Saturday, August 28, 2010

And the winner is...

Thank you to all who participated in my Summer Reading Give-Away! The prize of Elizabeth Gilbert's bestseller Eat, Pray, Love goes to...Hen Jen! Please contact me, Hen Jen, so I can mail this read off to you. Congratulations!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Writing as a Fingerprint

As no two people's fingerprints are alike, so their writing style is unique as well. It amazes me how 3 people will produce a different piece of writing using the same prompt. We each have our particular writing style and voice that is our fingerprint.

When our writer's group meets for a writing day we bring prompts. Each person's style shines through their writing and the ensuing sharing is truly enlightening. We get to hear the different perspectives. And we come to realize that no matter if a story has been told before, it always differs in the retelling by someone else. If you want to see this in action, visit Sunday Scribblings. This blog posts weekly prompts, inviting readers and writers to share their stories and link back to their own blogs. You'll be amazed at the many unique perspectives on one topic!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Customer Service Personified

Have you ever simply wanted to get some good in-person customer service when making a product decision? Yesterday my son and I were in search of just that at our cellphone provider. Our contracts were up for renewal and with Fall routines beginning in mere days, we decided to go update our plans. Nobody wanted to deal with us in person as we were told to call for the promotions. Both of our phones were broken and we wanted to transfer my son's plan over to his name. We urgently needed to replace his phone. "You have to do it by telephone," came the refrain from two separate service outlets of this well-known provider. We had two frustrating visits to downtown outlets. At the main Montreal service outlet, after taking a number and waiting for an hour, the female sales rep told me that all the phones were the same, to just choose one as she waved her hand magically over the display of shiny rectangles. She was looking ahead to the next customer in a long line. But I wanted to be sold a phone! If I could just choose one, I would be online and doing the transaction over the telephone. Sometimes we need the tactile experience of the product before buying it, and the in-person sale is the chance to educate the customer.

So we decided to stop by another service outlet where we'd experienced good old-fashioned customer service in the past. What others had all lacked in creativity, we made up for in our own quick thinking with the Sales Representative, Mathieu: call the provider while standing at the phone distribution kiosk. All it took was the cliche of thinking outside the box. While my son sorted out his plan over the phone, our wonderful sales rep showed me his own cellphone, one of the shiny rectangles on display that I hadn't considered. I was sold. He also found one for my son. And he even stayed 10 minutes late to finish up the sale. Using my accumulated plan dollars, we walked away satisfied and with new cell phones.

Now, why I am complaining? I facilitate a college course called The Customer Approach, that's why! And these people need to learn how to help customers! Why can we not get personalized and enthusiastic service any more? Why is it that I have to club the sales rep into awareness? Why did I have to work so hard as a client to get my needs heard and met? And that is what burned me yesterday. Here were two loyal customers, in need of phones and willing to sign 2-year agreements, and the best these first sales reps could do was tell us to call, that they did not want or have the creativity to deal with us in person.

Today as we have our plans and phones in place, Mathieu is our hero. And his boss who was standing right there knows it! Thank you, Mathieu at Fido in Ville LaSalle!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Summer Reading Give-Away Extended!

For your chance to win bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat, Pray, Love, tell us here what corner of the world you'd go to eat, pray and love. Become a follower of the One Word Pundit and your name goes into the drawing, which will take place on Friday, August 27, 2010.

Good Luck!

* Open to Canadian and U.S. residents only.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Finding Truth in Fiction

The truth can be stranger than fiction. Consider this cliche phrase for a moment. We read and write fiction based on the various truths of our lives or the lives of others. Fiction, that delivered through all manner of storytelling genres--film, writing, plays--offers us a peek through someone else's window, into another realm of possibility.

A writing colleague of mine recently attended a workshop that explored how fiction teaches us about important social cues. There is shared experience in narrative. It was said that children perform better at social tasks when they read fiction. If we think about the early reading we did on the knees of our parents, this makes sense because we've been exposed to all kinds of moral lessons and values through the fiction in children's picture books.

I've been told by people who only read non-fiction, that fiction is escapist entertainment. I beg to differ as many important life lessons can be potentially transmitted through various forms of storytelling. It's about the message, not the medium. There is truth in fiction, even strange fiction. It may not be our truth, but we can and and do learn from it.

What important life lessons or truths have you learned through fiction, as either a viewer, reader or writer?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Summer Reading Give-Away!

Summer's in full swing, you've got your beach chair out, and you reach for a book from that pile you've been meaning to delve into all year. After trying to talk yourself out of it, you tell yourself, it's summer so you can just kick back with a wonderful book and chill. Ah, the feeling of cracking that book open and settling into a great summer read...What makes a good summer read? Is it something that pulls you into the story so you forget the hotness of the sun on your skin? Or is it a book about something you've always wanted to learn?

It's not too late! If you haven't yet treated yourself to a good book this summer, take the plunge! What are YOU reading this summer? Tell us here for a chance to win Elizabeth Gilbert's New York Times Bestseller Eat, Pray, Love. All you have to do is become a follower of my blog and post a comment about your summer reading (who, what, when and where?). I love browsing other people's book shelves for reads I might not normally consider. A good book is too good not to share.

You might be telling yourself that summer reading is way too decadent an activity. Imagine lounging about reading! I couldn't even imagine not doing so! You see, there's something soul-cleansing and healing about allowing yourself the space to read for a period of time. Whether you read while away on vacation or take a vacation while reading, that briefest of respites allows you to come back to your other tasks refreshed and possibly with a new perspective.

I will draw one name on August 21st. You'll still have time to receive this inspiring book AND read it by summer's end.

P.S. Open to US and Canadian residents only.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wanting More for the Other

Have you ever wanted more for someone than they want for themselves? As parents, teachers, writers and even friends we might find ourselves in this trap. We see someone struggling and we rush to their aid, hoping to have some influence over how they decide or take their next step.

Often, we think we know what's best for someone and we spend our energy trying to get them to follow our advice. Sometimes less is more and we just need to take a step back, trusting that the other person knows what to do and can (and will!) do it for themselves. I take this approach with my adult learners. I try to take it with my family and friends. It doesn't mean that I don't care, just that I care enough to let them figure our their lives. It's called loving detachment and I need to remind myself daily to practice this attitude. In doing so, I put the focus where it squarely belongs: on my own life!

What (or who) do you need to step back from today?

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Name Game

I love naming things--pets, children, characters, you name it (grin)! It was a common complaint by my brother that as children, I was the one to name all the family pets. My son has noticed my hankering over the years for doing the same with our pets. Have you ever given thought to what's in a name? I am often amazed and intrigued by the way some people's names just fit either their profession or expertise or something about them. It took four days to name our son. We gave him a name that has a spiritual sound to it and quite interestingly, he has interesting spiritual views which I think belie his name. Consider what your name says about you.

When writing, what names do you give your characters or your stories? Do they just seem to fit? When I write, sometimes a character's name eludes me. Then all of a sudden, it comes of its own accord with no forcing. Even titling my writing, at times daunting, eventually just comes.

Here's a little game: become aware of names. Next time you're reading something written by an expert, pay attention to their name. Consider the not so coincidental coincidence of the conservation officer named James Phish, for example. Did his parents think he would end up patrolling lakes and hanging around fishing outposts to ensure legal fishing practices?

We like to name things and need to reassure ourselves that everything has a name and meaning. It helps us feel secure in our world. Do you like your own given name? What might your family name say about you?