algorithms that search engines employ, writing with an audience in mind is essential. Experts mainly agree that as search engine optimization changes, content writing will need to continue to become aimed at the audience as opposed to the list of keywords used historically.  Writing informative informational content with the reader in mind will help guide search engines to the content being created.

Link to Social Media

Ignoring social media would be akin to writing and not hitting spell check.  Social media has an influence on not only search engine results but also is a viable way for a content writer to network, and expand writing into new markets. Often persons hiring a content writer also may need someone to manage social media accounts, by offering your social media as an example you can and will find writing work managing others social media accounts. When it comes to driving search engine results to your site social media is essential to increase ratings. As content is shared, tagged, and liked on social media search engine results are increased.  Social media will continue to drive the content market as sites such as Facebook integrate search features, and in app searching becomes used more and more often.

Consistency and Themes

When writing a blog focusing on one or two themes is essential for not only the search engines but also to build an audience. When you are a trusted source for consistent information on a single theme, your blog is visited more often, and you build a customer and audience base. When you shift topics or themes, your audience loses interest or finds you less organized decreasing returning visits.

Staying Up To Date

Content writers should continue to be aware of mobile optimization and app writing. As more and more apps are created writing for these apps evolves. Reading and searching on a cell phone screen appears different than a computer monitor. When using voice search on mobile devices a person interacts more personally than a traditional web search. Finally, being aware of how users will read your content can help you to create the high-quality, user-friendly, informative pieces necessary. Large words, or sentences often will not translate well onto mobile devices. Being aware of technological changes and how your content will be viewed becomes more and more essential.  ~Jenny

Do you think content writing will be more or less profitable in 2016? Why or why not?

Other Articles:

Making a Living Writing Website Content

How do I Become a Writer?

Ten Organizations for Women with Careers in Writing

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Filed under Resumes, Web Writers, Writing Careers

How to Apply for Media Entry at Conferences and Events

Writers, did you know that you can scoop great industry stories at conferences just by asking conference coordinators for media passes?photo (20)

Visit Your Favorite Conference for the Price of a Story

In most cases, you’ll need to be a staff writer, videographer, or photographer for a credible news organization, blog, or online journal.  Even freelance writers selling stories to publications, magazines, or newspapers can qualify.

About IRCE Media Badges

Maura Bruton, Internet Retailer Press Assistant, says that you need to be a writer

“for a publication, as far as whether that’s a blog or whatever, we are looking for people who are coming to cover the show or the exhibitors.  Sometimes people are looking for a press badge in more of a sales capacity and those people do not get press badges.”

IRCE is a great show to cover topics in e-commerce, selling b-to-b, or technology. Bruton adds,

“There are a lot of stories here.  There are a lot of spokespeople, whether for companies, keynotes, speakers, or presenters.”

If the journalist asks for assistance, IRCE will provide images and arrange interviews with speakers.  Quite often speakers and companies hunt down the press at the show for free coverage.

photo (19)Credit, of course, must be given to the show and speakers for images, videos, and quotes.  IRCE offers a full-service press room during the show, coordination with speakers prior to the show, press releases, and a complimentary conference badge. The press can take pictures and videos, if speakers approve, but press tags must accompany cameras.  Online credit should be linked back to the IRCE website.

To apply for a press badge for an IRCE event, go to IRCE.com and contact the press coordinators.  They’ll review your application and get in contact with you. Bruton suggests looking at IR Events Group to find shows that fit your upcoming conference calendar.

The Perks of Writing

Even if technology isn’t your beat, many other conferences and events provide free entry to members of the press in exchange for your content creation and distribution.

Hey, you could even go to Disney World for two days on a Hopper Pass if you can prove that you write for a travel blog or are affiliated with an established news organization.  Live in New York?  Start planning your Macy’s Day parade coverage by applying for a New York press pass.

If you write for a living (or just for the fun of it), go find budding stories in your interest areas by attending conferences and special events.

