Archive for February, 2013

In a move that must have been unsettling for thousands of Iowa seniors, in 2009, the state changed the name of its elder Affairs department to the Department on Aging, or DOA

Quote of the Week

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Quotes
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“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T. S. Eliot

From Hemmingway to our evening newscasters, we are captivated by the stories they tell. In my blog post, Stories Are What Makes Us Human, I told the story of the little Torah scroll and the Columbia astronaut Colonel Ilan Ramon.  Even though I’m a professional writer, everyone, you, the people we meet at networking events, business people, also have stories worth telling. We all have events in our lives that, if focused and structured, can grab the attention of our listener or reader. And learning how to turn these events into a compelling story will leave a more memorable impression. So what makes for a good story?

The basic points to crafting a great story apply whether you are writing a personal essay, a good job search cover letter, a marketing piece about your company’s product or service, or a business “success story.” It even applies to a 2 minute pitch you’d use in a networking situation. The only differences between all these are length and the method of delivery.

To craft a good and memorable story, it must have:

 A purpose – A good story must have an unforgettable message or make a memorable point. Determine if you are trying to convince, promote an achievement, educate, compare, or evoke a response.

 A plot (focus) – The story needs to have some conflict or a struggle. Describe a problem and how you elegantly solved it. However, unlike fiction, you never want to talk about failure, or tragedy.

The use of rich detail to capture attention  – Show, don’t tell. Paint a setting (the when and where). Use anecdotes and similes. Avoid using clichés. Use vibrant verbs, and descriptive adjectives. Make your sentences come alive. Create a point of view using first person narrative unless you are talking about a team or your company in general.

Develop a logical structure. Keep to the point and don’t go off on tangents. Come up with some attention-grabber when you begin your story. End with the resolution and how the solution generated benefits.

Think of the old journalistic Who What When Where Why with a twist or complication that leads to a resolution. Lace you story with successes and implied or stated benefits to which the listener or reader can relate. Remember, when you tell a story, keep your audience in mind. Make modifications to fit. Remember to use concrete examples to get your point across. If you can’t back your claim with solid evidence, no one will believe what you say. Be specific!

 We all have interesting events in our backgrounds that can make for great stories. You don’t need to be a Hemmingway to tell one. Just a desire to share your experience, good descriptive sentences, and a passion for your topic.

Quote of the Week

Posted: February 18, 2013 in Quotes
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“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” – Buddha

What a difference abbreviations can make! Placing these 2 links right after each other had me howling:

The dogs of Westminster: Meet Jewel, an American Foxhound

Some vets crying foul over SEAL’s claims

OK, we do know that the vets are war veterans and the SEAL’s are Navy but on my first quick scan, which is what people do on the internet, I scratched my head as to what could be wrong with seals!

Quote of the Week

Posted: February 11, 2013 in Quotes

“A word is a bud attempting to become a twig. How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream.” – Gaston Bachelard

According to anthropologists it’s our capacity for language and self-awareness that make us human. However, apes can be taught to communicate through the use of sign “language” and certain bird species can not only mimic their humans but also respond to questions, etc. Albeit with a limited capacity but language communication non-the-less. As to self awareness, elephants have been observed to grieve, burry their dead and go into depression when a mate dies. We really don’t know much about other species “self awareness” because we can’t get into their minds!

As a writer and communicator I am always fascinated by these factoids. I have come to my own conclusion as to what makes us truly “human” and superior in the relm of communication to the other species on this planet: It is our ability to tell stories. To take our past experiences, give them structure and context, then share them either orally or in writing with our fellow human beings. No other species can do that! It is said that without the past, there can be no future and indeed all through history, storytelling has been the means through which cultures transfer not only their histories but also their collective beliefs and knowledge base. And stories are the most fascinating means of communication. Whether the content is true events or fables, or fantasies laced with truth, they have the means to capture and hold attention like no factual, logical history textbook ever could do. Today, even businesses are advised to tell “success stories” because the story structure has more impact and creates a greater connectivity between the reader and the writer.

Then there can also be stories within a story! On Friday February 1 there was the retelling of the sad story of the Columbia’s destruction 10 years ago. What captured my attention and emotion was a program that aired on PBS, Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope. Within that hour not only the story of Columbia’s last flight was detailed but also how the group of seven astronauts bonded over the years and of its Israeli astronaut, Colonel Ilan Ramon and a sacred object he carried into space. It was that latter story, about the tiny Torah scroll that had been smuggled into a concentration camp by a rabbi almost seven decades ago, used there in a secretive bar mitzvah ceremony, taken out when the camp was liberated, and held by that boy for all those years until he met the Israeli man who was to fly in space. The rabbi had known he would not survive the camp and therefore gave the torah to the boy having him promise to “tell its story” if he remained alive. The torah was safe in his study all those years  until when he was the lead scientist for the mission, Joachim “Yoya” Josephhe decided to risk giving it to the astronaut as a way for its story and the horrors of the Holocaust to be retold.

We all tell stories. We have family stories, community stories, career stories, and they might not be as colorful and emotional as the tiny torah scroll but they help us know where we’ve been and what we need to learn to create our future. It also boils down to the “words” that are used, for in the end it is the language of the story that creates its power. The old verbal story tellers knew this, they knew how to captivate their audience with descriptive and colorful language. That is what kept the listener eager to hear more, or to hear it again, or have an “aha” moment that could be life changing. So what stories are you telling and are you spicing them up with the best words possible?

Quote of the Week

Posted: February 4, 2013 in Quotes
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“I believe art is the safe in which you manage to keep your soul.” – Michael Manthey, jeweler