Tag Archives: writing

Heading West: Follow Me To ColoROBo

Well, I’m actually doing something that I’ve talked about for years. I’m relocating this week to a small town in the mountains in Colorado, Woodland Park. I hope you’ll follow me on the journey and as I post on my new blog, ColoROBo, about life in Colorado, matters of interest in the media, and my efforts to more fully embrace a writer’s life by publishing a novel.

I started this blog, PR On The Run, nearly five years ago, while I was teaching classes in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State in media ethics, public relations and writing — and working with the most outstanding group of young people anywhere: students in Flash Communications. I figured that if I was going to stand in front of a class and opine about changes shaping public relations and journalism, I better at least make an attempt to understand blogs and blogging and how to write for readers online rather than in print.

I’ve had a blast, even though I’ve never gained that big of an audience or made a penny from these daily digital brain droppings. But it forced me to keep current on events — and to keep writing.  And hey. For someone obsessive enough to get up nearly every day for more than 30 years before 4 a.m. to hit the concrete or treadmill for a five-mile run, spending an hour or so cobbling together a few hundred words isn’t all that tough. Mostly, I appreciate those who took the time to read these posts and to add their perspective through thoughtful comments.

Even without the move to Colorado, it would have been a good time to bring an end to PR On The Run.

I’ve discovered that I really don’t have anything new or important to add to the discussion of public relations. I’ll always believe that ethical, honest and timely communications form the heart of a successful public relations program. But the field now seems to be dominated by tactical discussions about the use — and many times misuse — of social media: Facebook, Twitter and so on. That’s not necessarily bad. It’s just something I don’t understand — and quite honestly, don’t really care about.

And I’ve become extremely cynical about the ability of our elected leaders in Washington and elsewhere to take any action that benefits the public, rather than their own re-elections or vested interests. Better not to comment than to be negative about just about everything in the public arena these days. And I’m liberal on some issues, conservative on others. That makes for some pretty tepid opinions in a venue that encourages writers to hurl lightning bolts and take no prisoners.

And more and more I’ve become interested in issues involving the sorry state of public education in the country — and the growing attack on teachers that will do nothing but make a bad situation worse. Unlike beach volleyball, these apparently aren’t issues of widespread interest or concern. Too bad.

So I don’t have a final post for PR On The Run.

No need.

I’m not retiring from blogging or anything else I find interesting and enjoyable, including running and drinking Jameson. I’m going to keep writing in a different forum, ColoROBo, and from a different perspective as I begin the next stage in my life living above the clouds.

I’ll be back in early September.

In Colorado.

Writers and Rejection: Game On

Mark Twain, at least according to a website that lists quotes from writers and others, opined: “All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.”

Well, we’ll see.

As I posted here last week, I wrote a novel last year, Then We Ran. Now I’m in the early stages of trying to find an agent who will help me get it to a so-called traditional publisher. Or not.

I’m a novice in all this. Although there appears to be some similarity to “pitching” book proposals to agents and “pitching” story ideas to journalists and other miscreants. And in both situations, you better be able to handle rejection.

First lesson learned: writing a book ain’t easy. Finding an agent and then getting it published may be even more difficult and time-consuming.

Yesterday I received the first of what I expect will be more e-mail rejections from agents. Here’s the missive in its entirety:  “Not for me. Good luck — “

OK. My ego can handle that.

I’ve also learned that there is a huge industry providing advice to writers on everything from how to write compelling dialogue to crafting the perfect query letter. In fact, it looks like many people prosper more by writing about how to write a book than actually writing one.

If interested, check out the websites for Writers Digest and The Writer. Note: if you visit one or both of these sites and provide your e-mail, be prepared for an almost constant barrage of offers for books for sale about writing, webinars, conferences and so on. Kinda like the Public Relations Society of America. I digress.

While looking for helpful advice, I discovered Rachelle Gardner’s blog. She is a literary agent with Books and Such Literary Agency. Here’s from a recent post, “Is Your Book Good, Great, or HOT?”:

If you’re querying agents, you may sometimes hear that they’ve taken on new clients, while your own query or a partial sits in their inbox, seemingly ignored. You’re probably wondering… what gives?

Why do some projects sit in the inbox and take longer to get an answer, while others seem like they get jumped on right away?

Well, the  truth is that your project may be good. It might even be very good or even great. But the projects agents jump on quickly are the ones that are hot.

What’s a hot project?

It’s a project the agent not only believes in, but they’re also confident they can sell it relatively quickly.

  • If it’s non-fiction: it’s a fresh new idea (or a fresh angle on a common idea), has a super high felt-need and the author has a strong platform and/or an obvious media hook.
  • If it’s fiction: the agent absolutely loves both the story and the writing; it has a strong hook, and is a genre that’s selling well.

Sigh. I knew I should have had the main character in my book be a vampire.

But I’ll press on.

 

 

Andy Rooney: Celebrating Writing

I don’t watch “60 Minutes” much these days. And I’m not quite sure why. It’s still among the best of the TV news and information shows. Maybe it’s because Mike Wallace is no longer turning the Captains of Industry into quivering asshats with his in-your-face style of journalism. But I’m going to watch Sunday as Andy Rooney — who has been a regular on the program since 1978 — gives what might well be his final commentary at the end of the program.

I like Rooney because he is a world-class curmudgeon who is not afraid to be politically incorrect.

But I admire Rooney because he is a great writer. In a world of Tweets and e-mails, in the long run we’re going to miss people who can write. Trust me on this one.

Here’s an online article about Rooney in Forbes, “On Sunday: a few final moments with Andy Rooney:”

On the broadcast they call it “A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney.”

They might better have called it “A Few Choice Words From Andy Rooney.”

Rooney, despite his decades as a “60 Minutes” fixture, is a writer, not a talking head. Words, not vamping for the camera, have been his stock-in-trade since his first “60 Minutes” essay in 1978, just as words were for more than 30 years before that.

But on Sunday’s edition of “60 Minutes,” Rooney will have a few last words. The broadcast will mark his final commentary in his longtime role as weekly pundit. CBS says it will be his 1097th for the program. Tick, tick, tick, tick ….

News that he is stepping down was released abruptly earlier this week. Even so, it wasn’t much of a surprise. Rooney is 92 and surely recognizes this truth: Words may last forever, but not the person who crafts them.

Rooney has been a champion of words on TV ever since he joined CBS in 1949 as a writer for the red-hot “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.” Within a few years he was also writing for CBS News public-affairs shows such as “The Twentieth Century” and “Calendar.”

A World War II veteran who reported for the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, he came from an ink-on-dead-trees brand of journalism that he never renounced. (During his CBS career, he had a syndicated newspaper column and published 16 books.)

So it was logical that he would join “60 Minutes” with its inception in 1968. After all, the legendary creator of “60 Minutes,” Don Hewitt, is well remembered for insisting that, even on the visual medium of TV, the words should come first and the pictures follow. A decade later, Rooney was 59. At an age when many people might be pondering retirement, he took his seat before the camera to deliver his first “60 Minutes” essay.

Beetle-browed and rumpled, he wasn’t telegenic by traditional standards. Nobody minded, or even noticed. Viewers listened to his words and he caught on.

In one of his 16 books, Rooney opined about the craft of writing. He wrote — and I’m paraphrasing here since I gave the book away several years ago — that writers should wear T-Shirts that proclaimed Writer across the front in bold letters. The point: writers should take pride in what they do because it isn’t easy. Even though others believe it is.

So Sunday let’s celebrate the long and distinguished career of a writer.

And while we’re at it, it might be helpful to take some of his advice about writing: Keep in mind that you’re more interested in what you have to say than anyone else.

I’ll try to remember that.

Have a great weekend.

 

 

Blog Posts: Like Pulling Teeth?

Nah, I’m not complaining today about writing this post. In fact, I’m happy to be back in front of the computer and grinding it out, word after word. Yesterday morning early a.m. I had a tooth pulled. Oh, mama.

In addition to not writing anything yesterday, the rendezvous with the dentist proved to be a real routine-buster. No exercise. No work. No nothing — except planting myself in a comfortable chair with eyes glued on the TV. And yes, thank you Evan Bayh for picking yesterday to announce your retirement from the Senate. It was actual news — at least for the first dozen or so times I watched the story being repeated on the cable news networks.

Anyway, I guess not a bad way to spend a blah winter day in Northeast Ohio during a month when we will most likely break a record for snowfall. But what if you were shut-in like this most days, or every day?

I was thinking about that yesterday.

And I expect that in the next few years many people — baby boomers in particular — will be giving some considerable thought to how we spend our days, how we keep active and engaged, and quite possibly, how we keep working well beyond what used to be viewed of as a normal retirement age of 65.

Why? It’s appealing when we are busy and stressed — with work, family commitments, whatever — to endorse the notion of doing nothing, or next to nothing. But something tells me it’s not much fun — or very healthy in the long run — to do that day after day after day after day. It may be inevitable because of age, illness or other circumstances, but I’m not so sure it’s a lifestyle option of choice.

So I’m back writing and fretting about other matters. And even on days like this when the words come slowly and it is akin to pulling teeth, it sure beats the alternatives.

Poetry and young writers

Congratulations to Mary Biddinger, poet and assistant professor at the University of Akron. She is featured in the “Book Talk” column in the Akron Beacon Journal this morning.

Mary just published a new collection of poems, Prairie Fever (available at http://www.steeltoebooks.com). And she is the editor for the Akron Series in Poetry at UA. She’s also an excellent teacher.

I know Mary because of my daughter, Jessica, also a poet and teacher.

Admittedly, this is a plug for Mary and her book. But I’m also trying to make a point. I wrote last week about studies documenting the decline in writing among young people because of the widespread use of text messaging. I’m sure there is some truth to this. But c’mon folks. How many of us can still do any math problem without using a calculator?

The problem isn’t text messaging. The problem is that we no longer teach at an early age the fundamentals of writing and grammar. And we don’t encourage young people to read. When we do, the result is some really excellent writing.

Don’t believe me? Check out some of the young writers listed on Mary’s blogroll.

Why young people can’t write — texting

I still believe writing is important. And when I talk to public relations professionals most tell me that is the No. 1 skill they look for in recent grads. We’ll see if that changes at all in the next few years as we move more toward online and social media.

I thought about that this morning when I read an article on EdNews.org: “Shakespeare Didn’t Blog. Author Says Texting and Testing Are Destroying Kids riting Style.” This looks to me like it may be a news release focusing on Jacquie Ream, who has written a book about writing called “K.I.S.S. Keep It Short and Simple.” No matter. Here are a few paragraphs:

“We have a whole generation being raised without communication skills,” says Jacquie Ream, a former teacher and author of “K.I.S.S. Keep It Short and Simple” (Book Publishers Network). She contends text messaging and the internet are destroying the way our kids read, think, and write.

A recent National Center for Education Statistics study reports only one out of four high school seniors is a proficient writer. A College Board survey of the nations [sic] blue-chip companies found only two thirds of their employees are capable writers.

Wonder if those employees are texting? LOL

Seriously — here’s a story in The New York Times, U.S. Students Achieve Mixed Results on Writing Test. It looks like it provided at least some of the information for the above news release/article. The article opens with the following:

About a third of the nation’s eight-grade students, and roughly a quarter of its high school seniors, are proficient writers, according to nationwide test results released Thursday.

IMO that isn’t much of an accomplishment — but what do I know? Again, from the article in The Times:

That a third of the nation’s eight graders can write with proficiency may not sound like much, but it is the best performance by eighth-grade students in any subject tested in the national assessment in the last three years. Only 17 percent of eight graders were proficient on the 2006 history exam, for example.

OMGYG2BK

Again from the article:

The results were released at the Library of Congress in Washington. The host, James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, drew laughs when he expressed concern about “the slow destruction of the basic unit of human thought — the sentence,” as young Americans do most of their writing in disjointed prose composed in Internet chat rooms or in cellphone text messages.

HUB

I’m sure that texting is part of the reason why writing skills have declined. And this isn’t going to change any time soon. According to IDC, a research company in Framingham, Mass., that tracks technology and consumer research estimates that by 2010 81 percent of Americans ages 5 to 24 will own a cellphone, up from 53 percent in 2005.

So let’s hope that writing skills continue to be a priority for public relations professionals and others. But putting the blame solely on texting isn’t going to solve the problem. Better that we get back to stressing the fundamentials of writing — and reading — at about the same age (5) as kids apparently get a cellphone.

By the way, I read on one of the PR Web sites this morning that you need to Twitter these days if you are going to gain an audience for your blog postings. With Twitter, as I understand it, you can write anything you want as long as it doesn’t go beyond 140 characters. I’m in.

WTF