Speak…Easy

By John Winn

No, this isn’t about Prohibition, alcohol, or Ken Burns documentaries.

This upcoming Saturday, Sept. 29th, Hennens Observer and the High Point Public Library in High Point, North Carolina will have the honor of hosting author and public speaking coach Carol Roan for an hours-long interactive talk and Q and A addressing the pratfalls–and possibilities–of public speaking. Roan is a 30 year veteran public speaking coach and motivational speaker who has worked with hundreds of clients over a long career spanning from opera divas to average Joes and Joanettes applying for job interviews. A signing of Roan’s books Speak Easy (pictured above) and Speak Up will follow. As always, refreshments will be provided.

If you are a writer or author in the final stages of polishing up your Great American Novel or just someone who wants to learn more about speaking in front of a live audience, we cannot overestimate how important this meeting will be.  So much of the marketing and promotion of novels and books these days depends on writers being able to read and promote their work in public–someones for many days and weeks at a time.  Being able to read and enounciate your work in a clear, concise–and dramatic–way is often as critical to capturing a reader’s interest as a brilliantly designed book cover.  As a coach, Roan comes highly recommended, not just from clients but also members of the Hennen’s family.  

We’ll be getting the word out through traditional media as well as Twitter in the run-up to the meeting, so if you miss this post by any chance trust me you’ll hear about it soon in you local paper (if you live in the Piedmont) or on Twitter or Facebook.  So if you’re truly invested in seeing your literary dreams thrive, please come and see us in High Point next weekend.  Not to mention, it’s totally free of charge!

Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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NBC, I Thought I Knew Ye…

To My Beloved National Broadcasting Company,

*sigh* In the past two days, I feel as though you have said “____ it” in regards to your 2012 London Olympics coverage (I’ll leave that blank open for interpretation). Here are some reasons why:

  • You are showing everything on a delay. I think this has pretty much been established on Twitter, especially today.
  • The gold-medal events featuring the U.S. (wrestling, track and field, volleyball, etc.) have been superseded by field hockey, handball, and racewalking. RACEWALKING?! And rhythmic gymnastics, of course. Oh, and how could I forget synchronized swimming? You might as well ask me, “Which bullet would you like me to kill you with?” At least be that courteous.
  • You have yanked your coverage of boxing because YOU were distracting ringside officials from doing their job. Apparently, also because there were no more U.S. competitors? How selfish. You’ve always been so giving…
  • They’ve let Mexico win gold in men’s soccer. I don’t know who else to blame.
  • They’ve created soft-porn videos of female Olympic athletes to circulate around the Internet, yet they quickly zoom in to head shots every time they cover track and beach volleyball. Forgive me for wanting to admire a lovely athletic build; it’s not like they walk around the block routinely where I live…

*double sigh* My friends, these things should not be. Such a grand Olympiad should not end in such a sad way. I’m incensed and disgusted.

The most disappointing aspect of NBC’s shortcomings to end this fortnight is… well, I just thought we were better than this, you know? I’ve faithfully watched your programming–remember Quantum Leap? Nastia Liukin is probably ashamed of you right now.  Then again, she did look good in tights.

Brennon Keys is a former sports writer for the Pine Bluff Commericial. When he isn’t busy pulling his hair out, he works as a freelancer in St. Louis, Missouri.

To Be or Not To Be (Influential)

By Alexandria Harris

It’s a good time to ponder existence because this past week has been slightly morbid. Only we’re not going to look at our own mortality–that has a tendency to scare people and we’re just starting to become friends (I hope).

Today the window closes on how much people are willing to hear depressing news, so I thought I’d take my chance. (If you’re wondering about the window I’m referring to, it is as follows: Monday you’re either depressed or overly positive; Tuesday is usually the worst day of the week because you’ve either sunk lower or lost your delusions, Wednesday is the middle of the week so you’re starting to climb the mountain; Thursday you’re embracing positivity and can see the light at the end of the tunnel; and Friday = FREE AT LAST).

Yesterday was especially morbid because it was the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. If you didn’t notice it by how many times they played Man in the Mirror on the radio, you probably heard it on the news. Since PYT is my favorite song (of his) I had it on repeat. At a point where I had entirely too much time on my hands, I had an entire choreographed dance to PYT and my family and friends frequently got together to do the Thriller dance.

However Nora Ephron’s passing may be more relevant to you. I found it relevant and I’m embarrassed to say I had no idea who she was until today because you can’t get away from her name on the Internet and she’s trending on Twitter.

For those who might have been like me (the majority of you who aren’t, humor me) Ephron’s work includes Silkwood, Heartburn, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Julie and Julia. She was a writer, director, novelist, producer, and obviously multi-talented. Her work was able to reach across gender lines to be enjoyed by all. It’s also inspiring how she set the bar for women directors like Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides), and other directors.

Basically she set the bar high for future female directors and novelists. It’s always sad when someone this talented and influential passes away, but there’s always a semblance of hope that the legacy they leave inspires people to great things. Her passing jump started my curiosity not just in her work, but to see who were the most influential writers today. As good timing would have it, The Daily Beast featured a slideshow list from Newsweek of columnists, bloggers, and writers who they believe are the most influential. Some I haven’t read, some I’ve obviously read, and others I’m not sure why they’re on the list. For those of you not visiting the link and for my news oriented people who care, I’ll list the ten below:

1. Ezra Klein, Wonk, The Washington Post
2. Robert Wright, Co-founder, Talkingheads.tv
3. Matt Yglesias, Blogger, Slate
4. Ross Douthat, Columnist, The New York Times
5. Arianna Huffington, Editor in Chief, The Huffington Post
6. Ed Morrissey, Blogger, Hot Air
7. Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo Blog
8. Glenn Greenwald, Writer, Salon
9. Jonathan Chait, Writer, New York Magazine
10. David Frum, Writer, The Daily Beast

And to continue my quest to be real, I’ve only been indirectly influenced by Arianna whose Huffington Post reach is a monolith threatening a world takeover. However, I’m young and pretty sure I’ll be forced to collide with the others’ work soon enough.

Jackson and Ephron left a powerful legacy. We are still being influenced by writers, bloggers, journalists today which shape how we view the world and the legacies we want to leave. Influence can be a powerful and dangerous thing.
It can also be life-changing.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Creative Reactions for Bad Lemons


 
By Alexandra Harris

 Has something ever ticked you off so much you felt the need to react in a creatively strong way? You all know what I’m talking about–you got food poisoning at a Brazilian restaurant and you composed a limerick about it on a restaurant review site or the promotion at work slipped past you so you just plunked down at your piano and started jamming out soul wrenching notes. No moments like these? We’ll just say those experiences were from “a friend.”

As we pretend one of those experiences wasn’t something that should have been the end result of a scene in Bridesmaids, I came across something interesting the other day as I was going through my Twitter timeline.

Margaret Atwood may not have been ticked off, but you have to admit, the following excerpt from a recently written poem of hers is a genius way to answer incoming requests for book blurbs:

“You are well-known, Ms. Atwood,” the Editor said,
And we long for your quote on this book;
A few well-placed words wouldn’t bother your head,
And would help us to get in the hook!”

“In my youth,” said Ms. Atwood, “I blurbed with the best;
I practically worked with a stencil!
I strewed quotes about with the greatest largesse,
And the phrases flowed swift from my pencil.

For some reason as I read the poem, I had a mental picture of a girl with pigtails skipping to some lively tune out of Mary Poppins. Ms. Atwood probably receives hundreds if not thousands of requests to give her input on some new writer’s work. Which is all fine and good and she seems like a good sport about it. But when you’re a writer yourself and you have thousands of incoming requests to work on other people’s work, it probably would be a bit frustrating.  

Personally I find it difficult to remain calm and act with good manners when something beyond irritating happens. You know, when one of those moments happens and your mind draws a blank for five seconds because of the inconceivable stupidity that unfortunately, and for no reason that makes sense, happened to you.

Remaining calm is a life skill apparently and if you’ve learned it, good sir or madam I give you props! I should take notes so I can replace my “take a deep breath” method. Although when I get back to the comfort of my own room, my creative juices may congeal into something that faintly echoes this.

However, while I may not have a sick beat like Jay in Awkward Black Girl and I probably wouldn’t rap out my sestina or free verse because someone probably would come in and hear my deepest darkest, writing can be good therapy. Creating something can be soothing. A horrible situation is definitely fuel for your next story idea, poem, novel, or illustration.

So don’t get too ticked off before you remember to write everything down. You’ll definitely get glad after you’ve looked at your masterpiece later. 

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

50 Shades of Controversy

 

By Alexandra Harris

 By now, you may have heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, a book based off the doe-eyed interactions of Stephenie Meyer’s Bella and Edward in the Twilight Series. Whether listening to Ellen attempt to record an audio for it or skirting around the buzz of celebrities attached to play the main character Christian Grey in a five million dollar budget movie, this book has prompted controversy and broken ground for changes to the publishing world as we know it.

 I’m not going to attempt to give a summary of the book or rate it, because you’ve probably already heard enough about it, but I wanted to highlight some major aspects.

 
1) The concept of fan fiction. 
 
 Some argue that individuals who don’t intend to make a profit from their fan fiction are participating in a wonderful writing exercise and paying the highest compliment to an author. Others argue that it is plagiarism because the ideas and basis for the stories already came from an author. There are some authors who are flattered by fan fiction (J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer) and others who are adamantly opposed (Anne Rice, George R.R. Martin). Meyer does weigh in on Fifty Shades  but the larger question of fan fiction remains murky among literary circles.
 
2) Opinions about Erotica/Mommy Porn
 
 Everyone has their own reading preferences and this is one of the aspects which makes the literary world so diverse. Many YA books cross over and become adult favorites as well, however Fifty Shades will not have the same effect because of its explicit content. No matter how many teenagers borrow their mom’s/aunt’s/sister’s copy, Fifty Shades will not be talked about much in the YA world.
 
3) Changing tides of books + merchandise
 
 Big YA book tiles like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games market jewelry, bed sheets, and toys based off the books and now Fifty Shades is doing it as well. It will be interesting to see how much revenue this will generate and exactly how many people are going to trot into the supermarket and pick up some Fifty Shades bed sheets or shamelessly wear t-shirts promoting the book.
 
4) Success with Self-Publishing
 
 This is a huge one. The publishing world has changed so much even in the past six months and Amazon is basically considered one of the big six publishing companies. As an aspiring author, I am especially interested in this. The author E.L. James published the book on her website and then through a virtual publisher in Australia before Fifty Shades became a hit in the United States. 
 
 So whether you hated the books, were freaked out by the books, or loved them so much you immediately ordered Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed online (unless you were bold and marched into your local bookstore) E.L. James has definitely provided food for thought for the literary community.
 
Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
 

The Interview: Natasha Phillips

A lovelorn Natasha Phillips blows a kiss to her reptilian paramour.

Quirky with a ironic, almost nonsensical sense of humor, Natasha Phillips (@SobukiRa on Twitter) defies labels.  One minute she’s blogging about international custody disputes, satirizing pop culture with her imaginary friends InkyBuki and Cranial Gerbil the next.  But the aspiring writer is no scatter brain.  With an impressive career as a researcher for a UK advocacy firm and a barrister in her own right, Natasha can hold forth as eloquently as any peer–male or female.  Future critics, take note.

Hennen’s John Winn caught up with Ms. Phillips via email and chatted about life in Europe, the origin of InkyBuki–and her forbidden love for a certain star crossed rodent.

JB:  You hail from London.  What’s different about writing there versus the States or Continental Europe?  Is it less dreary or are people there just numb?

NP: To my mind being in different places offers opportunities to observe the human condition in its many different forms; it’s a real privilege to be able to write and reflect in different environments. Londoners are generally bloody miserable so there’s definitely plenty of scope to explore the stagnation of our species there.

I was lucky enough to visit the States growing up as I have lots of relatives there and really enjoy travelling to San Francisco when I can. I have a romantic view of it though; in reality, it’s changed a lot since I was little and like London it’s become less unpredictable.

The Continent though, despite or perhaps because of its economic troubles holds a great deal of immediate colour in relation to the human condition which is readily visible still in day to day life. There is still warmth that you can tap into in most places; a humanity that still prevails.

But perhaps it’s really a question of degree; I think if you look hard enough in London or Las Vegas, you can still see pain and pleasure in all its complexity beating beneath the surface: it just depends how deep you’re willing to go. And whether or not you can source a really big monocle.

JW:  Who is InkyBuki, and why is she so mysterious?

NP: InkyBuki is the inky version of Sobuki Ra, who is a crocodile living in a bayou (the coordinates of which are top secret) and can be found most days swimming in the Twitter and Google + streams, terrorising other social media users and hatching mischievous plans with her best friends Ludvig, the Goblin Shark and Cranial Gerbil, a gerbil. I believe she is the only crocodile to date with opposable thumbs, which goes some way to explaining why she has taken up the art of writing and why she is perhaps a little mysterious about it.

JW: What’s with the gerbil obsession?  Is there something you need to share with the rest of the class?

NB: Cranial Gerbil is no ordinary rodent. The little pink plastic ball he lives in is all that stands between him and world domination. We are star crossed lovers. It’s very sad.

JW:  You’re also an advocate of family law reform in the UK.  Do you ever get weird emails or photos of people dressed like Batman?

Frequently, but I rather like Superheroes and action figures, so I tend to invite them all to the work meetings I help organise. Sometimes, if I’m very well behaved, they share their Trebor XXX mints with me.

JW:  Final Question: Dickens or Tolstoy–who is the most depressing writer?

NP: If one is more depressing than the other, it must be only be by a whisky.