Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Service of the Difference Between Writing Books for Children and Adults: Author Meadow Rue Merrill Tells All

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Meadow Rue Merrill signing the contract with RoseKidz for the Lantern Hill Farm series

Author Meadow Rue Merrill, a 2018 Christopher Award winner for Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, an inspirational memoir, sent me a copy of her new book, The Christmas Cradle, for children 4 to 7. [I promoted the 2018 Christopher Award winning books for adults and young people which is how I met her.]

I took advantage of her generous spirit to ask her questions because of her expertise in so many writing genres.

Speaking of generosity, the mother of six donates 10 percent of her royalties from the Lantern Hill Farm series, [The Christmas Cradle is one], to Compassion International. All of the royalties from Redeeming Ruth support orphans and children with disabilities in Uganda. More about Merrill at the end of–and throughout–the Q & A.

Do you think of different ideas for children’s vs. adult books?

Ironically, I began experimenting with ideas for children’s books long before I sat down to write a book for adults. Writing for children seemed more accessible—not because it is easier but because I strongly connect with my childhood. However, while taking workshops and attending conferences to develop my skills as a writer, my family adopted Ruth, an abandoned baby from Uganda who had multiple disabilities. So many people began asking about Ruth, I started writing her story, which turned into my memoir, Redeeming Ruth. A few months after it was published, I received a contract for a five-part children’s picture book series, Lantern Hill Farm. So you never know where you’re writing journey will take you.

Is your inspiration from a different place?

I’m inspired by events and images and words that touch me deeply—whether something that makes me laugh or cry or makes me question why the world is the way it is and how to make it better. I began writing Ruth’s book as a happily-ever-after adoption story, but when Ruth unexpectedly died from health complications shortly before her eighth birthday, it became both a spiritual lament and a treatise on the power of faith and love.

Many ideas for books come from my life and family, like The Backward Easter Egg Hunt, the first book I wrote for the Lantern Hill Farm series. A friend had asked me to organize an Easter egg hunt for a party. She had a basket full of plastic eggs, but I’d neglected to buy the candy. On the way to the party with my kids, I scratched down some ideas for a scavenger hunt based on the Easter story and gave the kids empty eggs to fill. They liked it so much, I turned it into a book, and my agent suggested a series. Walah! Lantern Hill Farm was born. Each story is designed around an activity to help children share God’s love with their family and friends around holidays.

How complex can you make subject matter for kids?

For the youngest readers, a picture book typically needs to focus on a single issue or problem. But that issue or problem can come from a complex experience. The challenge is writing about that experience in a way that is truthful and compelling but with a very limited number of words. My Lantern Hill Farm books are available in a longer version for older readers and as board books for the youngest readers. Reducing the text of each story from 800 words to about 150 was a real challenge, but I was surprised how many words I could eliminate and still have a complete story. I tend to write a much longer first draft to find my way into each story. Then I reduce, reduce and reduce to make that story stronger.

Are there techniques to simplify a basic story?

Once you know where your story is going, take out everything that isn’t necessary to move the story forward. That goes for writing for children or adults. Since I don’t always know where my story is going, it takes me a lot of extra writing to get there. The more I discover of the story, the more I know what to get rid of.

Because a book for young children is usually much shorter than one for adults, is it easier—and faster—to write? 


Faster, yes. But only because a picture book contains fewer words to place in order. I suppose that also makes it easier, but I wouldn’t call it easy. Publishing my first picture book came after two decades of reading picture books to my own children. Thankfully I have a houseful! During that time, I was also working on my memoir and a middle-grade novel. For me, writing is a slow journey of discovery. The greater the number of words, the longer that journey takes. While my picture books take less time to write, I’ve been thinking about them ever since having children.

How did you choose your illustrator—or does the publisher select the illustrator?

My publisher, RoseKidz, selected the illustrator for the Lantern Hill Farm series. When the first book in the series, The Christmas Cradle, came out this fall, the characters were different from how I had pictured them, but I love how the artist, Drew Krevi, who has worked for Disney and Marvel Comics, captured the fun and excitement of the story.

