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A Writer's Edge

English words, writing, and books--with a tech touch

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Name: Georganna Hancock
Location: San Diego, California, United States

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Books for Treats

How about giving books for treats tonight?
This is obviously NOT silly Saturday at Casa Hancock.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Universal Literate Dummies

Publishing prediction: by 2013 we will be a world of literate dummies.

Put together Seed magazine A Writing Revolution, predicting universal authorship in three years, with Publishers Weekly Viral Issue: Creating Your Viral Loop on Twitter, providing plans to create book buzz -- and whadda ya' got? We'll all be authors too busy marketing on social media to read each other's works. No, seriously, one is scary and the other, scary useful.

We'll know everything about friending, following, facing up to spaces, tweeting, buzzing, and the content we create ourselves (maybe) and nothing about anything truly needed in life. Maybe.

I'm hedging my bets here, because I've usually been at the vanguard of more than just the Baby Boomers, and I don't have a cell phone! Can you spell "technology backlash"? Our lives are reaching the point of maximum overload in so many areas, all depending on digital innovations. Will paper-print products be the last to go? Bury me with a book, a magazine and a newspaper, please.

All said, however, as I prepare to shift the availability of my writing products to the digital download gizzies at the beginning of 2010. Why not? New decade, new delivery systems. I'm not no dummy yet. (The grammar is always the first to go.)

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

National Cat Day

royalty

(LOL) Thursday, October 29 iz National Kitteh Day! We know that everyday is Caturday, but on National Cat Day we git to show our kittehs sum extra speshul lurv and give them the much deserved attention they demand.

To celebrate National Cat Day, we’re running a Treat Your Cat Like Royalty Contest. Send us a picture of you celebrating your king or queen kitteh on National Cat Day and we’ll pick the most awesum winner to receive an autographed copy (by Cheezburger) of ICHC’s new book How To Take Over Teh Wurld: A LOLCat Guide 2 Winning.

Email your picture to icanhascheezburger+nationalcatday@gmail.com by Friday, October 30, 5pm PT and we’ll post up the winner on Monday, November 2.

Happy National Cat Day to all of the kittehs around the world!

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Weblog Awards

Weblog Awards nominations begin tomorrow Nov.2. The schedule:Best Blog Awards

Nominations Nov. 2, 2009 - Nov. 20, 2009*
Finalists Announced December 28, 2009
Voting January 4, 2010 - January 11, 2009

Once again, no category for writing or writer blogs. Sigh! Far be it from me to say so, but ... the only place A Writer's Edge appears to fit would be Best Literature Blog or moi as Best Individual Blogger (I think not). Oh, I suppose Best Liberal Blog would fit, too, but this isn't a political bash. AWE finished in the final 19 in another competition, but not in the top ten. Not yet.

*Note: schedule slippage reported

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Writing Is Not Lonely Work

'Lonely. I'm so lonely' -- the wail of lone writers that writerly advisers whale on. Writing is a lonely art, they moan in unison, repeating until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. New writers expect to feel lonely and blocked.

On the other hand, they complain about interruptions, finding time to write, finding a place to write. Some wonder, "Is writing really for me?" If you have to ask ...

Admittedly, creative writing in the sense of poetry, short stories and novels may benefit by peace and quiet and a slower pace. I loved rainy days, the house empty but for me curling up in the corner of the couch with a pen and notebook to let the feelings flow into verse ... it all ran out when I moved to SoCal where it never rains. Well, hardly ever.

Could the lonely writers be giving blessed solitude and opportunity a negative connotation, just because they've read and heard the term so often? If Thoreau did not take himself off to a cabin in the woods, alone, would he have produced Walden Pond? Ah, but that isn't fiction, is it? Perhaps I would not have written two novels if I'd had something more to do than make a home for a family which, at one time, included nine Siamese, a flock of hens and a garden in the summer. It was slightly less hectic than writing five news stories before 10 a.m. in a crowded newsroom with phones ringing, editors yelling and teletype machines clacking and dinging.

