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52 Beautiful Things

Have I mentioned my love for Whirly Pop popcorn?

Oh my goodness. The simple pleasures. Throw some popcorn kernels in with some oil, and crank, crank, crank the wooden handle. Listen closely as the beautiful, white orbs of deliciousness come to life. Add butter and salt, and you are good to go.

I’m eating a snack at 9:35 pm. And that is a beautiful thing.

On Tuesday last, Dylan and I were invited to participate in a Paint and Sip class. I signed us up because I was craving a night out and thought it would be fun to try something new. As we walked into the brewery where the class was being held (yes, brewery – welcome to Northern Colorado) I felt myself relax into the space. Or maybe that was just the beer included in the price of the experience.

Gazing upon a row of twenty blank canvases, twenty…

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Book Cover

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bookcovercandvblogCommissioned by Stephen Nicholson, I created a book cover for his novel, Ciara and Veronica. He asked for the cover in a “comic-book-like” style, which stretched my creativity. But “stretching” is one of the best exercises for creativity!

You can order the novel at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017YJMYI0

Lit Matters: The Best Literature Isn’t On The Classics Shelf

The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

By Benjamin Whitmer

Tom was the name of the guy who turned me on to Harry Crews’ A Feast of Snakes. I worked with Tom on an assembly line in Boulder. He was a little guy with a pot belly and Coke-bottle glasses who’d just gotten out of prison. I never quite understood what for, but it had something to do with credit card fraud. The way he told it, he’d made enough money to get away with not working for four years, and it had only cost him two years of being locked up. Which he figured was a pretty good deal, even with the scars that ran all over his right bicep from a knife attack. He told me he was just waiting for his credit to recover enough so he could do it again. He was one of the bravest guys I ever met.

He was…

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Lit Matters: Beating Loneliness with Lorrie Moore

The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

by Alexander Lumans

In a 2006 NPR interview, Paul Giamatti said that he read all of Macbeth aloud, to himself, because he wanted to. (In full disclosure, it might not have been Paul Giamatti, and it might not have been Macbeth, but let’s just say it was.)

I remember listening to this interview in the fall of 2006 because I was in the first semester of my MFA program at Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. The idea of reading the entirety of something aloud sounded crazy, brilliant, and probably a thing you only did if you had the time and the energy. But isn’t that what MFAs are for? So I decided to read a book out loud. To myself. Like a crazy person with too much time and energy. I picked the next book on my reading list: Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America.

BirdsOfAmericaI remember pacing my attic apartment…

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Lit Matters: What “My Brilliant Friend” Tells Us About Survival

The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

by Erika Krouse

When I was 12, a girl in my grade gave herself an abortion with a pencil. It didn’t work completely, and she ended up in the hospital. She was in special ed; she had Down syndrome. Without talking about it, we all understood that it wasn’t her idea, none of it. That it wasn’t even her pencil.

In my public elementary school in Kingston, N.Y., children showed up with constellations of pinprick scabs on their cheeks from hairbrushes, with triangular burn marks on their shoulders from the tips of irons, with wrist bruises, with bald patches ripped from the sides of their heads. They were beaten with their own shoes. One girl came to school with a nearly perfect handprint on her thigh, swollen into welts. We gathered around, fascinated, and she said with something like pride, “My mother has leather gloves.”

Teachers were also allowed to…

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How Style Guides Affect Profits (Style Guide Article #2)

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A version of this article first appeared at Summit Publication Design.

by Lynn S. Schwebach

Print

Business in the 21st century requires almost all employees at all levels to produce either in-house or external communications—or both. Time spent writing and editing dramatically affects workers’ productivity, and, what many companies fail to realize, the company’s profitability.

Nearly everyone writing an e-mail hesitates over capitalization, spelling and grammar questions. If there isn’t a written, stated policy on acronym usage, editing proposals heavy with acronyms can slow the pace of editing to a crawl. A poorly written technical manual written for agricultural scientists working in the field and delivered via an App could lead the scientists to make a serious error impacting the project’s timeline and scope.

If a style guide doesn’t exist, it’s obvious that productive time spent on making sales, directing projects, building products, and conducting experiments gets waisted on grammar and usage issues.

Stephanie Haynes, product manager at Vaisala, Inc., a global company headquartered in Finland, works at Vaisala’s North American headquarters in Louisville, Colo. She handles documentation written by employees working in 16 different countries.

“One of the most frustrating activities is to go through documents to delete the extra space after a period,” Haynes said. This is a step that could be eliminated before the document reaches her.

“It’s inevitable that employees who have very little experience in writing professional documents will occasionally have to do it. Having resources they could turn to for help would be a great benefit,” states Haynes.

To appreciate a style guide’s cost-savings potential, let’s consider a hypothetical example using reported efficiency numbers for a well-known company, Apple Inc.

Hypothetical Cost-Savings of Using a Style Guide

According to an online database published by The Wall Street Journal, as of March 2015, on average, an Apple employee generates $1,969,179 of revenue and $426,674 of net income per year.

These numbers appear staggering but they hint at the magnitude of gains that are possible if a company adopts a policy that leads to even minor improvements in time efficiency per employee.

Suppose a new policy, such as using a style guide, is implemented.

The style guide improves labor efficiency ratios by one 1/100th of one percent, equivalent to a labor savings of 12 minutes per year for each employee based on a 2,000-hour work year.

With 92,600 employees at Apple, that translates into an increase in total annual revenue of $18.23 million and an increase in net income of nearly $3.95 million.

These numbers are strictly hypothetical, but they highlight the potential impact of efficiency improvements that are systematically realized by large numbers of employees across different functional areas of the company.

With the adoption of a style guide, such gains can be realized for a relatively small up-front investment. So, establishing a style is no longer a question of if, but when.

Dance Shapes Thoughts into Visible Textures and Movement

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Bravelycreative is now accepting submissions by guest bloggers. For the first guest-written article, I am pleased to publish an article by Portland-based dancer and writer Katie Haynes.

katiedancepic

Photo by Wale Agboola

by Katie Haynes

Dance is one of the most human forms of expression. It is embodied creativity, only needing a human vessel to be fulfilled. For the dancer, it is more than the expression of movement—it is the shaping of thought into motion.

As a dancer and choreographer, I’m frequently surprised by how difficult it is for people to connect with this art form. Yet I have to remind myself that most people have no entry point to the movement, no concept of the process behind the finished product.

The constantly evolving definition of dance also causes some confusion. This definition seeks to delineate a difference between “movement” and “dance.”

We all have a body, and the means to use it for expression. Set a body in front of an audience, and you can have a dance. The very movement of our lungs expanding and contracting is a source, somewhat, of anatomical choreography. Taking seemingly insignificant movement and giving it artistic meaning is a large part of the creative process. Both the choreographer and the dancer must define the greater meaning behind the dance—for themselves and for the audience.

The freedom given artists to communicate through dance is daunting, yet within infinite possibilities—and, ironically, limitations—a dance emerges. Similar to how writers use grammar as a structural constraint, choreographers use limitations to inspire and let their creativity flourish. Who the dancers are, what the parameters of the space allow, who is the target audience, what is the length of the piece, what music is accompanying the performance—all exemplify logistical limitations that arise when creating and producing work. Combine these challenges with thematic and ethical constraints or concerns, and a choreographer begins setting a piece. As with all creative processes, it’s these limitations combined with infinite possibilities that provide the kindling for truly creative dance.

The choreographer’s process sets the initial framework for the dance, but it’s the task of the dancer, carving into the air with meticulous precision and force, to craft the final product. Always at the service of the choreography, dancers use the choreographed framework as an invaluable conduit for physical and creative exploration. And on stage, the dancer has a new set of constraints, all working for and against them in real time.

