Saturday, March 31, 2012

Poetic Saturdays: No Way to Stop Them

Tomorrow morning, we'll begin poeming away at my Poetic Asides blog through the month of April for our 5th annual April PAD Challenge. If you're into writing poems, you should check it out. (And yes, I'll also be leading the platform challenge on this blog through April as well. Talk about busy!)

Anyway, leading up to the challenge, I thought I'd share something a little different for my Poetic Saturday this week. I'm going to share some starts and stops of poems that may or may not end up as full grown poems. This a recent sampling of the typical bits and pieces that fill so many notebooks around the Brewer household. Enjoy!

Our traveling life is over;
people are settling and suspicious
of anyone who moves. We move
without permission and someday
they'll stop us without warning--

there's no way for us to stop them.

*****

put me in your prison now
and throw away the key.
nobody better even
try and rescue me.

*****

cast a spell and hover over my house.
give me a blessing. give me a sign.

*****

all the stuff for today.

*****

i'm lost like a stranger
who's nearly found his way
but doesn't know the reason
why he really wants to stay
stumbling down streets
and falling down stairs
losing my nerve with-
out seeming to care

*****

et cetera

Friday, March 30, 2012

Let's Write Together: Use a Collaborative Mindset to Improve Your Writing

I'm so pleased to share Jo Sparkes with the Not Bob crowd. She's had experience working in collaborative writing environments and is sharing the benefits of that process and mindset today. Jo has written scripts for Children's live-action and animated television programs, a direct to video Children's DVD, television commercials and corporate videos. She's been a feature writer on ReZoom.com and a contributing writer for the Arizona Sports Fans Network; where she was called their most popular writer, known for her humorous articles, player interviews and game coverage. Jo was unofficially the first to interview Emmitt Smith when he arrived in Arizona to play for the Cardinals. She has adjunct taught at the Film School at Scottsdale Community College, and stood in front of the camera for a video, "Stepping Above Criticism," capturing a popular talk with her students. Her new book, Feedback How to Give It How to Get It, shares her lessons learned with writers, and indeed everyone dealing with life's criticism.



For me, the criticism a writer gets is the hardest part of writing.

Working in the corporate world, feedback never bothered me. If I made a mistake, I just fixed it. If someone had a better idea, great. I suppose there wasn't a lot of little emotional attachment.

Letting Go of Ego and Perfection
Writing is different. There's a part of the soul out there, so it's tougher not to take it personally.

And having fallen in love with writing scripts, I think it was even worse. All writing is subjected to criticism, but scripts are not written for a general audience. They're a blueprint for other artists, used by those artists to construct something new. By their very nature, scripts are a target for criticism and change. It's a collaborative art.

It's a tough gig.

Gradually you either find a way to survive, or you move on to other writing. I survived with a combination of a new mindset and a process.

The mindset was seeing the scripts as work for hire, and the various people involved as clients. Most of my work was corporate videos or commercials, so it wasn't a difficult leap. I'd been brought in to write something, and I knew it would take several iterations, and that everyone involved would have input.

The shift came in realizing there was no 'right' answer, no perfect script. Early on I thought if I was really a good writer, it wouldn't need fixing. That I would have it perfect the first time.
Collaboration Isn't So Bad
But collaboration really isn't so bad. Each artist brings his/her own view, own experience to the table. A set design and a clever wardrobe add the right hint of flavor. A director has to make it his/her own, bringing personal experience to bear. Without that there is no passion.

Really. Otherwise the piece is flat, lacking soul.

Of course the writer has to have passion. Of course we have a vision, a story to tell. But that vision need not be myopic.

It helps, greatly, to be the one to make the changes. To be a part of that collaboration process. And to do that, you have to be part of the creative team, not the roadblock in the path. I honestly believe that's why writers are often banned from the set.

*****

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*****

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Unexpected Souvenir, Part 2 (Life Changing Moments Series)

Here's part 2 of "The Unexpected Souvenir," by Ellen Weeren (click here to read part 1), in which her trip winds down and takes an unexpected turn. Ellen graduated from college with an English Writing degree 20 years ago and began her career as a law enforcement policy writer, newsletter editor, and conference planner. When her second child was born in 1999, she quit working and quit writing. Then, three years ago, her husband was very unexpectedly offered a job in New Delhi, India. After Ellen literally threw up, she moved her family across the ocean to a country she knew very little about. She knew it would be amazing but she was also more than a tad overwhelmed. As part journal and part therapy session, Ellen started a blog about her family's adventure--A Reason To Write, which has received international recognition as one of the best travel blogs in the blogosphere. Moving to India was a gift in many ways--a gift to see what rest of the whole world is really like, the gift to travel, and the gift of many reasons to write again. Ellen enjoyed writing so much that she started a second blog called A Reason To Read, where she reviews books. Since returning to the U.S., Ellen continues to pursue writing and is even now dabbling in a little fiction. You can follow her on Twitter at @EllenWeeren or @AReasonToWrite.



As I was putting my phone away and sinking into my seat, I looked around at the busyness on the street. It was chaotic and endless. It was hard to pick out a single scene and focus on it. The realization that I was now exhausted began to settle in and I leaned back in my seat, turning the air vent toward my face.

But then just over to my left, a man came into view. There was no reason, really, that I should be drawn to him. He was loosely defined in the same dusty, brown haze as the foggy air that surrounded him. He wore a simple and stale, used-to-be-white robe and was standing in the middle of the road. In between traffic and blinks, he could have easily disappeared. He looked like he needed help.

It was not immediately clear just how truly desperate he was. You can unfortunately and unintentionally become numb to the desperation in India a little too easily. Even with the biggest most generous heart, the knowledge that you simply can't help everyone graciously lends you an excuse to ignore someone who is clearly struggling.



The Reveal
My friends were still on their phones and I am pretty certain that they never even saw what happened next. I don’t know how my driver could have possibly missed it but he showered me with the gift of never discussing it. As the traffic light in front of us turned red and traffic slowed, the man in the middle of the road slowly began lifting the skirt of his tattered robe.

At first, I only saw his bare and wrinkled brown feet. His toes seemed to be bent in half from holding on too tightly to the melting asphalt. Then he revealed his far too skinny ankles. Followed by his knotted, bent, and ashy knees. His skin was stretched tightly over bones that were very likely brittle and deteriorating. They were bones that had probably never tasted milk and knew nothing of vitamins. Maybe they had never even had the chance to be strong enough to allow him to hold up his slight frame with pride and determination or, more importantly, hope.

