Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dealing with Emotions, with Horror

by Vivian Zabel 

         I sat at my computer to write my article for a newsletter about writing conferences, and the events of May 19 and 20, the horrific tornadoes of last week and their damage, filled my mind until I have to address the fear, the helplessness, the hopelessness, and even the relief. Those of us who have a deep faith hang tight to that stabling force, but the emotions still remain, sometimes strangling us.

         As writers, we have a way to manage, to use those daunting emotions and experiences; we can and should write. We can incorporate the churning agony into words that might help others understand, to feel, to know. Suffering brings realism to our writing if we can show through words what we see, feel, hear.

         As a tornado raced over our house May 19, the day before the mighty EF5 tried to destroy Moore, Oklahoma again, the shock of the house trembling and the pounding of debris hitting the walls left me frozen, scared beyond measure, for a few seconds. Then I hurried to the door to face plywood in our breezeway and tree branches the size of small trees scattered everywhere. A neighbor across the street had roof damage, but all the branches on our side of the street missed our house and vans, as well as our neighbors’ houses on either side of us. My heart thumped faster than usual for some time before settling back to its regular pattern, and then I felt relieved and thankful. That same tornado touched down less than a quarter-mile away before lifting and building as it sped toward areas to the east, churning destruction across several towns and communities, killing two, leaving many without houses, cars, clothing, or belongings. At least most had memories because they lived. I never so feared weather before, but I did then. Having one nearly touch down on one's roof can do that.

         On television, I watched as the killer tornado developed and built on May 20, 2013, heading toward a town only twenty miles south of where I live. With tens of thousands of people, I followed its path across my homeland. I cried when it cloaked itself in billows of people’s lives. My heart broke when it flatted houses, business, and, worst of all, schools. I sat glued to the set as television helicopters gave us a view of hell. I heard the cries for help. I saw the terror on faces. I felt the pain shooting through people as they dug with hands, boards, pieces of metal to reach children in the shambles that once were schools, to reach individuals and families buried under what once were homes and businesses. The shot of a policeman carrying the blanket-wrapped form brought back memories of the Federal building bombing in downtown Oklahoma City years before. Tears streamed down my cheeks, as they do now. The empty yet suffocating terror of that day still fills the center of my chest. I sat watching and could do nothing. The helplessness and hopelessness became a heavy load on my mind as I knew I could do nothing but watch the nightmare unfold and the frantic searches continue all through the night. I also saw the love and joy when loved ones reunited and tried to absorb one another with hugs.

         Words cannot completely portray all I saw, heard, and felt this week of horror, grief, and despair. However, they can help me deal with all those emotions and help me share them with others. The strangest feeling for me has been relief. I told someone that I selfishly felt relieved that my family and I only received a very glancing blow from the tornado invasion. I’m thankful, so very thankful and relieved. I in no way am glad that others suffered and died, but I can’t help but be relieved we didn’t. Survivor guilt is alive and well within me. I am fortunate because no child in my family was harmed. We don't have to plan another funeral for a baby. Scars tore open by the wounds of others as they searched and found their children. The screams I can't hear still echo through my mind, the screams of parents who must now bury their babies. The cries of children who no longer have a mother or a father or maybe either. Yet, in the rubble of Moore, of Luther, of Carney, of Shawnee, of Little Axe, of areas not in towns or cities, the strength of those surviving sends lights of hope as they already talk of rebuilding.

         In time, the horror will fade, and after years, we may become more complacent. Even with all the warnings blasted from the radio and television, we’ll once again say to ourselves that we won’t be hit. If I ever begin to think I will not be in danger when the sirens scream, I will read my words and then find shelter, praying all the while.

4RV Publishing 
4RV Bookstore  

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Facebook as a Marketing Tool

by: Stephanie Burkhart

In today's Internet savvy world, there are numerous social networking sites you can use for promotion. They include Twitter, Triberr, Blogspot, Wordpress, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Facebook is a great way to appeal to the Internet audience.