Some writers even work in tandem, married to their co-writing partners. One of the first published authors who generously advised me, James J. Kilpatrick, confided that he got started writing a children's book with his [first?] wife. "How lucky he is," I thought, "to have someone to share his passion in more ways than one." Kilpatrick's experience and advice existed in the days when the Internet was an academic idea and a military experiment.

Now attention, companionship, notoriety--whatever you want--is as close as your modem. So is education and help. And distraction. Writing requires even more self-discipline and self-control in the Information Age. I should know, having experienced social media overload several times. Can Twitter give one a heart attack? Maybe not, but you need never feel lonely again!

*waves to Tweeps*

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Monday, October 26, 2009

New Books Roundup

Time to catch up on my TBR pile. Catch up on mentioning them, that is. I can't review them until I read them, right? Well, maybe not fully in the case of Scott Donaldson's Fitzgerald & Hemingway: Works and Days. It is a scholarly compilation of the award-winning biographer's essays on both authors, probably less appealing to aficionados of either writer, I suspect. As the front flap blurb indicates, Donaldson has a "deep commitment to close reading." Think intricate details of each author's life traced to lines in a specific novel; positing similarities in lives to influences on works. It is an interesting glimpse into being a literary expert.

A similar academic-type of exegesis is Francine Prose's latest, Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife. A top novelist, Prose may be better known to us for her New York Times bestseller, Reading Like a Writer. This new nonfiction offering opens eyes to view Frank's little book as something more and other than just a girl's diary. For instance, did you know Frank's work is published in three different versions? Not languages (dozens of those), but editions with differing material. This happened partly because Frank was of a tender age, training herself to write and rewrite her experiences as a novel. Prose proposes that Frank was already an author before her short life ended too soon.

I've been advised to hold off reading Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction until I see Dan Brown's latest semiotic chase scenes. Simon Cox must have had a preview in order to write his guide. He also wrote Cracking the DaVinci Code and Illuminating Angels & Demons. Maybe I won't wait, though. Subjecting myself to the DaVinci book was torture enough. What could it hurt to cut to the solution?

If I make a mistake, I'll turn to Zig Ziglar and Julie Norman's Embrace the Struggle: Living Life on Life's Terms. In this slim volume, the current pope of positive thinking and his daughter build on a traumatic event in Ziglar's life to convince others with similar struggles that life is still worth living, even if it's on life's terms. I probably need to read this one closely and edit that last.

Finally (until the UPS guy comes this afternoon) is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Business Books by Bert Holtje. I couldn't resist peeking inside. I'm thinking it will have application to writing any nonfiction book. It begins with testing your idea and appears to be a comprehensive guide through all publishing stages, ending with publicizing the finished product. I am especially impressed that Holtje stresses working with a freelance editor even if your book will be published traditionally.

These new releases are gifts from their various publishers.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Essay on Breast Cancer

October is breast cancer awareness month, at least in the United States. We declared war on cancer many decades and billions of dollars ago. It is one of many topics I never wrote about until now. Like many educated, upper middle class American women, I sought a mammogram when I was 40 years old (1983), then dutifully felt myself every month and received annual screenings until 2005.

That year, the Kaiser Permanente health care system announced to patients that mammograms every two years was good enough for women between 50 and 69. When I questioned this, a physician mumbled something about "no statistical difference" between annual and biennial screenings. So, I skipped getting one in 2005. My 2006 mammogram revealed a big, hazy blob. It was a T2N1A estrogen positive, HER2 negative tumor of tubular cancer, which had spread to the lymphatic system.

Two lumpectomies, one lymphectomy (21 nodes removed) and two months of frightening radiation later, a technician compared my 2004 and 2006 mammograms. When I asked if I'd had one in 2005, she completed my sentence with, "they would have caught it before it spread."

No statistical difference? What about the financial, human and spiritual differences cancer makes in the lives of those undiagnosed because of a missed mammo? And why, after all the money donated and spent on years of research, is there no better treatment in my case than preventing my body from producing the hormone that my type of breast cancer thrives on? "We can't cure it, you know," an oncologist remarked to me. Obviously we can't prevent it, either, but we can prevent it from being worse than it has to be.

Annual mammograms must be mandatory.