It took me a few seconds to fully comprehend what he was doing. To allow myself to believe I wasn't just imagining it. But not enough time to distract myself from it--to delve into conversation and disappear or close my eyes and wish him away.

With his skirt fully lifted, I finally began to understand what he was doing. This man had taken straw-colored raffia and tied it around one of his testicles. It had swollen to nearly the size of a basketball. He would lift his robe to show the people driving by just how profoundly he needed help. Their help. And, then, my help.

What Are You Supposed to Do?
Questions raced through my head. How are you supposed to respond to that? How do you digest that? How can you explain it? What are you supposed to do? I wanted to understand how this could possibly make sense. How do you say that, from an air conditioned car with a full belly and new rings on your fingers, you are not going to stop and do something, anything?

I was momentarily mad at India for hosting me in this amazing adventure through the streets of Old Delhi, only to bring it to this nonsensical end. There were so many times when there was truly nothing I could do to make a situation better. But this time maybe I could have, at least momentarily, helped another human being.

As the light blinked back to green, my anger drained back into its more comfortable state of confusion. The "why" of it once again hung in the air as a question without an answer. We drove away but I can never forget his face. His black eyes were unwillingly resigned to accepting his position. His absolute destruction was the way he fought back and garnished attention.



Many westerners might have seen him and railed against his condition, calling him lazy or foolish, angry that he would expect others to make his life better. India has the unique ability to make you feel angry, sad, helpless, and guilty all at the same time. Sights like this man leave the visitor wondering, "what the bloody hell."

I was so stunned that I could not have acted even if I had thought of something to do. Even if I had thought to empty my purse at his feet, I could not have done it. In the tremendous heat, I was frozen. I never even turned my head away. Our eyes met as we were rolling away and he just looked at me as if to say, "Yes, my dear, you are seeing exactly what you think you are seeing, and what are you going to do with it?"

I sat in disbelief that I completely ignored a man who had intentionally mangled part of himself beyond all recognition.

What Am I Supposed to Do?
I still question what I am supposed to do with his image. I am not sure how to handle this experience. What to do with it. I sometimes wonder who would care what this man across an ocean did. How does it relate to life here and now?

It would be all too easy to pretend that his suffering was unique to that land so far away from the home I have now returned to. But struggle in the human condition is universal and need is everywhere, even though it is not always so obvious.

So, while I still regret not acting in that moment, the experience did change me. I am disappointed in myself for not finding a way to make a difference for that man and the thousand, maybe even million, others who join him on the streets of Delhi and other places.



But now, more so than ever, when I have the chance to be helpful, I take it. And, it is most often in simple ways that really don't cost me much more than a few minutes. My actions won't change the world and I understand that. But I can make little moments a little better. It's not that hard really--hold the door open a little longer so the person behind you can walk through it too, smile more, make dinner for a friend, call someone who is hurting, donate food to a food bank, ask how you can help, etc. Most of it can be accomplished without much sacrifice.

I am not able to store this broken souvenir memory of a tattered man across an ocean away on a shelf and let it gather more dust. It is not a picture that I can shove in a scrapbook and close the cover to forget. It lives in my memory and reminds me nearly every day to be more helpful, kind, and generous. I am reminded to slow down and pay attention and not be so self-absorbed.

Now my vision of him has purpose, reminding me to not ignore the needs of others right in front of me. My memory of him matters more than any other trinket I brought home with me--even more than the bright, untarnished ring I bought that day in Old Delhi. Sadly that ring very often sits in the back of my jewelry box, mostly forgotten because it is just a thing that doesn't make much difference in the life of anyone I know.

*****

If you think you have a great life changing moment to share (and you probably have several), click here to learn how to get the conversation started. I'm sure if you think it's important, I may too.

*****

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*****

Check out previous posts from the Life Changing Moments Series:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

April Platform Challenge

One of the most important tools for a writer trying to find success in today's media environment is a strong platform. That's part of the reason I devote so much time to the topic on MNINB. However, I've been thinking about how to get even more hands on with helping writers build their online platforms, and I think I know the solution: A month-long platform building challenge.

Here's how it will work:
  • On April 1, I'll post a task for writers to complete that day.
  • Each day afterward, through the month of April, there will be a new task for writers to complete on that day.
  • At the end of the month, every writer who completes the challenge should have a stronger platform and be able to say they took part in the first ever April Platform Challenge.
Plus, there will be a prize!
Everyone who completes the challenge will be able to enter a raffle to receive a signed copy of the 2012 Writer's Market Deluxe Edition that I edited. The book contains more than 200 pages of articles on the business of writing, thousands of publishing opportunities, a one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com (which lists more than 8,000 publishing opportunities, updated throughout the year), and access to an exclusive webinar I did on platform building. In other words, it's a pretty helpful resource.



What do you need to do?
Just show up and complete each activity by noon on May 3. When you complete an activity, just comment on that particular post that you're done (and feel free to leave any extra comments as well).

Everyone who wishes to be entered into the raffle (for completing the challenge) will need to send me an e-mail at robertleebrewer@gmail.com by 11:59 p.m. on May 5 with the subject line: April Platform Challenge Completed.

Please include your name, mailing address, and e-mail addy in the e-mail message.

(NOTE: I'll be glad to take your information now, but the raffle is for writers who have completed the challenge--so it would be best to send me an e-mail on or after April 30, though before May 5 at 11:59 p.m., Atlanta, Georgia, time.)

Who is allowed to participate?
Anyone.

That said, this challenge will probably be most helpful for writers. And the challenge is aimed more at beginning/intermediate platform builders than to the advanced set. But anyone and everyone is welcome to participate.

Any other questions?
Drop them in the comments below.

*****

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*****

Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Advice for Writers: 026

Every week brings plenty of great new advice for writers of all skill levels. Here's the best of what I've found this week.

Confession Tuesday - The Dark Cloud Edition, by Kelli Russell Agodon. Kelli does these confession Tuesdays (and thankful Thursdays), but I never thought I'd link to one on my advice for writers column. However, I think this post helps show writers how even the best of us have horrible days and weeks. We just have to fight through and remind ourselves that it's not really that bad--or that things will pass.

