brandingjuice…not just your everyday blog post


Yes, I’ve been away.

As I explained in March, I would focus my future efforts to my “brandingjuice.wordpress” blog. I’m happy to report it’s been quite successful.

“Brandingjuice” is (mostly) a marketing effort for my popular BlogTalkRadio show called “Livin’ the Dream! with JBlair Brown.” What began as a half-baked exercise is sheer vanity has become somewhat of a cult class on the BTR network.

I couldn’t be happier. With published authors, filmmakers (including actors, directors and other reps from the entertainment industry), “Livin’ the Dream!…” is fast on its way to making me, Juice, an internet celebrity. (Not that I was looking for fame…but if it happens….)

My point is this: no, I haven’t been updating this blog as I was had; however, I’m not slacking (never that!). I’ve been working even harder at my branding and marketing than I ever have in the past. AND yes, I’m still writing and serving as PR/marketing consultant to some GREAT up-and-coming household names!

And…my “Livin’ the Dream!…” radio show is soaring! Check it out for yourself.

Until the next time ~ Keep writing!

JBlair “Juice” Brown

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Travelin’ at the speed of “Say What?!”


Who can it be now?

Don’t have long…but I have just enough time to tell you this: early this morning, while watching a popular weekly TV show (now also in syndication), I saw a very successful actor in a guest role and thought, “I wonder if he’d give me an interview?”

Then I set out for the hunt.

After jumping through hoops, I was able to find his management team. They instructed me to email ‘so-and-so’ at ‘such-a-place’ – and in less than two hours, I had a hearty YES!

Say what?!

Seriously, I wanted to say, “Uh, does he realize it’s just ME? Juice?” Then I thought I’d play the ‘cool card’ and was like: “Okay, that’ll be great. Let’s talk and come up with an appropriate date for us to do that.”

This is big, folks. So watch for my upcoming announcement next week on my main blog, following scheduling negotiations.

I think you’ll be impressed…I know I am.

Have a great weekend!

JBlair Brown / aka “Juice”
Life = Not always manageable, but it sure ain’t boring!

 

Rebranding Juice


In case you’re wondering…I’ve been ‘away’. Kinda.

I’ve actually been rebranding “Juice.” (That’s me.) You see, I’ve not completely given up on this particular blog, but like in all businesses, there comes a time when you need a change. You need to refocus, to go back to the drawing board.

And that’s what I did. I’m restructuring, re-branding, re-focusing my energies toward my latest goal: radio host. Turns out I’m quite good at it. (You can listen to my show by following this link.)

My BlogTalkRadio show, Livin’ the Dream! with JBlair Brown, is an entertaining, informative talk show that features writers, authors, musicians, filmmakers – basically anyone in the entertainment and writing industries. So you can see how I might have re-directed my focus – for now.

At any rate, I’ll still continue to share my “rants” from time to time, but for now join me at BrandingJuice. Thanks for keeping up.

All the best,

JBlair Brown / my friends call me “Juice”
Still ranting after all these years.

Birth of ‘the baby’


Ahhhh.

That’s the sound of relief from the ‘birthing’ my new ebook, “YOU Can Become a Freelance Writer in 60 Days,” which was loaded onto Smashwords’ website just yesterday.

It was a grueling task but, like any birth, well worth it.

I’m thrilled with my ebook! I know there are several other books and ebooks on the topic but none of them have my particular story, my wit, my past – and that makes mine unique. It’s one of the things I talk about in the ebook: We all have our own story to tell, our own way of telling it – so in essence that qualified us to become writers in our own right.

I’ve had people ask me how I did it, how I broke through and became a writer (as if it’s some magic bullet). And I tell them the same thing I’m going to tell you: I made up my mind to write. I don’t mean to minimize it, but that’s pretty much how it began.

Sure, there are other things I had to implement: a structured plan, tenacity, determination  and (I think this is the most important part) humility to realize that I didn’t have all the answers (or none at all quite frankly).

To put it simply: it took some doing..but not much more of ‘a doing’ than working for someone else and making their dreams and goals a reality.

So there you have it: how I became a freelance writer – and it took FAR longer than 60 days – and that’s why I was determined to write this ebook…so that others (like you) can dodge the missteps that I took and propel to writing success much quicker than it took me.

If you’d like a glimpse of what my ebook has to offer, just download it here and read how YOU Can Become a Freelance Writer in 60 Days and start making your life over.

I did…and it was well worth it.

All the best,

JBlair Brown / Freelance Writer, PR/Marketing Consultant
Author, “YOU Can Become a Freelance Writer in 60 Days

Thankful every day


Originally written in Nov 2009.

As I open various social networks, I come across a plethora of “Happy Thanksgiving!” messages. I understand that many people celebrate this day as something special (most just want a really heavy meal, but I’m not here to judge).

But then I wonder, “What will everyone do tomorrow?”

To be truly thankful, we must give thanks daily, continuously.

I woke up this morning and greeted my son (who’s visiting from Pittsburgh). He was already up and at his PSP.

“Did you thank God this morning?” I asked him.

“No, not this morning. But I said my prayer before I went to sleep last night,” which I guess was his own way of patting himself on the back.

“So you didn’t thank Him for allowing you to wake up this morning?”

“Uh…” he muttered.

I replied, “When you said your prayer last night it should have been to thank Him for getting you through the day. This morning is another matter. You woke up.

“How would you feel if you gave someone something special all day long and they only said ‘thanks’ once?”

His response: “Okay, I see your point.”

I don’t know if he followed that statement with an actual ‘thanks to God,’ but it makes me think about all the Thanksgiving salutations.

Certainly, giving thanks is always a good idea. But whether you’re thankful for life in general, grandchildren, family, adequate transportation, food or the air we breathe – the true meaning of “thanksgiving” should not be limited to one day a year that’s posted on a calendar.

Every day should be a day of thanksgiving.

Be thankful every day

Be thankful every day

Tweet On / Tweet Off


…so here’s the thing…

I read a post where the writer was ranting about ‘someone’ (who was not me) had un-followed him. He was quite vocal about it…almost as if his lifeblood was pouring out as the un-follow was solidified. He was truly upset that he wasn’t ‘notified’ by the person that he was no longer in their ‘line’ (my word, not his).

So I got to thinking, What if I DID un-follow him? What’s it to him? Would he win/lose a distinct amount of brownie points for the un-follow? Is there some kind of tweeting contest that I am not privy to (and there just might be)? But, seriously…is it really that serious? What?! Are we breaking tweet laws by un-following? And quite honestly, why on earth would anyone notify you that they’re un-following you? Wouldn’t that be counterproductive? The very antithesis of the un-follow? Just plain ol’ stupid?

…and when I finished thinking it through, I realized that the jerk who wrote the piece and I had absolutely nothing in common. He wasn’t a vested interest of some kind (as I was not of his)…so I un-followed him.

…and no, I didn’t tell him before I did it.

Tweet on / Tweet off.

Shout out to my mentor: Ruby Dee


I was talking to someone the other day about people who are admired and those who are actually worthy of being admired (they’re NOT the same thing, believe me).

We determined that there really aren’t many people we admire for the right reasons. There are too-many-worth-mentioning so-so performers, musical acts, (un-)reality ‘stars’, and just plain ol’ losers that – for whatever reason – people look up to.

I’m not referring to the teachers who taught us how to read; the crossing guard who watched over us daily; the ministers who teach us about the Good Book – all great examples and those whom we should admire. I’m referring to those on the big screen, little screen, or even who might appear on your iPod.

I told my friend that, off-hand, I could find just one person in the industry who is note-worthy of my admiration. In fact, I said, “If I ever met her, I’d blubber like an idiot!”

Hence, I pay homage to the great Ruby Dee.

Class Act

“Ruby Dee? Really?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” I responded. “She represents all that there is [and still can be] of my performing years. Her life made my life possible,” I proudly proclaimed.

Indeed. I cherish Ruby Dee. This isn’t to say that I don’t admire Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, the late Ossie Davis (Ruby’s husband) and all the rest of those who came before me. It’s just that, point-for-point, for me at least Mrs. Davis personifies the struggles, pain, endurance and excelling virtue of many African Americans in the industry. In those early years it was nearly impossible for any one of us to be portrayed as someone other than ‘the help.’ We were slaves, maidservants, menservants and any other occupation associated with servitude. And that was just on the screen.

