Friday, May 28, 2010

Fear Factor, Writing Edition

Copyblogger's Brian Clark offers some insights today on what might be called the stop psychology of writing -- specifically, how fear often gets in the way.

Determining that it's not fear, but F.E.A.R. --
False Evidence Appearing Real -- that holds us back, he suggests breaking down the situation objectively.  If you failed before, you probably learned from it, and if you learned from it, chances are you won't make the same mistake again. So really, the only people who have anything to fear are those who haven't tried. Moral of the story? Try, try, and try again.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Around the Word

With the long weekend near, we decided to stock up on these writerly wisdoms...
  • Men with Pens acknowledges the importance of self-discipline, but urges writers to not turn into cold, slogging automatons -- stay in touch with what you love about the process, be it the storytelling aspect, the ability to birth images, or just how much more eloquent you are on the page. What is your favorite part of writing?
  • Ragan explores the phenomenon of vanity capitalization, a rampant offense in the PR world. Their conclusion? If it's not a proper noun, Platonic ideal, or a noun in German, keep it lowercase
  • Strategic communications expert Denise Graveline discovers some striking similarities between learning the guitar and public speaking. Both require diving in headfirst, ignoring the pressure to impress, and a lot of practice

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Around the Word

  • The Eloquent Woman shares her tips for disagreeing (politely) with your audience.  From de-personalizing questions to silencing your retort, these tricks are here to help when Q&A time rolls around
  • Literary agent Rachelle Gardner highlights the importance of your book's first few pages as a tool for increasing book sales
  • Who knew charisma could be culled? Nick Morgan reveals easy ways to up your authenticity, such as focusing on a single emotion your content inspires

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Around the Word

  • Copyblogger's "Johnny B. Truant" touts the liberating wonder of pseudonyms -- a second self can make way for your true writing voice
  • Grammar Monkeys consider the "false range" so rampantly used by writers. Using "everything" or "ranging" often fails to live up to its promise of a full continuum
  • GalleyCat reports that Canadian literary mag Taddle Creek has discovered its best fact checker: the reader! Catch a textual error and enjoy a two-year subscription
  • Men with Pens shares the do's and don'ts of scoring freelance work -- read the ad, follow instructions, and don't be lazy -- if it says send samples, a link will NOT suffice

Monday, May 24, 2010

Self-Help for Speechwriters: Put Your Strategy Hat On

Gotham friend Fletcher Dean wrote an enlightening piece today for Ragan on how speechwriters can make themselves indispensable. While your wily way with words may have gotten you the in-house speechwriting gig, strategy will keep you there. Dean recommends coming up with a big-picture plan of the executive communications department, positioning yourself not only as a writer, but as a business partner.  

We're curious to hear how this approach has worked for our other speechwriting friends.  So if you have a good case study or concrete tip, please share away.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Outward-Facing Author

When you've clocked endless hours penning your manuscript, the last thing you want to face is this unsavory realization: without publicity, no one will ever read your book. You've invested all of your money in editing, printing, and layout, and now you're without the dimes to hire a publicist. Here to help save the day (and maybe your sanity) is author and ABC co-host Kat Smith, who shares her golden rules for solo book publicity. Her top tips? Make sure your press release has a slant of interest to its reader, and always remember to promote yourself, not just your book -- it's people who get interviewed, not paperbacks.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Today's Tips: Build Blogging Muscle, Avoid Freelancer Burnout

  • Want to be a faster, stronger blogger? Copyblogger advises hitting the keys every day -- even if you post only once a week.  Just like going to the gym, you can't build muscle without regular exercise
  • For those of you who could use some help building structure for your wandering work habits, Men with Pens offers a handy three-step plan that includes turning off your phone, closing the door, and skipping the ever-distracting spam clean-out

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Commencement Speaker Derby: Who Would You Choose?