Do you think today’s children’s book authors have different challenges than those writing before the Internet, smartphones, electronic games and gizmos existed?

I’m not sure if the authors have greater challenges or if the children do. Maybe it is a little of both. But certainly, technology has a way of disrupting attention spans of writers and readers alike. In my own home, I limit how much tech my kids (and I) have access to. For instance, we don’t have Wi-Fi. We run our Internet through a cord in the wall, so it is only available in a single spot. That opens up the rest of the house for reading—and we keep plenty of books.

What were your favorite children’s picture books when you were a child?

Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent, by Bill Peet, about a misunderstood sea monster, any and everything by Beatrix Potter and a children’s picture Bible that I carried around my childhood farm while my mother took care of her sheep and chickens. Regrettably, I had few picture books as a child and was rarely able to go to the library because my single mom was in college and had a farm to run. But the books I did have, I clung to like keys to a magical kingdom. They opened my mind to a world where things weren’t always what they seemed, where animals talked and life was ordered by something beyond what I could see. Perhaps because books were somewhat rare, I valued those I did have all the more.

Do you have other questions to ask this prolific writer? What were your favorite books when you were young?

Photo taken at The Christmas Cradle launch party in the 200-year-old barn of the real-life Jenny, whose generosity and love for others inspired the character in the book. Merrill reads to Ezra, her youngest child.

former journalist, Merrill was a correspondent for The Boston Globe, wrote parenting essays for The New York Times, was a contributing editor to Down East magazine and co-wrote a history for Harvard University–all while raising six children. She currently writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine, where she lives with her family, one pig, an all-kinds-of-cute rescue puppy and a flock of mischievous chickens.

Service of Keep it Short: Economists Resist the Trend

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662. Photo:

We’d all do well to heed Blaise Pascal’s apology: “If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.” It might be among the first well known quotes to recognize the benefits of taking the time to self-edit. I’m horrified at some of my first drafts bloated with superfluous words and appreciate it if I have time to revise.

Ben Leubsdorf made it clear that many academics in the economics world haven’t received Pascal’s message. Until recently they haven’t recognized the trend to share sometimes life-changing information in increasingly reduced sizes. Think social media.

Leubdorf wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “The average length of a published economics paper has more than tripled over the past four decades, and some academics are sick of wading through them.”


He quoted MIT professor David Autor who launched a [lengthy] Twitter hashtag, #ThePaperIsTooDamnedLong, inspired by a working paper about minimum wage. He compared wading through the 94-pager to “being bludgeoned to death with a Nerf bat.”

The American Economics Association [AEA] “announced last year it would launch a journal dedicated to publishing only concise papers, at least by economists’ standards—nothing longer than 6,000 words, or about 15 double-spaced pages.” But that’s not expected to happen until next summer. One economist predicted that this approach might attract 600+ papers the first year.

That was Amy Finkelstein of MIT. She told Leubsdorf that significant papers written in the1950s by future Nobel Prize winners Paul Samuelson and John Nash covered public good and game theories in just a few pages. “Some journals today seem wary of publishing such quick reads.” In 50 years the top five academic journals covering economics upped average paper size from 16 to 50 according to a University of California, Berkeley analysis.

Paul Samuelson Photo:

“It isn’t unusual for economists to include a number of statistical checks to confirm each finding’s validity, similar points made with several different data sets, lengthy reviews of past research, multiple appendices with technical details and page after page of Greek letter-laden formulas that require, well, a Ph.D. to understand.”

Katharine Anderson told Leubsdorf that the time it takes to write and read/review a lengthy paper becomes a huge commitment. The Carnegie Mellon University economist explained that these papers must make/prove many different points while academic papers in other specialties need make only one or two. Boston University’s Samuel Bazzi said that these papers include redundancies “to head off possible quibbles that might come up during the review process.”

Do you think briefer academic papers in a specialty such as economics will positively impact the quality of research or at least the dissemination of information? How is it that eminent economists in the 1950s could make their points—and win Nobel Prizes—reporting breakthroughs in 16 pages while today some need 50+? Do the blinders to essential changes in communications by this community reflect on their abilities to forecast?