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Filed under Audience, Conferences, Editors, Marketing, Reviews, Writing Careers, Writing Resources

Fifteen Dos and Don’ts when Writing for Children- Recap of Jesse Florea’s Session at Write-to-Publish 2014

Some have a heart for children- others a heart for writing.  Marry the two and the world will change.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Clubhouse Magazine’s editor, Jesse Florea, at Write-to-Publish in Wheaton, IL.  He was at the conference looking for great stories for Focus on the Family and he presented a session on how to write for children. He’s also the author of several books for kids and their parents.

Who Is Generation Z, The Homeland Generation?

Copyright My Web Writers

Copyright My Web Writers

Generation Z was born between 1995 and 2005.  They’re known as the “Silent Generation”, “Homeland Generation,” or the “Net Generation” because they’ve grown up with the Internet. They were born after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when many felt safer staying at home. William Strauss and Neil Howe describe this group as “highly connected” and media technology savvy because they are “digital natives.”  During a naming contest sponsored by Neil Howe’s company website, Homeland Generation was the name chosen by the site’s voters to represent this generation.

Florea says,

“They’re self-directed. Parents no longer over-schedule their children like they did five years ago.  There’s a little more free time for this generation, which is good because they have time to be creative, but the bad part is that they have this technology and when you have technology and time, they can get into trouble with the technology rather easily.”

According to NC State University:

“Such connectedness has a dark side, however, contributing to a sedentary lifestyle and skyrocketing rates of obesity. This generation may live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents despite the medical advances of the last twenty years. Of 100 Generation Z kids, 47 will be obese by the time they reach adulthood.”

Florea says,

“Basically, that’s because they don’t have to go outside to be entertained. All the entertainment they need is at their fingertips with a gaming console or they can talk to their friends through any different type of social media. They don’t need to get outside to get together.”

In 2011, Grail Research provided a fascinating look into this next generation by comparing the relationship of Boomer parents to their children verses Generation X parents to their Generation Z children.  Fundamentally the differences lie in the comfort with technology that Generation X shares with its children. There is an increasing overlap between Generations X, Y, and Z and their channels of entertainment, technology, brand experiences, and family values.

“Generation X is raising Generation Z with a high involvement parenting style. Generation X saw a social trend of divorces and is expected to instill stronger family values, along with ‘old’ notions such as work ethic, etiquette, and resilience. This, along with better education, will make Generation Z more tolerant, respectful, and responsible.”

The Homeland Generation might be more financially conservative, too. Florea says,

“Generation Z is saving their money.” Also, “This generation identifies itself more as individuals, than as a team…Sort of like Generation X…They believe in their own character and they believe they have their own persona.  Generation Z doesn’t believe in getting agreement or living by social norms.  Their society exists on the Internet where they speak out their minds and express their opinions.”

 

15 Dos and Don’ts When Writing for Kids

To kick off his session, Florea asked, “How would you describe children?”  Words like “rambunctious”, “messy”, “innocent”, and “smart” quickly filled the room from the audience.

Florea mentioned, “We want all of that in your writing. I’ve been at Focus on the Family for twenty-one years.  You know of Dr. Dobson.  He wrote a lot of books.  A lot of dos and don’ts.  Having boundaries, having parameters can really help, so that’s how this workshop started. I’m going to share about 15 or 16 dos and don’ts” when writing for kids.

  1. Don’t underestimate your audience. 

    “Kids are thinking, feeling and smart human beings.  They just lack life experience and the wisdom we can share with them as writers. Don’t doubt a child’s ability to understand concepts and accomplish great things. Generation Z is a smart generation because they have at their fingertips, all the information in the world.”

    Clubhouse Magazine particularly likes to feature ordinary kids performing extraordinary feats. Challenge kids with your writing. Kids know that things aren’t always perfect. You can’t shelter these kids, there’s just too much readily accessible information. Don’t shy away from writing stories about kids in single parent homes, with special needs, or whose families are in financial duress.

