Monday, May 28, 2012

Patience

Mary Edwards

Zip a dee doo dah,
Zip a dee ay,
I got a rejection letter today!
Plenty of others heading my way,
Picking my pen back up
And writing away!

Several of my writer peers received rejection letters. We wanted to enjoy acceptance letters. Rather than basking in the sadness, we tried to see the lighter side of rejection. We penned these words to a jingle that made us smile. It reminded us to be patient in our work and not give up. The song became a catchy little reminder tune. We laughed when we sang it. I loved the joy it brought. 

It wasn't easy to be patient, though. Through encouragement we found the joy God promised.
I looked up the word patience in the dictionary. It read, “to be able to be calm, tolerant, and understanding”. The word calm means being in control of your emotions. The word tolerant is to be kind and show consideration to people who are different than you. Understanding means being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes.

I find myself struggling with all of these, especially when I write and want things to happen now.  I want others to like my work just like I wrote it.  Constructive criticism is often difficult to take, even when I ask for it. However, it is a form of education and education brings knowledge. The Holy Spirit helps you find wisdom, and the friends God places in our lives help us find and learn patience.

I am grateful to my Christian writer's group of encouragers who remind me of God's word. I would be even more impatient if it weren't for His words. The encouragers’ embrace this doubting, intolerant writer with the love of the Lord, and they show me that there are rewards in being patient and waiting upon the Lord. He is so good to us and is our perfect example of patience. I wonder if He ever sings Zip a dee do da when He gets rejected?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Steps to Protect Yourself from Online Hackers

Edie Melson
Last week I shared What to do if You’ve been Hacked. This week I want to give you some tips to help prevent it from happening. Unfortunately, nothing is foolproof. Inevitably, the more wise we become at protecting ourselves, the more cunning those wishing us harm become.

The majority of times we get hacked it’s because we clicked a link that uploaded a virus which opened us up to hackers.

This is the bad news, but there’s also good news. This kind of hacking is preventable, and here are some steps to take to stay safe online.

  • Be wise. This seems basic, but so many times we just ignore our better judgement. How many of us have been sucked in by direct messages like these? “Have you heard the rumors your friend is spreading about you?” or “This is a hilarious video just uploaded about you.” Stop. Think. Then DON’T click that link!
  • Assume it’s a lie. About six months ago I got an email from an online company confirming a large purchase with my credit card. I knew I hadn’t made any purchases, but still had to fight the urge to panic. I took a step back and looked more closely at the email. I noticed several things that made me suspicious. I immediately did an online search for scams involving that company and came up with pages of recent victims. I contacted the company directly (not through the info in their email) and confirmed the email was a ruse.
  • Never give out sensitive information. Let me repeat, NEVER GIVE OUT SENSITIVE INFORMATION! Companies don’t ask for bank account info, passwords or other information over the internet. First, if you’re a customer, they already have all of your information they need. Keeping up with personal passwords is a liability for companies. 

Now, a quick word about passwords. I know you don’t want to hear it, but your password should be different for every account you have. If you’re like me you probably have dozens of accounts, so how can you keep up with all those passwords? Trust me, it’s not with sticky notes or a file on your computer.

Instead, take advantage of some wonderful programs. Some charge a small fee, others are free—all have the highest security rating available. 

Keepass X (for Mac) and Keepass (for PC)

There are also blank booklets available for those of you who are old school and want something you can hold in your hand. I’ve seen them at local discount stores, as well as high end specialty stores.

Now it’s your turn, what are some tricks you use to stay safe online? 

Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,

Monday, May 14, 2012

Help, I've Been Hacked, Now What?


A Guest post by Edie Melson


Many of us have experienced the sinking feeling that comes with the realization that one (or more) of our social media profiles have been hacked. It's nothing to be ashamed of, but it can sure wreck an otherwise blissful day. 

The easiest way to get hacked is to click on a link that contains a virus allowing hackers access to your accounts. When you click on the link, you may see a message telling you the link is broken. That doesn’t mean you’ve dodged the bullet. If your firewall or virus software doesn’t catch it, you’ll still be infected. 

Some of the most common messages that spread viruses and allow hackers access are:
“Did you know your friends are spreading nasty rumors about you?” 
“This is a hilarious video of you.”

So what’s a social media professional to do, cancel all accounts and slink away in shame?

Never.

In this post I'll give you the steps to repair the damage. In the next post I'll give you some tips to keep it from happening again.

First, change your password for the social media profile that’s been compromised. 

Twitter: 
  • Go to your home page and click on VIEW MY PROFILE PAGE under your name in the top left of the screen.
  • Click on EDIT YOUR PROFILE.
  • Then click on PASSWORD and follow the directions to change your password.

Facebook:
  • Go to your home page and click on the arrow to the right of your profile name in the solid blue header.
  • Click on ACCOUNT SETTINGS.
  • You should land on General Account Settings. From here click PASSWORD and change your password.

Next, you need to check and make certain the damage hasn't spread. Changing your password is just the first step. For this, you’ll need to visit the app section for Twitter and Facebook. Here’s how:

Twitter:
  • Go to your home page and click on VIEW MY PROFILE PAGE under your name in the top left of the screen.
  • Click on EDIT YOUR PROFILE.
  • Then click on APPS. Here you’ll see a list of apps that have access to your Twitter account. I recommend you revoke access to any you don’t recognize or haven’t used in a while.

Facebook:
  • Go to your home page and click on the arrow to the right of your profile name in the solid blue header.
  • Click on ACCOUNT SETTINGS.
  • Click on APPS. Here, too, you’ll see a list of apps that have access to your Facebook account. Again, I recommend you revoke access to any you don’t recognize or haven’t used in a while.

The fear of getting hacked shouldn't keep us from exploring social networking, anymore than the fear of identity theft should keep us from using a debit or credit card. But we all need to play smart. 


How about you, have you ever been hacked? 
Don't forget to join the conversation at http://thewriteconversation.blogspot.com/
Blessings,
Edie

Monday, May 7, 2012

Self-Editing Your Article

By Becky Hillman

Your article is finally finished and you’re ready to send it off to be published. But is the article ready? Have you taken the necessary steps to make sure it’s all it can be? You’ve worked hard to get to this point, don’t slack off now. Besides, your name is going to be attached to this piece, you want it to be something you can be proud of. Here are some self-editing tips from a 2012 Writers Advance! Boot Camp class taught by Ann Tatlock to help you out.

Once your article is finished, Ann suggests “giving it a cooling-off period. Come back later with fresh eyes. In the meantime, let a critique partner read the material.” I like to ask my husband to read things I’ve written because I know he will be honest about it. He is good at letting me know when he doesn’t understand the point I’m trying to make, or when a sentence seems a bit wordy.

Once it’s back in my hands, the fun begins. Here are some questions Ann says to ask yourself:

Do I have an effective lead?
An effective lead is probably one of the most important parts of an article, or any piece or writing for that matter. If you don’t hook the reader in, they will put down what they are reading and move on to something else.

Have I stuck to the point or gotten off on rabbit trails?
Sticking to the point is difficult at best, so you must be careful with this one. A critique partner or an honest friend is most helpful here. They can easily see where you have gone bird walking and will help pull you back in.

Have I left gaps in information?
Right tight! We all heard it more than once at the 2012 Writers Advance! Boot Camp, but not at the expense of leaving the reader guessing at what you really mean. You want to leave some things to their imagination, but not so much they are left in the dark.

Do I have a good balance of narrative and dialogue?
If your article includes dialogue, keep it balanced with the narrative. Maintaining this balance keeps readers on their toes. Too much of either one can be awkward and boring.

When I read it aloud, does if flow? (Vary sentence length.)
Speaking of awkward, read your article out loud. This feels a bit strange, but allows you to check the flow. Are your sentences too short and choppy? Or maybe you have long run-on sentences. A good flow will hold a reader’s attention and keep them looking for more.

Is the ending satisfying and does it give the reader something to take away and think about?
Satisfy your audience with a challenging ending. Give them something useful, something they can think about long after they have put your article down.

As you read through each paragraph, Ann points out the following items to make your work shine:
  •  Cut out the deadwood. Get rid of the words that aren’t necessary, especially overused adverbs or adjectives. Look for repetitive words and delete them.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this the right word to use?” Words that are similar may still have different shades of meaning. Use a thesaurus or synonym finder.
  • Circle passive verbs (is, was, were, etc.) and use active verbs instead.
  • Look for end-of-sentence prepositions and see if you can rework the sentence.
  • Avoid clich├ęs. Strive for originality.
  • Check for incorrect grammar, misspelled words and typos.
Remember, your name will be attached to your work and people will read it. If it gets into the hands of an editor, you want them to see your best. Do what you can to polish it so what they read is worth remembering.

Like me, I’m sure you are grateful to Ann for taking the time and effort to share her wisdom. Now, let’s pick up our marching orders and use her advice to write the best articles the world has ever seen. And share those articles with your fellow boot campers. Remember, we are all in this together!