Tag Archives: postaday2011

Make my day: Feedback

Writers and editors put a lot of information out into the universe each day and never quite know how and where it sticks. So feedback, both positive and negative, is what we live for. It tells us people are paying attention.

The following message came from Melanie Rogers, who wrote our April issue story, “The Kid’s Speech: Finding Support for a Child who Stutters.”

I had a stack of mail to go through last week, and didn’t realize the magazine was out until I received a wonderful email from someone I know who saw it. I quickly went through my mail and am so pleased with the fantastic job your editors and art [director] did with the story. Nate was thrilled to see his picture in your magazine, and I am so glad to get the word out about stuttering support.

Thank you so much for allowing me in your magazine. It’s been a favorite for years, and I’m tickled pink that I had an article published by you.

Giving positive feedback, I’ve discovered, is just as satisfying as receiving it. So I wrote back:

Glad you liked the spread, Melanie. It was nice of you to write to say so! I thought the article (which came out just after “The King’s Speech” won the Academy Award) was very timely and full of helpful information for parents. I also really enjoyed watching the video you and Nate put together…what a great thing you are doing by empowering your son to educate others about his stutter.

The video I’m referring to appears on the home page of the National Stuttering Association:

100 mompreneurs and counting

It was longtime Raising Arizona Kids contributor Brittney Walker who came up with the idea of running a weekly feature on our website about local mothers who are running businesses.

Hard to believe we’ve already profiled 100 of them in our Monday RAK Mompreneur feature.

Brittney wrote the section for awhile, until she took a break to focus on family, community and church responsibilities. (We’re happy to say she’s got the writing bug again and has several assignments in the works.)

We gave the assignment to Brooke Mortensen, who interned with us right after she graduated from college in the spring of 2010 and continues to write for us as a freelancer.

Between the two of them, Brittney and Brooke have covered a wide range of mom-owned businesses. They’ve profiled photographers, jewelry makers, cooks/caterers/bakers and candy makers. They’ve interviewed moms who make fitness fun, moms who help other moms stay organized, moms with a knack for fashion — or finding deals, or dispensing advice — and even a “multi-mompreneur” who runs several businesses concurrently.

Certainly these moms are not lacking in energy, creativity or drive. They are a diverse bunch from all kinds of backgrounds. Each has a unique and interesting story of the journey that brought her to this place in life. But there are two things  that unite them all: passion for what they do and the desire to live life on their own terms so they can keep family as their first and most important priority.

As one of the Valley’s veteran mompreneurs (we started Raising Arizona Kids 22 years ago in my then-2-year-old’s nursery), I have great respect for those priorities and a deep and empathetic appreciation for how terribly challenging it can be to live up to them.

There is nothing harder than being a mom. And there are few things harder than running a business. When you’re trying to do both, your highs are very high and  your lows are frighteningly low. On your worst days, you are ruled by questions and doubt. You wonder why you keep at it. On your best days, you feel enormous pride and a deep sense of fulfillment.

And when you’ve been at it as long as I have, you start to gain a sense of the bigger picture. It’s not just about building a business. It’s about building a community — a family of people who care about something just as deeply as you do and sometimes even more. People who have developed their own threads of friendship and meaning within a context of shared purpose that wouldn’t even exist if someone hadn’t thought, “I wonder if I could…?”

The best laid plans

Sometimes the day doesn’t go the way you expected. Despite your best intentions. And because of them.

My husband and I planned to attend a girls lacrosse game on Saturday morning. We wanted to watch my honorary goddaughter, Ace Jenkins, in her first game of a new season with the Desert StiX. We showed up at the field at 11am, the time I’d noted on my calendar.

The game actually started at 10. It was my mistake; I’d entered it incorrectly on my calendar. So we missed the whole thing. But we enjoyed the chance to catch up with 10-year-old Ace and her dad, Tony.

Dan, who played lacrosse in college and was an enthusiastic fan for the eight years our son David played in high school and college, gave Ace some pointers. He encouraged her to practice picking up the ball with her stick, and explained a drill she could do on her own at home. Pickups are important, he explained, because the team that is most often in possession of the ball usually wins the game.

As we were talking, we noticed an older group of girls gathering at the other end of the field. As Ace and Tony left to go home, Dan and I walked down the field to investigate.

Dan, who still follows both boys and girls high school lacrosse in Arizona, quickly figured out what was going on. It was tryouts for the traveling team that will represent Arizona in the Women’s Division National Tournament at Stony Brook University in New York over Memorial Day weekend. Dan spotted Jessica Livingston, coach at Chaparral High School, who was leaning on crutches as she watched the warmups and drills from the sidelines. (She torn her ACL playing lacrosse a few weeks ago and won’t likely be playing again for the next six months.)

I needed a story for the Sunday website. Dan is always happy to write about lacrosse. And I had my camera. So my best laid plans gone wrong ended up right on track.

Read Dan’s story here.

A wonderful civics lesson for all

A huge video monitor was used to share a message of welcome from President Barack Obama.

Twenty people. Nineteen different countries of origin. Anywhere from four to 52 years of time spent living in this country. Working here. Contributing.

The flag of the United States of America. The flag of the Department of Homeland Security. Girl Scouts. Public officials, including former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

The story of a man whose family escaped the wars in Nicaragua when he was just a first grader. A vivid description that captivated each person in the audience, including the very youngest.

The Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem. Trusting, innocent voices singing, “This land is my land, this land is your land….” Knowing it.

Smiles that wouldn’t stop. A baby that wouldn’t stop crying. A videotaped message from the President of the United States.

Hugs. Tears. Handshakes of congratulations. A sunsplashed patio. Fairytale Brownies and lemonade. Goodbyes. Good wishes.

Two of the citizenship candidates who were led to the ceremony by Desert View Learning Center students.

Desert View Learning Center in Paradise Valley hosted a naturalization ceremony Friday. Because several of our staff members have children who attended the school, its principal, Piya Jacob, invited us to attend. Multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint, staff photographer Daniel Friedman and I were honored to witness this sacred rite of passage that is something akin to a baptism, a wedding and a graduation all rolled into one.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services typically conducts these ceremonies within the confines of a courtroom. Just recently, the decision was made to offer some of the ceremonies within different venues in the community. Desert View was chosen because one of its parents is an immigration officer.

The students played an active role in the event. Their artwork adorned the programs. They made paper flags of each citizenship candidate’s country of origin. The candidates proudly carried their flags as they were escorted by the third grade class into the sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix. (The school rents space from the church.) A Girl Scout troop presented the colors.

The entire student body was seated on the floor at the front of the sanctuary so that each student had a clear view of the ceremony. Many wore red, white and blue. The group sat quietly, respectfully, jumping up only when it was time to sing one of several songs they performed.

Piya, herself a native of India who became a naturalized citizen a number of years ago, was expecting “a wonderful civics lesson for all, and a most heartwarming ceremony.” The actual event surpassed all expectations.

Candidates take the oath of citizenship.

Going back to my father’s book

I hadn’t opened the binder for more than two months. I couldn’t even remember why I stopped reading its pages. And yet there it was, on my living room coffee table, waiting patiently for its turn among the piles of books, magazines and research notes demanding my attention.

My father’s book has waited 20 years for me to read it. I guess another two months wasn’t such a big deal.

On this particular night, my husband was going to be out late. My work was done (enough of it, anyway), my house was fairly tidy and I even had a big pot of my favorite Barley Minestrone Soup on the stove. I had at least two hours ahead with no interruptions.

It was time to go back to my father’s book.

My father always said that everything he wanted to say to me and my brothers, but couldn’t, was in the novel he wrote during the months before his death, just after Father’s Day, in June 0f 1991. You would think we’d be eager to read it. We each started to, but never managed to finish it — partly because it’s written in a style that is antiquated and cumbersome. (My dad placed his novel in Australia during the mid-1800s and tried to mimic the language of the day.)

But for me it was also because I was afraid I’d be disappointed. That there wouldn’t be any great insights. That his words would not solve the lingering mysteries of his life, or the frightening, painful death that he endured without letting any of us know that he was ill.

In January, I decided that the specter of that book was messing with my mind — with my own goals to write a book and my emerging sense of self as a middle-aged mother of two grown sons. So I mustered my courage and dove back in.

For several nights I slowly poured over each chapter, trying to read behind the lines and understand the process behind his choice of story line, characters and setting. I read with purpose, pausing after each chapter to jot down notes about my initial impressions. I looked for fictionalized interpretations of my real-life experience as his daughter. I read with kinder, more understanding eyes than I had offered as a self-centered, 35-year-old who still carried no small amount of resentment about her largely absent father.

The first time I tried to read my father’s book I didn’t get past the first 40 pages. This time I made it to page 58. There, to my great distress, I discovered that some pages of his manuscript were missing. So I start again, at page 64, hoping the answers I am seeking aren’t lost forever with those six missing pages.

Questions about copyediting

Maggie Pingolt, a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications, called our office to ask if she could interview one of our copyeditors. Ours work on contract, so they aren’t typically in the office.

“I supervise the copyeditors,” I said. “Do you want to talk to me?” I was on my way out the door but we agreed to a time later that day to talk on the phone.

Being interviewed by someone isn’t a routine event for me. I’m used to being on the “asking questions” side of interviews and I was surprised to realize how hard it is to talk about the things you do and think about every day.

Maggie: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Me: Okay, this is kind of a joke, but not really. Keeping up with my email! I get so many hundreds of emails each day it’s beyond manageable. The rest of my job as editor is joyful. I like what I do. But the effort to keep up with my email is a constant source of stress and really eats up my time.

Maggie: Describe your office environment in one word.

Me: The first word that comes to mind is “crazy.” We always have a lot going on at once because we’re a really small staff trying to do the work of a bigger magazine. Call it “crazy,” “chaotic”…any way you can think of to say it that doesn’t make me sound like a lunatic. By the way, this isn’t going to published anywhere, is it?

Just then, our staff writer/photographer, Daniel Friedman, walked by my office door and I heard Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist call out, “Hi, fried man!”

Maggie: If you could change one aspect of copyediting, what would it be?

Me: These are hard questions! I guess the only thing I really wish I could change is that I wouldn’t miss things. We have several layers of copyeditors who read the magazine before it goes to press and yet there is no way to ever get it perfect. You’re never going to be able to change one thing that solves all the problems. You’re dealing with human beings and a complex language with all sorts of exceptions to rules. I like rules, stylebooks…they give me a sense of certainty as opposed to having to make judgment calls.

I wish copyediting didn’t take so long, but it does — to get it right. I wish it weren’t so important but it is. In this day and age, where everyone is throwing stuff up on the web without a second thought, I worry that the value of copyediting, and factchecking in particular, has been lost.

Maggie: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to go into the field of copyediting?

Me: Really know the basics — grammar, spelling…and understand how important factchecking is. Study the AP Stylebook, get the app on your iPhone and use it…basics! I can’t tell you how many freelance submissions I get on a daily basis with typos, grammatical errors, informal language…it’s disrespectful to an editor to be so sloppy. People don’t take the time they should. All writers should think of themselves as students who are trying to impress the teacher.

Maggie: What’s your biggest pet peeve as an editor?

Me: That’s an easy one: People who are sloppy. Sloppiness indicates disrespect…they couldn’t take the time. I’m a firm believer that you do something until it’s as good as it can be, and only then do you let it go.

Maggie: Are there specific examples of grammar or word-use errors that bother you?

Me: Things that bother me? “It’s” and “its”…a lot of people don’t get that you only use “it’s” when you mean “it is.” Not the possessive.

I cringe when I see “all right” spelled as one word: “alright.” And then “there,” “their,” “they’re”…people misuse those all the time.  I can’t stand run-on sentences…all of that drives me crazy.

We all make mistakes; don’t get me wrong. But when I see a freelance submission that has more than one or two it makes me want to claw my eyes out.

Small world stories: the intern and the summer job

Interns Patrick O'Connor and Veronica Jones at our May 2011 cover shoot.

When we interviewed him for a graphic design internship, Patrick O’Connor told us that he is often “quiet, initially.” When he started working with us last month, he proved to be just that. Hardworking, talented, eager to learn the ropes — and quiet.

So when he spoke up during an impromptu meeting I called in the art department Monday morning, I paid attention.

“I made it into the magazine,” he said. Quietly.

I looked at him, puzzled. He showed me a page in the June 2009 issue of our magazine. A page that included an ad for Hubbard Sports Camp.

“That’s me,” he said, pointing to the tall guy in the back.

Patrick is a 2005 graduate of Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix. He’s a December 2010 graduate of the University of Arizona, with a BFA in studio art and visual communications design. And during the summer of 2008 he was a counselor at Hubbard Sports Camp, where he coached a variety of sports for kids ages 4½-13.

Patrick clearly has a love of sports. While he was at UofA, he worked as a freelance videographer for Tucson’s Fox 11. He shot footage of football, basketball and soccer at three Tucson high schools. He also shot video for the UofA’s football team for both practices and games.

Patrick is juggling two internships these days. He spends the mornings with us and the afternoons at Tempe-based Boon, which designs and markets innovative products and gear for babies.

This capable young man, who favors plaid, button-down shirts and clean, fresh graphic design, is quietly securing  his place in a successful future.

Photos at top and bottom by RAK staff photographer Daniel Friedman.

Special thanks to Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams for enhancing the photo (circle) so we could see Patrick’s face in the group photo from the ad.