Service of Letting off Steam

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

let off steamcalculatorVisited a friend where she works and she proclaimed that too much winter must be why everyone there was in a bad mood. A post like this helps address the blues. Writing about irritations lets off steam. It’s restorative.  

Don’t make me do the math

In a prominent newspaper I read this sentence: “The company said new technology allows one of the company’s workers to produce about 330 feet of fabric in less than an hour compared with just two meters in the 1990s.” Dear Reporter, Help me: In future convert comparables to all feet or meters please.  

Was I born yesterday?

I still get phone calls at the office that begin, “I’m calling from customer service about the copier in your office.” If legit they’d name the brand of copier. Grump.  

Want to raise my hackles/push my buttons? Say this:

“Nobody asked you to do that,” after I’ve done you a favor or something nice.  

Fat free and tasteless

Fig newtonsMy nephew popped in a gas station store to grab a Fig Newton snack and left annoyed because all they had were the fat free variety. He said that people fool themselves about benefits from eating the less toothsome alternative. “You don’t need to eat the whole box of the classic Fig Newtons,” he suggests.  

What’s that again?

When watching an interview on TV Erica Martell cringes when the interviewer answers the question for the person being interviewed and the interviewee parrots the words.  Example: Q: “You were sorry then?” A: “Yes, very sorry.”  

Media training advises the person being interviewed never to repeat the words of an interviewer. In addition to the fact that it’s irritating and boring, more important it can backfire. Take this instance. Q: “So you scammed the IRS in 2013?” A: “I didn’t scam the IRS in 2013.” A headline might be: JOE ADDRESSED 2013 IRS SCAM. A simple “no” suffices.

Royal Retirementretire in luxury

Bob Gula says he’s tired of hearing about city, state or union employees retiring on zillion dollar pensions in their 40’s with free healthcare. “They never went to college like I did,” he observes. “The greatest insult is I am the one who is paying for this with my taxes. Lesson learned: Do not go to college. Get a city or government job. Work in a job with a union.”  

What gets under your skin? Share and let me know if you feel a teensy bit better after letting off steam.

feel better now

Service of What Doesn’t Have to Be

Monday, January 6th, 2014

slipping on ice

Walking around Manhattan a day after last week’s snowstorm some sidewalks were so clean they could have been in Arizona and others slippery and treacherous; some crosswalks had six to eight inches of ice water and slush that stretched into the street more than a healthy leap, [with slick pavement ahead], and others are merely moist.

There was no reason or consistency for the inconsistency, but the danger doesn’t have to be. Which got me thinking of similar instances.

Observant Waiters

waiter in dinerMy nephew eats out a lot. He’s easy-going, a generous tipper and he remembers names of restaurant owners and wait staff and they know his. 

However, when a waiter tries to take away his plate too soon–or that of his guest–his teeth grind. When he asks the waiter to leave the plate alone it’s obvious that he’s aggravated.

Waiting until everyone is finished before clearing may not be the kind of etiquette taught at a neighborhood diner, but pleasing a regular should be tops on the lesson plan. Watching the reaction of diners is an efficient training tool so customers need not be irritated.

Take Back that Name

Cook your ass offDan Barry wrote a very funny “Loose Ends” column, “One Cooking Show You Shouldn’t Try at Home,” in The New York Times. The name of the new show that gave Barry a chance to share a bunch of guffaws: “Cook Your Ass Off.”

Wrote Barry: “Now, to be clear, we are not talking about one of those community-access channels featuring an endless scroll of the local senior center’s lunch menu, or a man interviewing himself in his paneled basement.” The show is on HLN which is part of Turner Broadcasting Systems’ Cable News Network.

Turner’s spokeswoman told Barry “It is really supposed to be a playful, entertaining spin on the cooking competition concept…It’s a little tongue-in-cheek.”

I think it’s sophomoric and the result of lazy writers.

