Are you still glad to ‘live on this earth?’ On summer renewal in the July edition of ‘Tell Your Story Newsletter’

July 2022 Vol 4 Issue 7
Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling
Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-July, 2022!

In sharp contrast to June, the last week of July has brought us hotter than seasonal temperatures in Saskatchewan, including one day of 36 degrees Celsius! But gardeners whom I know have been relieved to get some heat, after the cool and rainy days of June. Summer on the Prairies does not feel
“right” somehow, without at least one heat wave!

In Article One, in this issue, I share a new story from a different–more spiritual–perspective than usual. It features a recent visit to my church’s ecumenical camp on the southern shores of Christopher Lake (45 minutes North of Prince Albert, SK). Facing exhaustion and with depression looming on the horizon, I opted to carpool to camp, in order to “unplug” from teaching, writing and to generally escape urban life!  The insights from those five days have been an unexpected gift that I’m delighted to share with you.

In “Storytellers’ Corner,” I share what sounds like a hilarious grammar game (an oxymoron, you say? Maybe not . . . ) from American grammarian, Mignon Fogarty.

And in “Shop News,” I take an “artist’s date” along Valley Road and, in addition to the delights located there, I promote three unrelated businesses which do much to improve the lives of their clients and prospects.

My wish for all of you, good readers, is that this summer will give you time to renew relationships with family and/or friends; to restore your minds with creativity; and to leave you grateful for the blessings and benefits that grace our lives, even in challenging times.

Happy summer.


Storytelling Communications

ARTICLE 1: Are you still glad to live ‘on this earth?’: on summer renewal

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: The grammar game, ‘Peeve Wars’



Article One: Are you still glad to ‘live on this earth?’ On summer renewal

As an ESL teacher and business communications specialist who also contributes many hours as a family caregiver, I’m not someone looking around for things to do!

But coping with burnout and lost productivity, while also wanting to avoid the messiness of air travel in this (Covid) summer, I surprised colleagues by signing up for five days of “helping in the kitchen” at the camp of my church (St. Andrew’s Presbyterian).

Please understand that it’s not that I feel I’m “above” helping out at camp. It’s more that I haven’t expected what happens there to be relaxing–that is, a space of toddlers’ smelly diapers, kitchen fires and chaos, angry wasps, voracious mosquitoes and so on. But, hoping for something better and “itching” to leave town (haha), I made some calls . . . .

My church camp is simply called, “Camp Christopher,” and was started in the 1940s when the church purchased land on the southern side of beautiful Christopher Lake (45 minutes north of Prince
Albert, SK). For decades, the camp has run gatherings of women, men, children and families, as well as provided the meeting space for other, secular groups and organizations.

And entrepreneurs learn and gain so much when we can participate in charitable activities that are organized by capable staff. The time or labour we invest often exceeds any monetary value or payment, on both sides.

Camp Christopher is based on a spirit of “ecumenism,” or openness toward faith perspectives. Every summer, the camp provides (as its mission statement says) a “safe, caring community where all may explore faith, celebrate creation and grow in relationship with Christ.” Rooted in Christian faith, but without lapsing into dogma, fundamentalism or evangelism, youth and children’s camps are designed to build the skills and character needed for the “leaders of tomorrow.”

The camp offers a wide variety of supervised water sports, art classes, photography, movie and reading times, delectable food (three square meals plus yummy bedtime snacks!) and more. There is even “tuck,” where campers can enjoy candy and treats that return them to early childhood.
(Remember “Mr. Freezies” and blue whales, anyone?)

Camp programming has meant much to generations of youth and families, over the past 80+ years. For instance, two of the camp’s most mature counsellors–two indigenous young men from Prince
Albert–are coming into their own. Yet they declined other, more financially lucrative, summer job prospects, in order to return to camp, for a final year. Thoughts of “reconciliation” between indigenous and settler communities were open for meditation and discussion.

Donna Wilkinson (Camp Administrator, runs a group home for autistic men in Regina, working shifts that allow her to finance running the camp) and Nicole Lindgren (Camp Director and head facilitator for children and youth, who administers the property between May and October, and has worked with
youth for years) are deeply talented, resourceful women. They are also delightful to spend time with.

Hearing their memories and the camp’s “success stories” can make your hearts glow. As I found, volunteering at a grassroots camp (that still needs camperships and funds!) can help us to get “back the basics” of our lives while also helping campers to experience life-altering programming.

Camp Christopher helps participants to return refreshed and better able to make critical decisions, whether on career or family.

My five days at camp involved hard work: I helped the talented, red-seal chef Bev Redman in the kitchen (what she jokingly termed a “sous-chef” position), set tables for meals, and cleaned up afterwards. But the dramatic change of scene from Saskatoon and simple repetition of tasks helped me to feel restored, emotionally and spiritually.

I lived the comment shared by meditation expert, Sam Harris:

“Just look around you and take a moment to feel how
blessed you are—
you get another day to live on this earth.”

I hope, good readers, amid the long daylight hours of this season, that you have an opportunity to pause from the rushed pace of life, to observe summer’s unfurled beauty, and to store its warmth in your minds.
To visit Camp Christopher, inquire about this summer’s schedule (camperships are still available), or to donate to its programming, please contact Donna Wilkinson at (306) 535-6916.

And now it’s your turn: How are you finding renewal this summer? Please share your experience with me; I’d be delighted to use it in another issue of “TYSN!”






Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . . The grammar game, ‘Peeve Wars’

Looking for another summer escape, without leaving the patio or pool deck? Grammar and writing specialist Mignon Fogarty recently announced that she’s developed a “card game for summer fun.”

It’s called “Peeve Wars.” The object of the game is to collect the highest number of grammatical “pet peeve” cards, to annoy your opponents to “death!”

“Hi, yous all,” “I seen that already,” “Irregardless, I’ll participate,” are only three of many, offending examples that come to mind.

Only grammar heroes such as lexicographer “Noah Webster” and the game’s resident librarian will protect you!

The game can be played by two to four players, requires strategy and promises to be “different every time.”

It’s available for $15.99 (USD) from The Game Crafter.

Do you have a story, riddle or joke on any aspect of communications? Please share it with me; I’d be delighted to use it in an upcoming issue.









Since summer is best when it involves R&R (see “article one” of my time at camp), I thoroughly enjoyed a visit last week to Floral Acres on Valley Road, only a few days after returning from camp! Although we are now late into gardening season, with both annuals and perennials struggling in their
greenhouse, Floral Acres also boasts a huge selection of (happier!) houseplants, and lovely trade items that pertain to indoor and outdoor plant life!

Capping off the afternoon with a stop at The Berry Barn for some of their wonderful Saskatoon berry cobbler, I felt the time was what writer Julia Cameron calls an“artist’s date.” But in this case, it was enjoyed with a like-minded friend!

Have you explored Valley Road, lately?

In addition to the places we visited, it is home to Black Fox Farm & Distillery (with its famed wildflower farm), and the Robertson Valley Farm, a great source of fresh garden produce.

If you cannot leave town for long this summer, do please explore these businesses to leave behind the concrete and tedium of urban life!
I’m delighted to update you on the success of digiSMART, the latest programming from Saskatoon’s own Praxis School of Entrepreneurship.

DigiSMART allows entrepreneurs of all kinds to “upskill” their digital knowledge.

