Freelance journalism….

Just over a year ago I started this Blog as my first foray into non academic writing. I didn’t know where I’d end up but I just needed to do something being off work on medical leave, with very limited capacity to do anything.

Here I am a year later and I’ve been asked to write a few opinion columns a month for SooToday.

Already they have published three of my articles:

The first was a report from the local dog show. The second an insight into living with a service dog. The third about living with rare anaphylaxis as an adult. Future columns are planned on other real life issues from my experiences as somebody living with multiple invisible disabilities and probably from events as they come up in my life.

So today, I once again place this Blog in hiatus. It has served its role and served it well. However, with the changes in my life that are coming ahead I won’t have time to keep this up as well. I don’t think!

Maybe I’ll find that I miss the outlet and continue it after all. Who knows?

A year ago I would never have believed that I’d be in this position. A paid freelance journalist with a regular column. Who would have thought it?

A freelance writer is born….

Just under a year ago, I started this Blog as my first endeavour as a non-academic author. Since then, I’ve had an article published in an online forum and a poem selected for inclusion in an anthology; both under my pseudonym. The first was unpaid and the second payment is on a royalty basis and as one author among many royalties will be minimal and a long way off.

However, today I can count another milestone: My first article published as a paid freelance author. Yesterday I attended the Sault Ste. Marie Annual Dog Show. I then wrote about it for SooToday. Today, that article was published as “Dispatch from a dog show“. At the end of the month I’ll submit my invoice and I’ll be paid for what I wrote. Not it’s not going to get me out of debt in a hurry but it’ll certainly buy me a soy white-hot chocolate at Starbucks now and then and help me complete my bucket list.

Unfortunately with summer on its way I may need to stop them soon as fruit smoothies will start ruling the day and exposure to citrus becomes more problematic. However, I have enjoyed the occasional ones that I have managed. So whatever you drink, raise a glass with me, to me – Nikki Shaw – freelance writer!

Photograph courtesy of Kirsten Wilson.

Blog resumes due to popular demand – thank you for all your support…

In the past couple of weeks, since I suspended this blog to get a big writing project underway I have been sent several requests for me to resume it sooner than later. Apparently, different posts are really helping people and there are more people out there reading this than I knew. To those people who took the time to comment and ask me to continue again – thank you.

I won’t promise that it will always be daily but I’ll commit to writing several a week. I’m also going to go back over the older blogs and edit them for grammar and spelling. Some of them were written when I was very, very sick and that didn’t matter too me so much. Now it does, so I’ll correct it.

As for the big writing project: that is now underway and completely framed out so I’m comfortable that I can continue with both that and keep this Blog going at the same time. I also had a couple of offers from people who would like to write a guest Blog on here. Please use the contact form to let me know if that was you as I’d love to have you write some entries.

As for me, I’ve now been home from the hospital a few weeks and I’m starting to get into a good routine for me. I’m getting support from both my respirologist, my allergist, my GP, my psychiatrist and my psychologist. I have a pretty amazing team helping me take care of my mental and physical health.

That probable break that I wrote about a week or so ago, turned out to be a bad sprain and an old avulsion fracture.

However, all of this would be nothing without the help of some great friends in my life, old and new, who have been willing to stop wearing all scented products, not eat citrus at all and in a couple of occasions made their homes safe for me to visit so I’m no longer trapped by my own four walls. I have safe places to go. Consequently, I’ve felt better able to manage the risk of being in public a little more and have now attended two events at my local library. My thanks to the librarian and group leader who helped to accommodate my allergies so well.

As for my friend, who acts as a ‘service human’ in partnership with my service dog words fail me when I think about how much my new found freedom is possible at all because of her willingness to accompany me, check for scents and speak up on my behalf when I can’t safely do so myself.I am blessed and privileged to know her as a friend.

Thank you.

Oh, and the really good news is that I’m finally at the point in getting better where my employer is working with my disability insurance, my GP and I to agree a graduated return to work plan. Initially it will just be for 2 days a week as I still have to start and complete the respiratory rehab. program but hopefully I’ll be full time again within 2-3 months.I have to reserve my spoons as this will be such a big change after such a long time.

However, I will be working from home to accommodate my extreme allergies.

I am really looking forward to that after 10 months of being on medical/disability leave! I wonder what Kai (my service dog) will think about my going to work in my home office rather than at the University 🙂

Blog suspended…. To resume in the near future….

As I’ve started a big writing  project, I am taking a break from blogging for a while. I expect that Blogs will resume in a few weeks. If you want to be notified when they restart just register with this site and you will get a notice. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter @EnglishRose_eh

 

Hey, guess what? The internet is public!!

In the past week it has been very bemusing to me to find that people believe that the Internet is the whole story. Even people who know me well, and know that I am well aware that anything posted on the Internet will exist forever; seem to assume that I would be posting the full details of my health and current situation.

A blog is for sharing thoughts and ideas. It’s not, in my mind, an appropriate place for explicit details.

My posts will never include anything about myself that I am not comfortable sharing totally publicly. Whether that’s to protect my privacy or that of others.

Just in case you haven’t realised it – the Internet is public! Anything posted on it, even in a private Facebook group, is accessible by others.  It’s also permanent. There is no way to completely delete anything posted ever.

You might make it much harder for people to find. You might make it so that they have to know it’s there to look for it. However, search engines are constantly archiving and indexing content.

As an example, there are sites that have information on them relating to past positions that I have held, or papers and talks that I have given at conferences, that hold out-of-date contact information on me. It’s impossible for me to get these corrected or updated.

Partly, this is because those sites are old and the people who used to manage the content are no longer in those positions or don’t have access to the sites anymore in terms of changing the content.

Sometimes, it’s more that they are an historical archive. The problem is that people aren’t great at dating everything on the Internet.

Therefore, if you search for my full name you will find current information as well as old information regarding my academic affiliations. For those that don’t actually know me it can be hard for people to find the current data.

Hopefully, people who know me in real life will also know my current affiliations which will help them narrow their search focus or they’ll be connected with me on LinkedIn which I do keep current.

Anyway, my point is – please don’t forget that the Internet is only ever one facet of a person’s character and personality. It’s the facet of themselves that they’re willing to make fully public whether intentionally or inadvertently.

Some people like to share the minute details of their day down to what they eat at every meal. For many of us though the Internet is a means of communication. It presents part of a story and not the whole.

To understand the whole, you need to spend time with the real person, and have a shared understanding. There needs to be communication and dialogue. This can be mediated by technology and doesn’t always have to be in person, but there’s nothing quite like being able to watch somebody’s face as they speak to understand the nuances and meanings of what’s being said.

As somebody who reveres honesty I didn’t join Facebook for many years and even then I initially had a very simple account. Over time, and with being housebound now or months, I am more involved and active on Facebook than I was.

However, I will still not post anything that I don’t want to be public, even in private groups. There are too many stories of people breaking the ‘rules’ and sharing things outside of the group. Further, Facebook itself can always see anything I post. So I limit my posts on Facebook.

I have a limited Twitter account. I do use LinkedIn to keep my professional colleagues informed as to how to contact me. Beyond that, this Blog is a place for me to experiment with my non-academic writing.

As such, writers are challenged to write from what they know. So at times, my Blog includes personal information such as issues with my health or my wishes for my life like my Bucket List posts.

However, if you want to know ‘Me’ – you need to talk to ‘me’ and not just base your conclusions and understanding of me on one representation of a facet of my personality.

My Blog gives you a peep at who I am. It will never tell you the whole story.

I struggled this week with whether or not this is dishonest. I’m still debating that. Is it better to have a public presence and this forum to explore my non-academic writing in? Or should I delete (as much as possible) all online presence because others can’t distinguish between an online view on who I am and the reality?

It’s not that my online presence is a lie or a distortion of me. I’m not pretending to be a slim 20 something blonde; I am what I am. It’s just that online I will only ever present part of who I am.

I’ll only ever discuss aspects of my health saga and situation. Sometimes that’s because I do try and look at things as positively as possible and if I posted the full story it would often be far too depressing to write, let alone for others to read! At other times, it’s simply to protect my own privacy, or others.

I guess what I’m saying is to be careful. Don’t assume that you ‘know’ somebody based on the Internet alone. Remember that people don’t know the real ‘you’ based on what you post alone. We are rich, complex human beings with many facets to our personalities and constantly changing as we go through life.

I am not the same person today that I was yesterday or that I will be tomorrow. I think that’s a good thing. However, the Internet is static. It’s a series of snapshots of specific points in time.

It’s interesting even now to go back and see what I posted 6 months ago when I posted this Blog and to think about how I’d write it today. Some things would be identical. Others, I’d now approach very differently.

However, you wouldn’t know that by just reading my posts. You’d only know that by being in relationship with me.

So I ask you to remember, that if you’re reading my Blog I appreciate you, I thank you for your time, but please remember that you don’t know ‘Me’ based on this alone.

 

Comfort books are much healthier than comfort food…

Since coming across one for the first time I have been a great fan of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I have shelves of them in my home covering every subject that you can imagine and more. Most of them picked up in thrift stores or in discount books stores to be honest as I can’t quite justify paying full price for them here in Canada in comparison to the price of books in England (where books aren’t taxed, or weren’t when I lived there anyway).

Like the original author, Jack Canfield, I use them to illustrate ideas and concepts in lectures, talks and as I teach.

Unlike actual chicken soup, which makes me sick, I also love to read them when I’m sick. Every edition has 101 stories or poems and none are longer than 1200 words so they’re easy to pick up and put down as needed. Perfect for those brain fog days!

Today, I fulfilled a dream. I submitted my own story to an upcoming Chicken Soup anthology. The theme is “Inspiration for teachers” and I thought that it was high time that I said thank you to a teacher who had a huge impact on my life and probably never even knew it.

So hopefully, my submission will be accepted and in the future you can all read about my former music teacher, Mr. Nelson and the enormous impact he had on my life personally and as a teacher myself.

In the meantime, if you have a story about a teacher who inspired your or who had a huge impact in your life – why don’t you consider submitting a story too?

http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/submit-your-story

Setting a good example – Is there a link between poor English and mental health in teens?

It’s been a few days since I last posted. Some of this was for good reasons in that I have been chatting in real-time with friends and while still dependent on the internet for communication right now, real people will always come first for me before writing a blog. Secondly, I’ve been struggling with my health again.

The short version is that I was notified on Monday that the results of the sleep study were quite different to what I had been told, in the follow-up appointment shortly afterwards. My family doctor is now investigating to find out exactly what happened and what the next steps are. Regardless, it was quite a knock to hear that I do have yet another severe issue that needs treating, but that probably isn’t the cause of my breathing issues. It’s also quite likely to have been caused as a side effect of some of the medication I’m on which is really demoralising. Regardless, I’m frustrated with still not knowing and having fallen down yet another rabbit hole in the path towards finding out.

However, over these last few days I am finding that one of my all-time bugs seems to have become even more prevalent. The inappropriate use of grammar and spelling seems to have become acceptable in society. Not just with teens using ‘text speak’ to apply for jobs but with professionals, including educators.

When did it become acceptable for those who do know better, to not set a good example?

It started for me with movies using all lower case for proper names. I hated it. How are children meant to learn to write their name using the appropriate upper case and lower case letters if the examples all around them are wrong?

Next for me was frustration with captions all being in upper case. This is incredibly difficult to read in comparison to proper case. There’s a reason that block capitals have become known as SHOUTING in text speak!

When I looked into that one I was told that it’s faster for the captioners to use all upper case. I guess that means that movie & tv show makers will accommodate disabilities and caption as required, but they’re not going to spend a moment longer doing so than absolutely necessary!

More recently, I’ve seen photographs of bulletin boards beautifully set up for the start of the new school year and every word of the title is capitalised rather than using the more appropriate title, or sentence case.

There’s a local Facebook group, administered by a professional writer no less, who uses the wrong “your” in the title for the group. When asked why, they responded that it was deliberate!

We know that everything that we do as adults is watched and mimicked by children. How many times has a child repeated something that you really shouldn’t have said, at the most inappropriate time?

Yet we ignore this in the language that we surround them with. We constantly expose them to poor grammar and spelling and wonder why so many children are struggling with language in school.

I had thought that at least educators would be setting a good example. Apparently I was wrong. They don’t see the need either.

I don’t understand it.

I’m not asking for perfection. Just for the basic rules at least to be followed.

When I mention this issue to others they seem to feel that I’m being pedantic, and archaic.

Yet, look at the best-selling authors! Look at the students in class who are doing well and getting top grades, regardless of subject.

These are not the ones being lazy with spelling and grammar. They’re the ones that write well.

Why? Why is it so important? Why do they become the best-selling authors, the top students?

It’s simple – they make communication easier. It’s easier to read prose that’s written using the appropriate case and that’s spelled well. It’s easier to understand what an author means when they use good grammar. As a reader you’re not left trying to work out what they meant. You know.

So many relationships break down due to poor communication. Misunderstandings, and confusion arise when we are not clear in what we mean.

So I challenge you as adults, I challenge you as educators whether as formal teachers or as parents and role models in other areas of life: Step up! Set a good example in everything that you write. Make no excuses. Just improve the example that you set.

In this day of text speak and instant gratification it’s time that we remember that we are the examples to this next generation, and rather than join them in an attempt to assimilate, stand fast for good grammar, spelling and punctuation!

I wonder how much less depression and anxiety we would be seeing in High Schools if cell phones and the internet were banned, and communication had to be in person or written out fully?

Looking at the anecdotal evidence from countries without such technologies I suspect that our youth mental health would greatly improve.

Could the solution be as simple as returning to core values in English?

If High School students had to actually write extensive prose rather than the increasing tendency to use Prezi or other multi-media methods to communicate would their abilities to communicate  their true feelings for class assignments improve? It’s easy to hide behind a social media presentation. It’s much harder to do so behind a piece of first person writing.

It’s a thought!