The Daily Beast recently posted a piece that was equal parts candy and catnip for we speechwriters — a ranked list of the most in demand commencement speakers.  The Beasties looked at a sampling of the top 50 schools around the country, and found that these high-profile speaking slots are increasingly doled out to news anchors, television personalities, and other celebs.  That got us wondering: is there any place for public intellectuals and experts in academia's version of primetime?  We put that question to our speechwriters and asked them to offer their thoughts on whose wise words should guide the next generation of higher education.

I would add Doris Kearns Goodwin to the list. She's just so authentically warm and engaging and has the ability to connect with any audience.
        -- Michael Spoodis, Principal, Spoodis LLC

This doesn't fall under the category for the number of commencement speeches, but I wrote the first extraterrestrial graduation address, given by International Space Station astronaut Mike Fincke from Earth orbit to the University of North Dakota class of 2004.  
        -- Ed Goldstein, public policy and communications professional

Looking at the Daily Beast list, I worry for my country. Ex Presidents, the odd cabinet secretary who has become a celebrity, a poet or two – all well and good, and sometimes better than that. But newscasters? Do we really ascribe wisdom to them? They live in the daily. The young can hear them any old time. I suppose they speak well, which is entertaining. But we have more than enough entertainment in our lives. Graduating seniors may want some wisdom about life, or, at least, a realistic portrayal of how you get from here to there. I suppose the average CEO is dull.  Have we no exciting scientists? People who do things that make a difference, but which aren’t political?

While I am sure that many people look at heads of advocacy organizations as models of morality, I can only say from my own long ago experience that having Marian Wright Edelman as a commencement speaker was too political, and quite annoying to all those students who weren’t bleeding hearts, and to those parents who had just finished paying for an education, who did not wish to see their values and their politics insulted at a day of celebration.  BTW, that was 30 years ago.  She has lost on every issue the electorate has had any say about. I suppose availability is a value.
        -- Lisa Schiffren, political speechwriter

What about the one I wrote? Just kidding.
        -- Jeff Porro, Principal, Porro Associates
Solzhenitsyn at Harvard, 1978, should be number one.  That it’s not even on the list is embarrassing.  Bush’s speech at West Point in 2002 was his best and most consequential commencement.
        -- Michael Anton, Managing Partner, Revere Advisors, LLC

Monday, May 17, 2010

Around the Word Today

After a fine weekend of sunshine, it's time to soak up a little mindshare. 
  • The New York Times explores the dumb-down effects of SEO on online headlines-- when searchability becomes the final word, what happens to wit?
    • Our favorite tipster agent Rachelle Gardner discusses the human value-add of a verbal pitch, and how the gestures and extra expression that face-to-face time allows can give your pitch punch
    • Men with Pens suggests an array of ways to get your guest post published. Our personal pick? Studying the last 4-5 posts on the site to determine preferred subject matter and overall tone

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Quoting Words of Womanly Wisdom

    Have you ever noticed that speech anthologies, which speakers and speechwriters of all persuasions often use to cull quotes from to spice up their remarks, are dominated by quotable men?  Author Denise Graveline did, and to remedy this inequity, she recently shared a series of databases, libraries, and academic papers she turns to for women's words of wisdom on everything from quantum theory to the quest for work/life balance.

    We asked Heather Hurlburt, one of our favorite and most esteemed female speechwriting friends, for her tips on how to keep the voice of other women in your work.  Here are her top suggestions:

           1. Quote the client's friends, colleagues, and peers

           2. Have a couple of women thinkers/speakers/public figures that you admire and enjoy keeping up with; then be ready to insert their thoughts into your client's speeches!

           3. Women can and should name check other women often; nobody takes off style points for it. Some men get nervous about whether a woman speechwriter will make them sound too feminine. In my experience, those are people you don't want as clients anyway, because they will find something to be insecure and obnoxious about. Men who don't suffer from this insecurity can humanize themselves marvelously by confidently quoting women, including -- when all else fails -- homespun wisdom attributed to mom or grandma. If Secretary of State Jim Baker can confidently quote female Russian poets, so can lots of other guys!

