Posts from the ‘Educating’ Category

Quality Query 101: Resumé for Readership | Publishing

A Quality Query Gets You a Job:
Write a Query That Says, “You Want to Hire Me”

You write a query letter to introduce a piece of your writing, hoping a publisher will produce and sell it. You may send a query directly to an editor who acts as a representative of his/her publishing house or to an agent. On your end, an agent is an employment specialist charged with getting you a job. For an editor, an agent is like a scout who lightens the editor’s load by bringing them “the best.” If we assume you want to publish your book and you can “sell” your book to an agent, the agent can sell your book and you to an editor. So, you will want to create the best query you can, one that will be among the best of the queries an agent receives.

An agent cannot guarantee a publisher will accept your work, but may streamline your effort. A good agent has a basic understanding of contract law, quality writing, and trends in readers’ tastes. More importantly, a good agent has built strong relationships with editors by referring writers to them that meet the desires and expectations of each one’s respective publishing house. If you want your work published, you want a good agent, a successful agent. Agents who want to succeed naturally want to work with writers who will succeed. If you don’t show an agent a quality query, they won’t want to work with you. However, if your query comes off as a good resumé, an agent will want to work with you because they see you have good potential for being “hired.”

A Quality Query Sustains Your Employment:
Write a Query That Says, “I’m Worth Checking Out”

To develop your skill at writing the best queries, begin by evaluating a query you have already written. You can measure a query’s quality within various frameworks. I prefer two, in particular. One of these methods for evaluating your query requires recognizing that an agent looks upon the query as a potential reader. To maximize the benefits of that recognition, you must understand that all communication, even that for entertainment, informs. Therefore, every author is a professor and every reader is a student. Every book is a course and every encounter builds the relationship between professor and student, author and reader. Your query introduces you as the professor and your book as the course.

Have you ever read a course catalog for continuing or community education? They are selling the school or community. They want your money. They want you to sign up for more than one course. They want you to think they are desirable and cool and they will help you be the same. Descriptions for courses, especially, are like reading vacation brochures. Your query is your course description. After all, those professors are not on salary. Neither are you. They usually get paid per course. Usually a school or whoever is sponsoring the course will cancel it if the course’s enrollment does not meet a pre-determined smallest class size. Furthermore, the “employer” often uses the number of students who actually show up for the course as part of their equation to calculate how much to pay the professor. So, guess what? You are not getting paid unless you convince people with your query that if they enroll in your “book,” you will lead them to a life-enriching destination.

Are you confused and wondering if you must set your story in Aruba or Jamaica? You think about some great books you’ve read and realize I must not mean that because I have no reason to lie to you. So, just what do I mean by “a life-enriching destination”? Every student who willfully approaches a course like this, one not required and for which she’s paying, wants to feel confident of growing; she wants to learn and enjoy herself doing it. Your students want your book to intrigue them, yet not reach too far past what they are capable of understanding. They want a sense of realism, a means to measure their progress, and reassurance they’ll be able to apply what they learn. Does your query convince your agent you offer these. Your students need to feel confident you will teach them and they aren’t spending their money on a course they are going to fail. Your agent as prospective reader is wondering these same things.

A Quality Query Assures You Get Paid:
Write a Query That Says, “I’m Worth Paying to Hear”

Your agent asks herself, consciously or not, a pivotal question when she reads your query. That important question is the one which decides if a prospective reader buys your book. So, the question is this, “if this topic interests me, is the author of this book who I want to pay to tell me more about it?” Many writers would like their work published, if for no other reason than, through their writing, to meet their own human need to connect with others. When we connect, we enrich our lives. We learn our experience is unique, but one to which others can relate. We also learn that our story is worth being heard. You are unique, worthwhile, important, and special. I know that because you have journeyed through this article with me. So go write a query that convinces others of the same, that convinces your agent people will pay to hear your story. The best way to get paid is to pay it forward.

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Responsibility in the Blogosphere | Ethics

www.snopes.com

http://www.snopes.com (Photo credit: biggraham)

Recently, I came across a blog that quoted and commented on an article that has been widely circulated, mostly in email, but is full of misinformation.  I know bloggers aren’t professional journalists and do not belong to any ethical society.  However, discovering that a blogger may not realize the power of their words available online disappointed me.  That at least one reader questioned the report’s validity pleased me, though.  In my comment, I provided a link to the Snopes article referring to the report.

Snopes is one of a few online resources known to research without bias whether a reported fact is indeed the truth.   Most often, such services focus on the distribution of emails and the online publication of materials that are distributed en mass and have the ability to significantly sway person’s opinions and therefore behavior.  Sadly, when it comes to some very important matters such as the interpretation of research statistics, language, and literary work, the complexity of the necessary investigation and of the detail needed to accurately present results is far too involved for a service like Snopes to undertake.   In fact, often times, such is the topic of countless volumes and only the most dedicated and discerning reader can come close to an accurate assessment of the truth in what s/he is examining.