  1. Challenge kids spiritually. Years ago, Clubhouse Magazine received a letter saying that it was “boring.” Florea took the letter, published it, and asked, “Okay, readers are we boring?” He received close to 500 responses.  One of the common threads through all of them was that kids want to be spiritually challenged. They don’t just want to hear a Bible story.  They want to see its application.
  1. Do get into a child’s mind. Know their interests.  What makes them tick?  What do their parents want them to learn? This is important because parents are the ones buying the magazines.  Spend time with kids and know what they’re studying in school.
  1. Do work on a gripping opening. Capture their attention within the first three sentences.  You have to have a good hook.
  1. Do use vibrant, active verbs.  Kids need action.  The story needs to move. Show the action, don’t tell it. A Wheaton professor of Florea’s used to say, “There’s always a better way to start a story than with ‘it’ or ‘there’.” As soon as you start with it or there, you’re using passive voice. When editing copy, Florea seeks out and circles it, there, was, is, and were and reconsiders what these words add to each sentence.
  1.  Don’t go adjective crazy. “One well-chosen adjective is better than three adjectives strung together. Adjectives slow down your writing, while verbs keep up the pacing and make everything go faster.” Also, when using dialogue, just use said. “Said” is an invisible word that people read through.  If you go for fancier words like “chortle” or “mused”, you’ll stop the narrative. The person reading will stop and think, “Oh, why are they using that word?”
  1. Do use interesting and realistic dialogue.  Don’t try to use the cute catch phrases that the kids are using today because those words may be out of style by the time the article or book is published.  Florea looks for stories with active verbs, compelling dialogue, and believable characters.
  1. Show the action. 
  1. Do use humor. People retain 80% more when they’re laughing. To achieve humor you can use repetition, switches, exaggeration, extremes, and word plays.
  1. Don’t wrap up your story in a nice, little bow. Kids know that’s not how the world works. Be honest.  Former IU professor, Peter Jacobi, once said “The ending should leave the reader with satisfaction tinged with dissatisfaction.” Do leave readers with a nugget of truth. From age five on, children are able to relate to stories in characters just like adults. A value development specialist, who once visited Focus on the Family, said that “by age ten, right and wrong are locked in for a child.”
  1. Edit your copy.  Some professional writers work through up to thirty revisions before sending in a story. Cut the fat. Stay away from clichés.
  1. Do be creative. Don’t copy the world.
  1. Know industry trends. Go for “edu-tainment” (educate and entertain), which is like writing a chocolate bar packed with a vitamin. Watch movie trailers to see what will be big when each movie comes out the next year.
  1. Do write compelling characters. Write characters that are going through a lot of things. Also, don’t have the adults solve the problems.  Let the kids solve the issues without preaching from the adult characters.
  1. Do be yourself.  Kids can spot a phony a mile away.

 

Next June, make a point of visiting the Write-to-Publish conference in Wheaton.  The people are welcoming and you may soon find that you’ve developed relationships with mentors and fellow writers who will guide you throughout your career.  Meet one-on-one with acquisition editors and publishers, while also absorbing valuable insights and industry trends.  We especially thank Jesse Florea for sharing his expertise in children’s publishing with My Web Writers’ readers!

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Filed under Audience, Conferences, Editors, Education Strategy, School Websites, Women Writers, Writing Careers, Writing for Children

One Cannot Not Communicate- Is Silence Golden?

Maybe Mom Wasn’t Always Right

The first of Paul Watzlawick’s five axioms is simple- “One Cannot Not Communicate.” Wanterfall says,

Even when you think you are not sending any messages, that absence of messages is quite evident to any observer, and can itself constitute quite a significant message. Not only that, but we usually transmit quite a few non-verbal messages unconsciously, even when we think we are not sending any messages at all.

What do you, as a professional, communicate when you choose not to communicate?

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Perhaps your mother used to say, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” When your new friend with long, braided hair entered your home, she bit her tongue.

