For some reason I can add sidebars, but not new posts. Please check back later. I have been working on a variety of things including switching my blog soon from this one, which was set up with my now-defunct West Wisconsin Telcom account. I hope to have my new blog through Gmail up soon. I will provide a link and announcement when I've got everything straight. 7/2/11

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Busy work versus smart work

My collage titled "I am a work in progress." I prefer to be a smart work rather than a busy one.

Years ago, I was on a consulting job in New Jersey, where I was part of a team of about 30 writers, actuaries, nurses, doctors, retired military personnel, and graphic designers. We were developing a proposal for TRICARE, the military managed health care system. The woman I shared an office with would sit down at her computer first thing in the morning and click away at the keys at a rapid rate. She wouldn’t take breaks, barely stopped for lunch, was there long after I left at 6:00 p.m., and often would mention the next day how she’d been there till midnight.

I was so impressed by her productivity and focus. Plus, since we were all paid by the hour, I knew she was making A LOT more money than I was since I was billing for 9 hours a day and she had to be billing for 14.

One day she wasn’t around any more. Turned out, the lead consultant—a more experienced one than I was—had checked her work one day. Here’s a quote: “sksdeierje ifjdkfjdskfjkdjfdkjf dkfjdfkdf dkfjdkfjdkfjfd dskfjdkfj ddkf” No wonder her fingers were flying so fast! Now, I won’t even bring up that she was in effect stealing from the client, or the ethics of it, or any of that since I don’t feel it needs to be said. What stuck with me was what the lead consultant said. He explained, “writers need to ‘work smart.’ We should be able to accomplish what we need to in 8 to 10 hours a day. If I see someone who is not ‘working smart’ and is slaving away frantically from early to late, I get suspicious.” Look around your office. Chances are there is someone who looks really really busy. And he or she might actually be producing ‘smart work’ and be a true gem at whatever he or she does. Or be a little bit suspicious . . . it might be "skesdjksjafdiod."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Recently read: Visual Chronicles by sisters Linda Woods and Karen Dinino

I decided I needed to read some books on collages and art journals. In one of the blogs I frequent, the blogger raved about this book. And I understand why. Written by two sisters, (one an artist, one a lawyer who also is an author), it is funny, inspiring, and visually pleasing. The book’s subtitle is “The No-Fear Guide to Creating Art Journals, Creative Manifestos & Altered Books, which pretty much says it all. It contains practical advice on everything from instructions on ways to prepare the pages to how to drum up ideas. Well worth reading even if you aren’t sure you’re all that interested in collages or art journaling but you like to read humorous books with lots of color pictures and graphics. If you are interested in collages or art journals (or scrapbooking, for that matter), you’ll particularly enjoy this book.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back to school

As a part-time adjunct instructor, I never know if the technical college will need me to teach until right around the start of the semester. This is similar to how things worked when I was consulting, when I'd get a call on Thursday and I'd be on a plane on Sunday. One of the things I've learned over time is how to be very very flexible. Classes start tomorrow, and yes--I've got a perfect semester ahead. I'll be teaching two oral/interpersonal communications classes, and one written communications class. I'll be traveling between two campuses, which gives me an opportunity to know people in another site. I'm even thinking about setting up a second blog for my students . . . more about that later. Right now, I'm immersed in course materials and assignments. I will still be blogging here with 3-5 entries a week, contest/grants, and a new puzzle five times a week on this blog. Have you noticed how the puzzles are harder on Fridays? I am in collage-withdrawal though. This is my third day in a row without making one. As soon as I post this, however, I'll haul out my new Pearl Ex pigments, Diamond Glaze (both at, and some new collage sheets ( ) and have a good burst of creative fervor.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

All Good to Read: Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books

This series (I’ve lost count of how many, and I’m always behind since I wait for the latest to come out in paperback) is Smith’s tale of the magnificent Precious Ramotswe and her gentle friends, family, and colleagues, as they work and play in Botswana. The books chronicle the ups and downs of the detecting work of Precious’ agency, her husband’s prosperous business, the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, and the cast of characters—good and evil—that pass through the town. These books are best read in order, but it is not essential.

