Monday, March 29, 2010

What is news? How about

What is News? We think that the storytelling and story slams in Boston ARE news. massmouth has the Proximity that the Moth lacks. We are Prominent in that we are singular - the only group of our type in the area, or region. It is an Oddity that the art of story still exists in this high tech age and even more unusual that we neo-luddites have gladly married live story to Web 2.0. There is Suspense in how our Big Mouth Off will turn out. And our grande finale event will be of Consequence for the winners and all those who practice the art of storytelling. Did I miss something? Perhaps to say thank you to our sponsors and donors and supporters? That we have them is glad news indeed.

Posted August 20th, 2007 by fairtest
Experts agree that defining news can be a difficult task. Most journalists agree that the following eight elements make up what is considered "news."

* Immediacy:
Reporting something that has just happened or is about to happen. Time is a strong ingredient, "today, yesterday, early this morning, tomorrow." The newness of the occurrence makes up "immediacy" in the news.
* Proximity:
Facts and occurrences that are important to you personally; inflation, the Iran situation particularly if one of the hostages is someone you know or a family member of a close friend, the closing of a fire station close to your home. Such a closure is less important when it occurs across town. The question most asked by journalists is: "If this happened outside my immediate area, my city, my state, would I be interested in reading about it?" Keeping this question in mind is particularly important to the organizational PR person. You must "take off the I love this organization hat" and examine your story to see if indeed it would interest other readers.
* Prominence:
Prominence as a news element is well-known to most of us. The public figure, holders of public office, people of renown or those who stimulate our curiosity, people in positions of influence all enjoy news prominence. For your visitor or speaker to qualify for news prominence, he or she must be well enough known to command the attention of readers either by reputation or by the nature of the topic to be discussed.
* Oddity:
Oddity is often news. The bizarre, the unusual, the unexpected often make news. Generally those people who perform striking feats in emergency situations are news, such as a woman lifting an automobile off her child, traveling around the world in a sailboat, unusual recycling methods, use of materials in a different way. In journalism, oddity is defined as the "man bites dog" formula. Consider the reported rabbit attack on President Carter. That certainly made the "news."
* Conflict:
Conflict is one element most observed in todays with the clash of ideologies making headlines worldwide. Although most businesses and organizations shy away from the reporting of conflict, it is understandable that this element is firmly based in the news formula.
* Suspense:
Suspense creates and expands news appeal. The outcome of the Iranian hostages is suspenseful news. For the most part, organizations would rarely experience this type of circumstance. It is helpful to remember that news suspense is not the same as mystery suspense. However, mystery suspense in news does occur when a crime has been committed and the search is on for a suspect.
* Emotions
Emotions are a news element commonly called "human interest" stories that stir our recognition of the basic needs both psychological and physical. Stories that prompt the reader toward sympathy, anger or other emotions in all their variety are commonly handled in feature-type stories. Organizations should be alert to the possibilities of "human interest" stories.
* Consequence
The last element of news, consequence, is more difficult to explain, but generally for a story to have consequence it must be important to a great number of readers. It must have some impact for the reader. Such news will affect him or her in some personal way...the safety of the city's drinking water. The dumping of toxic wastes into the Snake River Aquifer is being examined from the standpoint of consequence now and in the future. Thus it becomes an important news story.

From this discussion of news story elements, it becomes clear that you should have these guidelines in mind when you're deciding if your message is news or an announcement; whether it's a feature or an item of limited public interest. From this you decide which format to use for distributing the information and the medium that is most likely to use your information.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Whats Up with the BPL?

Listening to the Callie Crossley show on WGBH - March 22, 2010 where the discussion is about library use in a recession.

Last year this was written about the BPL new president:
The Boston Globe Library director turns a new page: Economy offers huge challenge
By Nancy Cook Globe Correspondent / March 29, 2009
"...Even with the good will and early accolades, Ryan will face tough decisions. Personnel costs make up 65 percent of the library's budget, so she and the librarians' union have been negotiating a wage freeze to last through September 2010. Even if union members approve it, the library still may have to lay off 44 staffers this spring and leave vacant 20 open positions.

