Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable group writes SK Writers’ Guild articles, “Ask a Freelancer”

Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable Group

Pictured in this photo are the five most active members of Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable Group, a vibrant writers’ group which has met monthly since 2013. (We’re now celebrating our 11th year and meet monthly at Saskatoon’s HomeQuarter Coffeehouse & Bakery!)

 

Pictured (left-to-right) are members Ashlyn George, Ashleigh Mattern, Elizabeth Shih, Adele Paul and Julie Barnes. (Photo credit: Ashlyn George)

Our group shares business insights, writing tips, resources and much more, over a latte or cappuccino, every month. We’re a collegial and congenial group!  Since last fall (2023) and continuing until this summer (2024), we have applied our 50+ years of collective experience to  respond to “Ask a Freelancer,” a series in the quarterly magazine of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild (SWG) .

Last fall, we responded to the questions of “How do I find freelance writing clients?” and “How do I best pitch my stories?” Currently, we’re compiling our responses to address March’s topic: “What resources should freelance writers use?”

If you’re a new or aspiring freelancer in the business writing world, why not subscribe to the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild magazine, and read our contributions? Or you can drop me a line to join our next meeting!

What does your library mean to you? Some answers in the mid-January issue of TYSN

January 2024 Vol 6 Issue 1

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Linguistic Storytelling
Let me teach you to tell your story!

Welcome Mid-January 2024!

After having an unusually mild and “brown Christmas” with next to no snowfall, Saskatchewan has made up for lost time! On January 10th, a deep cold-front descended on us, bringing extreme temperatures and wind chills (some nearing -50 degrees Celsius). And, like most Canadians, we Saskatchewanians loooove to discuss (i.e. complain about) our wintry weather!

One of the best ways to endure Prairie winters and windchills, as I know you know, too, is to read (or re-read) wonderful books from the local library (or, even better: your own). So in “Article One” this month, I visit an article from Freya Howarth that asks what a library can mean to you, as its reader.

In addition to suggesting that we become conscious curators of our own library holdings (hardcopy and online), Howarth recommends nine very sensible steps to keep, use, and prune our libraries to allow the best access possible.

In “Storytellers’ Corner,” this month, I visit an oft-cited but only confusing rule for spelling in English that is better off forgotten. And “Shop News” chronicles some of my recent activities,  after I introduce a new “Entrepreneur of the Month”– designer and photographer, Tara Kalyn, of “Gentoo Expressions.” What does Tara’s business name mean? Read on, to find out!

What are you doing, good readers, to keep your minds and bodies warm this winter? When the weather moderates this week, I’ll watch for skiers and snowshoers on the trails near where I live. (Meantime, thank heavens for indoor treadmills!) I’m also reading theory for teaching English as
a Second Language, and am preparing my books for another tax season . . . .

And on the food front, what have you been cooking? . . . . I’ve fired up my kitchen with family staples like hearty Asian stew and zesty Italian spaghetti, both filled with plenty of seasoned ground chicken and whole wheat noodles for fortification!

While Ol’ Man Winter again breaths his hoary breath on us this month, I hope that good books, films, exercise and soulful food will keep you well, good readers. After all, as many of my neighbours are fond of saying, “Winter’s already more than half-way over!”

Wishing you all the best for the first month of 2024.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth
Principal
Storytelling Communications
www.elizabethshih.com

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IN THIS ISSUE:
—>ARTICLE 1: ” ‘An escape, a sanctuary, a place of pleasure, a memoir’: What does your library mean to you (with Freya Howarth)”

—>STORYTELLERS’ CORNER:
” ‘I’ before ‘e’: A spelling rule to forget!”

–>SHOP NEWS
—>ABOUT US

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Article One: “An escape, a sanctuary, a place of pleasure, a memoir”: What
does your personal library mean to you (with Freya Howarth)?

In a recent article in the online journal, “Psyche,” writer Freya Howarth refers to an earlier decade in her life when she worked in various libraries or bookshops (“bookstores” in North America).
She recalls meeting many people who cared deeply about the books they were reading and plenty who also valued the idea of a library, itself: “that wild, sprawling and chaotic—or, perhaps, methodical, logical and organized—thing that emerges through the accumulation of books over time.”

At the dawn of a new year, many of us may avoid “resolutions” that seldom last, anyway, butfind ourselves decluttering and reorganizing our belongings. What separates our libraries from cluttered rooms of books, Howarth says, is “the considered process of curation.” A public library will hire a librarian to order and organize a collection that meets the needs of the local community.

By contrast, Howarth writes, is your “personal library,” that serves only you, and makes you both its reader and librarian.

Some writers (obsessively) organize their libraries alphabetically by title or author, or by the antiquated Dewy Decimal System. Others want to group books thematically or historically.  Howarth reports that Argentinian-Canadian novelist and essayist, Alberto Manguel, collected 35K books that forced him to buy an old house in France to store them!