Do you remember the basic thought about your marketing spheres of influence? There's you, the people you know, and the people you don't know. Facebook, in theory, allows you access to the people you don't know. (Though they've made it tougher over the years due to their algorisms)

A Little about Facebook:

Founded in 2004
Headquartered in Menlo Park, California
As of Sept 2012, Facebook has over 1 billion users (however 8.7% are fake)

Using Facebook:

One must establish a personal profile to use the site. You can add "friends" to your profile and customize your privacy settings.

As an author, artist, or publisher, you can establish a "fan" page. This fan page is a great resource to post updates, new releases, giveaways, new covers, and reviews.

Stimulating Interest and Conversation:

Ultimately, you want to hook readers and keep them coming back. The best way to do this is to ask questions which stimulate conversation. I might suggest topics that appeal to current interests staying away from politics and religion which can be polarizing.

Some example questions include:

What book are you reading now?
What's the latest movie you saw?
Chocolate or Vanilla?
What's your favorite summer fruit?

You could also host daily trivia question. Topics include:
You get the idea.

The point is to keep people coming back and generate interest in your product.


Facebook has many features that require a lot of time so I might suggest using a time limit when at the site so you can focus on other marketing endeavors. 30 minutes might be a good place to start and you can gage the rest from there. Use a timer with an audible tone to help you keep track.

Other Features:

Facebook has other features you can use to include photo albums, tags, a news feed, chat, poke, messages, likes, games, and gifts.

Question for you: What Facebook features appeal to you? What marketing/promo efforts work for you on Facebook? I'd love to hear your ideas.

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She's a Cub Scout mom, loves chocolate and adores coffee. Her latest book with 4RV Publishing is "First Flag of New Hampshire," a YA mystery.

You can find her at:






Thursday, May 23, 2013

Culture Shock

Europe on Ten Words a Day

During my sophomore year at the University of Michigan, now many years ago, I discovered an organization that placed students in math and science in other countries for practical work - for what would now be called co-oping. The organization's primary objective was to exchange students among the various European countries, but somehow we managed to start a branch at U of M. I eagerly joined, and successfully lobbied a couple of professors who agreed to sponsor a foreign co-op student for the summer.

When I applied myself, hoping for a placement the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I thus had a preferred status; as someone who had worked for the organization, I went to the front of the queue, so to speak. Since I speak fluent French, I asked for France, Belgium, Luxembourg, or Switzerland, countries where French is spoken.

But placements for students from the United States were limited, and I was offered a spot in the Netherlands, at the Agricultural University of Wageningen, assisting a professor of mathematics.

Like many students, I ended up renting a room from a family. They live a couple of miles outside of town and had two young children. They showed me around their home, including a spacious washroom.

"And you'll take your bath on Saturday," my hostess said.

Bath? Once a week. As soon as I could locate a phone, I called my mother, who, fortunately, had a far wider experience than I of European culture.

"Water is expensive," Mom said. "Offer them some more money," she named an amount, "and see if they will agree to let you bathe three times a week."

They may have muttered to themselves about crazy Americans, but they did agree, much to my relief. And they agreed to lend me an old bicycle, one that needed some work. I took it into town the next day and the guy at the bike store fixed it up for me.

This was my first experience being totally alone in a foreign country, and one, moreover, where I didn't speak the language. Dutch has several levels of gutterals, with pronounced somewhat like the German "ch" and a couple more that are deeper in the throat. Gouda, the cheese, for example, is pronounced something like "How-da." It took me a week to learn to pronounce the name of the town, and until I could, I didn't dare go anywhere. Most people my age and younger spoke English,  but many of the older folks in the towns surrounding Wageningen did not.

I still remember my excitement that first weekend when I boarded the bus for a nearby, larger, town, Ede (pronounced Ay-da).

In relatively short order, I found a ballet class in town - I was passionately fond of ballet at the time - and signed up for lessons. It was there that I had another lesson in cultural insularity.

"I'm an American," I responded when asked where I was from.

"Oh, so am I," a diminutive student replied. "I'm from Nicaragua. How about you?"

"I'm from the United States." And that is how, to this day, I respond when asked what country I'm from.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Children's Books Week a Week Late

by Vivian Zabel

by Ginger Nielson by permission
     I didn't realize last week was children's book week until I saw these adorable images by Ginger Nielson on Facebook. I asked if I could use them, and she gave me permission. Since our schedule for last week was filled, except for one day, I decided we would celebrate children's book week a week later so we could share for a longer period of time.

