Saturday, May 31, 2014

Regularity is key — for blog posts (and other aspects of life as well)

Day 18 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

One of my first Behind the scenes at Orozco Ink blog posts was Breaking the Blog Hymen. I noted one inspiration as Julie Powell's blog, as in the Julie/Julia Project, as in Julia Childs, as in they made a movie of it starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, as in my name is Amy, too.

I've been fortunate to find other blogs as inspiration. And, you know what the common thread of inspiration is? The fact that they stuck/stick with it. Sure, the writing is engaging, the graphics pleasing to the eye. However, what I marvel at is the regularity, the commitment, and the discipline.

It's not easy. Not for me, anyway. The writing part is the easy part. The "doing it" is tough.

Let me share Calla Gold's blog. Go ahead and check it out. I know, can you believe it? Calla designs jewelry. And her real last name is Gold! I know this is true because I know her personally.

OK. Back to the point: Note the frequency of posts. Calla is on top of it. Even if she's pre-writing and scheduling her blog, it doesn't matter. She's still churning out the posts.

That's what I'm working on -- showing up. Cuz once I show up, the other part takes care of itself.

Thanks Julie. Thanks Calla.

Above, the artwork from the May 30 blog post of Calla Gold Jewelry. Calla has such a great blog. So much information and so interesting. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Writer, Editor, and Comedian Walk into a Bar ...

Day 17 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Last Friday's blog inspired me to create Friday Funny, posting amusing bits on the English language. Naturally it follows that today, Friday, I have nothing funny, clever, or amusing to share.

So I'm taking a different tack.

What's that saying? Something like, tell me a joke and I laugh for a second. Teach me how to write one, and I laugh for a lifetime.

Like any genre, there's a real craft to joke writing.

In his blog Creating a Comic, stand-up comedian CJ Alexander posts a joke anatomy lesson: A joke has three parts. The Setup is connected to the Punchline, which is connected to the (optional) Tags. CJ makes it look easy, which it isn't. Don't believe me? Check it out yourself: Creating a Comic.

In her joke instructions, Jan McInnis provides more details to mastering a joke with an emphasis on brevity being the soul of wit (thank you, Mr. Shakespeare). Like ditching unnecessary prepositional phrases. (Who knew grammar could be such a killjoy?)

Now that I know how to write a joke, it's time to get started ...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Time to Invoice

Day 16 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Entrepreneurs learn lots (and lots) about themselves while making a living. What they're good at, and what they're not so good at, what they enjoy, and what they shy away from.

For me, the number one thing shied away from is invoicing. I am not comfortable billing for my work. Funny, huh? The actual billing, plugging in the numbers, is fine; it's the asking for the money that's the issue. 


Who knows? It's probably an amalgamation (wow! how often does the opportunity to use that word show up?) of factors like my parents' attitude toward money, gender roles, self worth, etc. 

Having a regular invoicing day/period helps with the discomfort. I bill at the end of the month via email. Clients can expect an invoice from me the first few days of a month. Most pay right away. I've had to chase down a few payments, and, by the way, that wasn't uncomfortable at all. 

My generic invoice, pictured below, is an Excel worksheet. My sister helped create it. 

Most of my clients pay by check. One paid me a large sum in cash. That was nice, albeit a little nerve wracking. A few have paid via PayPal, which extracts a fee, so the client needs to pay more than the billed amount. 

30-Day Writing Challenge is half-way finished. Now for the final stretch. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The National Archives -- Worth the Trip to D.C.

Day 15 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Tools of the Trade

I'm the sort of person who remembers the state capitals from fifth gradegeography. Or the plot and details to a leisure book read during sixth grade quiet time. Things planted in my elementary school brain really took root. Like a redwood. 

Too bad I didn't learn about the National Archives

Technically known as the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the organization is an agency of the federal government with the responsibility of preserving and documenting governmental and historical records in addition to increasing public access to those documents. According to wikipedia, that is. 

NARA is a fabulous research tool. And much more authoritative than the aforementioned wikipedia. Fact checking a story? Good chance the National Archives can help. Want to make sure the quote from the Gettysburg Address is correct? National Archives can tell you. 

Yes, it's the place in Washington D.C. where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are on display. 

So are other moments in our history. Like Rosa Parks arrest record.

You don't have to go to D.C., though, to research. You can start online at National Archives. It's so easy and enjoyable to get lost in the archives. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

When Not Knowing is Helpful

Day 14 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

"How can you write about a subject you know very little about?" 

I'm asked that question from time to time. 

Actually, being in the dark can be a good thing. I must whittle down the words so I can understand the context, which makes for very clear and concise writing -- perfect for professionals writing for a lay audience. 