My thanks to the Mayo Clinic website for comprehensive information.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ima Emma

Just to show you how inaccurate these funny little quizzes are: I can't recall ever reading any Jane Austen book. I hear you all gasping, I know, but 'struth! Bad enough we had to read that Heathcliff thing in high school. Oh, wait! That isn't an Austen book, is it?

Take the Quiz here!

And how could you ever forget the fabulous, Jane Austen doll?

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Jack Rabbit Moon

Texas author Dorraine Darden must be the most patient author around. Surely she is thinking that I am the slowest reviewer she's encountered. Thus, I am happy to announce my review of her debut novel, Jack Rabbit Moon, appears at BlogCritics, and a blurb will be in next month's Midwest Book Review, usually available on the first of the month. This is an outstanding debut novel and one I highly recommend to everyone. Last month I interviewed Dorraine both here, here (post and comments) and on BlogCritics. She is a real, serious writer, hard at work on her second novel. Trailer.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rotten Writing

Flaws. Fiction: rotten writing, no story. Nonfiction: rotten writing, no logic. No kidding, in essence, these are the most frequent problems in documents submitted for editing or evaluation.

The works are usually beginning writers' first attempts for serious publishing. Without guidance, most of them stumble into the same writing potholes. I can almost predict what I will see from knowing those few facts about a writer and a piece of writing:

weak verbs
nothing nouns
adverb crutches
repetitions
cliches
painful punctuation

Colorless, flabby writing is, "the dog drank the water noisily." Better: "the poodle slurped from a stagnant puddle." Repeated words are understandable. Repeated sentence construction is (for one example) starting most sentences with an introductory clause: "Although she hated seeing herself in the mirror, ..." "When Dick tried to stick his nose into the couple's business to gather more tidbits of gossip with which to titillate the crowd at the bar, ..." (also cliché, and that sentence is going to travel way too far before encountering a needed period). Using the same structure for most sentences produces a sing-song, hypnotic text. Do you want to put your readers to sleep?

A contemporary problem more editors are reporting: needlessly using "that" within sentences. Take that out and listen for the writing to flow as smoothly. "Listen" indicates reading out loud. It is also a good method for checking punctuation, unless you have the annoying speech habit of ending most sentences in a questioning pitch lift. Punctuate where you pause. Punctuation marks in ascending order of pause length: comma, semicolon, colon, end mark (period, question mark or exclamation point.) The British don't call the period a "full stop" for no good reason!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's Real Serious Writing?

Are you a "real" writer? Are you "serious" about publishing? No, no sales pitch coming. I'm writing about terminology, what those words mean to writers at different stages of life and careers. They are often hot buttons that provoke knee jerk responses in chats and forums. Heated debate. Words that can't be defined in a tweet. Or a Twitter chat.

I tried to tell someone recently in a LinkedIn group discussion that these words are as controversial as the use of the term "professional" in conjunction with "writer." Everyone has an opinion, almost bound to clash with the next poster.

Beginners are apt to have more liberal, broad ideas of what it means to be a real writer, one serious about getting published, and striving to become a professional in the field (wherever that nebula might hang in space). They prickle at any suggestion that one must already be published, for money, in print, or even earning a living from writing. And rightly so, I think. They feel committed and dedicated; it's their dream and not to be discouraged. They have no idea what's ahead. And few have any notion of what commitment and dedication mean in a lifetime filled with disappointments, roadblocks, and disasters.

But let writers get a few credits to wave around (often from silly sites that anyone can contribute to) and they puff up with narrower viewpoints, considering that they have arrived. Cranky oldsters who began writing careers before Internet was available to the public can similarly set up strictures on the words in play. Some think that "the kids" have it too easy now with email and digital recorders and cameras. Me? I'd rather edit than try to freelance writing now.

Most pathetic are the writers who've "paid their dues" and had some degree of success (in their own limited definition--another hot button!), yet find time to troll the social media picking fights and acting all stick-up-the-butt about it. One implied that journalism is not nonfiction, and that news reporters must write with emotion. Huh? He or she also said I didn't know empathy from sympathy, a Psych 101 distinction learned about 50 years ago!

