8 Credibility Killers from Inc.

In “8 Conversational Habits That Kill Credibility” at Inc.com, Geoffrey James warns readers about some common errors that can sabotage your sincerity and trustworthiness.

Here’s a sampling, one of my favorites:

3. Prolixity

“Using big, impressive sounding words rather than smaller, common ones can leave listeners with the impression that you’re pompous and pretentious. Examples: “assess strategic options and tactical approaches” (i.e. “plan”) or “implement communications infrastructure” (i.e. “add wireless”). Fancy-schmancy wording adds bulk and extracts clarity.

Fix: The core problem here is the need to feel as if your business and your activities are more important and impressive than they really are. The fix, therefore, is a big dose of humility. Business is neither rocket science nor brain surgery–it is, in fact, a place where plain talk is both valued and appreciated.”

I’m afraid No. 3 is far too common. A good guideline: Write (or speak) to express, not impress.

Read the entire article

Celebrate National Library Week

It’s National Library Week, which runs from April 13 to 19. This year’s theme is “Lives change @ your library®.”

Parade.com has a gallery of 10 quirky libraries across the United States.

More information from a fact sheet by the American Library Association:

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. All types of libraries–school, public, academic and special–participate.

Celebrations during National Library Week include:

National Library Workers Day, celebrated the Tuesday of National Library Week (April 15, 2014), a day for library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.

National Bookmobile Day, celebrated the Wednesday of National Library Week (April 16, 2014), a day to recognize the contributions of our nation’s bookmobiles and the dedicated professionals who make quality bookmobile outreach possible in their communities.

Celebrate Teen Literature Day, celebrated the Thursday of National Library Week (April 17, 2014), aimed at raising awareness among the general public that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens.

The Daily Progress: ‘Book Festival Blossomed with Damon’

Nancy Damon.

Nancy Damon.

The thank-you note arrived a little more than two weeks after I sat on a sports stories panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book. The note was signed by festival director Nancy Damon.

“At the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, we thank you for your participation in making the Festival the amazing event it is,” wrote Damon. “We are so happy to present a sports-oriented program.”

I’m not David Baldacci, who was at the festival this year. Nor am I John Grisham, who appeared in 2013. But I felt special nonetheless, thanks to Damon. She apparently wrote, signed and sent similar thank-you notes to the hundreds of authors who participated at this year’s festival.

I was told by a reliable source that Damon does nearly all of the work. That surprised and impressed me.

Now she’s retiring and is deserving of the accolades that appeared in the The Daily Progress (Charlottesville):

It will be hard to imagine the annual Virginia Festival of the Book without the quicksilver, whirlwind presence of Nancy Damon.

But next year we won’t have to imagine. We’ll know.

Ms. Damon is retiring as the festival’s director.

She’s led the event for the past 14 years and has been involved since its founding 20 years ago. And she’s done an amazing job.

Read the entire article

5 Ways to Capture Attention

TAKE THESE. I’ve written a lot of copy through the years–as a freelancer, an ad agency copywriter and a copywriter in the marketing department of a major newspaper. Following are some of my free tips for successful copywriting.

Getting attention is job one of any communication. Here are five techniques that work in all media.

1. Use a headline.
There are all types of headlines: how to, news, direct, question, reason why, testimonial and more. Good ones are golden.

2. Tell the audience something they know.
On the surface, this might seem mundane, but by telling the audience something they know you’re making an important connection. You’re saying, in effect, you understand them and you identify with them in some small way, which can be a great way to start a conversation.

3. Ask a question.
There’s nothing like a good, challenging, or provocative question to pique interest. Has anyone ever asked you a question that tapped into a problem, a fear, a desire, or a joy? Did it grab and hold your attention?

4. Share an anecdote.
People love a good story. An anecdote is a story in a bite-size package. A perfect way to reel in your audience.

5. Say something timely.
Talk about something newsy, whether a particular topic, industry, subject, or other area. Tap into something on people’s minds and you will seize their attention.

Reading on a Long Flight and Trip

A week ago I was departing on a trip to California. I’ve been reading The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, but I didn’t want to lug that massive hardcover through airports and elsewhere. I left it at home.

I don’t have a Kindle or Nook–yet. I still like to read physical books.

