What She Learned About Jack

micRead this article and you’ll understand why I’m interested in gathering and writing personal histories.

It’s called What I Learned From Jack, and it’s from Barbara Allen Burke’s excellent blog I Am Story.

An excerpt:

For the past 2 ½ years, I’ve had my version of Tuesdays with Morrie. I’ve had “Wednesdays with Jack.” Just about every week—with occasional breaks for holidays or travel—I’ve spent a couple of hours with a bright, engaging 89-year-old former military colonel and inveterate sailor. Each week, I’ve gone to Jack’s apartment, armed with a tape recorder, my laptop computer, and an atlas. Jack sits in his favorite chair and I set up my equipment and sit next to him. And then we talk. Read the rest

Click over and you can read a little bit about Jack, and why putting together his family and personal history was so satisfying and rewarding to Barbara.

What a life! (Bonus points if you get it right: Am I talking about Jack, or about the writer?!)

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Writing Clearly

writing1As I motored along this morning with NPR on the radio, I heard this story “And The Award For Convoluted Legalese Goes to….

As my livelihood is all about not writing convoluted anything, my ears perked up and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.

Here’s a little tidbit from it:

Mr. MALKI: …I definitely acknowledge that there are legal terms that need to be portrayed, you know, certain guidelines laid out in a very clear and legal way in case it’s ever contested. However, there are a lot of freelance writers who need some work. And they could easily be hired.

Ms. CHEEK: Right. Writing clearly is not easy. And I think writing is one of those things that many people think I don’t need an expert; I can do it myself. But I think it is something that needs an expert, particularly when you have a team of technical people and legal people, I think a critical third member of that team is someone who knows how to write clearly. And very often that team member is not there at all.

Hear the rest of the story at NPR.

I am a clear writer. I don’t like reading things that only make life harder, and if you are suffering with this sort of writing in your business or life, you should call me. I can help.

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A Punctuation Primer: How Do You Use The Demicolon Again?

You’ll be happy to know that there is some new punctuation available for you to use. Which is good, because I was getting a little tired of some of the old, run-of-the-mill stuff.

The demicolon is one of my favorites.
collegehumor69f2716b0d54b94cef748e71f0765dee1

And there’s more. It’s here at collegehumor.com and it was a lot of fun to read. We’re all getting older, but — who knew? — College Humor is still funny!

Thanks to The Copywriter Underground for spotting this.

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Ciao Bambino!

I was asked to guest blog at the very cool Ciao Bambino, and my post is up now. The blog’s tagline is “Inspiring Families to Explore The World.”

Ciao Bambino has helped hundreds of families successfully experience the joys of traveling together in Europe and now our portfolio covers Hawaii, the Caribbean, and other popular tourist destinations. We don’t believe parents need to give up staying somewhere amazing just because they want to travel as a family!

That is one neat blog. It’s about traveling with kids, something I love and always look forward to doing more of — traveling with my kid, that is. It’s accessible, dream-inspiring, informative and sophisticated all at the same time. I am so impressed with that blog.

Ciao Bambino

My article is about being on “The Big Island of Hawaii with Kids” and it was fun to write. Have a look.

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My Vog Article in Honolulu Magazine

I wrote about vog recently and the article is out in the current (August 2009) Honolulu magazine.vog

Here’s how it starts:

It comes on the Kona winds—the dreaded yellow-brown haze of vog that makes eyes burn and lungs protest. On the Big Island, of course, it has done far more damage. How bad could it get? And what do we really know about vog and its effects?

Three-thousand, eight-hundred people lived on Miyakejima, a small island off Tokyo, until one day in September 2000, when the Japanese government ordered the island evacuated because of extreme volcanic activity. As directed, people delivered their pets to the port by 9:30 a.m., packed some belongings and a lunch and then boarded a city bus for the ship. 

It was more than four years before they were allowed to return home. (Read the rest here)

That was some pretty extreme vog they had there. When researching this article, I learned that our Big Island vog — when it was at its worst last summer — was only a tenth of what they experienced on Miyakejima. The lesson? I don’t know what the lesson is. But remember this: It could actually be worse! 

It’s hard to remember when our air looks so thick it seems you need to push your way through it with your hands.

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Ford Motor Company’s Poet

moore

Oh my, how fun to read.

From the New York Times:

Poetry in Motion

Published: August 15, 2009

Baton Rouge, La.

IT seems that we’ve done just about everything to get the American auto industry out of the doldrums. We’ve forced bankruptcies. We’ve exchanged cash for clunkers. But have we tried poetry?

