The New Newsletters are sent in Boxes

I’ve been saying newsletters are not worth anyone’s time for awhile. When did you last really read a newsletter from your email inbox? I’ve nearly given up on email itself, so newsletters tend to go right to the outbox.

Speaking of boxes… have you noticed the trend to getting themed boxes of stuff sent through the mail? Snail mail, not email.

I’ve found a few so far, without really looking hard:

Today I found something bigger, smarter and very interesting, Quarterly.

quarterlycurators
Source: Online Quarterly Subscription and Gifting Services from Quarterly Co.

Quarterly is the new newsletter, vastly improved. The idea of getting people to pay for a box of things (themed but not predetermined) sent out every three months is going to catch on. How could it fail? Who hasn’t become at least slightly addicted to shopping online, getting a present delivered to your door? Now it can be a real surprise, created for you, every month (every 3 months on Quarterly). Are you curious enough to look at the site? You can see what has been sent in past boxes from the curators (as they are called) on the site.

I think it’s brilliant. People will subscribe and look forward to getting your newsletter and other goodies. They won’t just read your newsletter, they will pay to get it. Just considering it from a marketing point of view… it is pretty amazing.

But, I’m not so cynical. I love the idea of being a curator of mailed out boxes. I’ve already thought about what I could send and how I could get things to send. It’s like Christmas and birthday shopping to plan a surprise for others.

Of course it’s not so simple. There are plans to make, angles to consider and I need a theme that works. I’m not sure about working through Quarterly. I’m not a household name in any household but my own. Also, I’m not sure Quarterly (as a service) would help me in any way I couldn’t figure out to help myself. But, I loved seeing it today. It’s not the first to mail out gifts and presents, but it seems to be the first to collect them in a group – like an online catalog of people who want to give you unique gifts, and a newsletter.

Support Yourself as an Authority

It is all too easy to doubt yourself. Just wait a few seconds and the doubts will begin seeping in. One terrible thing we do to ourselves is comparing to others. This nitpicking at ourselves undermines our abilities and confidence. Give yourself some credit and… stop demanding perfection of yourself.

It is OK to make a mistake –  you can change mistakes into positives.

Let yourself have an addendum if you find out something more. Write a follow up if you change your mind.

Don’t think you must have everything right every time. Let yourself learn and share that with people. I’d trust an authority still learning over one who is unbending and thinks they already know it all. No one knows it all.

Share what you discover and learn. How did you find out about it? What was your experience trying out the new idea or method? Be human and share what you know, what you discover and even the stuff that doesn’t work out at all.

Your mistakes are genuine proof that you are involved and care about your topic (whatever you are an authority for).

Never Doubt Yourself

Do not doubt yourself as an author. Be firm and resolute in your writing.

Never say “IMO” or “in my opinion.” Your reader already knows it’s your opinion. Speaking that way screams uncertainty, and casts doubt on the content you’re presenting.

YOU are the expert. Don’t forget.

Read Industry Stuff Often.

Read a lot of blogs and websites in your industry on a regular basis to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on.

This keeps you informed and on top of trends. You’ll be able to write from a solid frame of reference and won’t appear detached.

Source: 10 Writing Tips for More Engaging Content

Fake Accents and Dying Languages

Last year a Canadian public radio show called “This is That” reported a somewhat ridiculous-seeming plan, cooked up in the northern Alberta town of High Prairie: to attract more tourists, the town council had hired a linguist from Texas to invent a local accent.

via A new way to attract tourists: fake accents and dying languages – Quartz.

Everyone has tried a fake accent at some point. My brother is very, very good at it. I’m not. I do hear myself speaking with an accent (in my own head) it just doesn’t connect somewhere along the way from my brain to my mouth. I can live with that. Mostly because I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone pick up an accent and get it right as well as my brother does.

Why would you choose to fake an accent? Assuming you could do it well, or at least well enough. Also, which accent would want? Sure it would depend on the situation, sometimes. But, which accent would you really like, and why?

How to be a Good Listener

Communication needs to be more than one direction, one person can speak but without being heard there is no real communication. (Unless you settle for talking to yourself). For communication you need a voice, you need to be heard and you need feedback to prove you were heard, as your message was intended. In the middle of communication is listening. There is a great saying about having to close your mouth in order to open your ears. It is true. You can’t hear someone else if you are the only one speaking.