How to Get Media Coverage for Your Book, by Ken Brosky. This is a solid post on how to get coverage of your book by media outlets. I should also mention that it would benefit any author to check with their library for a recent edition of BACONS Media Directories or access to the online database from Cision. I say to check with the library, because these guides costs hundreds of dollars (though they are super useful).

How to Make a Living as a Writer, Part One, by Rachelle Gardner. Expect more on this topic, but Rachelle starts off by explaining one of two parts about making a living as a writer: volume. Writers who think they can write one thing and make a living are fooling themselves. Writers make a living by writing...a lot.

The 3 Worst Blog Writing Blunders, by Carol Tice. These blunders are definitely applicable to writing blogs, but like much writing advice can also be applied to other types of writing. For instance, doing your homework is just as important for your blog post as your query letter as your short story as your (blank).

Nuke the Slush Pile, by James H. Pence. The slush pile is the pile of unsolicited queries that agents and editors used to receive via traditional mail. Now, many agents and editors have virtual piles they manage, whether via e-mail or an online submission system of some sort. Anyway, virtual or real, nuking the slush pile doesn't sound like a terrible idea.

*****

Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


*****

Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Unexpected Souvenir, Part 1 (Life Changing Moments Series)

This is the first post in the Life Changing Moments series to not appear on a Wednesday, but that's okay; it's also the first post in the series to be broken into two parts (and the second part is scheduled to drop on Wednesday). I'm so thankful to have readers like Ellen Weeren, who are willing to share their moments with me out of the blue. This particular moment--spread across two posts--manages to show various pieces of a culture that was foreign to Ellen and her friends. Being able to share her experience so honestly is really something incredible.

Ellen graduated from college with an English Writing degree 20 years ago and began her career as a law enforcement policy writer, newsletter editor, and conference planner. When her second child was born in 1999, she quit working and quit writing. Then, three years ago, her husband was very unexpectedly offered a job in New Delhi, India. After Ellen literally threw up, she moved her family across the ocean to a country she knew very little about. She knew it would be amazing but she was also more than a tad overwhelmed. As part journal and part therapy session, Ellen started a blog about her family's adventure--A Reason To Write, which has received international recognition as one of the best travel blogs in the blogosphere. Moving to India was a gift in many ways--a gift to see what rest of the whole world is really like, the gift to travel, and the gift of many reasons to write again. Ellen enjoyed writing so much that she started a second blog called A Reason To Read, where she reviews books. Since returning to the U.S., Ellen continues to pursue writing and is even now dabbling in a little fiction. You can follow her on Twitter at @EllenWeeren or @AReasonToWrite.


Ellen Weeren

Many westerners are hesitant to travel into Old Delhi. In fact, some companies even discourage their employees (especially the women) from going there because of the congestion, the dirt, and the male-dominated crowds. But I had two expat friends who were as eager for adventure as I was. We happily made plans for a visit to Old Delhi, refusing to be scared and refusing to miss out on the benefits of living abroad--the benefits of visiting places vastly different from what we knew to be normal and comfortable.

Old Delhi is just that kind of place. It is different in every way from anywhere I had ever been. It is alive with all that India is about. Old Delhi is a fascinating and wonderful corner that has been written about many times over. But it is best explored in person. The noise, the smells, the tastes, and the crowds just don't share themselves with a passive reader--they demand a captive audience who willingly slips in between the cobblestone pages and walks the alleys, someone who can't simply lay down a book and turn away.


Old Delhi Bikes

Uncomfortable Moments
However, I did appreciate the need for caution. There were certainly other experiences that surprised me throughout India and made me uncomfortable. Moments I simply did not understand. More than once, I saw a dead body strewn across the side of the road and easily ignored by many, many people passing by.

I was never able to reconcile that. The very nonchalant way that someone can distract herself from a human being lying forgotten or, even worse, avoided on the side of the road. Sometimes covered. Sometimes not. Without reporters dreaming of headlines. Minus crowds of people gathering and gasping in disbelief. Mostly just people moving on--or moving around--busy with their own ways, barely glancing over to see what happened other than to side-step the inconvenience of it all.

I always wondered who was at home waiting. Who did care that someone had stopped breathing through no fault of his own? Where was the person who had wreaked such havoc and how could he feel comfortable leaving such devastation unattended? What story would the family have to create with the absence of a caring witness?

Most of these memories simply dissipate into the haze. They fade and lose their sense of reality. In fact, unless armed with pages of my own words capturing the stories and proving that I once believed them, it might be hard to convince even me that some of it truly happened. I sometimes find myself thinking, "It couldn't. It wouldn't." But, then I would remember, "Wait, maybe it did."


Bathing Near a Train

Ignoring the Warnings
But Old Delhi was waiting and we confidently ignored the warnings. We knew enough not to go alone, to keep our purses tightly in front of us, and when to cover our heads. We understood the importance of being careful, but the promise of a tremendous experience drew us in.

We wrapped ourselves in colorful dupattas (scarves) and climbed the red stone steps to the Jama Masjid Mosque where Shah Jahan himself ended parades atop elephants with feasts and prayer and reflection. We gladly kicked off our shoes and rang the antique brass bell hanging from a new rope at the Jain Temple, letting the gods know we were there and asking them to keep watch over those we loved.

We visited our favorite jeweler and his family and spoiled ourselves with shiny trinkets and sips of chai tea out of the porcelain cups once owned by the jeweler's grandmother. We laughed that our new jewels were really for our kids and our grandkids and that we would just hold them in safe keeping until they were mature enough to care for and appreciate them fully.

We admired the seriousness of the kneeling students studying in the Fatepuri Mosque as they rocked in rhythm with their chanting. We found ourselves rocking slightly too, just like women do when they see another mother comforting a newborn, except this time we rocked forward and back. We inhaled the chili pepper dust and braved the stares of the testosterone-filled Spice Market, where we dined on delicious raw cashews and scrumptious pistachios as we watched men bathe in buckets right out in the middle of the streets. They only required a willing water spigot and small sheath of fabric to protect their modesty--two things not always easy to find. We understood the urgency to take advantage of the availability of water, even if it meant bathing on the street, in front of westerners who were taking pictures.

We slowed our pace when we saw the Sikhs reverently bowing as they entered their Gurdwara and praised their dedication to feed those who were hungry. We relished the fact that just up the street of Chandni Chowk was also the home of a Baptist Church and a Jain bird sanctuary. All of the world's major religions have a presence on that street and we soaked in just how wonderful that was. We marveled at just how misunderstood Old Delhi could be in the scrutinizing view of western eyes that were so quick to form judgments based on headlines alone.