The question is brought to mind by the story of Marianne Moore, the famous American writer, who served for a brief season as the Ford Motor Company’s unofficial poet laureate…. (Read the rest here.)

Imagine, Ford Motor Company called up the poet Marianne Moore to name their new series of cars. Would that happen today? I wish it would.

Make sure you read to the end.

photo credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231]
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Why I’m Bad At Scheduling Meetings

calendar

Wow, this article, which my Twitter friend Pierre Omidyar posted about today,* really resonated with me.

It’s called:

Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule

and it’s by Paul Graham, and it starts like this:

One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they’re on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.

 

There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started….

[The bold is mine.]

Read the rest here. It’s really a good read.

This article made me sit up straight. It sounded in my head like the loudest tuning fork. I never thought about it these words, but it’s so true. Needing to schedule a meeting can throw off the rest of my work day. It felt comfortable and reassuring to see someone else describe something I’ve often struggled with.

Now: I hesitate to post this because I don’t want you to think for a second that I don’t want to meet with you. If you have a potential writing project and would like to sit and chat about it with me, I would be happy to meet with you. It’s part of the job and I’m happy to do it.

I’m good at making time away from my desk useful — and everybody needs to step away from the desk, out into the world and get things done from time to time.

But I was just so interested in this article and wanted to share it. If you’re a writer or other creative type who needs hours at a time to get anything done, you will understand this!

* Pierre Omidyar is my friend in the same way that anybody can follow Oprah on Twitter. 

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theogeo/ / CC BY 2.0

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Writer/Editorial Consultant

One of my specialties is that I write for businesses.

typewriterkeys1

Here’s what you’d find if you read my Copywriting page:

These days it’s especially important that your business stands out. That it gets noticed. How do you make that happen?

We work together and make sure your potential clients know your story.

When there are two comparable brands of the same product available, which one do people buy? They buy from the company whose name they remember. The company they know something about.

• The one whose products win awards.

• The one whose president builds Habitat for Humanity homes on weekends.

• The one whose product came about because Grandma won a ribbon at the County Fair when she was a girl.

Let’s tell your story – in whatever way makes sense for your particular business. I can help you figure that out.

As a writer and editorial consultant, I help with your written communications.

I work with some clients occasionally, as needed for a specific project, and others on an ongoing basis. My clients set the pace: Some know exactly what they want. With others, we brainstorm together to find the right mix of keeping their company name out there, showing their products in the best light and catching people’s attention.

Perhaps you haven’t been sending out press releases to announce new happenings with your products, your industry and your employees, and consequently your company name isn’t in the forefront of people’s minds as it could be. I can help you clarify your message, figure out what needs to be written, as well as when and how, and get it done.

Maybe you want to resurrect or start up a newsletter in order to be in better touch with your clients. I can help with that. Do you need:

·      Fresher website copy?

·      A letter to go out to your customers/clients?

·      A media kit?

·      An employee manual?

·      A blog?

May I ghostwrite a newspaper or trade magazine article for you and make sure it gets into the right editor’s hands?

·      Need help crafting a speech?

·      What about a brochure or some other written material?

Because I’ve been doing this for some years now, I have lots of ideas and a good sense of what works and how to do it.

In addition, one of my strengths is taking information and asking the right questions until the details and especially the significance – the importance – are clear to everybody else, too.

It means you may have to answer a lot of questions at first, but I am good at pinpointing the questions that need to be asked and won’t waste your time. And as I get to know your company better over time, our work together will become even more powerful.

One of my long-time clients hired me as a result of Honolulu magazine assigning me to write about his business. After that article appeared, he called me and said that in all the articles that had been written about his business over the years, no one had ever gotten his story just right like I did.

Yet all I did was listen. I didn’t assume which were the important aspects of his story; I listened to what he told me was important, and I shaped the article around that.

I don’t write about his business for magazines anymore; now I write about his business for him. We’ve been working together now for years.

If you could use help with your business’s written materials – and telling your stories clearly and effectively – I’d be happy to discuss how we might work together.

Please call me at 808 964-1494, or email me at leslie AT leslielang.com.

If you know of someone with a business that might need a writer, or your neighbor is a marketing person, or your sister-in-law is a decision maker in a small company, would you please pass on my info? I appreciate people spreading the word.

Connect me with someone needing a business writer/editor and I’ll get you in the next big movie. You know, if I can. Like, if pigs started flying and big movie producers started Twittering with me and stuff  like that.

But let people know about my business and I’d appreciate it, anyway.

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