Tag Archive for Writing

Gettysburg Address was 272 Words, So are These 2 Sermons

Today, I had the honor and privilege of preaching at Parkview Christian Church, Wooster, Ohio. I wanted to do something totally different, and with the help of my friend, Ron Maxwell, we did.

Sermon

Some time ago, I heard the Gettysburg Address was only 272 words. Some consider it the most important speech in American history (see here). President Abraham Lincoln shared his remarks at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa. His remarks lasted three minutes, and they still resonate today.

Given what Lincoln accomplished in 272 words, I always wondered what it would be like to write and deliver a 272–word sermon. In my mind, I thought about creating something called The 272 Project. I envisioned it as a preaching festival where all of the preachers would deliver messages of 272 words: No more, no less.

Well, this morning I had the opportunity to preach not only one, but two 272–word sermons. I appreciate Parkview’s senior minister, Brian White, giving me the opportunity to preach. He had no idea what I was going to do, and he wanted to be surprised. So, we surprised him.

After the worship team opened the service, we had communion and we took up the offering. I explained to the congregation this idea I had about The 272 Project, then Ron Maxwell came up to present the Gettysburg Address. Interestingly, a woman came up after the sermon and told me she did not realize how relevant the address was even to this day. The praise team played Awake My Soul, and then I preached. Here is the video:

The Parkview Address

Seth Mnookin: From Health Journalism 2013 to the Alleged Boston Marathon Bombers

This past March, I had the honor of receiving a fellowship from the Association of Health Care Journalists to study health care reporting at the group’s annual conference. This year, it was in Boston.

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I had the opportunity to attend a presentation in which Seth Mnookin shared insights into how to turn complex topics into compelling stories. Here is one of the things I wrote down:

Seth says to think of what you write as a detective story. Tension and drama is not what happens, but how you get there.

I was shocked to learn this morning on Twitter how Mnookin became intricately tied to the events unfolding at MIT and Watertown, Mass., late Thursday/early Friday involving the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.

I was so intrigued by Mnookin’s adventure on Twitter that I wanted to capture it. You can read it here (via Storify):


How Does a Blogger Discover One’s Voice?

When I knew I wanted to be a writer back in the ’80s, I read a Writer’s Digest article that offered a simple path: Get an apartment in New York City, place a typewriter on your kitchen table, sit down and start writing. When you get up in 10 years, you will be a writer.

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Well, I did not get an apartment in New York and opted for a dedicated word processor (I believe it was an Amstrad sold by Sears) in 1986 and a few years later an IBM-clone. Wouldn’t you know, in about 10 years I finally got the sense that maybe I could write.

Another way of looking at this is that it took 10 years for me to find my voice in writing.

Since December 2012, I have been blogging regularly, and it is mildly discouraging that I have found neither a voice for my blogging nor my blog.

The Z Section is supposed to be about anything. I fought the urge to “specialize” and focus on a niche to give me the freedom to write about whatever caught my attention. What I have discovered is anything can be anything and sometimes anything can be too daunting so anything becomes nothing.

Will I specialize? Will I focus on a niche? Truthfully, I am not sure.

But, here is what I know:

  • I have varied interests.
  • These interests include my Christian faith,
  • Reading the Bible,
  • Family,
  • Technology,
  • Smartphones,
  • Tablets,
  • Computers,
  • Social media,
  • Leadership principles,
  • Journalism,
  • Blogging,
  • Writing,
  • Pets, and
  • so much more.

The thing is, down the road I want to write books, and I want them to focus on potential material for Sunday school classes. However, as I look over this blog, admittedly about anything, I find very little that point toward that direction.

So, you can expect more regarding faith and how it intersects with all of those things above. Perhaps there I will find my voice.

I hope it doesn’t take 10 years.

How Many Words is This Photo Worth? What Does it Convey to You?

I have looked at the photo below often, thinking there is a story in there, some kind of lesson I can share with readers of this blog.

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The photo was taken a few years ago, after my wife, Wendi, brought Mr. Thomas (then a little kitten) home after she attended a Wadsworth Community Band concert (her father plays with the band).

Here, Buddy seems to be indicating to the little man just how the pecking order goes, but Mr. Thomas will have none of that.

So, I thought I could write about resiliency, never giving up, David and Goliath, stand up for what is right.

Truth is, I love the photo, but I just don’t know what to say about it.

Will you help? If a picture is worth a thousand words, then is this at least worth 20, 30, 40 or 50 from you?

What story is this photograph conveying to you?

Are You Sacrificing Your Core for the Elusive Cutting Edge?

As I boarded a flight at the Akron-Canton Airport for Boston to attend the Association of Health Care Journalists annual conference, I brought with me my trusty Kindle Fire HD.

Old school notebook

‘I sat there for a long time unable to read anything. Then I pulled out a small notebook and a pen and started to write this blog post!’

I have so many books on it, ranging from The Story Template, Simply Jesus, Click Millionaires, Necessary Endings, EntreLeadership, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Princess Grace, How to Deliver a TED Talk, APE: Author, Publisher, Editor and others, it was tough deciding which would I would read on the two-hour flight.

I finally settled on Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright.

I sat down and started reading the book. I highlighted a passage I found to be particularly profound about how the teachings and sayings of Jesus made sense to some people who considered him the messiah, while those same words led others to want to assassinate him.

As I was typing in my note, the flight attendant repeated herself several times informing me and everyone else on the airplane to turn off all electronic devices and stow them away.

It seemed like it took me forever to write a very short note (I was in such a hurry I didn’t even capitalize Jesus and feel bad about it now), but I managed to get it recorded. I shut off the Kindle and settled in for the flight.

Before we could take off, the plane needed to be de-iced. It turned out to be about a 15-minute process. I sat there with my amazing and incredible Kindle (I really do love the device, you can see what I mean here, here, here and here, and if you are really ambitious, here) tucked under my left arm, and I waited and waited and waited for the plane to be de-iced so we could taxi down the runway, take off from the airport and reach a high-enough altitude so I could turn on my amazing and incredible Kindle.

I happened to notice a guy sitting across the aisle one row up who was reading The Wall Street Journal. I immediately thought he never has to fold up his newspaper and lay it down. Altitude means nothing to a newspaper reader on an airplane.

The lady next to me was involved in completing word searches printed in one of those magazines you would find in a dollar store.

The man to immediate right across the aisle was utilizing some old-school technology: He was reading a traditional paperback book.

Their encounters with the written word proceeded uninterrupted during the de-icing process. I, however, was not so fortunate.

I sat there, Kindle still clutched under my arm, and thought about how sometimes we are too quick to discard yesterday’s technologies, yesterday’s devices and yesterday’s ideas for new things that might relatively unknown, unproven and untested.

However, those old things served our parents and grandparents well. They were able to accomplish great things without computers, GPS units, smartphones, smart TVs, the Internet, Wi-Fi, Mi-Fi, Eye-Fi or Re-Fi (OK, maybe they needed Re-Fi).

As I sat on the airplane thinking about all of this, I pondered this question: Are we sacrificing our core for the elusive cutting edge?

I sat there for a long time unable to read anything. Then I pulled out a small notebook and a pen and started to write this blog post!

 

How to Navigate the Twists and Turns of Blogging

You might recall, The Z Section was set up to be a sort of catch all kind of blog in that it could be about anything. However, a lot of it lately has been turning on remembering pets who have died.

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Because The Z Section emerges from my experiences, I have not shied away from writing such personal posts, like the death of my sister-in-law’s dog, Riley (see also here), or our own dog, Madison (see also here). Within a month, our extended family said goodbye to two dogs.

I have written about my wife Wendi’s books, one a fairy tale for all ages and the other about budgeting. In fact, readers of The Z Section over the past week have made the posts about Madison and budgeting the top three posts for the week.

I have found inspiration for my posts from Dean Hammond’s leadership class, talks with co-workers, Bible passages, books I am reading and other blogs I am checking out. Other posts came from restaurants where I ate, business endeavors in which I was engaged and just about anything else.

So, how do I navigate through all of these twists and turns while blogging? I have a simple solution: I just keep moving forward. Let the twists and turns take care of themselves.

I guess I try not to over-think things.

 

#002 Interview With Wendi Warren on her New Book [Podcast]

Wendi Warren, my wife, launched her new book, “Princess Grace: A Tale of Faith, Hope & Love,” on Valentine’s Day, and it is now available in Amazon.com’s Kindle Store.

Wendi Warren

Wendi Warren doing voice over work at the Audio Thrills Recording Studio outside of Wooster, Ohio

I sat down with Wendi and interviewed her for the latest Zest for Life podcast to talk about her new book (a fairy tale that is not your typical fairy tale), why she decided to write it and the writing process itself.

While every author desires to have a best-seller, Wendi’s motivation is different, and she talks about it. You might be interested to hear her thoughts on that subject. Give the podcast a listen.

The book is available at an introductory rate, and you can check it out (and get to read some of it). Click here to learn more about Princess Grace: A Tale of Faith, Hope & Love, the new book by Wendi Warren.

Hit play below to hear the interview.

‘Bungee’ Jumping to 3.0 Soon

The story of Wendi and I finding an old, blind, deaf dog continues to spread and grow, mainly thanks to the dog’s parents.

Bungee

The basic story in a nutshell is this: Wendi and I were on our way home from Boston to Ohio, our flight was delayed, when we got back to Ohio, it was raining and snowing so it took us longer to get home and as a result, we found this dog wandering in the middle of the road on a cold, dark, wet winter night.

The dog ended up being reunited with its owners, Pam and Dave. After clearing some hurdles with the local humane society (the hurdles were policies and procedures in place to protect people’s privacy, not a bad thing), Pam and I eventually made contact.

My wife, Wendi, and I finally had a chance to meet Pam and Dave at the annual Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, and we talked and talked and talked. It was amazing to hear how this little dog, Bungee, and his story was making it all around the United States and even overseas.