I respected the blog reader’s willingness to read what others write with a spirit of discernment.  Hopefully she does the same with what she hears.  If we are to be seekers, ministers and bearers of Truth, one important ingredient is doubt.  We are not to doubt the Truth, but rather what is presented to us as Truth until we can discern validity to the best of our ability through careful consideration of the motives of majority opinion, well-rounded study, dialogue with experts in their field, reasoned argument, and earnest prayer. God gave us brains and the Spirit to guide us for a reason.  Even well-intentioned persons are capable of great folly, whether by accident, lack of discipline in spiritual stewardship, or the misguided ignorance of spiritual immaturity.  We all have room to grow and we can best do so by exercising the “muscle” of our brain and practicing virtues for the development of our souls.

Aside from personal responsibility in such situations, I’ve been wondering as blogging becomes more popular, what if any measures should be in place to encourage accuracy in the report of “facts”?  How can we do so without infringing upon free speech?  Who would be responsible for regulating such?  I think we can all recognize the difference between slant versus lie.  Even if one source says, “General Smith strode to the mic,” another says, “walked to”, and a third says, “ambled up to,” they all agree on the fact that the General moved towards (apparently on his feet) and arrived at a specific microphone.  Mass dissemination of misinformation has the potential to create or prevent change in ways that have significant negative impact.  What responsibility do I have to help prevent such?

If you enjoyed this article, consider reading the following related post on this blog,  On Blind Faith.  Your comments on one or both are greatly appreciated.

Doing Away with Welfare Rodents – perspective

This article was originally published July 6th of 2011 and is being republished as a foundation for an upcoming article. The illustration is a recent addition, a stock photo image combining photography and clip art to which I added the words then blended the coloring. Enjoy the article. Please share your opinions and be a part of the solution…

Have you heard that term, “welfare rodents”? It’s the most derogatory term I’ve heard to describe those, especially children, reliant on welfare. I heard someone mumble it as I walked with the two foster kids, for whom I help care, to our seats for the fireworks display last night. It implies such people are like rats – dirty, sneaky, robbing food, spreading disease, worthy of nothing more than laboratory experiments. Some express the same sentiment more subtly like 1996 Kansas House guest minister Rev. Joe Wright, who in the prayer to open the session (since referred to as The Prayer of Repentance and actually written by Rev. Bob Russel), stated  “We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.” I do empathize to a degree with the prayer’s sentiment; I agree there are people who abuse the welfare system. However, as stated, his words imply that all on welfare are lazy. This is not a new or infrequently held attitude. In fact, as the numbers on welfare rise due to our recent financial crisis, this espoused opinion reverberates far and wide. The foster kids are of course on welfare, but I won’t discuss them any further here. I, too, currently am on welfare. I can’t be sure whether the person who mumbled the term was referring to any of us, but it has given rise to things I’ve been wanting to say and haven’t yet. I am disabled, but I am not my disability. I am unemployed, but I am not lazy. I have tried repeatedly to work, even since first being on disability, and not only failed, but endangered my health even more by trying to do so. Some are forgiving of the disabled or displaced children on welfare, but reject the notion that others need it. In general, I disagree with this perspective. I could sit back and quietly accept that at least they’re not picking on me, but it’s just not in my nature.

I once had a personal care attendant who assisted me for over a year and also relied on welfare to a degree. She was an honest, hard-working, God-loving woman with three very sweet boys, aged 11, 7 and 3. Her first husband abandoned her and her first son, providing no support. Her second husband worked a 36 hour split-shift in Dietary at a hospital. I won’t give you a full run-down of their expenses, but they were not frivolous in their spending. They simply could not make ends meet. She was only able to get 15 hours per week of work at just above minimum wage. She had been able to get more hours before her car broke down. Then, at one point, when she tried to fix a sliding closet door, she accidentally deeply cut and broke her foot. Can you believe she was forced to wait four hours for a couple friends to assist her home because she had no money to pay for crutches and the hospital would not loan them to her. When she informed her welfare case worker by phone that she would be off work by order of the doctor for at least three weeks, her worker’s response was only that she needed to provide a copy of a doctor’s note when she was released to work again and written verification of her wage and hours upon return. Two weeks later, due to receive her foodstamps for her kids, she got a letter that not only had her benefits not been increased (as one might have reasonably expected they would), but all assistance of any kind (including her kids’, one of whom has a heart condition, medical coverage) was cancelled because she had not provided written verification of her change in work status. It took 6 weeks for benefits to be reestablished, during which time she accrued an emergency room bill for her son and one for herself due to diabetic complications from an infection of her wounded foot.

Recently, she made the difficult decision to use money she saved up to go back to school for training in a related field she hopes will require less travel and give her better employment opportunity. However she had to limit the days she was available to work because she couldn’t handle working on the four days she went to school and needed to do homework. Now, her agency has told her they can’t accommodate her restricted time available and she has been without any hours for 3 weeks. She is diabetic but now can’t afford even emergency medication she does not qualify for medical coverage except as related to a pregnancy. After having to move due to her landlord’s failures to address poor living conditions resulted in her home being “condemned”, her kids’ new public schools were “fining” her daily because she couldn’t afford their required uniforms for the last month of school. She is being hounded by the hospital for payment on her bills, washes the family’s clothes in the bathtub, sold her furniture except for her kids’ beds, and is now without any phone line (despite hers nd her son’s medical conditions). She survives on will-power, grace, faith, and a strong commitment to the future of her children. Yes, she’s still alive, but can we call this “living”?

As for myself, even with the assistance of welfare, not all of my medications or medical treatments are covered and after paying shelter costs, I have only $250 per month for all other expenses combined. If I did not have federally and state-funded medical coverage at all, just my medications alone would cost over $2000/month. Unable to afford that, my conditions would deteriorate quickly, bringing me to a pre-mature death, perhaps first briefly forcing me into an institution if such were publicly funded. Is there another way? Sure; if we could all count on each other to support the weakest and most in need members of society without the need for a regulated system, we could indeed do away with welfare. However, we do have this system currently and when I did work, I paid into the system that now supports me and have moved past my initial shame in having to rely upon it. I’m sure I have by now drawn from it more than I put in, but believe me, if I could earn a wage, I would. Even of my meager income, I give charitably. Yet, I wish I could give more. And I contribute to society as best I can, helping to raise foster kids, for example and sharing my experience, strength and hope for the benefit of others. So, I wish people would quit trying to eliminate the system or bash people using it, but instead, listen to the people who know how it works first hand (those who administer it and those using it). We need to address the gaps and barriers in the system for the welfare of individuals and our society as a whole. It is a shame that those most in need of advocacy are often least able for health or financial reasons to advocate for themselves. So, I ask you, my readers who are capable, will you please be someone I can count on to support my wanting to be and do the best I can? Will you please join me in  promoting cooperative efforts and a positive outlook? Will you please quit looking for who or what to blame — or simply looking the other way — and look, instead for solutions?!

On Blind Faith

A Break in the Flurries: Blind No More

Whether one hold to a religious faith or not, most are familiar with the phrase “on blind faith”.  Some are absolute proponents of the necessity in some circumstances of believing in something without proof.  Some will believe nothing without proof.  I believe there is a middle ground.  Personally, I am a very spiritual person, so I’ll make no apologies for my belief in a Higher Power, but I won’t tell any one else what to believe or that they should.  I mean instead to remind everyone that whether by divine creation or a pure evolution without a firmly known origin, we have a brain and ought to use it.  I’m simultaneously annoyed by, amused by, frightened for, and disappointed in those who trust completely in the words of another without exploring or examining an issue for themselves – “the followers”.  Most often such feelings wash over me in reference to those led by charismatic, self-identified religious leaders, but I’ve experienced the same even in looking over comments on blogs and social sites.  I could write a whole separate article on such “leaders”, but I’ll refrain for the moment except tp say one thing.  Ignorance masquerading as intelligence is a dangerously contagious virus.  I believe followers sometimes just don’t know where to turn for or how to access information, but often times I think followers are simply afraid to take on the responsibility of making decisions for themselves because they must accept that they are then fully responsible for the consequences of those decisions and the actions or inaction that results.

Sometimes we must weigh all the factors and make very difficult choices.  THose choices are our own and we owe no one an explanation or an apology.  If you have any faith in a Higher Power, in “salvation”…a belief that involves seeking enlightenment…a basic belief that you are meant to grow and change…even a belief that you are a meant to be an active participant in the evolution of the human race, then you know that ultimately, YOU AND NO ONE ELSE is responsible for YOU.  Only YOU know what YOUR heart is telling YOU, and only YOU have lived YOUR life and intimately know YOU.  NO OTHER PERSON know YOU better than YOU.  So, what will YOU choose?  Will YOU choose what is true? what is best for YOU? what YOU know is right? what YOU have discovered for YOURSELF?  Or will YOU believe simply what someone else tells you they believe.  Choose to believe what you will, but remember that beliefs aren’t necessarily facts, no matter how assertively or intelligently they are declared.  If YOU choose to not investigate or think for YOURSELF, YOU are still making a choice and YOU are responsible for that choice.  Similarly, be prepared to know that YOUR words have the power to lead others astray if such persons are ignorant of how to access resources for their own investigation or are lacking in the mental capacity to make reasoned decisions.

I Listened to a Book Today – poem

Cover of "A Wind in the Door"

Cover of A Wind in the Door

I want to tell you that this poem is a true testimony to perseverance and friendship. I rewrote the poem 11 times with the help of generous and constructive feedback – not just on this poem, but my writing in general – from my forum friends at Poetry Here And Now As may be already apparent, I write much of my poetry under the pseudonym Callisse J. DeTerre. Besides, those special friends I’ve mentioned above, I’d like to dedicate this poem to all the people who helped instill in me a love of reading and those like my good friend and youth services regional librarian, Krista Rakers of Saint Louis Public Libraries, who aim to do the same with the young of today. Reading redefines reality! Read, read, read and use your library to save a few trees!

I Listened to a Book Today

From a volume my mother
bought for me, More Tell Me Why,
I learned, at eight, my cat
could be frozen by a centipede.
By ten, The Narnia collection complete,
I traveled through A Wind In the Door
to lose myself in the Tao Te Ching.
Then Again Maybe I Won’t
unlocked the mysteries of men
but it was just the seed.

Filled with my search for connection –
Scripture, Jung and Chemistry –
my prep school book bag weighed in at
thirty pounds, with texts alone.
At twenty, reality struck –
people kill trees to answer me!
Now, at forty, I can hardly breathe.
So, today, as if to atone,
I listened to a book,
but it didn’t speak to me.

~Callisse J. Land, copyright 25 April 2011, revised 27 June 2011

On the Edge (Sur Le Bord) – image with poem (en français aussi)

The reader should understand that translation of poetry requires one to be less literal, less exact, in order to preserve implied meaning and artistic elements of sound and appearance. I have done my best to present here a poem that would be accepted as well-written by both an audience whose native language is English and one whose native language is French. However, I can promise neither.

[en anglais]

I dance
on the edge of night
like the flight
of Autumn leaves
begging
Let me rest
before Winter steals
away my breath

The music
of madness compels
I twist and turn
on toe til I bleed
on a stage
empty of all but me
dancing
in the dark

~Callisse J. DeTerre, copyright 10 October 1988, last revised 08 June 2011

[in French]

Je danse
sur le bord de la nuit
comme le fuite
des feuilles d’automne,
supplie,
Laissez-moi me reposer
avant l’hiver me vole
ma capacité à respirer

La musique
de ma folie me force
Je file et je me tords
sur la pointe des pieds
afin que je saigne
sur une scène, vide
sauf pour moi qui
est danse dans le nuit

~Callisse J. DeTerre, 10/10/88, rev 08/06/11

You CAN be Perfect!

Figure 20 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

Image via Wikipedia

To affirm, simply put, is to add firmness to. To affirm yourself, therefore, is to add firmness to you and to your self, to strengthen both your definition of yourself and your very being. Start by affirming what is known truth – you are human. What does it mean to be human? A human is not all powerful. A human is not all knowing. A human is imperfect. A human feels. Emotions convey a message. Fear tells us we do not know something. Fear is  useful. Fear is normal. Fear is to be expected. We have no reason to fear fear. Likewise, we have no reason to act is if we are fearless or to avoid anything that might evoke fear. Doing so reflects a form of perfectionism. Do not be afraid to fail or to succeed. You can be perfect – perfectly human, perfectly you.
We are meant to strive toward perfection, but neither to reach it nor to expect to reach it. To have a different mindset is to challenge God, to believe we can be equal. To judge ourselves unworthy of God’s love and mercy reflects an expectation that we can be perfect. Thus we manifest our true sin, pride. In refusing God’s love and likewise refusing to love ourselves, God’s creation, we withdraw our trust in God alone. We again forget we are of God. We no longer clearly and consistently recognize God. We begin to fail to see the God in others, but rather see only the façade which their separation from God requires them to create. We, in turn, seek affection from them instead of the God within they are meant to manifest. Hence, God is no longer our first and only love. We lose our way. We separate ourselves even further from the source of our very being, the only Perfect, in whom when we are ultimately united we are perfected in love.
So quit trying to be perfect. When anxieties arise, recognize the feeling as a reminder that you are human, just as you are meant to be. Rejoice that you do not know everything because it is not your responsibility or your burden. Affirm that you not only have a right to be afraid, but that it is normal to fear. Yes, I say rejoice that you have been wonderfully made, that you are extraordinarily ordinary. Rejoice that you know God and that God’s strength is yours for the asking. Just for today, choose to be, strive to be perfectly human. Tell yourself, ” I am perfectly human, naturally flawed, extraordinarily ordinary, wonderfully unique. I am meant to feel and to fail, to find favor and forgiveness in the fullness of God, forever and the only the Perfector of Souls.”  AFFIRMATION: Just for today, I accept and rejoice that I am a human being, created and loveable just as I am.