The program’s first cohort has finished and are fast at work applying what they’ve learned.

Now: be honest. What skills do you need for your business, but haven’t had the time or money to invest in?

Taking digiSMART training has been made possible by provincial funding and so is even available FREE for business owners in and around Saskatoon!

Select from a range of 40 modules: Basic, Strategic and Specialized. Register for just one or four or 40 and build your skills toolbox.

It’s not too late to register for modules in Cohort 2, running from July through October!

Training is held at the start of the business day, from 7:15 am to 8:45 am, at 131 Wall Street (PSE Office, Saskatoon).

Going to the lake, you say? No problem! Join digiSMART via Zoom!

Special, in-depth seminars on SEO, cryptocurrency/ blockchain, podcasting, blogging and social media will be offered as the summer progresses (including by facilitators like me).

Contact Elaine ( or at (306) 664-0500 to get the outline of modules and for information on how to register.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity of the summer (that will last long beyond): digiSMART!

And spread the news to other business owners who want to upgrade their tech skills in order to grow their businesses!
A shout-out this month to freelance office furniture expert, Rory Perron, a fellow alum of the “startSMART” program at the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship.

Having years of experience in selling office furniture, Rory now leads “Local Liquidations,” acquiring and selling top-quality (pristine), matching pieces of hotel and commercial furnishings, at affordable prices.

He has the experience also to advise on layout, and can arrange for delivery and installation.

Cubicles and filing cabinets as well as smaller pieces (desks, chairs, window coverings, etc.) are available.
Rory is also appreciated for collaborating with others, including entrepreneurs at Prairie Office Moving and Installation (earlier featured in this newsletter) and has been known to run a marathon or two!
Find Rory at, or by phone at (306) 230-4177.
Closer to home, I am enjoying teaching ESL students, involving detailed conversations spanning topics from the history of modern cinema (with a major on director, Ernst Lubitsch), to European opera to classical singing with my student, Eliane, who lives south of Paris (France).

I also teach the fundamentals of English grammar (focusing on reading and writing) to a newcomer student, who is a refugee from Eritrea.

ESL can involve such highly diverse teaching and students that I often wished I’d entered it before 2021, when I first received certification (from,
Inverness, Scotland).

I continue to be encouraged by TEFL’s professional webinars and blog postings that share some of the field’s diversity with those building experience, like me.

There are always new businesses and entrepreneurial programs to promote. Please write me to share your stories . . . . . .But this is a wrap for mid-July!
Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help newcomers to Canada to secure better jobs by improving their language skills; I help small- and medium-sized businesses to close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I help major companies to
tell their legacy stories.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant
website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
Please visit my website for more information (

Can English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers teach learners to write more effectively? On language misuse in this month’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter”

June 2022 Vol 4 Issue 6

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-June, 2022!

We have had cooler than seasonal temperatures this month and a week of steady rain as I write this issue. But gardeners and farmers alike are mostly relieved for the moisture, which renews the parched soil of our province’s precious grasslands.

Many Saskatchewanians dread “construction” season which is all the more intense because the road and sidewalk projects from earlier Covid years have been postponed until now. But all around us the greening of the trees and grass and the recent flowering of lilacs and fruit trees have brought remarkable beauty to our neighbourhoods. I hope amid the rushed pace of your schedules, good readers, that you can find time to observe summer’s unfolding beauty and to store the season’s warmth in your minds.

In Article One, this issue, taking two public signs as examples of language misuse, I raise the question, “Can English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors teach learners to write more effectively (than we do)?”

And in “Storytellers’ Corner,” we consider etymologist Bryan Garner’s discussion on the term “disconnect,” a “casualism” in which a noun is extracted from a verb and used in informal speech and writing.

In the news are many signs of strife and difficulty, from the soaring costs of gasoline and food, due to Russia’s war on Ukraine and Covid’s disruption of our supply-management chains; to unstable and uncertain air travel in these late pandemic times. . . And yet, as many of us strive to do work that “lights us up” while also making a difference in our communities, we see that much continues to be good in our world and warrants our awareness of it.

May this summer be a time to renew relationships with your family and/or friends, good readers; and to relax enough to restore your minds and creativity; and may we all remember to be grateful for the blessings that still grace our lives.

Happy summer.



Principal,  Storytelling Communications




ARTICLE 1:  Can ESL instructors teach learners to write better (than we do)?

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: The case of “disconnect” with Bryan Garner




Article One: Can ESL instructors teach learners to write better (than we do)? 

Sometimes, even in unexpected places like supermarket shelves and the doors of downtown office buildings, passersby can find evidence of poor writing–of language misuse.

Recently, while shopping for food at a discount grocer’s chain, I saw a sign that begged to be edited:







Now, since editors can occasionally sound grumpy about the poor language skills native speakers show in public places, I must first acknowledge the thoughtfulness of this sign, intended by store staff to notify shoppers that inventory was recently moved. The intention was to alleviate confusion and inefficiency for shoppers.

Since I had been looking for  whole wheat, saltine crackers, I was mostly grateful to read this sign.

That said, as you’ll have noted, the sign misspells the word “aisle” as “isle,” ironically advising shoppers to find the “9th isle” (sic), which they would (in a literal sense) be hard-pressed to locate in the dozen or more “aisles” in the store.

“Never you mind,” a voice may say in the heads of many native speakers of English: the sign does a “good enough” job of communicating where in the large store one can find those elusive baked biscuits.

The only remaining problem is that the sign also begged for some editorial fact-checking, since my visit to the store’s “9th [a]isle” told me that crackers of any kind were not there to be found! Glancing at my watch and aware of other errands queued up for the afternoon, I opted to drop the item from my grocery list, going without some food that I’d recently included in my meal planning.

“So what?” might say the voice in many shoppers’ heads: the crackers could wait for another week, during which time someone in the store (shopper or staff) would certainly have recognized the misinformation in the sign, and perhaps also its misspelling, improving accuracy, all around.

Then one short day later, when I was running errands downtown, I encountered another (arguably well-intentioned) sign that miscommunicated its message:






The fused sentence between “door” and “wind,” which begs for punctuation, had none at all. Furthermore, the line breaks in the message (which designers or layout people might also lament) confuse the grammatical object of the action of what should be the sign’s first sentence (“door”) with the grammatical subject of what should be the sign’s second sentence (“wind”).

The hapless person who fashioned the above sign also used universal “caps lock” formatting, further confusing where one thought ends and a second begins.

This sign forces even a native (first language) speaker of English entering the doorway to read its message (at least) twice, before understanding what it may mean to say.

“Now, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill,” a reader might say, since re-reading the sign would likely still allow most pedestrians to understand its jist and so to manually close the door behind themselves.

“All’s well that ends well,” such a reader might conclude. Whoever posted the sign intended to preserve the safety and security of the building from undesirable, seasonal weather. The door was in fact closed and intact, when I came upon the sign.

“But not so fast!” (might say Saskatoon’s master editor, Wilf Popoff, who has given riveting and hilarious talks on such commonplace sloppy communication). Are these two instances of faulty signage really adequate in our already helter-skelter, fast-paced world?

One can imagine an episode of Mr. Bean, when he would lose hours in [a]isle nine, searching for saltine crackers at the supermarket; and where the door with the second sign would slap him in the face, as the wind caught it and forced it open . . . .

