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I don’t always get the blues, but when I do I look for McGaha

So my office hours passed without a student in site. That’s how it goes. But I wasn’t doing as well as usual at Tetris. That got me down. More than it should have. Good thing my former WIU colleague, Jennifer McGaha, just published this about fighting the February blues.

You don’t need a black belt to do it, but any exercise helps. McGaha also suggests cutting back on negative news. She doesn’t suggest burying your head in the sand, but I know I’ve made things worse by reading too much Chompsky from time to time. Other tips: Call, text and hang out with the funnest people you know and the yeasayers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-mcgaha/8-tips-for-fighting-the-february-blues_b_9174558.html

Letters to a Young Poet on Creative Content, Part 1

Last week a poet, musician, graffiti artist, and recent graduate (bachelors in English) asked me, “What are all these creative content gigs about?”

I thought this might be something that other people are thinking about. So here it is. Thanks for reading.

First, I want to admit that I’m no Tim Ferriss or even Brian Clark (http://www.copyblogger.com/about/). However, I know a little bit about this stuff. In addition to the usual skills and writing experience you’d expect from a dude who teaches college English, I’ve been working with “creative content” for a long time now. I’ve blogged here, at Critical Margins, and even for Jane Friedman (the former publisher of Writer’s Digest). I’ve produced and hosted radio shows and podcasts for KDHX (a station that has over 82,000 listeners per week) and Critical Margins. I’ve created the copy, the products, and the press releases that have landed coverage in as diverse publications as Riverfront Times, ESPN.com, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Now, let’s get back to the poet’s question about creative content. Every large company has somebody writing the words that appear on their website. Some smaller companies and non for profits do this as well.

 

Q: What’s all this about SEO and copywriting?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a game where you try to load as many key words into an article or the headings and titles of the articles to make that article return at a higher place in users search results. The algorithms that underpin search results apparently attend to the frequency of keywords as one of their variables. The best way to optimize search results is to consistently put up good content. I’m not the first to say this. All the tricks in the world aren’t worth as much as good, honest, thoughtful, and frequent writing that comes from a perspective that feels like a human wrote it.

 

Q: If I was a producer of online marketing content, what would this actually tangibly look like?

This depends on the company and the contract. Some gigs are for a jack-of-all-trades who can create internal materials (employee newsletters, CEO speeches, training materials for new employees…) and external materials (customer facing web copy, press releases, infographics, podcasts, videos…). Some of these gigs might want you to do just one or two of these things. There are gigs that people do from home and then some gigs where they’d have to go in for. Some of those tasks I mentioned above quickly become other job descriptions (and fields of study) of their own at larger companies: public relations, advertising, instructional design, audio and visual production, and even technical writing.

Like kung fu, all the rhetorical skills you’ve learned as an English major can be used for good as well as evil. Some companies might want you to write them out of a corner or explain away certain mistakes with your exceptional storytelling abilities. Theranos is a health tech company that, according to The Wall Street Journal, lied about their blood tests and then covered up their problems. Wired just wrote a story about how Theranos is looking for a writer to spin this (http://www.wired.com/2016/02/theranos-is-hiring-a-writer-to-solve-its-problems/?mbid=nl_2516).

 

Q: Content writing seems like a growing field. But what are the long-term career prospects for this (plus the salary/benefit/ full time vs. part time situation)?

Until you craft something big that sets you apart or get experience with top-level clients, you’re competing against an international computer using, English speaking mass of people who aren’t spending US dollars to live. They’re spending rupees, pesos, or duckets. They can afford to work for less than you can and still pay their rent. This is not an argument for or against outsourcing. You want to know about the economics of a situation, that’s all.

 

Q: Does getting a gig in this field require knowledge of HTML or programming?

Learning a little bit about HTML and CSS is easy. Spending two or three hours at codecademy (www.codecademy.com) will be useful to you know matter what you end up doing (as long as you’re not going off to a mountain to be a yogi or something). If you do creative content marketing HTML will come in handy sometime. Same goes if you become an English professor. HTML is just a mark up language. It isn’t a functional programing language. The functional stuff is more of a challenge. But surely not beyond your big brain.

Monsters in the Library

braunflyer

From the library’s press release:

WIU’s own Jason Braun will bring monsters to the library this October. On Wednesday, October 28th, Braun will read from original poems featuring Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster, Faust, The Walking Dead, The Reanimator’s cadre of corpses, and other beasts. The reading will take place in Room 180 of Malpass Library and is free and open to the public.

Jason Braun teaches English at Western Illinois University. He has published fiction, poetry, essays, reported or been featured in Prime Number, ESPN, Squalorly, The Nashville City Paper, The Evergreen Review, Lowestoft Chronicle, The Riverfront Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many more.

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Some examples of the kinds of things I’ll be reading:

Here’s a poem set in the beginning of season two of The Walking Dead. It’s about love, loneliness, and well living during a zombie apocalypse.

http://www.jerseydevilpress.com/?tag=jason-braun

Here’s another love poem, written from the perspective of the Swamp Thing. I’m sure you’ve seen hundreds of those, so don’t bother clicking this link.

http://thedoctortjeckleburgreview.com/product/poetry-like-a-bad-b-movie-baby/

Before there was Dr. Frankenstein there was another doctor selling his soul for science. His name was Dr. Faust or the more German, Dr. Faustus. Here’s a song I wrote about him with a little help from my friends. https://jasonandthebeast.bandcamp.com/track/faust

Review: Crixia by Megan Hudgins (reviewed by Sean L. Corbin)

Check out this great review of Megan Hudgin’s new chapbook. She’s representing SIUE real proper like!

JMWW

cover-w-smaller-fontCrixa, poems

By Megan Hudgins

(winner of the 2014 Two of Cups Press chapbook contest)

28 Pages

Two of Cups Press, 2015

$12.00

https://twoofcupspress.wordpress.com/titles/


In Crixa (Two of Cups Press), Megan Hudgins twists sensuality, artificiality, lost innocence, the creation of life, and relationships into a collection of fresh yet familiar statements on femininity and the various sinews that connect different moments and thoughts into a single meaningful web – or, better yet, a warren – called life.

Hudgins displays a strong eye for different poetic shapes and forms, and how theme and content can affect (and be affected) by those more aesthetic choices. Poems hinging on allusions to Watership Down (where the collection’s title originates) stand side-by-side with descriptions of Eduardo Kac’s famous bioluminescent rabbit Alba, explorations of adolescent sexual awakenings, and emotional explications of Wolfgang Tillmans’s Freischwimmer print series. So too do poems built from couplets…

View original post 401 more words

Check out Superman spoken words over saxophones in St. Louis this Sunday night at @FoamSTL

So this reading is going down Sunday night around 7:30 at Foam in St. Louis The show includes great poets and friends like Matthew Questionmark, Zaire Imani, and Seymour Justice. I’ll be saying some new poems (some these are about Superman and other comic books characters) with Adam Sirgany on saxophone, and Mic Boshans (aka The Proprietor) on percussion. This is because Sean Arnold made it happen.

Ah, Did He Just Say Diction?

In Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Workbook, she writes, “For a poet, and indeed for any writer, diction has several components–the sound of the word; the accuracy of the word; and its connotation–the atmosphere, let us say, that is created by word choice.” It is interesting that she doesn’t call out correctness, as in how grammatically correct the word is inside the line and sentence. But maybe that is hinted at in “accuracy.”
I’ve been working on a manuscript of poems about the Midwest, St. Louis, and Superman for a while now and last night my friend David Rawson gave me some notes. He puts out lots of chapbooks and so has a good eye for this kind of thing. We got into it a little about diction. Here’s a review of his book Fuckhead in The Economy.
I’m thankful that I’ve got good readers and good friends to help me with my projects. Most of the time when I get a clique or suggestion from someone I trust, it is about something that already bothered me. The suggested change is something I secretly thought I could get past a reader.
David was bothered by the use of the “sweat” in the line, “We smoked, kissed, and sweat/ through our clothes.” Though it seemed to me that it was the way people speak and also the right word for the poem. Oliver writes about this impulse of contemporary poetry to be “written in a diction that belies that it was formally composed.” Poetic diction and the people were with me, but the grammarians were not. That’s why I drew this triangle.
  IMG_4435
David teaches public school now and an obsession with correct usage is one of the occupational hazards. But even when we were teaching at SIUE, that cat could diagram some sentences. He won his share of spelling bees as a kid, too. But I think I might have convinced him with “sweat.” Either way we had a pretty good discussion about diction, how people talk, and the ever shifting tides of Standard American English. Consider this, the scholars at Harvard say that many irregular verbs in English (and other languages) are dying.
You can use Google N-Grams to chart the usage of these verbs like so.
Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 11.23.46 PM
This is not the first time I’ve had to stop and think about this kind of thing. In the poem “Let Me Give You a Tour of the Place” the published version says “swum,” and I can’t even remember if I originally wrote “swam, swum” or whatever. But I remember it was a big deal that took up a lot of time in the workshop. No matter if they are grammatically right or wrong, I want my poems to feel that, as Oliver suggests, “They are not unlike a letter you might have received from a good friend.
Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 11.23.11 PM

Push Through the Paywalls

Sure, it is great to support old media. I buy subscriptions to actual printed things (Poetry, Wired, and others). But sometimes you might just need to get around a paywall. And don’t feel like logging into some university library database. Google Incognito will help you.

It’s better than the Groucho Marx nose glasses disguise. Here’s a link to a lifehacker post about using Google Incognito, but really it’s only a couple clicks away. If you’re already using Chrome, you don’t have to download anything.

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