Oftentimes in this process, a string of words is reduced to looking like a mathematical equation. (Adjective) Noun + Verb (Adverb) + Direct Object = Complete Thought. 

For example, take DCA (Dylan Chappell Architects). I helped Dylan, principal architect, with his series "DCA's Great Design System."

My major contribution was identifying concepts and nomenclature that could be unclear to homeowners, his intended audience. If I didn't understand it, chances were good a reader wouldn't either. 

"DCA's Great Design System" was a fun project. I learned a lot and really enjoyed the subject matter. 

Wondering how well you would understand an architect writing for an audience of peers? Take this quiz
My lack of architectural knowledge turned out to be an asset in helping to produce the "Great Design System" by architect Dylan Chappell. I helped make sure the content was understandable to nonprofessionals. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Day 13 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Like any three-day weekend in the United States, the Memorial Day holiday has morphed into an opportunity for retailers to have sales and for individuals to get caught up around the house. 

The purpose of Memorial Day is to remember those who have died in service to the United States.  

What's its history? And why does it always seem to fall on a Monday in late May?

Check out the following links. I find the differences among the Web sites interesting. What's told, what's not. Photos used. Accompanying ads (if any). 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ode to SMART

Day 12 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

There wasn't a single source of inspiration for this 30-day writing challenge. SMART certainly was a heavy influence. The brainchild of Santa Barbara jeweler Calla Gold,  SMART (Social Media Action Relationship Team) meets the third Thursday morning of each month in downtown Santa Barbara. And, I'm a member.

The purpose of SMART is to exchange social media marketing and online promotional ideas. The accountability and regularity of meetings make crystal clear where I'm at with my business and my writing. I needed to stretch the writing muscles.

At last Thursday's meeting, executive coach Patricia Schwartz shared a piece penned by her boyfriend Grant House. Ode to SMART was written in the moment after Patricia shared some SMART news with Grant. An ode is defined as a poem in which a person expresses a strong feeling of love or respect for someone or something. 

Here it is:
Ode to the SMART Group 
By Grant House on 5/21/14

Three Lindas
Two Patricias
And ten other women
From varied backgrounds
With a common interest
In empowering others
through their enterprises,
assemble each month
at the University Club downtown.
Ostensibly they meet
to encourage one another
to listen, provide feedback,
and work within a system
of accountability.
They, each and as a group,
recognize the value
of their loose alliance.
An outside observer, tuned in
to a “higher frequency” might
observe another congregation,
a remarkable and
unique accomplishment unfolding.
Fifteen faces of God convene
recognize one another.
Fifteen mirrors held up
in the light radiating
from their inner being,
resonating in a tone
that elevates whole universes
to a higher order.
Monthly, the world’s course
is subtly altered.
And then they go back to
their daily lives.
Without this circle the
world would lose its way
And wander off to who
knows where.

Offer gratitude.

Show respect and appreciation.

And give them love.
  And in its original form: 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Course in Miracles

Day 11 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

What would feel like a miracle feel right now?

Yep, that's right. I'm asking about miracles. Because I want to see if I can help make one happen. And cuz Alexandra Franzen told me to.

I follow Alexandra's blog. She writes about how to be a better writer and a nicer human being. Two things I'm really interested in.

So, tell me, what would fell like a miracle right now.

I'll go first: Right now, if I walked into my place and it was sparkling clean and fixed up exactly how I want it.

Now you.

Friday, May 23, 2014

When You Meant to Write the Very Best

Day 10 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

I try to live by the Golden Rule. Someone using my mistakes as fodder for jokes or other amusement really isn't enjoyable for me. So, I try not to do that to others.

But, the above photo, which I found circulating on Facebook, is gold. That the misspelling/misuse is used in a compliment (notice I didn't use "complement," who knows if it was intended for a geometry teacher!) to a teacher. Well, the irony doesn't get much better than that.

Makes you wonder if it was intentional. Maybe it is an excellent example of passive/aggressive expression. Maybe the teacher was the WORST teacher the student ever had. We'll never know, will we?

There's always a lesson to be learned, a nugget buried in the debris. Now, Friday blog posts are going to be Friday Funny.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Animal Writes

Day 9 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Nella, a semi-feral cat from Catalyst for Cats. 

One way I use my writing to make the world a better place is doing volunteer publicity work for  Catalyst for Cats

Catalyst for Cats is dedicated to helping stray and feral cats. The primary goal is to prevent the suffering of  cats, and its main strategy is the reduction and control of feral cat populations within Santa Barbara County through its TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) and feeding programs.

Mostly I write press releases for Catalyst. Typically, the news is about a grant we received or the annual fundraiser, the Cat's Meow Raffle.