Cop Traffic

traffic jamI was caught on a NYC Third Avenue bus in tremendous traffic on a Thursday afternoon during the Christmas rush lugging very heavy packages. A 10 minute ride took over an hour as the bus cooled its heels, along with hundreds of cars and taxis, near no handy subway stop.

Anyone who has been to the city at Christmastime is thinking, “So???? What’s so surprising?” This traffic jam should not have happened. It occurred because people from all lanes on the wide avenue were turning right onto 34th Street and the traffic policeman at the cross-section seemed oblivious to his job—to control the flow. An illegally parked car on the avenue right in front of him added bottleneck to the paralysis.

There are so many things that don’t have to be. Can you add some?

Plus sign

Service of Art as Communication: Wall Street Journal Reporter Ralph Gardner Translates

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Installation artist Taezoo Park's "Digital Being"

Installation artist Taezoo Park’s “Digital Being”

It’s hard to write coherently about art if you’re not sure what you’re looking at. I wonder about some well regarded writers in the field with star quality bylines in prestigious venues because I can’t make out what they–or the art they are writing about–are trying to say.

On the other hand Ralph Gardner did a great job describing installation art in “Composed Chaos” in his Wall Street Journal Urban Gardner column. I was particularly interested as this weekend–October 25-27–my clients, Joanna and Richard Rothbard, have invited installation artists to the Contemporary Art Fair NYC they founded and produce along with the concurrent American Fine Craft Show NYC at Javits Center North.

"Purple Lights" by Vito Bonanno

“Purple Lights” by Vito Bonanno

Like Gardner installation art puzzles me but so did the Impressionists’ now well-loved paintings confound and bewilder their contemporaries.Next weekend you can query two installation artists [Ms.] Noa Leshem-Gradus and Taezoo Park whose 2,500 square foot “Plato’s Cave” and “Digital Being” [photo at top] will be there. Other exhibitors at the art fair such as Vito Bonanno [photo above] also love to do such work.

Gardner focused on installation artist Sarah Sze. Here are excerpts of his clear, unpretentious descriptions of the work of the Columbia University professor, this year’s US representative at the Venice Biennale, MacArthur fellowship winner and subject of a new book:

“Her work is challenging to describe. It typically involves large installations of hundreds of objects; part sculpture, part architecture and all about the artist’s often head-scratching selection process. Think of a little kid who took her junk and put it on the sidewalk for passersby to buy. Now imagine if the junk somehow started to cohere, that you detected relationships among the objects, touches of beauty, even a philosophical framework.

“Nonetheless, chaos—or at least the tension between order and chaos, with chaos gaining the upper hand—seems to be at her art’s center. In other words, if Ms. Sze’s parents got home and found her latest installation all over the sidewalk, or the kitchen floor, I doubt they’d be pleased.”

Gardner continues “And similar to a Pollock, one feels under sneak attack by Ms. Sze’s work. It’s more than anyone can reasonably be expected to wrap one’s mind around. Apparently, that’s the point. In a video on the Biennale’s website, she discusses her desire to re-create nature and the way we’re daily confronted, no matter how adept we are at going through life with blinders on, with ‘information beyond our capacity ever to understand, like the cosmos.'” 

View of some exhibits from the 2012 Contemporary Art Fair NYC

View of some exhibits from the 2012 Contemporary Art Fair NYC

Gardner plays a game when he visits galleries or museums. He asks himself “How would this look over my fireplace?” I play a similar game: Were money no object and/or if these works were for sale, which one would I take home? Describing her Biennale exhibit–an assemblage of lamps, light bulbs, rocks, bones and more–he admits that Sze’s work doesn’t fit that formula and later on in the article concludes: “It’s less about the objects, in this case armies of them, than the intellectual system behind them.” 

"Regal Earrings" by Shana Kroiz

“Regal Earrings” by Shana Kroiz

There’s plenty of more traditional work at the art fair and craft show that would fit over your fireplace, on a wall or look well on you. I could fill ten posts with a sampling.

I make a living introducing clients’ new products to the public via media. Americans thrive on what’s new. Why should the art industry be any different?