And who among us wants to live like Mr. Bean?

Furthermore, in my work as an English as a Second Language teacher to newcomers to Canada, I find myself feeling annoyed when I see linguistic misuse. “Get a life” some readers might say, but good communication is especially important when we teach the English language to those who are first learning what good usage in English means. That knowledge is vital, as newcomers strive to participate in our communities.

In a recent webinar, fellow ESL teacher, Emma Blackledge, observed that “teaching writing to ESL students” means “teaching good writing principles.” Whether a student is a beginner, an advanced user of English, or even a native speaker like many of us, “everyone needs better writing skills.”

Now, my reading lately as an ESL teacher has involved survival English, often referred to as “literacy” instruction. It is about communicating how to introduce oneself to others, hold a pen, open a bank account and understand what “windchill” means at the outset of a prairie winter.

Yet from my perspective, the two public signs I’ve described are valid “texts” for newcomers (and not only native speakers) to consider, because the signs invite the kind of interactive and collaborative exchanges that make language learning come alive.

Albeit for a level four to eight student (and not necessarily for a “survival” one), one lesson plan could demonstrate the importance of correct spelling and checking the accuracy of facts; another lesson could examine the importance of grammatical sentence structure in conveying a sign’s meaning . . .

So to prevent ourselves and newcomers to Canada from experiencing chaotic and unfulfilling lives (resembling Mr. Bean’s) and without disregarding the humour that can arise from faulty signage, my point is that we ALL need to demand–and teach–better language use.

And now it’s your turn: What errors have you found in public signage recently? How would you correct them if you found yourself teaching new learners of English? Please share your experiences; I’d be delighted to include them in a future issue.



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . .

This month: the case of “disconnect” with Bryan Garner

This month and in the context of the signage analyzed in Article One, I was interested to read in his recent blog, American etymologist, Bryan Garner, discuss the noun “disconnect.”

Garner says that “disconnect” is a short form of “disconnection,” that arose in the 1980s and became “ubiquitous after about 1995.” He writes that the term “is primarily used to label (1) a clash between what is expected and what happens; or (2) more mundanely, the failure of a connection, such as the internet, telephone, or utility.”

“Disconnect,” Garner writes, “typifies a popular trend in CASUALISM, by which an established noun (‘disconnection’) is truncated to form a new noun that looks the same as the corresponding verb, but differs in pronunciation.

The new noun has the accent on the (/dis-kә-nekt/), while the verb has the accent on the last (/dis-kә-nekt/). This pronunciation scheme follows the pattern of many standard verb-noun pairs, such as ‘contest’ and ‘progress’.”

Garner concludes (perhaps with annoyance?) that these “new forms” are not appropriate in formal writing. They also reflect a degree of English usage that is higher than that of literacy or foundational learners, but which native speakers should be aware of, so as not to confuse those learners.

Do you have a story, query or joke on any aspect of writing or communications? Please share it with me; I’d be delighted to use it in an upcoming issue. 



This summer, I am engaged in the certification process of studying the Canadian Centre for Language Benchmarks (CCLB)’s “Bootcamp,” on the theory and practice of literacy or “survival” ESL in Canada.

Reviewing multiple manuals of theory and examples, I look forward to applying this knowledge to both public and private classes of learners of ESL.

Special thanks also this month to Lindsay Matheson and Pat Kuzmik, of Saskatoon Open Door Society’s Language Training Unit, for discussing the discipline of survival ESL with me.

Since the fall of 2021, I have led a conversation circle at Open Door, including “Discover Canada” (for newcomers seeking citizenship); and, since last winter, a general “conversation circle” for newcomers, targeting Canadian Centre of Language Benchmark levels four to six (pre-intermediate to intermediate).

It’s heartening to witness more of the amazing work that local non-profits, supervisors and volunteers do in language traning; and also, how well that work is received by many of our newcomer population.


Congratulations this month to two women entrepreneurial experts who are bringing better knowledge of (and engagement with) digital technology to our province and well beyond: Katrina German and her team at “Ethical Digital” recently piloted their “Social Media and Well-Being Certification,” to content creators who know the relevance of digital technology to everyday life (not to mention its challenges).

Katrina will officially launch the program at the IABC World Conference in New York on June 27th, when it will become a paid training option for communicators and other users.

And this past winter/spring, Monica Kreuger and her team launched the new program “digiSMART” for entrepreneurs, which teaches hands-on, market-ready technology training to people of all backgrounds who don’t want to fall behind on (ever-changing) technology use.

(Full disclosure: I will teach some business communication modules in the future of digiSMART; but I am not paid affiliate’s fees to promote Katrina’s or Monica’s programs.)

These are two amazing women entrepreneurs with powerful, specialized teams! Check out the programming both provide to witness the power of technology for entrepreneurs and their clients, on a world-class level.


There are always new businesses and entrepreneurial programs to promote. Please write me to share yours. . . But for now, this is a wrap for mid-June!



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help new immigrants to Canada to improve their English language skills, so as to secure their first or better jobs. I also help small- and medium-sized businesses to close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I write chapbooks for major companies, to promote their legacy stories.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information:  (



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Want to sell books to those who don’t read? Terry O’Reilly tells us how in this month’s issue of “Tell your Story Newsletter”

May 2022 Vol 4 Issue 5

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!


ARTICLE 1: Want to sell or promote books to those who don’t read?! Terry O’Reilly tells us how

STORYTELLER’S CORNER:  The irritating case of “at this time,” with Bryan Garner




Welcome Mid-May 2022!

Mild temperatures and, for the most part, sunshine, have been very welcome through the first half of May, including a couple of days above 20 degrees Celsius! Some Saskatonians have broken out their shorts; and many, their sandals!

Garden centres are opening, with price wars beginning over hanging flower baskets, bedding plants and perennials. . . And the “perennial” question (asked by many, including Leisha Gribinski of CBC radio’s “Saskatoon Morning” last week) is this: “Do we really have to wait for the May long weekend to get planting?”

Hungry for green leaves and flowers, I’ve noticed some shoppers keenly surveying plants from the tantalizing displays at local grocers, as well as at the Berry Barn, Dutch Growers, Floral Acres and other local companies.

And at a recent meeting of the ESL conversation circle that I co-led for newcomers (through Saskatoon Open Door Society), the topic was, appropriately, “gardening tools.” My co-leader, herself an avid gardener, asked participants questions about gardening implements, how to use compost in the garden, and even whether they had inquired about  local seed libraries. Newcomers with backyards or access to community garden plots had stories of previous success.

Open Door’s conversation circle also stressed the importance of getting outside, “drinking in the sun and the air” and digging in moist soil with one’s hands, after another long, Prairie winter. For those living in apartments or condos, I reminded our newcomers that container pot gardening can be an enjoyable alternative. Even folk who have only houseplants can take them outdoors on a balcony, allowing them to flourish in the fresh air and direct sunlight.

What really matters, I suggested to the circle, was communing with nature as much as possible, such as by sitting outdoors with a cup of tea and a good book. It’s so important to be fully conscious of the beauty of these days and to store up that feeling to draw on, in the months after spring and summer end.