Twenty-five years ago, I remember hearing a story of a theology student at a prominent Canadian university in the 1950s who obsessively organized the books (by author’s surnames) that he’d borrowed from the college library. One weekend, his peers thought they’d get the better of him while he travelled elsewhere, by reorganizing his library, according to the colours of their
covers!

Most academics, teachers and researchers build up a library over many years, one book at a time. As the years march on, Howarth notes, we take a broader view of our collections, assessing what titles we’ve added and why.

She says that a personal library may be “an escape, a sanctuary, a place of pleasure, a memoir.” She likens a “well-tended library” to “a landscape, with its valley of crime novels, its peaks of reference texts, its shores of memoirs.” The collection of these titles becomes “part of something greater . . . something with emergent properties, something totally unique to you.”

If you, good readers, have long ago formed your own libraries, Australian public librarian, Meaghan Dew, says the aim should not be to build what you think your library “should be,” but instead, a library “that you are actually going to use and appreciate.” And that, one hopes, on a regular basis.

It can be helpful to consider what functions you have in mind for your library: A personal collection may (i) house your personal and professional memories, allowing you to “revisit ideas and feelings,” and to help you “enjoy the pleasures of rereading”; (ii) provide a research tool, which offers you new ideas; (iii) become a source of “various pleasures” such as inspiration,
escapism, entertainment, etc.

The major paradox of a contemporary library, Howarth says, is that it aspires to be huge (in these Internet and AI-driven times), but also selective, setting boundaries around a “seemingly limitless sea of content.” You can focus on a single volume in your collection, while stepping away from the noise and distraction of online reading.

Our personal libraries are autobiographical, she writes, with some of their value inhering in their ability to help “shape your personal identity and intellectual pathways, changing and growing with you.” Reading and collecting favourite books help to form our identities, since “certain
books become personal touchstones for [your] values and interests.”

Libraries serve folks from all walks of life. I have built some of my collection around my work as a copywriter (e.g. with titles by Steve Slaunwhite, Michael Katz, Ed Gandia, Nick Usborne, Bob Bly, David Ogilvy and more). I still have many volumes from my years as a student of English literature, that I regularly return to. And most recently, I’ve added standard texts for teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), in the effort to teach newcomers most effectively.

Mentor and friend, Monica Kreuger, an expert on entrepreneurship, has spoken of working during her high school years in the local public library and frequenting bookmobiles, most summers, by bicycle. She has since collected and pruned a significant library for the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (both online and in hard copy). Most recently, she has donned that
familiar librarian’s hat, by happily curating collections for many buyers, when selling the huge library of her late brother, in yard-sale settings.

As we age, libraries can become burdensome. They cause us to worry when we learn we must protect our books from damage and decay, or to pack them to move, sell, or give away. We must, Howarth writes, “prune strategically,” keeping only the titles we actually need and want through the journeys of our lives.

By controlling a library’s size, we make it more manageable and more rewarding for ourselves and other readers.

Have you seen that photo that has circulated (for shock value) over social media in recent years (circa 1979), of psychologist, Jean Piaget, sitting (almost buried), by thousands-upon-thousands of books, newspapers and other printed materials? (If not, try to “Google” it—the photo is
copyrighted to prevent publication.) Piaget has effectively became a hoarder, never pruning his library. Howarth says we can only prevent this by becoming “more conscious” of our work as our own librarians.

When the library is yours, it won’t look the same as anyone else’s. It could include glossy magazines as diverse as “Architectural Digest” and “Victoria”; or a many-year subscription to The Guardian or The New York Times newspapers; or audiobook recordings of contemporary crime novels; or recipe books from lesser known times and cultures, and so on.

But regardless, in order to keep and use our libraries optimally, Howarth recommends these nine (9) common steps:
(1) “Take stock” of your collection, considering what you’ve acquired over time and how those titles reflect your reading tastes and interests. Which ideas and topics do you find likely to explore further, and which ones, not?
(2) Categorize books generally as “fiction,” versus “non-fiction,” history, philosophy, crime fiction, memoir, etc., like the sections in an old-fashioned library or bookstore.

Consider the categories that have many subcategories (e.g. “medieval history,” and “French history,” etc.), since they will indicate to you that “they represent an area, genre or topic that you’re especially interested in.” Those topics will guide you when you acquire and organize the books.

(3) Decide which titles to keep and which to sell/give away. Having assessed your collection for what value it holds for you (e.g. informational, sentimental or other), you’ll recognize when you’ve outgrown or moved beyond many titles. Do this strategic pruning occasionally, to clarify what your interests are, and to make space for new and pertinent titles.

One helpful strategy, Howarth advises, to first sort books into “read” versus” unread” piles and discern whether you want to re-read any titles (so “keep” them); books that you didn’t understand at the time and might want to try again later (“keep”); books that you enjoyed once but haven’t stayed with you and that you wouldn’t buy today (“sell/donate”); books you gave up,
part-way through, and have no interest in restarting (“sell/donate”).

When assessing the unread books, consider whether you just haven’t found the time for a title (likely “keep”), or you would buy again if you lost your own copy (“keep”), or if you can see it has value, but you no longer work in the subject (“sell/donate”).

