Six Sentences, Exactly

Can you write a whole story in just six sentences: Have a look at The 6S Social Network on Ning,

The submission period for Six Sentences, Volume 3 – a literary tour de force scheduled to be published in April – is officially underway! If you’d like to be part of the action, just send your work to sixsentencesv3@yahoo.com (no attachments – just paste your work in the body of the email), and make sure the subject line of your email is 6SV3 SUBMISSION (or 6SV3 SUBMISSIONS if you’re sending more than one – you may send up to three). Your work must be previously unpublished, and the same 6S Writer’s Guidelines apply. The deadline for inclusion in the book is Sunday, January 31st, 2010 (at midnight EST).

So… when it comes to being published in the new book… what will you say in six sentences?

Laura remembered the shower nozzle was still cracked when the it sprayed her in the face, again. At least the water was hot and coming out in a strong spay to clean off the dirt, loosen her over worked muscles and steam away the stress of the day, detox by water. Lathering her favourite,  decadent vanilla soap over her skin,  she even enjoyed the water in the tub covering her ankles, like a shower and foot bath all in one… wait, that wasn’t supposed to happen. So much for a shower to unwind. Now she had a clogged drain to add to her list of things to do. She should have known you couldn’t start your day planting your husband and not have the universe take out petty revenge, God must be a man after all.

Short, Clever and all Too Very True

In the first two years of our children’s lives we teach them how to walk and talk. For the next 16 years we tell them to “Sit down and shut up”.

I love irony when it’s clever. This came from an email someone had sent my Mother yesterday. As a writing exercise take some time to come up with your own irony. Something short and clever and all too very true.

The Great Interview Experiment

Citizen of the Month is doing The Great Interview Experiment again.

Here’s how it is going to work. The first person who comments on this post, will get interviewed by me. I will read the person’s blog, then email him ten or so specific questions, hopefully more about his life (what makes them tick) than their favorite blogger (too obvious! — me). I’ll give my interviewee as much time as necessary to answer the questions, but hopefully he’ll finish it by next week. There might be a back-and-forth if the person feel uncomfortable with a question, etc. or if I want to explore a topic further. Finally, when it is all written up, I will polish the draft, send it back, and the interviewee can proudly publish the interview on their own blog.

It doesn’t end there. While I am interviewing the first commenter, he will be interviewing the second commenter. The second commenter will be interviewing the third commenter. Each person should then put their own interview on their own blog, or on the interviewer’s blog, or both (your choice!), answering the questions as openly and honestly as he chooses. Not only will this give others a new way to know you, but we will sabotage the idea of an interview only being for “somebody.” Everyone is somebody.

Will you try it? Are you ready for a random interview as both the interviewer and the interviewee. It’s a bit dangerous. A bit risky. But you might find yourself meeting someone great you never would have found elsewhere.

Copy in Plain Text Firefox Plugin

Copy Plain Text: A plugin for Firefox that lets you copy in plain text. Very nice! It’s experimental so still beta and you may find it does not work for you, or does not work in every case. But the idea is great! If you have ever used contributed content from another source and find yourself having to reformat it all you can now save yourself from doing it that way any more. Just copy it in plain text from the email or web page and it will allow you to post it in your own format, as any plain text would. Sweet!

Bring Back the Ezines?

Should ezines make a comeback? Although an ezine can use content management systems (blog software) it is the format and style which make them different. An ezine is an online magazine. They don’t need to be published daily, they don’t need to be the work of just one person and they can have various sections geared to offering information, services and promotion of the business.

If you can’t write your own blog post each day, consider an ezine. Hire or find people to create the graphics, articles and power up your ezine. You can make your own graphics, write your own content too. But a magazine isn’t built by just one person, generally. They update monthly or weekly, or bi-weekly or bi-monthly or seasonally even.

A blog should not expect reader feedback or rely on it. People read, lurk and leave. That’s how it goes. If you want interaction with your readers/ sales prospects look at message boards/ forums or Twitter. You only need to make a short post, maybe just a quick question, then let the readers post their opinions, ideas and questions. It is interactive and relies less on your own input than on the people you want to inform about your skills, services and/ or products.

It is a good idea to make sure you have recent posts so be prepared to make at least one each week, more when your message board is just starting up. You can make a Twitter post a couple of times a day, but not just a link to your site. Have something to say, to interest people and bring them in.

Always go in to moderate your boards for spam, discussions that get out of hand or someone who has asked a question about your business. Message boards are a great way to inform the public. Instead of a blog which cycles posts a board has all it’s content sorted and displayed on the front page. Readers hit the section they want and follow the thread, like a train of thought. It is a great format for site owners who don’t really want to spend time learning how to write and publish.