Sigh! And then you have the most real, professional, seriously published writers, obviously still dedicated to their art/craft (another arguable artificial dichotomy) and committed to write until they drop dead. The Great Ones. And the many midlisters who go one and on, churning out reading that is good for their audiences and publishers. I've never met one who was not gracious and generous in the treatment of less experienced members of the clan. They would not hold back advice or belittle the rawest recruit's efforts. Nor would they engage in arguments over when one is real, serious, or professional. It is inconsequential.

Not coincidentally, a real serious professional writer, Elizabeth Benedict, a big time author with lots of hefty creds (Google her) has edited a book of contributions by other author-stars who tell of people who helped them along on their ways. Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives will be published later this month by Free Press. A copy plunked into my backyard, and you can be sure I'll tell you more about it soon. I might even test Benedict's good graces with some questions about finding and working with--or without--a mentor.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Google Demotes PageRank

Last Thursday, as I lay sleeping, I guess, Google quietly removed PageRank from its Webmaster Tools. Oh, the gauge is still in the browser toolbar (if you have it installed) but Google employee Susan Moskwa says webmasters are not to pay attention to PageRank:

We've been telling people for a long time that they shouldn't focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it's the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it. :-)
It's true, Google has long stated that, "We only update the PageRank displayed in Google Toolbar a few times a year; this is our respectful hint for you to worry less about PageRank, which is just one of over 200 signals that can affect how your site is crawled, indexed and ranked. PageRank is an easy metric to focus on, but just because it's easy doesn't mean it's useful for you as a site owner."

Uh huh. Would you mind telling that to advertisers? How about removing page ranking altogether?

*still smarts from demotion from 5 to 0 to 2*

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Writers' Vocabularies

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day '09

Project CARE puts a human face on just one effect of climate change. For example, David Sumbo, Program Coordinator for CARE in Ghana, tells that:
Millet is a very important crop in Ghana, but the impacts of climate change are dramatically reducing yields. There is little we can do to restore better millet harvests, so CARE is introducing other crops that are more resilient to the local impacts of climate change.

Such major adjustments are required worldwide as a result in the shifts in weather patterns, including rain, storms and temperature. While agricultural conglomerates ponderously labor to accommodate American dairy and cattle interests, those who help the poorest people in the world to feed themselves scramble to side-step into more effective models.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

MBR Self-Publishing Help

Thinking about self-publishing? Here's a list of books on the venerable Midwest Book Review website to help you get started:

MBR: The Publisher's Bookshelf A-L and M-Z

In his monthly newsletter, Editor Emeritus, Jim Cox, usually reviews these types of books and others to help writers and publishers in general. Another informational page on the site is Advice for Writers & Publishers, articles by various professionals.

Ordinarily I'd be telling you where to find "Georganna's Bookshelf" for October 2009, but I was tardy sending in my reviews last month. A gentle tap on the noggin by Jim informed me that I once again have a deadline: the 25th of the preceding month.

I did not know this.

November's page will be awesome!

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

FTC & Book Reviews

The new FTC guidelines about disclosure of any relationship between the subject and the writer of a "testimonial" will handicap online book reviewers unnecessarily. If the relationship includes any transfer of something "of value" from the subject to the writer, the FTC is suggesting (albeit strongly) that the writer reveal such a relationship in or with the testimonial. Further, if the subject uses that testimonial in advertising, the disclaimer must also appear.

A book is certainly of value in and of itself. It is a material object worth at least the cost to manufacture. The recipient could possibly sell it at least as waste paper (difficult, but possible).

Because the FTC did NOT exempt people who mention books in their blogs or people who write book reviews in any media, the guidelines apply to them too. At least, if the FTC considers any mention of a book that is or will be for sale as a testimonial. It does not define "testimonial" either.

This situation is quite similar to Google reducing the Page Rank of many innocent bloggers a couple of years ago in an effort to punish the Pay Per Post bloggers. Some blogs (A Writer's Edge included) never recovered from that reduction. I do not relish the thought of wasting at the least two lines of text in every review to include a disclaimer which would have the effect of raising suspicions in the mind of a reader as well a throw a more personal cast on the writing.

