Saturday, July 28, 2012

Taking a Break - short!

Hi Readers - you wonderful people, you. I'll not be posting so much next week - will be visiting family on the West coast. Please feel free to read some older posts. They're over there on the right. I love it when I get comments. Makes all this blogging worth it! =0)  I'll be checking in.

Hope you're all enjoying your simmer - uh - summer.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mama Feed Me

Everyone who knows me well knows I feed my crows. The other day I was looking out the window watching my whole crow family attack the stale popcorn I’d thrown out. It was easy to tell the adults from the juveniles. The adults possessed the full crow strut and confidently snagged up the popcorn themselves. The juveniles tried to look like they knew what to do, but as soon as Mom had a kernel in her beak, her ‘child’ was right next to her with its yap wide open. I’d watched this go on all spring and wondered if the youngsters were ever going to go it alone. But as I continued to watch something quite comical happened. Mama crow looked at her progeny and began to slowly pivot until her back was completley turned. Amazing!

The thing about being a mom is – you never stop feeding your youngsters. Later  that same day we had a visit from eldest son. I was down on the ground pulling weeds when his big white van zoomed into the driveway. I was happy to see him as he and his family had just returned from vacation, but it wasn’t too long before I knew his true purpose.

“Hey, I’m in search of vegetables,” he said, grinning. “I’ll bet you have lots of red tomatoes.”

Well, we didn’t, but I scrambled up to find what we did have. The garden was doing well and he took off about ten minutes later with potatoes, yellow squash and zucchini, three onions and a couple of cucumbers. And for good measure I threw in three fat zucchini muffins I’d baked the day before. That evening, when went to visit our youngest son and his family, we brought a bag of fresh picked green beans.

How many times have you seen a harried Mom pushing the grocery cart with a half open package of Oreos, animal crackers, or granola bars next to her little one who is riding in the top of the cart munching away? She may only have the empty box to scan at the checkout, but her little crow – uh - child is happy.

When our grandson played on the baseball travel team during the late spring and early summer you would not believe the food those moms packed. Fresh fruit spears, fat meaty sandwiches, cookies and cupcakes, granola bars, various flavors of chips, salad, Twizzlers. One mom even brought homemade biscotti. Bottled water, juice boxes and Capri Suns were all over the place, too. The games usually took several hours and those Mamas didn’t want anyone wasting away.

I guess we just can’t help it. From the minute we become Moms we begin to coddle and nourish. Sometimes this slops over to husbands, friends, relatives and strangers. It’s a good thing, I think. But my mind wanders back to those crows. Mama was trying to teach her baby something. Eventually you have to trust yourself to go it alone. You have to pick your head up, look around and use what you’ve been taught in order to survive. Sad as it is, Mama won’t always be there.

The happy side is . . . while this Mama is alive and kicking she’ll feed her kids, their kids, and the crows. I just can’t help it. And maybe that Mama crow can’t either. When I turned back to the scene in the yard – mere moments later – she was poking a kernel into her bawling baby’s beak. She just couldn’t help it.

These are my thoughts as I contemplate seeing child #2 and his girls who live too far away. I'm packing recipes!

How many ways do you feed others?

Image: Vlado                                                       Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fair Time!

The time for county fairs has arrived. I can’t wait to go to the Chatham Fair with my kids and grand kids. I love the pepperoni sandwiches – ha!f a loaf of Italian bread hollowed out and filled to the brim – and I always want some cotton candy. I like to see the exhibits, the cows, sheep and chickens. And then there are the rides. Fun! Years ago I did some research on the Ferris Wheel for an article. If you love county fairs you might enjoy knowing a bit more about this uniquely American invention.

The very first Ferris wheel soared 266 feet into the air. George Washington Gale Ferris built it over a hundred and ten years ago. He was born on February 14, 1859, not long before the beginning of the Civil War. Once when he was a boy he saw a water wheel at a river near his home. He imagined riding around and around in one of its buckets and never forgot it.