We raced on to the famed Karims restaurant and joked, as we asked for our sodas in cans and paper plates for our food, that we were brave enough to eat the food but not brave enough to eat it off of their potentially unclean plates. We ate chicken and lamb soaked in oily, spicy sauces and ignored the stares of men who really did not grasp our comfortable presence.

We learned, we laughed, and we wore ourselves out. Our glow grew with every stop--we treasured the spirituality, the friendship, and the shopping.

A Land of Extremes
While we walked, we each shared our own stories of how we came to know India as such a land of extremes. How it could draw in your breath and steal your heart in the same exact moment with its paralleled regality and desperation. Children stood homeless on streets lined with fancy cars. Beautiful monuments captured history and graffiti.

For each of us there seemed to appear undeniable moments that made it impossible to pretend that we lived in a world where suffering didn't drape around us like a misty rain--slow, steady, and lingering--and if you stood in it long enough, saturating. For each of us, there were memories that we could not escape or deny.

It was best not to dwell on why it could be hard to live in India. So, on the way to the car, we distracted ourselves from the heavy pieces of our conversation and continued to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of Old Delhi. The roofs in the alleys donned hundreds of electrical wires laced between the buildings. Those wires served as balance beams for the monkeys who danced across them over our heads. Those monkeys watched over us, not serving as our protectors or entertainers but sizing up the potential of our packages, spying what we carried to determine if any of it was worth stealing. We did our own dance over unknown and smelly splats on the crackling walkway and tried to identify what each might be. Quickly, we decided some mysteries were better left unsolved.

We kept pace with the men and animals pushing and pulling carts and with the few women present who were covered in dark, shielding veils. Those women stared at us with as much fascination as we found in them, each of us wondering what could possibly be appealing about the others world.

Our walk continued as we maneuvered through the alleys in tandem with children coming home from school and merchants delivering their wares. A space that was meant to fit just barely three people somehow expanded to fit more than 10 as we twisted and turned to avoid colliding into others. Pungent spices continued to make us sneeze and even gag a little. Young brides shopped for handmade wedding invitations. Incense burned right around the corner from the used auto parts shop rich with its own smells of flaming rubber and grease.

As time dripped away, we knew we had better hurry and bustled to the car in a little bit of a panic as the realization sunk in that we might be late for school pickup. We got in the car and immediately started calling the different school offices to be sure they knew we were on the way--explaining that just this time, we would be just a smidge later than normal. "Traffic is horrible," we said and winked at each other while holding our hands just right so that our new rings reflected against the glass of the car window.

(Part 2 will be available on Wednesday.)

*****

If you think you have a great life changing moment to share (and you probably have several), click here to learn how to get the conversation started. I'm sure if you think it's important, I may too.

*****

Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


*****

Check out previous posts from the Life Changing Moments Series:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Treat Your Career Like Your Writing: 5 Tips for Making Money as a Writer

Earlier this week, I saw something I didn't expect to see while looking for Arcade Fire songs on YouTube. Before one of them, a nearly 2-minute advertisment ran for ghostwriting services. A ghostwriter was pitching his services to public speakers and business professionals. It's the first time I'd seen such an ad on YouTube, especially from a freelance writer. And it's a great idea!


How can you take your writing career to the next level?

Earlier this week, I also ran across an article about tweeps on Twitter with large followings charging hundreds and even thousands of dollars for sponsored tweets to their followers. If done tastefully, this makes all the sense in the world for tweeps who have six-digit (or more) followers. Another great money-making idea!

One week and two new potential money-making ideas for writers (to add to already established money-making ideas for writers). But then, these ideas aren't entirely new, because they're both related to advertising. The new spin is that writers can apply these concepts to their platforms (in the case of Twitter) or use new platforms to find clients (in the case of YouTube).

This got me thinking about how writers can get creative with their careers and oppotunities. The solution is simple: Writers should treat their careers like their writing.

Here are five ways for writers to grow their careers:


  1. Observe. Just as a writer observes people and situations for stories, whether fiction or nonfiction, a writer should also observe other businesses and freelancers (writers and non-writers). What do they do to get clients and make money? What techniques do they apply? What do you think is smart? What do you find annoying? Writers are (or should be) expert observers, and they should apply this skill to building their freelance businesses.
  2. Imitate. Just as fledgling artists imitate other artists and fledgling writers imitate other writers (in the writing process), it also makes sense to imitate successful business practices of other writers. Imitate their negotation strategies, website designs, blogging techniques, etc. If you think a writer is doing something the right way, then imitate it. Try it out for yourself.
  3. Refine. While imitation is how a lot of artists and writers start their careers, they eventually get to a point where it's time to find their own voice. For instance, my poetry blog Poetic Asides started off imitating other poetry blogs while I was getting the hang of blogging, but eventually I figured out what I was trying to accomplish there--and I feel like I've made it my own unique space in the poetry blogosphere.
  4. Experiment. As part of that refining process, I made several experiments and false starts. You have to be willing to fail to eventually succeed. Advanced writers do this. They take risks--sometimes calculated, sometimes not so much--and attempt to push their writing into brave new places. Writers would be wise to try this with their careers as well. There's nothing wrong with taking a risk every so often.
  5. Innovate. This experimentation can lead to innovation. You can be the first ghostwriter to score big with advertisements on YouTube or the first travel writer to sell $500 sponsored tweets to Hotwire or Expedia (or whatever company) on Twitter. You can have articles and blog posts written about you, because you took your career to the next level; you treated your career like your writing--as if it's art.
*****

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*****

Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Never Too Late to Change a Life (Life Changing Moments Series)

I'm so happy to share Glenda Council Beall with the MNINB audience today. Glenda attended one of my classes at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference last year. What I really appreciate about her post today is the story of how she needed encouragement to fully pursue her writing. While I think a tough skin and inner drive is important to the success of writers, we also need a nice word or two as we struggle along. Glenda grew up in south Georgia and is a graduate of the University of Georgia. She taught children for 15 years and now teaches adults to follow their dreams of writing, whether for themselves, their families or for the public. Her poetry, stories and essays have been published in journals, magazines and anthologies. She lives in the mountains of western NC.