The first one I read, I fell in love with, and was amazed how a white man from Scotland could so beautifully capture the thoughts and philosophies of an African middle-aged woman. I am not, however, so enamored of his other series, including the Sunday Philosophy Club books, the German Professors series (can’t remember what these are called), or the other books I’ve read by Smith. They are good, too, and often funny, but in no way do I think they compare to the world of Precious that Smith created. Makes me wonder if the sisterhood that I—a white middle-aged American—feel with Precious as portrayed by Smith isn’t based on the fact that I don’t have a clue how a person in Botswana really thinks or feels. Because I do have some clues about how middle-aged Scots and academic Germans think, perhaps that is why I’m not so intrigued by Smith’s other books.

Passing along more jobs and opportunities

My last post was glowing with praise about networking. And I've been in networking mode, so it doesn't surprise me that I'm hearing about all sorts of interesting things. I'll post jobs occassionally, so if you learn of one, feel free to send it to me. I know my blog readers are spread across the country (and I've even got a couple international readers!), but I think it is still interesting to see what is out there for work. You may even be willing to relocate. I might end up posting jobs in The Money Corner. A job and some other things that you might be interested in are:

  • If you live in Western Wisconsin, and are interested in a part-time writing job, the Dunn County News is looking for a Sports Editor. This would be great if you, or someone you know, is a student, retired, looking for less than full-time, or you want to start getting paid for writing. Go to
  • Authorsmart sent me a follow-up to the information on their workshops on non-fiction writing and getting published. If you're in a Writers' Group (by being part of my Blog Network, you qualify) you are eligible for the Four for the Price of Three. For every three people who register together as a result for the Fall Virtual Conference, we'll get a fourth seat FREE ($249 value). Check out the site at and let me know because I think I'll need to coordinate everyone.
  • To get the Early Bird rate of $495 for the San Francisco Writers Conference, sign up by September 1st. After September1st, the rate will go up by $50 to $545 through November 30th. Then it goes up again. Go to for information and registration.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Networking works

My Muse of Networking collage

If the image that comes to your mind at the word “networking” is a salesperson on commission going from table to table handing out business cards, forget it. Networking is also stopping to actually converse with an acquaintance you run into in the grocery store rather than a quick wave and holler. Networking is having coffee with someone you don’t usually sit down with instead of your regular buddies. Networking is passing along a useful web site (or blog, like this one!) to your newly retired uncle.

My old hardbound Webster’s defines networking as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups or institutions.” When my mother was still alive, she spent her last few years at a nursing home. I would often visit her at lunch time, and as I wended my way to her table, I would stop to say “hello” to other residents at other tables, and ask those I knew about their kids or their health or compliment them on an afghan. Another family member was behind me one day, and when she caught up to me, she laughingly said, “wow, you are really good at working a room.” I hadn’t ever thought of greeting people at the nursing home as “working a room,” but she was right. That was what I was doing. And I’m good at it.

You can network formally at a function like a Rotary lunch or conference. You can do it informally at the water cooler (bubbler, fountain, whichever) or in an exchange of emails. I use all types of networking. My skills at it have brought me jobs including teaching and consulting, as well as a publisher who asked me to write a book (Lucent Books, The 1920s, published in 1999 as part of their history series A Cultural History of the United States). That’s how I find service providers like my dentist, chiropractor, and hair stylist. That’s how I get ideas, and how I make friends. Writers in particular, since we can spend a lot of time alone bonding with our computer, can benefit from networking. Think of it as using the spoken word instead of the written word.

Monday, August 20, 2007

And yet another Grant Writer job opening

Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin is recruiting for a full-time Grant Writer. Applications must be received by 4 p.m. on September 12. See their web site for more information at Even if you aren't interested in relocating (and this is a beautiful part of the country!), if you are thinking about pursuing technical writing as a career, this will give you a good idea of the qualifications needed.