Off the screen, most Americans didn’t see us for anything other than that. That’s the reality. Just watch any film or TV series prior to the 1970’s. (NOTE: I-Spy and Julia do not count!)

But I digress. To get back to my point: at a time when we were actually living those days, there were the heroes, the dignified icons (like Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Sydney Poitier and so many others) who waded in it, breathed it in deeply (and daily), had it thrown on them with a shovel – so that those after them (like me) could accomplish my goals, my dreams, my desires of standing before an audience – not merely entertaining (as in minstrel shows) – but to stand proudly for one’s craft; the gifts we were given.

So this is a hearty shout out to Mrs. Ruby Dee Davis, my hero and mentor. While I never met you, I certainly have admired you…and you are worthy of (at least) that much.

With sincerest regards,

Judith Blair Brown, Harrisburg, PA

Ms. Brown is a freelance writer, PR and marketing consultant. Learn more about her rants at www.ajuicebreak.workpress.com and at her Web site at www.thejblairbrown.com.

Rumor 13,042: BILL COSBY IS DEAD…and TUPAC’S STILL ALIVE. What gives?


I never understood the rumor mill. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve contributed to the mill in my younger days (admittedly that was a l-o-n-g-g-g time ago!), but as of late, I think the rumor mill just stinks…like some putrefied raw fish head left baking on the sidewalk in the July heat.

NOT dead!

THAT’s what I think of the rumor mill today, especially when it comes to falsehoods like the latest “Bill Cosby death” rumor. (For the record: BILL COSBY IS NOT DEAD!)

Who starts a rumor like that – and for what? Is there some understated benefit to reporting Cosby’s death that I don’t know about? I mean for most of us who never knew him? I understand his family and friends benefiting (the man’s loaded!) – But the rest of us? What’s in it for us?

It puts me in mind of Mark Twain’s statement, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Indeed, sir.

Cosby is the latest in a long line of celebrity victims who were pre-deceased

...a hot mess!

before their actual time. I remember the Whitney Houston death rumor. Now in defense of the rumor mill, Houston’s behavior (and her appearance) gave more credence to the rumors than they general do…they just never came to fruition. Thankfully. There was also Paul McCartney’s reported death back in the 60’s (no doubt girls in the U.S. and abroad were fainting out of hysterics over that one!); Eminem’s deadly car crash in 2000; Paris Hilton’s unfortunate demise is 2007; John Goodman’s 2005 “fatal heart attack,” which was even accompanied by an obituary; and too many more to mention.

Gone too soon

I don’t know which is worse: reporting a false death – or not allowing the (truly) dead to rest in peace. I remember my daughter trying to convince me that Tupac was still alive…he’d only left the country to start a new life.

There are the extremely devoted Elvis fanatics – rivaled only by the “it-cannot-be-true!” fanatics of Michael Jackson. Remember the endless rumor that President John F. Kennedy was really hidden away for several years following the Texas shooting (as in the film “Dave” starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver)? This one left me bewildered as a kid, but proves the theory that the rumor mill was in effect long before the Internet.

But that’s the danger of rumors…people tend to believe in them. But again, what value is there in creating these falsehoods and does anyone ever give thought to what such rumors do to the family and friends of the so-called “deceased”?

In short, I’ve concluded that folks who have nothing better to do than to start a rumor of someone else’s death, AND their counterparts (those who refuse to let the dead rest in peace) should all GET A LIFE! (And yes, the pun is intended.)

Are you “in it to win it”? or just going with the flow?


Running your own shop is hard work. It doesn’t matter what that “shop” might be – grocery store, graphic design shop, barber shop – you name it. Point blank: Business (any business) requires diligence and effort.

Plenty of folks simply “wing it” each day, but that won’t give you the impetus to ride the long haul. I’m talking about endurance, sweat, hard work – all that good stuff. In today’s economy, you better be “in it to win it,” meaning “Perish even the thought of failure!”

For certain, just saying it doesn’t make it so. If you’re not willing to expend yourself, work double duty, and trade your dignity for humility – you’re not ready. If you’re not keen on the idea of additional training, networking with others and educating yourself – you won’t succeed.

I know plenty of folks who have brilliant ideas…always coming up with that next Big Thing. And that’s as far as it goes: a though process and nothing else. They’re clearly not “in it to win it.” They’re just winging it. Doing whatever comes next…going with the flow, so long as the flow doesn’t include a challenge.

But when you’re “in it to win it” you welcome the challenge. You thrive off the challenge. Because you KNOW what’s waiting on the other side of the struggle. And you won’t rest until you stare it down face-to-face.

So are you “in it to win it?”

Are you ready? Really ready?

Then get on your mark…

And GO!


Judith Brown is a nationally published freelance writer out of Harrisburg, PA. With nearly 30 years in the work force, her varied background represents county and state governments, non-profit organizations and the advertising and health care industries, among others. Ms. Brown also conducts writing workshops, provides on-site staff training in matters pertaining to workplace culture, and serves as a PR/marketing consultant for small business industries.

Sometimes it’s the little things


The following is a revised version of an original story written by me in January 2008. It’s well worth retelling.

I had none...until...

You never know where you’ll get your inspiration, your motivation, your drive to move forward in this world.

To illustrate, I have a twin sister named June. She’s actually the better of me. I often think of us as Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzeneggar in Twins. Like the part in the movie where the evil scientist is explaining how this fascinating plan went awry. He says they took all the best components and mixed them up in some sort of test tube.

As he looks at Schwarzeneggar, he says (I’m paraphrasing here): ‘All the good stuff went into what stands before you.’ Then he turns to DeVito and says, ‘All the crap left over is what you see in the mirror every day.’

i'm the short one

Between June and me, I’m the crap. But don’t feel sorry for me. Quite frankly, I’m okay with it. I’ve made peace with crap, and crap and I get along just swell.

My twin sister’s beautiful, highly intelligent—just like Arnold, she has all the good qualities of the ‘stuff’ that made us. So her response to one of my stories was met with great delight. It was truly what I needed to move forward in my writing career.

To set the stage, I was sitting at my desk at the ad agency NOT writing, but rather, answering phones and setting meeting schedules—my usual routine even after five years. How did it come to this? I’d even taken two copywriting courses to prove to myself and anyone else who cared that I had a real passion and devotion to the art of writing.

I’d get frustrated in my endless pursuit to do more, be more, and then vent to June. She always responded in kind. “You should really start writing seriously. You’re good at it.” Or, “Juice (her nickname for me), your writing’s da’ bomb. You need to do more.”

That’s just June. Always kind and encouraging. Always the rock. I’d listen to her suggestion…and then go back to work and answer calls.

Of course, all the self-improving techniques, all the writing courses I’d taken made no difference whatsoever to my very intelligent but equally stubborn boss, who believed my only purpose in this world was to answer phones and to care for his schedule. (But we’ll save that for a future, Can You Believe My Life? article.)

Anyway, I’d been struggling with how to make a smooth transition from working full-time at the agency to writing from home full-time. This particular morning was no different.

I just had my article, Outside My Window, published on another Web site. I sent it out to several friends and family members to view, but hadn’t really expected to hear from anyone. Several hours later my phone rings at the front desk. I answer it and hear a stern and familiar voice:

“Get up right now! Get up, get your things and walk out that door and never look back! He [my boss] does NOT appreciate your talent! You are wasting your time at that place! You should NOT be sitting at that front desk …”

I was taken aback. In fact, it took me quite some time to recognize the caller and what she was referring to. I knew that voice, but the ranting and raving was unfamiliar territory.

It was June.

She’d just finished reading my article and felt the need to call me with a “Come to Reality” good talking-to! It worked. After remarkably putting things into perspective for me, on that day and in that very hour I knew it was time for me to take my writing much more seriously, because when June—one of the most intelligent, analytical and reasonable persons I’d ever known—tells you to jump ship, your only response should be, “On which side of the boat?”


I worked vigorously for months to get something suitable to, at least, keep me in the lap of luxury in my extremely small efficiency apartment where I reside (heat included). As it turns out, I now have a national client in the health care industry who actually matched my salary from the agency. On the 28th of December, 2007, I resigned from my full-time position and am now writing full-time from my home office. At the time my “home office” was a four by five extension of the bedroom/kitchen area. Small steps indeed.