"It has affected the services we provide," says Liz Smith, a librarian at the Hyde Park branch and president of the Communication Workers Association, Local 1333. "You can't provide the same level of service when you don't have people there on a regular basis. That's especially important at the branches in the neighborhoods where you see the same people."

As Ryan looks to trim costs, she says she has also tried to communicate openly with her staff. She sends out a weekly newsletter, circulates memos she receives from City Hall with both good and bad news, and solicits ideas about cutting costs. She says she's received about 1,000 suggestions that range from turning off more lights to opening up a gift shop. She is also halting construction projects, reexamining contracts, moving the Kirstein Business Branch from the financial district into the Copley branch, and rethinking tasks like how the library catalogs books.

Ryan is also big on partnerships between the library and outside organizations such as Bank of America, the University of Massachusetts at Boston, and the Boston Children's Museum that bring performances into libraries or that offer writing or reading workshops. Some of these are not new ideas - her predecessor already had in place a homework assistance program.

Original or not, Ryan says that these types of programs are significant to her. She wrote her master's thesis years ago on the role of libraries in economic downturns, and that topic is particularly relevant now as people looking for new jobs or to go back to school head to libraries for help.

"Libraries make sense of the world," she says. "They're informational. They're a cultural anchor. They're a place for community gathering."

Skip ahead to this year and a statement presented by Amy Ryan on  Tuesday, March 9, 2010. Excerpts with my emphasis, below.  Click on title below for the full report

The Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston Meeting Rabb Lecture Hall  Presentation by Amy E. Ryan, President


The Trustees, staff and I all know and appreciate the importance of the library in your lives. People care deeply about the Boston Public Library. We are in this together. The vision and our discussion today is a continuation of a public process started a few years ago with the neighborhood services initiative, continuing with recent community meetings and the many public comments. This is the next step in a complex decision making process....


We are at a crossroads. This is a moment in time when we have the opportunity to re-shape the BPL for ourselves and for our children and their children. We all know that the world of information continuously transforms itself... We owe it to the people of Boston to re-imagine the BPL into one that truly provides tomorrow’s services today. Essential to that commitment is enhancing our core services: hours, books, story times and programs, computers, research services at Copley and preservation of cultural treasures. Now we must go further. We can’t take a car designed in the 1970s onto today’s information superhighway. Now is the time to challenge ourselves to re-imagine the BPL for a successful future.

VISION Our vision is that the Boston Public Library touches every Bostonian and is transformative in providing system-wide services in three ways: (1) in buildings, (2) online and (3) in the community.

....The Boston Public Libraries are staying in the neighborhoods—still the library you love and have loved since childhood. Only they could be better. But right now, we are struggling to provide the right level of staffing—we are stretched to the point where we have had to close for lunches and dinners due to inadequate staffing, positions remain vacant such as children’s librarians, front line staff and others. The status quo is not working—for the staff or the public.
We can excel if we re-align our services. Our goals for both Copley and the branches are to:
  • Repurpose staff time to increase programming and classes and to form partnerships that have a direct, positive impact on the public.
  • Change library hours across the system to include more evenings, Saturdays and to increase staffing at peak times like after school hours.
  • Create a pool of staff who are program experts linked to services rather than locations for specialized programming like early literacy, computer skills, and book discussions.
  • Increase the number of computers so people don’t have to wait in line to fill out job applications, scholarship forms, write their resumes, view pictures of their grandkids, and on and on.
Our libraries are cultural anchors and learning institutions, and we must ensure that if the sign says Boston Public Library, we have committed the resources for families, adults and kids to find it open, well stocked with books and computers, with stimulating programs and the right level of staffing.
In the Community
Along with serving people in buildings and online, a third way and perhaps the greatest potential for transformation for library staff is to be in the community, meeting people where they are.
We need to redefine the boundaries of library services. Redraw them outside the walls of our buildings through community outreach. Our current staffing model does not allow us the flexibility to visit childcares, senior centers, or community events. We have passed up partnerships due to lack of staffing to support the innovative ideas...