Damselfly press submissions

Damselfly press, a quarterly online literary journal for women, is accepting original fiction and poetry by female writers for their premier issue in October 2007. See the About and Submissions section of their web site at for more information about the quarterly journal. The deadline for submissions is September 15th, 2007. no pay yet, but it would be an excellent place to be published, and it's always exciting to get in at the start of a new adventure.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Virtual workshops on publishing non-fiction

My collage "I am a work in progress."

I just heard about these workshops, which are a series of 11 classes that will be presented live online and available as recordings. It is sponsored by eWomenPublishing Network and The course is for writers who want help with developing ideas, writing, marketing, and publishing non-fiction books. Here is the link to the workshops, one set starts in September, and one in the winter: Here is another link to some free articles to download from authorsmart:

I learned about these because I signed up at I’ve been so focused on fiction the last few years as I worked on my novel that there hasn’t been brain-space for non-fiction lately. Now, as I dutifully send out an agent query, wait for the response, and then send out to another, I’ve been looking at resuscitating my non-fiction writing. I’m not making any decisions or commitments on my time until the last week of August because, as a part-time adjunct instructor, I won’t know if I’m going to be teaching this fall or not; or if I am, how many classes I’ll have. I’ll take a more detailed look at these sites at that time to see if I’ll have time to take the course. Wow, those were some mighty complicated sentences, but I think they are grammatical!

Friday, August 17, 2007

The importance of having others read your work: a conversation about conservation

It's always good to have an extra set of eyes look over your work.

At my Writers’ Guild meeting this week, I brought in my one-page query to an agent about my novel. It included a brief synopsis of the plot, and my biography, which includes writing credentials and work experience. It was pretty much what I always use when asked for my bio, and it is what I used on this blog. Dozens of people, including professional writers, teachers, and my father, the retired Journalism professor, have read those words. So, Tuesday evening, I read the synopsis, and then went quickly through the bio figuring nothing much would strike anyone there. All of us gasped when I reached the bit about McCall’s Magazine folding after 125 years and I read “I don’t think there was a correlation its publishing my article on energy CONVERSATION and the magazine’s demise." After the gasp, we all (myself included) burst into laughter. Yes, my article could have been described as an energy conversation, but I meant CONSERVATION.


I know the importance of catching those pesky little typos, especially the ones that are correctly spelled words—just they are not the words you wanted. I tell my Written Communication students at the college to have someone else read everything they write. I have lots of good examples to prove my point, including a large, statewide mailing that was about to go out with the intended heading Public Information in 18 point font, only the writer (not me) had left out the “L” in Public. Now, I’ve got another example to include: my bio.

I changed it in the one-page submission to the agent, but I haven’t decided yet if I want to change it in my blog bio or some of the other places. I like the play on words between “conversation” and “conservation.” Word plays should be deliberate, and thus are not typos. I can’t claim that it was a word play from the start, but heck—it’s funny. At the end of that meeting, I was giving the new members the address of this blog, and one of them asked with a grin if I meant “writing is conservation.” Hmmmm, yes, that could be true. More word play!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Recently read: Wendy Dale’s Avoiding Prison and Other Noble Vacation Goals

I found this title so irresistible I had to buy the book, and as a consequence, discovered a wonderful new (to me) author. This is a delightful and insightful romp through some places around the globe that I certainly never plan to go to! Dale is an excellent writer, and skillfully uses humor to humanize countries that generally inhabit our headlines, like Columbia, Cuba, and Lebanon.