Howarth observes that some books may be especially lovely as objects or as books emotionally connected to a particular time, place person or memory, and so are “likely worth hanging on to,”
even if you’re unsure when you’ll find the time to (re-)read them.

And she shares that “It’s OK to hang on to some ‘maybes’ for a while. Sometimes, you’ll rediscover a book years later and be glad you kept it.”

(4) You may want to collect a shelf or bookcase of certain titles that have “an enduring place in your own reading life.” These favourite titles may “affirm your tastes” or be “comfort-reads” that you might return to when life is hard.

(5) If you do add more books to your library (because you presumably have decades of reading ahead of you and are not retiring and downsizing your home), consider acquiring titles that speak to each other, or to your already existing titles. For instance, if you enjoy Simone de Beauvoir’s memoirs, then your library could grow by collecting some of the novels that the
philosopher refers to in her account of her childhood and adolescence (e.g. Louisa May Alcott, George Eliot, etc.).

Howarth rightly says that “from a single author or a single book, infinite reading pathways [can] open to you.” You will begin to find that you are curating collections of classic and contemporary titles that are thematically or historically related (e.g. Charles Darwin, Rachel Carson and Andrew Wulf, etc.)

Howarth says that the websites “Five Books” and “Goodreads” can provide reading lists tailored to be either very specific or broad.

(6) Make friends with a local bookseller (such as at “Turning the Tide”) to learn of titles relevant to your collection or that you haven’t yet read (and may love).

(7) Find a book club with like-minded readers, “whose tastes overlap with yours.” You may find these people on “Goodreads” or through your local arts’ community.

(8) Locate a book reviewer (possibly from an internationally reputable publication) whose tastes are similar to yours (see sources above).

(9) Read about books: Look at the history and background of a book you’re considering buying. Howarth says the website “Book Marks” (run by the online magazine, Literary Hub) collects book reviews from different sources and assigns “a cumulative rating” for each book.

Howarth makes other suggestions that are less advisable, in my view, such as “signing up for a book subscription service,” that will send you a selected book each month. I think you’d do better to talk to a librarian or experienced bookseller, so that your acquisitions will be tailored to your interests.

Also, I wouldn’t recommend (as Howarth does) to “pick up a book on the street,” in Saskatoon’s “neighbourhood library” boxes or on the city bus. These books are seldom clean and may carry dreaded bedbugs or other pests that you want to avoid!

But two final suggestions from Howarth are great—(i) to create a simple notebook of your holdings (so you can find it to consult yourself or to loan titles to friends); and, possibly, (ii) to annotate your books in pencil, on their blank closing pages, with a few chosen words and page numbers, to
remember what was interesting in each volume. If/when you return to the book, those notes will save you time.

Howarth concludes that despite all of this organization, libraries can “grow a bit wild over time,” because many books defy easy categorization: “A library should be a little bit chaotic and contradictory. . . . A library of perfect harmony would be a rather boring and uninspiring place.”

Meantime, consider visiting reliable used bookstores in Saskatoon, notably, Westgate Books (8th and Louise Streets) and, especially, Peryton Books (408th 20th St. West), to sell back titles of interest to their owners/managers.

Although you will be paid less money to resell former titles, at least those titles will more likely be read, second-hand, than if they collect dust on your shelves.

And finally, some books and literary adaptations pertaining to bookstores and libraries that are fixtures in my library (or on my “To acquire” list) are The Bookshop (novel by Penelope Fitzgerald) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows), both of which raise urgent questions on issues of democratic thought, the
stewardship of knowledge over generations, and lasting ties that connect us as humans.

Both also have uncommonly good film adaptations that may spur you on to even more intensive thought.

And now it’s your turn: Do you agree with Howarth’s ideas of how to organize and use your personal library? Please write in and share.

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STORYTELLERS’ CORNER . . . . 


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

This month: ” ‘I’ before ‘e’: A spelling rule to forget!”

There are many spelling rules that writers and editors of English have cited over the centuries, such as how and when to add suffixes to words, when an “e” is silent, how to make suffixes plural, and so on.

Readers often struggle to remember the correct spelling of words when multiple vowels are involved. Years of the repetitive process of editing (our own and others’ work), in addition to the aging of our brains, can sometimes wreak havoc with our ability to remember to spell words correctly.

Some writers develop rules to try to facilitate better recall, but often those rules backfire.

One such case, is a rule that I encourage my English language students to FORGET is the rule of “ ‘I’ before ‘e,’ except after ‘c.’” This rule has so many exceptions that it’s worse than useless–it’s downright confusing.

American “Grammar Girl,” Mignon Fogarty, has cited these exceptions that are not governed by that rule:

Ancient         Species           Feisty      Neither      Weird

Glacier          Sufficient       Kaleidoscope   Seize   Science

Being               Leisure          Sovereignty   Society

Caffeine          Neighbour      Vein

There’s seldom a better way to learn spelling in English than simply to read a good deal and from many sources. If you are a newcomer learning English, you may also want to keep a vocabulary/spelling list, which you can review instead of always consulting your dictionary for a word’s meaning.

