Wednesday, 29 April 2009
17,000 people in Belgium - that’s 1 in every 200 workers - are involved in the making, selling and promotion of chocolate.
One chocolate chip provides enough food energy for an adult to walk 150 feet. Therefore, it takes about 35 chocolate chips to walk a mile or 875,000 to get you around the world.
It takes the whole of one year’s crop from one tree to make half a kilo of cocoa.
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Monday, 27 April 2009
Sometimes visitors who joined in the meal asked for the recipe. To which my mother was rather vague. So one day when a visitor had gone I asked her why she was so vague. "Well it’s this and then that plus a pinch of something else" was her reply.
"And it depends what day it is and what the butcher has… " she trailed off with a wave of her hand. I never did get the hang of making it the way she did though I watched her make it often enough and knew the sequence that she followed, chopping up meat and vegetables and so on.
As a cook myself now I understand her challenge in being precise. And as a writer I have a sequence, a process that works for me. If you asked me I would say I follow it logically. But like my mother it can be influenced by so many things that the results can vary wildly.
For example, if I start off by researching a company I’m writing for or about that sets off certain ideas in my mind. Then I might look at their competitors and other ideas strike me. So I go back to my previous research and add in a few different notes.
When I’ve amassed a bundle of notes, my raw ingredients so to speak then I start to cook it up. And I’m sure you know what it’s like when you’ve written the text, checked it off and for some gut feeling you know you need to add just a pinch of something else.
So although I can lay out my process, and I do often for other writers, what I can’t lay out for them is that extra ingredient that binds everything else together.
How does it work for you?
Sunday, 26 April 2009
I've been a perfume obsessive for years and one of my dreams is to have a perfume created for me. This year that dream came a lot closer because now in Nottingham we have a shop devoted to the perfumes of the renowned perfumer Lyn Harris.
The shop's been open a few months and when I first found it I went in and gabbled because I was so excited. Yesterday I gabbled even more because I had the chance to meet Lyn Harris. To launch her new perfume Terre du Bois the shop hosted an event where she talked about becoming a perfumer, how she creates her perfumes and oh just so much.
The shop itself is a joy and having met her we could see everything about the shop comes like the perfumes from her heart.
If you like me are sick of multinationals taking your money and giving you little in return then race to the shop in Nottingham or her branches in London. This lady is getting better by the year as a perfumer.
So head over to one of her shops, the website or a store like Selfridges (who are no slouches at deciding what's excellent.)
Saturday, 25 April 2009
All sorts of words were suggested but the one that came out on top was mellifluous.
I suppose because it's all soft consonants that helped and the connection with honey which would help create the taste sense when you think of it. One of my favourites is soften. Again no harsh consonants and that kinaesthetic connection.
Let me know if you have a favourite sounding word. And does it have a connection to your childhood or a favourite person or activity.
Friday, 24 April 2009
Flash Fiction (sometimes called Microfiction) - a work with all the elements of a story that takes place in 750 words or less (as defined by James Thomas in Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories). Consider this example by Ernest Hemingway, just six words long: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
Nanofiction - a story with at least one character and a discernible plot that is exactly 55 words long
Short Short Story - a story that's under 2,500 words
Traditional Short Story - a story that's under 7,500 words
Novelette - a story that's between 7,501 and 17,500 words
Novella - a story that's between 17,501 and 40,000 words
Novel - a story that's at least 40,001 words long (Source: TheValve.org)
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Saw a vibrant performance of The Tempest two weeks ago with Antony Sher and a South African company. Fantastic energy, colour and a lot to say about ambition.
At a recent networking meeting, a colleague was talking to me about his uncle who’d written on his very varied life.
When he’d written it out, he printed it and passed it around to his family to read. My colleague was saying that he thought it might have benefited from having a professional writer take a look at it. Because although he said his uncle was fascinating when you talked to him, when it had been transferred onto the printed page it seemed to have died on him.
That’s a shame. And it often happens because it’s very hard to sort out your own material and shape it in a way that makes sense for others. What appeals to us might not be right for other people.
And if you don’t know your way around the writing profession it’s difficult to know who to go to – especially if you’re telling a family story. I think that expecting your family to give you a good assessment of your material is fraught with danger.
That’s because they don’t come to it fresh. And there are so many underlying aspects of our relationships within the family circle that can really screw up objectivity. If you like the writer, you don’t want to hurt their feelings, you want to support them but…. What do you say?
If you don’t like them or you’re of a mind to pay off old scores then you can put the boot in.
Whether you’re supportive or not, you’re not in the best place to judge. The writer ends up with a too soft or a too harsh review that has nothing do to with the quality of the writing or the story.
Tough call but I’d go for an objective outsider every time. To have a professional writer critique your writing will cost you financially and maybe chip away at your pride. But at least you’ll know that their judgement is not based on someone whose toy you broke 30 years ago or who loves you so much they daren’t tell you your writing can be improved.
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
- Don Marquis
And I didn't keep up yesterday with the fact it was Charlotte Bronte's birthday. Like many teenage girls of my generation Jane Eyre was one of my all time favourite books. I won it as a prize at church when I was 13. Loved it! All that anguish and suffering then a wonderful underdog happy ending.
Perfect. And I still love it. I think I've watched every film and serialised version of it and have to say my favourite is the last with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson. But every time I watch a film version it sends me back to the book because however good the film it can't reproduce Charlotte Bronte's writing.
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Monday, 20 April 2009
This has been a merited best seller since its first publication in 2004. It's funny, touching and laugh out loud outrageous at times. Reminds of Dickens in the collection of characters she's brought to life.
I'm now starting to work my way through her other books. If like me you're coming late in the day to her books then I recommend you give it a whirl. I didn't want to put it down when I began.
Whatever music helps you write you may find more inspiration on Alec Ross's site.
Sunday, 19 April 2009
More power to his arm.
Saturday, 18 April 2009
What's your favourite exercise? Do you hate gyms like me but enjoy walking? Or do you love heading off to the gym even when you're tired because you know how great you'll feel by the end of the session?
We need exercise to strengthen our bodies and destress our minds.
Have you thought that you need the same thing for your writing?
Do you need a daily fix or is it something you think you should do but never get around to? If the meaning of the word addict is that you have to take a substance every day then I happily admit to being a writing addict.
Writing gives me that adrenalin rush that exercise junkies talk about. A day without writing even if it's only an email or a shopping list is a day without excitement. But if you can't just get started even when you want to, then here are three reasons that might nudge you.
Recently I watched a TV report about a man about to run a marathon to raise money for research into childhood leukaemia - the disease from which his son died. When he started running he couldn't last 5 minutes without collapsing but now a day without his running didn't feel right.
What difference will you writing make to your business, your family or your self belief.
Lack of time
How many words can you write in 15 minutes? Here's an exercise that will show you what you can achieve in such a short time.
Set a timer and then start to write about a recent day. You can do it chronologically, as a list, or take one incident out of your day and imagine you're emailing a friend about it.
When the timer goes off, stop even if you're in mid sentence. Then count up how many words you've managed. Multiply the result by 4 and you have an hourly rate.
Even if you managed a small number it doesn't matter. Just take it as a starting rate. In 15 mintues you could write a blog entry, several tweets, the basis for an article or an email update.
Writing should be fun, not hard work. And the only way for it to be fun is to write about what you want to say. What topics fire you up and make you wish you could share with more people?
Start with those. If you're terrified of the grammar or spelling, forget them while you're writing. All that can be corrected later and by other people if need be.
Concentrate on the message you want to communicate and most important of all keep writing. Who knows how soon you'll be ready to tackle a writing marathon.
Every week it fascinates me to see how varied the rooms are; as varied as the writers and artists featured. Part of writing is creating the atmosphere in which we write. For foreign reporters that means writing on the hoof and at speed; they don't have the luxury of "creating ambience".
For most of us it can be created over time and I believe it's a tool that can enhance your writing.
Often tools are thought of as things like dictionaries, thesauruses and the like, on of off-line. Tools that help us search for that exact word or phrase we think will make the difference. And depending what you're writing there may also be research sources for your current project.
If I took a photograph of my working space it would be on the extreme end of the crowded room spectrum. I don't gaze out across lush green meadows or a beautiful ocean. On the contrary I stare at a wall only covered in inspiring quotes and notes about current projects.
It works for me because I could allow myself to be distracted if I had a wonderful view. But your space should support you like the other tools you use.
But the most important tool I think any writer should cultivate is mindset. It isn't always thought about as a tool but your attitude to your writing should be as positive a help as all the other tools at your disposal.
Inspiring views are fine but it's more important to learn to be inspired whatever the view and cultivating a positive mindset is part of that. Part of learning to write to deadlines is to force the inspiration and ideas to come when you need them.
When clients demand 24 hour turn around times then you can't wait. So make yourself write regardless of the setting and the view. Make the words come at your command; decide what fires you up to write at your most powerful and passionate and use it as a conscious tool.
Friday, 17 April 2009
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
1 The world’s largest box of chocolates weighed in at 2,002 lbs. It was made in Chicago, USA, and contained Frango mints.
2 Africa now produces over 66% of the world’s supply of chocolate.
3 The first cacao trees were found growing in the Amazon river basin and the foothills of the Venezuelan and Colombian Andes.
Since this is Easter I treated myself to some very good chocolate made from single source beans. 85% from Ecuador and 70% from the Dominican Republic. The notes on the wrapping sounded like notes from wine tasting. But both are as smooth as silk and tempting to over eat
Monday, 13 April 2009
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Saturday, 11 April 2009
"What's a will but a dead giveaway?
Say goodbye to your calendar. It's days are numbered.
Boiled eggs: Hard to beat."
Her heart started to sing as they walked towards the library. To reach it from her home they had to cross a canal bridge and she'd race ahead with her mother calling to her, "wait at the top of the bridge for me".
Then she skipped down the other side of the bridge and turned into the road where the library was. From the outside of the building there were no fireworks or flashing lights to show that they were entering a wonderful world.
To the little girl it was Aladdin's cave where she knew she'd find all manner of jewels and treasure. Picture books about faraway places, stories of daring do and tall tales.
It's more than 50 years on but that little girl still lives inside me. Still drags me to the library, tugging my hand to 'come see what there is today."
That's the excitement I feel every time I start a new book. What will I discover, what fun is there inside for me?
The means of delivery may have changed with audio books, downloadable digital and the like, but the anticipation is the same.
Books have helped me change my life, introduced me to new ways to think and worlds to explore.
That's what I want to help you do. Come and join us in the Writer's Little Book Club and see how you can produce that excitement for someone else.
Thursday, 9 April 2009
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
"Create your business around your lifestyle."
For me that means having enough time to enjoy going to the theatre in the afternoon, taking a day off in the week if the weather is fine, finding time to help more in the garden.
I'm sure your priorities are different from mine but whatever they are, perhaps they should be at the core of our business planning rather than tacked on at the end.
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
"Without sincerity, an advertisement is no more contagious than a sprained ankle."
Monday, 6 April 2009
Sunday, 5 April 2009
Today I'd like to talk to you if you'd like to write for your business but think you don't have the time.
We're surrounded by advice about setting goals and priorities until sometimes I want to scream. But there are certain things I pay attention to.
And those are the goals and priorities that I know have a positive effect on my business. Which priorities work will be different from business to business.
Maybe you need to be meeting face to face with prospects and you acquire your best clients that way. Maybe you find that talking to existing clients and persuading them to refer you to other works for you.
Whatever it is, you know that you're prepared to make the time and put in the energy for the results it brings you.
I'd like to suggest to you that if you already haven't done so then you should consider the impact that increasing your reputation and reach via your writing skills will have on your business.
Whether we like it or not, and many of us still don't, the Internet has changed our behaviour. For example before I sat down to write this blog, my sister and I were discussing a photo of the wives attending the G20 summit in London last week.
We were bemoaning the fact that we didn't know who everybody was in the line-up. Within minutes I was on-line and had found a photo with the names.
Even 5 years ago I wouldn't have been so quick to do that. And it's automatic now to do my research on line for clients, and check out people I meet at networking events.
This means that your prospects probably do the same thing putting more pressure on your website to help form their opinion.
Why should you raise the priority for your writing? On your site you can do the following things that will enhance your reputation:
Include testimonials from satisfied clients
Add articles showing people you're an expert in your field
Any and all of those are great places to start and may pay off for you in unexpected ways. At the least they will only cost you the time it takes for you to do them. Half an hour spent writing an article may be more cost effective than three hours at a networking event.
Like any other activity, writing for your business needs to be done consistently to create the results. Give it a real go and see how it works for you.
Saturday, 4 April 2009
I've been working this week on my new book on business writing to be published at the end of April so I've been thinking a lot about how people I meet networking think about writing for their business.
They seem to fall into 3 categories:
- People who loathe the thought of it and put it off until they're pushed to do it - like writing for their websites
- People who quite enjoy it but it comes at the bottom of a long to-do list
- People who understand the impact it can have on their business
I have to say the third category are the rarest and usually include those who are on top of their marketing strategies.
It's easy to understand people who loathe writing because many of them have been put off in school because they didn't 'get grammar' or enjoy writing essays. But writing for your business is quite different and what I find difficult to understand is how they won't then pass the work on to someone else who could do it for them.
I meet a lot of people running their own businesses who feel they should do everything themselves, especially if it saves them money. What we often don't cost in though is our own time. For instance, I could do my own tax affairs but it would cause me stress and take me longer than my accountant who is doing it all the time.
One of my clients employed me to write a letter for them, but not till after they'd spent 10 hours struggling with it. At their hourly rate that actually cost her £1,000 in lost client fees because she wouldn't spend the considerably lower amount I charged her for something I did in a fraction of the time. Crazy situation.
Tomorrow I'll look at the second category of writing phobics
Thursday, 2 April 2009
At the course on motivation I attended last week, the one thing every one was moaning about was being overwhelmed by all the 'stuff' they had to do.
I can understand because in my rollercoaster few years as a writer my workload has fluctuated and I've never been less than busy. So while of course I've speeded up as I've gained experience it still means that the more organised I've been the better.
And I have a habit of attending courses on the Internet which feeds in 'more stuff to do.'
In my own defence I've had to develope some systems to stop me hating what I do. Which sounds odd because I love writing. But when everything is to deadlines and client's brief then sometimes it takes away the actual pleasure of the writing.
One of the mantras I give people especially when they're developing as writers and don't have much confidence is write for at least 15 minutes a day. And I try honestly to extend that method to what I have to do with all the new web technology and social media etc etc.
I have to admit though that allocating 15 minutes a day to blogging doesn't seem to work for me, though I am trying it again for Tweeting.
What does work well for me though is collecting topics, subjects, queries that people have raised about writing and then allowing an hour to write several blogs about those. I get in the flow and they run well. Then I can schedule them for later in time.
You may like to try it if you think it will help you.
Just to remind you- there are more tips and strategies on the website and of course you can buy my first book from there - Writer's Little Book... with Big Ideas.