We follow her as she fearlessly tackles love, politics, making a living as a writer, and her memories of a most unusual childhood. A particularly endearing chapter is one titled, "The Road Less Traveled Is Usually the One with Guerrillas" on It. In this chapter, she makes a number of good points, including that politics is really the “educated person’s football.” Elsewhere, she deals with her views on the Spanish concept of time, offers practical (and funny) advice on how to visit your boyfriend when he is in jail in a third-world country, and how to accept your family’s quirks, such as your mother’s wanderlust and your uncle’s extreme need for control. Well worth reading, whether while stranded in an airport in some exotic country or while snuggly settled on your own screen porch.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Grant Writing for fun and profit

This is my Mama Mia collage I created to help me focus on a recent grant I wrote for a local non-profit.

A big field now is grant writing. This would be another good avenue if you want to enter the technical writing field. Non-profit companies, educational institutions, and healthcare companies often have staff positions. In the eight years since I moved up to this rural area in Western Wisconsin, I've seen job openings for Grant Writers at the Chippewa Valley Technical College, West CAP, Mayo Health Systems, and UW-Stout. I haven't been looking for jobs, so I suspect if I've noticed that many without reading the ads or actively working my networks, then there are probably quite a few out there, especially in more urban parts of the country.

Again, the Writer’s Conundrum enters into this equation. Even if you are an experienced technical writer, you likely will need some credentials in grant writing on your resume. The conundrum is how to get credentials if you can’t get hired? One way to do this is to do some volunteer (that means unpaid) grant writing. Think of it as a form of apprenticeship.

Even though I have a long list of credentials on my resume for all types of technical writing, including grant writing, I still do regular volunteer grant writing as a way of helping the communities where I live. For example, I write an annual application on behalf of the Menomonie Public Library for a grant from the Wisconsin Center for the Book as part of their “Wisconsin Authors & Illustrators Speak” program. This is the third year in a row that I’ve written the grant, and the third year in a row the library has received funds. Recently, I wrote a grant application for a local non-profit. We’re competing for a national foundation’s single award, and will find out about the money at the end of the year. Including a meeting, a conference, and writing, it took me about four hours.

If you are associated with a group that needs grant money, such as a food pantry, church, performing arts organization, or just about anything else that serves a community, chances are there are grants out there at the local, county, state, and federal level. If your group serves children or a multicultural population, the number of grants available increases tenfold. The group may already know of grants and you may as well be the one to write them, whether as a volunteer or paid writer. Other places to look are the government portal web site at which not only provides links to federal grants, but if you do some navigation, you can reach state and local sites through as well as grants based on your specific topic (e.g., grants for education, art, music, etc.). And hey, you may even uncover a grant for writers!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Jigsaw puzzles

If you're experiencing writer's block, or need a mental break, or even if you're just plain bored, scroll down to the bottom of the page. I've added an element just before the Collage to muse upon . . . and The Money Corner. Click on the photo, then use your mouse to put the puzzle together. You can also select the function you want. I think it's soothing to select the "auto solve" function. I'll add new ones often. What do you think?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Writer Events: perfect settings for published writers and those who want to be

When most people think of meeting writers, they often think of book-signings at bookstores. Another event type is when a writer speaks to a group—I’ll call this type a Writer Event. Working with the library’s director, members of my Writers' Guild established the Lake Menomin Writers Series, where we bring writers from around Wisconsin and Minnesota to speak to us about their books and the writing life.

So many of the writers we’ve hosted have emphasized that speaking and book-signing are such an important part of the post-publishing process. These are key marketing tools for writers. For the unpublished writer, Writer Events are opportunities to be inspired, to network, and to learn insider tips. Almost every writer has stated to the audience the importance of not giving up on sending your book to agents and publishers and editors.

Another interesting thing I’ve learned has been that the cover pictures are chosen to reflect the book’s “feeling” rather than a specific scene from the book. The images are selected from collections of works—notice how often Getty Images are cited for the covers. To illustrate how a cover can depict the overall sense of a book, Jay Gilbertson’s Lady Lit books set in Wisconsin have whimsical photos of women who do not look like any of his characters, nor do any of the scenes actually include a description of cooling off in a wading pool or dozing in the sun. Yet, the “feeling” conveyed by the images reflect the books perfectly. See

Some writers use agents; some do not. Some began writing as a new career after retirement; some, like Victoria Houston (who still travels constantly as a Public Relations consultant) write in their spare time. See

The Lake Menomin Writers Series is getting a reputation as a place for writers to come. Our 2007-2008 season starts in September. So far, the authors that we have scheduled are: Erin Hart, Minnesota Crime Wave (William Kent Kruger, Ellen Hart and Carl Brookins), Catherine Friend, Kelly McCullough, and Mary Logue. We’ve had a number of authors contact us about speaking at the Writers Series, and we have people who come from as far as 60 miles away to hear them speak. And we offer each author an opportunity to sell his or her books after the event. I’m getting a lovely collection of great books personally inscribed to me. Seems to me, to use a cliché from the 1990s, that this is a perfect example of a Win-Win situation.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Recently read: Andrea Camilleri’s Rounding the Mark

This is another choice mystery set in an unusual locale, with a quirky detective, and lots of atmosphere. I discovered Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano books a number of years ago and always find them satisfying. Set in contemporary Sicily, the books are very quick reads, with good plotting, hot sun-baked scenes, a charmingly cynical and sensitive detective, and plenty of crime.

This one has corrupt Sicilian police and politicians, crime lords, and trafficking in illegal immigrants—all of which make it a timely read for contemporary Americans as well. Camilleri is never trite, however, and is an excellent writer. The scene where Inspector Montalbano tows the body to shore using his swimsuit, and the screeching elderly couple standing on the beach who are sure he is a combination of perverted flasher and murderer, is not only vivid, but also humorous.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Events, workshops and ways to get help with writing and publishing

Collage sheet from Artella at

With the specific exceptions of technical and proposal writing, writing is essentially a solitary occupation. As a result, we writers can benefit highly from a dose of organized social contact (well, unorganized social contact is good for us, too, but that’s not what I’m talking about here).

If you’ve never attended a book fair, writing workshop, writers’ group, conference, or other program designed to give practical advice as well as inspiration, make a note now to check out some out.

For example, here in Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin’s Division of Continuing Studies offers a wide range of programs and services. The online writing workshops are available anytime to anyone with an Internet connection. The workshops provide one-on-one contact with an instructor on topics ranging from fiction and nonfiction writing, how to market your material, poetry, dialogue/scene mastery, and screenwriting. See for full details and fees. Later this month, they will announce details on their fall workshops for novelists and poets, and I’ll tell you more at that time.

For those of you who would like face-to-face programs, there are likely to be a number to choose from depending where you live. Check university extension departments, local colleges, writers publications like Writers’ Digest Magazine, or follow some of the contest links I provide in The Money Corner, many of which will lead you to writers’ organizations. Most, like the University of Wisconsin’s Division of Continuing Studies, will also have email sign-up options to keep you up on what’s happening.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Supporting the written word

Erica Hanson and Dianne Lueder at Dianne's retirement reception at the Menomonie Public Library

My friend Dianne just retired this week from her position as Executive Director of the Menomonie Public Library. Replacing her next month will be Ted Stark, who is leaving his position as library director with the Jackson County Public Library system in the State of Oregon. He’s moving to the Midwest because, according to an August 1, 2007, article in the Chicago Tribune, the 15 branches in the Jackson County system where he is the interim director are closing due to budget cuts.

I think this is a dreadful comment on the nation today. I love the Internet, I love blogging, and I love YouTube; BUT surely there are enough of us who also love words that are written on paper and bound into books. We need to support our libraries and bookstores and publishers and print magazines and newspapers that are actually tossed onto our doorsteps in tidy rolls of newsprint.

There are enough of us to support the written word for at least a few more years. Aren’t there?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The I-35W bridge disaster

I live 55 miles east of St. Paul, MN, about an hour away from the scene of yesterday's bridge disaster. Join me in sending hope, thoughts, and prayers to those who survived, those who didn't and those who still have loved ones missing. To get up-to-the minute news on the situation, go to Minnesota Public Radio at