Do you feel frustrated when you can’t “get” recognized artworks? Do you think it’s a question of time and getting used to risk-taking work? How is it that today most take in stride sculpture and art of previous eras that drove most period viewers nuts?


4 Stones Dreidel by Javier Nujimovich

4 Stones Dreidel by Javier Nujimovich


Service of Buzzwords II

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013


After he defined “view at 30,000 ft,” an airplane metaphor for the big picture, Matt Mecs, whose intelligence drove my first buzzwords post almost three years ago, directed me to “30 Days of Buzzwords” on Mashable. I picked just a few to whet your appetite and to leave room for a few others that caught my eye.

A talented writer and original thinker, Mecs is also director of sales at Local Focus Radio and media studies adjunct professor at Metropolitan College of New York. We share tooth grinding reactions to most buzzwords.

From Mashable:


Stephanie Buck wrote “If you use the web you are a ‘curator’” which she makes clear has nothing to do with the museum kind but refers to “a whole new catalog of professions, brands and tools — and most revolve around the web.” She continued: “A curator ingests, analyzes and contextualizes web content and information of a particular nature onto a platform or into a format we can understand. In other words, a curator is like that person at the beach with the metal detector, surfacing items and relics of perceived value. Only, a web curator shares those gems of content with their online audiences.”


brainstormIn “How About a glass of ideation?” Dani Fankauser explains: “Most often, when people use the term ideation, they’re referring to coming up with ideas, also known as brainstorming.”

Snackable Content

 “In our busy, media-saturated, distraction-rich lives, marketers, brands and media outlets have to work harder and faster to grab our attention, giving rise to the buzzword in question — ‘snackable content’” That’s Amy-Mae Elliott writing in “Are you hungry for ‘snackable content?’” She notes that some studies report average adult attention spans run from 2.8 to 8 seconds [the latter down four from 13 years ago.]

Social Commerce

Then there’s Lauren Indvik who covered social commerce. She quotes a marketing consultant, Heidi Cohen: “ ‘it’s ‘social media meets shopping.’”


Writes Todd Wasserman in an amusing post about the metric that I’m ruining by picking out just the core for this post: “The acronym stands for ‘key performance indicators.’” He continued: “Every industry has its own KPIs. In retail, for instance, same-store sales are a KPI, while in the auto industry they might be inventory turns or manufacturing cycle times.”

Moving away from this wonderful series:

Native Advertising, Snowfalling and Pizza Story

snowfallingJoe Pompeo, wrote “Times Editor Jill Abramson Likes ‘Snowfalling’ A Lot Better Than ‘Native Advertising’” in CapitalNY. Abramson inserted the terms in her public talk at Wired Magazine’s annual business conference.

Pompeo wrote: “‘Snowfall,’ verb: To execute the type of expensive, time-consuming, longform-narrative multimedia storytelling.”

He quoted Abramson who defined native advertising “‘for the conference set … It’s the buzzword of 2013’s business model discussions at conferences.’”

And pizza story? It’s “A massive breaking-news event that keeps reporters and editors holed up in the Times Eighth Avenue newsroom for extended periods of time. Example: the Boston bombing.”

Six More

Last, here are a few I’d saved from David Mielach’s BusinessNewsDaily’s “12 Buzzwords You’ll Need to Know in 2013.” All definitions are Mielach’s:

Advertainment— “Advertising is no longer about interrupting what people are interested in, it’s about being what people are interested in.”

Phablets— A mixture of a smartphone and tablet.

child in officeAlphanista— “Successful women in powerful positions having it all.”

Inventreprenuers— “An entrepreneur-inventor hybrid that markets and/or manufactures their own creation.”

Twinternship— “An internship where the student’s mission is to promote the company and its brands using social media such as Twitter and Facebook.”

Minergy— Someone who uses “minimal energy to get the task accomplished.”

Any buzzwords to share? Do you find them fun, exclusionary, irritating or possibly error-inducing?