What other commonplace spelling or grammatical rules are inaccurate and useless to you? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.

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SHOP NEWS:

Featuring Entrepreneur of the Month: Meet Tara Kalyn, from “Gentoo Expressions!” 

I’m pleased to introduce to my readers, Tara Kalyn, a Saskatoon-based freelance graphic designer and photographer.

Tara’s business name is “Gentoo Expressions” (an explanation of which follows below.)

Tara (pronounced “Terra”) has, in total, over 25 years of experience in the print industry and graduated in 1999 from the Visual Communications program at Medicine Hat College.

Tara has worked on various design projects for clients including Jolene Watson, Chickenlip Consulting Corp., and DBreckner Printing Services. She also contributes stock photography to Pexels and Stockimo (for which freelance writers like me are grateful!).

Her passion for photography began when she received her first camera, as a child. In 2024, she plans to expand Gentoo Expressions’ photographic services to include studio photography.

Tara enjoys working on projects that challenge her abilities and allow her to experiment to bring her clients’ vision to life. “Even after so many years,” she says, “there’s always more I can learn, and I love that.”

To view Tara’s work and contact her about design or photography projects, please visit gentooexpressions.myportfolio.com.

When asked to explain her business name, Tara says that “expressions” refers to the artistic aspect of graphic design and photography. And “Gentoo” is her favourite species of penguin, whose resilience allows it to survive in some of the planet’s harshest conditions.

She adds: “Gentoos are the fastest swimmers of all penguins, and in my opinion, the most beautiful, with their striking black and white colouration and bright orange beaks and feet.”

“In my work,” as Tara details, “I aspire to be adaptable to my clients’ needs and to work effectively and efficiently, completing projects within the agreed upon timeframe. Helping people express their ideas is my goal. The name ‘Gentoo Expressions’ is meant to convey those aspirations.”

Please visit Tara’s online portfolio and contact her for your next design or photographic project!

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Special thanks this month also go to Professor Emeritus, Robert (Bob) Calder and writer Paula Jane Remlinger for sharing two enjoyable visits over the past couple of months, including coffee, dessert and thoughtful conversation.

Bob will soon launch his latest book—film adaptations of W. Somerset Maugham (stay tuned for the dates of the McNally Robinson launch). He also will shortly release his own memoir of writing over the last five decades, while a member of our local English Department. There, he influenced the reading practices and selections of both Paula Jane and me (in the mid-90s), along with hundreds of other students. He was also recently awarded an “Alumni of Distinction” Award by the University of Saskatchewan.

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I’m grateful, too, this month, to mentor and friend, Monica Kreuger, for sharing entrepreneurial conversation that (prior to Christmas) included her recommendation of the popular Netflix TV (hospital) series, “New Amsterdam.” Its stories appeal to me by offering some hope for the deeply troubled healthcare system of Saskatchewan (and beyond).

Similar thanks go out to other friends for sharing  Netflix/library  recommendations that I viewed through the holidays, including the “Bank of Dave,” (for most of us, troubled by our late capitalist banking system); and “The Lost King” (based on the true story of how a brave woman  found the remains of  King Richard the Third and worked to restore the monarch’s identity and reputation, after misrepresentation by Tudor period writers, including Shakespeare.  (Thank you to Dani VanDriel and Lesley-Anne McLeod, respectively.)

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And “thank you” goes to my French student, who has introduced me to French crooners of past decades, from Edith Piaf (whose work I knew only a little) to Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour and Yves Montand.

As a regular patron of the Arts, Eliane has also informed me of the work of Canadian-born contralto, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, who has won the admiration and respect of operatic audiences across Europe. Lemieux is a household name in Quebec, but less known in English speaking Canada, which should be remedied!

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And a final thanks this month to ESL teacher, mentor and colleague, Steve Cavan, who has shared some  insights on accent reduction for English language students, for which I’m (as ever) very grateful.

I hope that the currently oppressive winter will be the last Steve has to spend in Saskatchewan, as he anticipates semi-retirement in sunny Southern Italy!

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ABOUT US:

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 Canadian newcomers land better jobs by improving their language skills and I help small-businesses to close more sales by communicating more effectively.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (www.elizabethshih.com).

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

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca).

STAY IN TOUCH:

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Three “words of the year” for 2023

With a new year now just around the corner, this is the time in December when analyses and “round- ups” for the preceding 12 months fill our news feed.

And it’s no different in the worlds of language and writing, where reporters count the dominance of certain words in the public’s online dictionary searches. Three that I read about since December began are (i) the American Merriam-Webster Dictionary (often used by newcomer ESL students), (ii) the Oxford English Dictionary (OED to all English majors, past, present and future), and (iii) the Cambridge Dictionary.

Recently Merriam-Webster Dictionary announced that their “word of the year” is “authentic.” Most years this term has a “high-volume lookup.” But searches for “authentic” “substantially increased in 2023, driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity and social media.” Company writers say that “authenticity” is a “desirable quality,” but also “hard to define and subject to debate,” so readers and writers regularly search for its formal definition.