Point is, today I have a hopeful outlook for my professional career, and I have June. That’s my girl. She doesn’t say much, but when she does she packs a wallop.

If not for June, I’d likely still be sitting at that same desk, answering that same phone, making those same reservations for that same man. No doubt I’d still be depressed and wondering ‘How my life came to this.’

don't remind me...

It wasn’t some grandiose speech from a soapbox, just a simple, “if-you-don’t-get-off-your-butt-and-do-something-with-your-talent” call that pointed me in the right direction. A simple phone call made all the difference.

Indeed, sometimes it’s the little things.

Try Anything!


If you’ve followed my journey for any length of time, you probably noticed that I’m always trying new things: freelance writing, which led me to writing for the healthcare industry, real estate, travel, and many other industries; marketing, which led me to become “partner of sorts” to a local entrepreneur with three businesses of his own; public relations, leading me to become publicist for the region’s oldest jazz organization, as well as contributing writer for the area’s only professional indoor football team; online radio talk show host; and now author of the soon-to-be-released eBook, “YOU Can Become a Freelance Writer in 59 Days!”

Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking of this stuff……but my point is this: sometimes you just have to “try anything.” Opportunities are few and far between, and exceptional opportunities are a definite rarity.

So take whatever you have and make something out of that. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or even a lofty goal; it just has to be ‘something.’

In other words: try anything.

Floating on air…


Just gotta share:

I recently picked up two really good clients – both of  which could lead to whole new fields of opportunities for me.

EXCITING TIMES FOR SURE!

The first client is in the fashion industry. Now I’m no fashion plate – but I’m not too old to learn (darn it!). Anyway, I’m simply delighted. I was getting desperate – and had in fact thrown my name into a “whatever comes along” jar to get a gig. (Hey, any work these days is better than none.)

But here’s what’s really weird about this:  I tried several times to break into the fashion industry…they simply weren’t having it. This last time I finally decided to just go hard and (in the vernacular), lay my thang down! But here’s the thing: the precise point I wanted to “Wow!” them with is precisely what didn’t – and the thing I thought was “ho-hum” was the thing that “Wowed!” them. Go figure.

The second client found me through a social network, one on which I rarely post. It’s quite an undertaking, but I’m eager to get things rolling and lick this puppy.

So yeah, you could say I’m floating on air these days, which is a good thing…

…since I’m also suddenly exhausted.

You Gotta Be “In It to Win It!”


Running your own shop is hard work. It doesn’t matter what that “shop” might be – a grocery store, a pawn shop or barber shop. The point is this: Business (any business) requires diligence and effort.

Plenty of folks simply “wing it” each day, but that won’t give you the impetus to ride the long haul. I’m talking about endurance, sweat, hard work – all that good stuff. In today’s economy, you better be “in it to win it,” meaning “Perish even the thought of failure!”

For certain, just saying it doesn’t make it so. If you’re not willing to expend yourself, work double duty, and trade your dignity for humility – you’re not ready. If you’re not keen on the idea of additional training, networking with others and educating yourself – you won’t succeed.

I know plenty of folks who have brilliant ideas…always coming up with that next Big Thing.

And that’s as far as it goes: a thought process and nothing else. They’re clearly not “in it to win it.” They’re just winging it. Doing whatever comes next…going with the flow, so long as the flow doesn’t include a challenge.

But when you’re “in it to win it” you welcome the challenge. You thrive off the challenge. Because you KNOW what’s waiting on the other side of the struggle. And you won’t rest until you stare it down face-to-face.

So are you “in it to win it?”

Are you ready? Really ready?

Then get on your mark…

Now GO!

JBlairBrown is a nationally published freelance writer out of Harrisburg, PA. A former writer and editor for a health care publisher, Ms. Brown now conducts writing workshops, provides on-site staff training in matters pertaining to workplace culture, and serves as a PR/marketing consultant for small business industries.

Defeating writer’s block – it CAN be done


I’m not going to pretend to know all there is to know about writer’s block. It’s a subject like most others: there’s always more to it than meets the eye and it generally varies from person to person. That said, I can only tell you what’s worked for me and others in ‘my circle’ to alleviate writer’s block – or at the very least minimize the often frustrating tendency.

Writer’s block happens for various reasons. For instance, when my Father died I didn’t want to write anything for several weeks. I wasn’t exactly experiencing writer’s block so much so as it just seemed wrong to “dive back into the pool” as if a great man hadn’t just met his demise.

Then there’s the writer’s block that comes with ambient disturbances. I have neighbors that live above me. Directly above me. Loudly! I like them as human beings, but as neighbors go they are lousy people. (I’m so conflicted.) Anyway, to minimize my writer’s block in this instance I changed my whole office setting around. Now I can close my French doors and have a little less noise and actually get some work done.

But I (and I think most people) have writer’s block simply because of being unprepared. Truth is there’s always something to write. You may have to tweak it here or there, or “borrow” from someone else, but there’s always something to put down on paper.

I’m not even so sure writer’s block is a bad thing, it’s just so inconvenient. Because writer’s block always seems to come at a bad time – usually when that client is waiting by the phone for that last-minute revision, or on that new project that I fought so hard to get and yet just can’t seem to grasp hold of.

So I jotted down a few methods that have helped me overcome the dilemma. Why not give them a try the next time you’re faced with writer’s block? You’ve got nothing to lose and a whole batch of writing assignments to gain.

1) Always be prepared: Keep a pen and paper handy, or even a recorder. On several occasions I actually sabotaged my own career by not having something to write with, something to write on, etc. I mistakenly thought I could depend on my overworked, overwrought, overused brain cells to keep that perfect thought in my head until I drove two miles home – by way of shopping for groceries – through torrential storms, settled into my pajamas, and sat down at my laptop to pound out that perfect phrase. Who was I kidding?

2) Jot (or record) anything you hear that might pique your interest. Now. Whether you’re walking through the supermarket, or standing in line at the bank, you’re going to hear something: a statement, a poem, a single word, an expression – be prepared to jot it down to build upon later. Keep in mind that it doesn’t even have to make sense; it’s only going to be used as a starting point.

3) Check out your surroundings. Really notice them – and make your words “pop.” What color is the bug on your patio, and what kind of insect is it? Is the flower red, or is it crimson? Was the old tire worn or was the newness obvious because of the ½ inch tread? Was her hair dyed blonde, or strawberry blonde? Was the blazer pink or was it fuschia? Did you hear a loud thud or an alarming crash? Did the wooded chest smell of aged oak or was the aroma similar to a fresh pine? Did he walk along the beach, or did he limp as he casually strolled next to the calm, still waters of the ocean? If you truly pay attention to smaller details, and put those details in writing, you’re bound to build on your story and make the entire piece more interesting to read. That alone will help to beat the writer’s block blues.

4) Just write. Sounds simple, but sometimes simple works. Sometimes I start typing out any ol’ thing that pops in my head. It could be something like, “and he said to her, ‘Don’t just stand over the body! Cover it over with a paper towel!'” – or even, “The baby ran down the street carrying a halibut, wearing only a checkerboard, while the tadpole flapped in the breeze and the carburetor sang Joy to the World,” – which of course makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it works. The point is to get the words – any words – on paper and build on something.

I heard a discourse once, and was so mesmerized by it that I started writing a poem with the same four words that was the title of the talk. It took several hours of tweaking, changing the entire meaning of the story, altering characters, etc., but in the end it was just so right. I loved it and so did others who read it. Of course, what I ended up writing I would have never come up with on my own. Had it not been for the title of the discourse I wouldn’t have created that piece of poetry in the first place. It was merely “borrowed” to give me a starting point.

Another time I made an inspirational piece out of something that happened in a dream. The dream wasn’t a big deal at all, but what I was able to recall gave me the inspiration to create one of my favorite pieces.

So here’s the thing: writer’s block will happen, but it doesn’t have to defeat you. Fight back with a few simple methods by (1) being prepared with a pen or recorder; (2) jotting down anything that you can build upon later; (3) noticing your surroundings; and above all (4) putting it all down in writing.

And be sure to let me know how it all turns out.

