Monday, July 26, 2010

Journalists, Misdirection, and Trends

DETROIT, MI-  DECEMBER 16: Members of the news...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

As a few journalists express concern about bias and misdirection in reporting, consumers need to become more assertive. As more consumers of media develop news-consumer skills, journalists can cause less misdirection  Media consumers need to do better, as pressure builds against journalistic sloppiness. 

A first step the news and information consumer takes is commitment to be alert to the amount of pejorative adjectives, increasingly intended to create reader bias, in reporting and commentary.

Second, the consumer of news applies critical thinking to news, information, and opinion related to hot issues. 

Finally, news and info consumers insist on reliability, starting with  highly touted news services. Most outlets have a mix of reliable and unreliable input, offered daily, weekly, or monthly.

Media consumers need to question while avoiding paranoia and cynicism. Media consumers must carefully monitor group-think tendencies. Gullibility and unquestioning trust hurt in the long run.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blogging and Racial Tensions in the News

J Purcell, Manager
Opinari Writers Network
Know nothing about blogging? Read high and low reviews on for Secrets of Successful Blogging (cover image below). Already blogging? OWN thinks this book may not be for you.

I posted three comments on The Daily Caller (DC) blog today, two very close together. A pop-up message followed: "Slow down." That's the way DC works, the opposite of the way the city of DC really runs.

My first comment on the DC blog connected with posts about the firing of a USDA official in GA, yesterday. Now, I intend to take my time forming set opinions about the events. At the center is the rush to judgment by organizations, politicians, journalists, and some of us on the sidelines. It's a rush too typical today, relying on instant perspectives, assumptions, and few facts and little research. Such rushes serve to allow each of us to opine as we prefer, rather than as facts or truth would lead us.

Charges of Racism! and Racist! abound in the public square, through all media channels. Blogs and news outlets launch charges like spitballs and dried chewing gum, quick accusations in the Now. Reporting also needs to be in the Know.

Charges like Racist and Racism should be made carefully and powerfully, to wake people up in alarm, not just to cast suspicion over past deeds, or to wield temporary power  in feigned indignation. Now, they are often cries of "Wolf!" Who will believe real outrage if this continues?

Anyone watching out for Racism evidence stands in stark contrast to word-throwers that play power games with words. Reliable sources do not abuse incendiary words or try to hide behind them; rather, they confront with the hard, true words that hold up to thought, reason, and suffering concern. We need to urge others to get the facts straight first, and not judge too quickly. Slow down enough to write and blog the facts, and let readers know when you do not have all the facts, or what you think are facts have not been confirmed.

(c) Jean Purcell

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Are You Crazy to PAY for Your Book's Marketing?

free internetImage by striatic via Flickr
It's easy to go into debt paying for book marketing programs that don't work. Want some ideas to avoid this? Examples and ideas follow: 

Moving from paying for promotions to making opportunities means you need to use skills you already have. You have to assert yourself on the page; so, assert yourself with attention-getting marketing. Writers can find free professional advice via websites, blogs, and newsletters online. The Internet is as good a research tool as you will find almost anywhere. And what about doing research in public and university libraries?

Before my company, Opine Publishing, released the rare Charles H. Spurgeon book, The Mourner's Comforter, in 2007, we sent 40-plus free Advance Review copies, six weeks in advance, to a carefully prepared list of individuals and organizations. The book did well. 

Three years later, a reviewer finally read his free copy, and got his review into a widely distributed magazine. Who knows if the book's second climb among Spurgeon books on came from the 2010 review? I think so, for we did see a spike in orders.

You have a passion for your writing. You want to connect with readers. You're willing to grow as a writer. You want to know all of the important parts of writing and publishing as well as anyone else at your stage of experience! 

Marketing is: "Reliable and persuasive communication about something of value."* That's it: Communicate! If you pay for marketing, are you sure you've carefully evaluated what that expense might get for you? You're only "book marketing crazy"  if you don't think with a hard hat on, for this service.

Jean Purcell (c)2010
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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Personal narrative author, Jane Bullard, about pen name decision

by Jean Purcell, aka Jane Bullard

Not All Roads Lead Home, 2nd Edition: The Story of Renewed Love
Opine, USA, 2004 edition
It is important to think carefully before assigning a pen name, because it needs to be a name you can feel comfortable with for a long time. It needs to be more than a creative whim. Not All Roads Lead Home is a love story, a personal narrative, that Highland Books UK published under my pen name, Jane Bullard.

The first name, Jane, is an anagram of a given name, Jean. Some people, when introduced to me, call me Jane, and I am comfortable being addressed by either name. 

The last name for the pen name, Bullard, is a family name of my maternal grandmother and one of which I am proud. She was widowed when my mother was very young (the last of five), during the early 20th century, when most women did not work outside the home. My grandmother did tailoring and was a salesperson in a local haberdashery. 

After the pen name for the Not All Roads Lead Home manuscript came into being, I noticed an unexpected change in my writing perspective. I was more willing to edit out sections or chapters that I liked, but that did not serve the story, centrally. I felt the story more important, for example, than side-line interests I had in those years.   

Highland Books UK, took on the book for publication, when many publishers were discouraging authors of personal narratives. Later, after I formed a publishing company to enable U. S. distribution of my book, I ended up bring the story up to date 16 years later. That became the second edition. I decided to keep the pen name, for continuity. A coming of age, fictional story I've been working on will have my real name.   
Not All Roads Lead Home
Highland Books, UK, 1996 edition
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Monday, July 05, 2010

Nature and Writers About

WASHINGTON - MARCH 25:  Flower buds are seen o...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
If you are attuned to nature, then you know that you do not need to know the name of everything. A maple, oak, willow, or cherry tree, for example, thrills you for its own reasons, whether or not you know its genus or sub-genus.

I love the shadows cast in the middle of the day upon walkways, grass, and faces. It is inexpressible, the joy that such variations of light and dark give me. Similarly, a gray sky can speak as many volumes of exhilaration as a blue, white-clouded nature-ceiling.

Some naturalists have proven that one need not travel far from home to learn specifics, biologically, about insects, plants and other lively interests. One prominent naturalist, world-renowned to his peers yet his name forgotten by me, taught himself, an educated man, in his own backyard somewhere in northeast USA. There was a world of living and busy small creatures on the grounds of his childhood home, where he lived and died.

My dad, from youth on, loved to watch spiders, birds, and what he called "dirt dobbers." The love of these entertainments began for him underneath the house where he grew up, not far from a North Carolina silver mine.

Nature writers fill a void that needs their thrilling enjoyments, knowledge, and desire to communicate facts and wonders unexplainable.
Audubon's Birds of North America

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

July 4 Independence Celebration

Declaration of IndependenceImage by deltaMike via Flickr
NEW YORK - JULY 03:  Two men look at a part of...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
The Declaration of Independence, being one of the most accurately named documents, declared the intention of an unusual group of well-educated and privileged "few" to step forth--at risk of property, profession, reputation, and charges of and hanging for treason-- on behalf of the "many" regardless of the latter's wealth or lack of it, education, or opportunity at the present time. They did well, most of them, to seek to include those enslaved in the colonies of the land new to them; their document was a sword that later cut the bonds of slavery.

Independence Day celebrations every July 4 mark a history and a reality, both deserving of special notice, both known and envied around the world. Criticism of this country often arises due to jealousy or resentment of what the U. S. has done, historically, to defend the weak and to defend itself and its right to exist as the country it is, imperfect yet better than most, due to its basic principles of individual freedom, of liberty of thought, belief, and opinion. This is the freedom of Judeo-Christian history, where no one is forced to espouse belief.

It is wonderful to be what one man, enslaved by Communism in the USSR, once called, an American a person "who walks free." He noticed, on the streets of Moscow, an American walking. Without hearing English spoken or seeing a passport or flag, the Soviet man he knew the man was not only a visitor, a foreigner, but also an American.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security....

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Historical fiction and sports genres-South Africa, Mandela, and rugby

When I took a boat to Robben Island a decade ago, I was not eager to "tour" the prison not far from Cape Town, South Africa. I had read about the place of   imprisonment for Nelson Mandela and other South Africans resisting apartheid. I had no idea how inspiring the tour visit would be, guided by a former prisoner and also a close associate of Nelson Mandela. 

Sports and history stories, separately, can be inspiring. Put them together, as does Invictus, and you get history and sports genres in one powerful story based on true facts from the 1990s, and early in President Mandela's presidency. Originally titled Playing the Enemy, the story of Invictus, book and film, is described like this, on  "After being released from prison and winning South Africa's first free election, Nelson Mandela presided over a country still deeply divided by fifty years of apartheid. His plan was ambitious if not far-fetched: Use the national rugby team, the Springboks-long an embodiment of white supremacist rule-to embody and engage a new South Africa as they prepared to host the 1995 World Cup. The string of wins that followed not only defied the odds, but capped Mandela's miraculous effort to bring South Africans together in a hard-won, enduring bond."

The film did well at the box office, but not, in my opinion, as well as it should have done. People perhaps expected it to be tense to the utmost, very serious, and possibly political. It was, in all of those ways. It is a film to recommend-highly. I expect the same should be said of the book, which I have not read...yet. Try either one, and I'm sure you'll learn about good writing, for print or for film.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Fourth of July on YouTube

Check out this little video on YouTube - by humorist/writer/mom

You can learn Zemanta and other technology stuff

Writers are creative people, and lots of writers are engineers, architects, math whizzes. Some might even call themselves tech geeks.  However, many and maybe most writers not in those categories think they cannot master technology on the WWW today

If that's you, be assured that if you have an inquisitive mind and you're smart--and of course you are: you're a writer!--then you can figure it out. At least, what you need to figure out. As What about Bob says, Baby steps! Baby steps!

Use search engines to answer just about any question you have along your way of self-teaching. Don't expect to learn everything in a day, or a year, or even five years. It's always changing. So, if you are not learning more, start now. Try a blog or whatever you've not tried yet, to let others learn what you're writing about. Aim to reach those with similar interests Start now?

Search Join Google, Create a blog, Experiment, Add features, Try Zemanta Assistant for links, Join Linked In, Facebook....keep going!

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What every writer needs to know about scams, bad deals, and day jobs

If you are invited to receive an "award," "special status," or a listing in an "important professional/executive registry," and find out there's a payment, from you!, attached to the "honor," what do you do?

To quote Shutter Island, Run!!!

Professional agents do not ask for or require money up front, before they've arranged contracts or sales; then, their fees are based on percentage of what they earned for the writer!
Professional registries, directories, and awards do not ask for or require any payment from the honoree, or listee! Ever.

Not a scam, but not a good deal, is the self-publishing contract that does not allow the author to set the list price for his or her book. Self-publishing means the author is the publisher, and publishers set the prices.
Authors need to look for companies, print-on-demand (POD) or other, that give pricing decisions to the author, who is their client.

Also not a good deal, in OQ's view, is the case where authors are required to buy books from the printer at prices that vary, based on number of books ordered together. Re: pricing, a better deal is to find a printer, POD or other, that gives the same, fair, low (compared with the list price) author (owner) purchase price every time.

Don't leap into any business opportunity. If it cannot wait 24 hours or more, it likely is not worth much. 

Writers are targets of more scams than bulls eyes at a shooting range. Unfortunately, writers beginning to seek publication often do not know this. "Buyer beware" if  "offered" a special status or client position attached to payments outgoing from your wallet.

Also, as we say: "Don't quit your day job," especially if your first book is a bestseller or award-winner. The shelf life of most books is strongest six months after publication. It is the rare book that sells well beyond that time. At the point of some success with one book, it's the next books' marketplace successes the writer cannot take for granted. Huge success may, or may not, happen again.
Keep writing!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Sports writing

Whether they write their notes for broadcasts and regular sports program, or they write columns and books for print and electronic media, sports writers are in a talent category.

Some of the best stories you can read and some of the best writing you'll find today anywhere come from the sports writing genre. The Washington Post, the newspaper closest to me, along with Washington Examiner, has good-to-outstanding columnists in the Sports section. And when I say "good," then I mean really good.  A few names that come to mind, led off by Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon, and Thomas Boswell. Boswell has also written books about baseball, including How Life Imitates the World Series. Dan Steinberg does a good job, I think, leading the Post sports blog.

Dan Patrick, of ESPN, is another sports writer, broadcaster, and author of note.
Tony Dungy, retired from football coaching, mentors young athletes on life and sports skills. His books help support his efforts to keep giving back.