Source: yoshiaka/Stock.xchng

Grammar Peeves and Word Stumps

I call myself a professional word wrestler but every now and again, even I grapple with words and phrases that best me–or at least send me running to the coaches for my next move.

For some Friday fun, let’s look at a few Class A confusers and one highly annoying turn-of-phrase.

First, test yourself on these commonly misused words:

  1. Faint or feint? As in, “This job is not for the faint of heart” or “This job is not for the feint of heart.”
  2. Deep-seeded or deep-seated? As in, “His thirst for revenge is deep-seeded” or “His thirst for revenge is deep-seated.”

The first example was from a piece I wrote and the second, from a fellow writer, Kate Barker of Tea4Kate, who consulted our equally confused writers group.


1. Faint of heart. Paul Brians Common Errors in English Usage says this:

A feint, whether in chess or on the battlefield, is a maneuver designed to divert the opponent’s attention from the real center of attack. A feint is a daring move. Do not use this very specialized word in the expression “faint of heart” (or “faint at heart”), which implies timidity.

2. Deep-seated. This term was not so clear, even among writers. Both make sense but as Brians points out, “Tennis players may be seeded, but not feelings.”

Those who pine for the oral cultures of Ye Olden Dayes can rejoice as we enter an era where many people are unfamiliar with common expressions in print and know them only by hearsay.* The result is mistakes like “deep seeded.” The expression has nothing to do with a feeling being planted deep within one, but instead refers to its being seated firmly within one’s breast: “My aversion to anchovies is deep-seated.” Compounding their error, most people who misuse this phrase leave the hyphen out. Tennis players may be seeded, but not feelings.

And now, the Grammar Peeve:

“I am a character who…”

“For an individual such as myself…”

Ugh. Speak in first person already! Own your thoughts and words. Diluting your “I” statements with third person qualifiers is unnecessary and lessens impact. Ironically, it was a burly, mixed martial arts fighter who made these statements about his fighting prowess. Perhaps he was busier fighting than doing his grammar homework while in school. Still, it would serve him better to say:

“I am…,” and

“For me, …”

Simple and to the point. Confident in thought.

Happy Friday!

Common Core for Business

Why Businesses Need to Know About the Common Core State Standards

When you were in high school, did you ever ask your Algebra II teacher, “What has this got to do with anything?” or your history teacher, “Why do I need to know the date of the Battle of Antietam?”

Kids of today’s generation have even more reason to wonder at the necessity of knowing dates and math minutiae. They’ve got Google. Who needs to know it when they can look it up?

When you produced your first case study or annual report, did you fall back to senior year Lit class to structure your report? Did understanding Catcher in the Rye help?

Was high school a complete waste of time?

Most wouldn’t go so far as to denigrate every lesson in every class. But many will question the worth of what they felt forced to learn.

As an employer, have you ever shaken your head after a wayward interview with a teenager and wondered, “What, exactly, are they teaching kids these days?” If a kid can’t ask a relevant question about a prospective job, what confidence have you that he’ll understand how to DO the job?

It’s been a chronic divide. Schools teach what educators believe kids should learn, based on years of research and empirical data, yet the connections between their education and real world relevance seems stretchy at best.

Good news. Educators are addressing this relevance issue.

Forty-five states are preparing to implement what is known as the Common Core State Standards. Along with consistency across states and global competitiveness, is the stalwart principle of producing students who are college-ready and workforce-relevant.

In a policy blueprint for the US Department of Education, President Barack Obama is quoted as saying:

We must ensure that every student graduates from high school well prepared for college and a career.

Why should businesses care about Common Core State Standards?

You should care because now is your chance to help connect the dots.

The obvious question on the table, from a business perspective, is how on earth schools think they’ll adjust to market needs when they aren’t in the market?

Educators might agree. And businesses might be surprised to learn that teachers really aren’t all about wasting kids’ time with meaningless babble. Besides the frustrations of adopting yet another curriculum methodology, most educators find pride in a finely finished and capable student.

The standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach.

~from Common Core State Standards FAQs

 So how can businesses have a voice in Common Core State Standards?

While you might not have a voice that’s written into your state’s standards, you can have an impact in promoting career readiness, if you are willing. For example:

The Nashville Chamber of Commerce recognized that “today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce” and have made improvement of public education its number-one priority. The chamber works to engage the community at large in public education and create opportunities for business leaders to participate.

Their Education 2020 program initiative includes a speaker series focused on engaging the community around important education issues, while another brings live examples across a wide array of industries into classrooms.

Imagine how engaged your high school self would have been if a project coordinator or a marketing director or a digital designer came to your classroom and told you how they ended up where they did. You would have understood how art history or persuasive writing or spatial math could actually apply to your future.

It might be interesting to note the Nashville’s Chamber’s purpose and brand statement: We facilitate community leadership to create economic prosperity.

While their Chamber affords networking opportunities to nurture existing businesses, they are keeping an eye toward their community’s future and actively pursuing initiatives that will create the prosperity they seek. The education initiative is tucked between entrepreneurial support, young professional and workforce development as well as health care and a community music council.

What is your Chamber (or business group) doing to enhance and promote K12 education your community’s emerging workforce? Have you invited educators to your meetings? Given them the floor to explain how they envision incorporating area businesses? What would be their perfect world?

Someone needs to take the lead, create the openings and conversation.

The timing couldn’t be better.

How about you? What have you or your community done to connect the business and educational communities? I’d love to hear your success stories. Please comment below or email me and let me know.

Image courtesy of bplanet/

The Common Core Standards will fail to feed our workforce unless…

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.

~ from Common Core State Standards Initiative

Finally, educational standards that make sense for the real-world.

But the way I see it, there’s one huge gap in the conversation. Business people.

In its development, the common core committee consulted national organizations representing teachers, postsecondary educators, civil rights groups, English language learners, and students with disabilities. Where were the business leaders? Who decided what skills will be relevant for work expectations?

Will educators be retooling schools, curriculums and systems while chasing a ghost of a theory? Or can the business community and educators finally find commonality in purpose?

Red tape and fast action don’t live together

As it stands today, the two camps speak different languages and operate within opposing world systems. Businesses, by nature, must be responsive to market shifts. Those who dally, die. Schools, by nature, respond slower, by committee. Case in point, Common Core Standards were adopted in 2010 and are only just now being implemented by some states.

Businesses operate privately, albeit corporations answer to boards of directors and shareholders. Owners and CEOs usually have the authority to innovate and move on opportunity with little bureaucracy beyond industry regulation and tax laws. Educators, on the other hand, are highly regulated. Innovators face skepticism and doubt.

Businesses hate red tape. Educators don’t operate without it.

Businesses profit or die. Schools fail and live.

Businesses have a hard time understanding educational constraints. And operating from a subsidized system, educators don’t live the cost of risk and innovation (unless education is a second career).

With such distance between systems, how can we think the Common Core will succeed in making education relevant to the real world when the two camps are like blind men and the elephant? While each owns a reality, the reality of the pieces resembles nothing of the whole.

As a parent, as an education writer, and as the partner of a serial small business entrepreneur, I’m very much interested in seeing this Common Core succeed. It makes so much sense.

So how do we find the conduit, the vital connection, that will make this work? Who will start the conversation? Who will tell schools how to approach and win business’ support? Who will show businesses where and how they will be welcome within the system?

If nothing else, with this blog I hope to scour, enlighten, question and build a bridge–at least the beginnings of one. Check back as I add my journalistic skill, insatiable curiosity and entrepreneurial experiences to the void.

This could be the start of something beautiful.


Shuck status quo and go big.

2012/13Goodbye 2012. You’ve been fair.

You’ve given me fair results for what I sowed.

You didn’t surprise me with high-highs or low-lows.

You ended as you began, slightly better but no worse.

You didn’t suck, but you didn’t delight, either.

As I look back on the year, I feel mildly successful we slid sideways. After a four year recession and subsequent financial bloodletting, I can appreciate status quo victories. Sideways isn’t backwards.


Is that enough?

I’ve been happy to get work and build my writing business. Thrilled to explore industries and establish relationships with editors and marketing managers. Satisfied to call what I earned an income.

But as the year ends and I look forward into 2013, I find I’m less satisfied. I’ve been living safe, working and asking for just enough.

I’m not a fan of hype touting abundant living and shoot-for-the-moon thinking. Barnes and Nobles has entire sections devoted to bigger living and, honestly, I’m repelled by the gusts of hot air emanating from these aisles.

Yet here I am, pondering abundance and how I might achieve it.

It’s very simple, really. I don’t need a book to tell me what I need to do. (And neither do you.)

I need to believe that more is possible.

And I need to believe I am capable of more.

Then, I need to live and work like I believe.

So for 2013, I’ll be working to expand my expectations. To shuck status quo and accept a little more than what seems fair. I’ll battle my own worst enemy–me.

Stay tuned and see how it goes. Will you join me in this simple resolution?


Carrie at Platina

5 things cycling taught me about writing

By the end of 2012, I will have logged 2,700 miles and climbed over 150,000 feet on my Focus Donna road bicycle. Had you told me at the beginning of the year that I would ride this much as well as set area records and finish four metric centuries and one full century (100 miles), I would have raised an eyebrow.

In the 180 hours I’ve spent on the bike this year, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect about life and how certain things are true across disciplines. Riding and writing share similarities. Among them:

1. It hurts at first. After a long sedentary winter, riding isn’t fun. Every hill looks like a mountain and every ride exhausts me. Taking long breaks from writing is much the same. Putting pen to paper after an absence asks untoned muscles and sleepy imaginations to come to. It always hurts to start but, with consistency, it hurts less and less. Somewhere in the middle of the season, I found myself looking forward to longer and more challenging rides.
2. Tough climbs are unrelenting but there is always a summit. Best to put your head down, find a pace and keep pedaling. Unlike rainbows, there is an end to every climb. The same goes for those huge and overwhelming projects. Break ‘em up, pace yourself and just keep at it.
3. It’s better to share the journey. Until this year, I rode mostly with my husband (who is very fast) and a few gals, who neither pushed me nor committed themselves to riding regularly. Once I found a community of riders who were fun to be with, showed up and challenged me, I was far less likely to miss rides. I knew that every skipped ride meant the next one would be harder because all of them were now that much stronger. I didn’t want to get left behind. Writing partners keep us accountable, challenge our work and offer understanding and empathy when the job gets tough.
4. New joys await for those who persist. My favorite ride of the year was a 55 mile ride to Platina via a back road frequented by motorcycles. It’s winding and has one very nasty uphill climb. But once I conquered that climb–Oh my. The autumn view from the bluffs where we emerged was spectacular. It made me so grateful for the year of training that allowed me to experience the euphoria of doing and seeing something few others experience. Staying with our stories, working through rough, rough drafts and wrestling words until we find our voice will pay off. The view from above, if we stay with it, is unmatched.
5. It renews the mind. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: exercise improves brain function. This year I found this to be especially true. Not only did the riding spur my imaginings but it empowered me. Knowing I am capable of riding a difficult 100 miles and having done it gives me strength and confidence that extends to all areas of my life, including my writing.

I should add a sixth point: don’t stop. After working so hard to get where I am, I’m slightly paranoid to lose my fitness. My riding buddies and me invested in hardy winter gear and committed to stay with it despite the cold. We all go through seasons and writing is no different. As you head into your writing winters, don’t stop completely. Give yourself permission to ease up on your production expectations but keep tapping those keys or you’ll be starting all over again come spring. Better to keep the momentum.

How about you? What have you learned from your hobbies and accomplishments? How do they relate to what you do for a living?

Deep water

Kill Cliches and Go Deeper: 4 Questions to Improve Your Copy

In 2012, I wrote everything from restaurant news to educational curriculum to blast engineering website copy, but as the year closes, I am reminded how the writing process can be both as painful as a bloodletting and as satisfying as placing the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle as I wrote, massaged and sweated over three essay pieces I submitted to our local newspaper’s call for columnists.

Marketing copywriting is straightforward. Punchy verbs, short, synthesized ideas and calls to action drive landing pages, direct mail letters and website content.

Publication writing requires objective alliteration, service points and a friendly, readable voice.

An opinion column must employ all of these with the additional offer of a jugular vein. Inherent to editorials are reader responses, agreeable or scathingly otherwise. Short of writing a memoir, I can’t think of a more exposed stage on which to be vulnerable.

It’s frightening.

My tendency, of course, is to draw upon copywriting and publication work protocol, arranging words and arguments but daring to add but a dab of my own big toe.

In these moments, my inner editor comes down especially hard. He challenges me to up the process, asks me to be better, or as someone once told Matt Damon, “don’t suck.”

It is no accident that the letters on my delete key are nearly worn away. I became intimately familiar with it as I waded through cliche sludge and circled ever deeper into my soul as I was forced to submit my writing to these  questions:

  1. Are you saying what you think they expect you to say? Too often, the answer was yes. First drafts are notorious for skimming surfaces and putting too much stock in what we think our audience wants. Antiseptic arguments and underbaked opinions make for dry, tell-me-something-I-don’t-know  reading. Who wants to waste time on that? Jeff Goins, a writer I admire, says readers “can tell when you’re being disingenuous. It feels too clean, too literal. Our souls thirst for more.” He challenges writers to write things that ache, that readers won’t agree with, that points to a broken world but tries to make sense of it. In other words, write with the truth we find within ourselves.
  2. Are you showing or telling? Showing writing incites imagination, adds texture and touches readers’ five senses. I could say I had a good Christmas morning or write about the aroma of fresh coffee and cocoa or how it felt when my three fully-grown children hopped on my bed and sat cross-legged with their Christmas morning stockings, wiggling with anticipation as they nudged my husband awake. Showing a story moves dreary to dynamic.
  3. What is really the big question or conflict? For one of the pieces, I wrote in circles about the homeless problem in Redding. Part fear and part unsifted processing kept me from making a point. It took 3,000 deleted words before I landed on the big question. Without conflict or conclusion, writing is rambling. But it takes guts to stay with a piece long enough to find out what it is you really want to say.
  4. Where are you in the piece? By far, this was the hardest for me. I had to first give myself permission to show up in my work and then be brave enough to be there.

It remains to be seen whether or not I’ll fill the columnist position but one thing is for sure, preparing for the audition forced me to hone my craft in a new direction and reminded me I can apply all of these to the rest of my work, too.

How about you? How are you stretching your craft? What can you do to take what you do in a new direction? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to share your journey.


5 Surprising Ways a Teenager Can Easily Help Your Business

In a press release issued in early 2012, Renee Ward, founder of was quoted as saying, “For the past decade, statistics show 3 out of 4 teens who wanted work could not land jobs.” He points to a lackluster job market and competition with older adults as culprits.

Creative bosses can create opportunity for this demographic and tap into young minds by hiring them to do what they already do best.

 Five Things Teens Already Do That Can Help You

1. Make videos. Businesses need cool images and visual content on web pages. Who else has the mad video skills and editing prowess to help establish YouTube Channels and embed video streams?

2. Take photos. Check Facebook to see that teens’ photo perspectives are fresh and interesting. Let these perspectives shed new life on a tired web page.

3. Manage social media. Teens Tweet, update status’s and pin photos all day long. Hire a teen to help your up your online cred by sending regular posts (approved by you, of course) to all the usual sites.

4. Design logos. Turn a teenaged doodler free to design a new logo.

5. Ride a skateboard. Why not put the dude skateboarder grinding in your parking lot to work as a delivery service? Pay him to fetch and deliver packages or run errands.

Whether it is your own teenager or someone else’s, you can be the hero by showing a young person how the capital system works by offering meaningful work for pay. It’s a win-win.

My work has appeared in USA Today College, Clubhouse, Next Step U, and Entrepreneur as well as regional publications such as Enjoy magazine and the daily Record Searchlight. View more clips and samples of my work here.


5 Ways to Avoid Having a Repellant Website

If you are any kind of shopper, you know the difference between a store’s inviting first impression and an immediate turnoff. Navigation, lighting and an appealing selection make the difference whether you stay and shop or turn and run.

Website Repellant for small businessIf you are any kind of web surfer, you know the same impressions hold true for websites. The only difference being, you can hit a back button faster than you can turn on your heel.

If you are any kind of business owner, this should matter. A study by 1and1 Internet Inc. found that 46% of US consumers have cancelled plans to spend money with a small business after discovering a poor quality website. Twenty-nine percent of Americans feel local business websites look “unimpressive.” Forty-five percent of consumers believe that a bad website makes a worse impact than a business having no website at all.


What is an SMB to do?

Limited budgets, limited time and confusion over what qualifies as valuable content makes web management an end-of-list task for many small business owners.

The good news is that websites don’t have to be complicated to be appealing. Simple but compelling graphics, a platform compatible with desktop and mobile devices and well-thought out primary content will at least appease, if not impress, even the most web-savvy surfer.

5 Ways to Spiff your Site

  1. Be your customer. Load your site and pretend you are a first-time customer. What is your first impression, visually? Can you tell within 15 seconds what your company does? Is it obvious where to go to get more information? If not, there is work to be done.
  2. List your most important pieces of information. At the very least, you will want to have a home page that summarizes your business, an about us page that gives a brief history of your company and introduces the owners or key players, and a products or services page. Consider also adding a testimonial or portfolio page to show successful jobs and happy clients.
  3. Load a simple website program. Developing a simple site requires a learning curve but it doesn’t have to be super steep. I use for Bizziwriter and found that through tutorials, I, a virtual website newbie, could publish a respectable and aesthetically pleasing site all by myself. As my business has grown, I’ve employed help to fine tune search engine optimization but the bones are mine. WordPress offers thousands of free customizable themes and does a good job prompting you to include what is most important.
  4. Add content on a regular basis. The worst thing is an old, tired and static site that looks like no one loves it. Just as successful retailers change and freshen displays, web masters need to update websites with industry news, business announcements or blog entries that offer a window into your business’s passion, direction, personality or new products and services.
  5. Use photos and videos. Smart phones make it easy to snap quick shots and make short informative videos. Embed tutorials or post photos of happy customers. They’ll add to the currency and appeal of your site.
Your website is an active, evolving tool, not a one-off yellow pages ad. From the survey results, it is clear your website is as important as your place of business for today’s tech-savvy world.

Can students innovate a community’s future?

“Here’s the elephant in the room. Though communities are rightfully encouraging youth toward higher degrees, they are, at the same time, encouraging an exodus of their most valuable intellectual resources.”
~Leah Haws, Founder/CEO MinDevices

Since moving to this 100,000ish community in 2001, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told my kids, “You have to get out of this town. You can come back when you have figured a way to support yourself.”

This is a city in love with big box ventures, where our city hub consists of Costco, Walmart and Red Lobster, where our stunning riverfront commercial tourism opportunities are ignored and a flailing downtown struggles to bring culture to the community. It’s a city where medical professionals, attorneys and government workers rule and high schoolers compete with adults for low-paying retail and coffee shop jobs. In short, this city is an innovative ghost town where gravity grounds big ideas.

Or so it appears.

While I’m adept at identifying the city’s challenges, I’m not so savvy at finding solutions which is why I get excited when I meet someone who sees promise amid a limping frame.

Know OpportunityLeah Haws came to this city by way of southern California and before that, Japan. She bootstrapped her way through an artistic career and eventually founded LGH Marketing where she has helped numerous non-profits and government agencies match strategies to today’s markets. Now a small city girl, Leah never ditched her metro-sized ideals which serves well her clients, as well as her own ventures.

She’s now set her sights on producing educational products that address the elephant she speaks of in the quote above. What if, she wonders, we could help our youth connect everyday skills with opportunity and encourage them to be the city’s future? What if we could plant global vision and encourage youth to think beyond borders while living within them?

These are some of the big ideas Leah incorporates in her new curriculum, Know Opportunity, scheduled for launch later this year. Colorful, inviting and more realistic than any business lesson I’ve ever seen, Know Opportunity whets student’s appetites to possibility while considering funding challenges, risk and real-life hiccups.

Haws recognizes the challenges city governments, educators and small businesses face. Each must answer to constituents, regulators and clients while trying to elicit positive change. Her small contribution to the conversation attempts to ignite future growth by addressing our future resources themselves. Get them thinking, she figures and let innovation begin to birth itself.

She’s particularly focused on introducing the curriculum to rural communities because, let’s face it, exposure to innovative thinking in those areas is limited. Kids in Palo Alto share desks with gazillionaires who have changed the economy–they are a tad bit closer to the source, though they, too, would benefit from the lessons.

Ironically, Haws’ project embodies the very concepts she espouses–a ground up enterprise wrought through hard work and determination. Nothing like real life context to spark a teen’s interest.

Hers is a refreshing mindset and, for me, a wagon on which I can jump aboard. More to come on this exciting project… For information on the curriculum, please contact Leah.

What’s Your Wheelhouse? Rediscover the Mojo.

Have you ever been so focused on the minutiae of making your living that when you come up for air, you discover you’ve veered off-course?

Choosing your direction

Set your course for passion.

It happens to the best of us. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, right? But hell isn’t a good place to be. Especially when we only have so many minutes to live.

I’ve always been a believer in following passion because I believe passion is a clue into our God-blessed life direction. Think about it. If everyone worked where their heart sang, our world could be full of happier, more fulfilled people.

Haters say it isn’t possible. You gotta do the dirty work. You gotta pay your dues. You gotta suffer on your road to greatness. I’ll give you that. Mother Teresa might agree that no one said passionate work is easy. But passionate work makes you want to wake up each day, despite the challenges and bumps.

Loving what you do isn’t self-indulgent. It simply means you’ve found your wheelhouse, but even in our wheelhouses, we can make subtle yet inaccurate heading errors.

That’s where I found myself in June. A year into serious freelance writing and I was doing all those things that are supposed to bring in business yet I still felt like a hamster on a wheel. Lots of spinning, not a lot of traction. And no change in scenery. Bleh.

My husband, who invariably mops up my meltdowns, asked, “What’s your wheelhouse, Honey? Are you working there?”

Um. No.

So ensued a month of redefinition and, wouldn’t you know, getting back on course led to a series of new jobs–all of which I love.

I had to ask myself a few key questions:

  • Where was I spending my time? Was it effective?
  • What are my favorite topics to discuss? How and where could I write about those?
  • What do I not want to do?

Through these questions, I discovered I can opine endlessly on parenting teens, launching young adults, emerging educational concepts and empowering women to up their cycling game. Paring my focus allowed me to deepen my prospect lists and stave off the overwhelming possibilities and bunny trails I have a tendency to chase.

I also realized that though I can help small businesses define their marketing vision through copywriting, I’d rather not (define their visions). I’d much rather work with companies who are a little further along, have recognized the value of marketing and copywriting and know their direction but need help communicating their vision. I’m not a consultant. I’m a writer (with the insight of a consultant).

Just knowing where I wanted to be and where I didn’t made me happier. Giving up jobs was scary but alleviating the parasitic stress was liberating.

And since then, I’ve worked on some cool projects. Among them:

Where Arts & Earth Collide: Rethinking School Structures for Getting Smart, to be published (TBP) 9/26. How an eco-collision between Redding School of the Arts and green construction led to a platinum LEED certification and sustainable learning environment.

Planning for a Successful and Creative Future and Helping Students Plan for Successful Artistic Futures for NextStepU and Link, publish dates to be announced. For parents, students and high school counselors, respectively. Being creative doesn’t have to lead to dead-end jobs and starving-artist syndrome. How creativity can lead to lucrative professional careers.

CSI for the Squeamish: Forensic Careers that Don’t Involve Blood for USA Today College, TBP 9/21.

When Your Child Won’t Fail: Keeping Gap Kids from Falling for Publish date TBA.

Contributing writer for Girl | Bike |

Things Your Bike Shop Probably Didn’t Tell You: Sex in the Saddle and Other Unmentionables

Virtual Coach Pushes Rider to Higher Elevations

Don’t Be Such a Girl :: Joining the Group Ride

What Women Want: Getting Women to Ride for Freeplay magazine. TBP October/November 2012

Not only that, I saw my first cover story hit the stands (It’s Not About the Gold for Clubhouse Magazine), continue to write occasional features for Enjoy magazine, signed on to help launch an exciting educational product start-up and wrote copy for a cutting-edge blast engineering firm, based in San Francisco.

All in all, a good adjustment. How about you? Have you had to make adjustments to find passion in the pay? What questions did you ask yourself? How did you find your way?