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Friday, January 28, 2011

Everyone's a Writer

Nowadays everyone is a writer. Sort of. Most people have a blog and the internet doesn't discriminate. Whether you use way too many exclamation points in your writing or don't know to put the period inside the quotation marks, you can still get published as a commenter, Tweeter, or blogger.  Mistakes happen in writing — I've even found mistakes in my favorite national publications — so, don't worry about being a perfect writer.

As the editor of a local magazine, I've been pitched by so many people wanting to write. Some have good ideas, but no experience. Some have experience, but no ideas.  Some drop the ball when I throw it back into their court. Here are a few things you should know if you're vying for a coveted writing gig in a printed publication:

1. Learn to write. Take a class or find a mentor who will tell you how to improve. Be open to criticism. When I first started writing I had a wonderful editor named Hilary. She was kind, but firm. I appreciated her feedback — fed off of it, actually. She helped me become a better writer.

2. Get feedback. Just because your family tells you you're an awesome writer doesn't mean you are about to win any journalism awards. Think American Idol. Not all those people had the chops to make it to the show. If you really want to write, ask the opinions from those people who don't have to live with you and can tell you like it is.

3. You don't have to have a degree to write. All you need is ideas and discipline to write them down. Don't feel like you have to have a piece of paper to validate that you can write. Anyone can write. Those who write well work at it every day.

4. Publish where you can. Shoot for a publication that is attainable. If you have a small town newspaper, start there. If you're on the PTA, write the newsletter. Writing for print is a different thing entirely than writing for a blog*.

5. Keep at it. Don't give up if you get rejected by a publication. Persistence will pay off. Make lists of all the things you know and write about them. Write as much as possible. Write about things you love, thing you're passionate about and things that mystify you. Make lists of people you know who could help you get your writing out to the audience you're trying to reach. Start small and work at it every day. If your first pitch is rejected, try something new or try pitching it to someone else. Be creative, but most of all — don't stop writing.

*About blogs: If you write one, you're on the right track, but don't just blog. Write for publication and you'll get better. Blogs don't have any accountability. My daughter reads mine and tells me where I have errors (which I promptly fix), but most people won't tell you about your grammar or misspellings on your blog. Since you probably don't have a blog editor, go somewhere where you will have an editor. This extra step will make you a better writer. Seeing your words in print will also motivate you to do more writing for print. Plus, it's one hell of a confidence booster.

Great books I recommend on writing:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Steven King
Spunk and Bite by Arthur Plotnik
Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love/Hate

I got into it with my teenager last night. She sassed, I yelled, she screamed, I swatted, she kicked and promptly slammed her door in my face before I could react. 

Defeat.

Sure, I love that kid. She's funny, musically talented, beautiful and a great big sister (most of the time). But, sometimes I feel like putting her out with the dirty diapers and orange peels. When she sasses me, bosses her little sisters, nags, points out other's flaws and generally acts like a narcissistic brat, I have to hold myself back from utterly losing my mind, or worse, saying or doing something to her that I'll later regret.

When I first became a parent, other moms would say stuff like, "Wait until she becomes a teenager." Those helpful hints made me so nervous and scared that I'd hate my daughter once she turned 12 or 13...and, now I'm wondering if I sometimes do hate it because I was forewarned.

Why is it that we seem to want to scare other moms about parenting teens/tweens? Do we feel like we'll prepare those naive moms for the mind-melting, gray hair-raising days ahead? Telling other moms how tough it is might make us feel validated, but it could be doing more harm than good.

Putting new moms on guard for their potentially nasty teenagers doesn't help that future relationship between child and parent, it weakens the bond. Complaining about your teenager doesn't really make you feel any better. If your teen overhears you talking about them, you may have just damaged your relationship with them even further.

Teenagers wish adults weren't so negative about them. I remember feeling that way as a teen. Maybe teenagers need the same understanding and patience given to babies. Sure, it's easier to be patient with a baby, they can't tell you you're a horrible mom. So, what if we changed the way we (parents of teens) talk about raising our teenagers?

By referring to parenting teens as difficult, are we just setting ourselves up for future problems? If I didn't know they would be tough, would I approach interactions with my teenagers differently? Would I react to the moodiness, sassiness, and laziness any differently than I treat my baby who won't eat the food placed before her? How does one cope with the barrage of frustrations over teenagers? Should we bottle it up or find other ways to discuss possible solutions (and believe me, I've considered sending her to military school)?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Entrepreneur Tips: Getting Press

With the prevalence of online media, the opportunities for getting published information about your product or service out to the masses has grown by leaps and bounds.

Some tried and true methods still apply whether you’re pitching a product review to a blogger or pitching feature ideas about a great new business to a print publication. Here are a few rules to follow:

  1. Know your audience. Become familiar with the types of people who would not only seek out your product or service, they’ll love it. Do all your research before you approach the media. Make your self into an expert, both on your product and your audience.
  2. Match your audience to that of the media outlet you’re pitching. There’s nothing worse than assuming you know. Request a media kit from any media outlets that have them to familiarize your self with their demographics. Ask questions and make sure you’re audience coincides with that of the media outlet.
  3. Get to know the format. Knowing what types of products or services the media outlet usually features, what kinds of stories they typically do and what tone they use will help you reach them. Read the blogs where you want to be mentioned. Watch the TV shows where you want to be a guest.  Subscribe to the magazines where you want to get published.
  4. Be personal. Don’t mass email the media. They know when you’re sending a mass email by looking in the “to” field. They’ll be more likely to read your email if you address it to them specifically and mention something that applies to them directly. For example, say something like “in your January/February issue, you featured…” You’ll show them that you’re not only a reader, you’re are a real person and not another publicity hound.
  5. Be authentic and unique. You’ve got to grab their attention, much like an ad has to grab the consumer’s attention. These people are busy and they get pitched to all the time. Come up with an angle that no one else has come up with before. Use your imagination and your personality.
  6. Give them what they want. When you finally get through to a decision maker, you’ll want to show them that you know how to do this – even if you’ve never done “this” before. Give them succinct descriptions of why your product or service will interest their audience. Give them high-resolution photos, clickable links, snappy descriptions and all other information you feel necessary to bring traffic back to you. Make sure you answer their calls and emails promptly. This step is crucial and could be the key to a long relationship with the media, if you do it right.

Don’t give up if you don’t hear back from the media you’re pitching. Persistence really does pay off. Media decision makers are very busy, so give them time to respond to you. Use your discretion when emailing or calling – you don’t want to be a pest. If they email you that they aren’t interested, ask them if they have any suggestions, or if they can tell you what kind of content they need most. Offering to help them with their content could open another door for you. Always, always, always follow up. You’ll be surprised what a little consistency and timing can do to get you heard and seen.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Winter (Outdoor) Running Made Easy

Here in Utah, it's chilly for about half the year. That makes continued training for triathlons kind of sketchy. I'm too much of a wuss to ride my bike in the snow and ice. Low temperatures and disgusting inversion smog make running outdoors somewhat daunting, too.

My coach Wes Johnson told me if I train through the winter, I'd be surprised how much time I'd take off when the triathlon season comes around again. He also told me to work on my weakest event during the winter. My weakest event is running. As much as I struggle with loving to run, I struggle even more when it involves a treadmill. The best part of running is moving through a neighborhood or on a quiet mountain path. Treadmill running doesn't lead you anywhere but on a sweaty, pounding monotonous journey to the check mark on your to-do list.

Here are two things I've found to make running outdoors in winter a bit easier:

PodRunner

This is a free download from iTunes that makes you run faster and maintain a consistent cadence. Each mix has about two minutes of the creator, Steve Boyett, talking about the mix —how fast it is (bpm) and why he chose it, but once you get past that, you'll be running at a good clip for up to an hour. I usually cut out at about 30-40 minutes because I'm typically strapped for time. Some mixes are better than others, so you kind of have to experiment. On the site you'll find  both great interval training podcasts and steady state podcasts.  Overall, it's a great way to train if you run by yourself. Make sure you pay attention and don't turn it up too load if you're running on city streets.

Cuddl Duds

Although the company touts these leggings and long sleeve shirts as a great base layer, I like them for running. If it's not too cold, you can wear them alone. The shirts have thumb holes which help to keep your hands toasty whether you wear gloves or not. Plus, the neck is cut higher than most running shirts, so your neck stays warm, too. The leggings are soft, breathable and uber-comfy.

Shirts and Legging: $28

Where to buy: Available at JC Penney, Kohl’s or online at www.cuddlduds.com


Disclaimer: Cuddl Duds has not paid me to endorse their product.


Other things that help? A goal to work towards. On my vision board, I have the words, "take 15 minutes off final time" for my sprint triathlons this season. The only way I'll be able to do that is by working on getting better and faster at running. I've got to learn how to work around the snow/smog/rain to get better.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How to Become Wildly Successful via @PeterShankman

Peter Shankman, the founder of Help A Reporter Out, an online source for journalists and a great tool for people (or businesses) trying to get press, has been an entrepreneur since the day he had to leave college. His money ran out and he had to drive across the country from sunny California to New York City, his hometown. His story is astounding, wacky, and miraculous. He shared his tips on social media, building a following and becoming wildly successful while visiting Salt Lake City and I had the opportunity to attend.