JBlairBrown is a nationally published freelance writer out of Harrisburg, PA. She’s written for the healthcare, profit/non-profit and travel industries. Ms. Brown develops and conducts writing workshops, and provides on-site staff training in matters pertaining to diversity and workplace culture, and serves as a PR/marketing consultant for small business industries.

Smile…and then start talking…


It happened suddenly.

I was coming out of a meeting with a client, when a most charming and friendly gentleman walked pass.

“Hey, how have you been?” he asked.

“I’m fine, how are you?” I responded, not knowing whether I really knew him, or whether it was that his face was familiar. It must have shown on my face because his next statement was, “I know you. Where do I know you from?”

“Well, you look familiar to me, but you might be getting me confused with my twin sister [I actually HAVE a twin sister].”

“Hmmm. Where have you worked?”

“The House of Representatives,” I responded. He answered quickly: “That could be it,” to which I said, “Okay, that’s my sister. I never worked for The House.” (Frankly, he just SEEMED like a House of Rep type of guy…whatever that means.)

And that’s how my latest endeavor went into full throttle. Turns out “Bill” is an internet marketing guru. Having learned of my new eBook, he wanted to know whether it’d been published.

“Not yet. Still looking for someone to help me load it online.”

“Well, I can do that for you. Have you also…”and Bill began unleashing a series of inquiries the likes I’d never heard.

…and that’s when realized I had absolutely NO CLUE about internet marketing. But the good news was that I now had a real professional to help steer me in the right direction. Since that encounter just two weeks ago, I’ve totally revamped my eBook, hashed out a marketing strategy and feel as if I have a new life just over a most reachable horizon.

And to think it all started with a smile and lite conversation.

The higher you aim the higher you reach


I was just 17. I was working my first “real” job at a very popular theme park as cashier and wait staff at one of the park’s restaurants. I was working with “Bob,” who was a little weirder than most of the cooler kids I was used to hanging out with.

Bob was well-mannered, well-groomed, spoke eloquently and always had a bright smile on his face. He also had a penchant for singing Broadway tunes while working. And they weren’t particularly popular Broadway tunes either. For instance, I could really get behind lyrics like “When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet!” from West Side Story. But Bob preferred tunes from The Pirates of Penzance. Seriously.

Until one particular bright, summer afternoon I really didn’t pay much attention to Bob. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him – he was actually a pleasure to work with; it’s just that I could take him or leave him.

He and I were stocking supplies in the freezer one afternoon when he stopped abruptly, looked at me and asked, “What do you want to be after you graduate, Judith?”

I was a bit taken aback. He and I didn’t usually discuss these types of things (or anything at all for that matter). Still, I wanted to be polite.

“Uh, I want to be a singer, Bob!” I said proudly.

“That’s a good goal for you. You’re a good singer,” Bob said as if to validate my dreams.

Out of courtesy I asked, “What do you want to be, Bob?” – clearly expecting some off-the-wall-answer like, “A singing priest,” or something else that no ‘cool’ kid would ever dream of.

“I want to be President of the United States,” he said without skipping a beat.

I chuckled…until I saw the seriousness on his face.

“…Are…you…for real…?”

“Yeah.”

Seeing the look of astonishment on my face, Bob chimed in, “Judith, the higher you aim the higher you reach. I figure if I don’t make President, I’ll at least be a senator.” Then he went even further and said, “And you should say ‘I’m going to win a Grammy!’ that way you’ll at least be a worthy singer! The higher you aim the higher you reach!”

It’s been years since I’ve seen Bob. In fact, I can’t even remember his last name. But I’ll never forget that conversation and the motivation that he gave me to move forward with my own goals. I figured if Bob could proudly tell me that he wanted to be President, I should be proud of my dreams, too.

I think about that line now and again: When I’ve reached another milestone, when I reflect back to some seemingly small comment someone might have said to change my course. I’ve done so for 30 years. It’s served me well.

Today I don’t know where Bob might be, where he might have landed. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation. On the other hand, he could also be a speechwriter on staff at the White House, or even more impressive – the world’s best father.

Whatever it is Bob’s doing, he’s likely a huge success at it since aiming high was his creed.

And the higher you aim the higher you reach.

Thank You, Mrs. Pigeon


She always wore a smile. A big one. She was a delightful, late twenty-something bubbly spirit, and she was my fourth grade teacher.

Mrs. Pigeon was an average-looking, White woman who always had something funny to say … that is, something funny to a ten-year old. And she made us feel like we mattered. In fact, she’s one of the reasons I’m earning a living as a writer today.

Let me set the stage …

I didn’t really know anything about “being” a writer. I knew I enjoyed writing, but in my urban jungle there were government workers and housekeepers and bartenders and school crossing guards. You know, “normal” working people. (I don’t mean to slight anyone, but if you’re a writer, you understand the “normal” comment … Remember the responses you got from family and friends when you told them you wanted to become a writer? “Well, THAT’S different.” “When are you going to get a real job?” But that’s a whole ‘nother article.)

Anyway, I wrote my very first poem in Mrs. Pigeon’s fourth grade class. We were learning how to write poetry and our assignment was to complete the first two lines from the textbook. It read:

“Woodpecker sent a telegram.
I heard that tapping sound.”

woodpecker

I thought real hard about my response. (I was so serious!) I wanted the poem to be both informative and amusing. Naturally, it had to rhyme, because in fourth grade the concept of a poem that doesn’t rhyme is just plain dumb. (I’d like to think I’ve grown since then.)

The poem also had to make sense. It had to rise above the everyday ten-year-old jargon and strike a chord with its reader. (Yeah, I was that deep.) After pondering for the longest time (up to, like, fifteen minutes), EUREKA! I struck gold!

…I remember approaching my teacher’s desk.

“What if she thinks it’s stupid?” I asked myself. “No, she wouldn’t think that. She’s Mrs. Pigeon!

Yet with a bit of trepidation, I held my head up and continued the long, methodical walk to what was bound to be my new life. With ever step I grew more and more confident! I’d found my calling. After so many struggles: the knee scrapes from hitting the concrete in all those double-dutch jump rope attempts, the repeated paddle ball start-ups…

NOT good for my self-esteem!

NOT good for my self-esteem!

…losing (again!) at that stupid game of jacks—all these were things at which I absolutely sucked! But this … ahhh, this one moment unleashed my true passion, the person I was destined to become.

I stood alongside Mrs. Pigeon as she read the poem to herself. I could see her lips moving.

“Come on, get to it, woman! You’re gonna love it!” I remember thinking to myself.

“…I heard that tapping sound.”

At long last. “Here it comes,” I thought. Surely SHE’S going to get it!

“When he stopped, he slipped,
And fell upon the ground.”

(Okay, so it wasn’t Nikki Giovanni, but keep in mind I was only ten.)

Mrs. Pigeon’s response was classic! I still remember her tossing her head back, giving a very audible, enthusiastic wail of a laugh—and I believe there was an angelic chorus in the background.

“I love it, Judith! I love it!” she exclaimed, her hearty laughter causing strife and envy throughout the sea of ten-year-olds.

Yes, finally, I did it! I found my calling! A star was born…and…it…was… ME!

This might sound a bit over the top, but that very brief moment remains with me even today, nearly 40 years later. Mrs. Pigeon has no idea how her response completely changed my introverted world into one of endless possibilities.

She doesn’t know how I often think of her when I’ve reached a professional milestone in my writing career, how she set the tone for my future. She doesn’t know that I’m working from home as a full-time writer, and that I credit her and that one moment in time—however fleeting—with laying a blueprint for who I was to become.

I’ve held all types of jobs: actor, singer, construction worker, corrections officer, executive assistant, etc. But the point I have to make is that I’ve come back home to my roots. To the place I found at ten years old in an unassuming elementary classroom with a teacher named Mrs. Pigeon.

So, Mrs. Pigeon, thank you.


Judith Brown is a nationally-published freelance writer out of Harrisburg, PA. With nearly 30 years in the work force, her varied background represents county and state governments, non-profit organizations and the advertising industry, among others. A writer and editor for a health care publisher, Ms. Brown also conducts writing workshops, provides on-site staff training in matters pertaining to workplace culture, and serves as a PR/marketing consultant for small business industries. She can be reached via email at jbfreelancewriter@yahoo.com.