And since many people don’t have (or make) time to read during the year, just which book(s) we’ll read in our gardens depends greatly on how books are marketed. So, in “Article One” of this month’s issue of TYSN, I visit Terry O’Reilly’s recent podcast on how to sell books to those who “don’t read.”

In “Storyteller’s Corner,” I return to a usage tip from American etymologist Bryan Garner, for whom the phrase “at this time” is a weed to be pulled from our linguistic garden beds.

And “Shop News” refers to details from my recent ESL teaching and to excellent programs and products from local entrepreneurs who deserve close attention and patronage.

Valued readers, may the appreciable lengthening of our daytime hours and the human respect and equality we still find in our communities help us to cope with these late Covid days and with a globe so torn by violence and strife.

I send renewed wishes for good health, personal growth and prosperity to you all.



Principal,  Storytelling Communications


Article OneWant to sell or promote books to those who don’t read? Terry O’Reilly tells us how . . .

Recently, I listened to a fascinating episode of the CBC radio show, “Under the Influence,” hosted by Canada’s wonderful, (silver-tongued) ad-man, Terry O’Reilly. The topic was “book marketing,” so I knew I had to tune in!

In this late digital age, most ESL teachers, writers, editors, publishers and others who work with words know that promoting a book that they have written, or a bookstore, is not easy. (See Penelope Fitzgerald on this topic, The Bookshop, which for non-readers was made into a great film [lol!].)

As O’Reilly comments, 2.2 million books are published each year in English and yet most adults in North America do not read after high school. To sell a book, he says, you must have “luck, timing, word-of-mouth and some inventive marketing.”

While fewer people now read books than in previous centuries, even in our digital age, book reading is not dead. O’Reilly cites the success of the antique Portuguese bookstore, Avelar Machado (AM) which opened in 1876 and remains the oldest used bookstore in the world. It sells “almost pristine” used books, with barely noticeable imperfections, priced at a much lower rate than new ones.

AM is remarkable, however (O’Reilly tells us), because it has made advertisements to promote its used books that were “suitable for framing.” You may have seen reproductions of these ads—“improved upon” images of James Joyce, wearing taped eyeglasses; Agatha Christie, with a small bandaid on her forehead; and Mark Twain, with a shaving cut papered on his chin!

When classic authors like these bore barely noticeable imperfections, AM implied that gently used books would be just as good (not to mention cheaper) than their new counterparts. And it worked! AM’s sales spiked.

O’Reilly reported that Penguin Classics also created posters with the tagline, “Escape into a book,” with photos of people on busy subways, waiting for buses, or in airports, where remained a single empty seat on which an open book had been placed!

However busy you are, the marketing said, there is still time to escape into a great book. Similarly, Penguin posted images of well-worn, heavily annotated classics owned by famous contemporary authors. Those ads also succeeded.

More evidence that book reading is not dead, O’Reilly reports, comes from India, where the average reader reads 10 hours and 42 minutes per week; contrast that to Canada and the US, where we clock in less than six hours for that period!

How is it that Indians out-read us? In part it’s because more than 70 million people in India buy English language books. However, this has a troubled underbelly, O’Reilly says, since nearly 40% of those books are pirated copies, sold on the streets by gangs for “less than half of the cover price.” Most of the buyers don’t even know their copies are pirated, because the covers and bindings look legitimate. Publishers lose $620 million (USD) each year to such piracy.

Another example of book or arts-related marketing that O’Reilly shares is Netflix’s development of the “Because You Watched” tool, which appears at the end of any movie or show you view on the streaming service. The tool (which has an 85% response rate from viewers) recommends to viewers the next movie or show they should watch.

But, O’Reilly reports, the problem is that often the recommended next movie usually has no relevance to the one you just saw! Analyzing the nature of the new (suggested) show reveals only vague similarities in theme or casting to what you’ve just seen. Accuracy is not the promo’s strong suit, and yet the response rate flourishes.

More relevant still, when Brazil’s bookstore “Librarie Cultura” (LC) saw this “Netflix” effect, it decided to try it with its own spin: LC featured in-store posters and graphics on its social media accounts, connecting movies and TV shows to books.

For instance, one poster said, “Because you watched ‘House of Cards,’ next try reading Othello.” Shakespeare’s themes of politics, murder and betrayal, it implied, make it a good pairing with the Netflix series.

Similarly, O’Reilly reports that LC connected the supernatural, science fiction and horror of another Netflix series, “Stranger Things,” with books or stories by Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe. Similarly, “The Matrix” was paired with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

In such campaigns, O’Reilly observes, marketers “connect the dots” between Hollywood and classic books, creating a “powerful gateway to binge reading” among people who would never otherwise read.

In a similar vein, the “Carrefore” supermarket chain in Europe boosted the sales of its “discounted grocery store books” by displaying them near the food they featured: Moby Dick appeared in a stand near the fresh fish section, Snow White next to fresh apples and Bram Stoker’s Dracula near the garlic display! It’s hard to deny the appeal . . .

O’Reilly cites another case of book marketing that (literally and figuratively) takes the cake: a restaurant in Union, CT, which has lined its walls with 9000 books—the “side-order” of any meal ordered there. For every dinner you eat, you can take up to three books home, at no further charge.

Diners are known to peruse the book collection for hours, and the menu is thematically clever, featuring Catcher in the Rye (for a sandwich on rye bread) and a “Charles Dickens’ wrap.” The restaurant’s owners regularly scour used bookstores and sales to stock the restaurant’s bookcases. Movie and music stars Robert Redford and Bruce Springsteen are among the celebrities who have visited, such is the restaurant’s quirky and fun reputation.

In all this marketing, savvy strategists like O’Reilly know, paradoxically, “If you want to reach people who don’t usually buy books, you have to reach people who don’t usually buy books.”

That is, you need to find new ways to reach this audience.

Finally (and the most dynamic story from O’Reilly’s show) is that of “Editora Carambaia” (EC), a Brazilian publisher that has mounted a bookselling campaign like no other. They teamed up with a local college professor, who was leading a bookclub at a nearby prison.

The publisher donated books to the prison to help inmates develop their analytical and communication skills. Soon the prison inmates were found to have read nine times more books than civilians!

So the National Justice Council and EC created a program called “The Prison Reviews,” which turned prison inmates into literary critics by giving them 30 days to read a book, write and submit a review on it.

Some inmates were surprisingly insightful. A committee evaluated their submissions and found the reviews so remarkable that Carambaia turned them into an ad campaign!

Ads appeared over social media, radio commercials and on bookstore posters, bookmarks and other stationery, including videos of inmates reading online. These and a documentary were uploaded to YouTube.

“The Prison Reviews” program also improved inmates’ reading and writing skills, “alongside [their] hope and dignity”: each well-written review took four days off their sentences. (Inmates exchanged one kind of sentence for another!) The program gave a voice back to the most marginalized in Brazilian society and, as O’Reilly puts it, “allowed them to rewrite their destinies.”

So Terry O’Reilly asks, how does a publisher get a book noticed, in a sea of new releases? And how do you get people who don’t read (much) to pick up a book?

Inventive marketing, in his estimation, answers both of these questions.

He says—and all of the above stories confirm this—”the best marketing is rooted in insight and emotion.”

And now it’s your turn. When did you last read a book? And how would you try to market a book you like to non-readers?

Please write me on my “contact” page. I’d be delighted to hear from you.



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . .

This month: The irritating case of “at this time” 

The phrase “at this time” drew particular outrage from American etymologist, Bryan Garner, in one of his recent blog postings.

Using the phrase, “at this time,” he writes, “smacks of waffling OFFICIALESE, especially when the phrase comes at a SENTENCE END—e.g.: ‘We don’t have any comments at this time,’ said Disney spokesman Ken Green. . . .‘Our revenues and profits are record-setting at this time,’ Mr. Green said (Christine Wicker, ‘Giant Against Giant,’ Dallas Morning News, 14 June 1997, at G1.)”

The expression “at this time” is certainly verbal filler. But how else can we express something in the present?

Garner responds: “The more natural wording would be something like this: ‘We don’t have any comments right now.’” Or: “Our revenues and profits are currently setting records.”

Garner also cautions of the worse case of “at this point in time” or “at this present time,” which detract even further from concise (and therefore powerful) writing, which is always our writerly goal. (One imagines Garner even more outraged by these phrases!)

And now it’s your turn: Do you find many examples of  similar “filler” phrases like “at this time” in your reading and writing?

Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you. 



I’ve been delighted first to co-lead and now to lead solo a conversation circle  for English language learners at Saskatoon Open Door Society (ODS).  These circles are currently held online (due to our current Covid patterns) but soon will be held outdoors in some of Saskatoon’s most picturesque parks! Many thanks to coordinator Lisa Focardi for her organizing skills.

New immigrants to Saskatoon and area flock to these classes to improve their English language skills, so as to advance their education and/or to secure better jobs.

ODS works hard through many outreach activities  to meet the needs of newcomers to Saskatoon, often in very challenging circumstances. Thanks also to Sukhman Kaur and Kira Epp for the development of the conversation circle program.


Some hot-off-the-press news: Have you heard about the latest program offering from Saskatoon’s Praxis School of Entrepreneurship?

It’s called “digiSMART”, and it provides FREE classes on many aspects of digital technology to business owners, facilitated by team directors Monica and Brent Kreuger, chief facilitator, Deanna Litz, and selected alumni of the school’s earlier programs (me included).

I’ve attended some of digiSMART’s modules and they’ve been amazing –first rate learning and networking opportunities!

digiSMART even includes customized coaching that will assist entrepreneurs in integrating technology into their pre-existing businesses.

An intake is already underway and the program is currently FREE to attend! So call or email program administrator, Elaine Mantyka, NOW, for more information: (306) 664-0500 and


Later this summer, valued colleagues and I will present through digiSMART modules on communication methods:

Christina Cherneskey will teach a powerful podcasting seminar. Read more about her work at and find her on Twitter and on TikTok @ccherneskey.

Megan Kent’s videography firm, “Little Ox Film Company” will facilitate classes on video production, which has become central to so much of today’s marketing.

And I’ll happily reprise a revised seminar on blogging, also as part of digiSMART. I look forward to helping established entrepreneurs write more of their own marketing materials.


I’m also delighted to promote this month a great local business–Prairie Office Moving and Installation (POMI). It’s located at Unit 6–56th Street East (between Miners and Millar Avenues) in Saskatoon. It’s worth the call and the short drive!

POMI sells gently used office furniture (filing cabinets, desks, shelving units, etc.)  from their storage bay, which is open to the public to view. Its receptionist, Wanda, is knowledgeable and welcoming to clients and positive about phone contact, even after hours.

I found a first-class lateral filing cabinet but also saw other, gently used, pieces at prices far lower than their competitors’! And this, amidst Covid-related shipping supply problems that are said to have inflated the cost of metal furniture.

So for great deals on gently used, office or home office furnishings, visit POMI’s website or call Wanda first:  (306) 477-7778!


There are always more local entrepreneurs and small businesses to promote (and I receive NO affiliate fees for doing so). So please contact me with your good news supplier stories!

But this is a wrap for mid-May!


Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now assist SMEs in closing more sales by communicating more effectively; I help Canadian newcomers land better jobs by improving their language skills; and I write the legacy stories of major companies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website. After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information: .



Do you talk too much in ESL classrooms or entrepreneurial boardrooms? Four ways to improve participation in this month’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter”

April 2022 Vol 4 Issue 4

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling
Let me tell your story!

ARTICLE 1: Do you talk too much in ESL classrooms or entrepreneurial boardrooms? Four corrections to improve class and boardroom participation

STORYTELLER’S CORNER: On Canada’s version of “Wordle”–“Canuckle!”




Welcome Mid-April, 2022!
After experiencing a lovely 10-day stretch of warmth in March, we descended this month into more wintry—and very windy—weather. The wind has affected Wi-Fi, causing disruptions to Zoom calls, and has also curtailed the number of daily walks that folk in my neighbourhood have been taking!

Along the South Saskatchewan River, however, athletes still determined to run out-of-doors have added gloves and ear-muffs to their workout gear. And local gardeners anxiously gaze at the calendar of our oh-so-short growing season, wondering what and when to plant, since last year brought frost
after Victoria Day.

Still, as I edit this newsletter, we are nearly through Easter weekend and, while we continue to be dogged by Covid, many of us anticipate a lovely  Saskatchewan summer, with outdoor festivals and gardens. And this weekend, at least some have enjoyed indoor Easter treats, such as hot-cross buns
and Easter egg hunts to buoy our spirits!

Since I now teach both English as a Second Language (ESL) and business communication, I discuss in this month’s “Article One,” four corrections that both ESL teachers and entrepreneurial leaders can make, to prevent ourselves from talking too much. What can we do to improve classroom learning
and the sharing of ideas in boardrooms or offices? Saying less can often accomplish more.

Then, in “Storyteller’s Corner,” I bring to you “Canuckle,” the Canadian version of the online word game, “Wordle” (discussed in last February’s issue of TYSN). Like the original game on whose coding it’s based, “Canuckle” has captured a bevy of followers.

And in “Shop News,” I update you on recent developments at “Storytelling Communications,” as I prepare to teach ESL to local new immigrants. I also promote the remarkable new program “digiSMART,” from Saskatoon’s own Praxis School of Entrepreneurship. digiSMART features the
work of mentors, veteran facilitators and communication specialists (like me) who help participants to integrate digital technology into their businesses. Sound interesting? If you’re a business owner, register through the link, below!

May the lengthening of our spring days and our hopes for greater freedom from the pandemic and from winter bring you renewed health, personal growth and prosperity, valued readers.
Storytelling Communications

Article One: Do you talk too much in classrooms or boardrooms? Four corrections to improve participants’ contributions

During the first year of Covid and in response to it, I trained as an ESL/EFL (English-as-a- Second, or Foreign, Language) teacher. Since that time, I have taught adults online–first in an internship to students in Quebec and Ontario; then for a Chinese company, to students in Eastern Europe, Asia and
the United States.

Teaching is not new to me, since I was a Teaching Assistant (TA) in English literature for several years during my graduate studies in Southern Ontario.
But more recently and over three years, the amazing team at Saskatoon’s Praxis School of Entrepreneurship has invited me to teach business communication seminars—which will soon resume, since their exciting “digiSMART” program has recently launched!

Since teachers’ salaries are rarely large, some entrepreneurs might wonder why I’d pivot my business toward teaching. But the opportunity to share language skills and cultural experiences with new or prospective immigrants—and, most recently, asylum seekers fleeing Ukraine— is invaluable. I can’t
imagine feeling more useful or relevant!

