Thursday, June 23, 2005

Ovations to Communications and More

When I began my creative communications business there were days when the only creative expression I made was with crayons. I am a WAHM—a Work At Home Mom—who nurtured two passions under one roof: my family and my business. In those days my office was a desk with a computer in the corner of the playroom. Through the years my children have grown, my business has flourished and my business now travels with me.

During the infancy of my business, I recognized how important integrated communications would be. As a WAHM I often juggle client meetings with orthodontist appointments; project deadlines with sports practices; business research with homework research. One of the ways I keep linked with business and family activities is through my computer planner. Microsoft Outlook provides a link between my business and my family. I enter all family appointments into my Outlook Calendar and link them to my HP iPAQ PDA for portable accessibility. Each family member gets a color code and every Monday I print out the weekly calendar and hang it in the kitchen. Outlook Contact Manager allows me to track client communications and assures that projects remain on schedule. The new spam-blocking feature in Outlook 2003, along with sophisticated rules usage, makes opening email a joy once again.

On September 11, 2001, one of my clients needed to reschedule a seminar planned for the next day because of the logistics that stalled travel during that tenuous time. As I sat at my daughter’s tennis practice I wrote emails on my notebook computer, accessing all the seminar attendee information from an Excel spreadsheet. I saved the emails in my Outlook drafts folder and when I got home I plugged in my notebook and sent the emails. (Four years later I now have wireless communication which would have sped that up even more.)

Two years ago the convenience of portability and the elegance of integrated systems took me out of my home office and into the hospital room of my terminally ill mother. For two months I set up my notebook computer at her bedside and quietly operated my business while caring for my mother in her final days. I journaled my personal reactions to my mother’s situation, while also documenting her care. Without leaving the hospital room, I emailed invoices; registered attendees for a seminar; set-up name badges for the attendees; designed two business newsletters from copy I downloaded from clients; created a travel poster for an incentive sales trip; kept in touch with my clients through email, and above all kept profitability in the black. I did all this using the phone line from my mother’s hospital room and my laptop computer. The doctor even joked with me about the hospital charging me office rent. After my mother passed, I worked out some of my grief by creating for her memorial service an eight-page printed program with color photos and a 48-slide PowerPoint tribute to my mother’s life. Never have I felt more value for my skills than the day I watched the tribute to my mother’s life bring tears to the eyes of our whole family.

An even more product specific version of this post earned me an honorable mention in a recent Microsoft business solutions writing contest. While the contest was designed to spotlight particular Microsoft Office components, I've edited them out here to reveal the heart of my story. Today is the two-year anniversary of my mother's passing.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Writers are strange birds. We all begin as ducklings before the metaphorical transformation to swans. We love words. Some of us love the spoken word as much as the written word. The emergence of the internet and the plethora of online groups that grew from that first collection of interest-based bulletin boards have created virtual taverns where simulated spirits are downed with cyber conversation. On my way back from Britain, I stopped over in New York City for the Backspace Writer’s Conference and a visit to Book Expo America, the USA’s premier publishing marketplace and conference.

Where BEA was overwhelming in size and scope, the Backspace Writer’s Conference was cozy and competent in providing a physical setting for a virtual tavern where professional advice is poured as generously as idle chatter. The conference brought together several of publishing’s top literary agents, editors, established authors and rising stars—some of whom are not yet published.

Most of the weblationships I’ve built through the years have been through writer’s groups. I never was a pen-pal kind of girl who sought friends among strangers. Looking back, I think a pen pal might have been a good thing during the awkward years of adolescence when my peers were turning into swans and I was still a duckling. In the fiction world I’m still something of a duckling. The promise of the transformation is visible—my neck is lengthening, my feathers are turning—but they’re just not quite there. The online peers who’ve made the transformation—some of whom have molted dozens of times with books of magnificent achievement—dole out encouragement as much as those still itching from the knobby feather buds prickling their skin.