Are you Still Writing Letters?

I’d still be writing regular letters to penpals, Grandparents and/ or my niece but there is a problem with people not writing back. No letter writer is an island. Plus, there are the perks of shopping for stationery. (Not to be confused with stationary – not moving).

Of course my Grandparents can’t reply for sadly obvious reasons. Unless there are family skeletons in the closet I haven’t wandered into yet, literally. I lost touch with all my penpals from my younger days. We had less in common, less time to write and so it goes. My niece would likely write more if I sent her a few more letters in the mail. But, it’s discouraging to be in a one way conversation through the mail. Like someone who just nods once in awhile, leaving one person to carry the whole thing. But, she is a school girl still. About the age I was when I began writing letters to the Grandparents and penpals from all over the world.

Did you know they don’t teach the children how to write in school now? Printing, but not cursive writing. No handwriting, not the real kind. What a loss for all the coming generations. Cursive writing is elegant. I can remember how adult I felt when I was able to move up from printing to cursive. Not these days. Oddly, they don’t teach typing or keyboarding either. Is being unable to communicate a literacy problem or as long as they can read are we assuming they can get by?

CaptureTonight I joined the Letter Writers Alliance. I only wish it were Canadian, here in Ontario, so I could attend some events. I’m still glad to support the group and the cause of letter writing.

When did you last write (in cursive) a letter you sent in the mail to someone? I’d even count birthday or Christmas cards if you wrote a note to go along with it.

Using the Chrome Web Browser to Post to WordPress

I want to post to my sites with a content curation sort of bookmarklet. I already have an account with Scoop.it where I have several topics and post to them regularly, there. I’d rather put all that work, time and energy into content curation for my own sites instead. So, I’ve been looking for options.

I found a few options and then began trying them all out one by one.

Word This

wordthis

Will only let you do one blog. But, I didn’t even get that far. Right click the icon and and set your blog link in the options. Then it got stuck, never saved, didn’t do anything. The bookmarklet itself opened a window which went no where. So, as much as I liked the name of this one, it is also the first one I’m deleting from the web browser.

WPWrite

wpwrite

Another which will work for one blog only. I have a few and need to post to all of them. It would not work to have a bookmarklet for each one.  Way too complicated.

MultiPress

multipress

Although this one is available to download from the Chrome Extensions, the website is 404. You can add up to five blogs but, I was not able to post to my blog when I tried to run this one.

Postek

postek

This was not what I wanted at all. Only one blog and it doesn’t work to add content from another site you want to link to. This is just a quick way to write a new post without clicking through to your blog. Maybe useful for some, not worth keeping around for me. Plus, I did not like being asked to type in my password on a website other than my own. Overall, I did not mind deleting this one.

Editoy Writer

editoy

This one was more work to set up. I finally got through finding and adding an API key and authorizing the whole thing with WordPpress.com and then… it didn’t work. I don’t know why.  I found a page written in Chinese (I think) which even once translated was no help with setting Editoy up or getting it to work.

Express Curate

expresscurate

This is the one I most want to work. It does work well as the WordPress plugin.  I have found it gives a memory error on my two biggest blogs, but I contacted the developers and they are working on it.

So far I am not getting the Chrome Extension to work. The developers say it should and it should work for multiple sites. So, I’m keeping it around and working getting it to work. It looks great and has all the features I want.

Addendum to Express Curate: One complication I am having with this plugin is the added code for tags which is does on auto pilot. I turned the feature on to give it a try, not entirely sure what it would do but expecting I’d have some control over it. I did not. Express Curate automatically gave all of my WordPress tags an HTML link and a hashtag. This is not a terrible thing – if you want that. I didn’t really, my tags are not that tidy and I didn’t really want the extra links. However, the real problem for me is that this also removed my capital letters, turning titles into all small letters and abbreviations too. Even once I deactivated the plugin, the HTML code remained (and the small letters too). Because of this I am now trying to go through my blogs and fix titles, remove hashtags and the extra code on tags. It is a chore.

So far nothing is working better than the old PressThis which comes with WordPress. But, I’m hoping for more.

Love Letter Writers

love letter writers
I was a letter writer until my last older relative died, the Grandmothers and their sisters. I did write to my Grandfather sometimes but it was mainly the women who wrote back and gave me more reason to write back. It is much easier to reply to something in a letter than to break out fresh inspiration each time all by yourself.

However, not everyone answered my letters and I would not have known they actually liked them if it weren’t for my Mother and others who knew the older women I wrote to. Maybe they didn’t know what to say to reply back to a grandchild they would only see a few times a year. Weddings, births and funerals as they say, but I would see my Grandparents at family holidays too.