And, as freelance life often shows, the connections and complementarities that develop between old and new services (i.e. copywriting, editing and teaching) can be revelatory and even joyful. This month’s article considers one such connection: how to teach ESL and lead entrepreneurial meetings without talking too much.

In a 2014 article from the British Council, author Declan Cooley recommends four ways to lead ESL classes that prevent the teacher from “talking too much.” I draw parallels to entrepreneurial settings with clients or customers or between leaders and a company’s delegates.

Most of us know that new and inexperienced teachers (“greenhorns”) tend to talk too much. The tendency to lecture often reflects their own experiences of learning, as youth. Teacher trainees have to “unlearn” the assumption that because they have authority, they should “instruct,” which means
“talking a lot.” STT (student talking time) always needs to be greater than TTT (teacher talking time) and the passage between the two can be direct and collaborative–not clumsy.

Similarly, in a company boardroom or a networking event, some entrepreneurs and business leaders tend to lead by talking too much, reducing prospects, clients, participants or delegates to a stupor, where joint or group exchange would be more enlightening and productive.

Even small “asides,” murmurs and anecdotes from teachers and leaders may “leak out in many small, often unnoticed, ways,” Cooley writes. “When added up, these leaks can diminish the quality of the learning [or decision making] experience,” giving students and participants “less . . . space to
practice,” discuss skills or issues, in the classroom or the boardroom.
Cooley adds that even seasoned teachers sometimes fall into the habit of talking too much; ditto for accomplished entrepreneurial and business leaders.

(1) One way that teachers and leaders talk too much is by repeating instructions unnecessarily. causing students to “switch off” under the burden of so many words! The more words involved, the less impact each has.

Cooley cites an almost laughable example of one ESL teacher to his students:
“‘Read out the cards; don’t show each other and then, if they go together, sit down. So these cards belong together, so this person needs to find this person and they need to sit down together . . . I’d like you to read it to other people in the class. Remember: no showing and . . .’”

After giving a simpler, one-time statement of the rules, teachers can avoid repetition by following up with instruction-checking  (concept checking) questions: “‘Do you show your partner your card?’” (Wait for students to
reply, ‘No.’)

“‘What happens when you find your partner?’” (Wait for students to reply, ‘Sit own together.’)

In a boardroom or business setting, immediate instruction giving and receiving may occur less often. But here, too, leaders can confirm instructions pithily: “Does everyone follow this idea? Do you have any questions?” Good leaders and entrepreneurs speak professionally with as few words as possible,
repeating only if asked for clarification.

ESL teachers can emphasize their instructions by simultaneously using gestures to reinforce: for instance, they can move their hands to “stand up,” to “sit down,” and to “form pairs” for assignments, and so on.

(2) A second way teachers and leaders talk too much, Cooley says, is by saying more than students or participants do, to respond to a student response or question. If a student says (quietly), “That happened 10 years ago,” the teacher can inadvertently drown them out (e.g. “ ’Would you like to tell everyone the answer you were thinking of again, because I don’t think they heard it when you spoke so quietly and I’m sure we’d all like to hear it, if you could please?’ ”)
Business leaders outspeaking team members (i.e. participants) is similarly a problem: If Jones says, quietly, “With that model, the evidence runs counter to the theory,” the CEO should not respond, ad nauseum: (“Jones, would you please repeat that comment, because I suspect not everyone in the
room heard it and you were too quiet and we don’t want to miss out on the criticism, so one more time, OK?”)

Instead, cupping one’s hand to one’s ear and politely beckoning, “Louder, please!” works better.

(3) A third way teachers and leaders talk too much is by asking lengthy questions. Cooley provides this example, from a teacher: “‘ If I were to ask you for your opinion on the topic of genetically modified food, what do you think you might say to me in reply to that?’”

Such tentativeness and wordiness may reflect the teacher’s effort to be polite, but such an effort doesn’t work in the classroom or the boardroom. Students don’t process long questions.

Leaders and entrepreneurs can make similar mistakes (e.g. “Barker, does that slide indicate the ratio of gross quarterly profit per marketing output that you introduced three slides ago, but with reservations about the integrity of gross data values when net numbers were unavailable or may, perhaps, undermine your overall valuation of the systemic processes—could you just clarify that for
us, please?”).

(4) And a fourth and final way that teachers and leaders talk too much is by unnecessarily echoing too closely what students or participants have said, in answer to a question. Cooley writes this example:

(Student giving opinion): “I like going to the beach, because it is fun.”

(Teacher): “OK, so you like going to the beach, because it’s fun. Right, good.”

Cooley observes that there is no reason to echo the student’s/participant’s answer, if everyone in the class or boardroom has clearly heard it. If you think other participants did not hear it, then simply say, “please try louder.” Repetition can also unintentionally sound sarcastic, which would further
undermine the communication process.

By contrast, one time when repetition can be useful, is when a teacher or leader repeats a student or participant’s answer, in order to correct it: the teacher/leader can emphasize certain words or syllables, raising their tone to make it a question. (“Phillips, ‘yesterday I go out to buy a pizza,’
or ‘yesterday I __ ?'”) Also, teachers and leaders can use meaningful (never mocking) facial expressions and gestures to reflect that correction is needed.

While it can be laughable to read the over-talking of (usually inexperienced) teachers or leaders, sometimes even good lessons or meetings involve too much TTT. Cooley says that sometimes teachers–and leaders, I would add–unconsciously and wrongly feel “the [one] who talks a lot is
teaching a lot.”

But in reality, most often when teachers or leaders talk too much, it’s because they are falsely reassured by the sound of their own voices or because they are clinging to the spotlight to bolster their egos. And neither helps students or participants to learn or work better. While all teachers and leaders can start reducing their TTT by simply being aware of it, Cooley warns us not to be “too self-critical. Simply noticing the tendency and stopping it in its tracks earlier
and without self-reproach is a sensible path to follow.”

With this awareness, we can direct a classroom and boardroom with more of the needed silence in which students’ and participants’ thinking and voices can thrive.

And now it’s your turn: Do you (or others near you) outspeak students or colleagues in ESL or entrepreneurial settings? Will these four strategies help to resolve that? I look forward to hearing from  you at   .



This month: On Canada’s word game, “Canuckle!”

In last February’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter,” I discussed the history of “Wordle,” a free, online word guessing game that appeared on Twitter in late December (2021) and went viral.

Developed by the code of a Welsh software engineer, Josh Wardle, for his partner, a lover of word games, Wordle consists of yellow, green and grey squares (in a five by six square grid). The reader must guess the letters and so discover the word, in no more than six tries per day.

Starting with fewer than 100 followers when first published, Wordle garnered 300K players between October (2021) and early January (2022). By the end of that month, the game had reached millions and was subsequently sold to The New York Times (TNYT) for a fortune.

Since then, it seems as though everyone is copying the code that Wardle developed to create word games of their own.
And Canadian game enthusiasts were no different, as Ottawa resident Mark Rogers released a Canadian version of Wordle on February 10th. He calls it “Canuckle.”

Canuckle looks very similar to Wordle, featuring five-letter words based on words related to Canada, and using red, yellow and grey squares.
But Rogers says that in Canuckle, “every word . . . is going to be related to Canada in some way and it’s got some sort of theme that can be tied back to Canada.”

