The Virtue of Words with Pictures

A few months a back, I attended a meeting at the local chapter of a national organization devoted to training. The subject of that month’s meeting was “storytelling.” After chapter business and the box lunches were done, the facilitator introduced the topic and then invited four or five training professionals to tell their “stories.”

A story has a narrative, usually builds to a point and often contains a theme or lesson. These did not. These were extended elevator speeches designed around each person’s career development. There was a chronology but no theme or lesson.

I’ve used stories in writing one-act plays, video scripts, collateral materials for clients and even magazine articles, like the woman who spent years and money learning how to be an artist until one day she had an epiphany and realized what she was really preparing herself to open and manage an art gallery.

Good storytelling has something the reader, or listener, or viewer can take away. What’s one takeaway from Prairie Home Companion? “Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

So I’m at the local library which I visit often to browse the new release racks. One small book catches my eye. It’s Make Your Own Picture Stories for Kids with ASD by Brian Attwood. His son has ASD and he can be difficult to deal with if he is uncertain of what is happening or going to happen. Here are the author’s comments. .

Keen to help my wife who was bearing the brunt of it, I took a pen and a sheet of A4 paper and began doing my story. Simple little figures, the shortest sentences, with as many of those words as possible in speech bubbles or images. A straightforward narrative that explained what was happening, what the end results would be, and depicting a happy, safe outcome.

It took time to get his attention but we started to read it slowly to him, his son joined in and began smiling. He calmed down. He understood.

We didn’t realize straight away what we had stumbled on. It took several more such tantrums before we started to make our picture stories a first, rather than a last, resort.

My take away from the training session was that most anyone can recite a resume. My stories, I like to think, entertained and also suggested that much is possible if you put your mind to it. But the takeaway with Attwood’s piece was that story telling could help their son deal with a world which he did not always comprehend. To me, that is storytelling with a real purpose.

Comments welcomed!

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Our Video Work

We have written numerous video scripts in our career for marketing, public relations and training, along with self-promotion. Recently we had the opportunity to script and produce three videos for Florida Gulf Coast University. Here is one of them. Comments welcomed.

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Book Review

I just posted a review of this book on Amazon. Take a look. The review and the book are both good reads.

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be vigilant 3

self-indyI’ve been writing for 30+ years and I’ve written for regional publications, one national pub, one international pub and a number of online publications. And I wrote in previous posts about self-publishing because I have a couple of manuscripts I’m attempting to have published. So when I wrote about self-publishing in the previous post, I really didn’t know what I was talking about. I thought self-publishing and independent publishing were synonymous.

They aren’t.

So here is a link to a dated but informative blog post along with links to more resources.

Read and enjoy.

Comments welcomed.

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be vigilant 2

targetIn my not-so-humble opinion, true self-publishing means you print out 90 pages on your HP 2540, staple them together and now you have self-published. If you send your MSS to a company that offers printing, you pay them a fee and they “publish” it. It is not self-publishing. I know, it’s a business and I have no problem with that, but it is not self-publishing.

And the raison d’etre for this rant? Positioning, folks, positioning.

I’ve written lots of content for marketing communications, public relations and advertising. And one thing I learned early on is to define for whom you are writing; who is the target audience?

For the manufacturer of oil burners, it was the HVAC technicians who couldn’t follow the poorly written installation instructions. I wrote a video script that walked them through the process, step-by-step. Did it work? It won an industry award for best training video.

If you contact any reputable publisher and they ask for a proposal for your book, they are also going to ask you how your book, if published, would find an audience. How would you position it?

Here are a few examples from a real life professional association asking how you would promote your book.

  1. How often do you speak to the intended market?
  2. Do you have a list of “high-profile” people who might endorse your book?
  3. Do you publish a newsletter?
  4. Do you have useful contacts in the media?
  5. Are you a member of any professional organizations?
  6. Etc.

And this is before they’ve even looked at your manuscript! You can spend $2,000.00 and up to have someone “self-publish” your book. And I’ll wager they will not ask you any of these questions. They’ll take you money, post the book online and cash your check.

Before you waste any time or money and watch your beloved MSS languish on-line, figure out whom you are writing for. (Yes, that’s a preposition at the end.)

This site can help.


Comments welcomed.

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be vigilant

3mssI have three manuscripts I’ve been putzin’ around with. One is a memoir at 29,000 words. The second is a How To handbook for creating autonomous teams at 25,000 words. The third is a How To handbook for people who want to write as an SME, a Subject Matter Expert.

Recent I went online searching for publishing companies for the memoir. I found a link that had a URL about helping me find the right publisher. So I clicked and clicked and jumped through the online hoops.

I received three emails and three telephone calls. All three were from companies looking to charge me to self-publish my memoir. Nothing wrong with that. It’s their business. But be careful when you click on these sites and expect a rep from Random House to ring your doorbell with a contract, an advance and the rights to a major motion picture.

Many of you probably already know this, so this is a reminder.

PS: If you can recommend a publisher of memoirs, please reply back. Thanks. 

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The Rarey

colorful-birdMy father maybe finished elementary school. I’m not sure. But like many people of Irish descent, he liked his drop of Irish whiskey before the evening meal. I can’t offer whiskey on this blog, but I can retell one of his stories with the cautionary note that my father was fond of puns. Here it is.

A man takes a job in a new city. He is single and lives in a rented apartment not far from where he works. After a while the living alone starts grinding on him. One day after work he goes online and searches for pet stores thinking what he needs is some creature comfort.

Finding a store near where he lives, on the weekend he takes a walk, determined to see what are his options.

In the store the e owner introduces himself. He asks the man what type of pet he has in mind.

“I don’t know,” he answers. “But I live alone and some type of companionship would be nice.”

The owner thinks and then asks, “How about a dog?”

“No,” says the man, “It would be alone in the apartment all day, and I don’t want that.”

The owner counters with the suggestion of a cat, but the man is unequivocal about his hatred of cats.

For the next few minutes the owner recites a laundry list of potential pets, from hamsters to turtles, and goldfish to parrots. All are met with a definitive “Not interested.”

As he pleads, our man glances into a corner of the store where stands a birdcage covered with a dark cloth.

“What’s that,” he asks pointing to the cage.

The owner does a double take and a verbal shuffle. “Oh, that’s nothing, really. How about a parakeet?”

The man insists. Intuition says there is something to this.

“Look.” He says. “You show me what’s in that cage and, if I like it, I’ll buy it. I promise.”

The owner relents. They stand by the covered cage. “You can only have one look. I’ll lift the cloth, you look, and I cover it back up.” Our man agrees.

The covering is lifted and our man sees a feathered creature the like of which most people can’t even imagine. It is glorious. The bird and he exchange glances, and our man imagines the bird seems to increase in size.

“That’s it,” says the owner as he covers the gage.

‘What kind of bird is it? It’s beautiful, “says our man.

“Beautiful, yes,” says the owner, “but beauty has a price.”

Our man is confused, “See,” the owner continues, “It’s very, very rare because every time someone looks at it, it doubles in size.”

Our man is sold.

On the way back to his apartment he cannot contain himself, and he sneaks a couple of peeks and, sure as shootin’, the bird doubles in size.

As is well for a while. During the days, the bird is alone in its cage singing its soft sounds. But all is not perfect. Our man has to feed it, clean its cage, give it a chance to see daylight, and each occurrence results in the rare bird increasing in size.

In addition, the bird can speak. Sometimes it mimics the radio or television, but more and more it complains about its accommodations. It is becoming a very large and very unhappy bird, rare or not.

After six months, our man is not happy. The pet store has washed its hands and he has no option other that getting rid of the bird.

One weekend in the fall, he convinces a co-worked to help him dispose of a “problem.” They rent a large dump truck and one early morning mange to wrestle the covered cage into the truck as the bird demands to know where he’s being taken.

Two hours later they are fifty miles from town and back the dump truck up to the edge of an abandoned quarry.

They pull the tarp off the back of the truck. The bird walks over, peeks over the edge and into the cavernous quarry. Then he looks at the two men and says, “That’s a long way to tip a rarey.”




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