7 ways to WOW them with your workshop!


Conducting a workshop has its advantages: it generates much-needed revenue, puts your name out there and helps you reach a mass audience. But to maximize your success, you’ll need to follow these seven directives. Don’t worry…they’re (mostly) painless.

1) First things first. Before you do ANYTHING ELSE make an outline of your curriculum. In other words: the hotel, the marketing efforts, the purchases from that office supplies store – should all be put on the back burner – for now. You ‘cannot pass Go!’ until you know for a certainty what you’re presenting, and what, if any, props/added features will be needed to conduct your workshop. NOTE: Make sure your outline includes time frames of how long each portion will be, including your breaks (restroom break(s), lunch, etc.). These will help you to stay focused on your message throughout the course of the workshop.

2) Notify an appropriate meeting venue (hotel) BEFORE promoting your workshop. Nothing is more embarrassing than having to re-email, re-call, and re-iterate to everyone you know just why you have to postpone your much-hyped workshop. This happens frequently when the conductor doesn’t finalize the date with the venue before advertising the event. “Finalizing” includes reading over your contract thoroughly before signing, as well as your meeting set-up (see #3).

3) Meeting set-up. Make sure you have an appropriate setting for your particular topic. For instance, if your workshop topic is “Beading Jewelry,” you’ll likely have a totally different set-up than “Blogging for the Internet.” Meet with the hotel sales team to confirm room set-up, needs (such as audio/visual equipment), refreshments, etc. You don’t want to wait until the morning of to realize that something has gone wrong.

4) Advertise! Whether you use flyers, brochures, word of mouth, TV, radio, the Internet, forums, social networks – or what have you – if you don’t advertise your upcoming workshop, you’re sabotaging the outcome. Any materials should include the date, time, location and cost of the event, as well as what the participants should expect.

This is no time to be humble. SELL YOURSELF AND YOUR SERVICES! And don’t forget to send a friendly reminder, including a link to your Web site, to friends, neighbors, colleagues, frenemies, enemies, and anyone else you can think of – just make sure it’s not in the form of “spam” so that it doesn’t get filtered and go straight to the trash bin. By the way, advertising also includes periodic “teasers” up to the day of the event. So be creative.

5) Practice makes perfect. You might not spend an entire day in the mirror laboring over each word of your upcoming presentation, but it’s a good idea to at least give a general synopsis in private before going public, if for one reason only: Your audience is willing to sit through an hours-long (sometimes days-long) presentation to watch you. The least you can do is to give them something of interest to watch. So go through your outline with a fine-tooth comb. Note where and when you’ll distribute handouts during particular portions of your workshop, when to open the floor for questions, and any other particulars to be noted. This will assure the smooth flow of your presentation and the certainty of hitting all major points of your material.

6) Supplies. Traditional supplies include: pens, tablets and easel/easel board (or Post-It poster board). Always bring additional copies of all handouts (for those last-minute attendees who forgot to RSVP). For an added touch prepare individual packets (or folders), with materials/handouts already enclosed, for each attendee.

7) Evaluations/surveys. For your own personal enrichment, include evaluations or surveys in each participant’s packet. This will allow attendees to provide feedback from which you will benefit. Ask questions that truly will allow you to grow as a presenter and that will help you to improve the structure of your workshop.

Each of the seven points is a tried and true method in conducting an effective workshop. Why not put them to good use by conducting your own workshop? It’s a great way to bring in revenue, present yourself to your peers and is a marvelous way to teach others.

Judith Brown is a nationally published freelance writer out of Harrisburg, PA. With nearly 30 years in the work force, her varied background represents county and state governments, non-profit organizations and the advertising industry, among others. A writer and editor for a health care publisher, Ms. Brown also conducts writing workshops, provides on-site staff training in matters pertaining to workplace culture, and serves as a PR/marketing consultant for small business industries. She can be reached via email at jbfreelancewriter@yahoo.com.


Five good reasons to conduct a workshop


In a previous article, I explained my own decision in developing and conducting writing workshops. Today I’ll focus on just five simple reasons why you might want to consider it too.

1. Simplicity. The concept is really simple: Tell your audience what they need to hear in order to help them grow. It doesn’t have to be complicated at all. In fact, if developed correctly, a “basic” workshop can be quite simple to pull off (provided you really know your craft). Your program should be informative, but not above your listener’s head – and you should always provide some sort of handout(s).

2. It can be lucrative. Compared to other methods of eking out a living, a workshop here and there can contribute greatly to your mortgage…or car payment…or family vacation. While money shouldn’t be the ONLY thing you might aim for, it should certainly be within target range. And those checks add up. Charge anywhere from $25-$75 for a 6-hour workshop attended by 15-20 persons and you’ve got yourself a pretty nice gig. (And that’s a low scale.)

3. Networking. Conducting a workshop is a great way to meet people of like mind. It also eliminates the awkwardness of having to attend those droll networking functions your boss forces you to attend. AND…throw a workshop and you’ve got an instant “in” with prospective clients, customers, and in some cases, future colleagues.

4. The weeding process. Unlike some people who might subscribe to your (free) online newsletter or “weekly tip,” only serious folks generally will attend a workshop – because it isn’t free. In most cases anyone who pays to attend your workshop is already excited about the topic, which means you’re already halfway home!

5. Impressive portfolio. Let’s be honest: If you’re looking to impress someone with your portfolio, you’ve got to WOW them with your resume – and what better way than to highlight your public speaking experience along with your vast knowledge of “whatever” topic? It’s a showstopper.

Of course, conducting a workshop might not be as easy as 1-2-3, it takes time to prepare and see it through, to leave your audience wanting more, to give you the impetus needed to continue on this path.

But we’ll get to that later.


Judith Brown is a nationally published freelance writer out of Harrisburg, PA. With nearly 30 years in the work force, her varied background represents county and state governments, non-profit organizations and the advertising industry, among others. Ms. Brown is a writer and editor for a health care publisher; conducts writing workshops; and provides on-site staff training in matters pertaining to diversity and workplace culture.

For extra income: conduct a workshop


Let’s face it: in today’s economy we could all use an added financial boost. While some folks are satisfied with earning a pittance stocking shelves or working at a burger joint, some of us need a little more in monetary incentive to eke out a living. (For the record, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with stocking shelves or flipping burgers…somebody’s gotta do it and since it won’t be me, I appreciate the people who do.)

My own call for ‘mo’ money’ resulted in a brief panic. I wondered, “How on earth can I work for someone else? I run my own shop. Certainly there’s something I can do without working for the man!” (This being totally illogical since my two biggest clients are men.) Whatever. I needed money and I needed it fast.

Entertaining the troops...I mean, "Teaching Class"

Entertaining the troops...I mean, "Teaching Class"

Sometime later a niece expressed interest in becoming a freelance writer, like me. Coincidentally or not, a second family member sent me an email telling me that she wanted to get into this field, but didn’t know where to start. After spending time trying to explain “how to” with them both (too much “free time” actually), the answer became quite obvious: conduct a workshop!

My niece: poet extraordinaire

My niece: poet extraordinaire

For a certainty not everyone will want to conduct a workshop about writing. But the best part about a workshop is that YOU get make up your own topic. Maybe you’re a bricklayer or a law student, a babysitter or customer service rep…maybe you like to knit dog sweaters or make homemade soap – whatever IT is that you do – chances are there are others just like you who would pay to know how to do it better.

Depending on the scope of your workshop and the degree of knowledge that you hold, you can earn a pretty decent penny by developing and conducting a workshop.

And if you repeat the workshop each month (or as frequently as you choose), it’s a repeat business that can be quite fulfilling.

So why not consider developing and conducting a workshop of your own? You might be pleasantly surprised.

Judith Brown is a nationally published freelance writer out of Harrisburg, PA. With nearly 30 years in the work force, her varied background represents county and state governments, non-profit organizations and the advertising industry, among others. Ms. Brown is a writer and editor for a health care publisher; conducts writing workshops; and provides on-site staff training in matters pertaining to diversity and workplace culture.

Business Lessons Learned From Joan Rivers


I don’t know how it happened, but it did.

In any event, I found myself glued to the TV set every Sunday evening for weeks on end. Couldn’t miss NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice. From that first episode to the season finale – I just couldn’t kick it.