Glenda Council Beall

In 1995, I was a new resident of Hayesville, a small town in the western part of rural North Carolina. I had recently picked up a brochure for the North Carolina Writers' Network. I joined hoping to glean knowledge about the organization through their newsletter. Little did I know that a phone call and an offer from a local poet would change my life.

I had been writing since I was in second grade, however as I grew older I did not share it with anyone. My high school English teacher, Miss Feagan, wrote in red on a poem I'd written in class, "Submit this to a magazine."

The insecure little girl inside me scoffed, "Don't! No way anyone would publish your poem." I never sent it in.

A Rough Start
In my 20s, I wrote a travel article for our local newspaper. The last paragraph was sacrificed for lack of space. Humiliated, I hoped no one I knew would see it.

I had always been shy, never raising my hand in class even when I knew the answer. I grew up with older brothers who teased and laughed at me. I don't remember when the innocent child became the insecure kid. My inability to speak up, to draw attention to myself, became a huge handicap throughout my life. Eventually, I learned to keep silent.

I had been married a few years when I saw an ad in my local newspaper for a creative writing class at the Junior College across town. My husband encouraged me in anything I wanted to do. I had shared my writing with him. Being a musician, he knew the artist in me needed release. I signed up for the writing class.

A short, dark-haired man sat beside a table in front of the classroom. Every seat was taken. He looked at us and spoke, his hands clasped over his rotund belly, "I am going to be honest with you," he said. "We have a full house tonight, but by the end of this class half of you will quit, the other half will be crying."

He smiled at our shocked faces, quite happy with himself. Most of us did quit that night. Why wait around to cry?

I felt like a squashed butterfly. My fantasies of being a published writer dissipated on my drive home. I closeted my writing for another 25 years. Later, we moved to the mountains of North Carolina--into an artist colony, it seemed. But I was not part of it.

An Unexpected Call
You can imagine my surprise when I answered the phone that evening, and it was the poet, Nancy Simpson. She said, "I see you are a writer, and you recently joined the North Carolina Writers' Network. I'm Program Coordinator for NCWN West, and I teach writing and poetry at the John C. Campbell Folk School."

Why was she calling me? Was she going to ask for a donation? Did she have me confused with someone else?

"I'm teaching a poetry class beginning this month. Do you write poetry?"

"Sometimes," I admitted. My pulse raced. Her next words sent my emotions reeling.

"I can offer a scholarship for my class. Would you like to have it?"

To say yes would be a commitment to more than just taking a class. I sensed this was my opportunity.

Old familiar feelings of unworthiness raised their ugly heads. As badly as I wanted to say yes, they said no. "Well, I--I don't write much poetry." I offered as a disclaimer.

Actually I had always enjoyed writing poetry, but I wasn't sure if my work would be up to the standards of my classmates. Nancy assured me the other students were like me--some were beginners. Before I knew it, I had told her I would accept the scholarship. I hung up the phone and tried to deal with my fears and my excitement. Exhilarated that I had been chosen to take a free week-long class, I laughed out loud. I had to call my husband. I knew he would be happy for me.

Nancy was a far superior teacher to the mean-spirited little man back home. She gave us time to get to know each other, tell about our writing history, and then began to teach us what we needed to learn about free verse and lyric poetry. When she asked us to read some of our work, I almost bolted from the room. My throat felt as if I had swallowed a dozen marshmallows, and they stuck. But I sensed for the first time that my audience was with me, wanted me to do well, and if my work wasn't that good, no one was going to make me feel bad.

A New Start
Nancy Simpson's phone call and welcome to NCWN completely turned my life around. She was the first person to validate my writing. "Yes," she told me when I handed her some verses on paper, "This is a poem."

I met other supportive writers and poets who have become life-long friends. We critique hard, while still encouraging each other to continue to write. One thing I know now. My writing is for me, and if it is published somewhere, I'm glad. But if nothing I wrote was published, I'd still be a writer. It is a part of me as essential as breathing, and has always been that way. Therefore, I encourage anyone who enjoys expressing himself or herself through the written word.

Because of my appreciation of what NCWN West had done for me, I became a volunteer. Nancy appointed me Clay County Representative. Shirley Uphouse, her successor as Program Coordinator, asked me to serve as publicity chair for Netwest. In 2007, I became Program Coordinator for our ninety-member organization.

My family could not believe the timid, self-conscious person they knew was now standing before groups and making speeches, reading her work before audiences, writing articles for newspapers and publishing her poetry.

In 2009, Finishing Line Press published my poetry book, Now Might as Well be Then.

I opened a writing studio in my home where others and I teach writing and poetry.

I am presently working on another poetry collection and submitting stories and essays.

I strive to support other poets and writers because there are others who, like me, just need encouragement, validation, a push to open the door and share their talent. We all fear opening our hearts to strangers, revealing deepest emotions in our poems, handing over our most precious, most fragile thoughts for others to trample or to admire. But that is the risk we must be willing to take to become a published writer.

*****

If you think you have a great life changing moment to share (and you probably have several), click here to learn how to get the conversation started. I'm sure if you think it's important, I may too.

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Check out previous posts from the Life Changing Moments Series:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Writers

Maybe two of the most over-worked "buzz" terms for writers are platform and social media. The two are often connected, because it's generally considered that writers need to use social media effectively to help build their platforms--and for the most part, that's sound advice.


Do you think social media is for the birds?

For my career, social media has played an enormous role in my successes. By using blogs and social media sites, I've made easier connections with other writers, editors, and agents. Plus, most of the invitations I've received to speak at writing events have come specifically via Facebook over the past few years. Another invite originated on Twitter. (Check out the tangible benefits of social media.)

