Tech Support: Mark Luckie – 10,000 Words

September 29, 2009 by


Getting laid off helped Mark Luckie discover his mission: to help journalists master the digital tools that have transformed the industry.

His blog, 10,000 Words is a go-to resource for journalists and Web aficionados looking for practical tips on video, audio, design and all things multimedia.

Luckie has produced interactive projects for Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times and shares his insight for amateur bloggers and pros. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

Poetry Sundays with Stacia: Poetry for Hire’s a Pain.

September 27, 2009 by

A month ago, I stood up in front of my seat at a banquet table, fumbling with two folded pages I’d concealed in my purse, and began to read my aunt a tribute poem at her semi-formal birthday party. She was shocked and so was I.

It was the first time anyone had heard me read an original poem publicly in about six years. It was the first time I’d written a poem for someone, without being asked, in nine years.

Afterward, there was the typical surprised, but positive response:

“I heard you were a writer, but I didn’t know you could write like that!”

“That was beautiful!”

“You really captured her personality!”

I smiled graciously, offering a single, deprecating nod and a sincere, “Thank you.” Then I thought to myself, “I won’t be doing this again for a while….”

It isn’t that I mind reading poetry aloud, now that I’ve decided to resume writing it. It’s the writing on commission or in tribute that presents a bit of a problem. I’ve always found writing poetry for hire (or by special request) to be a bit schmaltzy. When someone asks me to write for a wedding, a funeral, a baby christening, a family reunion, or a birthday party, spontaneity is sapped from the experience and all that’s left is obligation and a list of mannerisms and personality traits to describe in eight or fewer stanzas.

This isn’t always a bad thing. Having a creative skill that other people admire is an honor, and being able to write something sentimentally resonant for friends, family, or strangers is nothing to sneeze at.

But seeing my work printed in an event program or hearing it read by a member of a wedding party or listening to myself read it semi-impassively for a paycheck just makes me feel like a mascot. And I always wonder if the people listening think the free verse I’ve written is any different than poetry made entirely of rhyming couplets or those acrostics we used to write in elementary school.

A is for awkward.

There’s also something a little artificial about writing for people you don’t know well. You wonder if you’ve worked in all the information their loved ones wanted to you to mention. You worry that you haven’t captured their essence accurately or thoroughly enough. It can be stressful and disheartening. It’s never fun.

Fortunately, writing for my aunt’s party was another story. It came as a complete surprise to her and no one knew I’d worked on it. So there was no pressure, no expectation. No one hoping it would rhyme and no one wishing it sounded more like the poem I wrote for their relative two years ago.

Are you the go-to poet in your social world? Have you experienced my angst? I’d love to hear about it.

And if you’d like to read Stacia’s poem for her aunt… please do.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ugh. Part Two.

September 14, 2009 by

Still writing.

Still editing.

My hair is oily.

My face is breaking out.

I haven’t had a sensible meal in three weeks. Neither has Tog.

The dog’s peeing all over the house because he’s not getting enough exercise.

My TWA is linty.

I have 42 voicemails that I haven’t heard.

My cell phone is about to get disconnected.

My emails are overflowing. And unanswered.

I have 54 Facebook Friend Requests.

When I drop Tog off at daycare she asks, “who picking me up? Gramma? Dadddy?”

I read my edits in one hand while I’m rocking her to sleep at night with the other.

I have to go over the final manuscriipt of Frank Lucas’ Original Gangsta by the 17th.

And I shill for Yummy’s on a daily basis and provide weekly reports on our progress.

Until my world makes sense…



September 8, 2009 by

I’m petro.

Scared stiff.

Deadline for handing in edited draft for No Tea For The Fever has now officially passed.

I’m not done.

I need to get done.

I’m very very happy with the progress I’m making. I open my laptop, fall into this frothy world with these flawed men and women and have a ball.

Alas, I must buckle down for real. And get it done and handed in to my editor.

So, I’ll be back.

In the meantime, Haftime will be tweaking the design of the site, (right, Haf?), The Ombudsman will be patiently waiting for me to get back to blogging so I can be ripped apart for talking about my dog too much. We’ve got a great entry for Tech Support and two cute Fashion Friday entries with Little Miss Brown. And fun with poetry with Stacia Brown.

But until my edits are done, au revoir.

Oh. If you see me on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr, do me a favor and send me a reply in all caps that says: ALIYA GET BACK TO YOUR EDITS! NOW!


Poetry Sundays with Stacia: A Conversation With…Tara Betts

September 6, 2009 by

Chicago native Tara Betts is a poet, activist and educator. She’s also the author of Arc & Hue, a collection of new, original poetry, released Tuesday, September 1. You may have seen her featured on Def Poetry Jam or read her work in Essence. A creative writing lecturer at Rutgers University, Tara has been widely anthologized and featured at readings all over the country.

What I love about her writing is that it’s as thoughtful, precise, and eloquent as it is accessible and relevant.

Check out this clip at Borders’ Open Door Poetry site to see what I mean. And when you’re done with that, let this marinate:

… Pretty fabulous, right?

Tara was gracious enough to answer a few questions about her writing process for our Sunday series. I trust you’ll find her responses as insightful as I do.

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