Tag Archives: RAK magazine

Who is your parenting guru? (part 2)

Following up on yesterday’s post, the remaining five parenting experts recommended by Raising Arizona Kids e-newsletter subscribers:

KEVIN LEHMAN

Kevin Lehman, Ph.D. is an internationally renowned psychologist and New York Times bestselling author of more than 30 books offering techniques, tips and insights on parenting, marriage and relationship issuesMaking Children Mind Without Losing Yours is the one that first comes to my mind when I think about Lehman, the father of five children and a resident of Tucson. His other books explore topics like birth order, childhood memories, single parenting, the importance of dads and even marital sex.

“I have found sound advice, natural-consequence education, responsibility training and humor in reading Dr. Kevin Leman’s work,” a Valley teacher wrote. “His practical approach to child-rearing and even couples work as a unified entity in parenting is superior in my book. All of this work is presented in a straightforward and highly humorous way. He’s engaging and knows exactly what challenges we as parents face on a day-to-day basis. I have yet to see his presentation in person but hope to very soon.”

LAURA MARKHAM

Clinical psychologist Laura Markham, Ph.D.  is the founding editor of the website AhaParenting.com. Her relationship-based parenting model is based on the premise that children who feel connected want to cooperate, that children need guidance — limits with empathy when necessary — but never punishment.

“I follow her daily posts and receive emails,” wrote the mother of a 2-year-old son. “She is brilliant, and every bit of advice she offers is relevant and realistic. Many parenting advice experts are impressive and great but it is practically impossible to follow through on their advice. She actually relates advice to real people who have jobs and busy lives.”

Here’s an appearance Markham did on CNN’s Joy Behar Show, where she responded to questions about scare-tactics discipline:

KIM JOHN PAYNE

Kim John Payne, M.Ed. is the author of the book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids.

Kim John Payne. Photo courtesy of SimplicityParenting.com.

The book blames “too much stuff, too many choices and too little time” for the fact that so many children become anxious, have trouble with friends and school, or are even diagnosed with behavioral problems. Payne has been a school counselor, adult educator, consultant, researcher, educator and a private family counselor for 27 years.

I have to admit that I’d never heard of Kim John Payne until I got this recommendation from a reader who happens to be a trainer for this approach. As someone who feels no small amount of stress from the constant struggle to simplify and prioritize my own time, tasks and overcrowded email queue, this philosophy sounded very appealing to me. As our world gets more complex and technology makes it possible for incredible amounts of information to reach our consciousness, I truly believe that the successful people of the future will be the ones who can quickly assess it, determine what to let in and know what to dismiss as irrelevant noise.

JOSEPH CHILTON PEARCE

Joesph Chilton Pearce‘s  book, Magical Child, was a national bestseller. Pearce focuses on the importance of emotional development, parent-child bonding and imaginative play.

From a 1999 interview with Journal of Family Life: “Children’s emotional experience, how they feel about themselves and the world around them, has a tremendous impact on their growth and development. It’s the foundation on which all learning, memory, health and well-being are based. When that emotional structure is not stable and positive for a child, no other developmental process within them will function fully.”

“Joesph Chilton Pearce is beyond recommendation or discussion,” one Valley educator wrote.

JOHN ROSEMOND

John Rosemond has worked in the field of family psychology since 1971. He has written 14 parenting books and his columns are syndicated in 225 newspapers nationwide. His mission, as described on his website, is “to help America’s parents claim loving leadership of their families.”  His first of four faith-based books, Parenting by The Book, promises that “any parent who so desires can grow children who [are] happy, emotionally-healthy children who honor their parents and their families with good behavior and do their best in school.”

“His books are timeless and he speaks directly to parenting issues with humor and examples,” one reader wrote. “The opportunity to invite a parenting guru such as John Rosemond to speak in the Valley would be an event not to miss,” wrote another.

That brings us to 10. After I’d already decided to limit the list to 10, I got an email yesterday from someone who was wondering if it was too late to suggest another.

“I’m curious to know if anyone suggested Larry Winget, the Paradise Valley author of Your Kids Are Your Fault: A Guide for Raising Responsible, Productive Adults,” she wrote. “I realize his style is significantly different from most ‘gurus’ but he speaks in a down-to-earth practical tone that is refreshing.”

Larry Winget. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

We actually have some experience with Winget, who appeared in our June 2010 magazine. Read Dan Friedman’s interview and listen to the podcast.

I decided not to take some of the remaining suggestions too seriously. I’m not sure I’d consider the Duggar family (from the TLC show, “19 Kids and Counting”) to be the best resource. And then there was this suggestion:

“My first choice would be God or Jesus, and…those two are definitely unavailable for a speaking engagement.”

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If you’d like to get our e-newsletter, send your email address to debbie@raisingarizonakids.comPut “OPT IN” in your subject line.

An older, wiser mom

My son Andy’s birthday is today. He’s 26 years old. The number makes me gasp.

My thoughts are pulled back to the weeks surrounding his birth. The mystery, the worry, the pain — and the utter joy. And the vague recollection of a newspaper article that appeared when he was just five weeks old.

Before I got married, went to graduate school and had my son, I was a bureau chief for the Arizona Republic. A lot of the reporters and photographers still knew me. So when they needed a photograph of a new mom with her baby for a story they were planning to run, they called me.

Photographer Michael Ging came out to the little condo my husband and I were renting in north Phoenix and took a bunch of pictures. When the story appeared in the paper on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 1985, it included this photo, which will always be a cherished favorite:

Photo by Michael Ging.

I must have read the article, but I was probably so excited about the picture — or so overwhelmed by my role as a new mom — that I didn’t remember what it was about. When memories of  the photo surfaced today, I decided to revisit the story.

So I went to my three-ring binder labeled “1985″ and pulled out the yellowed clipping.

“A Different Kind of Parental Guidance,” by then Republic staffer Linda Helser, was about a resource for older first-time moms. It described a fabricated character named Rosalie, who had her first baby at 35. This professional wonder had graduated magna cum laude, enjoyed yearly promotions at her job and had married a successful guy with whom she took European vacations.

The arrival of her baby completely threw her for a loop.

“In Phoenix, there are many more older women having babies today, and they probably know less about infant care than even the young ones,” Helser quoted a local parenting expert as saying. The story described how these older, better-resourced moms were seeking parenting education with the same kind of vigor with which they’d pursued education and career training.

I was 29. Raising Arizona Kids wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. But something about that newspaper article must have stuck in the back recesses of my mind. Because four years and one more son later, I was planning the launch of the Valley’s first monthly magazine for families. By then, I’d realized what Helser’s story meant by “mothers who are wise enough to admit they don’t know it all.”

Like grandfather, like grandchildren

The last time I sat in the kitchen at MaryAnn Ortiz Lieb‘s house was a joyous occasion. Her lovely and accomplished daughter, Juliann, had just graduated from Xavier College Preparatory. MaryAnn and her husband Bobby had gathered friends and family around them to celebrate.

Herb Lieb.

Also at the kitchen table that day was Bobby’s 90-year-old father, Herb Lieb. I hadn’t seen him in awhile. Though he moved more slowly and seemed a bit more frail than I remembered, his gift for conversation was very much intact. So was his sense of humor. He kept me in stitches as he shared his stories and made me feel like I was the most important person in the room.

I saw that same spirit Sunday, under very different circumstances, as I listened to Herb’s four grandchildren eulogize their “Papa,” who died last Thursday at age 91, following a long illness.

MaryAnn’s son Sean was just an infant when she and I decided to start Raising Arizona Kids magazine nearly 22 years ago. Now he’s a student athlete, a football player at the University of Arizona. Sean hadn’t slept in days, but you wouldn’t know it as he stood at the podium at Sinai Mortuary in Phoenix. He stood tall, strong and model handsome, with curly dark locks of hair tumbling over his forehead. He hesitated just a moment before diving confidently into his remarks.

“If my Papa were here,” he said, “he’d never let me into this place with my hair looking like this.”

From that moment, which gave us all some much-needed comic relief, Sean moved into much more difficult material, explaining how he and his cousin Jeffrey had spent an entire night with their grandfather while he was in hospice care in the hours before his death. Throughout the night, Sean said, he and Jeffrey tried to say or do something to get a reaction from their semi-conscious grandfather. They played a DVD of a roast that had been held in Herb’s honor. They read aloud a letter they’d found from an old girlfriend of Herb’s. It was one part desperation, one part mischief. They were two young men craving one last moment of connection with a man whose love, support and guidance — though sometimes unconventional — left indelible marks and cherished memories.

Juliann, who is now a freshman at Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, took a similar approach, starting out with a funny story describing her grandfather, a notorious ladies’ man, approaching her at her bat mitzvah to introduce her to “your future step-grandmother.”

Herb loved to kid around but his jokes never crossed the line into hurtful. He could be fiesty and difficult when his independence was threatened but he always came around and admitted when someone else was right. Herb inspired Julian to choose her own path, no matter what. So she concluded by reading the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” which she felt perfectly summed up her grandfather’s life.

Jeffrey, a student at Paradise Valley Community College, and his sister Stephanie (the oldest of the grandchildren), who works in the office of the Phoenix City Council, also spoke eloquently, honestly and with tremendous poise as they shared funny stories and choked back tears. Stephanie recounted the day she took her Papa to lunch to take his mind off a recent (and unwelcome) move into an assisted living facility.

As they left the lobby, where a number of the residents were hanging out, pursing typical retirement home activities,  Stephanie could tell her grandfather was distraught. When they got into the elevator, she turned to him and asked, “What’s wrong, Papa?” To which then-90-year-old Herb exclaimed in dismay, “These people are so old!”

Herb was a World War II veteran who stormed the beaches at Normandy and willingly shared his story with many young people — including my own two sons, each of whom wrote reports after interviewing him for high school history classes. He was a successful and respected businessman in the Phoenix community. Most important, he was a devoted grandfather to these four remarkable young people — each of whom exhibits Herb’s natural gifts for social poise, telling a good story, looking at life through the lens of reality, fighting hard for what matters and building a network of true and loyal friends. And, perhaps his best legacy of all, they have his mischievous, but always well-intentioned, sense of humor and fun.

The cousins at a happier time (from left): Juliann, Jeffrey, Sean and Stephanie Lieb.

Celebrating my birthday at Camp Fair

I have to admit that I wasn’t all that excited, at first, to realize that Camp Fair was going to fall on my birthday this year. Birthdays are supposed to be about taking it easy, doing what you want to do and being with the people you want to be with.

Well, except for the “taking it easy” part, I got just that — and more — by celebrating my birthday at Camp Fair this year.

I had my husband there telling me how proud  he is of this annual event, which we’ve now put on for eight consecutive years. I had a phone call from my 25-year-old son Andy, who was at work himself but had 20 minutes between interviewing governors attending the National Governors Association meetings in Washington, D.C. (My 23-year-old son David, who also lives and works in D.C., was en route to New York City. He called a bit later in the day.)

Andrea and Ava ham it up with maginfying glasses at the Imagine That! camp exhibit.

My second cousin’s daughter Andrea (I call her my niece because it’s less complicated) came up from ASU with her roommate, Ava. Unbeknownst to me, the girls had stopped at my house on the way, where they left my favorite Dairy Queen ice cream cake in the freezer before they stopped by Camp Fair to visit, bring gifts and whisk me away for a quick lunch.

I had my whole Raising Arizona Kids family around me, with hugs and well wishes (and a very funny “old lady” card from Operations Director Debbie Davis, who is just a few months younger than I am). I even had joyful reunions with two former staff members — Mary Kay Post and Nancie Schauder, both of whom came to help out. (Nancie, who teaches in a developmental preschool, always volunteers to staff our resource table for special needs camps. Because she had brain surgery — brain surgery! — in December, we weren’t sure she’d be able to make it this year. But there she was, beaming as always and proclaiming that she’d never felt better in her life.)

I had a conversation with Chris Cameron at Camp Ocean Pines that fed my soul in ways only another writer could understand. He said he’d been following my stories about Ethiopia and was moved by the honesty and emotion of my writing. (He’s been to Africa a few times himself, so he understands how powerful and life-changing that experience can be.) He also told me he gets lots of parenting magazines from all over the country and feels ours does the best job of providing consistent, high-quality content. Another wonderful gift!

I saw many longtime friends, including Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Maria del Mar Verdin, who comes to every Camp Fair and had her daughter Katie with her this year. Maria told me she never makes her children’s summer plans until she attends our Camp Fair. Talk about making my day!

"Aunt" Karen and Ace, who plays lacrosse with the Desert Sitx program.

And then there was the unexpected visit from two of my “forever friends” — Tony Jenkins and his daughter, Ace — who came by with a colorful, homemade card (the best kind!) and a gift bag full of what they know is my absolute, all-time favorite food: peanut butter.

I first met Tony and his wife Darlene when our sons were friends in middle school. All four boys eventually became high school football teammates, so we spent a lot of time together on the bleachers at games. When Ace was born, I made them promise to share her with me because I knew I would never have a daughter of my own. I have enjoyed being a surrogate aunt to this bright and loving child, who always forgives me when I let too many months lapse between our visits.

Dan Friedman posted some great photos on our Facebook page throughout the day. Here are some of my Camp Fair memories:

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Set-up? Check.

The signs are posted. The pipe-and-draping is up. The tables are covered in Cub Scout colors of navy, gold and white, with two chairs neatly placed behind each one. Some yummy-looking breakfast pastries are waiting for exhibitors and staff who will begin showing up as early as 7:30am.

We got the gymnasium at Tesseract School Shea Campus ready for Camp Fair 2011 in just about two hours. Not bad, considering we had 72 tables to set up and hundreds of items to get in their right places.

It started when the truck from Party People showed up, its muscled workmen casually offloading thousands of pounds worth of tables, chairs and metal pipes.

Sean Lieb helps his mom, MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb, straighten a table. That's Catherine Griffiths in the back.

Several members of our staff were in the gymnasium to carry the tables and chairs to their correct positions — including Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb and her son Sean, who were there despite exhaustion and grief from the most difficult of weeks for their family. MaryAnn’s father-in-law, Herb Lieb, died Thursday night at the age of 91. Services will be Sunday.

We all tried to tell MaryAnn she didn’t need to come, but I understand why she did. Work is relief, sometimes, when life is overwhelming. So we hugged her hard and hugged Sean, too, and we all got busy.

Taylor Thompson, a freshman at Tesseract, and Mala Blomquist.

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist and Account Executive Catherine Griffiths also helped with set-up. Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams and Production Manager Tina Gerami fielded phone calls at the office so the rest of us could be away.

We had help from the staff (and even a student) at Tesseract. Taylor Thompson got a hug from Mala after she patiently helped arrange tablecloths.

Tesseract’s Scott Salk (who has a very important job Saturday morning, because he’s bringing the coffee!) pulled hundreds of water bottles off of flats from Costco and put them in the refrigerator to chill.

But the real hero of the day was Derek Scoble, who took a day off work to help his fiancee, Operations Director and Camp Fair coordinator Debbie Davis, with all the “day before” preparations. (Derek asked Debbie to marry him over the winter holidays,  much to our staff’s united support and delight.) He helped with the morning Costco run, then loaded dozens of boxes into his truck, unloaded them at Tesseract, hauled tables all over the gymnasium and then methodically worked the room, making sure everything was lined up perfectly because he knows that the woman he loves likes things to be just so.

When we realized we were done setting up, we paused and looked around. “It’s so quiet!” Debbie said, knowing that we’d be shouting to hear each other over the noise of the crowd tomorrow.

A history of Camp Fair

Entry point for our first Camp Fair, held at All Saints' Episcopal Day School in Phoenix.

In February 2004, our magazine was about to enter its 15th year of publication. Our cover mom that month was Yen-Li Chen-Zhang, a former Ballet Arizona principal dancer who was operating her own ballet school in Chandler. (It recently celebrated its 10th year.)

My son Andy was a freshman in college; my son David a junior in high school. My husband and I spent a lot of time at football and lacrosse fields.

Our February 2004 cover, featuring Yen-Li Chen-Zhang and her then 5-year-old daughter, Emily Zhang.

It was a big year for news. A report was issued saying the Bush administration misled Americans about the so-called “imminent danger” posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. A New York court found Martha Stewart guilty of lying to federal investigators. Kmart announced that it was acquiring Sears. Captain Kangaroo died. Hurricanes killed 2,000 people in Haiti (and we thought that was bad).

Blockbuster movies that year included “Shrek 2,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “The Passion of the Christ,” “Meet the Fockers,” “Spider-Man 2,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “I, Robot” and “Ocean’s Twelve.”

Greasepaint Scottsdale Youtheatre was among our first Camp Fair exhibitors.

2004 was also the first year that Raising Arizona Kids organized a Camp Fair. It was Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb’s suggestion. A similar event had been held for several years at the Judson School in Paradise Valley, an elite private boarding school that closed in 2000 and is now the site of multi-million dollar homes. (Interestingly, if you Google “Judson School” you can find entries that indicate it’s still accepting students.)

MaryAnn thought we should take over the event. I thought she was crazy. We were understaffed and overwhelmed as it was; how were we going to coordinate something on that scale?

But anyone who knows MaryAnn knows she doesn’t hear the word “no.” So we took a deep breath, dove in headfirst and organized our first Camp Fair.

Another cute character from Greasepaint Scottsdale Youtheatre.

It was held at All Saints Episcopal Day School that first year, and for four more years to follow. Three years ago, we moved it to the Tesseract School, which had just opened a middle and upper school campus at 40th St. & Shea and had a beautiful, bigger gymnasium to accommodate our growing roster of participating camps, some of which came from as far away as Minnesota.

This year’s event will be held from 10am-3pm Saturday, Feb. 26. (Did I mention that’s my birthday?) It will again be at Tesseract. Our entire staff will be there, as will more than 65 camps. Some are overnight camps; some are day camps located throughout Maricopa Count. For parents looking to fill their children’s summer months with meaningful activities, there is no better place to get started making memories.

RAK staff members Tina Gerami (left) and Mala Blomquist set up for Camp Fair 2004. They haven't changed a bit in eight years!

Watching the clock for Camp Fair 2011

I went to bed Monday night feeling both relieved and guilty.

Relieved because it wouldn’t be me sleeping fitfully, waking up every hour to glance in panic at the alarm clock, fearful that I’d slept through the alarm.

Guilty because I foisted responsibility for an early morning obligation onto Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist. Not that the ever-gracious Mala would ever complain about that.

So while I’m still snug in my warm bed Monday morning, Mala will be be on the freeway, headed from her northwest Phoenix home to the Chandler/Gilbert YMCA, where she’ll do 6am and 7am interviews about our upcoming Camp Fair with a news crew from 3TV’s Good Morning Arizona. At 8am, she’ll be with the crew at Hubbard Family Sports Camp at the Phoenix Swim Club. And at 9am she’ll do one last interview at the Arizona Science Center.

At each stop, Mala will share information and pictures about some of the 60-plus camps that will be attending Camp Fair.

3TV and Your Life A- Z are co-sponsoring this year’s event, our 8th, which will be held at Tesseract School Shea Campus from 10am-3pm on Saturday, Feb. 26. (That’s also my birthday, but don’t tell anyone.) Other sponsors include Kids Consortium, CIGNA Healthcare and of course Tesseract. It would be impossible for us to put on this event together, which is free to the public, without their support.

So as I went to bed Monday night, I was feeling relieved, guilty — and grateful. For Mala’s willingness to do the 3TV interviews, for sponsors and vendors who are participating in this year’s Camp Fair despite a challenging economy and for the fact that I’ll be watching the clock from the comfort of my home, jumping out of bed only to make sure I don’t miss Mala on TV.

The end of a Mothering era

No more Mothering.

During intermission at the Sunday matinee performance of “Spamalot” I learned that Mothering magazine — the print edition, anyway — is dead.

The news came from East Valley mom Brittney Walker, a frequent contributor to Raising Arizona Kids and a catalytic force in our company’s growing online and social media presence. Brittney sent me a link to Mothering’s announcement, “How We Became a Web Company.”

“In the last few weeks it has become obvious that we must cease publication of the print magazine,” wrote editor Peggy O’Mara. “With the March-April edition, after 35 years, we will cease publishing Mothering magazine. We are now a Web-only company.”

This news is sobering to those of us in the publishing world. I think many of us who publish special interest magazines hoped we were somehow invulnerable to the changing face of media. Certainly we weren’t subject to the same pressures faced by daily newspapers and weekly news magazines struggling to compete with real-time access to breaking news. Sure, we were hit hard by the recession. But economic conditions are cyclical, not irreversible. Reading a magazine is “an experience,” some in our industry proclaimed. Niche publications with loyal audiences would surely survive the media fallout.

But then the big guys with family audiences started folding: Child, Cookie, Nickelodeon, Teen, Wondertime. And now Mothering.

Mothering filled a special niche in the national parenting magazine arena. Targeted to “pioneers” in the natural-living movement, the publication was founded in 1976 by Addie Vorys Eavenson (now Cranson) and a group of volunteers. A story not unlike our our own, which came 14 years later.

Mothering grew to a circulation of 100,000 but saw subscriptions and advertising revenues drop for three consecutive years. O’Mara blames the economy’s hit on Mothering’s key advertisers — toy manufacturers, sling/infant carrier makers. She also says today’s parents seek information online and “don’t have time” to read.  I find it hard to believe that’s the full story.

Every company has a natural balance point between growth and stability. Did the magazine get too ambitious? Did it take on too large a staff? Did it lose the flexibility it had as a smaller operation? Did its message fail to resonate with “natural living” parents who saw too much emphasis on product advertising? I don’t have answers to any of these questions but I know that nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

This news certainly gives me pause. But I’m far from ready to pull the plug on print. Thankfully (and Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb would be furiously knocking on wood right now), Raising Arizona Kids is in a very stable place. Our revenues declined in 2009 but by 2010 were already (though slowly) moving back up. We are paying our bills on time. Thanks to fierce budgeting oversight by Operations Director Debbie Davis, we entered 2011 feeling we’d weathered the worst of it.

We, too, are adapting to meet the changing information needs of today’s parents. In the 10 months since we committed to an eZine concept — publishing fresh content daily at raising arizonakids.com — our web traffic has grown by 66 percent. We were the first local parenting resource to jump into social media and continue to have the strongest presence.

I worry for publications like Mothering that give up on print, especially when print remains the strongest potential revenue stream for magazines. No one yet has figured out how to pull in equivalent money from web-based enterprises alone.

And there’s something else I have found interesting. Despite all the attention focused on the new media tools, despite growing online audiences, despite gloomy predictions that print will not survive, nearly everyone who contacts me with a story idea wants to see it in print. Clearly there is something real and lasting about words that appear in print that is not replicated in its digital form.

There is a scene in Act I of “Spamalot” (a musical spoof on “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”) where a tattered peasant is pulling a wagon through the streets, calling to the neighborhood that he is there to collect their dead. Another character enters the stage pulling what he claims to be a dead body by the arm. But the “body” is talking, indignantly protesting that “I’m not dead yet!” By the end of the scene, he is singing and dancing along with others on the wagon who had been given up for dead.

I’d like to believe that print, too, is “not dead yet.”

Pet peeves about press releases – #1

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my list of “Top 10 Terrible Ways to Pitch a Story.” The post (“Want to Impress an Editor? What Not To Do…”) was directed at freelance writers, a great many of whom apparently missed seeing it because they continue to send emails violating absolutely every one of my rules, especially number eight.

Today I’m launching a rant about press releases. The next few posts will be directed at public relations professionals and people who do their own PR because they can’f afford to hire the real deal. Whether you’re a PR pro, a publicity-seeking business owner or a parent seeking media attention for an event at your child’s school, there are effective (and not-so-effective) ways to make your pitch.

If you were sitting in a room with me right now, I would position myself at eye level and tell you to “listen to my words,” which is how I always used to make sure my sons were paying attention to me when they were small.

“I will always love you,” I would say. “You are often my eyes and ears in a very large ocean of ideas. The best of you teach me, engage my curiosity, inspire me to find creative applications for your information and generally make my life easier.”

“However,” I would add, “I don’t always like you. Sometimes you waste my time and clutter my inbox and make me crazy.”

Now, repeat after me:

I will not blanket my entire media list with press releases just because I have the snazzy technology to do so.

Nothing is more disheartening to an already correspondence-overloaded editor than seeing emailed press releases that have absolutely nothing to do with your publication or its intended audience.

I run a parenting magazine. I don’t care about luncheon specials in Maui or “industry statements” on retiring politicians or the latest on some celebrity’s quest to lose weight. Your information is getting deleted as quickly as it comes in. It is wasting precious minutes of my life and is likely getting the “mark as junk mail” treatment, which means if you ever do take the time to pitch an idea with a good fit for us it’s quite likely I will never see your email.

Even if your idea is a good fit for our publication, you can bet I’m going to give it less attention if you have included me on a broadcast list. Why do I want to undertake a story that you have offered up to every other media outlet in town?  I understand the necessity of this approach for hard news. It is essential, and only fair, that every newspaper, radio/TV station and news-oriented website or blog get equal timing and access to information from hospitals, police/fire departments and any other organization involved in breaking news events. And it’s also fine when all you’re seeking is a calendar listing to send it to everyone you can think of.

But when you’re pitching a special feature story, asking that we interview an interesting person you represent or researching a trend about which your client has relevant information, my first question will be, “Who else have you sent this to?” Because any journalist worth their salt wants to get a good story first. So think long and hard about the best place for your client’s information to appear. Start there.

Study the stories these outlets do publish and figure out how your client’s story fits the mix. For a magazine like mine, suggest a particular department (which shows me you’ve done your homework). I’m much more receptive to someone who pitches a story about a new business, for example, if they mention what a great fit it might be for the RAK Mompreneur features we run on our website each Monday.

Tomorrow: Choose your words carefully.

When life and work merge

When my father died in the summer of 1991, I was already immersed in grief, editing a story for that year’s August magazine by a mother who had lost her baby daughter to a congenital heart condition.

Our circumstances were vastly different; my father’s death, though premature at age 67, came at the end of a life.  Her daughter, who died before her second birthday, was just getting started. My father’s death was sudden and completely unexpected; the result of a malignancy he had told no one about. Her daughter’s death was long, slow and painful — a roller coaster ride of hope-inspiring surgeries and nauseating plunges into despair.

I remember reading her story over and over, awed by the juxtaposition of these two unrelated events in my life. I was consumed by my own grief, yet somehow found it comforting to read about hers. As she described her feelings I found affirmation for mine. And I understood what she had told me when she asked to write her story in the first place: She wanted others who were grieving to know “you’re not the only one who feels this way.”

This week, once again, life and work have merged.

Amid meals, hikes, visits with family members and numerous trips to the airport, I have been editing another story about loss: Phoenix writer Mary Ann Bashaw’s second installment in our 2011 series on “Finding Purpose in Grief.”

The series debuts this month with a story about Joanne Cacciatore, Ph.D., a grief counselor and founder of the Phoenix-based MISS Foundation, who lost her own baby daughter, Cheyenne, in 1994. The February article focuses on a new Valley program created to support parents who face the excruciating challenge of seeing a pregnancy through despite the knowledge that their child will not survive. The goal of the Comfort and Resource Enhancement (CARE) Program  is, according to Mary Ann’s story, to “reduce the family’s suffering through a loving and sensitive, but realistic, approach to this complex journey.”

As I was reading MaryAnn’s story early Wednesday morning, I received an email from my mom, who was sharing sad news from her husband’s side of the family. An eagerly anticipated great-grandchild was expected this Christmas season.  A routine medical exam was scheduled after the mother’s due date passed. When doctors could not find a heartbeat, a Cesarean surgery followed. A stillborn child, a beautiful baby boy, was delivered.