    We have so many excellent children's books that I'll cover Tween and Teen (middle grade and young, young adults) another time. For this article, let's look at as many of the picture books from 4RV Publishing as we can (even if I have to use smaller sized fonts for the text). I'll go in alphabetical order by titles, adding other titles by the same author in the same paragraph.

A Christmas Kindness by C.C. Gevry and illustrated by Caroline Mabey.

A Dinner Date for Dilly, A New Friend for Dilly, A New Job for Dilly, and more to come in the series by Rena Jones and now illustrated by Ginger Nielson. Also, Lemur Troops & Critter GroupsStork Musters & Critter Clusters, Pony Strings & Critter Things, and Rhino Crashes & Critter Classes by Rena Jones and now illustrated by Ginger Nielson. The Mashmallow Man by Rena Jones and illustrated by Stephen Macquignon.

A Puppy, Not a Guppy by Holly Jahangiri and illustrated by Ryan Shaw, and Trockle (4RV's first children's book) by Holly, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard.

A Wish and a Prayer, In My Bath, and Carla's Cloud Catastrophe by  Beth Bence Reinke and illustrated by Ginger Nielson.

Alistair the Alligator by Harry Porter (aka Brian Porter) and illustrated by Amanda Sorensen, Tilly's Tale and Dylan's Tale by Harry/Brian, illustrated by Mandy Hedrick.

Angeline Jellybean by  Chrystalee Calderwood and illustrated by Stephen Macquignon.

by Ginger Nielson, with permission
 Bait for Lunch by  K.A. Okagaki and illustrated by Ryan 

  Being Jacob: A Day at the Zoo and Being Jacob: First
 Day of Sc
hool by Suzy Koch and illustrated by Aidana

 Boo's Bad Day by Penny Lockwood and illustrated by
 Deborah C. Johnson.

 Ferdinand Frog's Flight by Marvin Mayer and illustrated 
 by Stephen Macquignon.

 Gunther the Underwater Elephant and Willow, an
Tale written and illustrated by Ginger

 If Fish Could Drive by  Dana Warren and illustrated by
 Stephen Macquignon.

 If Wishes Were Fishes by N.A. Sharpe and illustrated by
 Ginger Nielson.

Libby the Odd Squirrel by Lea Schizas and illustrated by Stephen Macquignon.

Lion in the Living Room by Caelaach McKinna and illustrated by A.R. Stone. Little Charlie Thornpaws by Caelaach and illustrated by Ginger Nielson.

My Cat by Tony LoPresti and illustrated by Deborah C. Johnson.

Priscilla Holmes: Ace Detective and Priscilla Holmes and the Case of the Glass Slipper by John Lance and illustrated by Diana Navarro. More to come in the series when an illustrator can be found. 

Porcupine's Seeds by Viji Chary and illustrated by Bridget McKenna.

Sammy the Shivering Snowblower by Mike McNair and illustrated by Ginger Nielson.

Spider in Our Mailbox by Linda Asato and illustrated by Ryan Shaw

Strangers in the Stable by Jim Laughter and illustrated by Aidana WillowRaven.

The First Miracle by L.A. Willis and illustrated by Aidana WillowRaven.

Tumbleweed Christmas by Beverly Stowe McClure and illustrated by Bridget McKenna

Why Am I Me? by Wayne Harris-Wyrick and illustrated by Stephen Macquignon

Coming soon:

The Worse Case of Pasketti-itis by Kristine Asselin and illustrated by Luisa Gioffre-Suzuki.

Kimmey Finds Her Key by Wayne Harris-Wyrick

I Like Pink by Vivian Zabel and illustrated by Ginger Nielson

Plus 14 other picture books on the 2013 schedule

P.S. Don't forget to vote for 4RV in the Staples competition: 

     All 4RV books can be found on the 4RV Bookstore.