Quite honestly, I rooted for Herschel Walker and Annie Duke – although Joan Rivers was always a distant favorite. So I wasn’t upset that she won. In fact, I feel I learned a lot from Joan.

She's one pokah-playin' hatin' broad

She's one pokah-playa-hatin' broad

“Nazi-calling” aside, Joan’s stamina and talent for giving the public what it wants is admirable. But I don’t believe Joan won for these reasons only. Joan won because she lives by the stage creed, “Leave with the audience wanting more.”

Joan had two strategies: to humor us (as she said of Clint Black, ‘If he went to a single’s bar, he’d pick up himself.’) and to win at all costs, no matter how distasteful that strategy might be (only Joan could pull off calling her female impersonator friend – who was mourning the death of his mother – and follow up with ‘I’m so sorry to hear about your mother, but I need your help.’).

So how can we apply Joan’s strategy to business? Simple: leave your client always wanting more. Not that you’d short-change your customers (or do anything distasteful), but in the sense that they will always want to come back to YOU to see what else you’ve got to up your entrepreneurial sleeve. Let your customers know that you’d do just about anything to win their business – and most importantly – carry out your promises.

Joan Rivers fought a worthy fight against formidable opponent Annie Duke, a card shark who led the race from the beginning.

Her whole deck o' cards were not a match for Joan

Her whole deck o' cards were not a match for Joan

During any other season Duke probably would have prevailed. But this season, unfortunately for her, she was up against the aged, “pokah-playah” hatin’, mobster-callin’ Joan Rivers. Duke’s entire deck of cards couldn’t bring down Rivers, who is a credit to geriatrics everywhere (and to proponents of plastic surgery, but that’s another blog post).

10 Things NEVER to Post on Social Networks – That means NOT EVER!


After just reading a story on the firing of a waitress – who complained of a a $5 tip left by customers who ran her for nearly 3 hours – I’ve decided to re-post, re-edit and re-Tweet/FB this baby as a reminder to the (obvious) Mensa candidates who just might stumble upon it.

***********

This comes from the “they said what?!” archives. I’m constantly amazed at the stupid stuff people post on social networks so I’ve decided to write my own list of things NEVER to post on social networks…

#1) “Going on vacation – be back in a week!” – This is a no-brainer for obvious reasons (why not just open those blinds, leave the door unlocked and post a “Come in and rob me!” sign?). And yet…people do it all the time. Messages like “Hey guys, we’ll be in Mexico for 10 days,” or “Check out this photo we just took on vaca in Miami!” – are a sure invitation for trouble.

vacation

#2) “It’s just me and the little ones here for the weekend.” This one makes me cringe. Think about it: you don’t even want your neighbors knowing you’re all alone, why on earth would you put your life, and worse yet, the lives of your kids, at risk by posting this one? Think, people. Think!

#3) “My boss is a real jerk!” (or other such rants) – It goes without saying since most people listed as our “friends” or “followers” are co-workers, but these types of raves are the norm on social networks…and then we wonder why the pink slips are flying like…oh, whatever. Point is social networks are NOT confidential – no matter how many security tools you might download, purchase or create. Somebody somewhere is reading something that you don’t want seen. User beware!jerk
#4) “Just bought the new Wii! Dude, it’s awesome!” or “Just bought the new iPhone! Wait’ll you see what it can do!” – You might be the proud owner of the best technology money can buy…but telling thousands of strangers of your purchase only translates to “Yeah, I got toys…and maybe some money…and possibly both. Rob me blind. Please.” Smart move, Sherlock.

#5) “Wanna buy a kid?” – It might be a joke to YOU, but in today’s market, children are a hot commodity, so that type of innocent “prank” just might lead the FBI, DEA, County Children Services or other such organizations directly to your door…or worse: to your JOB where you’ll undoubtedly be the most unpopular “ex” employee at the site.

#6) “I’ll do anything for my Vicodin!” (or other type of drugs – prescription or not). Oh yeah, you’re a riot. We’re rolling in the aisles. Just don’t be crushed when HR comes around demanding a urine sample…especially before you take the wheel of the school bus. Poor kids. (You should be ashamed.)

bus driver
#7) “My 15-year-old neighbor is HOT!” – If you’re an adult, whether you’re a man or woman, married or single, gay or straight – THIS IS NOT COOL! Stop. NOW.

#8) “Just had the best job interview EVER” – To be clear, this sort of statement in and of itself is quite innocent…unless you’re still employed and your “friends” or “followers” get wind of it. And they will. They always do.

#9) “How do I off my spouse?” Seriously. Do you think THAT ONE won’t make the rounds? ‘Nuff said.

#10) “I think I married the wrong sibling.” – Are you TRYING to get killed??? I’m not even going to address this one. You’re hopeless. And pathetic. And probably deserve everything your spouse takes from you. What an imbecile.

stupid

Writing is Cool, Therapeutic…and most of all Profitable



I try to encourage all my friends, peers, colleagues – what have you – to write. Not simply because it’s a cool thing to do, but because everyone’s struggling in today’s economy. Everyone. And while everyone’s looking under the mattress for folded bills and tossing the sofa cushions aside while scrounging for loose change, money is just WAITING to be made – through writing.

Now right about now you’re thinking, “I’m not a good writer,” or “I don’t have anything to write about,” which is the usual response. It’s the WRONG response, but nonetheless the usual one. I can make this claim because I’m living proof that writing for profit is absolutely possible. Thanks, in large part, to the Internet.

Yes, the Internet has opened all kinds of doors for writers, psuedo-writers, wannabe-writers and all those in-between. And while a college education can certainly help you get your foot in the door, the Internet has allowed lots of closet-writers to break free of the “degree” discrimination. You know what I’m talking about: “I’m sorry, but you don’t have a college degree.” Yes, THAT degree discrimination.

The various sites open to hiring freelance writers in diverse fields (including copywriting, article writing, creative writing, blogging, and much more) are just itching to find a fresh voice, that new pitch. Editors from all countries, representing various niches are in desperate search of … well, YOU! And the beauty of the program is this: it doesn’t cost you a dime to simply try it. Imagine that! A new outlook on life, a new approach to a whole new exciting field, new possibilities can be on the horizon for you – and for free.

I’ve been treading out here in the freelance pool since January 2008, and I gotta tell ya’: I’m not going back. The view is awesome and the water is just fine. What’s more…I can actually LIVE on a day-to-day basis, not merely three or four hours after a hard day’s work, before my head crashes onto my pillow.

Admittedly, the writer’s life isn’t for everyone, but IF you’re tired of the day-to-day struggle, IF you’re looking for something a little different, IF you’re open to learning a new way of living, IF you’re wondering how to pay those bills, and IF you can’t quite see yourself asking, “Would you like fries with that?” watch for my followup blog, Becoming a Writer: How to Get Started, within the next few days.

It just might be what you’ve been searching for.

Judith Brown is a freelance writer from Harrisburg, PA, where she writes for the health care, travel and entertainment industries. With more than six years in advertising, Ms. Brown also serves as a marketing and training consultant to small business industries.

Death imminent for network TV? What are your thoughts?



Back in the day (translation: a really long time ago), my family and I used to rally around the TV on Sunday nights. Why? Because there were two things on which we could depend: On ABC’s “The FBI,” Inspector Erskine (or “one-shot Erskine,” as my brothers used to call him), played by the incomparable Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., was going to save the girl (it was ALWAYS a girl), shoot the bad guy and make it home unscathed in time for dinner; and that the Sunday Night Movie of the Week was going to be worth staying up past bedtime. (Good times.)

 

It would never occur to us NOT to tune in – not because we didn’t have a choice (we had lots of entertaining things to do as a family); it was because we had good, quality shows to watch. The three then-dominant networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) offered a slew of choices fit for family- and perhaps not-so-family-friendly environments.

 

There was no gore, no psychotic criminals running rampant through the streets. It was the era of Hitchcock and Serling, two masterminds who realized that the imagination is worse than anything anyone could ever depict on a TV screen.

 

Most of the shows on TV today are vaguely “surf-worthy” – just good enough to watch portions here and there, while you watch your REAL preference, before tuning back for its final two minutes to see “whodunnit.” Easy to do when most of the shows are rehashed versions of the old classics.

