Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Going Above and Beyond ... Customer Satisfaction

I read recently that in the early 1900s the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company regularly ran ads in the newspaper telling patrons what they had left behind in the rail cars.  The ads mentioned valuable items such as handbags, suitcases, coats and eyeglasses.  More mundane items were also mentioned on the list of lost and found items ... a baby bottle, a letter, a small music roll, a knife ... illustrating the point that an item's value is in the eye of the beholder.
  The fact that the company went to the time and expense of placing the ads is impressive.  We often deal with people/companies who are helpful, efficient and pleasant.  Or not.  But finding ones who truly go above and beyond is a much appreciated experience.
  I'm proud to say that I work with a group of above-and-beyonders at my branch of the public library.  It's what they do.  And doing so makes them as happy as the satisfied patron.    

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Oxymoron ... a Reminder to Laugh at Ourselves

A Sanitary Sewer!  (photo by Jan Siebold)

    I snapped this photo of a "Sanitary Sewer" cover in Washington, D.C.  It is a perfect example of an oxymoron ... a self-contradictory term from the Greek oxus, meaning "sharp", and moros, meaning "stupid".  One translation of the term is "pointedly foolish".
    Popular examples of the oxymoron are "jumbo shrimp", "Great Depression", "military intelligence",  and "poor little rich girl".
    Maybe we enjoy thinking about the oxymoron because we are reminded that as human beings we are full of contradictions* and momentary lapses in judgement.  After all, these phrases were coined by humans, probably by accident or in all seriousness at the time that they were first uttered or written.  For the most part, the chuckle didn't come until later when someone realized the incongruity of the words in question.
    Any time that we are reminded to not take ourselves too seriously is "awfully good" in my book!

*see my blog post "Explore Contradictions!" dated 9/27/12



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Patience, Man, Patience

photo by Jan Siebold

  My husband and I were walking up Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  At one intersection we tried to beat the traffic light that was turning from green to red, but didn't quite make it.  An impatient driver blasted his horn at us.  A bicyclist waiting next to the car looked at the driver and said, "You gotta wait, man.  What are you going to do, hit 'em?"  The small crowd around us cheered and clapped at this show of kindness and common sense.
  One of the greatest lessons that I have learned as a writer is that much patience is required.  Before my first book was published I spent months and months waiting to hear about the precious manuscript that I had flung out into the world.  Once I received a glorious acceptance letter I waited more months for initial contact from my assigned editor.  I waited again for responses to my rewrites and again for a glimpse of my book's cover art.  I waited for the F&Gs.  A little over a year after receiving the acceptance letter, the exciting day came when a box of the finished books arrived at my door.  That was followed by another nail-biting period ... waiting for the reviews to come in.
  Good things come to those who wait.  Meanwhile, life goes on.  Use the time wisely.  You gotta wait, man.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Salut a L'objet ... Greet the Prop!

photo by Jan Siebold

     In his book Creativity:  the Perfect Crime tightrope walker Philippe Petit describes his Salut a L'Objet ... a ritual that he performs when beginning each work session.  Petit calls it his "personal salute" to his tools and his work space.
     I believe that this salute is more than just a way to focus and to mentally prepare for work.  It is much more spiritual in nature.    
     My writing place is sacred to me.  I have chosen carefully the objects that surround me.  I love the idea of saluting this space and the tools that I use to accomplish my work.  They deserve my respect and thanks.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Lesson from Steve Martin ... Cause and Effect

photo by Jan Siebold

1.  Went to hear Steve Martin speak at University of Buffalo.  His message ... originality!
2.  Heard about his new CD with Edie Brickell ... Love Has Come for You.
3.  Ordered CD from Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System.
4.  Received CD.  Liked it a lot.  Decided to buy a copy.
5.  Read CD liner notes.  In the notes for the song "King of Boys", saw a reference to book called A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor.
6.  Looked up MacGregor book in Buffalo and Erie County Public Library catalog.  Found entry.
7.  Saw an entry directly above for a book subtitled 100 Objects Inserted and Ingested in Places They Shouldn't Be by Rich Draben.
8.  Learned ways to avoid major physical discomfort, injury and possible death from Draben book.  Thank you Steve Martin!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Make Way for Boston...

Make Way for Ducklings statues in Boston Public Garden (photo by Jan Siebold)
"'I like this place,' said Mrs. Mallard as they climbed out on the bank and waddled along."
                                                 -from Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

I love you Boston, and I know that you'll keep marching forward....

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What's in a Name? Bad Working Titles...

The crooked door at The Crooked Door in Albion, NY (photo by Jan Siebold)

  I admire people who come up with catchy names and titles.  We recently had a delicious lunch with friends at a restaurant called "The Crooked Door" in Albion, NY.  A favorite local restaurant was called Billy Ogden's because it was located on the corner of William and Ogden Streets in Buffalo.  On vacation we saw a laundromat called "The Missing Sock".  Clever. 
  My first two children's novels had really bad working titles.  I called my first book The Assignment. The problems with that title are too obvious to even write about here.  Luckily it did very well as Rope Burn.  The original title of my second book was O.L.D. Friend.  The letters stood for "On-Line Discussion", which referred to the premise of the book.  My editor pointed out that there would be confusion over what to call the book when saying its title out loud.  After a telephone brainstorming session we decided to call the book Doing Time Online
  After doing a little research about working titles I don't feel quite so bad.  It seems that Eric Carle's beloved book The Very Hungry Caterpillar started out as A Week with Willi the Worm.  John Steinbeck's classic Of Mice and Men went by the title Something that Happened.  Couldn't that be the title of any book?  Would the movie E.T have done as well if its title had not been changed from A Boy's Life?  Even The Beatles came up with a clunker of a title now and then.  Their hit song Yesterday was originally called Scrambled Egg.
  Thank you to the editors who see past those bad titles and are willing to read further.  Hopefully the name of my blog earns me a few kudos.  Jan's Pencil Point.  A pencil has a point and my blog has a point.  Get it?