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.

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.

How to Write Your Own Advice Column

Writing an advice column sounds fun and easy. Until you think about being responsible for the thoughts and actions of the person who takes your advice. Then it gets a little scary. None of us are omnipotent, all knowing. After all, how often do you take your own advice?

If you want to be an advice writer (and you don’t have some kind of background in therapy, psychology or anything else to particularly give you credentials) you can break into advice writing by doing it yourself. Start your own advice column.

Writing your own advice column will take a lot of promotion of yourself and the column you write. Be prepared to put yourself out there, especially if you tend to be the quiet type versus the social butterfly. If you really have a hard time with the social side then round up a friend to be your PR (public relations) person. You’re going to need friends to get you started in other ways too. Who do you think will be writing those first letters for your advice?

Finding a Niche for your Advice Column

These days, when there are already lots of advice columnists, you will need something to make yourself different. This can be your witty sense of humour, but it might be simpler to start out with a theme. I especially like the idea which started Dead Advice (though the site is now dormant).

Think about your own background, the things which interest you and consider a topic which you can sustain over a long time. Something you can keep fresh and have new opinions and ideas about for a long lasting column. You might focus on people fresh from divorce – if you have experience in that area. You might focus on new Mothers – if you have been a new Mother yourself. You might give advice to Grandparents, from the perspective of a new Mother.

Perhaps your advice is less personal and intimate, career oriented or more about how to do things than writing about feelings and emotions. You might write advice for people who work in office cubicles, customer service, online craft sellers, freelance writers, musicians, inventors, dog lovers, figure skaters, tourists, fast food vendors, beauty school drop-outs, any career, business or hobby. There are endless genres and topics and circles of people which you would be suitable to give advice.

If you really aren’t sure what niche you could fill, think about the last time you gave someone advice. Who did you give the advice to? What was the situation? What made you feel competent to give the advice you gave at the time?

When Giving Advice…

Read the question carefully, more than once. Understand what is really being asked under the emotions, the frustration or negative feelings expressed. As you begin your reply work in the original question, repeating back the information in order to make clear communication.

Stay focused on the main question, the point of the advice asked for. Don’t wander off topic into your own personal issues or agenda. You don’t need to judge your readers, lecture them or over explain things and make them feel belittled or stupid. Give them options for moving forward, whatever the problem may have been. Give them empathy and ideas, stay optimistic rather than discouraging them.

Give the reader different view points, a fresh perspective and help them see solutions which they may have been too close to the issue to see themselves. Show your readers the skills they have (and may have forgotten, or taken for granted) which could help solve the problem. Often people just need someone telling them to focus on what they do have, rather than what they don’t have. To look for what they want to find, rather than focusing on the things they don’t like.

If you don’t know the answer, or the question is somehow more than you can handle, don’t just answer it anyway, hoping for the best. Write back to the reader, explain that they are asking too much from an advice column but also, offer them other resources where they can get trained/ skilled help.

Get Writing It!

When you know what you are going to write, it’s time to decide how you will write it. This is the same for any writer in any topic. Should you choose a newsletter, a weblog? What about a podcast? Maybe you want to create a zine (an independent print publication)? The format should be something that will work for you. Consider the ups and downs of each and decide which of them you can work with and distribute to readers/ listeners.

At first you will have to begin your advice column with letters you write yourself for advice, or get family and friends to take this seriously and write the letters for you. Unless you are trying to write a humourous advice column, don’t start out with tacky, soap opera sounding advice requests. Begin as you mean to go on, as they say.

As you answer the advice you will find your voice, your tone, your personality and your perspective. Try at least a few practice letters before you begin to publish anything. Having your niche isn’t enough, now you need to find your style too. Are you practical and sensible, witty, sharp, or even abrasive? Is your column going to be snarky, for the point of making fun of people or genuine and sincere?

Whatever voice and style you choose, make sure you can maintain it for the long haul. You also want to develop loyal readers. People who will make up your fan base and stick with you each week, or as often as you publish. In order to find readers who stick with you and believe in your advice you need to be both visible and predictable as a publisher. Pick a publishing schedule and stick to it. If you need to be away, announce it first and give a return date. Answer comments from readers on your posts or in your forums, contact forms, etc. Try to answer every reader comment in less than a week and give readers an expected response time when they leave comments. Respond quickly and give them the feeling of having your personal attention and being someone you wanted to reply to.

Don’t forget to actually ask readers to send in their questions for your advice. Never assume people will understand this without being given instructions. Use a contact form in your blog for people to send you questions. Or, give them an email address which you have created just for the advice column. (You can set up a new email address on Gmail or another web account for free). Give instructions for asking advice in the top of the newsletter/ site and give the instructions again at the end of your site/ newsletter. (Don’t use the same text – write it differently for people who didn’t understand the first instructions for whatever reason).

Treat your readers well, promote your column and give good, authentic advice from a real human being – those are the important things for publishing your own advice column. Good luck and have fun with it.

Has the Internet Made us Greedy?

I think the Internet has made people greedier in a way. We used to have more patience and be used to waiting for things. Not just business sort of stuff like phone calls, letters, communication in general. But, even personal things like waiting to read your favourite magazine once a month. Or, the delight of finding a painting, or some other illustration which has everything you love just the right way. It used to be once a decade you would happen to find something like that. Or, that perfect jewellery, furniture, wedding accessory, etc.

Now, with the access to the Internet we find great images and ideas almost every time we look for them. There is so much more and so much more is all so much more easier to find. It’s designed to be easy to find. We are spoiled and kind of greedy. Once something gets easy we just expect more. Almost no one is ever happy with what they have after all. Everyone just wants more.

Have we crossed some kind of line? Are we becoming a selfish and greedy bunch? I wonder what our ancestors would think of our lifestyle. Would they wish they had our indulgences and our easy access to so much – or would they see how much less we really appreciate all that we have.

Typographic Decay

Flickr: Typographic Decay

About Typographic Decay

“An investigation of what happens to typography, when it’s given a fixed ephemeral existence and allowed to interact with its environment.”

The photos being shown in this group are a collection of individual explorations, and naturally found occurrences in both digital and analogue mediums that attempt to explore this statement.

Typographic Decay is a term coined by Edrea Lita and Marek Okon in 2007 when they both were investigating how physical typography interacts over time within a physical or digital environment. This investigation later became a paper they presented in October of 2007 at Plus+ International Design Conference held in Birmingham, England.

I found two similar groups on Flickr:

Flickr: Ghost Letters

Flickr: Fragmented Urban Language

You can also find many sites and groups about Ghost Signs in general.

Writer Response Theory

Found on a long abandoned blog.

WRT: Writer Response Theory is a blog on digital character art — digital art that makes use of letters. Our focus is interactive works in which users input text and receive textual responses. Our URL plays on Reader Reponse Theory – how do reader/writers change the works they encounter via textual input? We are writers responding to theory and a theory responding to writers. We read ASCII art, blog fiction, chatbots, email fiction, e-poetry, hypertext fiction, and interactive ficition (IF).

Writer Response Theory

Recycling Ideas

Janet Blaylock:

 Ideas can be recycled. Your emotions or interests can produce an idea for a story. Ideas are anywhere and can be used over again. Be alert to your environment, your interests, and your emotions. Somewhere an idea will spark your imagination.

Also using different viewpoints can be an idea for another story. Any idea can be written more than once by changing something in the story so that it is given a fresh approach. For example. A story could be told by the detective, and then recycled and told again by the villain. You’ll be reading a story later on that is told by the villain.

I’ve heard about recycling ideas in many forms of thought. Some people say there really is nothing new, it’s all just rewritten from a long forgotten original. These people also follow along with the “there’s nothing new under the sun” theory.

I don’t quite agree with that. New things are coming along. It really does depend on how you look at it all. You see what you are looking for. You could say computers are noting new, just a fancier typewriter. Or you could think of them as a whole new culture, a new science, a new business and career section.

A lot of ideas are borrowed and copies and revamped. There are only 26 letters in the alphabet, there’s bound to be some repetition. But, how many different words are there? That’s how the writer has to make things different. Change the words around. Only not quite that simple. It’s not enough to just change a few names and hope no one will notice you really didn’t add anything new.

Give your old story new life with a unique flip, a unique character. If you think about it, you can find a new way to tell an old story.

You have to decide for yourself about the “anything new under the sun” thing. Is there? What would you write about the idea of there being nothing really and truly new?

Twisters

Write your own tongue twisters. Try keeping the first three letters of each word the same and come up with five of them that work (more or less) as a sentence.

 

Proper pronouncing prompts progressive production.

Traffic tramping travelers track trains.