Another option is the email list. This isn’t as great an option as it once was. People get a ton of email now, newsletters they once subscribed to and don’t really have the time to read. It is still an option worth noting, and things could change. Email may become less cluttered and more useful once again.

An email list/ newsletter goes right to the people who subscribe. They will see it in their inbox and read it at their convenience. You don’t rely on bringing them to your site. Have a site with more information, a back up, with instructions for subscribing to the email newsletter and an archive of past posts.

Post the newsletter on a schedule, monthly, weekly or some other time period that suits you. It does not have to be stuffed with articles. There is a lot you can do, depending on what your goal is. Notify your readers about a contest you are running, a sale, something new that has just come in. Or give them tips and advice regarding your niche or area of expertize. Add a link to your site and the archive at the end of each email. It is important to have unsubscribe instructions too, make them clear and visible. You will still get people asking to be unsubscribed and sending it through to the whole list, but you do what you can to make it simple and easy for them.

New formats and software will come along that can be applied to running and ezine. Some blogs are set up with the magazine theme/ template and look like an ezine. They post daily and have a set of writers and designers and others who keep the blog running. What is the difference between an ezine and a blog set up like one? I’m not sure. But it does seem an easier way to run things, if you can find others to write on a schedule, you don’t have to do it all yourself.

Positive Rituals to Get Your Writing Started

Do you have trouble getting started writing? I do. I sit down in front of the computer, at my desk and then… I check email, I pop open FaceBook to look at FarmTown, I think about making coffee… suddenly it’s an hour later and I still haven’t even opened my writing file. Some would call that self sabotage.

Good Life Zen has a whole list of ideas for establishing your own positive rituals.

For myself I am going to take a look at what I do to begin writing and stop myself at the point where I go off track. If I make coffee first, then bring it to the desk that gets me started in the pattern of beginning to work. If the first thing I do on the computer is pull up my writing files instead of getting sidetracked I am keeping on track too. If I begin reading over what I had already written I am halfway there to writing new content.

Read the whole post from Good Life Zen. There are good ideas there beyond establishing a routine. For me that is the main point but others interlink with it and trying to change your habits is not easy, the more support you can find and build up for yourself, the more likely you are to succeed.

Mad Barking Dogs on Blogs

It’s almost like some people don’t want you to comment on their blog or site at all. When they ask you to register, that’s a big red flag waving at me right away. You want me to hand over my email address before I even know if I like your site? I just wanted to leave a comment, not become your friend. I really don’t want to risk you selling my email address to be spammed. Thanks anyway, I’ll just move along…

The other type of blog that doesn’t really seem to want comments are those which use word verification (which annoys me enough all on it’s own) then they also moderate your comment, keep it on hold to be approved by the blog admin/ owner. I’ve already passed your first test, performed for your twisted amusement, isn’t comment moderation over kill at that point? Kind of like being in a store and having sales people hover and watch you in case you might suddenly steal something. It’s not a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling.

People who use these tactics will justify it but… if you don’t really want my comments just say so. Or turn off comments, save yourself moderating anything. Put up a video of a mad, barking dog so I will know you don’t want me to come back. That makes it easier for both of us.

I was annoyed when I originally wrote this post. That explains the typos I missed and the tone. I still do think I’m right however.

Organize Grrl Zine Workshops

Have you ever wanted to create your own small publication, in print? Whether you think of them as fanzines, zines or ezines (which are not in print) the ideas for holding a zine workshop are great for getting together with a group and trying to create something of your own on paper.

From GrrlZines and GZAGG originally:

Forming and organizing the group and workshops:

+ Find other like-minded zinesters in your city (via word-of-mouth, the library, co-ops, zines at book and record stores, music venues, and the Internet). It is best if you have enough members so that you can rotate in providing workshops (we like to have at least 2-3 at each workshop)

+Organize your workshop tools. We always bring: A typewriter, scissors (more than one pair), glue sticks, pens (ball point and sharpie), blank paper, a stapler (a saddle stapler is best), and a scrap box with a variety of newspapers, magazines, clip art, rub-on letters, decorative paper, string, and other bits that can be used in making a zine. You can ask for donations, or “borrow” stuff from work.

+ Identify organizations interested in zine workshops such as youth, women’s and LGBT centers, feminist organizations, high schools, girls clubs, festivals, bookstores etc.

+ Present your idea about doing a zine workshop at the selected venue. Asking your friends is often a good way to get started. Ask if the venue can provide some compensation or contribution of materials, and if it can provide a photocopy machine or free copies.