Popular Social Media Sites for Writers


Before you can get started digging into social media sites, you need to know what exists. To help out, here's a list of the various sites with links to tips on how to optimize your experience. Notice that I did not list every imaginable site ever. Instead, I focused on the big ones as I know them. If you want to make a case for another social media hub, do so in the comments and maybe I'll add to this list.
  • Facebook. This is still the big social network. It's where the people are...and their friends...and their pictures...and their status updates...and their messaging. Here are some Facebook tips for writers to get you started if you're not there already (or if you are, but aren't quite sure what you're doing).
  • Twitter. This is a microblogging site. Every tweet must be 140 characters or less. That's really economizing language, and here are some Twitter tips for writers. This site is part social, part newsy, part crazy. If you can build a good follower base, it's also a great site for referral traffic to your blog or site.
  • LinkedIn. This social network has carved out its own niche as a professional networking site. It's probably of greatest use to academic-minded and professional/technical writers, who are often looking to build relationships with institutions and companies more than the average freelancer. However, I've even seen poets use this site to help prep their speaking tours. Here are some LinkedIn tips for writers.
  • Google+. This site is still new and going through the growing pains of a new social network. Initially, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the launch of Google+, but that's now died off a bit--and many users have abandoned their use of the site. However, I wouldn't write off this site just yet. For one, I've previously abandoned Facebook and Twitter--only to return more furiously than ever. For two, this social media site is powered by Google--the largest search engine on the planet. Here are 11 Google+ tips for writers.
  • Pinterest. I have an invitation from my wife to join Pinterest, but I've just been too busy to check this site out the way I'd like so far. That's my bad, because a study recently found that Pinterest refers more traffic than Twitter, which is huge news. Many traditional media companies, including Better Homes and Gardens, are making big pushes on this visual social media platform. Here are 10 tips for using Pinterest well.
  • Goodreads. This social network caters to readers, who also happen to be the audience of...umm...writers! So it makes sense for writers to hang a shingle, make connections, and have a strong presence on this popular social media site. Here are 2 ways to make the most of Goodreads.
  • RedRoom. Red Room's tagline is "where the writers are," and they have their own set of RedRoom tips for writers. This is one of those sites I always hear referenced as a great place for writers, but that I don't actually use myself. (Btw, don't feel that you need to maintain an active presence on every social media site. That can wear you out and make it impossible for you to write. You should experiment and find the communities that are the best fit for you.)
  • Tumblr. This is another great referral site that doubles as a popular blogging site. It's not my cup of tea, but I know people who love it. Here are 10 tips for making the most of Tumblr.
Another important social networking site is YouTube, which is the second largest search engine. The only reason I don't have it listed in the normal list is that I think of this site as more of a content site than a social networking site, though maybe I just don't use it the right way. Regardless, here are 12 tips for using YouTube to promote your freelance business.

Tips on How to Use Social Media Sites for Writers


Once you find a social media site (or three) that you enjoy using, you need to know how to make the most of that site. In the past, I've shared social media etiquette for writers and explained the process of dealing with interface changes (because sites like Twitter and Facebook are always changing their interfaces).

Here are my main tips on using social media sites that are applicable to any and all:
  1. Complete your profile. Whenever you sign up for a new social media site, it prompts you to complete your profile. Do this. Enter your name, your e-mail, any URLs, pictures, work experience, etc. Make it easy for people to identify your profile as uniquely yours.
  2. Include image of yourself. It amazes me that many writers still hide behind an icon or comic character or famous person photo. Instead of having your avatar be someone who's not you, use a headshot of yourself (even if you're convinced the image isn't flattering). People like to connect with other real people--even online.
  3. Be selective about friends and follows. Some profiles on these social networks are bogus, so check out potential friends or people to follow before connecting. You don't need to make them share their references, but check out their profiles first--just to make sure it's a good fit.
  4. Don't expect anything. Sure, social media can help people with their careers and platforms, but don't expect anything specific when you start investing time and energy in social media. Instead, be open to serendipity and finding new paths that you didn't know existed.
  5. Communicate with others. Avoid just always throwing out content without listening. Also, avoid just lurking in the shadows without ever sharing your perspective or experiences. Get engaged and join the conversation.

You Have the Time to Do Social Media


One of the gripes I hear often from writers is that they don't have the time to handle social media in addition to everything else. I don't buy this argument, and here's why: I have 5 kids (3 who live with me in Georgia and 2 who I visit at least once a month up in Ohio), volunteer as a den leader for Cub Scouts, have a full-time job as an editor, write and submit poetry that gets published in online and print publications, blog frequently on my "own time" at this blog, take Sundays off for my faith, and I still find time to connect with people on social media sites.

You have the time to do social media. The question is whether you're willing to take the time to do social media. Unless you have 6 kids spread across 3 states and work 2 full-time jobs while doing a crazy amount of volunteer work, I'm just not buying the "no time" argument.

How to Amplify Social Media


Finally, I just want to touch on the power of social media when used in conjunction with other pieces of a platform. You see, social media alone does not make a platform--or if it does, the platform is pretty flimsy. No, a platform needs several posts to make it sturdy and stable. As a result, I advise writers to have some sort of regularly updated online hub, whether that's an author website or blog.

Social media alone is useful, but writers can amplify results by pairing up social media use with consistent content on a blog or website. Content gives you something worthwhile to share on social media sites, and sharing content on social media sites drives traffic to your blog or website. It's a win-win.

*****

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Advice for Writers: 025

Time to get started on another week of greatness. Here's some advice to help along the way.

Ten Things You Should Know About Setting, by Chuck Wendig. From explaining what it is to why setting should be active (so what's setting again?), Chuck offers a great list of setting tips.

Your Home Page Is Not as Important as You Think, by Dan Blank. A lot of authors and publishers (and well, people in general) equate home pages as the most important parts of their websites. While they are important, Dan explains why the home page is only one piece of the puzzle.

The 5 Most Common Author Website Mistakes, by Thomas Umstattd, Jr. The past week brought a lot of information on author websites apparently. I think each of these five common mistakes is on the money.

10 Reasons You Can't Make a Living Writing, by Josh Sarz. If you fall under these 10 reasons, then you probably can't make a living writing either. Or you might need to change your attitude.

The Biggest Danger of Multiple POVs, by K.M. Weiland. I love the novel As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, specifically because of the shifts in point of view. However, Weiland explains why multiple POV is not the norm in storytelling.

*****

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Poetic Saturdays: Witches Dance at Midnight

My poems (yes, I've been insanely prolific recently) over the past week or so have been inspired by the Art Institute of Chicago and my trip to Chicago with Tammy for the 2012 AWP Conference. Something about airport terminals and Tammy and art and cities and people gets my brain firing on all cylinders. And then we topped it off by watching Midnight in Paris when we returned home. Sigh.

witches dance at midnight, by Robert Lee Brewer

bid farewell to the day that has passed and
welcome the day as it begins. say, we'll
be ready when you finish. cackle with
pleasure. cast spells in the darkness without
worrying over good or bad. command
the earth and the fire. obey the whispers
of children and tempt the hearts of lovers.
hover over their houses as they sleep.