Some inauthentic words or phrases used in workplace emails, as aired on Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC)’s “Make It” program, include these:

–“Not sure if you saw my last email”

–“Per our conversation”

–“I hope this message finds you well”

–A regular closing salutation, like “warmly,” “best,” or “sincerely.”

Merriam-Webster adds that “ ‘authenticity’ can be a double-edged sword. Trying too hard to be natural or relatable often seems fake.”

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In the offices of the Oxford English Dictionary we find an equally, if not more, “viral” word for 2023: “rizz,,” from usage examined of more than 22 billion English words.

“Rizz,” lexicographers say, is a short form of “charisma,” which refers to “someone’s ability to attract another person through style, charm or attractiveness.” “Rizz” is frequently used to refer to “the ability to attract a romantic . . . partner,” and can be used as a verb (“to rizz up” someone means to “seduce” or, as the Brits say, to“chat them up”).

The word “rizz” arose from internet culture, such as YouTube and social media, and particularly caught on when British actor Tom Holland referred self-deprecatingly to having “no rizz whatsoever.” Lexicologists estimated a “15-fold increase” in searches over the past year and see no sign of abating.

Caspar Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages, says that one reason “rizz” is moving into mainstream use is that “it’s just fun to say. . . . When it comes off your tongue, there’s a little bit of joy that comes with it.”

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The offices of the Cambridge Dictionary reported that “hallucinate” has been its word of 2023.

Tapping into large language models (LLMs) as tools to harness the power of AI, writers have found that LLMs can draft “plausible prose,” but it contains made-up facts, thereby “hallucinat[ing] in a confident and sometimes believable manner.”

AI can, therefore, hallucinate “false information.”

Cambridge lexicographers note that the verb “hallucinate” denotes “to seem to see, hear, feel, or smell something that does not exist, usually because of a health condition or because you have taken a drug.”

To add to that definition, they write: “When an artificial intelligence hallucinates (i.e. a computer system that has some of the qualities that the human brain has, such as the ability to produce language in a way that seems human), it produces false information” (my emphasis).

What worries readers and writers is not only that AI hallucinations sometimes appear foolish and lack sense. But the hallucinations can also appear “entirely plausible—even while being factually inaccurate or ultimately illogical.”

AI hallucinations have resulted in the citing of fictitious cases in court (in the US) and when Google was producing its promotional video for Bard, the AI tool erred about the “James Webb Space Telescope.”

“Hallucinations” therefore remind readers and writers, says Wedalyun Nichols, Cambridge Dictionary’s Publishing Manager, that we still need “to bring [our] critical thinking skills to the use of these tools. AIs are fantastic at churning through huge amounts of data to extract specific information and consolidate it. But the more original you ask them to be, the likelier they are to go astray.

At their best, LLMS can only be as reliable as their training data. Human expertise is arguably more important—and sought after—than ever, to create the authoritative and up-to-date information that LLMs can be trained on.” As rumours, propaganda or “fake news,” false information has been with us for years.

University of Cambridge’s AI ethicist, Dr. Henry Shevlin, writes that “as this decade progresses,  . . . our  psychological vocabulary will be further extended to encompass the strange abilities of the new intelligences we’re creating.”

It’s the AI (not the user) that is hallucinating, and we tend to anthropomorphize technology as having human attributes, including the lapse into hallucinations.

Engineers and scholars across the world are working to limit AI hallucinations by grounding, “ cross-checking the outputs of LLM with “reliable sources and web searchers. Visiting “Snopes.com” can be an eye-opener.

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Generations ago, theorist Fredric Jameson referred to “the prison-house of language,” whereby we are always already hindered in our efforts to achieve self-expression and meaning, by the limitations of language. AI intensifies Jameson’s argument!

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With another New Year just around the corner, these  are three, international degree influence “top words” for the preceding year. These three dictionaries weigh in on the influence of each term on our culture and community.

Which, if any, of these three words strikes you as paramount for 2023: “authentic,” “rizz” or “hallucination?” And why?

Please write in; I’d be delighted to discuss further with you!

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Postscript:

If lexicography appeals to you (and you haven’t yet found the following title), please read Pippa Williams’ moving novel, The Dictionary of Lost Words. Williams explores in Britain of the 1910s, the significance of under-represented words (often describing and used by women) in shaping the country’s culture. The book has been the feature of many book clubs, nation-wide. But if you’ve missed it, I highly recommend you borrow or buy a copy!

 

Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable start collaboration on articles for the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild (SWG)

 

Long-time Saskatoon-based writers and friends, Julie Barnes, Ashlyn George (not pictured), Ashleigh Mattern, Adele Paul and Elizabeth Shih have been meeting to discuss forthcoming articles for “Freelance” magazine, published by the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.

Topics will include how to secure clients,  how to pitch effectively, how to manage time,  what resources we tap into and more.

Stay tuned for updates!

Photo credit to Ashlyn George

Why the hand-wringing on handwriting? On handwriting and technology, in this month’s issue of TYSN

 

October 2023 Vol 5 Issue 10

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Linguistic Storytelling

Let me teach you to tell your story!

IN THIS ISSUE:

ARTICLE 1: Why the hand-wringing on handwriting?  On handwriting and technology, from staff writers at “The Economist”

STORYTELLER’S CORNER:

From Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “Eleven Bookish Words for Book Lovers” (and what they mean!)–Part One

SHOP NEWS

ABOUT US

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Welcome Mid-October 2023!

As I prepare this issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter,” Saskatoon is in the midst of several weeks of largely mild but also grey weather.

Many of us have indulged in Thanksgiving treats like turkey, ham, pumpkin pie or alternative, multicultural culinary delights. And online ads already promote Hallowe’en candy and (dare I say it, this early?) even Christmas festivities.

Yet, even thinking about these seasonal traditions shrinks before news such as the heightened conflict between Israel and Hamas; the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine and other world hot-spots.

And yet also, as a part of valuing our democratic freedoms, our daily lives and the service of what we do must continue–and that includes discussing issues of communication and entrepreneurship, which are often the fare of this newsletter.

So in this month’s issue, I share findings from a recent article in “The Economist,” co-authored by staff writers (named “Johnson” after Samuel, himself), on why handwriting (even cursive) still matters: How can we say that in our digital age?

In “Storytellers’ Corner,” I cite the Merriam-Webster dictionary for six of “11 bookish words for book lovers” of all varieties.

In “Shop News,” I’m delighted to feature as “Entrepreneur of the Month” my colleague and friend, Julie Barnes, of Julie Barnes Creative Services. My “Entrepreneur of the Month” continues to feature some of the remarkable contacts and colleagues I meet in Saskatoon and surrounding communities–found as a part of entrepreneurial networking. “Shop News” is, therefore, openly and unabashedly partisan.

Julie’s cv is both fascinating and impressive. I encourage you to read her profile, sample some of her work and consider the fine mind which authored them both.

Undergirding this month’s issue is my thanks to the many (often unnamed) friends who have helped me to stagger through another year of caring for an elderly mother in SK’s collapsed senior health care system; and to those who simultaneously have encouraged my entrepreneurial pursuits.

That gratitude can extend to the changing of our seasons, too, this month. Autumn can be lovely, especially when it delivers sun that illumines our dramatic skies and mitigates the chill of nature’s unpredictable winds.

As we begin to reach further into our closets for sweaters, shawls and blankets, good readers, may we consciously turn our minds indoors again: Although Old Man Winter will shortly enter our main stage as he has for millennia past, we can plan to keep ourselves warm by much great literature (past and present); films, performances and art exhibits; food and spirits to nourish us; and even the indoor watching of outdoor sports (!).

Through these and other blessings, while we traverse the remaining weeks of autumn 2023, I wish  you the very best.

Sincerely yours,

Elizabeth 

Principal

Storytelling Communications

www.elizabethshih.com

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Article One: Why the hand-wringing on handwriting?  On handwriting and technology, from staff writers of “The Economist”

In a recent monthly newsletter from “The Economist,” the magazine’s collective of staff writers, “Johnson” (named after the 18th C. British man of letters, “Dr.” Samuel Johnson), writes that even in these hyper-digital days, taking “pen to paper” can intensify the impact of one’s message.

In recent years, educational psychologists have found that note-taking by hand offers learners a significant advantage (across all age groups). As Lane Greene writes in an introduction to the article, “The very inefficiency of the medium is its advantage: it seems to force writers to think and compress information as they jot, rather than mindlessly transcribing verbatim.”

Despite the rush in recent years to digitize human activity, this research has been noticed: Many education programs in Europe now reduce the amount of technology in the classroom, especially for students in their early years, and have increased the teaching of handwriting, including cursive.

The “Johnson” writers note ironically that “two and a half millennia ago, Socrates complained that writing [i.e. handwriting] would harm students,” because it would provide a way to store ideas “permanently and externally,” so the need to memorize would evaporate!

But in our times, a related (now very familiar) debate has developed about the negative effects of using and typing on computers. Students ranging from kindergarten to PhD levels rely heavily (more than ever) on computers to take notes and write their papers.

Families of young students also express alarm that in some American classrooms, laptops have become compulsory for young children. Meantime, university-based academics complain that students are distracted when they should be listening to lectures, because they’re reading and sending email, text or social media messages, instead.

Add to this the power of generative AI (particularly for college and university students) and educators’ hand-wringing, over what medium/media we need to learn by, and how, intensifies.

But as the “Johnson” writers report, one area of pedagogical research shows that long before computers were built, handwriting was revolutionary: “Studies have found that writing on paper can improve everything from recalling a random series of words to imparting a better conceptual grasp of complicated ideas.”

“Johnson”  adds that whether forming “the shapes of letters to the quirks of English spelling, the benefits of using a pen or pencil lie in how the motor and sensory memory of putting words on paper reinforces that material.”  Even how and where one makes “squiggles on a page feeds into visual memory.” I can remember distinctly, as an undergraduate, putting stars in the margins of my handwritten lecture notes, to mark an idea that I wanted to explore more deeply, possibly for a course essay assignment.

Writing by hand underpins “superior note-taking,”  the “Johnson” writers say, in contrast to typing, where students have been found to input nearly twice as many words and more verbatim passages from lectures. This reflects the sad reality that when typing, students often do not understand, but simply copy, what they are hearing.

Due to the time required to write by hand, students’ handwriting compels them to synthesize the lecturer’s ideas in “their own words,” which increases their understanding, even as they write.

Studies also show that hand note-takers “perform better on tests when students are later able to study from their notes.” By contrast, students who typed verbatim did not understand the lecture material, so much as regurgitate it.

The “Johnson” writers say that many studies have demonstrated the benefits of handwriting and so have influenced education policy, due to the “campaigning” of researchers. Half of the states in America have reported that they teach handwriting after the first grade, although the country’s “Common Core” curriculum has not required it, since 2010. I’d like to know (but haven’t yet located) an accurate statistic for Canadian (and especially SK) primary schools.

In the UK, curriculum already prescribes teaching cursive before children turn seven. And in Sweden, there is pressure from educators to work more with handwriting and books–and less with digital technology.

But typing will still be a skill needed by nearly everyone, because (as the “Johnson” writers say) it can “improve the quality of writing: being able to get ideas down quickly, before they are forgotten, can obviously be beneficial.” The greater legibility of typing also weighs as a factor in its longevity, for writers like me.

Handwriting researchers add that students need to learn to slow their typing to process what they hear, thereby improving their understanding.

Not only cursive, but also “ ‘manuscript’ print-style writing” and typing all have proven benefits, the article notes. And handwriting can be reviewed and “tuned up,” even though current school and university/college students continue to increase their use of digital devices, as they age.

Consider, too, how much what we write (i.e. our “message”) will intensify, when we understand it more deeply as part of sharing it with others.

The “Johnson” group (at “The Economist”) aptly concludes that whether Socrates was right or wrong about the threat that handwriting poses to education, “no one would remember, much less care, if his student Plato had not noted it down for . . . posterity.”

And now it’s your turn: What value do you give handwriting in the learning process, in this increasingly digital age?

Should there be hand-wringing over handwriting? Please write in: I’d be delighted to hear from you. 

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STORYTELLER’S CORNER . . . . 

 

 

 

 

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

This month: 

From Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

“Eleven Bookish Words for Book Lovers”

(and what they mean!)

 

Merriam-Webster dictionary periodically makes the news for its quirky and fun blog postings. Last May, their house writers collected a posting called “Eleven Bookish Words for Book Lovers,” the first six of which I’ll share in this month”s issue of “Storytellers’ Corner” (with fictional examples of my own):

 

(1) “Bibliomania” = “an extreme preoccupation with collecting books.” 

 

This word is said to date to at least the early 1700s, and comes from the French term “bibliomanie” (with “biblio” meaning book; and “manie” meaning mania). 

 

E.g. “The Symphony Booksale in Saskatoon each year benefits from the bibliomania of those who donate to it, and even more, from that of those who buy the books!”

 

(2) “Florilegium” = “a volume of writings; an anthology.”

 

This word comes from the Latin word “florilegus,” which means “culling flowers.” So it refers to a “bouquet of writings, specially selected and arranged for your enjoyment,” the writers say.  

 

E.g. “The romantic Willoughby left a posy of flowers and a florilegium of poetry for the lovesick Marianne.” 

 

(3) “Librocubicularist” = “someone who likes to read in bed.”

 

This word comes from the Latin “libr-, libre” (meaning “book” ) and “cubiculum,” (meaning “bedroom”). Writer Christopher Morley is credited with the coinage of “librocubicularist” in his 1919 novel, The Haunted Bookshop: 

 

E.g. ” ‘All right,’ said the bookseller, amiably. ‘Miss Chapman, you take the book up with you and read it in bed if you want to. Are you a librocubicularist?’ ” (Morley).

 

(4) “Dithyramb” = The writers define this as “a usually short poem in an inspired, wild, irregular strain.” The term is not new to English literary critics. But while it currently refers to “any short irregular poem,” the word dithyramb comes from the Greek “dithyrambos,” which was the name for wild and irregular verse that honoured Dionysus, the Classical god of wine. He was widely associated with Greek festivals. 

 

E.g. “The poet who had hitherto been known for her ordered, highly structured verse, suddenly rose and, throwing caution to the wind, read a dithyramb about the the chaotic emotions of unrequited love.”

 

(5) “Book-Bosomed” = means “carrying a book at all times,” metaphorically (or literally) near one’s bosom. The term is attributed to the early 19th-century verse of Sir Walter Scott.

 

E.g. “The book-bosomed teenager whiled away the afternoon by reading a well-thumbed collection  of Shakespearean sonnets.”

  

(6) “Bibliotherapy” = “the use of reading materials for help in solving personal problems or for psychiatric therapy.” The word dates to at least 1914. 