Here's what the EFF had to say:

Significantly, the new rules place requirements on social media from which traditional print and television media are exempt. For instance, if a blogger publishes a book review, the rules will require her to disclose whether she received a free copy of the book from the publisher. Book reviews in print media face no such restrictions. [emphasis mine]
The EFF is urging the FTC to "rethink" this move and not as yet mounting an organized attack on the specious new guidelines. I suppose that is understandable in the context of the organization's activities vis-à-vis the Patriot act and the Free Flow of Information act. Or maybe it's just too soon.

Edward Champion interviewed FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection chief Richard Cleland on this matter, specifically the case of book reviewers receiving free books. "Cleland said that a disclosure was necessary when it came to an individual blogger, particularly one who is laboring for free." AND he singled out those who link to a sales page as being especially targeted, suggesting that they return the books after reviewing them.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vumpire Gear


Nit Wits #48: Vumpire Gear (Vampires + Baseball) Coloring Creativity by Chris Dunmire

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Social Media Use Climbs

Past performance may not guarantee future success, but for the last three years the growth of social media has continued to advance. Forrester Research, Inc. provides the data and an interactive tool with which you can analyze your customer/client/visitor base. Forrester gathers data on age, gender and

analyzed consumers' participation in social technologies around the world with a tool called the "Social Technographics Profile." The profile puts online people into overlapping groups based on their participation (at least once a month) in the behaviors shown in the ladder.

Social technology growth marches on in 2009, led by social network sites. In The Broad Reach of Social Technology, author Sean Corcoran says:

more than four in five US online adults use social media at least once a month, and half participate in social networks like Facebook. While young people continue to march toward almost universal adoption of social applications, the most rapid growth occurred among consumers 35 and older.
They also have dependable data on European and Asian countries except Japan, Metro China, and South Korea.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

BAD Reminder

Not a reminder to be bad, but that BAD arrives next week. At this point, on October 15, 4,182 sites and 10,146,402 readers will participate in this year's Blog Action Day to raise awareness about global climate change. By doing so on the same day, the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue.

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Top 10 for Freelancing

With the Letterman brouhaha on our minds, I could not resist sharing this "top ten" article found at FreelanceSwitch.com: Top 10 Reasons you should quit your job today and become a freelancer. My favorite, always, is:

Number 3:

Because for freelancers casual fridays [sic] means working in your underpants

If you follow me on Twitter, you may recall "Pantsless Freelancing Day" or was it "Put on your Pants Day"? Either way, the author of the FreelanceSwitch article, Jack Knight, has a keen sense of humor. Thanks for the reminders, Jack, why some of us do it our way!

What is it about freelancing that makes you the happiest?

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Build Social Skills

Good social skills for business networking: Build Own Business & Your Team. I found this excellent article by Sue Clement from Ezine Articles while performing social network housekeeping tasks today. Clement's tips for business networking in real life could be translated roughly to the electronic world. She recommends:

Use the Magic Words, please and thank you
Make frequent eye contact
Repeat person's name
Support others
Repeat what they said
On most weekends I try to catch up with the influx of activity in my BlogCatalog and MyBlogLog accounts. My version of a good social skill is to acknowledge everyone who contacts my account or this blog in any way: visiting, as a fan or friend or joining the group or just leaving a message in either account. Please and thank you.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Web 2.0 for Authors

LitMatch is morphing into AuthorAdvance, a new social network. According to the owner, Christopher Hawkins:

AuthorAdvance is a complete social network that lets writers connect, share interests, and find help with their work. Expanded listings allow users to add and edit publishers, markets, contests and resources to help them improve their work and find publication. Enhanced submission tracking helps writers organize their careers and free up more time for writing. Best of all, everything's connected, making it easier than ever to find the information you want and meet people with similar interests and goals.
I was supposed to be getting a scoop on the big reveal and preview access, but that hasn't come through yet, so I can't give my impressions. If indeed it helps free up time to write, it will eliminate one of the greatest complaints working writers have: too little time to write for dealing with the "business" that surrounds a writing career.

I'm a little concerned, however, with the description of AuthorAdvance as a "complete social network" because the existing distractions of Tweety, MyFace and SpaceBook [sic], plus blogs, forums, websites and more already eat up writers' time. I should know!

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