Once, Wendi and I were at the First Amendment Public House, a restaurant in Wooster, and Kyle Durniat was telling us about the story, she had no idea it involved us. Another lady I go to church with said she was recently with Pam and Dave, and she did not realize I found their dog.

We recently went to visit Pam and Dave, and Bungee, in their home, along with our friend, Angie, who was ready to provide Bungee a place to live had the owners not been found. It was nice to see them and Bungee again and hear more stories about this incredible dog.

I decided to write a devotional thought about finding Bungee for our Sunday School class Christmas dinner. Everyone loved the story and encouraged me to publish it. The story was about all of the things that had to happen in order for us to find Bungee and then what Bungee taught me about God. (You can read all about it when you click here.)

I ended up publishing it via Amazon’s Kindle store, and The Gospel According to Bungy is for sale there now. (Don’t have a Kindle device? No worries. See how you can still read Kindle books here.)

The original version of “The Gospel According to Bungy” (yes, I misspelled his name) showed the story from my perspective. After the opportunity to talk with Pam and Dave there is more of the story to tell, and it will be soon.

The version offered for sale right now is the second version. I made a slight update to the original. The 3.0 version will be a major update, and everyone who purchased the book already will be able to update the story to the latest version, at no extra cost, after it is finished.

Bungee 3.0 is coming with a more complete story, a better cover and even more warmth and love. Stay tuned.

Do You Have to Work at Getting Work Done at Work?

I work as a reporter for The Daily Record in Wooster, Ohio, and invariably when one of the writers is gone for most of the morning or does not come into the office until the afternoon, we all have the same reaction: It’s nice of you to come into work today.

 

I always get a kick out of it when I am the one walking in late, and I always say it when someone else does the same. But, each time it happens, I think of the former NBC News reporter Arthur Kent, you might know him as the Scud Stud for his reportage during Desert Storm. I heard him one time on C-SPAN being critical of NBC’s decision to build its then new MSNBC Studios. I don’t remember the exact figure, but I do recall him saying at the time, “I never saw a $40 million dollar studio break a news story.”

Those words have stuck with me for more than a decade. Buildings don’t break news stories, they don’t sell ads, they don’t design ads, they don’t lay out the newspaper, they don’t print the newspaper and they certainly don’t deliver it. People do all of those things, with the aid of computers, machines and software. But, people do it.

Ever since hearing Kent utter those words, I have always been interested in how news gets done. Even though we reporters tease each other about finally coming into the office, our real work is done elsewhere. A reporter cannot break a story from the office, it has to be out in the field.

So, it should come as no surprise that when I saw the title of Jason Fried’s TED Talk, “Why Work Doesn’t Get Done at Work,” I had to listen to it.

In the video above, Fried basically says people try to get work done when they won’t be interrupted, so they will either go into the office early or stay late or they will go to a coffee shop or try to get work done while on a flight. These are some of the answers he receives when he asks the question, “Where do you go when you want to get work done?”

He never hears, “The office.” Check out the video, especially if you are a manager. Fried advocates for giving workers stretches of uninterrupted time to be more effective. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are not why people don’t get work done, it is the M&Ms: Managers and meetings.

He has three suggestions as to how to make the office the place where work gets done, and I suggest you listen to him.

Purveyor of Words Loses Sale Due to, Well, Words

When I started this blog, I had a lot to learn about blogging, which is much more than writing thoughts down and uploading them to a website.

Words on Page

I started learning more about search engine optimization, content marketing systems, WordPress themes and marketing, in general. I was intrigued by a content marketing system offered for sale. The opening words of the promotion informed me the special price, which was a very attractive one, was only available “this week.”

I made a mental note of “this week,” and because it was early in the week, I knew I had time. I went about my business and waited until the end of the week to make my purchase.

I don’t what “this week” means to you, but it means to at least 11:59 p.m. Saturday. In the United States, Saturday is the recognized end of the week, and Sunday begins a new one.

When I jumped onto the website to transact business, the price was the original, higher one. It was not the sale price. I went back to the email to make sure I clicked the right link, and then I reread the email. Turns out, “this week” actually meant “by 4 p.m. Friday.” Our definitions did not match. The pitch used words I knew, but infused a different meaning into them.

Let me just say, I recognize I did not fully read the ad, so ultimately I am responsible for missing out on the sale. Still, the marketing material could have been written better. Namely, it could have clearly articulated the true deadline.

The company offers a content marketing system. Content is made up of several elements, including words. In this instance, those words failed — if for no one else, then at least for this sale.

When you find yourself in a position to ask others to purchase your product or service, incentives are a good way to go. Deadlines provide a good way to spur action. However, when you do, be clear with your potential customers, list the information up front and do not bury the relevant information. Also, if you are like me, read all of the information. Don’t skim.

This is important to remember, even in our everyday lives: Let people understand what is expected. There will be fewer misconceptions and more rewards.