Donating some time to Catalyst is a way I can give back to the community and it helps polish my writing. Plus, I love cats. Actually, I love all animals. 

Below, Randi Fairbrother, founder and president of Catalyst for Cats, getting ready to pull the winning ticket at the Cat's Meow Raffle on Oct. 16, 2013. (Oct. 16 is National Feral Cat Day.) Randi founded Catalyst for Cats in 1990. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Surprisingly Good Writing Advice from an Even More Surprising Source

Day 8 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

You won't believe who provides a pretty darn good source of writing advice. The federal government that's who!

Plain language advice from the place you'd least expect it. Check it out here.

Oh, it's not a place for the stumped fiction writer or the dilettante exploring new writing prompts. The intention of is to instruct federal employees in better written communication. Who knows? Maybe one day all of us will be able to understand the tax code.

From the home page, the mission is clear:
"We start with a discussion of your audience because you should think about them before you start to write your document or your web content. In fact, you should start to think about them before you start to plan. From there we move to organization, because developing a good organization is important during your planning ... "
Does someone in your office write a one-and-a-half-page memo rather than an all-that's-needed three-sentence communique? Got an underling whose over-the-top word count reports reflect on your ability to do your job? Maybe a quick look at will be helpful.

Federal government employees have created a Web site dedicated to clear and concise communication.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Delivering the Summer Issue of Carpinteria Magazine

Day 7 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

I spent my Monday morning delivering the latest hot-off-the-press issue of Carpinteria Magazine. It's our thickest issue to date, and look, isn't she a beauty! 

Delivery girl is one of the hats I wear as Carpinteria Magazine editor. Magazine designer Kris Whittenton and I loaded up a big red wagon, walked down one side of Linden Avenue and back up the other delivering magazines. It was fun. We looked cute, too, pulling that wagon around. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to receive the magazine. 

Carpinteria Magazine can be found all over town, in parts of Santa Barbara, too. Hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together. 

The print run for Carpinteria Magazine was 15,000. It took quite a few forklift loads to get all the pallets delivered. At 120 pages, it's heavy reading!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sharpening the Tools of the Trade

Day 6 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Tools of the Trade. The things I need to complete my work in a timely and better than satisfactory manner include a computer with word processing capability (preferably Word because that's what 99.9% of the professional world uses) and an Internet connection. 

Yes, there are lots of other bells and whistles available to enhance my performance. A wrist pad is nice. A brain dump system is nice. A theory of professional organizer Sara Caputo, a brain dump gets information from the brain to another receptacle such as Evernote or the more basic paper and pen. Efficient filing of paperwork is a godsend. 

Just as language always is evolving, so are the tools of one's trade. For example, peruse means to read in a thorough or careful way [uh, yes it does, look it up] the constant misuse of it has altered its meaning to the give-it-a-glance sense. 

Yesterday, I trashed a (former) favorite tool/system of mine. The use of sticky notes for brain dumping. The notes became too unwieldy. Covered with fluorescent, small, square-shaped papers in a higgledy-piggledy manner, my desk had become more of a detriment than an enhancement to my job.

I haven't discovered the perfect replacement system yet, but I'm working on it.  There's chalkboard I could use, but that is not conducive to in-the-moment thinking. A blank book/journal might do the trick. I've thought about writing on the wall.  A kindergarten-size easel with paper might be cool. 

I'll be giving this a lot of thought. Perusing the matter, one might say. 

Bye-bye sticky notes. It was efficient while it lasted. Need to move on. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mail Art - More than the Written Word

Day 5 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Following up to yesterday's post, Communication Compromise, is my recommendationof "Good Mail Day, A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art" by Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler. The book is a mail art how-to guide. The back cover defines mail art as pieces of art sent through the mail rather than displayed or sold in traditional venues.

Isn't that a beautiful cover? Let me tell you, the inside doesn't disappoint. Filled with gorgeous individually designed envelopes, the book is a fountain of inspiration for ideas and choices.

I bought the book at the National Postal Museum in Washington D.C. (well worth a visit when in D.C.) If your local bookstore doesn't stock it, ask to have it ordered. Or, check here.

Such a great book! Really made my day. Now I can have a Good Mail Day every day.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Communication Compromise

Day 4 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

I love getting a letter in the mail, and I love writing letters, too. 

Letter writing is a dying art. The actual writing of letters on paper is less and less frequent. Indeed, penmanship has been thrown by the wayside in the curriculum of elementary schools. 

The muscles in my hands and fingers aren't what they used to be. It's quite taxing to write more than a paragraph. Plus, the scribble that ends up on the page from my pen is embarrassing! I used to receive all sorts of compliments on my handwriting. 

I received a letter from my brother the other day. He brokered a compromise between technology and the post office. He wrote the letter on a computer, printed it out, and mailed it. 

Yea! What a fun surprise the letter was. And, it was a single space, 2.5-page letter. Reading it via email would not have been as enjoyable. 

Don't you just love getting something in the mail that isn't junk or a bill? Like a personal letter?

Friday, May 16, 2014

V is for Vulnerable

Day 3 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

A quick Google search of “Writing Advice” yields about 708,000,000 results [0.43 seconds]. (
For comparative purposes, a similarly quick Google search of “Sex” yields about 790,000,000 results [0.50 seconds].)

I’m hazarding a guess that the bulk of that writing advice falls under the heading of “Just Do It.” Meaning get thee fingers to a keyboard or wrapped around a pen and start moving. (And, perhaps the majority of sex advice falls under the heading of "Just Do It," too. We'll save that for a different blog post ... and a different blogger.)

It’s OK to write something about a “quick brown fox jumping over a fence” (or whatever that typing class ditty was) over and over again until other stuff starts pouring out. What the hey, write the ABCs over and over.

Sounds easy enough, right? So what’s the problem? What’s with the torture? 

I can’t answer for everyone, but for me, it’s about looking like a moron. What if someone should come across one of my journals or peer over my shoulder at my laptop? They might think “man, where does she get off?”

Stripping it down further, looking like a moron is more about being vulnerable.

The V word. That’s pretty much what holds me back from writing.

I have found the best way to not let vulnerability impede what I want to do is a ritual of sorts before writing. A few deep breaths, making a cup of tea while the computer fires up, paper and pen at the ready to the right, and away I go. Maybe it's the sameness of the ritual that allows me to relax a little about writing. 

If there is something other than the mechanics of writing (or desire) holding you back from the page, you may want to consider a ritual of sorts. 

Below, sometimes Google can inspire writers to get started on a project. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Staying in Style

Day 2 / 30-Day Writing Challenge (and blog post #101)

Some things never go out of fashion. A strand of pearls, an Eames chair, Shakespeare. Clear and concise writing makes the list, too. Writing that delivers the intended message with 100% comprehension has long been a fashion leader.

That's why publications (print, digital, and otherwise) have style guides. The Associated Press Stylebook is one of the best known guides. It sets the standard for newspaper writing. For example: state abbreviations, writing out numbers or using a numeral, and the use of titles such as M.D. and Ph.D.

Style guides enable consistency, a real plus in clear and concise writing. Their purpose is not to dictate what's correct and incorrect but to guide a choice when many options exist. Think about all the ways to write a.m. or pm or A.M. or PM.

Check out Grammar Girl's opinion on style guides. She may inspire you to make a style guide for your posts, Web site, and other writing.

I'd put a style guide as the most important fashion accessory for any publication, document, or Web site. I'd put a strand of pearls as a jewelry box basic.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Today is the first day of the rest of my [writing] life

Today starts a 30-day writing workout. This is the plan: post for 30 days straight on Behind the Scenes at Orozco Ink. Here's why: I need to write more.

Really, for someone who makes their living as a writer I'd really like to write more often.

Ever read the right side of Behind the Scenes at Orozco Ink? The "About Me" part? Where I blab a bit on how my blog is a place for me to work on my writing. Well, recently that's serving as an excellent example of a farce!

It's time to get back to this blog's basics, which are an outlet for writing and telling the back story of making a living as a writer. Read the post What's so funny about peace, love, and billable hours? That's more the spirit of Behind the Scenes at Orozco Ink.

I'm a big believer in practicing the basics, honing one's skills. This will be fun (she says trying to convince herself as her feet get colder and colder). The next basic I'm going to tackle is sending out query letters.

See you tomorrow!

See the following photo, that's me with my five charges! The photo is more than a few months old. Which reminds me of something else -- I need to get professional photos of myself. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

When the going gets tough, the tough IMPROVISE!

Love, love, love the Improv group. Helps so much with my writing ... even though I don't do a lick of writing with or for the group. We meet once a week and play for two hours. It's not a free-for-all. It just looks that way. The foundation of our success is teamwork. Listening and supporting each other is what it is about. 

So how does it help my writing? Keeps the ol' brain in shape. Makes me think on my feet. You know, a brain in motion tends to stay in motion ...

Hmmm ... maybe I need to start bringing pen and paper to Improv. Jot down all the million dollar ideas that pop into my head during all the fun. Hmmm ... stay tuned.

Pictured above, the Plaza Playhouse Improv Troupe members include, from left, Chuck-Hou Yee, Judy Sirianni, Amy Marie Orozco (that's me!), Juliet Rohde-Brown, Hope Zweig, Pauline Reyes, Sherri Mendenhall, and John Pagano.