 Big  bee


Service of Cool Marketing

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer

Some companies market themselves or their products joyfully and well. I love it when they do. Two of the three I selected are no spring chickens in our flash-in-the-pan world of trends: The grocery chain was founded in 1958 and the energy bar was introduced in 1991. I don’t know how long the vintner has been in business.

I wouldn’t trade them for the world

Trader Joe’s, headquartered in Monrovia, Ca. publishes a newsletter, “Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer.” The copy is succinct and clear–perfect pockets of information for customers waiting in the checkout queue to digest.

The lines in the East 14th Street Manhattan store can be daunting, though they move fast. You have just enough time to be tempted to try Mini Organic Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, Channa Masala, Apocryphyl [sic] Pita or Dixie Peach Juice–the headlines of some of the well-written news briefs in the newsletter I picked up.

Trader Joe CheckoutI didn’t want to lose my spot–though a few of the tempting items were at hand on shelves I passed on my journey to checkout–and I plan to search out some of the other taste sensations on my next trip, especially the juice. The newsletter describes it as a blend of peach puree and apple, white grape, pear and pineapple concentrates. Trader Joe’s has carried the drink for seven years–now I know.

The company suggests you use the newsletter, printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks, as paper airplanes, wrapping paper or packing material. So wonderfully California.

Bar none

Clif BarMy friend Jim Roper treated me to three Clif Bars. He was taken by the packaging of these energy bars, pointing out the story on one of the wrappers that described the founder’s father’s influence on the product starting with its name. His dad’s name is Clifford. Gary Erickson, the founder and owner, reminisces on one label about his dad, his childhood companion and hero during hikes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Gary also explains on this and on other bars that sport the hallmark packaging why he made the 240 calorie, lightweight “nutrition for sustained energy.” A main reason was taste as he found most other energy bars reminiscent of sawdust or chalk. I agree with my friend Jim and with Gary–the Black Cherry Almond and Blueberry Crisp bars I’ve tasted were scrumptious.

Tastefully dressed

Grifone PrimitivoWhat glee when you sip something quite remarkable that comes in a stunning package and costs under $5.00–try $3.99 [in NYC]. Grifone Primitovo is a Zinfandel from Mancuria in Italy that I found in Trader Joe’s wine store. The vintner designed the label to look like something from Hermes, proving that something doesn’t have to be costly to look expensive [my fashion mantra since childhood]. Trader Joe’s recommends you “enjoy it now”–a polite way to suggest you shouldn’t treat it as it looks—don’t put it away for 10+ years.

Does it take time for a company to understand and promote itself at perfect pitch or do many “get” their personalities from the start, helping insure long-term success? What other brands or organizations do a fun or flawless job marketing their products?

perfect pitch

Service of Editing

Thursday, February 14th, 2013


One of my editors was a part-time consultant at the first magazine I worked for and she taught me how to approach writers I’d edit in future: I did the opposite of everything she did. She attacked and demeaned writers ferociously. I’d return to my desk so jangled and distracted by her anger that I was barely able to jot down my name.

Picking and choosing

Picking and choosing

I thought of her when one of the students I mentor showed me the come-on she got from an online resume service that will revise a resume for $700. She’s a brilliant young woman who in this economy has organizations and companies asking her to intern for them, so she can pick and choose.

Fear is what this boilerplate selling service preys on. The very long cover letter and even longer critique, with a few tweaks to make the recipient feel that it’s written for them, would fit many people in a range of industries.

The second paragraph of the cover letter begins, “Let’s be honest.” What a turnoff and warning about the quality and sincerity of the service. Choosing to initial cap Candidate in the letter and Hiring Manager in the critique……whose pandering style book are they following? 

hiring-managerI’ve read hundreds of resumes between hiring, directing a mentoring initiative and participating in scholarship selection committees and I’ve helped revise countless others. This woman’s resume is easy to scan or scrutinize. I disagree with the critique: “Your resume is difficult to read and is a victim of bad design.” The subsequent implication that her resume was tedious and/or confusing smacks of additional scare tactics. Hers is succinct, clear, and coherent.

edit-copy1I wonder if they’d pay me $700 to edit their cover letter. “In fact your resume has one of the hardest sales challenge [sic] of all: to convince employers, who are complete strangers, that you are someone who could be a difference maker in their organization.”

