Monday, June 29, 2009

Artistic Readings


One recent weekend, my husband and I visited family and friends in Colorado Springs. Fortunate for us, the Summer Music Festival was going on at Colorado College. Since 1984, this music festival has been an intensive three-week program for 45 advanced musicians. One of our friends regularly sponsors a student at these festivals and he invited us for one of the Concerto Readings.

First on the program that day was Ran Kampel from Tel-Aviv Israel. He read through the Concerto for Clarient and Orchestra, Op. 57, by Carl Nielsen (1865 - 1931), one of the most difficult pieces written for clarinet.

Second, was Kathryn Brooks, who received both her bachelor and master of music degrees from Cleveland Institute of Music. She performed Bassoon Concerto in B flat Major, K. 191 by W. A. Mozar (1756 - 1791)

I enjoyed these readings even more than regular performances. The student gets immediate feedback from the masters as he/she does a first reading of the piece. A second performance of the same piece follows as the student plays with the critique in mind.

Having studied music myself, I find the insight of the masters invaluable, especially when I hear the difference between the first and second performances.

For a sample of some of the performances: click here.

This process reminds me of a method to fine tune the craft of writing. After a story is written, the masters' critique can pick out ways to improve the piece and create a better connection with the audience.


Related links:

Colorado College Summer Music Festival:

Music Festival: http://www.coloradocollege.edu/SummerPrograms/SummerFestivaloftheArts/MusicFestival
Sample of Performances: http://www.coloradocollege.edu/SummerPrograms/SummerFestivaloftheArts/MusicFestival/downloadperformances.asp

Photos from everystockphoto.com:
Musician & music: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2492989

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

China Ready?

China ready? Are we having a fancy dinner or what? Not quite.

When Nathan Seidle asks the question - Is it China ready? - it pertains to a new product. Can he produce 10,000 units for this giant in the world market? There is even a website dedicated to this: areyouchinaready

Nathan shared lessons at the 2009 EntConnect conference of SparkFun’s recent China tour. His group learned such lessons as how their manufacturing works and the scale of it. They discovered new products and how they were done.

Often hardware and software are protected by patents and copyrights. But many, like SparkFun, take the OSH - Open Source Hardware - approach. OSH, for example, openly shares documents that illustrate how to make their electronic systems. In additon to OSH, creating modular electronic building blocks helps the hobbyists and designers to more easily develop their own gadgets.

This OSH strategy of putting their hardware designs in the public domain encourages the world to use and improve their products thus spurring ingenuity and innovation.

Nathan’s company, SparkFun, has benefited from the China - USA OSH cycle. USA design-> improved by China -> China design -> improved by USA -> …. And the improved products, which originated from OSH, are not the property of one particular entity. They are open to all to use, improve and enjoy.

One fun example of applying OSH is the first annual Autonomous Vehicle Competition - a higher tech version of match box car races. Check out the YouTube video: SparkFun - Autonomous Vehicle Competition - Course Preview

Both SparkFun employees and their customers participated in this race which put the “Spark” and “Fun” into SparkFun.

What does this have to do with writing? Writers often check out websites and blogs of those who offer their wisdom to improve the craft. This is our OSH - Open Source Help. And the bloggers also benefit by gathering a following and getting their name out there.

Two examples of such "open source help" sites that I follow for help are:

The Denver Writing Examiner: examiner.com/x-5787-Denver-Writing-Examiner
Prose from the Pros: prosefromthepros.blogspot.com

What are your OSHs? Are you one?

Related links:

EntConnect website: entconnect.org

SparkFun: sparkfun.com
SparkFun - Autonomous Vehicle Competition - Course Preview


The Denver Writing Examiner: examiner.com/x-5787-Denver-Writing-Examiner
Prose from the Pros: prosefromthepros.blogspot.com


Photos from everystockphoto.com:
China ready: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=105956

Monday, June 22, 2009

LilyPad - Electronics you can wear!



In the beginning, Nathan Seidle, CEO of SparkFun, had

No Knowledge
No Plan
No Tools.

No Plan? As he explained to the 2009 EntConnect conference, Nathan had no plan but to relate to his current customers.

There is a parallel to writers. One type makes a detailed outline of his/her story and fills it in. This MO is much like the entrepreneur that has a detailed business plan, which is required for business loans requests or doing business with the government.

Then there is the intuitive - write by the seat of the pants - writer who has no plan but to fill the need to write. This is much like Nathan who maxed out his credit cards and launched a business from his room.


What worked for Nathan was that he fit into what Chris Anderson coined in "Wired" magazine - the "Long Tail of Economics." Nathan found a market for a large number of unique items in small quantities - the long tail. Also, his plan to relate to his current customers drove innovation and synergy with other entrepreneurs.

One great example was LilyPad, the next generation of e-textile modules for the Wearable Electronics Do-it-Yourself enthusiasts. E-textiles are hardware and software modules that interact with the environment, sown into clothes with conductive threads .

Check out some of the lastest in e-textiles at:

Talk to my T-shirt
SparkFun LilyPad accelerometer

Likewise, the intuitive writers comes up with ideas as they writes and their story take them places that they would have missed if they stuck to their rigid, detailed plan. Serendipity!

Hmmm. What "Long Tail" market is out there for writers?

Related links:

EntConnect website: entconnect.org

SparkFun: sparkfun.com
SparkFun LilyPad accelerometer: www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=8462
Talk to my T-shirt: www.talk2myshirt.com/blog/archives/315

Photos from everystockphoto.com:
Lily Pad: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=750910
Long Tail: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=1068554

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

American Ingenuity


At the turn of the century (2000),Tulsa native Nathan Seidle started work on his electrical engineering degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder. His junior year, a programmer for Nathan's microprocessor project burned out, and he searched for a suitable replacement for it. In his quest, Nathan discovered a dearth of resources to purchase electronic parts in small quantities. For students like him, who design and develop prototypes, small quantities are a good thing.

The Plato quote - necessity, who is the mother of invention - came into play to fill this void in the marketplace. During his junior year in college, Nathan maxed out his credit cards and built a website to cater to customers - the designers, the developers, the hobbyists - like him. Thus, SparkFun began in January 2003, run out of his room.

By the time this electrical engineer graduated in 2004, SparkFun had grown to support Nathan full-time and another employee. As Nathan told his story to the 2009 EntConnect conference, he now has 27 employees and does business in 100 countries.

There are so many lessons here for writers. Finding a need, building a platform, and going for it like Nathan did, maxing out his credit cards and just doing it. And in the mean time growing your business and having fun!


Related links:

EntConnect website: entconnect.org

SparkFun: sparkfun.com

Photos from everystockphoto.com:

Electronic Board: www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=3977509

Monday, June 15, 2009

Flag Day


Sunday, June 14th was Flag Day.

When I was a kid, my mother took me back east to visit her family after school was out. My grandfather, an immigrant from Denmark, fought in World War One, which earned his U.S. citizenship. The neighborhood of my grandparents burst out with flags that day.

My most touching memory of flags was immediately after September 11, 2001. Flags went up all over my neighborhood, again.

As a child in the public schools, I started each day, joining the teacher and the class saying the Pledge of the Allegiance. The flag as a symbol transcends the piece of cloth to represent the American culture, values, and principles far greater than ourselves.

It was Red Skelton that later taught me the meaning behind those words: Red and the Pledge

Photo from everystockphoto.com: Flags in Queen Anne

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Samantha at the Crossroads, Book 1 in The Samantha Matijevic Chronicles


I’m taking a break from EntConnect lessons for some shameless self-promotion.

My eBook Samantha at the Crossroads debuted in 2008, published by SynergEbooks, the first in the series of The Samantha Matijevic Chronicles.

What’s it about?

My one line description: The volatile 1960s find thirteen year old Samantha in a small town in rural Montana, groping her way into her future as America is doing likewise.

My longer description (I know, I broke the 300 word limit rule):

In the late 1960s, America is at a crossroads. It is divided over the war in Vietnam. The counter-culture challenges the World War Two generation. The Cold War holds the threat of nuclear destruction. The race to the moon is in full swing. And this culture war shakes up thirteen year old Samantha Matijevic's world in the sleepy cow town of Mineral Valley, Montana.

Early 1900s, the Milwaukee railroad had given away land to entice settlers to work in the mines that supplied the coal they transported to market. This land offer lured Sam’s grandparents from Eastern Europe to homestead in Montana. Grandpa had worked as a coal miner to sustain his ranch until an accident killed him during the Great Depression, leaving Grandma a widow with seven kids.

As a second generation American, Sam does not directly experience her father’s life on the homestead, but she feels it. Her father’s feud with his brothers that drove him from the ranch leaves him with a hurt that he holds onto as if it is a legacy for his children. Dad had tried to run a gas station at the edge of Mineral Valley, but that business failed. Following the lead of Grandpa, Dad works as a coal miner to hold onto his dreams.

In 1968, the frequency of the trains on the Milwaukee railroad is tapering off as the local mines are closing up. The town is at a crossroads while Sam clings to her childhood as she is reluctantly growing into a woman. Her two cousins, once close to her, slip away as the 1960s counter-culture seduces them. Meanwhile, an understanding teacher and an elderly artist help Sam to break the pattern of having her reality defined by others. She is beginning to see what she really sees, hear what she really hears, and feel what she really feels. Though God seems far off and silent, in Sam’s darkest moments, she cries out to Him and He answer her.

What’s next?

The second book in the series, The Colter Church Conspiracy, Lord willing, will be out soon.


Related links and credits:

SynergEbooks: synergebooks.com
Cover from MBDesignsInc

My Website: smithsk.com
My Books link: smithsk.com/books.htm

Monday, June 8, 2009

Reward them with Starbucks!

Reward what you are trying to accomplish.

This is the code of the “Queen Mother of Direct Mail.”

Selling construction additions to homes was one of Patty Coldwater’s tough direct mail assignments. Other similar solicitations rewarded contracts with a percentage off the construction job or a free air conditioning system. These did not generate much response from mailings.

At the 2009 EntConnect conference, Patty outlined how she got back to basics.

Question: What was she trying to accomplish?
Answer: A face to face meeting of a potential customer with a salesperson.

Question: What would be the reward for this face to face meeting?
Answer: Starbucks!

Patty got the desired boomerang effect as potential customers took a second look at the offer. Home owners scheduled face to face meetings to get their Starbucks coupon. And some of those meetings resulted in contracts. A few hundred dollars of Starbucks generated tens of thousands in sales.

Don’t’ underestimate the power of Starbucks.

As a writer, what is my desired boomerang effect to read my works and spread the word? Starbucks? Hmmmmm.

Will see. Definitely need to get creative to reward my audience.



Related links:

EntConnect website: entconnect.org

TMR Direct: tmrdirect.com

Photos from everystockphoto.com:
StarBucks Coffee: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=1575436

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Know Your Customer


As a writer, my customers are my audience.

At the 2009 EntConnect conference, Patty Coldwater told her real life stories of how, as a professional marketer, she had attracted customers. One of her jobs was to convert clients' expiring warranties to paid service agreements.

Today’s wisdom would be to contact potential customers with email or call over the phone. Yet, as employees now are very likely to change jobs 40% to 60% of the time in a year, databases with emails and phone numbers quickly become out of date.

Understanding her potential customers, Patty figured how they would respond best to a solicitation. Most worked in the field, away from their desks. They did not have ready access to a computer to get email nor a phone at the office.

What worked well was the old fashioned direct mail with a reply card to call a toll free number and extend the service warrantee. Using her hook - reward what you are trying to accomplish - those who responded got a prize, like a fishing lure, a calculator, or a seven in one survival tool. These were tokens, but items her customers were interested in.

Knowing her potential customer allowed Patty generated a 300% increase in sales.

Who am I targeting as my audience? Are they being rewarded for what I am trying to accomplish? This evolving writer still has much to learn. I am grateful for the wisdom Patty shared at the 2009 EntConnect conference.



Related links:

EntConnect website: entconnect.org

TMR Direct: tmrdirect.com

Photos from everystockphoto.com:
US Mail Box: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=391665

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Queen Mother of Direct Mail


“My Goal is to be the Queen Mother of Direct Mail.”

Patty Coldwater had said this during a job interview. And that title stuck. Her business card actually reads “Queen Mother of Direct Mail" as VP of Marketing for TMR Direct (a division of The Mail Room Inc.)

One of the greatest challenges I face as an evolving writer is marketing. I love to ensconce myself behind the ivory tower of the keyboard and unleash my creativity. But stepping out in the real world to sell my wares? Well, that’s another story.

How do we sell services in a tight economy and succeed at it?

As companies strive to save money, fewer people are asked to do more work. Yet, opportunities to outsource are out there. Patty presented her experience of "Direct Marketing Ideas that Work" as the third speaker at the 2009 EntConnect Conference.

The following blogs will share Patty's lessons that apply can to any field where goods and services are sold. Especially writers.

One of her memorable morsels of wisdom: “Reward what you are trying to accomplish.”


Related links:

EntConnect website: entconnect.org

TMR Direct: tmrdirect.com

Photos from everystockphoto.com:
Queen mother: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2127507