At Raleigh-Durham International Airport, I discovered a used bookstore called 2nd Edition Booksellers. I would never have expected a secondhand book outlet in a major airport but there it was, and I happily searched the stacks for a paperback I could take on my flights to and from Los Angeles. I picked up a novel by David Guterson, author of Snow Falling on Cedars.

I can be a slow and distracted reader, so even though I’m home from my trip I’m still working on Guterson’s novel, which is interesting.

What do you like to read on trips and vacations? What is your preferred format?

Book Excerpt: ‘Down to the Last Pitch’ By Tim Wendel

I had the pleasure of meeting writer, author and teacher Tim Wendel two weeks ago at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. Today is the official publication day of his new baseball book. Read the following excerpt and grab a copy.

* * *

From Down to the Last Pitch: How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time by Tim Wendel. Reprinted courtesy of Da Capo Press.

Round ball. Round bat.

Ted Williams once said that having them greet each other so the impact is square and solid remains the most difficult feat to accomplish in sports, and any slugger who has come before or after him will echo those words.

What do we make of those moments when ball and bat do meet just so? When the ball flies off the bat as though it had a mind of its own and for an instant the only role it knows in life is to soar over the outfield fence like a flock of geese heading for the horizon? What registers in the batter’s box? What does one remember?

“It’s the feel,” said Frank Robinson, who hit 586 home runs dur¬ing his career. “You don’t feel anything down the bat handle. I’m not trying to make a joke. That’s how it is.

“When you’ve really hit the ball there are no vibrations. You could be swinging through air. That’s how perfect it is.”

Besides the feel in the hands, there is the sweet smack to a well-hit ball. Robinson cautioned that each ballpark has different acoustics and dimensions, so the sound can sometimes fool you. But every slugger worth his salt knows the crisp reverberation that a home run ball often makes.

At first Robinson described it as “a gun shot,” but then he searched for better words. A gun shot, in this day and age, seemed too callous for something so magical.

Robinson and I once discussed such things during batting practice at a major-league game. As the home team continued to hit, Robinson paused, simply listening, waiting for that sound again. Even though the clamor built for another game, Robinson was able to tune such diversions out. When the next batter stepped into the cage the rhythmic rat-tat-tat of bat-hitting-ball began again. It could have been a carpenter driving nails or a woodsman splitting wood, except there was a particular fullness or certainty to this particular sound.

“There it is,” Robinson said, and moments later a deep fly sailed past the outfield fence. “It’s like you’re out in the woods and you step on branch. A dry branch. It’s that snap that goes just so. But you have to be careful. The sound comes and goes depending upon the ballpark, the crowd that day. You can’t wait for the sound to tell you every time the ball is going out.”

Together we turned back to the batting cage, and here it came again. For a brief second that sound, that snap of a ball well hit, broke through the mounting anticipation of another game, no matter how loud the commotion may have been. Another well-hit ball soared into the sky and landed in the stands beyond the fence.

“Nothing else offers the kind of excitement that a home run does,” Robinson said. “Not even a perfect game. Because a home run is instant—it’s so surprising.”

And so it was again, this time in Game One of the 1991 World Series. In the bottom of the fifth inning Kent Hrbek roped a 2–0 pitch from Charlie Leibrandt to right field for a stand-up double. Scott Leius followed with a soft single into left, with Hrbek holding at third base. Leibrandt may have trailed only 1–0 at this point, but he wasn’t fool¬ing many of the Twins’ hitters.

Then came that sound again. Despite the crowd of more than fifty-five thousand at the Metrodome, pretty much all of them now on their feet, cheering and waving those infernal white Homer Hankies, that sound of a dry branch breaking in the woods, an echo of every long fly that’s ever happened in this game, was about to occur again.

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How John Grisham Mentored an Unpublished Novelist

What if John Grisham offered to mentor you on writing a novel?

You’d wake up.

But for Tony Vanderwarker it wasn’t a dream. The Charlottesville, Virginia, writer tells how he came under the tutelage of the world-renowned novelist in an interview on With Good Reason (about 15 minutes).

Teaser from With Good Reason:

With seven unpublished novels wasting away on his hard drive, Tony Vanderwarker was astonished when world-renowned author John Grisham offered to take him under his wing and mentor Tony on the art of thriller writing.