This is just the beginning of building a truly 21st century library as we join with the community to forge ahead. We know this will take time. We can deliver on this vision, given our resources, if we choose to align our funding and staffing in a new way. Now there is a sense of urgency because of the financial challenges. Budget reductions for the upcoming fiscal year will take a serious human toll. This is the second year in a row where funding has necessitated layoffs...

Now I would like to talk about a methodology that measures our services, operations and proximities to other libraries. Before I do, though, we all know that every branch has an individual story, and part of the reason we are considering many data sources is that not one or two types of data tell a true story....Remember, we will also look to members of the public, friends and others to complete the whole picture.... ( my emphasis )

Monday, March 22, 2010

Suspicions confirmed?

I have spent a lot of time with mental health professionals in my day. For the most part they have been affect- less and really weird. Whenever I visited my family members in metal hospitals I was often struck by how out of it the nurses and especially the doctors looked. the vacant stares, the limp, soggy hadshales, the lack of eye contact.  I wonder if this article sheds some light on why my sister and I and those helping professionals did not ever "get along" ? The main exceptions were the social workers who usually were kind and efficient people who seemed to care for us and our sick family members. Or, has this research and theorizing been debunked in the 5 years that have passed since this was published?

"Are bio-medical scientists and experimental psychologists temperamentally well suited to the task of understanding human emotions and feelings?

Simon Baron-Cohen is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge. He is also co-director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge. Autistic individuals have a deficit in their capacity to perceive the feelings which other people experience in social situations. They also have difficulty recognizing that circumstances and events can be interpreted in a variety of ways by different individuals. Simon Baron-Cohen refers to this type of deficit as Mindblindness (the title of one of his books).

There are milder forms of autism in which cognitive functions are not impaired, and some individuals can have exceptional mathematical, musical or artistic abilities. Simon Baron-Cohen believes there are innate differences between male and female brains. In his view, female brains are predominantly wired for empathy, whereas male brains are predominantly wired for understanding and building systems. He describes autism as an extreme version of the male brain, which may explain why autism is more common among males.
The range of impairments, from mild to extreme, is referred to as the "Autism Spectrum," and encompasses cases of Asperger's Syndrome. Components of these various disorders include poor social skill, poor communication skill, poor imagination, exceptional attention to detail, poor attention-switching and a narrow focus of attention. Not all of them are necessarily present in each individual case.

A self-test is available as a PDF document on the Autism Research Centre's website. One particular study was designed to develop a brief, self-administered test for measuring the degree to which an adult with normal intelligence has traits associated with the autism spectrum. The report has the long-winded title "The Autism-Spectrum Quotient: Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/High Functioning Autism, Males and Females, Scientists and Mathematicians." If you read the research report it might help to keep in mind these acronyms:

AQ - Autism-spectrum Quotient.
AS - Asperger Syndrome.
HFA - High-Functioning Autism.

The research study assessed four groups of subjects:

Group 1: 58 adults with Asperger Syndrome.
Group 2: 174 randomly selected controls.
Group 3: 840 students in Cambridge University.
Group 4: 16 winners of the UK Mathematics Olympiad.

The report states:
"Among the group of 840 students, scientists scored significantly higher in autism spectrum traits than humanities and social sciences students, confirming an earlier study which showed that autistic traits are associated with scientific skills."
Within the subgroup of science students, mathematicians, engineers, physical, and computer scientists were found to have the highest scores, followed by biologists, experimental psychologists and medical students.

.... more at this blog "

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reading and eating my "Noodles" in Southgate Michigan

Oodles of noodles were piled on plates at Ford line Elementary School in Southgate recently.

The occasion?

A lesson on diversity keyed to a book, “Everybody Brings Noodles,” read by student teacher Amanda Green to the second-graders in BethAnn Taylor’s classroom.

The book, one in a series by author Norah Dooley, is about a little girl who organizes a block party in her multi-ethnic neighborhood.