 

Case in point: I like The Mentalist. Simon Baker is a good-looking guy (always a plus), affable, smart – and his character is all the stuff you’d want from the man dating your daughter. But Baker’s Mentalist is no match for Columbo. Even in his crumpled-cigar-smelly raincoat and beat-down hooptie, Lieutenant Columbo wins hands-down.

 

Those old dudes had character. Integrity. I distinctly remember an old, rugged cowboy played by Walter Brennan in the title role of The Guns of Will Sonnett. This charming old man won audiences over each week with four simple words: “No brag, just fact.” Ha! Arguably the best line ever on TV.

 

Today’s “heroes” don’t even come with a tagline. Who could forget Jack Webb’s firm pronouncement each week as Sergeant Joe Friday? (Just the facts, ma’am.), Telly Savalas as Kojak? (Who loves you, baby?), Columbo’s “Just one more question, ma’am,” or Jack Lord as Detective Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O? (Book him, Danno – murder one!). Even as late as the 1980s Hill Street Blues’ Michael Conrad’s Sargent Phil Esterhaus gave us, “Let’s be careful out there!

 

Classic.

 

Yeah, network TV has its work cut out, alright. There’ll never be another Green Hornet, a Cagney or Lacey. I Spy, Mod Squad (“Dig the police brutality!”), SWAT, Starsky and Hutch (and the hippest cat on any TV series, Huggy Bear) – are all remnants of the past, only to be (mercilessly) re-done with faux scripts, overacting or both.

 

They’re all gone. 

 

To be sure, there are still a few honorable mentions – but most are overshadowed by the hoopla over that national singing contest, “un-” reality shows, and melodramatic primetime news series.

 

Still, I feel privileged to have lived through a moment in time when I can now look back on fond memories of the whole family gathering ‘round that square, big box. It may not have been pretty to look at with its large knobs and rabbit-ear antenna. Most of the time we had to maneuver it, positioning it “just so” – just to get a half-decent picture. But it was good, solid, quality storytelling at its very best.

 

And that’s “no brag, just fact.”

 

 

 

 

 

My life – or something that crudely resembles it


Okay, okay. Yes it’s been awhile, I concur. But while I’m not one for sorry excuses, sometimes there are valid reasons. So…as Michael Weston says…

Let me tell you a story…

In mid-December I decided to move out of my very small one-bdrm apt into a much larger one-bdrm apt. It was a good move. I called the utilities companies and transferred my services – after spending endless hours on the phone listening to piped-in elevator music before reaching a live person (“live” being a relative term…why must they all sound so nasally?).

Anyway, one of those calls included my phone company. And this is where the fun begins.

Since my move-in date was officially Dec 22, I requested that my service be transferred the weekend before. While they informed me that my Internet wouldn’t be connected until Jan 5th, they agreed that my phone service would be connected by the 22nd with the flick of a switch. Life was good. Or so I thought.

As it turned out I had no service on the 22nd…or the 23rd…or the 24th. No worries though, while not connected, the service would still allow callers to leave messages which I could listen in on and return on my trusty cell phone. So…cool.

I decided to wait until the 29th to call “V” (as in vermin, voracious, vulgar). Thought after Xmas was a good idea to get things handled. I was wrong. Because it was then that the operator informed me that I had a problem with my connection. Her suggestion: go into my basement with my phone and plug it into the outlet there to see if it worked.  Or I could wait until the tech came the following Monday to connect my Internet and have him help me…at $90 an hour — or something like that. (I must confess: at this stage in the conversation my mind was filled with an ugly haze that forced me to peer into an unpleasant future – one without a landline. I didn’t like what I saw.)

I muttered something like “I’ll…just…wait…” and there were some words coming from the operator. Words like “…next Monday” and something that sounded like “schedule” and “technician” but it was all just a blur. Then she hung up and I was left seething, knowing in the core of me that the service I left in my old apt would never again be a part of my life. My heart sank.

I decided to hold out for the technician on the 5th of Jan. Having been told that he would be there “sometime on the 5th,” I was mentally prepared to wait all day for his arrival. (I use the male term here because a female would be more respectful of my time. Yeah I’m biased. Deal with it.)

So I’m waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

At about 3:30pm I decide to call “V” to inquire as to just when my guy would come. That’s when I spoke with another operator who told me that he didn’t understand why the first operator told me I had to wait for the tech to get my phone connection…and that in fact the phone was never connected. He checked the line and saw that all he needed to do was to flip a switch and get it started.

At this point I’m like, “yeah, whatever.” just wishing he’d stop trying to be a hero and get me – at the very least – a phone line. Then he told me that since the phone was just getting turned on, I needed to call technical support to schedule Internet connection, which would mean I’d have to wait at least an additional week.

To make a much longer story shorter: it didn’t work. It was painful getting thru to technical support – and when I did I muttered illegible sounds, my voice quivered horribly as I verged on a serious mental breakdown – and I quickly apologized to the tech (who, I’m sure, had NO IDEA what was going on!) and hung up. I was defeated. With nothing left I came to the ultimate conclusion that “V” had won.

I was humbled.

Then I got the bill. And the anger was resurrected. I picked up my ever-trusting cell phone and called the phone company, this time speaking with GORDY. He was nice young man, very pleasant. I related my nightmare to him, feeling as if I was finally speaking with someone who understood my plight.

And then he spoke. Now I know Gordy doesn’t have control over things – he just happened to be the one on the other end of the phone when the rage vomited out of my mouth. And without shouting and swearing, I informed Gordy that I was disconneting all services with V. Why? Because I was being billed for services I hadn’t used – and in fact – it was Gordy who JUST informed me that Internet access was not available at my new spot (although my new spot was just six houses down the street – just a stone’s throw from the Governor’s mansion)!

I explained that I really didn’t NEED a phone line fromV – that my trusty cell was quite adequate for my needs – and that the only reason I went with V in the first place was because I needed Internet access.

He listened intently, said he understood, and then told me that I’d have to be transferred to the “cancellation dept” – which I never got to because I was left on hold for an additional 15 minutes!

And here’s the best part: after all the calls, the tears, the breakdown, the cancellation with Gordy, before he transfers me, he asks if I got the solution to my problems? If he’d been helpful? And the very last thing he says before putting me thru to the cancellation department: “…and thank you for choosing Verizon!”

What recession? For me it’s just Tuesday


I’m sick of it.

All of it.

This whole ‘state of recession’ is simply getting on my last nerve, and for those of you who know me – that last nerve’s just about had it! I guess my problem is not so much that there truly is a recession, as much that it seems much more urgent now that the richer folk are feeling the pinch.

Seriously, my whole life has been in recession, but I just called it “Tuesday.” Because that’s what we ‘regular folk’ call it. For us it’s just another day.

I chuckled when the newsflash went out just recently: The US has been in a recession since December 2007. How can that be? I wondered, since I’ve been recessed since Day One? Why didn’t it seem to be a big deal when I needed a bailout? More to the point: is there anyone who will bail me out? I don’t even need a ka’trillion dollars. I’ll settle for $500 and a gift card to the nearest food bank.

But let’s get back to this recession thing. Who determines when we’re recessed? Is it at least a six-person committee or simply a party of one? Do we really know these people? What schools have they attended? Was it Columbia, Yale or some correspondence course? What was their major?

I think these questions are valid. Think about it. I once had a tire changed and insisted the auto mechanic display his fully-stocked, DeWilt toolset-on-wheels AND show me his certification before I handed over my keys to my then-7-year-old Dodge Shadow.

How much more so should we investigate the person(s) who oversee(s) our finances?

Maybe it’s just me.

Or maybe it’s just Tuesday.

Breaking Through Writer’s Block



I’m not going to pretend to know all there is to know about writer’s block. It’s a subject like most others: there’s always more to it than meets the eye and it generally varies from person to person. That said, I can only tell you what’s worked for me and others in ‘my circle’ to alleviate – or at the very least minimize – the often frustrating tendency.

 

For me, writer’s block can come at different times in my life. For instance, when my Father died I didn’t want to write anything for several weeks. It just seemed wrong to “dive back into the pool” as if a great man hadn’t just met his demise. I felt I owed it to him and to myself to savor the memories of him – and some of those memories were just too precious to even record on paper. For the most part though I didn’t want to write; I had no desire. And that was that.