He also developed his version of the game to feature more common words than Wordle does (e.g. words such as Canadian Bob and Doug
MacKenzie’s “hoser”; and terms like “igloo,” “canoe,” “maple,” “donut” and so on).
Rogers says the game will have a relatively short life, with a planned ending on Canada Day (July 1st), this year. After you fill in your answer (within six tries), a “fun fact” about Canada appears over Twitter. While highbrow entertainment this is not, youth, newcomers to Canada, and non-native speakers of English
are among some of the devotees to the game.

Want to give Canuckle a try? Here’s its official page,

And now it’s your turn: Have you enjoyed Wordle? What about Canuckle? How important are online word games to distract us from late pandemic days and a slow start to spring?

Please weigh in to the “contact” page of my website (
I’d be delighted to hear from you.


SHOP NEWS:Starting shortly, I’ve invited to assist/co-lead a “conversation circle” at Saskatoon’s Open Door Society, likely online (given fluctuating Covid patterns), and where new immigrants flock to improve their English language skills in order to secure better jobs. I look forward to assisting newcomers with integrating into our community. Saskatoon Open Door Society is a remarkable
not-for-profit organization that meets the needs of newcomers to our city, often in very challenging circumstances.

Some news that’s hot-off-the-press: Have you heard about the latest program offering from Saskatoon’s own Praxis School of Entrepreneurship? It’s called “digiSMART”, and it provides FREE classes on various aspects of digital technology, facilitated by team members Monica and Brent
Kreuger, Deanna Litz, and selected alumni of the school’s startSMART program (me included).

I’ve attended some of digiSMART’s modules and they’ve been amazing –first rate learning and networking opportunities!
Later this spring, my valued colleagues and I will present on communication formats: Christina Cherneskey (who has been working on the marketing of digiSMART) will teach a powerful podcasting method. Read more about her work at and find her on Twitter and
TikTok @ccherneskey.

Megan Kent’s videography-partnership firm, “Little Ox Film Company,” will facilitate classes on video production, which has become the bread and butter of almost all marketing, these days.

And I will soon teach an updated seminar on blogging, which continues to be a mainstay of my business, “Storytelling Communications.”
“digiSMART” presents an opportunity not to be missed and even includes customized coaching that will assist entrepreneurs with integrating technology into their pre-existing businesses.

An intake is already underway, currently without cost! So call or email program administrator, Elaine Mantyka, immediately, for more information: (306) 664-0500 and
In other news, “Get well” wishes go out this month to my (nearly lifelong) journeyperson stylist, Holly Dishko, tamer of curls and coiffures at local business, Blush Salon and Studio, in Saskatoon’s Riversdale neighbourhood.

After being injured in an otherwise carefully planned family holiday in Mexico, Holly is recovering at home and assisting her colleagues with client hair care instructions, so they can temporarily fill her shoes.
Thanks for your dedication, Holly, and to the lovely women of local business, Blush Salon and Studio, for taking great care of their clients.
There are always more local entrepreneurs and small businesses to promote (and I receive no affiliate fees for doing so).

But this is a wrap for mid-April!



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now teach new and prospective immigrants to secure better jobs by improving their English language skills; I continue to write communications documents that help small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I research and write chapbooks that
promote the legacies of major companies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant
website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
Please visit my website for more information (

Feeling burned out? How to recognize and manage it, in this month’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter”

March 2022 Vol 4 Issue 3

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-March 2022! Spring is here!

Most Saskatchewanians know that winter often isn’t yet over when the calendar says so. (A blizzard could still occur in the next six to eight weeks. Last year, we suffered crop-destroying frost after the May long weekend.)  . . . Yet haven’t the last two weeks of moderate temperatures and bright sunshine been a balm to our winter- and pandemic-weary souls?

In my neighbourhood, dogs who are out on walks with their owners, now appear without their winter coats and booties. Children are out in rubber boots, gleefully jumping in the puddles. (Look out for the sinkholes!). Spring officially began last Sunday (March 20th) and I hope, good reader, that you’ve had at least some time outdoors to enjoy it.

While the relief of longer daylight hours, the fresh air and warmth that come with spring make it my favourite season, I’m publishing this month’s issue a week later than usual. The rigours of tax season and winter/Covid exhaustion are two reasons why.

In the news, burnout has risen for entrepreneurs and professionals across all industries. For some of us, elder and/or childcare is added to the mix. Think too of our province’s health care workers, who have laboured, flat-out, for the public over the past two years or more. What do they and we do, when our proverbial wells have run dry? What helps to relieve burnout?

In this month’s issue, as part of my newsletter’s theme of “entrepreneurial wellness,” I share some simple strategies for identifying and addressing the problem from the writing staff of the Mayo Clinic.

Then, in “Storyteller’s Corner,” I feature a poetic meditation that may speak to you in these challenging times.

The Calgary-based, not-for-profit organization, Soul Sisters’ Memorial Foundation (which provides education on mental health), recently featured the poetry of ullie-kaye, a St. Catherine’s, Ontario artist. Special thanks this month to coach and facilitator Deanna Litz for sharing that posting, over Facebook.

As we try as a country to address international atrocities such as the war in Ukraine and our global climate crisis, I hope this month that we also remember local and personal challenges, like “burnout.” Can we find strength in the love and community of family and friends? . . . And in spiritual observances, such as Lent, and the forthcoming Ramadan and Easter?

My hope, good reader, is that each of us knows that our thoughts, emotions and actions –and how we express them–matter. And may we also know that we are not alone in enduring the challenges of these times.




Storytelling Communications



ARTICLE 1:Feeling burned out? How to recognize and manage it


A poem from Canadian artist, ullie-kaye





Article One: Feeling burned out? How to recognize and manage it

In a recent article on the Mayo Clinic website, staff writers define “burnout” as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

Yet “burnout” isn’t considered a medical diagnosis. Some researchers believe depression, personality traits, family and socio-economic circumstances determine who experiences burnout and how long it will last.

Across North America, business surveys (including Deloitte’s) report that between 52% and 77% of workers say they have experienced burnout at their current jobs. Entrepreneurs often report even higher numbers.

Further, 91% of corporate workers say that “unmanageable stress or frustration impacts the quality of their work, and 83% say that burnout can negatively impact [their] personal relationships” (my emphasis).

The “Harvard Business Review” cites that in the US, workplace stress leads to nearly 120,000 deaths and nearly $190 billion in spending each year. Statistics are not much better in Canada. reports that burnout has indisputably risen in the past three years by about 9% from pre-Covid numbers, as boundaries of space and time, between work and home, professional and personal, have eroded.

When focusing on “job burnout,” the Mayo Clinic cites 10 questions to help you diagnose it. If you answer “yes” to any of them, the writers say burnout may be the cause:

(1) Have you become unduly critical at work (either of your own work, or others’)?

(2) Do you have to drag yourself to your desk/workplace and do you struggle getting started?

(3) Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?

(4) Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?

(5) Do you find it hard to concentrate?

(6) Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?

(7) Do you feel disillusioned about your job or business?

(8) Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or simply not to feel?

(9) Have your sleep habits changed?

(10) Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems or other physical complaints?

