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Brushing Up

Dorothy Stott moved into the Atlantic Shores Retirement Community in Virginia Beach, Virginia, nine years ago. The vibrant 94-year-old art teacher lives alone and continues to paint and to instruct a group of students —all residents—each week at the campus. “There were no art programs when I got here,” says Stott. “ So I put up a little notice on the bulletin board in the mailroom.” Since then, she’s taught over 80 students, and her classes go on throughout the year. She even takes her students on field trips around the community to critique paintings on the walls in an […]

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Word Economy

A temptations writers have to resist is overwriting—writing more when less will do. It’s one of those writing sins that happens when we are aiming at a word count or  try to be too descriptive. One of the most famous speeches in history, President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, was a whopping 271 words. As an editor, I coach writers to craft cleaner copy. I face the usual objections about shorter narratives—I won’t be able to tell a complete story. I won’t be able to explain ideas clearly to the reader. It’s so short. While I appreciate the concern, I can honestly say that I’ve read some quality […]

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Woman smelling flowers

Smell Your Way to Better Writing

Using the Olfactory Sense to Connect Readers to Your Story Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Fruit Loops hinged their identity on a character known as Toucan Sam. The tropical mascot would drift on aromatic that would guide him to his fruity scented cereal. Excited, he would the children in the commercial to do the same: “Follow your nose, it alway knows,” he pined. While it may seem like a silly jingle for a breakfast cereal, Toucan Sam is correct. Our olfactory sense is one of our most influential senses for memory recollection. It’s a sense that, if used properly and […]

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The Rule of 10 Percent

Tips for Adding Clarity to Your Writing As an editor, I live and die by the unspoken Rule of 10 Percent. I first learned of it from Stephen King. In his book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, King states that when he finished writing and moved into editing mode, he cuts 10 percent right off the top. The reason? Fluff. As writers, we tend to write with the goal of conveying all of the information we have gathered about the story we have written. It’s an unconscious act that we likely don’t notice, but a good editor does. […]

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Why I Quit Graphic Design

“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time… ‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.” — Tim Ferriss, “The 4-Hour Workweek” It hit like an uppercut. I sat stunned in my black, 2004 Saturn Ion. I replayed the track over and again while sitting in the parking lot of my client’s office. “Tim Ferriss is right. There is honor in quitting and correcting […]

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