 

E.g. “After trying many forms of treatment, the man found that his depression lifted only through bibliotherapy–especially focusing on Alexander McCall-Smith’s life- affirming mysteries.”

 

 Stay tuned to next month’s issue for another five “bookish” words from Merriam-Webster! 

 

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SHOP NEWS:

“Entrepreneur of the Month”: This month, featuring Julie Barnes of Julie Barnes’ Creative Services: 

 

Julie Barnes is a full-time freelance writer and a regular contributor to Saskatoon HOME magazine, where she writes about everything from agriculture to architecture, composting to cohousing.

 

Her recent article about Radiance Cohousing was born out of several conversations with friends about how to create a better sense of community and belonging.

 

For anyone who is seeking to strengthen their own community ties, Julie recommends reading Mia Birdsong’s excellent book, How we show up: Reclaiming family, friendship and community. 

 

Nine years ago, Julie and her husband, Josh, installed a green roof on their detached garage in Saskatoon. Brimming with succulents and native grasses, and buzzing with bees each summer, the roof has thrived, but green roofs in Saskatchewan never really took root. Curious about why green roofs have gained popularity in other places, but not in her home province, Julie investigated how other cities have encouraged their uptake for a recent article for CBC Saskatoon. 

 

Julie has also written about travel, environmental stewardship, gardening, urban planning and more for a variety of publications including the Ottawa CitizenPrairies North magazine, Cottage Life West and the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s quarterly magazine. 

 

In addition to writing, Julie is also a talent agent for the folksinger/song writer/public speaker Eric Paetkau, the former conductor and music director of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (2015-2022). 

 

Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Julie spent a year in Dublin after university, followed up by five years in Ottawa, before moving to Saskatoon in 2011.

 

She’s happy to have found a community of local freelance writers, who meet monthly to share ideas, advice, referrals and more over coffee. “When you work in a solitary field, like writing, it’s important to find time to get out of the house and connect with others,” she says.

 

(Nepotism Alert: Julie is a friend and colleague whom I met more than 10 years ago through Saskatoon’s branch of the International Association of Business Communicators [IABC]).

 

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Ten years ago, along with the freelance writer and web designer, Asheigh Mattern, Julie and I co-founded a writers’ group (aka “Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable”) and encourage other creatives to do the same.

 

For more information about our group and what we do, please check our collective article in the “Writers Ask” section,”  forthcoming in the next (quarterly) issue of the  Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild  magazine, “Freelance.”  

 

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Hearty thanks also go out (albeit belatedly) to William Wang, Director, Alberta China Offices, Intergovernmental Relations, Executive Council, Government of AB, for discussing with me potential markets for teaching the English language to newcomers, particularly in SK.

 

William once led China Offices for the Government of SK and still calls Regina home (huzzah)!

 

I’m deeply indebted to him for sharing with me his time, strategy and even an introduction to “WeChat.” I am now past due to host an authentic Chinese lunch when you next visit Saskatoon, William!  

 

And thank you again to my long-term mentor and dear friend, Monica Kreuger, for introducing me, last summer, to William! There will be more collaborations to come . . . .

 

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And a final “Thank You”  in this issue goes not least to the extraordinary women leaders of SK who spoke at “Women in the Lead: Navigating the Political Labyrinth” (October 4th), spearheaded by Monica Kreuger, in affiliation with Business and Professional Women of SK (BPW), the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce and Equal Voice (the latter, a not-for-profit organization that encourages women to serve in politics). 

 

It was fortifying to hear eight talented and successful women, who have served in either municipal, provincial or federal politics, discuss the urgent need for more women to enter leadership roles in our province; and the related challenges of defining our own priorities, since we usually balance the demands of family with those of our careers.

 

Special thanks to speakers and panellists Claire Card, Vicki Mowat, Tracy Muggli, Lenore Swystun, Tiffany Paulsen, Bev Dubois, Colleen Young and Pat Atkinson, for renewing this discussion for us.

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Would you like to improve your English language skills?

Are you a newcomer whose language skills have not gotten you traction in the job market?

Do you have language-related “career blues” and don’t know how to move through them? 

Starting in December, I will take one or two more students for my in-person language lessons, most of which occur in one or other local  library.

If you (or someone you know) are interested, or for more information, please don’t hesitate to email me here:

shih.ea@gmail.com

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ABOUT US:

This month, I’m particularly grateful to close friends, several of whom have provided me with emotional support and encouragement, as I move (perhaps for the last time) an aging family member into a care facility for disabled seniors.

The list of these friends’ names is long (and I wish to preserve their privacy), but they know who they are, even as I strive to thank and acknowledge them, in-person.

Good friends have often been said to be “the family we would like to have chosen.” So this issue of TYSN is dedicated to all of the truly wonderful friends out there–whether mine or yours, good reader. Blessings on them, for personifying generosity, support and kindness.

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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 Canadian newcomers secure better jobs by improving their language skills; I help small- and medium-sized businesses close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I also write the legacy stories of major companies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (www.elizabethshih.com).

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

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca).