Thursday, July 26, 2007

dangling modifiers

Also known as dangling participles, these are parts of a sentence that get orphaned from the subject they are meant to modify. Here's a great example sent to me by my friend Laurie (she found it on a charitable organization's website):

Provide a gift of hope with this basket of rabbits and chickens. The eggs from the chickens will provide protein for the hungry children and the rabbits a new source of economic independence.

Adds Laurie: "Unless I'm mistaken, the way this is written has the chickens helping the rabbits. I love it: little bunnies running coops, and selling free-range eggs..."

A better way to write the sentence would be the following:

Provide a gift of hope with this basket of rabbits and chickens. The eggs from the chickens will provide protein for hungry children, and the rabbits will give a family a new source of economic independence.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

what i do

Whenever I introduce myself as a freelance writer and editor these days, people always ask me what kinds of things I write.

When I began my freelancing career, I wrote for local newspapers and arts & entertainment magazines. My initial stories were about classical music concerts, although my published subjects eventually grew to encompass most of the arts - including dance, visual arts and film. I have two university degrees, and studied a total of three majors at university: Home Economics (clothing, textiles and design), Visual Arts, and Film Studies.

I'm also a classically-trained singer and former diehard balletomane (ballet fan). I tired of being a culture vulture a long time ago, but I can still hang with that crowd, and converse intelligently about most things cultural.

My friends call me a walking encyclopedia. They howl with laughter when I tell them that I actually (really!) used to read encyclopedias for fun as a child. (Yes, I'm a freak.) For years I was also a magazine fiend, and I still have a huge collection of back issues of many periodicals, including four decades of National Geographics. I seem to know a little bit about almost everything.

Early on, I became interested in copywriting for musicians. I represented and/or managed two classical performers in London, Ontario for several years, and loved creating their promotional bios, media kits, and other publicity materials. I felt really gratified when one of my very first media releases garnered an in-depth interview in the local newspaper for the pianist I represented. The feedback from the reporter who received my media release was, "She got my attention."

I still enjoy freelance writing for periodicals, and these days I'm most interested in eco-friendly and professional organizing topics. My five blogs are a wonderful creative outlet for me. I've even done some manuscript editing. But my passion continues to be promotional copywriting. I love helping people - generally small businesses - present their best faces to the world. I want others to shine.

I have a knack for spotting copy errors and "massaging" existing copy so that it looks clean and sounds more professional than the original. It's what I do well.

I also love interviewing people. I've found that when I can get someone talking about his or her passions, I am invariably moved and inspired by the stories I hear. (When I first began freelancing, I told a friend that if I could just spend my life interviewing people without having to write the stories afterwards, I would have my dream job.)

But I CAN write, and I do. And I'm thankful for the opportunity.

Monday, July 16, 2007

introduction to blogging

I created my first blog in the fall of 2006, after attending a break-out session at the Professional Organizers in Canada annual conference in Toronto, Ontario. The subject of the session - led by podcasting expert Leesa Barnes - was how to use social media to inexpensively advertise your business.

(Read my very first blog entry (written the same day as the break-out session) here.)

I like inexpensive. When I started my first blog, I already had registered a domain name for my organizing business, but I couldn't afford to pay someone to build a website for me. After creating a blog and writing a few posts, I realized my dilemma was solved.

What's so great about using blogs to advertise your business? A blog is easy to set up (even if you're a total technophobe). I think my first blog took about ten minutes to create at

Some blog platforms and hosting are free. (Like Blogger and LiveJournal. You can also download free software from WordPress to use with an existing website.) Those that charge money for their services are relatively inexpensive. (Look at Typepad.)

You can pick and choose from existing templates to create your blog, and if you're handy with HTML (the computer language used to create websites), you can individualize your look.

A blog is easy and cheap. But why bother creating one in the first place?

The thing I love about blogging is that I can add new, informative content to my sites as often as I choose. It's almost as easy as writing an e-mail. And when I give potential clients the web address, they can quickly:

1) Learn about me, my background, my personality, my products or services, and my business style.
2) Pick up valuable, frequently-updated tips relating to my businesses.

Many clients have found me through my blogs, and have told me that the content on my blogs was the deciding factor in choosing me (rather than someone else) for the job.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

violets and fireflies

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Funny - even though I'm a visual artist, sometimes I'd rather write.

I was looking through my photos for something to put in the top right corner of this blog, and came across a shot of violets in a wooded area near the Thames River in London, Ontario. (I once had an English friend who howled with laughter every time I reminded him that the Canadian London had its own Thames. I guess he found that charmingly colonial.)

The photograph is nothing special, but the violets are - to me, anyhow. They're part of a magical story that suddenly seems worth spending a thousand words on...

I recently had an absolutely beautiful (and all-too-brief) e-mail relationship with a new friend. In his very first letter to me, he described seeing a valley full of fireflies near his home a few nights earlier. His story brought back a forgotten memory (of mine) from several years ago.

I was working as a live-in domestic near the university in London, Ontario. There's an area of paths along the river that had become my respite at the end of each workday. I loved being surrounded by green - wildflowers and grasses up to my knees, low-hanging branches brushing my head, and the gothic canopy high above. This was home. Sanctuary.

One evening I found myself cycling rapidly along the paths - not to enjoy the trees, but to get home after an evening at a friend's - in the shortest possible time before complete darkness fell. I'd forgotten my bicycle light (or maybe I just wasn't expecting to be out so late), and didn't want to get caught on the roads without one.

My head was bent low as I pedalled furiously, and I hardly noticed the scenery as I sped by. I didn't have time for pleasure that night.

It was getting so dark under the trees that I could hardly see, and I thought my mind was playing tricks on me when flashing lights appeared in corners of my eyes. I looked up, and nearly fell off my bike in amazement. The flashes were fireflies - hundreds and hundreds of them - dancing around a small clearing.

I stopped in shock. And awe. Something in my chest loosened, and I started to laugh with delight. In that moment I understood where the legends of fairies had come from.

For I was in a fairyland. My path cut straight through the middle of the clearing, and I was surrounded by lights that blinked on and off, continually moving all around me. I didn't want to leave - couldn't tear myself away. Fuck the bike light - I'd walk the rest of the way home if I had to.

(How often do we get to be part of a miracle?)


The following spring I was walking along a parallel path - this one unpaved and on the far edge of the clearing, closer to the river. Again my head was bent low, watching my feet avoid tree roots. For weeks I had seen green things sprouting from dead brown earth. Day after day the sprouts grew taller and taller, and thickened with leaves.

One day I was surprised by purple.

Violets! A sea of them! (I hadn't known the green sprouts were violets!)

The previous summer when I'd first seen the clearing there had been no violets (or so I thought) - just phlox, and other tall wildflowers, and masses of wild grapevines that crawled over everything. But during the winter those had all disappeared, and now the first spring green was - violets.

I knelt down to examine their delicate beauty. I knew an Italian aria about violets - the blossoms were supposed to smell lovely. I leaned over and sniffed - nothing. But their hundreds of cheerful faces smiling at sun made me laugh. Spring was here. The ground was warming. The earth was coming back to life.

And in a flash my mind made one of those poetic connections that induces shivers.

The violets would give birth to the fireflies.