Writing 101 Monday, Jul 2 2018 

Where to begin? That’s a common question when writing anything from a letter to an online informative post.

We can begin the first draft anywhere, because any meaningful writing should be edited before sending. A good practice is to list the points we want to make and then organize that list into a pattern that flows with a beginning, middle, and end.

The first one or two sentences should state the problem and what you want done about it. For example, if you purchased a package of pens and several do not write, your opening sentence might be, “I am seeking a refund for a package of Brand X pens I purchased on July 1, 2018 from Store B.” Continue by explaining what is wrong with the pens.

The last sentence can reiterate the opening by telling the reader the point of the letter. Be sure to include contact information.

Once we have everything we want to say, edit out repetitive and excess words. It’s rarely necessary for the reader to know we were having a bad day prior to using the pens. Simple, brief sentences that clearly express our thoughts is best. And check for grammar and spelling errors that can distract from the point we are making.

When we think the message is complete, a good practice is to read it aloud. We often can hear an error we do not see. The goal is to keep the reader engaged and for them to understand what we are saying.

(Follow me on Facebook and see my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.)

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Statistics and Magician’s Wife Tuesday, Feb 23 2016 

 

Storytelling throughout history was the passing on of the essence of an event. Specific details were not necessary. It was a person’s emotional interpretation of a significant occurrence. The heart of the story was what was important.

These stories would get passed down by word of mouth, so they altered along the way. I recently heard on the science program, Nova, that every time we recall a memory, we edit it. It becomes less and less accurate because our imagination fills in bits and pieces of things that may have happened, and then those imagined additions become part of the memory.

Today, we do more reporting than storytelling. We want specific details—time, dates, and numbers. When I wrote Sunday feature articles for the Chicago Tribune, three things were to be included: real voices, meaningful quotes, and statistics. Stories needed to be about people with real concerns, told in their own words, and backed up with relevant data.

Statics are an important element in substantiating a story. They tell a level of truth in numbers. Although it was my least favorite college class, I do realize its significance from sports and politics to science and demographics. However, in all reality, even those numbers are a matter of interpretation and can be twisted.

WordPress offers a stats page for each of my blogs. It shows the number of views, likes, visitors, and comments for every post and even where those viewers are located. These numbers give me an idea of who is reading my blogs and whether they are of interest to anyone. There is a wide variation of numbers for many reasons including relevancy of content, writing style, and the time and day of posting.

My most viewed post ran back on August 19, 2013. It had 777 views on WordPress plus countless others via Facebook reposting.

For those who might like to re-read it, and those who never saw it, here it is again:Top 10 Ways You Know You Are a Magicians Wife

©2016, Mary K Doyle

Do You Like Me? Thursday, Feb 4 2016 

How much do you want to ‘Like” Me? I have 11 Facebook pages. Not only do I have a personal page and one for me as an author, I also have one for every one of my books as well as one for my Beautycounter business. Some posts are duplicated but most are targeted to specific groups.

Please “Like” as many as you find of interest. And comment and post! It’s very lonely to post alone. I need your feedback to know if I’m on track with my thoughts and words.

Here is a list of my Facebook pages and the content you’ll find there:

  • Mary K Doyle – My writing and work as an author/speaker
  • Navigating Alzheimer’s – Credible information on dementia and caregiving
  • Hans Christian Andersen Illuminated by The Message – Faith and fairytales, especially those by Andersen
  • Grieving with Mary – Grieving and Marian devotion
  • Young in the Spirit – Aging faithfully
  • Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God – Saint Theodora and children
  • Seven Principles of Sainthood – Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, also known as Saint Theodora
  • The Rosary Prayer by Prayer – The rosary and Marian devotion
  • Mentoring Heroes – Mentoring
  • Beautycounter By Mary Doyle Brodien – Beauty products, beauty tips, health
  • Mary Doyle Brodien – My personal page for close friends and family

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

Expressing Sympathy Tuesday, Aug 5 2014 

“We have no words to express our sorrow.” Really? There are at least a quarter of a million words in the English language. Did you actually run out of all of them? After a death, we wish to express our sadness and offer a bit of comfort to their close friends and family. We say some silly things because we just don’t know what to say. We don’t know how to make things better. One of the most common sentences in sympathy cards is, “You are in my thoughts and prayers.” If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, you probably received a stack of notes with this sentence. These, and other common expressions such as, “I’m sorry for your loss” or “I’m sorry for your troubles,” are fine to start with, but you might stop and think for just a moment. Begin by thinking about the person you are writing to and the one who passed away:

  • Can you say something kind about your friend or their deceased loved one?
  • Perhaps you have a fond memory of them that you can share.
  • Can you remark on their outstanding reputation, personality, or generosity?
  • Did the deceased suffer a long illness or die suddenly?
  • Was your friend involved in their care?
  • Can you identify with your friend’s loss?
  • Do you know of a Bible verse, prayer, or poem that is appropriate?

Expressing a thought imperfectly is better than not saying anything at all. Go ahead and use those common phrases if you can’t come up with anything else. But taking one more minute to think before writing or speaking truly can offer a moment of comfort to someone who is grieving.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

2014 CPA Book Awards Tuesday, Jun 24 2014 

Writing books takes years of research, writing, and rewriting, and it is rewarding when readers tell me the books made a difference in their life or when they are honored by my peers.

Both Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God and Young in the Spirit received Honorable Mentions in the 2014 Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada book competition.

The awards are not First Place (or Second or Third) but meaningful to me because they were awarded by respected professionals in the industry and competed against significant publishers such as Ave Maria Press, Liguori Publication, Loyola Press, Orbis Books, Georgetown University Press, and Paulist Press.

This is the first year I entered one of my books in this contest. Young in the Spirit also received an Honorable Mention in the Great Midwest Book Festival competition.

Winners were announced at the annual CPA convention, on the CPA website, and in the publication, The Catholic Journalist.

Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God is my first published children’s book. It is about Saint Theodora, also known as Mother Theodore Guerin, who founded schools in Indiana and Illinois in the mid 1800s. One of these schools, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, is the oldest liberal arts college for women in the United States and also offers co-ed graduate degrees. I received my Master’s of Arts Degree in Pastoral Theology from this school.

Young in the Spirit explores the impact of spirituality on aging and caregiving. It offers suggestions on ways to build on our faith during these times.

Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God was published by the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, IN and Young in the Spirit was published by my little press, 3E Press.

Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God and Young in the Spirit are available on Amazon and my website: marykdoyle.com.You can see the entire list of winners on the CPA website at: Catholic Press Association

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Why We Write Friday, Jun 20 2014 

My online friend, Terry McDermott, asked me to continue a series on writing that is being passed from one writer to another. There are four basic questions you may find of interest if you are a writer or interested in the writing process.

Here are the questions and my answers:

1. What are you working on?

I have several projects in the works. I write posts for:

I also am working on two different books on the same topic. But it’s too early in the process to talk about them just yet.

 

2. What makes your work different from others’ work in the same genre?

My goal is to write in easy, digestible language on matters relevant to most of us. I try to keep everything positive but realistic and offer options and resolutions where possible.

 

3. Why do you write what you do?

I write on topics I want to know more about and think my readers do to. I search for credible research and offer it to the public in a clear, concise post or book. In the end, it is the post or book that I was hoping to find before I began writing.

 

4. How does your writing process work?

I begin my day in prayer, and one of the things I pray about is for the Holy Spirit to guide my writing.

Then I make notes in a running list of topics. Whether I’m writing a short piece or an entire book, I think of the project as a puzzle. I write out lists and fragments of thought, lay out all the pieces, and then begin fitting them together until I have the full picture.

I read and rewrite everything repeatedly, and I read the piece aloud at least once. We can usually hear if something is unclear or awkward even if we don’t see it.

Once I feel I’m ready to publish, I end in prayer. I ask that the right people get the right information in a way that is meaningful to them.

 

And now I tag two other writers I want to know more about and think you also will find of interest:

Seasonsgirl, on the seasons of life

Interesting Literature, about authors and famous works

(See Terry’s blog, 8 Kids and a Business, which centers on current issues important to Catholics today. )

©2014 Mary K. Doyle

 

http://8kidsandabusiness.wordpress.com/

 

Lost in Interpretation Tuesday, Apr 1 2014 

The first thing I said to my sister when I called was that I couldn’t talk long.

“How long do you have to talk,” Patti asked. And then we both laughed. With the inflection in her voice, it sounded like she was asking, “How long must you talk to me?” rather than, “How much time do you have to talk?” which is what she intended.

Our words are often misunderstood. How many arguments include the words, “That’s not what I meant” and “That’s not what I said”? We don’t speak clearly, in correct language, or express ourselves accurately. We mumble and speak in sound bites. Nor do we censor our own words nearly enough, and once they are out, they cannot be retrieved.

Listeners also have their issues. We don’t listen well, we are distracted, take things out of context, and hear emotionally rather than intellectually. We interpret the meaning of what is said from our perspective rather than take it in literally. We talk at the same time the other person is speaking, which means we aren’t listening.

We talk to such a great an extent that it is impossible to weigh every word. If we say every thought out-loud (or on social media), how can we not get ourselves in trouble?

Peace between family and friends begins with one brief moment of consideration before speaking, texting, or emailing. If what we are saying is important enough to express, let’s vow to take a moment to do it clearly and thoughtfully. And let’s at least attempt to listen like we want to be listened to.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

 

Like Everyone Else Tuesday, Feb 11 2014 

Nearly 300,000 books are published each year in the U.S. alone. Most are quick reads meant for entertainment or to present a single thought. But there always is a handful of books that rise to the top with in-depth, provocative content and message. Far From the Tree is one of these books.

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon presents perspectives from parents of children unlike themselves. There are stories from parents of exceptional children and ones with Down syndrome, dwarfism and severe autism as well as children who are the product of rape and others who grow up to commit violent crimes.

The stories are honest and sometimes uncomfortable to read, but I have to say that they also opened my eyes and heart to the issues these people face. I have a new respect for parents whose daily responsibilities and decisions are often life-altering, such as ones who must decide if is it right to subject a child with dwarfism to years of painful surgeries if it could result in lengthening their legs by a couple of inches. The decision may allow the child better opportunities in the future but at the loss of their childhood and at great suffering.

Far From the Tree is definitely one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. In addition to dozens of sub-questions, the main question that runs throughout the book is exactly what is “normal” and to what extent should a society push for children to conform to that norm. Is the pain and sacrifice to get to “normal” necessary or even ethical?

Far From the Tree is well-written and researched. I had to put it down for periods of time because of its length (976 pages), and more so because of the heavy topic, but it kept drawing me back for more. If you are up to delving into these issues, I highly recommend the book. I guarantee it will raise your awareness to life-situations and challenges most of us never consider.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Truth Be Known Friday, Jan 24 2014 

In the presence of young children you hear some interesting stories. I worked in preschool classrooms for a number of years as an assistant and then as the lead teacher. It wasn’t unusual to learn from the little angels what happened at home the previous evening, some of which was best not repeated.

Most often, I informed parents of what their child told me. I felt they should be aware of what little eyes saw, how it was understood, and that I knew. I also assured them that I realized the story was taken out of context and interpreted by a preschooler.

I keep this in mind when interviewing and speaking with adults as well. We can’t help but taint the information we pass on due to our own personal viewpoints, experiences, prejudices, and knowledge. We make judgments and assumptions before we know all the facts. How often do you hear people comment on the actions of celebrities as if they know the whole story from the snippet presented on the news?

The “truth” is often buried in the midst of random comments, observations, and rumors. The saying made famous by Edgar Allen Poe, “Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear,” reminds us to take lightly what is offered as fact. Even when an entire community speaks something as truth, it is not necessarily so.

Early in my journalism career a respected editor encouraged me to use credible sources and real voices in telling a story. I continue this practice when verifying facts even for these short blog postings. For example, in some of the past posts written on medical topics I searched sources such as the American Medical Association, Mayo Clinic, American Pediatrics, and Alzheimer’s Association for information. I also look for “experts” in the field, people with first-hand experience.

And whether interviewing sources for an in-depth piece or casually chatting with an individual, I consider the person’s credibility. Are they stable individuals really in a position to know what they are talking about? Are they so close to someone or something that they do not recognize potential problems or flaws? Are they jealous or envious of the person we are speaking about?

Determining the absolute truth may be impossible, but if it is important for us to know, we have to verify the facts to our best ability, assess the credibility of our sources, and make our best unbiased judgment. Anything other than that is pointless.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Music Power Friday, Jan 3 2014 

Calm a fussy baby with a lullaby. Set the tone of your party with hip-hop, jazz, or rock. Turn on a little Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra to spark old memories in a senior person with dementia.

Music is powerful. Our lives would be pretty solemn without it. Can you imagine television shows, movies, or church services without music? And concerts of all types offer great entertainment at any age.

I appreciate an eclectic array of music genres – blues, classical, rock, contemporary, cultural. I enjoy different types when doing different activities. Rock keeps me awake and alert while driving but classical  prompts creativity and calm, clear thinking when writing.

Music has been used therapeutically for centuries. It’s been known to affectively treat or aid a number of mood and psychological disorders. Several universities offer degrees in music therapy. They combine a student’s love of music and a compassionate nature with a goal in improving a client’s quality of life.

One specific type of music therapy is Guided Imagery and Music. GMI is a technique using music to induce an altered state of mind. Once in this state, the images experienced are shared with the guide to facilitate a holistic approach to healing, growth, and transformation.

If you’re feeling down these cold, dreary days, put on some happy music. It’s not a week on a Caribbean beach but it will improve your mood.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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