Performance is so deliciously finite; a dance will never exist the same way twice. It is a unique experience, an artistic dare, to find perfection instantaneously, and to be able to walk offstage satisfied, whether or not the performance was exactly what the artists intended. Performance is the final conversation between the choreographer, the dancers, and the audience, shaping thoughts and feelings into visible texture and movement.

At the next opportunity, go see a dance show. Do not let yourself sink into your chair, or allow your eyes to glaze over. I urge you to lean forward, attempt to empathize with each dancer’s twist and turn. Force yourself to see the brush strokes and meaning inside the canvas of the choreography—to take movement a step beyond and understand it as dance.

Photo by Wale Agboola

​Katie Haynes is a dancer, writer, and activist. Katie studied dance at the University of Minnesota, working with numerous local choreographers and guest artists within her program. She danced with Ananya Dance Theatre as a company member for 3 seasons, touring with the company, as well as teaching master classes throughout the Midwest. She is currently a freelance artist and writer based out of Portland.

Style Guides Earn Readers

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Printby Lynn S. Schwebach

A version of this blog article first appeared on Summit Publication Design.

by Lynn S. Schwebach

Given any writing project, writers want to express themselves today—not tomorrow. They want to get the words down and move on without revising for grammar and usage. Add to that impatience, bad memories from grade school make us avoid checking grammar; style might be a topic we never learned.

Yet bypassing proper grammar and style frustrates our audience. Improper grammar and sloppy writing causes readers to stumble on the message, leads to misinterpretation, or forces readers to stop reading.

For writers of all genres and domains, in all industries, a style guide is an essential tool. Thought to be only used by journalists and academics, style guides are the best-kept secret among highly successful, “winning” companies (and authors!).

Clients and customers don’t physically interact with a style guide, but in every communication that the company disperses (especially every encounter with a brand or company identity), a style guide determines impressions and perceptions — and ultimately sales.

That’s because style guides enforce a consistent and professional branding message.

Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D., director of the Media Psychology Research Center at Fielding Graduate University, said a style guide should be an “extension of the company’s core story and brand values.”

Rutledge has written extensively on the psychological implications of media and technology, and she previously worked in communications producing a wide range of published and online communications. “Every communication becomes a brand touch point.”

A style guide establishes guidelines on a range of writing and branding specifics. Grammar, punctuation, and usage standards are often included. For example, salient style issues such as:

When to hyphenate certain words

  • When to write out numbers
  • How to capitalize headers and titles
  • How and when to use abbreviations
  • Guidelines for using graphics, fonts, and logos

In his eponymous grammar book, Gwynne’s Grammar, which spent five months on the best-seller list in Britain, N.M. Gwynne writes that style helps us present our thoughts to others “in ways that are clear, when necessary forcible, and also graceful.” He also states that style helps us communicate “in the most winning way.”

An in-house style guide also might include correct usage of words or phrases specific to an industry in addition to fundamentals on how to write pitches for different products or business aspects.

Stephanie Haynes, product manager at Vaisala, Inc., a global company headquartered in Finland, has done a lot of writing in her sales and management roles. Vaisala’s brand handbook references The Chicago Manual of Style and that the company uses American English (important for an international company).

Yet there are other more specific things that could be addressed with an in-house style guide, said Haynes, who works at Vaisala’s North American headquarters in Louisville, Colo. “It’s so difficult to maintain a brand identity in professional writing, particularly when it comes to localized documents like proposals or deliverable reports. I think a style guide that is clear and concise could actually help with this. Things that I see a lot that could be addressed are:

  • How to structure and organize a document;
  • Use of headers and sub-headers;
  • When to use shorter, more pointed sentences and paragraphs;
  • When to avoid descriptive language; and
  • The general purpose of each type of document.”

Most companies begin with a style sheet and use an established style manual as the core reference for most grammar and punctuation issues. The guide doesn’t need to be lengthy, but employees need to know where to find it.

Haynes also recommends training on using the style guide and other basic, writing issues. “Companies invest in training for technical resources, why not do the same for writing resources?”

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