+ When arranging for a space for the workshop make sure it has enough tables and chairs, and that it allows cut and paste activities.

+ Decide on a time frame for the workshop. We usually allow 1.5 to 2 hours for the workshop itself and another hour for copying and stapling the workshop zine.

+ If the workshop is open to the public (and not only for a specific group), make flyers and distribute them widely in the community and among your friends. Make use of activist email lists and website in your community too. You should probably keep the number of participants under 20.

The workshop itself:

+ First we introduce ourselves and our zines. Next we talk about the definition of a zine, zine history, the current “zine scene,” our experience making and distributing zines, and the basics of how to make and distribute zines. We always have resource guides available (a zine itself) that repeat this material.

+ Most of our workshops consist of making a zine in which each participant contributes one page. We make digest-sized zines, which are letter-size paper folded in two (so that each page is 4.25” wide by 5.5” tall). We suggest you have them draw a border approximately one-half inch around their page as a guide, so that their work doesn’t get cut off when copied.

+ Be sure to point out that color can be tricky when making black-and-white copies (red becomes black, for example), and encourage image-making that will copy well. Discourage pages with a majority of solid black as this tends to create paper jams when copied.

+ Then it’s DIY time! It’s important to allot the majority of the time for them to work on their page. It can take some folks a while to get comfortable, and some do multiple versions. While they’re working on their pages, the organizers can make a cover, an ad a page for your group (and for any upcoming events – a good way to balance out the number of pages if you need to) and a contributors page. Have them sign the contributor’s page when they turn in their page, and allow them to identify themselves as they wish, but do suggest email addresses if they wish to keep in contact with your or other workshop participants.

+ Assemble the master copy of the zine as pages are submitted to demonstrate how this is done. They will give you a half-sheet of paper, which you will then glue onto a creased full sheet of paper. Do consider the order of pages when you do this, and try to juxtapose contributions in an interesting manner.

+ Before the workshop ends ask the participants to sign up for a mailing list if they want to be informed about future events. Consider using this mailing list to elicit feedback on the workshop too.

+ Remember that you may not have a copy machine immediately available, in which case you will need to make arrangements for getting the zines to the workshop participants. If your workshop is part of a conference or festival, try to schedule it early in the day so that you can arrange a pick-up point for them later. You may need to provide envelopes for mailing, in which case it’s a good idea to ask for postage costs from either the participant or the organization sponsoring the workshop. Sometimes it works out for participants to go with you to make copies, in which case they can learn about copy techniques and get their zines right away.

+ When copying a zine with lots of images, select the ‘photo’ button on the copy machine for best quality of gray tones.

+ To staple the zine it’s easiest to use a saddle stapler (one designed to reach in to the center of paper). If you need to use a regular stapler: make a pile of newspaper, open the zine face down on top of it, open the stapler and staple down through the zine’s spine, then manually fold down the ends of the staples.

Grrrl Zines A-Go-Go – is an all-women workshop group based in Southern California. Since 2002 we have been facilitating workshops in community venues and college campuses in our region. We focus on the empowerment of young women through the production of fanzines and self published works.

Generic Salutations

“Guys, come check this out…”

Some people dislike that kind of generic greeting; some people (like my Mother) are offended by it actually. After all, roughly half the population of the planet are not guys. It’s also a very casual way to address someone, unless you know them quite well.

There aren’t a lot of great options for situations when you are addressing a group of people you don’t know. However, a better option would be “Dear Reader” or some variation of that as it applies to the letter or email you are sending. It isn’t as generic or overly casual and it directs your email to whoever is reading it rather than anonymous ‘guys’.

The L Word in Letter Form

I just sent a love letter to my nephew. He is 13, taller than I am and full of muscles from sports he has been doing. So strange to think of him as a young man versus the little towheaded boy I looked after. He is being bugged by his parents and Grandmother and family friends about what he will do this summer. I remember how much I hated that when I was his age, endless nagging and nitpicking. I still hate it actually.

So I wrote him a love letter and sent it to him in email this afternoon. Just a bit about how great it is to see him becoming a man and watch him growing up and making decisions. On and on and on in that kind of way. Of couse the L word was dropped into the mix, twice I think. I mean it all and yet I dared not read it back to myself cause I’d start feeling sappy and have tears trickling down my face. Getting emotional is sometimes silly.

Anyway, write your own love letter to a young person in your family. Pick one out of the tree from some branch or other if you don’t have a young person in the immediate family. Get mushy, give them some sincere goo about life and changes and being a good person. It never hurts to tell someone the L word, even if you can’t actually say it in person.