Sunday, May 19, 2013

4RV is Competing in the Staples PUSH It Forward Contest

This post has two parts, both written by Holly Jahangiri, who was kind enough to allow me to reprint her content. Part One is about the Staples PUSH it Forward Contest that 4RV Publishing has entered into. Part Two is a wonderful interview that Holly conducted with Vivian Zabel, founder and owner of 4RV. Images are courtesy of Holly also!

So, off we go.


Staples is celebrating small businesses in May and they are awarding digital marketing prize packages each worth $50,000 to three small businesses as part of the Staples PUSH It Forward Contest. 4RV Publishing has entered this contest, and you can help! By voting every day for your favorite small business, you increase your odds of being randomly selected to win a $1,500 Staples Voter Prize Package. Voting ends May 31.
Link to vote for 4RV Publishing:

Help 4RV Publishing Win Staples’ PUSH It Forward Contest

You can help a deserving small business (4RV Publishing) win $50,000 – and maybe win $1500 for yourself, while you’re at it! Voting is easy:

1.    Go to – this is Staples’ Facebook page already set up for you to vote for 4RV Publishing.

2. Next, you’ll be taken to this page, where you can Vote for 4RV Publishing – just click Vote now > :

You will be asked to give Staples’ app some permissions (Might as well – you can always revoke them later, but they ask only for access to your public profile data – something everyone can see, already – and to your friends’ list, presumably so that you can share this with them and promote the contest via Facebook. I have plenty of friends participating and have not seen any of them “spamming” me in the name of Staples, so I feel pretty confident in granting the requested permissions.)

 3. Last, but not least, when you vote, you’ll have a chance to enter to win $1500 for yourself – how cool is that? Just for helping a small business achieve more. We could all use this kind of “push,” right?

 NOTE from Karen: I'm one of 4RV's authors and one of its editors and can attest to the care that goes into 4RV books. 4RV works hard to find and publish quality books at NO cost to the author, but doing this costs money, and like most publishers today 4RV is feeling the financial  'squeeze.' So, give a vote for the small publisher, for a company that cares and helps put great reading in your hands. VOTE FOR 4RV TODAY and every day through May 31st. Click on the link to vote now:

Okay, now on to Holly's interview with Vivian.


Interview with Vivian Zabel, Founder/Owner of 4RV Publishing by Holly Jahangiri

I recently chatted with my friend Vivian Zabel, founder of 4RV Publishing, the company that published my first two children’s books, Trockle and A Puppy, Not a Guppy.

“Tell me a little bit about 4RV Publishing,” I asked.
“4RV Publishing came into being when as an author I realized that writing had few choices: a major publisher through an agent, subsidy publishing, self-publishing, or vanity presses. I wanted the opportunity for good writers to be able to have quality books published, traditionally. Authors also deserved to have a personal connection to the company that adopted their ‘babies.’” Vivian smiled, knowing that’s the number one reason I chose 4RV Publishing for Trockle, a story which I had written for my son and one that I did not want to sell all rights to or lose all creative say over.

“How many books do you publish each year?”

“How many we publish each year depends on several conditions: staff availability, funding needed, and what submissions are worth producing. In the less than six years we’ve been in existence, we have published a total of 101 books, some of which are no longer under contract (we put a limit on the number of years we have publication rights). We have 26 more titles to prepare and publish this year. We’ve had to close submissions for children’s picture books until 2015, except for authors under contract or invited to submit, because our illustrators can only do so many books during a year.”

Staples is celebrating small businesses in May and they are awarding digital marketing prize packages each worth $50,000 to three small businesses as part of the Staples PUSH It Forward Contest. 4RV Publishing has entered this contest, and you can help! By voting every day for your favorite small business, you increase your odds of being randomly selected to win a $1,500 Staples Voter Prize Package.

Voting ends May 31.

Link to vote for 4RV Publishing:
“What awards has 4RV Publishing or its books won?”

“We have received a number of awards and honors the past few years,” said Vivian. Asking her to talk about the accolades earned by books her company has published seems to give her almost as much pleasure as asking her to talk about her grandchildren’s accomplishments. “The most recent were two books which received the Children’s Classical Literature Choice Award: Life on Hold by Beverly Stowe McClure – a book is now in the running for another CCL award – and Walking Through Walls by Karen Cioffi, illustrated by Aidana WillowRaven, which won a CCL silver medal also. Viji Chary’s Porcupine Seeds, illustrated by Bridget McKenna, received the Mom’s Choice Award for Excellence.

“The 2009 Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction went to Kirk Bjornsgarrd for Confessions of a Former Rock Queen.

“We had a number of books place in the Homeland New Day book competition: your book, Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard, took 1st in Children’s Books, and A Puppy, not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw, received 2nd in Tween books. Another author’s books took 1st in Novel and in Young Adult. One book received 2nd place at the North Texas Book Festival. Aldric & Anneliese, by Harry E. Gilleland, received honors from the Military Writers organization. Time Pullers, by Horton Deakins, placed in the top five for the USA Book Awards for Science Fiction. We have books entered in other competitions that haven’t released the winners list yet.”

“‘Another author’s books’? Don’t you remember the titles and who wrote them?” I pressed. I know Vivian doesn’t forget the names of the authors who’ve written award-winning books published by 4RV Publishing. It turns out, they were hers.

“Sure, I remember the titles: 1st in Novel was Midnight Hours by…me. 1st in Young Adult was Prairie Dog Cowboy by…me; 2nd at North Texas was Base Stealers Club by…me.”

I laughed. Vivian is a retired teacher, a mom, and a grandmother. She’s proud of her own books, but would rather shine the spotlight on others’ accomplishments. As the owner of 4RV Publishing, those are the kudos she’d rather promote. Next, I asked the million-dollar question: “Do you charge authors anything to publish their books?”

Vivian shook her head. “No, we do not charge authors anything to publish their books, or for any of the services needed to prepare their books once under contract.”

“I hear things are kind of rough in the publishing industry, these days – even some of the big publishing houses are opening subsidy imprints.”

“One reason publishers get in financial difficulties is the return policy. If a bookstore orders many more copies than they know they will sell, they can return left over copies years and years later and have their money returned. Publishers have to pay that money back, either through Ingram or their own distribution system. 4RV finally did away with returns after being hit with a huge bill for books returned that we could find no record of being bought, much less when they were bought. Major publishers pay millions every year for returned books. Of course that hurts. People aren’t buying books as much as they once did, and it has nothing to do with eBooks being available. It’s the economy. So many Big Guys are opening subsidy imprints. They need the income.”

“So why don’t you do the same?”

“Yes, we need the income, too, but we want the best books possible to be under our imprint. Once we accept payment for doing our job, putting out quality books, we lose at least some control over what is published under our name. We want the authors who deserve to be published to have their books in print and then in electronic format without a black mark against their names, which, no matter what some people say, still exists for self-published books. We try to give our authors the best chance to be successful we can.”

“Is it true that even the editors and illustrators work for royalties? So if books don’t sell well, they don’t get paid, either?”

“True and true. However, the owner of the company doesn’t even take royalties, nor does the head of the editorial department. We believe in the company enough that we leave what earnings we have in 4RV. What staff we have are dedicated to our cause. Of course we lose people quite often. They use 4RV to build a good resume and go on to bigger and better things. I can’t blame them, just ask they leave nicely without putting the company in a bind with unfinished projects. However, some stay even when they get positions elsewhere and do a few projects a year.”

“You’re an author, too – does owning the publishing house mean automatic acceptance and fast-track to print for your books?”

“Excuse me as I laugh. All submissions are sent to acquisition editors anonymously, no identification anywhere on the manuscript. One of my submissions was rejected — yep, rejected with malice. The head of the editorial department asked if the manuscript should be sent to a different acquisition editor, and I said, “No, she had valid reasons, and when I have time, I’ll revise and resubmit.” I’ve never had time. In fact, since 4RV was created, I have had only five books published by the company, and they were back when we had few submissions. I will have the first book come out later this summer, the first since early 2010, and it was in the works for three years.”

“So, 4RV is entered into the Staples PUSH It Forward Contest – what would you do with the prize money if you win?” Personally, I can’t think of many businesses that are more deserving of this “push” from Staples.

Vivian has big ideas on a shoestring budget. $50,000 lets her dream bigger – and lesser-known authors stand to benefit, too. “We need to upgrade all our technology and use digital accounting and record keeping. We would be able to create more eBooks. We need to hire people trained in digital marketing and promote our books even more effectively. The prize money from Staples would give us the “push” we need to compete in today’s publishing world.”

Please check out Holly's original post at:

Thank you Holly, for allowing me to share your article on Vivian, 4RV Publishing, and the Staples' PUSH It Forward Contest.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Will It Cost an Arm, a Leg, and His First-Born Child?

Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards.   What will make your character scared? Tense? Angry?
Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards.                          

“Will It Cost an Arm, a Leg, and His First-Born Child?" by Joan Y. Edwards

What is the cost of what your main character wants or needs? Will your character's problem cost him an arm, a leg, or his first-born child? It has to be an extremely high cost. If there’s no cost for your main character, there’s no story. Your main character can't continue doing what he's done in the past. He's forced by inner or outer circumstances and emotions to change.

Picture Book
The witch twitched her head around and poked the polka-dotted princess on the forehead, “Princess, princess, so forlorn. Give to me your very first-born.”

Adult Fiction:
“How am I going to get to California from Charlotte? Are you kidding? Even a tank of gasoline costs an arm, a leg, and your first child.” John looked at his overalls with paint stains from his last paying job and hung his head low.
When you’re writing a story, usually the main character has three tries, three steps, or three levels to get something. In money, the first try costs $100.00. The second, $200.00. And the third, $300.00. If he’s willing to pay $600.00, make it cost him double. If he’s totally sure of himself and brags a lot, triple the cost. It could cost him physical pain. It could cost emotional pain with loss of family, job, and pride. Looming through the experience might be embarrassment, frustration, betrayal, and abandonment.

What? Your character is as tough as ten giant boulders, none of these things would hurt him. If that's the case, up the emotional, physical, and monetary costs. Brainstorm to find three or more things that make him wince and whine, but he'd still be willing to do them to gain his reward, to win the battle, to get the job, to solve his problem. If your character really wants or needs something, he will do whatever it costs. Even though he is scared, tense, and angry, your character will do anything to get his goal. He will even risk death to get it. He will not give up. He might come close to it. But his determination keeps growing. No matter how hard you fight to keep him from getting it, your main character will keep on going.

Up the cost of what your character wants. Make him jump through hoops he’s never even heard of. You created this character. Don't be afraid of hurting him. He is strong. He can take it. Write your story. There's nothing your character won't do for what he wants. He's willing to pay an arm, a leg, or a first child for it.

Thank you for reading this article.  In your favorite stories, what did the main character want and what did it cost him? Please tell me all about it in a comment.

Keep on Writing
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Monday, May 13, 2013

What Does Grammar Have to Do with Anything?

by Vivian Zabel  

    A while back,  I wrote about the need for writers and/or editors to use good grammar whenever they write (check for article here). Some people argued that worrying about grammar stifles creativity. I disagree, and I'm not the only one.  Using correct grammar adds to a person's qualifications and credibility.

    In that article I briefly mentioned that often people in business are promoted, or not, based on their grammar usage. Oh, my, one would think I had torn a hole in a valuable painting. However, my research shows I'm correct.
     Some writers fight the idea that grammar (including sentence structure, punctuation, subject/verb agreement, pronoun usage, spelling, etc.) impacts the worthiness of writing, which is like saying failing to lay a solid foundation does not impact the stability of a building. However, many people don’t realize that the use of grammar influences a person’s future in business from being hired, to receiving promotions, to validity as a professional.

      Speech and English instructors inform students that how they speak and how they use their language can determine whether an employer hires them or not. Many applications include the need to write a paragraph. Those who evaluate the applications read the paragraph to gain knowledge of the applicants education in language usage. During an interview, if an applicant uses correct grammar and word usage, he will be considered over another applicant with the same credentials but poor grammar and speaking ability. A person doing the interview will become distracted by incorrect grammar and rough speaking patterns, and the applicant loses in the process.

    According to Naphtalia Leba as well as other experts, poor grammar and word choice leads to unclear communication. Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, (Harvard Business Review, July 20, 2012) states he will not hire people who use poor grammar. “I have a zero tolerance approach to grammar mistakes that make people look stupid.”

       Once a person is hired for a position, he faces the possibility of promotion and pay raises. Kyle Wiens’ article includes the following:
           Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just

       when it comes to hiring writers. Writing isn’t in
       the official job description of most people in our
       office. Still, we give our grammar test to
       everybody, including our salespeople, our operations
       staff, and our programmers.

      He continues to show that grammar does have something to do with job performance, creativity, and intelligence. If someone can’t properly use “it’s” after many years, then that person has a defective learning curve. People who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test make fewer mistakes in other activities not related to writing, such as stocking shelves or labeling parts. People who care about grammar (the details of good writing) also care about other details.

     Cheryl Conner, in her article for Forbes (March 11, 2013), gave the results of a study involving English-speakers in industry. 1. Professionals with fewer grammar errors in their profiles had achieved higher positions. 2. Fewer grammar errors correlate with more promotions. She cites Brad Hoover, CEO of Top Ten Reviews who says grammar skills indicate the following positive workplace traits: Attention to detail; critical thinking; and intellectual aptitude.

     The use of poor punctuation, grammar, and word choice leads to unclear communication. If a person’s writing is confusing, if his spoken words are unclear, confidence in him will be poor, too. The adherence to the “rules” helps build a positive impression involving client relationships, communicating with co-workers, and impressing employers.

     As Naphtalia Leba  added, “Unclear, confusing or ambiguous writing causes misunderstanding and misinterpretations. These can lead to costly mistakes, hurt feelings, lost money, and legal issues.” The same is true of unclear, confusing or ambiguous speech.

    Proper grammar usage is important not only in writing stories, novels, and other books, but also for writing in business and for use in speaking.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Stealing and Stalking

by Suzanne Cordatos

Teachers have scolded us for plagiarism ever since we learned the three-finger grip on a pencil. Stalking is just plain creepy. However, writers, aren't we known for our powers of observation? Maybe we should pay closer attention to our dark sides. As editors say, there isn’t a new story under the sun—only new ways to tell it. When you're stuck for an idea, tap into your considerable skills of observation as one way of getting creative juices flowing.

Steal an idea. Work it like Playdoh.
Knead it, twist it until the idea is unrecognizable and becomes a creation of your own and not a clichéd duplicate. In a favorite TV show recently, pieces of earth rose from the floor of a cave and morphed into a ghost/robot/monster thing. Movie scenes instantly came to mind: mummies from a desert-sandstorm and a ghostly Headmaster Dumbledore rising from dusty floorboards in a Harry Potter. Each of these transforming dust bunnies is creative, unique--and part of a completely brand new story.

Highlight favorite lines while you read. Steal the technique, not the line. Analyze the sentence. What makes some sentences great? Is it the word order that reads like a punch line? Is it the blend of sounds, the writer’s use of alliteration or onomatopoeia that makes the line linger on your tongue like candy? Is it a description of food so gorgeous it makes your mouth water? Keep a small notebook of favorites and refer to it when you want to describe a sunny beach in such a way your readers will want sunscreen.

Stalking 101. We learn writing tips from conferences, books and blogs. We learn how to write settings from paying attention to the world around us. A trip to the local library or bookstore can be another good teacher. Choose a stack of books in your genre. Who publishes the books you relate to the most? Take notes which publishers might appreciate your work when you're ready to submit.

      Sit on a comfy chair near the genre you write. What do teens roll their eyes at in the YA section? What do middle graders giggle about? What images do toddlers poke stubby fingers at and giggle?

      How do adults choose new authors? The cover catches an eye. Flip the book over to scan the back blurb. If all is well, a reader might read the first paragraph. That’s typically it.
     The back blurb
Can you write your entire novel idea in three or four exciting sentences just like the back blurb of a book cover? Research books in your genre (i.e. PLAYDOH METHOD, see above) and compare your own write-up. Does it have the same zingy tone? Show it to a few reader friends (preferably those not in your critique group) -- Is this a story they’d likely continue? Are you able to be richly concise with your main character, plot and theme?

     The first paragraph
Does your novel's first paragraph stand up to the same type of scrutiny?

Enlighten us! How has your keen sense of observation improved your writing?