Would you pay five cents for a critique that includes: “Let’s face it ___[name of potential sucker/client], you’re an experienced Marketing, not a resume writer.”

five-centsWhat’s a Marketing?

And, let’s face it, if someone had read the resume they critiqued, they would know that this young woman is a computer software engineer whose experience is light in marketing though moving briskly in that direction given the graduate degree she’s pursuing and internships she’s completed. Guess the online resume revising place has no boilerplate for transitions and outstanding combinations of skills.

I didn’t have to read farther than the next sentence to confirm that the person who was going to revise it also needed to tighten up her writing style. She wrote:  “Still, a professional at your experience level,” [did she mean “a person with your experience”]– is actually a student launching her marketing career.

Back to “Let’s be honest,” my mentee said that she couldn’t take credit for business results and outcomes that she was urged and advised to provide but which she didn’t cause. 

I agree with the company rep that a resume is a sales tool but I also believe in truth in advertising and treating the person I’m editing with respect, not with inappropriate chumminess on the cusp of rudeness.

Both editors–mine and this one–were trying to foment insecurities, one to grab a power advantage and to feel superior, the other to get a patsy’s money. Do you know of similar tactics? How do you protect yourself from falling for such swindlers?


Service of Diaries

Monday, January 14th, 2013


I just read Mary Soames’ “A Daughter’s Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill’s Youngest Child,” [Random House], taken largely from Baroness Soames’ diaries and letters. Boy was she a diligent diarist as a child and young woman!

Baroness Mary Soames

Baroness Mary Soames

The book, which I enjoyed, focuses on her life in Britain during the war. She is now 90.

This makes me think of the prescience of artists and architects, or those around them, who keep the preparatory drawings for major paintings and buildings once the painting or building is complete. [Given some art I’ve seen I wonder whether contemporary artists bother with them.]

David McCullough

David McCullough

Did author David McCullough keep copies of his first hand typed manuscripts written before he became famous? [He still writes his books on a typewriter.]

I kept at least one diary for a short time as a child. [I found it a few years ago.] I can think of nobody who would be interested in its contents today.

Does it make sense to keep a diary if you are not like Baroness Soames–related to a famous person–or have or will not become famous yourself? It’s obviously too late to capture your childhood in detail, if you are now famous, and never kept one before. [The Baroness wrote of the delight of being given a peach from her father’s breakfast tray–an incredible and memorable treat during the war].

Does anyone write diaries anymore?


Service of Drawing

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Michael Graves drawing at Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum

Michael Graves drawing at Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum

Michael Graves wrote a beautiful opinion piece in last Sunday’s New York Times, “Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing.” He posed the question: “Are computers destroying the joy of design-the interaction of mind and hand?”

According to Graves, “Architecture cannot divorce itself from drawing, no matter how impressive the technology gets. Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design. Drawings express the interaction of our minds, eyes and hands. This last statement is absolutely crucial to the difference between those who draw to conceptualize architecture and those who use the computer.”

architecturaldrawingGraves noted that people collect his drawings as art and some are in major museum collections but this isn’t why he draws. He continued, “I have a real purpose in making each drawing, either to remember something or to study something. Each one is part of a process and not an end in itself. I’m personally fascinated not just by what architects choose to draw but also by what they choose not to draw.”

fashionsketchBecause of Fashion Week in New York, the papers and websites are filled with fashion sketches. I love to look at them and I wonder whether fashion designers feel the same about drawing as Graves does.

I remember the painful transition from writing my first drafts on yellow legal pads and then typing them up on a manual IBM Selectric to cutting out the yellow pad part and composing everything on a computer keyboard. Easy editing and moving copy around was the obvious reason to do this–no different for the architect or designer who uses a CAD or other digital drawing system. Now, I can hardly handwrite a thank you or condolence note–I often type out the note first. I’m not alone. Has the quality of writing suffered as a result?

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