Diary from a 1,000-year flood

I was a little girl living in Florence when category 5, Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina. I remember the tree that fell on my neighbor’s house. Downed trees and power lines. Tree frogs clinging to our screen door in the rushing wind. Being stuck in the dark for days after the storm hit. And news footage of homes along the coast than had been leveled.

But I’d never seen a natural disaster wash away the earth like it was nothing. I’d never seen water constrict large structures until the windows shatter under the pressure. I had never seen so many roads collapse at once–at least not before last Sunday. Not in Columbia.

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These four steps will build credibility in your writing

Every communication you push out the door builds credibility or erodes it. Hey, nobody’s perfect. But your readers deserve the best you can give. Plus, you want them to come back to you for advice or business services.

Keep these four tips in mind when blogging or business writing–

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If a monkey takes your camera

monkeyselfieSometimes you go on vacation, and a monkey grabs your camera. And sometimes a monkey takes a selfie. If a monkey takes a selfie, the photo will probably end up in the public domain. And the owner of the camera might protest. It’s a sticky situation. The moral to this story? Don’t let a monkey sneak off with your camera.

And always, always, make sure you have permission to use an image.

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Misspelling, a love story

Good thing someone is inforcing that no parking rule. Photo by Matt Foster-- http://bit.ly/1Ntt8Xt.

Good thing someone is inforcing that no parking rule. Photo by Matt Foster– http://bit.ly/1Ntt8Xt.

I’m not a perfect speller. I consult my dictionary often. But I have a confession–and a bit of a mean streak. I feel a shudder of joy when I catch a spelling error in print.

And if the mistake is in a published book, even better! A classic? Oh boy!

It’s like my sweetheart whispered a secret in my ear that only I get to know. The author missed it. And the editor (or proofreader) missed it. But I was just sharp enough to catch it.

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A sensitive awareness–honoring the grieving after the Charleston church massacre

It’s been eight days since nine people were shot to death in a Charleston church. The past week has been a sad one for my home state of South Carolina, but seeing people from all sorts of backgrounds join together to mourn and to show support for the families of the nine has been encouraging.

Political operatives have also taken the opportunity to capitalize on the events surrounding those deaths, trumpeting their positions on race and gun rights. I’ve worked in and around politics—taking advantage of an event to advance a particular agenda is to be expected. I’d hoped that would come later.

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What the turtle taught me

turtlepeeA turtle longer than my foot taught me a lesson last week about fear, life and salvation.

I just wanted to save his life. I wasn’t expecting to learn anything. And I wasn’t expecting him to pee all over me.

On a four-mile walk last Saturday, my mom and I ran into a turtle along a riverside path. He was headed for some netting, and we also worried a biker might run over him. I decided to pick him up and move him to the river, against my mom’s advice.

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How to put color to work for your marketing

Color wheel--public domain

Color wheel–public domain

When I’ve written for clients in the past, I’ve focused my communications skills on the writing portion of mailers, newsletters and other written communications. My strengths involve organizing information and writing clearly. But did you know communicating with design elements is just as important as the words used?

The starting point for your message is what your audience sees, not what they read. If you use visual elements that are distracting, a reader may miss your message altogether.

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Writing practice and my neurotic dog

Writing practice

Writing practice

“Write every day.” It’s a common piece of advice for all sorts of aspiring writers–journalists and fiction writers alike.

Grammar and spelling are like riding a bike. Using them properly can become automatic.

But writing, which also involves at least style, speed and clarity, needs to be cultivated with a daily habit.

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Splitting open–how to captivate your reader


Candid shot of me working on a story in 2007, not wanting to be vulnerable.

The relationship between a reader and a writer is like any other—it depends on vulnerability.

I’ve created over the years a variety of writing from promotional pieces to news stories. And I’ve succeeded most as a writer when I’ve exposed something that makes me feel uncomfortable. Even promotional writing requires vulnerability in its call to action—it may cause the writer discomfort asking the reader for monetary or physical support.

Ernest Hemingway put it this way—“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

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Bitten–my personal fight against Lyme disease

Most of us expect to reach a few milestones by the time we enter our late twenties—kids, settling into a career, buying a house, getting married.

Something else marked this period in my life—a tick bite I didn’t remember getting.

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