Writing a letter seems simple enough when you decide to start one. Then the blank page… it just sits there so untouched and unhelpful.

So how do you start a letter?

Salutations! Greetings are a simple place to start. A simple Hello gets you into the letter writing process. Address them by name or title (I went with Aunt Emma, the title and the name, when I wrote to the older ladies). You would likely write something else if you were writing to someone you knew on a casual basis.

Next, remind them who you are in some way. Just like leaving a phone message, you tell people who you are and why you are calling. This is pretty much the same when you put your message into print too. Simply give your own name and title (in the family letters I was usually Diane’s daughter or Violet’s granddaughter). Then say you are writing to see how they are, let them know how Christmas/ Thanksgiving/ Easter/ etc went with your family… there are endless reasons you can think up as the purpose of your letter. (You don’t have to say you’re writing because you thought they might be feeling old, lonely or left out).

At this point you start the real letter, the actual content, like a leap out into space. Don’t get tangled up – just talk about your day. The ordinary occurrences can be far more interesting than you think.

Next paragraph, talk about whatever you said you were actually writing about, your reason for the letter. I don’t start with that. If you get right to the point in a letter you seem to be pressed for time, unsocial and not really wanting to connect with your letter reader. With the older ladies this was especially important. I didn’t want them to think someone had told me I had to write to them. No one had, it was all my own idea.

The body of your letter can go on for as long as you can think of some bit of this and that to write about. Often as I get started I think of several things I can mention in the letter. Trivial stuff is fine. Life is made up of the little things.

Don’t ever forget to ask about your letter reader, how are they doing, what are they doing? Ask questions in the body of your letter too. Make it interactive. It’s not likely you will get your questions answered, not all of them, but it does give your letter the feeling of being directed to the reader rather than your own personal monologue to no one in particular.

When you are reading to end your letter, or when you realize you’re close to running out of paper to write on, give some kind of conclusion to the whole thing. Wrap it up with a bow. Something simple like: I hope this letter gets to you before Christmas. After all, it is traditional for letter writers to talk about the post office and the cost and reliability of mailing a letter.

Sign off with your name. Dating your letter is optional – but you never know where it might turn up far in the future when some relative picks up an interest in family history.

Don’t forget to actually mail the letter.

I usually pick an interesting stamp too. Sometimes I get into mail art as well and doodle/ draw on the envelope before I mail it out into the big, wide world.

Modern Chain Mail

modern chain mail

Do you remember old fashioned chain mail, the promises of fame fortune and death threats to you and your family (loved ones)?

Modern chain mail has taken a new twist. Now we have to reply, friend and follow people in order to save the world or at least save the life of someone deathly ill or suicidal.

At least these are easier to ignore. It was kind of spooky not sending on those old, retro chain letters. I always did feel creepy about throwing them out… just in case something did happen.  These modern chain letters all sound just too phoney to me. How can I possibly save this boy from committing suicide just by passing this along to strangers, from strangers. So I don’t feel even a twinge of creepiness.

But… could you use a modern chain letter and come up with a really creepy story, something unique?

Simply Security Questions

I was registering for an online points service with one of the grocery store chains here in Ontario. Part of the process was choosing a security question and then typing in your (unique and individual) answer. Well, I have a problem with the new security questions which pop up. I was just fine with the old standard Mother’s maiden name or Father’s middle name. I knew those, they had a simple and definite answer. 

Maybe they became too standard, maybe they were less secure as they became over used or maybe not everyone knows this information about their parents. Some how there are now new security questions and I usually can’t find a simple answer for any of them. I don’t remember enough, I don’t have strict enough opinions or I just don’t have a preference and this leaves me with no security questions and answers, too often. It’s frustrating. 

Here are the security questions from my recent adventure with them:

If you could be any historical figure who would you be?

Where did you go on your best vacation?

What is the name of your best friend from childhood?

What was the first concert you attended?

What is the name of your favourite teacher?

Do you have answers for all of them? An answer you are sure of enough to be able to remember and have the same answer months from now? Not me. I can think of a lot of historical figures, none I’d really want to be. My best vacation…. I can’t pick one. My best friend from childhood… too many options, we moved a lot when I was a younger child and then I never really was great at keeping friends or making them. Another memory game… the name of my favourite teacher, I can’t pick one from among the faces I remember and I’m not sure how to spell the names I can remember. First concert was Cher, or Sonny and Cher, I guess. Or was there something else I’ve forgotten. Likely so. I picked the concert question because it was the only one I might answer the same way twice. 

The problem with most of these questions is still that they do not come with simple, definite answers. Different spellings, different abbreviations, different ways of writing them (like short forms versus long forms). Even if you give the same answer it might be wrong because you typed it with capital letters or without any spaces the first time you gave the security question answer. 

