What I did with my weekend

 

I have been an active member of the Clay County Writer’s Group here in Florida for a few years. I don’t make all of the meetings; there’s just too much to do with researching and writing and cleaning my room, eating and sleeping that I just don’t have that much time for meetings. Not to mention marketing, personal appearances, selling and signing books and so on. But I do get to as many of the meetings as I can.

I mean, who else can a writer talk to other than other writers? Nobody else understands what we go through to put out a book a year. I hate writers who claim they can write a book a month. I hate them even more when they actually do write a book a month. I even know a few of them.

You know who you are.

It takes me two years to research and write a sellable novel, which means that if I want to release a novel a year I have to well and truly bust my butt to meet those deadlines. Somehow I manage, though I am not quite sure how; I don’t work hard, or put in long hours, and heaven knows I spend a lot of time stumbling around  looking for my sandals or wondering if I should shave that day (not to mention all of the novels I read. It makes me furious how many authors have stolen ideas from me before I even had a chance to think them up).

No wonder it takes me two year to write a novel.

So this past Saturday Clay County Writers Group held it end of the year meeting in St. Augustine, Florida, the home of the Ancient City Writers Group. They meet once a month in the North Ponce De Leon Public Library. I got there about fifteen minutes before the meeting started and met Maureen Jung, the leading light of the Clay County Writers a few minutes later. She was there to give a talk to the combined groups on the changing world of communications.

And it is changing, rapidly. I was familiar with much of what she had to say, since I do most of my own blogging, social media posting, news releases for local events and so on, and work directly with communications folks who do the stuff I don’t know how to do (that is a long list we can get into later).

But Maureen has been doing work in the communications field for many more years than I have, and on a scale way, way beyond my amateurish abilities. Most of her work nowadays involves the medical field, including documentation, grant proposals, providing training seminars for people new to the field and lots, lots more. She knows this stuff inside and out.

We had around fifty people in the two groups of writers and there was little time to sit around and chat. But I di meet a few new writers, and spoke with them briefly before the meeting go under way, and we exchanged cards as the meeting broke up.

What Maureen had to say, in brief, is the following: email is critical to communication today – read your emails aloud BEFORE you send them out. Be specific and concise. Avoid wordiness and humor. People who receive your emails are very busy and your humor may fall on very sensitive ears. Wordiness is confusing and may create confusion in the mind of the reader or worse, it may cause a reaction the complete opposite of what you intended.

Email, Facebook and other social media sites, web sites and recent phenomena such as Twitter are quickly overtaking face to face meetings and telephone conversations as the most important means of communication. The world is rapidly becoming more and more of a global marketplace very existence depends on fast communication for its livelihood.

In all of your communications, provide a headline, body text and closing/call to action with additional information below that if the reader has time or interest in pursuing it. The headline should be clear and concise. The body text should be no more than three or four short and informative sentences and the closing should contain a short summary and a call to action.

People today have no time to read long and involved emails, and when browsing they will only rarely look beyond the top half of the home page of any web site they go to. If, that is, they even land on your home page.

Search engines direct traffic on he web nowadays, so if your web site is not in the top half of the first page of Google, Yahoo or Bing! it is highly unlikely anyone will ever lay eyes on your URL or have the chance to read the few lines of text the search engine uses to describe your site.

(I will add here that if you do not know anything about Search Engine Optimization you are either very lucky and probably well off or very, very ignorant. If you are a writer hoping to get your web site noticed, you had better start looking into SEO or take up another line of work.)

The point of her talk on communication is this. The communication industry (oh, yes it is an industry) is changing to meet the needs of the day. the way we did things when we grew up (well, when I grew up, anyway) no longer apply, or apply in new and different ways. We need to change the way we communicate without losing site of why we communicate – to exchange ideas and information.

Brevity is king.

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About Gary Showalter

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making. In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel. During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites. Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. Mr. Showalter's third novel, “Twisted Key”, was published in the fall of 2011, and his fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" is now available in Kindle format and should be published in paper near the end of 2012. He currently lives in Deland, Fl, where he is co-authoring "A Silent Star" with Tony Attanasio. "A Silent Star" is the true tale (though novelized, with names changed for security reasons) about the 4-person covert action team sent into Yemen to capture Osama Bin laden immediately after the bombing of the USS Cole in the Aden harbor in Yemen in October of 2000.
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