January 2021–Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN)

January 2021, Vol 3 Issue 1

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN): Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!


ARTICLE 1: Missing out on reading? Writer Christian Jarrett on how to get back to the books


On Janus words with Mignon Fogarty



Welcome Mid-January, 2021!


With Christmas now past, many of you have expressed relief with the mild temperatures the month of January has so far provided. Such mildness has made weathering the ongoing pandemic much easier. Compromising on the choices we make, so as to overcome the hold that Covid-19 has on us, we can, however, understandably feel weary with the isolation and loneliness brought by social distancing.

In this month’s issue, I highlight the coping strategy of reading, by visiting sensible ways to gain or reclaim it, if you have lost the habit, in our daily lives. Pandemic times make  the library and local bookstores as essential as grocery stores. And in “Storytellers’ Corner,” I visit Mignon Fogarty’s explanation of “Janus words,” which often confuse us with their double and contradictory meanings.

While we are mid-winter, with today (January 18) often described as the “bluest” day of the year, the appreciable lengthening of daylight hours offers us hope, as does the promise of a spring and summer that will bring vaccinations.

Meantime, I wish you the calm, patience (and if need be, downright escapism) that good reading can provide, even if we feel we are trudging along, keeping “one foot in front of the other,” as resilience requires.




Storytelling Communications



Article One: Missing out on reading? Writer Christian Jarrett on how to get back to the books

One of the struggles for at least some creatives during the Covid-19 pandemic is that daily life can feel too frantic for books. Piles of both fiction and non-fiction lie stacked near my favourite reading chair, and yet often remain unread.

In a recent issue of “Aeon + Psyche,” writer and neuroscientist Christian Jarrett recommends habit-building strategies for pandemic-weary, armchair readers, who want to return to reading, for the self-improvement—and sheer joy— that it brings. I turn to those, below.

Like Jarrett, I envy heavy readers who can invest hours daily in the process. I find that a day spent without serious reading feels like a day misspent. I’m sorry to say that I’m not currently a heavy reader, not least because, as Jarrett writes, whatever is happening in the lives of heavy readers, “they’re never completely on their own—they always have their books.”

Twenty-first century life has many of us overwhelmed by the demands on our time, so we buy books with the intention of reading them, but often do not get there. Jarrett says that the Japanese even have coined a word for this condition, call “tsundoku.” A survey of adults in the US revealed that more than one-third wish they could read more than they do. Anecdotal evidence in Canada indicates at least similar, if not higher, rates.

He notes that editors, agents and book award judges—professional “super-readers”—manage to read (or to listen to audiobooks for) as many as 100 titles each month. While that’s not realistic for most of us, Jarrett emphasizes that we need to change our habits, if we want to restore the “attention and time” that reading deserves. Here are his six recommendations:

(1) Give up watching television or other screens for entertainment, so as to immerse yourself in good books—be they fiction or non-fiction. Jarrett observes that today’s reading of screens tends to “show you what’s happening; novels, by contrast, construct those fictions within your mind, allowing you to become anyone, and go anywhere.” Creativity and imaginative release can replace the mere distraction of screen based entertainment. Millennials, take note!

(2) Jarrett warns that those of us who have fallen out of the habit of reading more books can expect to make an effort initially, until the habit returns “without conscious effort and willpower.” Making reading into a habit, even for just “two minutes per day” (I’d recommend 10-15), gives you time to adjust to making reading an “entrenched part of your daily routine.”

Writer James Clear asserts that “a habit has to be established before it can be improved.” Piggybacking reading onto habits you already have (e.g. making it a bedtime ritual) can help you to keep it up. When you “reinforce the association” between reading and a time and place, you’ll become able to do it without thinking about it.

(3) Neuroscience has shown for decades that readers benefit from reading: “People who read literary fiction in particular tend to be better at reading others’ emotions and have greater moral sensitivity, possibly due to their simulation of the lives of complex characters.” He reminds us that reading non-fiction also provides cognitive stimulation that protects us from Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.

(4) Beginner leisure readers who do not have much experience should start with books they enjoy, Jarrett says, so they find the process “entertaining, calming, moving or intellectually stimulating and fascinating.” Trial and error and time may be required for newbie readers find a sweet spot of authors and genres that suits them. Some patience is needed, here, but there are obvious choices to begin with, such as Alexander McCall Smith and Louise Penny (detective fiction). You can always describe your interests to a librarian or local bookseller, who will happily recommend an appropriate author.

Jarrett cites author James Clear on forming a habit of reading: “Read whatever helps you fall in love with the act of being a reader or the habit of reading. And once you fall in love with the habit, then it’s easy. . . Now you’ve got . . . options, because it’s part of your life.”

(5) Jarrett also recommends that we quit reading the books we don’t enjoy and consider re-reading the ones we do. Reading time is too precious to invest in a title we do not like.

(6) Recording our progress in journals can also help, since reporting on the books you have read will deepen the habit. Some readers cultivate their “own sense of self and identity as a reader,” by attending virtual bookclubs, or by joining “Goodreads,” where they can review books they’re reading and learn about new authors whose work can interest them.

As a former academic reader, I enjoy reading or re-reading literary classics and then watching their film adaptations over streaming services like “BritBox” or “Acorn,” or on PBS Masterpiece Classic and Masterpiece Mystery. It can be fascinating to critique the interpretations that film adaptations provide.

While many of my readerly friends and colleagues listen to audiobooks and read titles on iPads or e-readers, I am partial to reading books in their traditional, “hard copy” format. Since I don’t want to grow an unwieldy library in my home (which would turn storage and moving into headaches), I happily use the local library system, with its excellent, online reservation service–and encourage others to do the same.

And now it’s your turn:

Amid these pandemic weary days, do you want to become more of a reader than you currently are? Do any of Jarrett’s recommendations inspire you to get started?

Please tell me about your readerly journey on my “contact” page: I’d be delighted to hear from you.



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: On Janus words, with Mignon Fogarty

At the end of last year, “Grammar Girl” and writer, Mignon Fogarty, wrote a blog posting on “Janus words,” which are also called auto-antonyms. (The term “Janus” comes from Roman mythology, where the deity Janus had two faces, one looking forward and another, backward. In common writing, the term refers to something having two contrasting aspects; and, less commonly, to someone who is two-faced or deceitful.)

“Janus words,” then, are words that have two opposing meanings (i.e. “auto-antonyms,” or words that provide their own antonyms). A good example is the verb “to dust,” which can mean both “to add a light layer,” such as when one “dusts a cake with icing sugar,” and “to remove dust,” such as when one “dusts the tables and surfaces before company arrives”).

Fogarty cites “sanction” as another Janus word, as it can mean both “to approve or ratify something” and “to punish or penalize someone.” So too is “chuffed,” an English word that can mean both “pleased or satisfied” (more common) and “displeased or disgruntled” (less common).

Fogarty estimates that there are about 30 Janus words in the English language (others include “cleave,” “trim,” “seed” and “alight”), which add to the challenge of learning  the language for children and for non-native speakers. In most of these cases, one of the two meanings is far more common, but the second is still possible.

Janus words caused me frustration in childhood (verbalized in the 1970s and 80s to my family) that some words “don’t mean what they’re supposed to”–or at least don’t have a single, stable meaning.

They remain the delight of readers as well as literary theorists like Jacques Derrida and Slavoj Zizek.

And now it’s your turn: Do you notice Janus words in the reading and writing of your discipline? Why not share them on my “contact” page? 



I am particularly grateful this month to Monica Kreuger, Deanna Litz and Elaine Manytka for leading and running the staySMART cohort of alumni from the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship.

This group of entrepreneurs has been meeting since last fall, to strategize on how to make our businesses more Covid resistant. The 90 minute, weekly seminars, combined with 45 minutes of weekly coaching from Deanna Litz, have been fortifying and inspiring; and the contact with fellow alumni soothing, in these troubled times.

As a participant in this program, I’m delighted to provide editing services for websites and blog postings, for several fellow staySMART alumni. Special thanks to Monica Kreuger, for making this possible.

Meantime, I continue with my ESL training through Tefl.org and look forward to upcoming months, when I will unroll services of language instruction. Between writing and teaching, I will help new immigrant entrepreneurs and others “to tell their stories in English,” or “to learn  English to tell their stories.”


Hearty congratulations this month to Monica Kreuger for being named CTV Saskatoon’s Citizen of the Year. Monica’s 30+ years of leadership in entrepreneurial circles and her generosity, profound decency and genius all made it very easy to write in support of her nomination.

Special thanks to Lenore Swystun and Deanna Litz for spearheading that application process.



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 write marketing and communications documents and lead  workshops that help entrepreneurs and newcomers to Canada to strengthen their businesses or secure better jobs.

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).