Did her silence mean, “I wouldn’t let my son wear his hair that long, but since I have no association beyond his association with you, I’ll make you feel comfortable enough without offering approval?” Her tongue biting left wiggle room- both for your friend’s eventual haircut and her possible opinion change.

While the intent behind silence might be noble, its very form is deceiving – a mask for a mix of thoughts and emotions forming in the sender or else a sign of ignorance. Silence is golden because it buys the sender time and it offers the receiver little information- or so is the hope.

What are the Effects of Non-Responses in Digital Communications? 

One cannot not communicate with social media. Not following a customer or fan on Twitter or G+, for example, could be construed as a slight. You’re too busy, too important, to ignorant to use the tools to follow and interact. Not having your social media in order says a lot about the organization behind your organization. Your brand communicates that it does’t embrace or understand the mediums or struggles to find funds. The receiver never really knows why you’re silent- just that you are and the resulting message is up for interpretation.

Internet marketer, Jay Baer, suggests:

Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. Is your company prepared to handle social media inquiries within the hour? A few are. Most are not, in my experience, which potentially creates a disillusionment gap between customers’ anticipated response time, and your actual ability to provide a response.

Having a workforce to handle your social media interactions could be just what you need to reduce the stress in your customer service department.

One cannot not communicate with blogs. You haven’t written a blog post in weeks. Maybe there isn’t a lot happening in your company or industry – yeah right. You’re too busy, too underfunded, too unorganized. You were in the hospital. Whatever the reason, a lack of action or words communicates a message. Is it the message you want your fans to receive?

Darren Rouse looks at blogging this way:

The more posts you publish over time, the more doorways you present readers with to enter your blog.

1 post a week means you’ve got 52 doorways at the end of the year – daily posts means 365 doorways at the end of the year. This means people are more likely to see your content in RSS readers, in search engines, on social media etc. Over time this adds up.

Contracting out some of your brand’s writing work to writers can keep opening doors verses closing them in silence.

One cannot not communicate with correspondences. Two candidates fly out to your company for second interviews. You extend an offer to one. The chosen candidate receives your full attention. The other doesn’t. The one who didn’t get the job sends an email to you. No reply. This happens once. Twice. Three times. Surely, not communicating is a soft let down, right?  According to Career Builder,

56 percent of employers admitted that they don’t respond to all candidates or acknowledge receipt of their applications; 33 percent said they don’t follow up with candidates they interviewed with to let them know they didn’t get the job.

What does a lack of response communicate? That from the top down, your company’s communication process isn’t clear or even rude when not in need of a person, service, or product. It communicates disorganization and incompetency in the HR department. Don’t think for a moment that the candidate won’t remember the lack of communication when they’re in a better position.  According to the HT Group:

If you’re guilty of this and other bad hiring habits, beware your actions could complicate your recruiting efforts and even damage your company’s overall reputation. Here’s how (according to the same study):

  • Job seekers who don’t hear back after applying for a job are less likely to continue buying products or services from that company.
  • Did a job seeker have a bad experience with you? Half will tell their friends about it.
  • An overwhelming 75 percent of job seekers use traditional networking such as word-of-mouth to gather more information about a company.
  • More than 60 percent will check out your company on social media to find out if what you’re telling them about your culture is true.
  • More than two-thirds of job seekers would accept a lower salary if the company had exceptionally positive reviews online.

One cannot not communicate. What are the unintended messages you send just by choosing inaction or silence with your digital marketing strategies or relationships? From creating blog posts and social media posts to staying up with emails and correspondences silence is not usually golden.  Rethink if you’re clearly, consistently, and honestly, as well as tactfully communicating.

 

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Appointments with Heaven – a Worthwhile Read

Choosy Writers Choose Good Books

Are you choosy about the books you read?  I am.

My high school English teacher used to scold me when I found excuses not to read. She’d blink her eyes, sigh, and pinch her nose, “Good writers make time to read.”

Well, she’d be proud.

I read a book over spring break that was worth my time and attention. It was edifying, truthful, and inspiring and there’s a back story on how I received the book, which I’ll share in a moment.

Appointments with Heaven bills itself as “the true story of a country doctor’s healing encounters with the hereafter.” At first, I thought.  Boy. Do I really want to read a bunch of creepy stories about people dying?  (The book was given to me shortly after my mother’s death in 2013.)

I’d seen a lot of death and well, eh.

But, my sister-in-law raved about the book and she’d experienced loss, too, so I figured it had potential.

Heaven’s Southern Setting & Faith Theme

heaven coverMy family packed up our van and headed south to Florida. Dr. Reggie Anderson’s story is set in the rural South.  So literally, my journey included representations out the window of the places described in the story – Alabama on the way down and Tennessee on the route back up. What I discovered is that the story isn’t really a book about death — it is about finding faith in life.

Soak in that statement for a moment.

It’s a book about faith. Your life has purpose and it affects eternity.

Do you believe that? Like I said.  It’s a book about faith.

There are times, even if you believe there’s a higher purpose, when truthfully, you’re just not seeing how the dots connect. You lost a friend, a job, or an opportunity.  You’re stuck in what seems to be a mindless and pointless routine.  You’re disillusioned because of awful events or situations. This book addresses whys.  Does anyone even know we’re here?  Is God real?  Why do bad things happen?

Even if you have answers worked out for yourself, Dr. Reggie Anderson’s perspective, because of his scientific expertise in medicine and his own early disillusionment, is unique. This book find has the potential to be a future workbook and video series for small groups.  The Kendrick Brothers or some other producer ought to take a good look at it.

About Heaven’s Ghost Writer

If you’re a writer, it’s a study on the art of ghost writing.  Truly, the story’s organization, running motifs, theme, voice, and flow were so well constructed that I beamed for Jennifer Schuchmann, the book’s ghost writer. And herein is how I received the book.

Jennifer and I met at a conference in 2010.  She was already a published writer, managing a young family, and at the start of a promising career.  We became Linkedin and Twitter contacts. In September 2013, I was in the midst of managing a big work project, while organizing household moving details for my family, when my mother passed away. With those plates spinning, I accidentally sent an email to Jennifer that was intended for someone else. When I realized my mistake, I sent Jennifer a note asking her to disregard and delete the email.  She did, and then we quickly caught up. I asked her about her current projects and she shared.

“I’m primarily doing collaborative books with people who have stories to tell but don’t have the time or ability to tell them. I’m either hired by them or by their publishers. I’ve released two new books this year.

“Taylor’s Gift” is the story of parents who lost their 14 year old daughter in a skiing accident, donated her organs, and then met the organ recipients.

“Appointments with Heaven” is the story of a country doctor who lost his faith, found it in a dream of heaven and now catches glimpses of heaven when his patients die (he can feel their soul leave their body, smell the scents of heaven, and feel a warmth in the room). Both are good books.

Good to hear from you even if it was a mistake!”

I then confided that my mother had passed away two weeks earlier and that her Heaven book sounded relevant.  She wrote,

  Oh, I’m so sorry!  Send me your address and I’ll send you a copy of “Appointments with Heaven.” Writing that book changed the way I view death. Maybe that’s the whole reason we reconnected was so I could give you a copy of this book.

When my copy arrived, she’d personalized it with a note, “I hope this brings comfort in your loss.”

If you’ve ever lost someone, you know that the cards you receive in the following weeks are thoroughly appreciated.  This was the first time anyone had sent a book.

I read a few pages and stopped. I felt called to send a copy to each of my siblings, but I personally wasn’t ready to digest the book.

By spring 2014, I was ready.

Let’s be clear, I’m not getting paid to write this post for Appointments with Heaven nor am I doing it because I know Jennifer.  I know plenty of authors.  I just like the book and feel it’s worth my time.

I hope it’s worth yours, too.

Yesterday, I interviewed Jennifer about her ghost writing techniques.  Read Tips for Collaborative and Ghost Writing Success, for the back story on how Dr. Anderson’s Appointments with Heaven was written.

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