Here is how he built Help A Reporter Out and how you can build something big, too:
  1. Transparency. Be real. Be honest. Deal with everything as fast as you can. When you're transparent, you'll shut down problems and make everyone accountable for their actions (including you!).
  2. Relevance. Give your audience what they want — how they want it. How do you know what your audience prefers to receive their information? Ask them. Find out more about your audience/customers than anyone else in the business and treat them well.
  3. Brevity. The world has a shorter attention span than ever now. You only have 140 characters or 2.6 seconds to work with, it seems. Learn to write. Shankman says, "You will be eliminated if you don't know how to write."
  4. Top of Mind. Stay in touch with your audience and be nice. Take a page from Barry Diller a broadcasting exec responsible for the success of  Paramount, Fox and USA Broadcasting. Diller made a habit of calling 10 people every day, just to say "hello" or find out how they were doing.  If you make your conversations 80% about the other person, you'll go much further than if you talk about yourself incessantly.
The most interesting part of Shankman's whole presentation was that he moves with the deliberation of a man with a plan, but acts as if it all his success just magically happens. The key to that is his theory of backup plans. He proposes that rather than have a backup plan for failure, we have a backup  plan for success. What's your backup plan? What kind of success will you create?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Making it Stick: Resolutions that Last

A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.
-  Author Unknown

When each New Year starts, do you think up a long list of resolutions? Do those resolutions ever come true?

I'm a list maker. I write everything down. A lot of people use their mobile devices or computers to keep track of things they need to get done. Not me. I like seeing my own handwriting with goals and to-do's  written in each page of my planning journal. This January, I made this vision board. I've done vision boards before, but this year is different. I'm writing down my goals associated with each item on my board. This way, I can both look at the pictures, words, and my own handwritten processes to get there.

Every new year is a time of hope and expectation. If you have dreams to make things happen this 2011, here’s a formula to reach this year's goals. I've borrowed here from the inspiring mind of Zig Ziglar.

1.    Write it down. Record that goal on paper. (I added another visual element with a vision board.)
2.    Put a date on it.  Record when you’ll complete or accomplish the goal.
3.    List the obstacles in your way for completing your goal.
4.    Identify those people or groups you need to work with to accomplish your goal.
5.    Spell out a plan of action to reach the goal.
6.    Ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” Identify and define the benefits of reaching this goal. (Put those pictures and words of the end result on your vision board. Those images can be very motivating.)

Zig says, “If you know the formula, you’ll reach the goal.” I believe him. We have the whole year before us. Reaching for a worthy goal can be a life-changing experience. Start it now.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stories Untold

One of my inspiring friends, Julie Hanks.
Women inspire me. Maybe I'm sappy, but I thoroughly enjoy watching, listening, and crafting stories about real-life women. Their resilience, persistence, grace and humility are sometimes too much for my tear ducts to take. I don't ever grow tired of their stories. There's always something in them we need to hear.

Today I interviewed the four honorees and overall winner for the magazine's big award luncheon we hold every year. These women have so much quiet strength, I felt uplifted just by being in the same room with them. Hearing their stories, what inspires them, what keeps them going through tough times (cancer, homelessness, disability, paralysis, to name a few) brought me to tears. A tangible sisterhood enveloped us. We laughed at our similarities and cried over losses. We discovered, too, that we're all going through similar experiences, just at different seasons.

Heart ache.

Uncertainty.

Falling in love.

Moving away.

Living on nothing.

Staying up way too late.

Confusion.

Morning sickness all day.

Unconditional love.

Fat pants.

Piles of laundry.

Crying at the kindergarten door.

Office politics.

Snotty noses.

Piles of laundry.

Financial crises.

Working late.
 
Defeat.

Squeezy hugs.

Pure joy.

Seemingly endless fatigue.

Happiness.


When we feel the overwhelming feeling like no one understands us, reach out to a girl friend, sister, neighbor or stranger and ask her about her story. Interview her. Ask her about her life and what she's learned. Chances are you'll not only stop feeling alone, you'll learn something and you'll make her feel loved. If you ask enough and dig deep enough you'll find a story which will inspire you. Each woman's story is meant to be told. What's yours?

I'd like to tell your story. Contact me at pamelabaumeister[at]gmail.com and I will.

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Adventures: My Big Announcement

I've been the editor-in-chief for a local women's publication for the past two years and eight months. I work for a behemoth publishing company whose main publications are the two largest newspapers in the state in which I reside. When I started working there, the publication I was in charge of was a glossy magazine published every other month.

Recently, the publication has been, in my opinion, downgraded to a newsprint (they tell me it's fancier newsprint paper called high brite) tabloid ensconced within the pages of the newspaper every month. The immature part of me thought, "Ew! I'll be a newspaper editor. How degrading!" But, the sensible part of me thought, "Wait this thing out and see where it goes."

I am not in denial. I know newspapers really aren't going to suddenly become the latest and greatest thing. The horse and buggy aren't coming back either. I don't think newspapers will completely go away, at least for a while. They'll continue to see a long and painful (I've seen countless people get laid off) decline in subscribers.

There will always be a need for a gathering place for people to come, catch up on the latest stories from their community and kibbutz with each other.  I had hoped I could create an online place for that to happen as the magazine was losing traction quickly. I wanted to produce a new forum for local women using the magazine as the brand. I was hoping to set up an online gathering place as a contingency plan — much like a lifeboat for a sinking ship — to save the magazine.

Recently though, my hopes were dashed. The company won't spend money on a new website. The magazine is going to continue (for now) to be the same. It will still have a one-day shelf life as it is distributed one day per month to a dwindling newsprint population. Sadly, the writing is on the wall for me.

I've received an offer to become an online marketing director for an up-and-coming online conglomerate. I'm excited about the company, it's standards and values, the potential for growth, and their vision for the future. Most of all, I'm excited that this new company embraces my role as a mother and will allow (expects, even) me to work from home half the time. The people there are cheerful and energetic; I'm going to love it there.

What's going to happen to my writing aspirations? I guess I'll be on the other end of pitching stories now. That's okay. I know how editor's think. I was one.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Flip Friday: 6-year-old vlog singer

Sometime during the Christmas break, my six-year-old daughter got the Flip and recorded this little song. This is something she might sing to a guy in another 10-15 years...and that worries me.

The sound is kind of low, so here's what she says/sings:

Hi everyone (Is she planning on posting this to a blog?)
What's it all about today?
I don't know what you can say, but I really love the way you act at me.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no
I can't stand the way you act at me.
But, I can see that it's just me.
Me, me, me, me, me, meeeee!
Yeah.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Want to be a Race Director?

Over the last three years, I've been the co-director of the Wasatch Woman Love Your Body 5K/10K run/walk, a woman-only event. I've learned a lot and I've had so much  fun in the process. There's a lot of work involved in creating a race, but it's well worth it.

Several people have approached me for tips on how to create a race. "What are the first steps?" "What do I need to know about timing?" "Where do you order t-shirts from?" Those are just a few. Rather than continuing to email people with my advice, I've put together this blog post.

Before you get started, you should know that it's a lot of work and you will make mistakes. If you're not okay with either one of those things, get the idea out of your head right now. A lot of putting together a race is trial and error, you may have to do things twice. But, don't think of it as a waste of time. You're learning and that's important. You're going to make mistakes, learn to roll with them. People do races because they love the experience...you should too.

Here are a few steps to get you started:

1. Secure a location. You often have to pay for this, even if it's a city park. Pick a date that doesn't conflict with too many other events (especially races) so you can get more participants. Additionally, you'll want to consider a location that is easy to get to and easy to create a route around. Ask around about this and do your research.

2. Create a route. If you have your race on city streets, you'll have to hire police to ensure the safety of your runners on city streets. Do a race drive through with the police so they know your route. Ask them for tips and suggestions on how to make the route safer and better, Usually they're all too eager to offer ideas, so listen and work with them. You'll want to run the route yourself, tweak it, ask others to run it and offer feedback and suggestions. You'll also want to use a site like Map My Run to help you with distance calculations. This part of the race is very important because it is what your runners/walkers will remember most. Do it right.

3. Get the appropriate permits. You may have to get a mass gathering permit, depending on how many people you expect; a food handler's permit, if you plan on having food there and possibly other permits depending on what you're planning on doing. If you're going to have a concert, you'll probably have to get a mass gathering permit because of the noise level. There are certain restrictions for noise levels depending on your location.Check with the city or county offices for this information.

4. Figure out how to handle sponsors or an expo. Sponsors will help defray your costs, so this is something you'll want handled well. Before you get sponsors figure out what they get and what you're giving (exposure to your audience, PR, inclusion in your ads, etc.) Create a sponsorship application/contract for them and keep it simple. Make sure they sign your contract, then give them a lot of value for their money.
If you have sponsors, you'll have to figure out if you want to provide tents, tables and chairs for them or not. You'll also want to make sure you have someone designated to take care of them.  If you treat them right, they'll be back. Tip: If you're in Utah and you need to rent tents or anything else, I suggest using Diamond Rental. If you're not in Utah, check with local event companies.

5. Determine how you'll time your participants. Is this going to be a timed race? If you want to time people, you'll need to hire a timing company. I recommend Stride Racing in Utah. They are great to work with and have a lot of experience. Again, do your research and ask around for recommendations.

6. Select a sign-up method. I'd recommend having all the sign-ups online.  This will be much easier to track and much easier to manage. I recommend Active.com, there are also local companies who do it as well. Active charges a fee per participant that you can pass on to your participants, split with your participants or pay for yourself. Determine whether you'll be raising your price, by how much and when. Determine when you'll close registrations and how many you'll allow to register. All these questions are included with an account with Active.com

7. Figure out what the runners will get for participating. More than their experience, what are the participants of your event going to walk away with when they're done? Are you going to give away prizes (overall, age category, gender)? Are you going to provide t-shirts? There's a great local company called Inked Wear, I'd recommend.

8. Get plenty of volunteers and train them on what they'll be doing. I think this is a big part of the success of your  If you have sponsors, make sure to get them to help with volunteers. You'll need about 10 volunteers per 100 people. Don't wait until race day to train your volunteers. Keep them in the loop and have them help along the way. For example, have them know the course and help mark it. Also, have them along the way at the water stations, directing traffic, and cheering on your participants.

9. Provide aid. Make sure you have water stations, a first aid station (see if you can get an EMT to volunteer), and an information booth. See #8.

10. Make it easy to donate, if you're doing this for a non-profit purchase. If you cut off registration (which I strongly suggest you do a week before the event to give yourself time to pull it all together), make sure you have a plan in place to still take donations. Collecting donations all the way through is the best way to go.

11. Be ready with answers. You'll get a lot of questions asked of you...be prepared to make decisions and stick with them. Also, make sure you put together your list of responses and post it on your website and on your Active.com page. 

13. Get someone to help with marketing. If this is entirely non-profit, you can get radio stations to do PSA's for free. Ask people with big networks to help you spread the word. Use Facebook and Twitter and everything else you can think of to spread the word.

I'm sure there are lots of other things I could tell you, but these are the ones I can think of right now. If you want to know how to handle whiners, read my experience with that here. If you have any questions, post a comment and I'll answer it to the best of my ability.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Healthy Days Ahead - Get Off Sugar

Diabetes runs in the paternal side of my family. My grandmother and great aunts have all passed away due to complications related to diabetes. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and avoid any and all foods that could compromise my health and longevity. (I want to be around to see grandbabies!)

Many of you know I decided to swear off sugar and processed foods when I was about five months into my fourth pregnancy. That was a year and a half ago and I'm still going strong. I am amazed how much better I feel, how keeping weight off is no longer a struggle and how clear-headed I've become about my food choices. I think taking the sugar out of my diet has fostered a better relationship with the food I eat. I've noticed I never over eat any more. My body has a much better sense of what it needs and when it's full.

I love healthy food. I love to make it, talk about it, and most of all — eat it! So, as the second blog on creating a healthy 2011, I offer my adaption of a healthy granola from a book called The Green Diet by Mary Jolley. Since I believe in making big batches, this one makes a lot more than you'll use in one day.

3 3/4 cup regular rolled oats
1/2 cup flax meal
1 cup chopped nuts (almonds or pecans are my favorites)
1 cup fruit-juice sweetened dried cranberries
3 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
3/4 unsweetened apple juice
6 Tablespoons agave

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil. 

Combine all dry ingredients together.

Mix all wet ingredients in a seperate bowl. Combine the dry and wet mixes and stir until well blended and moistened.

Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Stir. Bake mixture for an additional 10 minutes or until lightly toasted and golden brown.

While still warm, pour some into a bowl and enjoy with some milk. Mm..mm..mm...warm goodness.

Take remaining granola, once cooled, and store in an airtight container, preferably away from everyone else so there's plenty for you!

Just kidding.

Not really.

If you're worried about how to eliminate sugar and not be an ogre with your family or forbid your children from eating sugar...watch for future posts. Feel free to ask me questions about giving up sugar. I'm more than happy to answer.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

It Boggles the Mind

Santa brought Boggle (the To Go version) this year. We're a family of word nerds and we can't get enough of this game!

When you play a game so much you can see word combinations in your head with your eyes closed, you know you're an addict. We're all there. Sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep because I can see the Boggle board and I'm worried I might miss a word. Yes, I know. I'm obsessed. But, I'm not the only one.

Even when she's getting her hair braided, Lucy is working on her quick Boggle skills. What else could you be doing simultaneously while working on your Boggle mastery?

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