*****

Newer Book:



Duties of the Spirit
by Patricia Fargnoli (Tupelo Press)

Tupelo Press publishes some of the nicest looking poetry collections around, and Patricia Fargnoli is perhaps their best poet. The former Poet Laureate of New Hampshire, Fargnoli has a style that slices into the heart of the heart of the situation. One of my favorite poems by anyone (yes, anyone) is in this collection: "The Undeniable Pressure of Existence." In this poem, the narrator watches a fox running by the side of the road past the everyday and familiar sights of human existence (Jim's Pizza, the Wash-O-Mat) and the narrator watches from her moving car, "...certain he was beyond / any aid, any desire to save him, and he ran loping on, / far out of his element, sick, panting, starving, / his eyes fixed on some point ahead of him, / some possible salvation / in all this hopelessness, that only he could see." Amazing!

*****

Poems Found Online:
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Older Book:



A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (New Directions)

I remember picking up this collection at a used bookstore--without any previous knowledge of who Ferlinghetti was--and reading these lines: "In Goya's greatest scenes we seem to see / the people of the world / exactly at the moment when / they first attained the title of / 'suffering humanity' ..." My gosh, I was hooked from there to the end. Are these perfect poems? No. Would they all find homes in the big lit journals today (if Ferlinghetti were a struggling unknown poet)? Heck, no. But these poems capture a time and a place--and their power still speaks to the hearts of poets today.

*****

Note: Links in this post to books are affiliate links. However, I do not mention these books to make a profit. They are either books I'm connected to or ones I truly love. All other links in this post are not affiliate links.

*****

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Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness 2012: My NCAA Predictions

Since the beginning of time, people have been putting together NCAA basketball brackets in March--even if they've never watched a single game throughout the college hoops season. Those various number seedings and the fact that every decent team has a shot at the title makes the whole spectacle impossible to ignore (well, except for all you people who despise March Madness, that is).


UConn's Kemba Walker helped me win my bracket last year.

Every year, I participate in a fun "bragging rights" bracket with my friends from high school. Many of us don't communicate any other time of the year, but we always get together (virtually) for March Madness. And the smack talk clangs off rims like game-winning shots that could've been. Anyway, I won the bracket last year by putting my faith in UConn and Kemba Walker.

My 2012 Predictions
This year, since the University of Dayton did not make the tourney, I'm putting my faith in my Grandpa Brewer's favorite team: Kentucky. I mean, the guys on that team look like giants--even when they're playing against gigantic teams. The only way they won't win it all is if they get bored and lazy (and that often happens to overly talented teams in the tourney).

As I'm writing this post, teams are finishing up the round of 64. All but 3 of my Sweet 16 teams are still in it, which isn't too bad considering all the Friday upsets. The Missouri and Duke losses hurt my Elite 8 selections, but I've still got my Final 4 in tact.

Here's my Final 4:
  1. Kentucky
  2. Ohio State
  3. Michigan State
  4. North Carolina
Like I said, I have Kentucky winning it all against...North Carolina.

So yeah, I'm predicting half the Final 4 to be represented by the Big 10, but for neither team to make it to the championship game. Here's hoping I can repeat as a Crazy Llama champion.

*****

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

25 Ways to Rock Writers Conferences

After more than a decade of attending and speaking at writers conferences, I've compiled a list of the most essential writing conference tips for writers who are considering getting out to an event. I hope this list also acts as a useful checklist for veteran conference goers too. I know I plan to refer back to this page before my upcoming events.


Robert Lee Brewer, speaking at Blue Ridge Writers Conference.

Here are my 25 Writing Conference Tips:


  1. Set goals. Before even picking which event to attend, writers should make a list of goals they have for a writers conference. This might be as simple as listing out items like "have fun" and "learn more about mystery writing (or insert genre)."
  2. Pick writing event. Once you know what you want out of a conference, then it's time to find the right writing event for you. Keep in mind if you want feedback on your writing, a writing workshop may be more appropriate than a conference. Find more than 100 writers conferences and workshops on WritersMarket.com, which I edit as my day job.
  3. Make reservations early. If you have to travel, be sure to get all the stressful parts of the trip out of the way as early as possible. This may include buying plane tickets and reserving a hotel room. Personally, I recommend Hotwire, which Tammy and I used to book our flight and hotel for AWP recently.
  4. Sign up early for critiques and appointments. If you plan to take advantage of critiques or appointments with editors, agents, mentors, etc., then sign up as early as possible to make sure you get first pick. Also, make sure you know the rules for how the critique or appointment will work (how much time it will last, what you should bring, etc.).
  5. Know schedule before the event. Figure out the schedule before you attend the event. This will enable you to plot out a plan of attack (see below) before hitting the writers conference. And preparation is the most important key to rocking a writers conferences.
  6. Make connections before writers conference. Use Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks to connect with conference goers ahead of the event. Ask questions like "what are you bringing to the conference" or "are you scheduling any appointments?"
  7. Take business cards. If you don't have any business cards, get some. I prefer VistaPrint, though I've heard quite a few recommendations for Moo over the past couple months. For my most recent business cards, I included this information: Name, Specialties, E-mail, URL, Address, and Twitter handle. I want to make it as easy as possible for people to contact me and learn more about me (and what I do).
  8. Think of conversation starters in advance. If you're like me (and many writers), you're probably a bit introverted. So figuring out what to say to people on the spot can sometimes be very difficult. To help the anxiety of coming up with something clever to say, think of a few key questions to ask strangers ahead of the event. Questions like: "How do you think the conference is going so far?" "What are you trying to get out of this conference?" "Who's been your favorite speaker?" Just come up with 3 or 4 basic questions and use them to get a conversation rolling--and be sure to ask for a business card (and offer yours).
  9. Know how to talk about yourself. Before the event, think of how to explain yourself as a writer and your current projects in one sentence answers. Keep it brief in your initial explanation and go more in depth if the person starts asking more questions.
  10. Pack a bag. This bag should not be your luggage. Instead, it should be a bag that has room for books, conference materials, and other items (see below)--but is not a pain to carry around. For instance, I have an orange Jansport backpack from my college days that is still holding up today.
  11. Bring chargers. If you are bringing along any electronics, I suggest you bring your charger as well. Your phone, laptop, etc., may run low on power before the day is over if you're using it a lot. Be prepared and keep the power level above half throughout the day.
  12. Pack a small snack. The writers conference may offer a lunch, but you may start to run low on energy before lunch--or before the end of the day. Include a snack in your bag--just in case. At AWP, I was thankful to have packed a couple granola bars.
  13. Bring cash (and coins). The cash will help at the conference bookstore or for any unexpected opportunities to pay in cash only. Coins are advised for snack and soda machines. While many accept cash, I was stuck at a venue last year with nothing to drink and a vending machine that only accepted coins. It was miserable.
  14. Stay hydrated. Connected to the last point, always make a point of staying hydrated. You'll likely be excited and nervous at the writers conference, so you'll be perspiring a bit. Dehydration leads to headaches or worse--so drink, drink, drink! I always pack one or two bottles of water or soda with me.
  15. Have a plan. If you know the schedule in advance and have any meetings set up in advance, then you take advantage of that information to formulate a plan of attack for the conference. Don't wait until you're there, because you'll miss opportunities to connect with other attendees and listen to speakers. That said...
  16. Keep an open mind. Having a plan is essential. Sticking to that plan is not. If there's an unexpected change in the schedule or some amazing networking opportunity presents itself, don't be afraid to adjust accordingly. There have been times when I've missed attending sessions I really wanted to attend, because I was having a great conversation with other speakers or attendees.
  17. Keep expectations in check. Going to a writers conference can get expensive, so many writers place high expectations on what they'll get out of the writing conference. Don't fall into this trap. It's great to aim high, but keep your expectations low. Most writers don't leave conferences with book deals or business opportunities. However, opportunities can present themselves later if you continue the conversation.
  18. Smile. Writers conferences bring together a bunch of strangers who are interested in the process of writing. Avoid looking like an unapproachable person by doing your best Clint Eastwood impersonation thoughout the conference. Instead, focus on smiling as much as possible (until it becomes second nature), and those around you will respond.
  19. Dress with layers. Even if it's summer, I advise packing a long sleeve T-shirt, because some venues will crank the A/C too much. If it's winter, some venues will make it hot (so you'll want to be able to strip a layer or two off without shocking anyone).
  20. Stay organized. Know where your business cards are. Know where your conference program and map are. Keep your notes from sessions and appointments on separate pages that are labeled for your reference later.
  21. Eat with someone. If the writers conference organizes lunches, take advantage of them and sit with strangers. Remember to ask those questions you prepared above. If possible, try to make sure you're not dominating the conversation. Also, hand out those business cards.
  22. If you receive business cards, jot down notes. The notes about the person who gave you the cards can be made on the actual business cards or in a notebook you've brought with you. Be sure to note who the person is, what you talked about, and where you met (lunch? during a session? in the hallways?). This will be helpful for follow ups after the conference.
  23. Keep active list of next steps. On a separate piece of paper, keep a running list of next steps to take after the conference is over. Example next steps might include: Follow up with Person A via e-mail about Tip A that we discussed after Panel A; Learn more about how to monetize blog; Buy domain name for website using my name as URL; etc. These next steps will give you a clear idea of what you need to accomplish immediately after the event--so that you don't get stuck in a post-event vacuum.
  24. Follow-ups after the event. These should go on your running list of next steps, but I just want to emphasize the power of following up with folks after the event--even if it's just to say, "It was nice meeting you at the conference and talking about the craft of writing."
  25. Continue the dialogue. There's a big difference between social networking online and social networking in flesh and blood. Take advantage of that more intimate connection by using social media tools to keep in touch with your writers conference connections. Let them know what you're up to, but also, be sure to keep tabs on what they're accomplishing (and help out whenever you're able).
Final bonus tip: Take pictures that you can easily share via e-mail and/or social media sites. It's a perfect way to add more value to your new found connections by sharing images of them and yourself at the event.

*****

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*****

Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where Angels Fear to Tread (Life Changing Moments Series)

This week's post for the Life Changing Moments series was sent in by Joan L. Cannon. Something I enjoyed about this post is how Joan's actions brought out the best in another person, and hopefully, it was a life-changing moment for that student as well. Joan is a native of New York City.  She has been a teacher, an editor, but above all, a reader.  She is the author of two novels: Settling and Maiden Run, and Peripheral Vision, Stories. She has published a number of short stories and profiles, and poems in online journals. She currently writes reviews and essays for the online magazine Senior Women Web. She lives in a retirement community near the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Check out her blog, Hilltop Notes.


Joan L. Cannon.

Maybe I subconsciously remembered something an old hand at teaching told me years before I began myself. She said, "If you expect nothing, that's exactly what you'll get." Thank goodness I was a substitute those first months. Sometimes a little ignorance is a wonderful thing.

There was a girl in my sophomore English class whose behavior was carefully calculated to distract her peers and me almost equally. She was bright, and I suspected easily bored. I would ask her to pay attention when she insisted on whispering to her neighbors, but it didn't make a difference. After a couple of weeks, I got pretty shirty with her in front of everyone, and she changed her tactics. She took to passing notes.

Like most teachers in those days, I usually stood in front of the blackboard (remember blackboards?). In an effort to disrupt my unruly pupil's latest ploy, I began to stroll up and down the aisles formed by the neatly aligned seats. On one of these passes, I managed to arrive at the place where a note was changing hands across my path. I intercepted it.

My teeth were clenched; I'd made up my mind not to continue this performance. I had a textbook in my hand, and I slid the folded note into the palm of the hand holding the book and proceeded with whatever I was reading or discussing.

There was one of those silences that can fall on even a quiet group, as if everyone had stopped breathing. I looked up from the page in front of me when the note passer's voice rang out, "Aren't you going to read it?"

Something made me consider in an instant my husband's and my principles in dealing with our own teenage children. I looked her in the eye. "We're entitled to your courtesy; you're entitled to your privacy." I went to my desk and dropped the note in the wastebasket.

Within the next week or so, I was in the faculty room when there was a typical discussion of problem students under way. Someone mentioned the girl whose note I had appropriated (and with whom I had not one problem afterwards)."My God! Didn't Guidance tell you? She's dangerous, if she gets mad at you. We've all been cautioned about her since she went after Mr. W____ with a pair of scissors!"

Not only did she stop disrupting the class, she finished the year with excellent grades.

*****

If you think you have a great life changing moment to share (and you probably have several), click here to learn how to get the conversation started. I'm sure if you think it's important, I may too.

*****

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Check out previous posts from the Life Changing Moments Series: