Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Unfollowing (Repost)

In about five minutes I will have un-followed my first “friend.”

Why does it bother me?

In truth, it’s not the unfollowing that bothers me. I only knew him as well as I could know anyone with whom I exchanged workshop critiques over a 3-week summer writer’s workshop. Which is to say I knew him by words and by sight—which does not, as some might believe, mean I knew his insights, or lack thereof.

I did not know his politics.  I did not know his racial barometer, his insecurities.  Perhaps I don’t actually endeavor to know anyone that well. In the past, I had at best glanced at his updates. But now that either I have more time or he does, his updates appear to have become more frantic and more frequent. I find myself shocked by their chantish quality, their lack of depth, their lack of respect of my time.

In all honesty, what I remember best about him that summer is his overly long workshop piece laden with slightly-offensive assumptions of camaraderie and the presumption that I had the time to read it. That is what I find bothersome about following, or the implications of my following him: the presumption of shared beliefs.

It should be enough for me to quietly select unfollow and leave him to wonder why I would do such a thing.  Sadly, it is not.  It’s not even enough for me to craft an email telling him why.  I expect he would write something about the Fifth Amendment.  But, since his right to write his racist views does not infringe upon my right not read it, I will instead unfollow him and let the words fall will they may.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Beehive Baltimore (Repost)

According to their website, blog and Tweets, the Beehive Baltimore is an active community of writers sharing space to increase productivity and decrease cost. It’s a classic formula, a proven formula and financially, it makes sense.

It makes sense socially too.

The Hive is located in a cluster of offices, within a trendy, multi-purpose warehouse-esque modern building.

I picture writers, painters, sculptors, and dancers engaging in discussion, debate, and coffee laced with crème and conversation.

I don’t picture writers writing, painters painting, sculptors sculpting or dancers actually dancing.

And, I’d like to.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been planning a visit to the Hive to see just what co-working is all about. They are virtually locatable. I found their website; read their blog, and followed their tweets. I can find the Hive on a map, online, on Google Earth. I can @Beehive them, email them, or comment to a blog.

What I can’t do is call them.

Social networking, word of mouth, and an online presence, keeps them plugged into the community they likely want to reach.

But what about me?
How do I cross the communication divide?

I can’t pull out of my coveted parking spot on P2, drive the 3.5 miles in potential rush-hour traffic, and search for a parking spot in the parking garage I’m not sure they have, if I don’t know they will be there when I am.

I could email them and set up an appointment, I could DM them, or even Tweet—but, I won’t.

I will continue to search for a number to communicate in a medium I’m familiar with through a terrain in which I’m not.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Me in Community (Repost)

Recently, I got a letter that my son’s school failed the state test. Not a state test, the state test: the Maryland State Assessment Test or MSA. The test that decides funding, staffing, academic performance: the test. It’s a report card, a ‘how does the school compare to other schools in the state’ and equally as importantly, a ‘how does your child compare to other students in the state’ marker.

Each year, my children perform well, very well to be precise. Some years their schools do not.

This year, my daughter’s school passed the statewide test, my son’s did not. The letter from his school is nicely worded. It says something about under performing and reevaluating. It’s very positive, but the bottom line is that something is missing between teaching and learning: something just doesn’t work.

Four years ago, I got the same letter before my daughter was supposed to go to the same school. That year, I opted out and was able to transfer her into a performing school.

Today, the program that made such a transfer possible is defunct, and so though my son exceeded the state expectations, I can’t just bail out. And, I’m not sure I want to. There is always the option of private or charter schools. So my son, who is in gifted and talented classes, is not there out of lack of options.

My son has made lots of friends at this school, so like it or not we are vested in the community.

Problems and all, it feels nice to belong to a community.

His school plans to make some changes some academic, some administrative. I plan to make some changes too. This year, I plan to be not just a member of the PTA but a participant. I am looking for opportunities to volunteer around my schedule and my comfort level. I am considering leading a journaling workshop to help get kids excited about words again.

Whatever I do, this year, I plan to affect change.

This year, community begins at home.

It doesn’t end there.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Why I Don't Comment on Comments

In most of the writers’ groups I belong to, there is at least one conversation devoted to the topic of comments and why we don’t comment on other writers’ blogs.

Each time I read one, I vow to read a blog or two and post a comment in return: to leave my virtual calling card.
I sift through several blogs before choosing the one to respond to.

Reading a blog is sort of like reading the editorials. Reading comments is like asking people what they think about the editorials.

I don’t do that.

So while I peruse, sift and skim blog posts, I rarely glimpse or acknowledge the comments of others.
Comments are like undergarments. I assume people have them, but I’m not all that interested in seeing the general populations’.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Yvonne Battle-Felton; Crafter of Sexy CV's

“Great information, can I reference this for my site and link back to you?”

Compliments are probably one of the fastest ways to get your comment approved on my blog. So, likely my ego will be my cyber downfall.

When I began looking for a full-time English faculty position, it seemed logical to post my resume and CV on my blog.

It still does.

Visions of people linking my CV to the hands of my future employer would have danced vividly in my head—had I thought of it that way. When commenters began asking to link, repost or refer the content from my blogs to theirs, I was giddy—until…

Though I still have the what’s the worst that could happen mentality when it comes to accepting comments, I still read each comment, email address, website, link, IP address—just in case.

The most recent request to link to my CV made me smile, in a what the heck? sort of way. The request looked sincere enough—though in retrospect most of the requests so far have been from spammers—the site potentially linking to mine was a porn one.

There are many ways I could and probably should take this offer.

Instead, I’m taking it as a compliment. Perhaps I’ve found my niche, Yvonne Battle-Felton, crafter of Sexy CV’s.

Monday, November 14, 2011


“What kind of films do you make?” Porn, I think.

“Just films about different things.”

I nod.

I mistake his evasiveness and momentarily forget my own.
As a writer, I seldom talk about a piece until it is finished—sometime after its final revision, submission, rejection and/or publication. Dissecting language, character, voice, and plot are far more intricate and intimate conversations than those I would have with people who would ask, “What are you working on?”

People who would not ask are writers.

People who don’t know me must think I write porn.

“What do you want to do after graduation?” A friend asks.

“I just want to write,” I say and mean—but not really.

I do not want to write manuals, business letters, or the story of someone else’s life.

I want to write short stories with characters who reflect people and the choices we make and the consequences we live with. I want to write creative nonfiction pieces about injustices, opportunities, life. I want to make people think, act, cry, care. Power issues aside, I want to incite a change.

I write more personal essays than I am comfortable with. I sift through the cyber pages of my life and while I justify it by writing press releases during the day, I cannot justify it when people ask, “What are you working on?” And while I think, a piece that shows the choices I’ve made on the path to who I have become. And I say, “Something for my blog.” I mean—nothing of consequence.

My eality—my cyber footprint—is a bit somber. My reality on the other hand, is full of promise and opportunity and always facing forward.
So while I smile as I think, What would Jesus Write, I mean it’s time I got back to writing not just about my world, but about your world, our world—as I see it

Consider the Source: FTC Updates Timely Advice (Repost)

I have always been leery of reviews.

Books, movies, companies, merchandise, what ever the product or service, I seldom trust testimonials, endorsements, or personal statements unless I respect the source.

A quick search of most products or services will pull up the product, its competition, client testimonials and customer reviews.

It should be universally understood that information provided by the manufacturer and/or provider and its competition is biased.

Word-of-mouth is just as powerful today as it was yesterday.

Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and the thousands of services in between, rely on the premise of networks and the sharing of information. The power of telling a friend, who tells a friend, who tells another friend, has gone exponential.

With all of this information exchanging, sharing, updating, blogging and twittering about, the FTC reminds us that nothing has really changed. When making decisions based on someone’s experience, recommendation, or testimonial, you have to consider the source. The recent Link1 ruling takes it one step further--effective December 1, depending on the source, the information provider, exchanger, sharer, updater, tweeter, or in this case, blogger has to disclose it.

The ruling encourages bloggers to reveal relationships which may influence their reviews, testimonials, essays, etc… of products or services. Influence can take the form of money, product, trade.

The language is highly subjective to interpretation.

Bloggers are encouraged to act responsibly by disclosing this information. If they refuse, a letter may or may not go out, action may or may not follow. The ruling is vague in its language but broad in potential.

Sadly, it’s also necessary.

The often blurry lines between marketing, promotions, and testimonials are not any more or less murky than they were a decade ago, but the opportunities to mislead consumers and their networks are.

I like to believe that people are more savvy and less likely to believe everything they read. I like to believe that people recognize an ad when they see it. But then again, I also like to believe that writers willing disclose relationships that may influence their pieces.

The FTC reminds me that this is not always the case.

As a blogger, I hold myself responsible for everything I write. As a reader of blogs, I hold myself responsible for everything I believe.

Conversations I would Rather Not Have

There are some conversations that get easier to have the more often you have them—death isn’t one of them.

This weekend I woke up to quiet.

Unexpected, somewhat jolting, my three children, dog, cat, presumably the leopard gecko were sleeping and so was—it would seem for a few more minutes—Lita Gibby.

Lita Gibby does not sleep. Or if she does, she is a light sleeper. Since she’s lived with us, she has become in tuned with movement, shifts in lighting, every whispered sound.

She detects everything.

She sings—or sang—to music, to silence, to footsteps.

Lita Gibby was Noah’s birthday present.

I should have learned you can’t give life.

The plump white and brown guinea pig, deceptively quiet in the pet store, uncharacteristically quiet today, is dead.

Because Noah was three when we got her, I spent more time than I thought I would talking to, petting, cleaning up after, feeding, and though I didn’t expect to, loving Lita Gibby.

There are just a few moments between now—when he thinks Lita Gibby is alive—and later when he doesn’t.

This is not his first death. Fish have died. This will not be his last death. I will die—some day.

When his fish died, I replaced them with new, brighter, more alive ones. I think briefly of replacing his guinea pig. But, what are the chances of getting one who whistles as commandingly as Lita Gibby?

I can no more replace his guinea pig than I can replace a dying grandparent.

Each death gets more difficult to explain, the reasons more artful, the reactions more tearful.

I can buy a new guinea pig, a frog, a toad. I can not give the gift of life and I'm not looking forward to talking about it why.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Trying to Spend Money at Wal-Mart? Good luck

I love a good sale; there’s nothing like saving money—especially when you don’t have to spend money to do it.

Still, lately I have been having a hard time actually spending money. No, not because I’m adhering to a budget; not because I’m debating a large purchase or even haggling over prices: The store just won’t seem to take my money.  It’s an odd problem to have. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t complain, but these circumstances aren’t quite normal.

Last week I visited Wal-Mart to purchase new tires. On one hand I had reservations about purchasing tires from the same place I can purchase sweatpants and toothpaste; but, there’s a certain nostalgic quality reminiscent of Sunday shopping with my grandmother decades ago that eases the uncertainties. Back then, she shopped at Two Guys, a long gone “everything” store similar to Wal-Mart and perhaps more adept—though their bankruptcy would say otherwise—at taking money. So I was able to rationalize shopping for tires where I shop for life—at first.

When I stepped up to the counter it was like stepping into a sitcom. The customer in front of me had moved around the country; it seemed the only things that remained consistent over the past year were her love of mobility and her love for Wal-Mart. The employee searched for her client information using three different phone numbers before giving up and setting the customer up with a new account.  Ten minutes later, when it was finally my turn, another employee searched the computer system for my tires and found nine in stock and many more in stock that were higher than I wanted to pay.

The next part is a communication whirlwind. I say, “if I need four tires, I want four tires; if I only need two, put on two.”

They hear, “blah, blah, blah…two tires.”

About an hour later a somber faced mechanic comes out. He has broken the screw to the sensor and it looks like I am going to need a new one. I stare at the screw and the valve and then at the sensor and the mechanic. It seems an odd thing to show me, but he is intent that I see the connection: the gold-plated stub wedged between metal—yes, I see it.  The need for me to purchase a new one—no, I don’t.  First he says I need a new sensor. My sensor is broken? I ask. No, just the screw. And they don’t sell the screws? I ask. Well, I broke it, he explains—again.

He seems ready to launch into a complicated answer, instead he pauses reconsidering. “Let me check.”

The thing is we both know I’m not going to pay for a new valve or a new sensor.

Five minutes after a discussion with his supervisor, work begins again on my car.  Thirty minutes later it’s finished.

“You’re going to need two more tires really soon.”

“You didn’t put them on?” I ask.

I re-explain my explanation. “We can put them on but it will be another hour and a half,” the mechanic says. My car would be put back into the loop—I mean, in the back of the loop.

Against my better judgment, I decided to come back another day.  When I came back I was told it would be a one hour wait. I waited. Almost one hour later my car was still parked where I had left it neither finished nor worked on.  Still, my sense of “how can this happen again” drove me to try one more time. The last time I went, the attendant looked for my tires for ten minutes without finding them. If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it. He searched each tire on each shelf, even using the rolling ladder and a coworker.  Of course, he was looking for the exact tires I purchased last time without asking if I wanted a different brand.

The store manager recommended I order the tires online and have them shipped to the store for them to put them on.  I decided to go elsewhere.  I will stick to sweatpants and accessories for Wal-Mart and leave the car parts to companies who specialize in cars and servicing them.

Are your employees costing you money? If your employees won’t listen to your customers, someone else will. Train your staff to listen to your clients and address their needs; remind them to ask questions when they don’t understand and to give honest feedback when they do. Don’t let lack of communication cost you your clients; your competitors won’t.

Backstory: Reflections on this Month's Theme for Stories at the Storey

Meeting deadlines is as soothing to me as a creamy cup of flavoured coffee. Checking a project off of my mental to-do list settles me. ...