George grew up, became an engineer and started his own bridge inspecting company in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Then he heard about the upcoming World’s Fair in Chicago, Illinois. It was scheduled to open in May of 1893. It was to be one of the biggest and most elaborate fairs ever. He scribbled out some rough drawings for an amusement ride that looked like a giant water wheel, buckets and all. For the next few days he worked like mad on his plan. And then he took it to the fair directors.

Boy, did they laugh at him! They said his wheel would get caught by the wind and roll into nearby Lake Michigan. A few of them called him ‘the man with wheels in his head’. They wanted something like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, not some giant spinning bicycle wheel.

But George, undaunted, went and found financial backers and finally convinced the fair directors that he could do it.

Here are some facts about his glorious achievment.

1.      It was made of wood and had sixty cage-like ‘cars.’
2.      The concrete used for the foundation was sunk thirty feet into the ground.
3.      At full capacity it held 2,000 people. Yeesh!
4.      You could see the entire fair ground when it stopped at the top.
5.      A ride lasted a full ten minutes.
6.      The fare for a ride was fifty cents – an enormous sum in 1893.
7.      It made about $750,000 for the fair.

It’s too bad that this huge beautiful wheel couldn’t have been kept for us to see now, well over a hundred years later. But it was very expensive to take down and put up in other places. It traveled to a few more exhibits including the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, but finally it had to be destroyed. On May 11, 1906 it was blown up with dynamite.

George died in 1896, ten years before his wheel was blown up. He was only thirty-eight years old and bankrupt.  But he left a great legacy, one still enjoyed today by millions of thrill seekers all over the world. So next time you ride the Ferris Wheel think of the wonder of that first machine. I hope you enjoy your ride and that you can see the whole fairground when you stop at the top.

Image: The York Wheel by Tom Curtis                              Free Digital Photos

Monday, July 23, 2012

For Writers

Hey fellow writers. This is an updated version of a Funds for Writers article I sold several years ago. I hope you find some useful tips and maybe a market or two for your work.

Hobbies come in as many shapes, sizes, colors and levels of interest as those who love them.You probably have friends or family who embrace such varied hobbies as tropical fish, coin collecting, gourmet cooking or beading. And how about you? What are your interests and passions apart from the toils of everyday living? I have a good friend, a retired librarian, who makes beautiful quilts. She subscribes to quilting magazines, goes to workshops, and shops for just the right patterned material and threads for her projects. She’s right up there around fanatic on the enthusiasm scale. She’s in that generation that finally has time to indulge in a beloved hobby and there are thousands more like her. As the 50-70 year-old population continues to retire, more and more hobbies will be embraced to enrich the golden years, and this presents a golden opportunity for writers.

Hobby magazines abound and aren’t going away any time soon. So what kinds of articles are these publications looking for? Here are some examples.

1.      How to’s – Paper crafts, beading, quilting, crocheting, hobby farming; these are all areas that require well written how-to articles. This is the perfect venue for writing about your own hobby passion, but finding that friend or family member with less writing ability than expertise could also be the perfect partnership for crafting this kind of article.
2.      Essays - Magazines like Coinage and Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting like hobby related essays. If you can include colorful photos so much the better. Conversational tone is preferred as it implies a friendly sharing of ideas and experience.
3.      Profiles – Here’s where your interview skills come in handy. Find out the who, what, why, when, where and how of an all absorbing and beloved hobby from an acquaintense, co-worker or maybe even your Mom and write it up. In-depth, upbeat, and informative are words editors use to describe this type of article. Do this and  you’ll find that magazines like Country Woman and Hobby Farms are very interested.
4.      Tips and Techniques – What hobbyist doesn’t like to know how to do it better? Have a few tips to share about gardening? They may be a perfect fit for Sunset Magazine. Perhaps your Dad is an expert wood carver. I’d wager he’s gathered more than a few bits of advice he’d like to share with you and the readers of Popular Woodworking. Go talk to him about it.
Keep in mind when writing how-to’s that clarity counts. Being concise and precise when laying out instructions for hobby crafts will please your editor. The tone and friendliness of your hobby essay is what will help sell it. Take your time with a profile piece to make sure you’ve got a good grasp of what your hobby expert would like to give to the reader. Make sure your tips and techniques are not re-hashes of information that’s been around for a while. Shoot for unique. 
For any excellent ideas you have for a hobby article, here are some markets to consider.
Coinage Magazine – Payment varies / contract
Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting – Pays $200
Make – Pays $25 – $100
Popular  Woodworking – Pays $50 – $250
Hobby Farms – Pays $300 and higher for feature articles; “Happenings” articles receive $50 to $75 per piece.
Sunset Magazine – Contract / Invoice for payment
Country Woman Magazine – Pays $300 – $600

 Image: PANPOTE                                         Free Digital Photos

Friday, July 20, 2012


The other day I was on Google and happened to come across some sites that featured Swedish folk dances. Since I am a descendant of that noble race I was enchanted to learn about this. There were images of native dress, colorful and old looking, but nice, ya know? One dance in particular caught my attention, being the most popular of them all, called the Hambo. It was nothing I’d ever seen or heard of from any of my Scandinavian relatives, but very fun to know about anyway.

I had to wonder, though, if somehow this dance, the Hambo, was in my blood. Because of the following incident.

It was autumn and as I dragged the vacuum cleaner into the kitchen I became shockingly aware of how far behind I was with the house cleaning. A busy summer, canning, company – all of these pleasantries kept me from getiing down to it. But now that the leaves were changing and the holidays were on the horizon, it was time. Old Trusty was there with me ready to suck up the dregs of summer and I let ‘er rip.

I have a walk in pantry off the kitchen and the floors and shelves got sucked clean. The tongue and groove paneling in the kitchen got it, the floor got it, and the track lights got it. Then I turned my attention to the curtains on the back door and the big picture window. Ewww.  Cobwebs, dead flies, little spatters of stuff. How could I have let this go for so long? I wasn’t quite ready to tear down and wash everything, but I could give them a good going over with Trusty.

I put on the brush attachment and went to town. Anything hiding in the big picture window corners and pretty lace edged curtain running along the top didn’t have a chance. No more cobwebs and dead flies there! Then I turned to the small curtain covering the window on the back door. But just as I was about to lean in with the brush, I saw movement. I turned the vacuum off and deftly tugged at the curtain. There in the folds I saw a spider. Not an ordinary spider. It looked like a half baked spider – a half baked ET spider. It was a pale shade of sickly pink. I never saw anything like it. I peered a little closer and noticed tiny eyes just before it scooted away into another curtain fold.

Well, little old ET spider wasn’t going to get away from me. Uh-uh. Between Trusty and me that critter was toast. I turned the vacuum back on, separated the curtain where I’d seen the spider go in and just as I moved to suck him up the dang thing sprang at me.  A full on Olympic jump with all eight legs splayed.

That’s when I began dancing the Hambo. Real spontaneous like. First you drop the vacuum, then you slap your head . Take two steps back, claw your face, and shimmy your arms. Then you whip your head from side to side while searching the floor and stomping your feet. Above all you must remember to keep your mouth shut just in case ET landed in your hair and is waiting to jump in and clean up any leftover bits of lunch in there. So – no screaming while doing the Hambo.

I have to tell you, people, whatever your heritage is go out and learn the native dances. You just never know when one of them will save you from a leaping spider. That Hambo thing must have been lingering at the base of my spine or something – like shingles – and it sure came in handy just then. 

I never did find ET. But I think I may have invented an American version of an old Swedish classic. I’m calling it the ET Spider Hambo.

Image: nongpimmy                                                      Free digital photos

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Guest Post

I've been married to this guest poster for many, many years and this is one of his favorite tales. I hope you enjoy reading it. I've enjoyed hearing it again and again and again. And I'll bet all you long married women out there know exactly what I mean!
How Cold is Cold?
by John Sundwall

So there I was… sitting in my shorts, sweat covering my body, contemplating whether it was too early  to grab a Heinie or not and I opened Facebook. One of my young sisters-in-law was griping about the cold temps in sunny California (high 60’s).  Mind you my Scandahoovian forefathers passed on the DNA that tells me it’s uncomfortably hot after 78. Any humidity above 65 is gross. All this talk about the perception of hot and cold on Facebook brought back an amusing incident that occurred between two of my wife’s cousins.
The company I worked for had sent me to St. Paul for a couple of weeks.  My wife’s grandparents lived on “the Range” (read that the Iron Range) sooo with a little fiddling I hooked some vacation time on each end of the trip, packed up the kids, the dog, and the boat, and off we went.  It was all good.  Sue and the kids spent time with the old folks.  I fished a bit with uncles. There were lots of barley pops and some super sausages. 
Anyway we discovered that two of the cousins would be catching a flight from “The Cities” to the left coast in the evening on the same day I would be traveling down to the cities.  Now this was back in the olden days before there was a big old Interstate that ran from the northern part of the state to St. Paul. Can you say two lane highway - speed limit 45? Being the great guy I am and wanting to make points with the in-laws (fishing guides), I offered to give the gals a lift.  The timing would work.  I’d drop them at my hotel and they could swim in the pool and such. I would check at the plant and set things up for the next day then return to the hotel and take them to the airport (no security checks necessary). 
The cousins were about 17, I think ,and were in the back seat just talking up blue streak.  Now understand one of these gals had lived her whole life in  NORTHERN  Minnesota.  The other in  SOUTHERN  California. Well I wasn’t eavesdropping exactly but it was a bit of a drive and I was still young enough (about 35) that my hearing still worked so I picked up an a few things. It became very apparent to me the gals were from two different worlds.  They were on the subject of  “cold” when I finally had to jump in.  I just could not resist. The dialog went something like this:
John   … “What is cold?”
Beach Bunny  …“Cold is when the temperature gets down in the 40’s.”
Snow  Bunny  …“Yeah, it’s really cold when the temperature gets to 40 below.”
Now I’m a fellow who, when he was young, competed in outdoor speed skating events. At one of these they took a competitor off to the hospital because he froze part of his lung.  I thought it was great fun to climb Adirondack mountains on snow shoes and camp in lean-tos in zero degree weather.  But the coldest I ever  remember being was in Danang RVN and the temperature was about 50.  Of course the humidity was 110 and it had been raining for three weeks. So, how cold is cold? It all depends.  
Well,  I’m  grateful  I  gave those gals a ride. They paid me with a story I’ve told and retold a thousand times. OH! For a better estimate of the number times I’ve told  the story just ask Sue and listen for the groan.

Image: digitalart                                             Free Digital Photos

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Garden Update

Well, Grandpa John's garden is in full bloom. In fact some crops are in and processed like the peas and beets. Pickled beets are one of my own personal faves and this year was the first year we grew them and canned them.

On the left here is the zuchinni plant. Lots of stir fry and bread will be coming from this plant!

Here we have the cucumber plants. This year they're climbing the wire.

Hope to have enough to make at least two batches of bread and butter pickles. Can't seem to make enough of those!

And here's the weekend's bounty. All the potatoes and onions have been pulled.

I have an herb garden, too. I'll be hoofing it outside in a bit to grab some parsley. See those little red potatoes?

Boil them up and slather them with butter, a dash of salt and some fresh parsley. Divine!

The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth

Friday, July 13, 2012

And now . . . Joel

What kind of a guy loves classic old movies as in . . .

He leaned over the table and grinned at Rashawna. “We are on a case,” he purred. “We are crack detectives, just like Nick and Nora Charles.”

 and ‘detective stuff’ as in . . .

Minnie said, “The more corroboration we have the better.”
“Oh man, another detective word,” said Joel. “I’m starting to totally dig this stuff.”
Has had a brush or two with the law as in . . .

“I’m not a criminal—just owing on a few traffic tickets.”
“How many is a few,” I asked.
“Not sure, maybe twenty.”

And who thinks Rashawna is about as hot a chick as there is out there. As in . . .

It was so quiet in the back seat my curiosity got the better of me, and I shot a swift glance into the rear view mirror. It looked like Joel was swallowing Rashawna’s face. So much for bickering!

Well – that would be Joel, our modern day young man all wrapped up like a burrito in a bandana and slathereed with a generous helping of trepidation, bursts of bravado and 'anger issues' for added flavor.

Bet you can’t wait to meet him!

Note: As with my introduction of Minnie and Rashawna - I used photos closest to what I imagine each would look like. Just like you will.

Image: imagerymajestic                                                      Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

For Writers - Especially New Ones

This short essay was one of the first things I ever had published - it was accepted exactly ten years ago this month. Audrey Baird's publication, Once Upon A Time, was for children's writers and she held my words worthy. It gave me such hope. Thank you Audrey wherever you are and I hope those of you who read it can forgive my slight arrogance from that time - 'cuz I sure don't have that now! Life humbles you. However, when I re-read it after all these years I found that most of what I wrote then still applies.

Go For It

Sometimes I wish I had a zipper across my forehead. Then, when all the words are fighting to get out, one quick move and - splat- they’d spill onto the page and I could arrange them neatly, one at a time, sort of like tournament Boggle. The primary reason I write is because when I don’t there’s war up there over my brow. Oh, I fight back. I let the grocery list invade for a while. The anthem we practiced for two hours last Sunday will often come out swinging and not let up for days. Gossip sneaks in and then out again usually to exactly the wrong person (serves me right). But, boy, most of the time I’d sure like to have that zipper!

Barring major surgery I’ve become resigned to the phenomenon of stories rattling around in my head all the time. I scribble and scratch them down and rearrange the words until I have some semblance of order. I think I‘m pretty good at it. Whoa! Guess that word humble got caught in the zipper teeth.  Hey, I usually hide the S on my camisole, but I’ve got to think that we all have gifts. I’ve got to think that the grand plan is to share them. I happen to believe that none of us would know anything if it weren’t for the written word. And just like the soprano with the perfect set of vocal cords or the athlete who runs like the wind, we who have a noggin full of stories are obligated by the bestowal of that gift to set them loose.

So here I am to give all you fellow sufferers the go for it. You see, I know it’s not a sinus headache or the kid’s loud music or your mother-in-law coming for a six-day visit that’s driving you nuts. Nope, you can’t fool me. I know that in order to feel like you and honor your gift, you need to relieve that pressure with a glorious tumble of words. There’s a world full of people out there waiting to read what you have to write. Get down to it, sort out your stories and don’t let them down.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, July 6, 2012

This and That

Today I’m feeling whimsical and random (again), maybe you are, too. I thought I’d pass on some trivia.


Did you know that the first ten United States  presidents all lived to be over 80 years old?

Every month that begins on a Sunday has a Friday the 13th.

It’s statistically possible for the same person to have known a very old Thomas Jefferson and a very young Ronald Reagan.

It takes 500 calories a day just for your brain to function.

Vanilla is the number one selling ice cream flavor.

Chocolate is the most universally loved flavor.

"Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough." Who said it? Answer below.

These symbols, #@!$%, used to replace naughty words in cartoons and comics, are called grawlix. They were introduced by Mort Walker, the creator of the comic strip Beetle Bailey.

And now for a really good, and healthful, recipe. A favorite of our organist, Ted.


Wholegrain Jam Squares

2 cups quick or old fashioned oats, uncooked
1-¾ cups flour
1-cup butter or margarine
1-cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup chopped nuts
1 tsp. Cinnamon
¾ tsp. Salt
½ tsp baking soda
¾ cup strawberry or other jam

Mix all ingredients except jam until crumbly. Reserve two cups. Press remaining mixture into 13 X 9 inch pan. Spread jam on top (I drop by spoonfuls). Spoon remaining mixture on top. Bake @ 350 for 25 – 30 mins. Cool and cut into squares.

Share your trivia!

(answer – Groucho Marx)

Image: Free Digital Photos

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Minnie's Sidekick - Rashawna

She’s young – twenty. Big brown eyes, gobs of dark curly hair and a traffic stopping body. Men and boys clonk into street signs looking back at her. All that and she hails from Jersey, too. But she’s no Snookie! Don’t even go there. I created Rashawna before Snookie was barely out of elementary school. So there.

Now we’ve got that settled so let me tell you about Minnie's co-worker. 

She’s can be tender hearted but hot tempered, too; like when Joel, her all-of-a-sudden boyfriend, takes certain precautionary measures to insure her safety in the mall parking lot. But, good Lord, get outta her way when she breaks loose! The wrath of Rashawna is not a pretty sight and Joel hopes he’ll live long enough to regret his rash action. On the other hand, if there’s a helpless little critter needing some mothering it’s Rashawna to the rescue! We don’t really see that until the second book, though. Hmmm.

She’s a fashonista. Hits every Wednesday super sale at Macy’s and usually comes away with some eye-popping, stylin’, trendy, up to the minute . . . well, you get the idea, outfit designed to insure more street sign clonking. Just ask Joel. And red shoelaces? Here’s what she has to say about those.

Who would buy them anyway,” said Rashawna. “Like who and why ?” she asked, palms up. The tone of her voice screamed fashion police.

She knows how to use the spit hex learned at her Aunt Lucretia’s knee, too. But you’ll have to read the book to find out what that’s all about.

And – Rashawna has a secret. No, not that she loves tea or has gained eight pounds since she left high school. Nope, not those. But that’s another thing you’ll have to wait to find out.

Did I mention that The Red Shoelace Killer – A Minnie Markwood Mystery, will be out in November? No? Well, look for it November 1st on Amazon or come to my book launch on November 24th – the Saturday after Thanksgiving. You have to do something to take your mind off all those leftovers – right? More details later .  . . in the meantime . . .

Coming up: meeting Joel.

Image: imagerymajestic                                         Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

American Scene

I was in a bit of a hurry to get home after babysitting that particular late afternoon.  I came up over the rise heading for the railroad crossing near our home and saw them – the flashing lights and crossing arms slowly descending to let drivers know a train was approaching. Drat! I sure didn’t want to sit there for ten minutes for some hundred car train to go by, but I had no choice. I crawled up as far as I could go without actually being on the tracks and put the car in park. Sigh. Okay, train where are you? While I waited my mind drifted to the mindless things I had to do at home and the train came on while I was in this ‘other place.’

But, you know, something arrested my attention. An odd looking car, brightly colored, zipped by and then another and another. Decorated cars, pink and green, little fancy patterns, a clown face – and suddenly it dawned on me. This was a circus train! Oh, my stars. In all the many years I’d sat waiting for trains at that crossing I’d never seen the likes. I couldn’t look hard enough and then it was gone. A circus train – so awesome to see and so fleeting.

Last summer I took two of my granddaughters to our local park – Volunteer Park – only a mile or so from that railroad crossing. They played on the swings and slid down the slide as I watched, letting the breeze ruffle my hair and looking off into the pleasant blue skies. Then I noticed a small area set aside near the ball field that occupies one corner of the park. “Let’s walk over there, “I said to the girls. They were happy enough to trot alongside me and soon we were there. This precious little spot had been standing for a while and I’d never gone near enough to notice the tiles. Tiles on a vertical wall with the names of people who died on 9/11. The Girl Scouts labored to make them and someone had set them in stone. Beautiful little things with hearts, flowers, short prayers. I touched them lightly. My girls ran off to play in the nearby gazebo and I stood there transfixed by a memorial that I’d hardly paid any attention to until that moment. Choking back tears I vowed to remember – always.

Yesterday  Opie’s dad died. I heard a rumor they buried him in Mount Pilot, but I don’t think that’s true. Sheriff Andy Taylor is surely staying in his beloved Mayberry. What would Aunt Bea think for heaven's sake? Barney and Gomer wouldn’t like it much either. Rest in Peace Andy Griffith. Your wise words, calm manner, and abiding faith made us consider what life could really be like if only we put our hearts into it.

This afternoon we’re going to Kinderhook Lake to celebrate Independence Day with family and friends. Kids, hot dogs and hamburgers, swimming. I’m baking two pies and bringing homemade ketchup, dilly beans and a thing or two I haven’t thought of yet. We’ll stay until the fireworks are over and go home to watch the PBS 4th of July special from the nation’s capitol. I’ll think of Dad loving the 4th and how my sister and her husband are carrying on his tradition of a honking big party at their home in California. Maybe I’ll belt out Yankee Doodle Dandy in his honor, too. Dad loved George M. Cohen.

I hope some meaningful random thoughts attend you today, too, as you think about what it means to be an American.

Happy Birthday America, God Bless

Image: nuttakit                                                           Free Digital Photos

Monday, July 2, 2012

For Writers

I wrote this a couple of years ago and it was pubilshed at Writer's Weekly. I think it still applies - maybe even more now than then.

Your Online Reputation – Don’t Risk It!

Two seemingly unrelated things happened to me recently; I joined Facebook and I watched an early morning news segment about guarding our reputations – specifically on the Internet. The first thing, joining Facebook, was a delight. Many of my family members, as well as friends, joined at the same time and it’s been wonderful keeping up with everyone on an almost daily basis.

The second thing, the news segment, gave me pause. That’s because the expert being interviewed mentioned scary words like slander and libel. Yikes! The gentleman also pointed out that potential employers might have an interest in the things you’ve said in public forums, blogs or other social networks like Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook. I raced to my new Facebook page to see if I’d made any rash or ridiculous remarks in the public groups I’d joined that could be misconstrued – say – by an editor. Whew! Good for me – I had nothing there that would cause alarm to anyone considering my work. How about you?

The Internet is a wonderful tool for writers but there’s a flip side to every good thing. Here are some common and often risky topics to consider while keeping your own online reputation in mind. Remember, this is for any public places where you might post. 

  1. Politics – Oh, gotta start here. You may be a perfectly reasonable person until a certain political subject comes up and then you’re a raving loon. My own very large family gets into it pretty good especially around election time. However, I keep my own sizzling comments predominantly in the private zone via email. But writers of all political stripes who harbor strong opinions often find themselves wanting a favorable relationship with an editor holding different, or even opposing, views. Say she Googles you and finds your blog rant on this one hot button (for you) issue. She’ll have to consider whether her publication will be judged in a certain way because of your stance and rejection could be the result. Unfair? Maybe; but life is like that sometimes.
  2. Religion – Goes hand in hand with politics as two of the things we’re never to discuss at birthday parties, family dinners or weddings. But, oh, how we go at it anyway. Still, while you may enjoy faith sharing (or bashing), you might also want to rein in your most forceful arguments and thoughts when going public. Take a big breath and think of whom else might see it. Is that argumentative trait something you want that big glossy editor, for instance, to see?
  3. Foul Language – Even in public forums we can often post anonymously and that’s where this caution comes in. Think of the slop over. It could just be a “letting off steam thing” for you to use foul language when emotions and tempers run high, but that aspect of your persona could slop over into the social networks where you use your real name. I’m just saying . . .
  4. Dirty Laundry – We all have it. Families have secrets, financial troubles, black sheep, and outrages that need to be discussed. But keep it in the family laundry room. It’s just common sense.

So, say you’ve gone public and been found guilty in a couple of the above mentioned areas. How do you backpedal? If you can edit your comments in the public arenas you’ve chosen, do so. Now – stop reading this and do it – now. If you can’t edit what’s out there, you’ll just have to suck it up and change. Things stay on the Internet for a long time and you’ll only be able to alter a bad perception slowly, word by carefully chosen word, over time. Another option is to stop writing all together.

One of my favorite old adages is loose lips sink ships (or lose sales). I love it because it’s true. Make it your mantra and guard future earnings by maintaining your good online reputation.

Image: Michal Marcol                                           Free Digital Photos