 

Eventually I forced myself to write something – anything – just to get back into the groove. I eventually wrote one or two short diddies about Popi (like these: http://www.divinecaroline.com/article/22059/34247-mighty– and http://www.divinecaroline.com/article/22059/46135-dad-rock-star), but nothing really all that “deep.” Those things will remain between just him and me.

 

Then there’s the writer’s block that comes with ambient disturbances. For instance, I have neighbors that live above me. Directly above me. Loudly! I like them as human beings, but as neighbors go they are lousy people. (I’m so conflicted.) Anyway, to minimize my writer’s block in this instance I changed my whole office setting around. Now I can close my French doors and have a little less noise and actually get some work done.

 

But I (and I think most people) have writer’s block simply because of being unprepared. Truth is if you put your mind to it there’s always something to write about. You may have to tweak it here and there, or “borrow” from someone else, but there’s always something to put down on paper. I’m not even so sure writer’s block is a bad thing, it’s just so inconvenient. Because writer’s block always seems to come at a bad time – usually when that client is waiting by the phone for that last-minute revision, or on that new project that I fought so hard to get and yet just can’t seem to grasp hold of.

 

So I jotted down a few methods that have helped me overcome the dilemma. Why not give them a try the next time you’re faced with writer’s block? You’ve got nothing to lose and a whole batch of writing assignments to gain.

 

1) Always be prepared: Keep a pen and paper handy, or even a recorder. On several occasions I actually sabotaged my own career by not having something to write with, something to write on, etc. I mistakenly thought I could depend on my overworked, overwrought, overused brain cells to keep that perfect thought in my head until I drove two miles home – by way of shopping for groceries – through torrential storms, settled into my pajamas, and sat down at my laptop to pound out that perfect phrase. Who was I kidding?

 

2) Jot (or record) anything you hear that might pique your interest. Now. Whether you’re walking through the supermarket, or standing in line at the bank, you’re going to hear something: a statement, a poem, a single word, an expression – be prepared to jot it down to build upon later. And jot it down right now. Keep in mind that it doesn’t even have to make sense; it’s only going to be used as a starting point.

 

Sometimes as writers I think we feel we have to say it all, impress people with our rhetoric, or create something from nothing, when the opposite can be as effective. Our inspiration often comes from what we’ve heard elsewhere. So if someone blurts out a phrase, or word, or anything that you just MIGHT be able to use to get some writing going – use it. This is not to encourage plagiarism, but to be used as a starting point. Grow from there.

 

3) Check out your surroundings. Really notice them – and make your words “pop.” What color is the bug on your patio, and what kind of insect is it? Is the flower red, or is it crimson? Was the old tire worn or was the newness obvious because of the ½ inch tread? Was her hair dyed blonde, or strawberry blonde? Was the blazer pink or was it fushia? Did you hear a loud thud or an alarming crash? Did the wooded chest smell of aged oak or was the aroma similar to a fresh pine? Did he walk along the beach, or did he limp as he casually strolled next to the calm, still waters of the ocean? If you truly pay attention to smaller details, and put those details in writing, you’re bound to build on your story and make the entire piece more interesting to read. That alone will help to beat the writer’s block blues.

 

4) Just write. Sounds simple, but sometimes simple works. Sometimes I start typing out any ol’ thing that pops in my head. It could be something like, “and he said to her, ‘Don’t just stand over the body! Cover it over with a paper towel!’” – or even, “The baby ran down the street carrying a halibut, wearing only a checkerboard, while the tadpole flapped in the breeze and the carburetor sang Joy to the World,” – which of course makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it works. The point is to get the words – any words – on paper and build on something.

 

I once heard a discourse that was so mesmerizing that I started writing a poem with the same four words that was the title of the talk. It took several hours of tweaking, changing the entire meaning of the story, altering characters, etc., but in the end it was just so right. I loved it and so did others who read it. Of course, what I ended up writing I would have never come up with on my own. Had it not been for the title of the discourse I wouldn’t have created that piece of poetry in the first place. It was merely “borrowed” to give me a starting point.

 

Another time I made an inspirational piece out of something that happened in a dream. The dream wasn’t a big deal at all, but what I was able to recall gave me the inspiration to create one of my favorite pieces.

 

So here’s the thing: writer’s block will happen, but it doesn’t have to defeat you. Fight back with a few simple methods by (1) always being prepared with a pen and paper, or recorder; (2) jotting down anything that you can build upon later; (3) noticing your surroundings; and above all (4) putting it all down in writing.

 

Those are my recommendations and I’m sticking to them.

 

‘Til next time.

 

I’m Juice, and I’m signing off.

 

 

 

I’m Back – And I’m Bad (I mean that in a good way)


Yes, it’s been awhile.

But that’s a good thing. While it took me nearly two years to get back to this post, don’t think for one moment I’ve been resting on my laurels. Oh, I’ve been working – and how!

The last time I posted, I was merely contemplating going into “the business.” Today I’m proud to say I’m a nationally published (as in a real, tangible magazine “published”) full-time freelance writer.

I have 3.5 consistent clients, which might not sound great from where you sit, but I gotta tell ya’ – I’m not doing too bad on this end. My bills are paid, I love what I do, and I’m not overbooked to the point I can’t give my best to each of my clients. Having said that, I do enjoy taking on one-time projects every so often – just for additional cash flow, and as a means of getting my name out to a broader audience. It’s working out.

So life is good today.

I say “today” because we really don’t know what tomorrow will bring. With the economy in the state it’s in, it’s always best to have Plan B firmly intact. But why am I writing this ominous post? As writers, we have to think in reality. But that’s not always easy because there are two types of writers: those who view writing as some type of romantic experience (which it often isn’t); and those who buy into the notion that a good writer must first “pay his dues.”

Let’s take that first group: the romanticist. I got six words for you: The Down Side to Freelance Writing (http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Down-Side-to-Freelance-Writing&id=1378537). Read that and you’ll have a better understanding of what’s really involved.

To that second group: the “pay your dues” club. To you I say, “Get over it already!” This is a new time and a new age. While paying your dues might not have been optional “back in the day,” that’s certainly not the case today. I’m living proof of that. I’m a health care editor with a national health care publisher – yet I never attended college and wouldn’t even know what an SAT test looked like.

But slow your roll. I’m not trying to tell anyone NOT to go to college. In fact, had I gone to college I’m sure the road to where I am today would have been paved much sooner. What I am telling you is that modern technology has made it absolutely possible for someone like me to eke out a living in the writing field.

The Internet offers a whole world out there for people like me: ones who thought they were destined to certain misfortunes in life because of the lack of higher education. That’s no longer the case.

Today, editors and publishers, agents and scouts, corporations and small businesses are all looking for writers – like me: real people who come from the real world – who can put two sentences together.

Magazines targeting parents finally got the message that parents listen to other parents who’ve faced similar challenges. They need those parents’ stories, in their own words.

Auto magazines are now looking for mechanics who share a knack for writing; just as writing magazines now accept articles written by people who enjoy reading and have a natural ability to write. And the beauty of it is that MOST DON’T ASK WHICH COLLEGE YOU’VE ATTENDED, SO MUCH AS TO VIEW OF SAMPLE OF YOUR WORK. Show a few good samples and you just got yourself a nice side gig—working from home no less.

So if you’re thinking of writing as a part-time gig, think faster. In the time it took you to read this post, thousands of writers have been hired to write an article, a book, or even a screenplay. Thousands of writers like you and me.

And that’s my cue, because in the time it took me to post this, I possibly lost out on a few nice writing assignments.

Darn it.

JBB


I thought this was a fascinating concept and wanted to share…

Kell Ramos

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Livin’ the Dream! with 2010 Award-winning Storyteller Eric James Wolf


Livin’ the Dream! with 2010 Award-winning Storyteller Eric James Wolf.

We’re switching gears for this one. This segment will focus on the art of communication – and what better method of communicating than through the lost art of storytelling? Eric James Wolf is a MASTER storyteller. He received the Oracle Award for Distinguished Service to the National Storytelling Community in 2010 – the highest award given to any member of the storytelling community. Learn how this master teller of tales battled dyslexia and today is Livin’ the Dream!