Global pandemic circumstances can underpin work-related burnout, since Covid has made it difficult to control scheduling, assignments and workload. The pandemic has also brought a lack of needed resources.

Other factors precipitating burnout arise when work expectations are unclear, when you lack authority over your output; when you face dysfunctional workplace environments (such as bullying or micromanaging); when your work alternates between chaotic and monotonous, so that you need constant energy to remain focused; when you experience a lack of social support (in the office or at home) and a lack of balance between work and life.

Left untreated, burnout, as many of you know, can yield to substance abuse, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type-2 Diabetes and weakened immune systems (all the more worrisome in pandemic times).

So how can we manage work-related and personal burnout?  Many of the following factors from the Mayo Clinic will be familiar to you, but are worth considering:

(1) Discuss your concerns with your supervisor, business partner or client, “to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions.”

(2) Reach out to co-workers and friends, to seek support and collaboration. Corporate workers can use Employee Assistance Programs, or related services. Entrepreneurs are wise to take out medical insurance plans, often through their local Chamber of Commerce.

Counselling/psychotherapy may be the most crucial support. Remember that you are not reducible to the work you do, so that you do not feel your identity diminished by vocational struggles.

Be sure to allow yourself time to cope with emotional and physical pain. Bathrooms are sometimes outfitted with “headache” rooms, since repressing pain raises greater adversity over time. Psychologist Kristin Neff (whose work I have featured in prior issues of TYSN), has written that “suffering = pain x resistance.” So the more you resist/repress or fight your pain, the more you will suffer.

(3) Make time to practice relaxation activities, such as yoga, tai chi, meditation or hypnotherapy. Many apps are available, are low- or no cost, and can be used, even if you are on-the-go.

(4) Get regular physical exercise (Health Canada recommends 150 minutes of cardiovascular work, weekly) to help manage stress. You may find that watching a screen while exercising can distract your mind from work or family issues.

(5) In combination of the above factors, get plenty of rest. We all know that sleep restores well-being and protects our health.

(6) Practice mindfulness, by focusing on the flow of your breath and by allowing feelings and sensations to pass, without interpretation or judgment. Openness and patience can be gleaned from this process, which can help in workplace or entrepreneurial settings.

(7) For many of us, try to take a few continuous days of holidays, at least twice per year, when you can largely “unplug” from work-based messages and/or larger family circumstances. If you are heavily involved in caring for extended family, try to find a “substitute” or respite person, while you rest and recharge.

(8) My own tip to add is that spring has officially come and it can be highly therapeutic to take refreshing, daily walks in nature! By communing with nature in this good weather, engaging all of your senses in the new life that surrounds you, you can lighten mind, heart and spirit.

While most psychologists today suggest that “burnout” may be inevitable for most of us at some point, we need not stay stuck in a “burned out” state.

By recognizing symptoms and actively working to relieve them, our work and personal lives can be restored to health and well-being.

And now it’s your turn: Have you experienced burnout in the past two or three years? Have you found practicing the preceding kinds of tips to help? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . .

This month: Some meditative poetry from Ontario artist, ullie-kaye

In keeping with the theme of “burnout,” this month, I’m sharing some poetry from St. Catherine’s, Ontario artist, ullie-kaye. She writes and publishes poetry that expresses loss and pain, even as she reaches forward toward inspiration and joy.

You can find her page, “ullie kaye poetry,” on Facebook, where she describes herself as a “bestselling author and empath, . . . [who] writes for a world that seeks repair.” She also has an Etsy shop where she sells her own artwork.

What follows is one of my favourite poems from ullie-kaye. I emphatically do not share it to cajole world-weary entrepreneurs, cubicle workers or political refugees to work even more, which would be grossly unfeeling.

Instead, this poem finds what we do to be part of a larger, spiritual force that recognizes our worth as human beings, even on days when we do not feel it.

Here is ullie-kaye:

. . . carry on.

until you understand that life was not meant to be easy, or perpetually beautiful, or without pain or risk or loss. you will not know what miraculous things you are made of. you will not know to what extent your strength can push you through and what it feels like to build a bonfire inside your very own lungs that roars and billows and fights to the bitter end. you will not recognize the sound that tragedy makes when it begins to sing hallelujah into the vocal chords you believed to this day, were fast asleep. and you will never understand how capable you are to sit in silence and listen to the voice that says, ‘carry on, child, your work is not yet done here. 

Do you have stories to tell in poetry or other writing? Please write in; I’d love to hear from you. 



In light of the harrowing war in Ukraine, I want to thank two colleagues for lending their names and organizing support for our colleagues and friends in Eastern Europe. My former coach and friend, Deanna Litz, has promoted the work of the World Central Kitchen.


The WCK has served nearly one million nourishing meals to desperate Ukrainians who are fleeing Putin’s atrocities. Visit the WCK website to read more of the charity’s remarkable work in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.


My own spiritual group is responding to the humanitarian crisis  by responding quickly and keeping overhead costs down, so as to invest as much as possible in support for Ukrainians.(please consider donating to,


And on a related note, another valued colleague and friend, Ukrainian- Canadian Christina Cherneskey, a PR, strategic media and communications specialist, has used her podcast platform to share the plight of friends in Ukraine, including an impromptu interview with marketing expert and artist, Meron Sembaliuk.


You’ll find the impromptu interview here, and on Christina’s Facebook page (“Christina Cherneskey”).


Christina also recently discussed the situation with Saskatoon’s own (equally amazing) Lenore Swystun, on Lenore’s radio show, “Civically Speaking” (CFCR 90.5 FM).


In other, more workaday news, I recently passed the 10-year mark for publishing Tell Your Story Newsletter! Archives on my website date to 2014, but three prior years of issues live on a former harddrive.


My former coach, Steve Slaunwhite (of Ontario), and e-newsletter pioneer, Michael Katz (of Massachusetts), offered praise over LinkedIn: Thank you, good friends, for making my month!


Steve first coached me to begin newsletter production in 2011 and Michael’s seminal book on the topic taught me the essential strategy to do it. So I’m living proof of the collaborative process of business-to-business communications and marketing!


Elsewhere, an overdue thank you goes to Julie Barnes of Julie Barnes’ Creative Services for sharing project leads and being an always positive, writerly colleague.


Julie’s work often appears in “Saskatoon Home” Magazine and online and in print.

Julie is a voracious reader, whose titles on “Goodreads” are always worth noting. I (not-so-secretly) hope that she will publish a manuscript of her own, to share her talents yet more widely! Meantime, her writing on her garden and work in it are truly impressive!


And an energetic shout-out to Northern Ireland-based, ESL teacher, Carl Cameron-Day, of TEFL.Org.

Carl is an internationally experienced ESL teacher, tutor, exam invigilator, and—as I know him—a wise advisor, who hosts webinars for more recently certified ESL teachers.

When a work week takes me off the trail of the ESL teaching that I love, I am always the better for tuning in to hear Carl’s insights on the profession.

His wry sense of humour adds to his charm. 🙂

ESL types can hear recordings of these webinars on YouTube and on Facebook, filled with tips and best practices.

There are always new people and stories to promote in “Shop News.” But this is a wrap for mid-March.



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now teach new and prospective immigrants to secure better jobs by improving their English language skills; I continue to write communications documents that help small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I research and write chapbooks that promote the legacies of major companies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (