Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review of “Feature & Magazine Writing”, 3rd edition, by David E Sumner and Holly G Miller

Review of “Feature & Magazine Writing”, 3rd edition, by David E Sumner and Holly G Miller

I would like to extend my thanks to Wiley-Blackwell Publishing for this complimentary review copy.

The 3rd edition of this extremely helpful book has been updated to include feature writing in a digital world. With the proliferation of blogs, vlogs, digital versions of magazines, and other online media, the rules of writing have changed. Two new chapters have been added: “Building a Story Blog” and “Long Form Digital Storytelling”, which explain and highlight the correct way to get your reader’s attention in the fast paced world of the internet.

With 21 chapters plus an appendix (a glossary of magazine lingo) this book takes you from idea, to composing, to editing, to pitching, and finally to career advice. How to interview someone successfully is described in detail, as is correct grammar and punctuation, without boring the student to death over minutiae. Also noted is how to think like a writer, debunking the popular “write what you know” theory.

Each chapter begins by highlighting key points to remember, and ends with in-class activities and assignments, a great way to reinforce what was just learned.

Finally, the 3rd edition comes with a website that includes PowerPoint presentations, handouts and other resources. The text itself is also offered as an e-book.

Highly recommended for any student interested in writing for magazines or the Internet.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Being a girl is hard!

I've not blogged since December, 2010...I had things that wanted to be written about, but never had the time to sit down and type.

Today I have both. I'm going to share with you how I spent my day. It was spent being a girl.

The first appointment of the day was the eye doctor (ok, everyone goes there, not just girls, but a thought occurred to me while I was there). I was asked if I wanted to consider contact lenses...either to correct my vision or just to change my eye color. No, I've never considered them..but today I was. How interesting would I look with dark blue or light purple eyes? I got some pricing, and told some friends about my thoughts.

All three people I told shot the idea down as "a waste", "unnecessary", and "not needed, just wear your glasses".  Of course, they all were men, so I will go ask some women tomorrow. I'd still like to try it out.

Second stop was a spray tan. For the uninitiated, it involves either getting naked, or wearing paper underwear and being sprayed with a tiny paint sprayer. There is a fan blowing on you and it's kinda cold. You have to make sure you don't breathe that stuff in. You have to contort in weird positions  (made quite awkward if you are naked). And then you have to stand while a really strong fan blows on you and dries the stuff. For FIFTEEN MINUTES. Did I mention how cold it gets?

I thought I looked good until I went out tonight and walked the dog, in the natural light..and saw that the inside of both legs were not done well. FML. Absolutely heinous. My arms look good, but my main intention was my legs. Guess I won't be doing THAT again.

On to getting myself a manicure. When I got to the place I saw that they also did I got my brows done. That is where they put hot wax on your skin and then rip out the hairs by the roots. My brows have been getting done for years, but it still hurts in spots.
I also get a Brazilian wax....imagine THAT pain. And guys think they are stronger than us.

Heh heh.

So imagine that hot wax being spread all over my lady parts   personal area  well, you know where. And then RIPPED OFF. Sure, being a girl is fun!!

Then the manicure. They use a dremel (a rotating electric sander) to scuff up the nails and remove any extra acrylic from around your cuticles and sides of the nail. A dremel gets really hot, and makes your fingertips really tender. Also this is a weapon being wielded by an angry Korean man muttering epithets under his breath because his client (me) keeps asking him to "make the nail more, MORE oval...can you do it a little less square?...." and pulling her hand away (ow, my finger!!) because the dremel is burning a hole in her flesh.

Yup, being a girl is really empowering. Once I got done there (and suffered the obligatory nick in the freshly applied nail polish because sitting under the dryer for TEN MINUTES was not long enough) I had to get into my car, brows and other parts stinging from that hot wax and hair-root-pulling, and sit there trying to figure out the best way to drive home without smearing more of the manicure. You know when you have a tiny cut on your finger, and never knew how many times a day you would have that area actually touch another area, and cause great pain because it just keeps on touching other areas and you have no idea how to make it stop?

That is a manicure. Times ten. Ten fingers that you can't have touch each other. Or touch anything else. Try driving not touching anything.

I figured two small smears wasn't a big deal.
That, and the soreness on the side of a few nails from the dremel, and from having my skin peeled away from the acrylic.

Is this "pampering" as painful for movie stars, too? They get tanned, and their nails done, and waxed, and all that. Sure, I look bangin'....but I'm kinda tired and sore. And I smell kinda strange from the spray tan and the acrylic nails....and I have leftover wax here and there. But, as I just said, I look BANGIN'.

Who knew femininity was so difficult?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Some Year End Thoughts

December is usually a time for reflection; on the previous 11 months, on what you have accomplished, and perhaps what you intend to accomplish next year. Here's my thoughts:

I am immensely thankful that I accomplished my goal of becoming a credentialed vet tech. All the studying and hard work and worrying I did all year truly paid off. Of course, I couldn't have done it without the help and support of my husband Anthony, my best friend Hilton, and my mentor, Dr Marsha Smith. She was my rock and my cheerleader throughout. I conquered my fear of math from her lessons. I learned many procedures by working side by side with her at work. She gave me the confidence to realize that I was "educatable", and she continues to help me and be proud of my achievement.

The economy was in turmoil this year, and I'm well aware of the monetary thread we are hanging by. Each month goes by and we scrape together the mortgage payment and do without many things, both necessity and luxury, just so we can keep our house. I'm very grateful that we are both working and can (sort of) pay our bills.

I am looking forward to finally finishing up my Vet Tech course at Penn Foster College.  It was not an easy journey at times, but when I look back at the direction my life has taken, all because of a small ad in the back of an equine medical journal, my head spins. I've never been so happy and fulfilled in my life.

And finally, I'm also looking forward to new journeys. I'm considering enrolling at Wilkes University to obtain my MA in Creative Writing. Apparently I've decided that learning is truly a life long thing and I'm going to keep on going until I die.

Life is never easy, but your choices can make it more pleasurable. What type of year end thoughts do YOU have?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Have Become An Examiner!

In between studying for the VTNE and working, I have embarked on a new project. I was really trying to do research on what college I should go to, to obtain my MFA in Creative Writing. As I Googled and typed busily, I was directed to a site called They offer little blurbs, or "articles" written by regular people, about subjects that they are familiar with. I found someone to chat with me about Wilkes University, which is the school I've chosen to attend. I also became interested in becoming an Examiner, which is a person who has their own page and writes about a subject near and dear to them.
My application was accepted, and I'm now the Atlantic City Greyhound Examiner.

Sounds cool, like I'm peering closely at each canine, looking for something tiny. Anyway, my page can be found here .

Feel free to subscribe or check back often. I plan to put up articles on greyhounds at least once or twice a week, a lot more regularly than this poor blog. As I move forward with my MFA process I'll be blogging about that too.
Feel free to offer feedback on my Greyhound page, I welcome all comments.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Overcoming Self Doubt

I'm not a person that usually doubts myself. I'm very opinionated and sure of my beliefs. But for the last few days I'm having a crisis of faith.
I'm convinced I'm going to fail my VTNE exam.

I've been studying and reading and thinking about stuff at work for months. I've gone into Defcon 5 mode now, since the test is less than 14 days away. I've even started to review the math questions that I forgot how to do, and feel a lot more confident in my calculating ability.
Yesterday I took a practice test, straight from the Technician Review book that is one of the texts I'm studying. As I answered the questions I felt confident. I felt that things were finally coming together. I could even do the math.
My grade was 70%. When I first started taking the practice exams my grades were in the 60's. How can I feel so confident and yet not get more than 70% correct?
So last night I gave up. I went to my bookshelf and grabbed a fiction hardcover that has been waiting for me to read it, and I immersed myself in it. I sulked and posted a pity status update on FaceBook. I told myself it didn't matter if I passed.
What is wrong with me?
I woke up today with the attitude that I only have a few days left, maybe I should just go ahead and keep reading/studying. Who knows what the test will be like? I have to make the best of things, since I devoted so much of my time and energy to it. I know it's not the end of the world if I don't pass, and my friends keep telling me I can take it over (but I'm not sure if I can, due to new regulations) , but I know in my heart I have to give it my best shot.
I will read over the chapters on diagnostic imaging tonight, and do math problems every day until Dec 8th.
I may or may not take another practice exam. I WILL try to put all negative thoughts out of my head and rely upon my intelligence and natural self confidence.

I just wish it were all over already.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Fly in the Ointment....Not Exactly

I've recently begun to adopt the habit of taking crushed ice in a cup with me to work. I used to nibble on the ice in the car on the commute in, but now I've decided that I might as well eat the rest of it at my job.

I ate my ice this morning like I usually did. I would scoop up a spoonful of ice, slurp it up, and continue on with my typing or filling out paperwork or whatever. About halfway through the cupful, as I brought the spoon to my mouth I looked down at it, for some reason.

There was a bug on my spoon. I called another tech over and we both peered at it. "It's a FLEA!" she announced.
"I think it's just some kind of BUG!" I said.
"No, that's a flea for sure," she told me. "Want to go check it out under the microscope?"
Of course I did.

The little spot on my spoon (that was on its way to my mouth to be EATEN) was indeed a flea. He was cold, as he was nestled among my crushed ice. We marveled at his tiny eyes, his little flea legs, and the fine hairs along his body.

I wanted to gag. I almost ate a flea.

As we continued to alternately peek and shriek at this little creature, he suddenly moved. We both jumped back, for the magnification of the image caused the movement to scare us. Turns out he was all thawed out from the microscope light beaming up at him, and he did what all fleas do: Jump.

He was gone.

"I knew I should've put him in oil," I said. (Oil is used to prevent mites from walking off the slide before you can find them in all the debris.)

I still don't know where the flea came from, exactly, since my cup was not around any pets. But one thing is for sure: I will always look at my spoonful of ice before I eat it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Poetry, For A Change

A Day-Glo druid mows the lawn
I pass him by in slow motion and think
what it would be like to spend my day amongst
the grass clippings and diesel fumes
always circling
circling around every tree and curb
But then are we not circling ourselves
throughout our day
avoiding obstacles in our path
Some just go straight through them

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Math Is Hard

My next study subject for the VTNE is medical calculations. Math has never been my strong point, so I'm looking forward to this subject with trepidation. I brought my textbook and question book to work last night , thinking I would be able to work on problems here & there. First, I circled problems I knew I needed more help with. Then I took the first one and tried to figure it out. Marsha saw me working on it and asked if I needed help. Does the sun come up in the morning? Of course it does.
The question was:

How many milliliters of a 50% dextrose solution are needed to make 1000 mL of a 5% dextrose solution?

Marsha looked at the question and came up with the answer in about 1 second. "It's 100 mL", she said.
Ok, but how did you arrive at that conclusion?
She started by telling me that percent is the total grams in 100 mL. Apparently once I knew that, it all fell into place.
The next step was to make an equation.
10g                X
------       =    -----
100 mL       1000 mL

She showed me how to cross multiply and then divide. I still didn't get it, because she was talking about decliliters and converting grams to milligrams and then she threw in a .10 to really throw me off.

She had to go into the exam room to talk to a client, so I took my book and wandered away in search of more help. I ended up in the CCU, where three techs just told me to "memorize this chart, in real life you will never have to know any other amounts other that a 5% or 2.5% solution".
That was fine too, but I have to learn the calculation for the test...because you have to answer questions on a TEST, and they are sure to give you strange numbers not used in real life.

So I went back into central treatment, where 3 other techs were working on a patient. One tech in particular tried her best. I then realized it was like a foreign language to can repeat the sentence all you want, but if I don't understand the individual words it will never make sense.
At one point I had about 5 techs all shooting numbers and percents and decimals at me, and it was all I could do to hold back the tears of frustration. I felt so stupid. It was all so easy for them and I just couldn't get it.
As I tuned out their helpful chatter, I made a decision to go back and review the basics...converting decimals to fractions, the metric system, and basic tenets of ratio and proportion.  I hugged my book to my chest, said a general "thank you for your help" and started to walk away. As I got through the door, one tech rushed out after me. She said she was getting off work in 15 minutes and would be glad to sit with me and help me learn. I was very touched by her offer, but at the same time I was still fighting back tears that were threatening to break through in seconds, and I did NOT want to cry in front of her. (The whole showing weakness thing, you know.)
I told her exactly what my plan was:  learn the basics, then I would know the "language" that they were all speaking. I told her if I needed any more help I would definitely ask her. I smiled at her through glassy tear filled eyes (could she see my imminent breakdown? I had to get out of there NOW, I was gonna lose it!) and beat a hasty retreat. Once I was alone in the hallway I allowed the tears to come.
Unfortunately, as I got back to my work area there was another tech in the hallway. She asked me what was wrong, and I just covered my face and said "Nothing" in a voice that wouldn't have fooled anyone.

She told me not to stress over the math. She told me that I was a good writer and she had trouble with getting her tenses correct in a sentence (I did laugh at that a little, which was her intent). She also told me that I wasn't stupid, I just needed to take my time and learn as much as I could, and that the test had 8 other areas of concentration that I would excel on.

As I tried to dry my tears, my vet came out of the room. I told her I was stupid and would never learn this math at all. True to form, she sat down, got a fresh piece of paper, and went over the steps again slowly. After 10 minutes, I actually solved the problem! She showed me a way to think the problem through and understand what I was doing, which is just as important as memorizing a formula. This math is actually used in hospitals on patients, so I had to understand the big picture as well as calculate numbers.
We did 2 problems together and I felt a tiny bit of elation. Maybe I wasn't so stupid after all. Well, maybe I am, but if I can do a FEW math problems on my exam that is better than not doing ANY.

I took home the little scraps of paper with her calculations on them and resolved to show her on Thursday that I learned something.
Now as I finish this post, I'm going to open up my two math books and start over. I will try not to let these lousy numbers get the best of me.

It's an uphill battle. And I'm not looking forward to it.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Things That Bug Me

Not that I woke up cranky this morning, but I've been thinking about some things that seem ridiculous to me.....and lately there have been a lot. In no general order, here is a list (I love lists. Maybe I should change the format of this blog).

The dumbing down of America..such as the misspelled words on the news channel, the egregious grammar  on TV, and the instructions on food that tells you to be careful, it's HOT.

Cameras on traffic lights. Too Big Brother for me. (I did a previous post on this a while ago.)

The rush to get kids into school, learning 3 languages by 2 years old, doing calculations by kindergarten, and the playing of classical music while still in the womb. Just stop. Let them be kids, they will have to learn stuff in school soon enough.

Playdates. Whatever happened to leaving the house on your bike and riding to your friend's house, then taking a walk to someone else's house? Now playtime has to be penciled in and organized.

The flap over Katy Perry's dress on the Sesame Street video. No one cares about her boobs. The whole American prudishness bugs me too. Not that we should be naked every minute, but the fact that it's deemed "wrong" just heightens the salaciousness of a little exposed skin. It's natural, people...get over it.

Why are so many Americans out of work, yet when I go to ShopRite or Dunkin Donuts, I can't find anyone who speaks English?

Stink bugs. Where did they come from, and why are they always hanging around my house?

This is a partial list. I'm sure I will be adding to it in the future....but I'm getting annoyed just typing this post so I will end it here. I'm in a decent mood and don't feel like spoiling it.

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Simple Things

I have figured out that it is the simple things that make me the happiest.
Sitting on the deck with the sunshine and a good book. Snuggling up to the schnauzers before dropping off to sleep. Going out to eat with friends. Getting personal satisfaction from my job. The moment when I realize that some of my vet tech knowledge is helping me in my job. Relaxing on the couch with a magazine.
I could go on and on, but the big picture here is that I am comfortable with myself and my life. I am rejecting the commotion and embracing who I am.

Life is good.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Today is a day that will resonate for many of us, as we reflect on where we were when we heard the news. It is our generation's "Lunar Landing" or "JFK shooting", as we can pinpoint exactly what we were doing when our world changed. I look back at the nine years that have passed since that fateful day, and feel lucky that I did not lose a loved one that day. I feel amazed as I recall the things that have happened to me, my hurt back, my depression, my choice to start a new career, the loss of my Dad and my Greyhounds, financial problems, getting older....but also feeling better about myself and my life, a marriage that is still going, a peaceful home to live in and a deck where I can spend time writing, the new goals that I have set for myself, and of course my new Schnauzers.
Life has certainly changed both for the good and the bad since then. The Twin Towers will always have a place in my memory, for the World Trade Center was a place I visited, was the site of a first date, made deliveries to, and photographed many times during countless trips into the city during high school and college. I even flew past them during one of my flying lessons out of Teterboro Airport! Try doing THAT today....not happening.
So today I reflect on life....the way it once was, the way it is now, and the loss of innocence, both within myself and throughout the world.
It is an uneasy feeling....but it is what shapes us today.

Never Forget.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The 15% Dilemma

The other day a discussion came up somehow about eating in restaurants and leaving a tip. I'm a notoriously bad tipper, as my usual M.O. is to leave 4 dollars and be done with it. My dining companion will always make up the difference.
My question today is: why does there have to be a difference? If I order a burger and fries, my meal might be around 10 dollars. If I order lobster or filet mignon, the price of the meal goes up to about 30 or more. However, and here is where my argument lies: the waitress only comes over the same amount of times. One, to greet and take drink orders. Two, to bring back said beverage and take food order. Three, to bring meal. Four, (if you are lucky) to ask if things are "all right". and finally, Five, to check on dessert and then bring the check. Why should I pay more just because I'm having an expensive meal?
Don't get me wrong. If I'm eating at a five star restaurant or if I'm dressed specially for dinner, that means I'm at a swanky place. I'm talking about a regular place like a diner, or Friday's, or a casual place like that. Why should my tip be more because I'm having salmon instead of grilled cheese?
I was told that "If you order more expensive food you tend to stay at the table longer to eat and they cannot turn around the table as fast to gain more tips, so you are paying for time."
That sounds good, except I can recall eating on the cheap and hanging about to chat and relax just as long as when there was a steak in front of me.
Look, I didn't invent the pay scale for waiters. I understand that they are there to make a living just like all of us. I do think, however, that most people are decent tippers and that those of us who cannot tip to the extreme need to make ends meet. That thought may lead us to the statement that if you cannot afford to leave a good tip, you cannot afford to eat out.
To which I say: and there are plenty other jobs out there that pay by the hour, if you have to find a job that has tipping as part of your pay, perhaps you need to check your skill level and work towards another career.
I can feel the hate right now.
Listen, I used to drive a cab and work for tips a long time ago. My dispatcher was resentful of the fact that I was a girl, and thus sent me on jobs where I would come to no harm, like picking up all the senior citizens and taking them to doctor's offices. Sometimes I would get a dime as a tip. I didn't make a lot of cash driving that cab, so I took a second job. Eventually I embarked on another career, one that paid by the hour.
I didn't resent the elderly, I knew they were on a fixed income and needed every penny.
I may not be on that same fixed income, but I need every penny as well. I can go to Five Guys and get a great burger and not have to tip, or I can go to the good old diner and get the same meal and have to budget for money left on the table.
I just don't agree with the system.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Moment Of Greytness

I see many kinds of dogs at my vet hospital, but some breeds are under-represented. I think we don't see enough Mini Schnauzers, or Greyhounds. The sight of an ex-racer sends my heart soaring!

Today was a good day, as we were lucky enough to have a Greyhound come in for vaccines. As I clipped his nails a few techs saw me hugging him and wondered aloud what is it about retired racers that grabs my heart. One tech even said they seemed "bland".
Well, yeah...anyone who owns a Grey knows the Look Of Fear that they all adopt once inside the vet hospital. Their eye bug out, they start to pant, they freeze and pretend they are invisible.
I dealt with that every time I took my girls to the vet. And I see it daily whenever I'm lucky enough to help examine a needle nose.
But that should not be what Greyhounds are judged on. I tried to explain to the techs around me how gentle they are, how silly they are (especially when squeakies are involved), and how wonderfully FAST they are. I told them stories about horrors at the track. I explained how they get socialized upon their retirement. I even said I had never met a mean one (unlike some other breeds that will not be mentioned).
I could tell that I didn't sway many opinions with my talk. As I led my sweet patient back to his mom, I petted him softly and pretended for just a moment that he was mine. I let my memories drift back to the days when my two girls brightened my day with their soft coats and cold noses. It has been one year since my special girl GiGi crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, and I miss her every day.
Readers with Greyhounds: give your dogs extra love and hugs today, for I cannot do that to mine any more.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What To Do When You're Not Doing It

Yesterday my boss told me that I will have to start coming to work on Tuesday at 11am again. That means no more having the whole day to myself until 4pm. This does not bode well for my studying, my writing, or my sleeping late.
Today I happen to have the day off, and after a fun filled day of shopping, flea markets, farmer's markets and bookstores, I am home by myself.
I should be doing my Business and Technical Writing homework. Failing that, I should be writing my novel.

I'm not doing either of those things. Instead, I'm writing this blog. Aren't I making good use of my time?
I guess not.

Here is a list of things that I end up doing when I know I have to work on my homework:
1. Check out FaceBook.
2. Check out Twitter.
3. Pet the dogs.
4. Fold laundry.
5. Chew on ice cubes and think.
6. Look at my "Writing Effective Communications" study guide and wish that I was never born.
7. Gaze longingly at the 4 books I just bought today and wish I could be reading them right now.
8. Go back to FaceBook to see if anything new showed up in my news feed.
9. Give the dogs a chewy stick and watch them eat it.
10. Call my best friend and tell him how busy I am and how I'm working hard on my writing.

As you can see right now, I'm actually very busy. Perhaps I will end this post while I'm on a roll, because I have so much to do.

As soon as I check my FaceBook just one more time......