Don’t try to communicate about anything important when one, or both of you, are tired or distracted by something else. People may act as if they are hearing you, pretend to be listening or even think they are listening, but not take in a thing you say. If you want to be heard, pick the best time and place. If you are the one listening and know you are not really able to listen at the time, let people know, ask to talk again when you are able to give them your attention.

While you are listening, don’t assume you understand everything. You won’t want to parrot every detail back to the speaker but it is good to confirm the important things such as dates, times and places. Also, never assume you understand how someone else feels, their emotions. Ask for details, this gives the speaker the chance to explore their feelings while they explain.

Take, and give, time when you are listening. Interrupting is impolite and makes it harder to communicate a full idea or message. It is tempting to interrupt when you think you have heard enough and are ready to give feedback. Sometimes we offer feedback, like free advice, before we have heard all the information, the details and feelings behind the basic information. Also, if you are focused on what you want to say, you can’t be fully focused on hearing what is being said.

The best ways to listen better are to pay attention, ask questions and be sincerely interested in the communication. 

Asking questions is a great way to show you are paying attention, have heard what was said (or written), care about what you are hearing and get more information to clearly understand. People enjoy talking about themselves and things which matter to them. You can continue a conversation as long as you like if you keep asking the right questions and listen to the answers.

Talk Like Maxwell Smart, Agent 86

get smartDo you remember ‘Get Smart’?

Adams gave the character a clipped, unique speaking style. Feldon said, “Part of the pop fervor for Agent 86 was because Don did such an extreme portrayal of the character that it made it easy to imitate.”[citation needed] Adams created many popular catch-phrases (some of which were in his act prior to the show), including “Sorry about that, Chief”, “Would you believe …?”, “Ahh … the old [noun] in the [noun] trick. That’s the [number]th time this [month/week].” (Sometimes the description of the trick was simply, “Ahh… the old [noun] trick.”), and “Missed it by ‘that much.'”

From Wikipedia: Don Adams.

Take the Maxwell Smart idea and play with your words:

“Ahh… the old dog in the coffee trick.”

“Ahh… the old houseplant in the lifeboat trick.”

“Ahh… the old pizza in the hand cream trick.”

See more about Get Smart:

Plain Conversation

What do you think about fiction written in the dialect of the character? Such as dialogue typed with a Scots brogue. For me it interrupts the flow of the conversation. Also, it seems a bit silly when every character is speaking in some kind of accent. Listen to your own voice as you have a casual conversation, you won’t enunciate each and every word. I just heard myself say “innernet” instead of Internet. So, when a conversation is written in dialect why stop at just one character? Doesn’t it seem a bit silly? What do you think? Consider the last book you read where a dialect was typed phonetically in the conversation. Did you stop to take note or did it flow? Did it cause you to wonder about the other characters, their way of speech? Or, do you assume everyone speaks perfect, proper English no matter where they come from or where they are?

Panspermia

Where does life originate on our planet? Beyond the religious debates, dip into the scientific hypothesis of how life begins. You may have heard the theory that life happened by chance in the primordial ooze and evolved from there, on our own planet Earth. What if life didn’t originate here but came from somewhere else, spreading like a weed or a virus?

Wikipedia: Panspermia

The hypothesis that life exists throughout the Universe, distributed by meteoroids, asteroids, and planetoids.

Panspermia proposes that life that can survive the effects of space, such as extremophile bacteria, become trapped in debris that’s ejected into space after collisions between planets that harbor life and Small Solar System Bodies (SSSB). Bacteria may travel dormant for an extended amount of time before colliding randomly with other planets or intermingling with protoplanetary discs. If met with ideal conditions on the new planets’ surfaces, the bacteria become active and the process of evolution begins.[1] Panspermia is not meant to address how life began, just the method that may cause its sustenance.

The related but distinct idea of exogenesis (Greek: ἔξω (exo, “outside”) and γένεσις (genesis, “origin”)) is a more limited hypothesis that proposes life on Earth was transferred from elsewhere in the Universe but makes no prediction about how widespread it is. Because the term “exogenesis” is more well-known, it tends to be used in reference to what should strictly speaking be called panspermia.

How would panspermia change things, if it were true? If life could come to Earth this way, what else arrived way back then or in the time since? Could there be dragons, mermaids, Loch Ness Monsters which are in fact the very aliens we have been looking for? What life might be hidden from us, going along happily unknown to us and not knowing much about us either? Deep in the oceans, far away in some ancient forest where even the sunlight rarely penetrates, what lurks in the back of beyond or just too small for us to see?

Guidelines for Dialogue

This isn’t an exact guide to writing dialogue, there are always going to be unique situations. But as a guide it is pretty good, I think.

  • Use words and language which your characters would actually use. Give a character his or her own favourite phrases. Their own unique self expression. Please don’t try to mimic a dialect like a Scottish accent in your written words. The words are spelled the same way whether or not they are spoken with an accent. Let your readers know the character is Scottish (or has an accent, speech impediment, etc.) another way.
  • Get rid of dialogue that doesn’t have a point or advance the story in some way. Reveal character, add to the action, set up foreshadowing, change the pace, something that makes the dialogue work for the story rather than just ramble on.
  • Most of the dialogue should be about the speaker’s thoughts, beliefs or problems. Two or more characters enter into dialogue to discuss something, a plan of action, an argument, a change of heart. Dialogue adds drama because it is more immediate and action based than a written description.
  • Write the dialogue as people actually speak. People interrupt each other, ignore each other or just don’t hear each other.
  • Stop the conversation at a good point, build drama and leave something to the reader’s imagination. An entire conversation isn’t necessary and would be kind of boring.
  • Use punctuation in your dialogue, this makes it easy to read and understand. Punctuation is always an important part of written communication. Indent for each new speaker and identify who is speaking. Even during a long conversation between just two people you need to refresh the reader with who is saying what so they don’t become lost in the dialogue.
  • If you use dialogue in an interview (non-fiction) you always identify and exactly quote the speaker (your original source). If you paraphrase you use proper punctuation (quotation marks) to show what is quoted and what is paraphrased or added.  Don’t misquote, you don’t want to put words in someone’s mouth when it’s a real person you may need to ask for information again.

Horror Show and Tell

I got the idea for this when I read a title “Horror Hotel Show and Tell” at Nippleicious.

It’s almost Halloween so when you notice an odd little Gothic-looking boutique on the main street of town You decide to go in, just for a quick look. On the outside it was tidy, whitewashed with wood trim of spirals and skulls and carved jack-0-lanterns along the front of the shop.

Inside the shelves are floor to ceiling tall and cover all four walls and the spaces in between. It’s cluttered and dusty, even the air seems to be foggy with dust. There are so many items on display you couldn’t see them all if you spent the whole day in the shop. But, now you’re curious enough for more than a quick peek at them all.

One whole wall just has old books. Really old books, the kind you usually only see under glass protection at the library or museum. The other three walls have signs on each display: Gifts for Friends, Gifts for Family, Gifts for Yourself. There are six shelves free standing in the room and each has it’s own sign as well: Gifts for Annoying People, Gifts for Greedy People, Gifts for Rude People, Gifts for Sloppy People, Gifts for Angry People, Gifts for Jealous People.

In one corner you notice a gargoyle. It seems to be breathing. Although you don’t take a step closer you are drawn to it, pulled somehow to stand next to it. The gargoyle opens it’s eyes and looks up at you. It’s alive! As your heart jumps into your throat, keeping you from taking a breath you are unable to move no matter how much you really, really want to leave now.

“What do you require?, asks the gargoyle. It patiently waits for you to answer. After awhile, you lose some of your panic and begin to feel you should say something… anything.

“I just came to browse. The shop looked so interesting from outside. I’ve never noticed it here in town before.” One you start pushing the words out talking gets easier and the gargoyle almost seems to smile, glad to be talking to someone.

“The store is only here for the day. Then I move on to another town. Just for the month of October. I’m retired, mostly.” The gargoyle waves a hand towards the shelves of goods. “You are welcome to look, let me know if you would like to know more about any of the items.”

When it finishes speaking it just goes quiet, reading a book you notice. What else can you do now but look around. Which shelf do you start with and what do you find there?