This is why the old standards of Mother’s maiden name worked. Just type in a last name, with the first letter as a capital because (of course) it is a proper name. I miss the old, simple security questions. Security seems to be pulling us farther and farther away from the very things we are supposed to be accessing. I think it will be easier for someone else to guess my security answer than for me to remember it. 

What would you use as a great security question? Can you think up a few? 

How to Achieve Word Impact

How to Achieve Word Impact

(Another post among many which Suite101 has deleted from their content. I had linked to this on Creative Writing Inspiration and decided to save it on my own site when I found it among the carnage).

Nov 22, 2011  Karen Newcomb

Three word power secrets that add impact in communication
Writing too often simply sits on the printed page and does nothing. This is because there is a tremendous difference between the potential impact words have and the actual impact they create in a piece of writing.

How many times have you received something written from another person which you had trouble understanding and which you finally stopped reading because you just lost interest? In addition, how many times have you written a letter expecting immediate action and received almost no response. The fact is that written communication often falls flat. This applies to articles, books, query letters, right down to memos in an office. Think about how advertisers use this formula to grab your attention.

The basic word power formula consists of three things:

Keep it simple
Get your reader’s attention
Talk directly to your reader
Keep It Simple

This is a basic rule that should be applied at all times. One of the main problems is that people often use too many words to say what they’re trying to say, and the writing itself is too complicated.

You can greatly improve your writing if you look at everything you write and ask: Is this the simplest way I can say it and still include everything I want to say? If it isn’t, rewrite it.

Here are some examples of complicated sentences and how they can be made simple.

 

Complicated

We would be very happy if after thinking it over you would reply.

Simple

Please reply.

Complicated

I got the right address when my first letter was returned with another address which I see is correct.

Simple

I got the right address from the envelope when my first letter was returned.

Complicated

Your suggestions will indeed be discussed during the next Publications Committee meeting.

Simple

We will discuss your suggestions at the next Publications committee meeting.

Get Your Reader’s Attention

Much writing simply starts without giving the reader any reason to read on. As a result, the first couple of sentences get read then the writing is put down. You should always do something at the beginning of each piece of writing to attract attention. In the beginning, you can improve your writing tremendously if you remember that reader will always read on if you offer him some future promise. How? By changing the sentence around so the reader feels you are offering him something he can use.

Here are a couple of examples:

Poor Beginning

This summer at King Memorial Library we had a Creative Writer’s Workshop.

Attention Getting Beginning

Let me tell you about the Creative Writer’s Workshop we had at King Memorial Library.

Poor Beginning

Paris is lovely in the spring.

Attention Getting Beginning

I’d like to share Paris in the spring with you.

Poor Beginning

The high school carnival was a success and we got marvelous response in our call for donations and help for the Country Store…and a lot of people helped in phoning and in putting in a lot of long hours…thanks a lot.

Attention Getting Beginning

Thank you very much for helping to make our school carnival a tremendous success. This was due to…

Talk Directly to Your Reader
Of course not every type of writing will allow you to talk directly to your reader, but where you can, you’ll increase your written effectiveness 100 percent. In fiction writing you talk directly to your reader through viewpoint, in non-fiction and article writing you simply insert the word “you.”

Some examples:

Indirect

Special thanks to those people who helped us.

Talking to Your Reader

A special thank you for helping us.

Indirect

Those who use this method will find out how to lose five pounds easily.

Talking to Your Reader

Using this method you can easily lose five pounds.

Indirect

There are probably many people who would like girls chasing them.

Talking to Your Reader

Would you like girls chasing you?

There are many types of writing in which you can’t talk to your reader. But when you can it will improve both the communication and response many times.

Copyright Karen Newcomb. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
Read more at Suite101: How to Achieve Word Impact | Suite101.com http://web.archive.org/web/20120128063313/http://karen-newcomb.suite101.com/how-to-achieve-word-impact-a397272#ixzz2JoRrCICP

Publishers Need Better Photography to Stay Relevant on the Web

Publishers Need Better Photography to Stay Relevant on the Web.

Most sites using images do it very casually, without putting in a lot of thought. Why would they when the image is just something they picked up to drop into the post. It has not meaning to them and often it is pretty meaningless in the post too. It’s just what you are expected to do now. Every post should have an image. That’s what the so-called gurus say.

I wish sites would go back to the day when people created their own artwork to illustrate posts. If you don’t have a professional looking photo ready for the post, draw something yourself. Why does it have to be a photo if you aren’t a professional photographer work with what you actually can do.

Draw something or get into other forms of web graphics. Turn text into art. All you need is a graphics program of some kind and the ability to type letters into it and move them around. Experiment.