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Around the Word

    • Copyblogger's Jonathan Morrow follows up on last week's post with 10 more top tips for writing inspiration -- from interrupting your pattern with an absurd action (peacock feather, anyone?) to penning an angry rant to get your passion flowing, these wacky tips just might do the trick
    • Does reading bad writing make you a better writer?Apparently, writers are more apt to learn from the mistakes of others than their own, GalleyCat reports
    • Nick Morgan discloses his quick steps to a smooth presentation -- our top pick? Getting in touch with the emotion behind the message before you give the speech

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Today's Book Tip: Build Up to Your Pitch

    In her latest post, literary agent Rachelle Gardner shares what she personally appreciates in a pitch. While many writers launch straight into the heart of their story, Gardner advises slowing down and providing some context. Make sure to include your name, the genre you're writing in, your publishing history, and your tagline. Then -- and only then -- are you ready to launch into your 3 minutes (max) pitch.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    Around the Word

    Forget about Two-fer Tuesdays — we have five wise to the words posts for today's snappy hour.
    • Ragan's resident PR Junkie Michael Sebastian shares his genius tip for daily blogging: take pictures!
    • Nick Morgan begs presenters to stop talking to their slides -- learn what you need in the second or two you take to glance back.  An audience looking at your back is an audience ready for naptime
    • From crocheting to PTA meetings, literary agent Rachelle Gardner considers the sacrifices writing requires
    • If these walls could talk! The Brooklyn Heights mansion that housed Truman Capote through both In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's goes on sale for a cool $18 million
    • Copyblogger highlights the wonder of cornerstone pages, which provide homepage prominence for your blog's archived content

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Featured Writer: Wendy Shanker

    Gotham friend Wendy Shanker — the author of the recently-released Are You My Guru: How Medicine, Meditation & Madonna Saved My Life — has a typically witty piece on the homepage of The Guardian of London on her favorite material girl.  Under the headline "Madonna is My Guru," Wendy highlights the different Madge badges she proudly wears, from body confidence to brilliance.

    Around the Word

    Yesterday mum was the word. Today it's back to business with advice that even a mother would love.
    • Literary agent Julie Barer goes against the grain by advising writers to stick with their day jobs -- in this economy, it's best to keep your expectations low and hone your writing chops while staying secure
    • Men with Pens swears by the tailor-made questionnaire -- the more specific and long-range, the better -- for sure-fire client satisfaction

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    Around the Word

    We wrap the week up with this expert advice and insight...
    • Kneerim & Williams agent Steve Wasserman advises writers to quell their digital rights worries, as no one can predict the digital publishing model to come
    • David Murray would like to know why commenters feel inclined to write "good article" on posts read by thousands, and what, exactly, they think this inane feedback adds?
    • Is your blog not paying the bills? Copyblogger urges you to quit writing for "bloggerly love" and traffic spikes -- and start writing sharp, customer-directed content

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010

    Keeping Your Authorial Ego Intact

    Both public speaking and writing require a delicate balance of ego.  While confidence is required to boldly share your message with an audience or potential publisher, you also need to know when to step offstage.  To give a fair shake to both sides, we recommend reading The Eloquent Woman's guide to reining in the narcissistic presenter's over-ego, followed by Meghan Ward's struggle to maintain confidence in the face of auto-response rejection.  So whether you're fearing the next speaking gig or doubting the success of a proposal, remember that you're in good company.

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Around the Word Today

    Start your week off with these word-while tips...
    • Men with Pens encourages you to grab clients with your web copy -- after all, words are omnipresent, and you don't want your sales pitch treated like the text on your toothpaste
    • Media writing professor Chris Birk guides writers through what to do when your post is held hostage by an editor -- from calming down to pitching elsewhere, timing is the key to keeping the relationship intact
    • Nick Morgan urges speakers to avoid opening with a summary -- by denying the audience their decision-making process, you're inviting disagreement