To her surprise and delight, everyone brings a different sort of pasta, her favorite food. The book includes recipes.

Green asked the Southgate children’s parents to make the dishes in the book so they could be shared during a “diversity celebration” at school, Taylor said

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some interesting thoughts on story...endings, character and relationship

Well, first of all, massmouth's upcoming slam is linked here. So we are very happy. But check out yourself this amazing collection of links on storytelling from Gregg Morris   at  What's Your Story?  I have picked a few faves to highlight here.

"'s important to focus on the end. We remember the whole in terms of what happens at the end. With the colonoscopy research they found that just leaving in the tube for longer and not wiggling around too much gave people a happier ending. It's no coincidence then that a common plot structure is one where the story builds to a strong ending.
You can use this type of plot structure to plan and deliver a presentation so everyone remembers the experience. Of course a good memory of the event happens when the last thing you did is satisfying."

What is Characterization?

A storyteller uses characters to help communicate the key themes in a story. You’re the key character in your story, but there are undoubtedly others too — the people in your contact network, your colleagues and clients, mentors, family and friends, idols and heroes.
Characterization involves using the information you have about yourself to best effect in giving others a clear picture of you.

Building Your Character

If you were to think of yourself as a character, you can see that the information you choose to distribute about yourself, and the means you use to distribute it, will help others build a perception of you.
A storyteller selects crucial defining information about their characters and focuses on communicating that clearly, in a way that suits the character. We can do the same to build our personal brands efficiently.
Applying characterization techniques in personal branding is less a question of, for example, avoiding mentioning that you eat dinner at an unfashionable restaurant each week than it is about meeting your audience’s desire to know you in the most effective way.
We all know that there’s a plethora of options for communicating your character though personal branding, including:
  • the channels you use
  • the language you use
  • your profile data
  • the photos you publish of yourself and others
  • your interests, pastimes, and the topics you focus on, including links and other content you promote
  • your frequency and depth of public engagement with others
  • the places you like to visit or meet others
The other side to the characterization coin is to work out which pieces of information most clearly define the key aspects of your character. Few of us have time to transmit every piece of the minutiae of our days or nights, so we need to choose what we’ll communicate. How do you know what will best illustrate your character to your contacts?
The answer will depend on your character! I usually only communicate about things that I feel very strongly about — topics I’m passionate about — which in itself reflects my character to some degree. You might decide to focus on communicating the things you enjoy or like the most, or information regarding what you feel are the main, or most important, areas of your life. Conversely, you may choose predominantly to communicate about lighthearted, non-serious topics if you’re that kind of person.

Characterization in Practice

Some of my contacts are extremely good at characterization. One, a designer, uses a combination of his blog, Twitter and Flickr to communicate his professional and personal interests in a very coherent form, though at first glance, it may seem fragmented. He uses his blog to chart his creative pursuits and interests, Flickr to illustrate his role as a husband and dad, and Twitter to make brief philosophical comment on the world.
He rarely, if ever, links between the three, so he possibly sees these channels as serving different audiences. But as a friend and creative contact who I follow fairly closely through all these online channels (and see pretty often as well), these efforts combine to make him a very clear-cut character.
Another friend is a computer programmer by day and singer/bassist in a band by night. Between his blog, his Facebook page (he’s just polled his Facebook friends about whether he should cut his hair or not), his Twitter comments (he was recently snapped manning the BBQ at a backyard concert and tweeted the link) and technical articles he writes occasionally, as well as my personal contact with the guy I know and love, I have a clear idea of his character.
Obviously, since personal branding involves a range of channels, consistency of your character across all of these is key, but as my friends’ cases illustrate, it doesn’t mean you have to communicate the same pieces of information across all of those channels. But it may. Ultimately, the way you communicate your character is limited only by your creativity and personal preferences.
However you implement characterization, it will help your personal branding if you think about yourself as a character in your own story. I should help you put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and choose to communicate that character efficiently, effectively, and thoroughly through various channels.
How do you communicate your character online?

What Is Storytelling Without Relationships? (this was exciting because in it, the writer quotes blogger, Laura Packer !)

 Different Ways of Remembering: the Example of Storytelling, Mark Oppenneer writes:

The telling of a story not only suggests the physical presence of a storyteller and an audience, but the relationship that exists between the two, the relationships between members of the audience, the relationship between humans and the land on which they live and in which the action of the story transpires, etc.
Laura S. Packer views storytelling and relationships from a different angle in  Storytelling as connective tissue:
…[T]he shared experience of listening to a story makes the entire audience into one being. The story is the ligament that binds us. … Regardless of the length of the story, the setting in which it’s told, the experience of the teller or the teller’s background, when we tell authentically tell a story it binds audience members to each other and to the teller. Stories are connective tissue in culture and families as well. They are how we identify ourselves, how we know that I am of this group, so this is my story.

Some good things to muse upon as we enter the final phases of our story slam season.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Haiku Contest

Back in the day, when I was a starving,cab driving, art student -  a group of us SMFA students started a small gallery and school in Boston, right near Symphony Hall with one of our teachers. But that is a long story. To make it short, the school still exists and they hold a yearly haiku contest. Haiku is my fave poetic form - likely that I admire brevity because I talk too much? Anywho, I do find bloviation in others, an abomination ( 5 minute stories anyone?) Please pass on to your elementary school friends and anyone else you can think of - no age limit for entrants.

    18th century poet, Issa is one of my favorites....
  • In my old home
    which I left, the cherries
    are in bloom.
  • A giant firefly:
    that way, this way, that way, this -
    and it passes by.
  • Right at my feet -
    and when did you get here,
  • My grumbling wife -
    if only she were here!
    This moon tonight...
  • A lovely thing to see:
    through the paper window's hole,
    the Galaxy.
  • A man, just one -
    also a fly, just one -
    in the huge drawing room.

22nd  Annual  Kaji Aso Studio  International Haiku Contest

Deadline: April 15, 2010

First Prize: $250   Second Prize: $150   Third Prize: $50
Senryu Prize: $50      Elizabeth Searle Lamb Award: $50

The entry fee is $2  per haiku or senryu.  There is no limit on the number of haiku or senryu.  Please pay by check payable to Kaji Aso Studio .

Please type, computer print, or neatly write your entries on two identical 3``x 5`` cards or 8 ½`` X 11`` sheets of paper. One card or letter-size sheet should have your name and address on its back.

Check out the winning entries and honorable mentions from previous years (along with pages of beautiful art and fascinating info about Kaji Aso Studio ) at

All rights will revert back to the authors after May 31, 2010.  

Send submissions to:
Haiku Contest
Kaji Aso Studio
40 St Stephen St.
Boston , MA 02115

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Surabhi Shah at Harvard U

I really am glad that I went to hear Surabhi Shah.  Wicked sick but the stories were so good I was totally  lost in a world not my own.  I hope I did not infect anyone. I was infected by the magic of the stories that has stayed with me.

Because people actually LIKE to do good things...

What is this phenom all about? Is it mysterious? Is it a good thing or bad? Neither. Perhaps it is simply a neutral fact that humans like to do energetic things together. There, is that neutral enough to be true? And this is why these screens that connect us do not and will never completely replace the wonder of live music, story and theater.

Filmed on MARCH 6th in Times Square, NYC. Thanks Laura P for pointing me to this.

Hey Jude Times Square Subway Station from 39forks on Vimeo.

Monday, March 1, 2010

what we need to do...

"Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required."
- Winston Churchill

Yeah, what he said.

What is required? As a teenager I angsted over how to leave the world a bit better than I found it. As a woman of an "age certain" I am now sorry very to see what scant success we,that is, my generation has made. And what a mucking fess we are leaving to our children. But we are not "shuffled off this mortal coil yet." So...what is required of us? What can we do to halt nuclear madness, be it nuclear power or nuclear weapons? How will we stop the ravaging acts of violence between humans and the swiftly escalating degradation of our physical world? What is required? This my deep and abiding question,today.