Helping Define Your Company’s Culture

This post is a quick ‘un.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled Sharing your other work at work in which I described my submission to the Thomson Reuters brand marketing team, who was looking for employees to help showcase and define our culture. It’s part of a greater recruiting effort to bring in top talent from around the globe.

Sharing your writing can be nerve-wracking at the best of times, but there’s a certain other level of anxiety that comes with standing up and saying, “Hey coworkers, I think what I’m doing is important enough to help define our brand to the world.”

But in the fine traditions of “nothing ventured, nothing gained” and “pull up your big girl panties and get on with it”, it worked out for me in this case. And that’s a pretty cool feeling, considering I was one of ten employees selected from our global company.

Hobbies & Side Projects of Employees (I’m about two-thirds down the page, if you’re so inclined to read it)

In the list of things I hope to achieve with my writing, this is a smaller item, but an important one nonetheless. For many hopeful authors, myself included, sharing is the toughest part. But it gets easier each time. Trust me.

–Mike


© Michael Wallevand, March 2018

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Sharing your other work at work

I work for Thomson Reuters, and in January, our brand marketing team solicited responses from employees around the world. They regularly showcase the people who define our culture, and in this instance, they were interested in our activities outside the office. Since I’m passionate about writing – and <cough> always looking for an opportunity to share and connect with others – I wrote the following submission. Somehow, I managed to keep it under 300 words, which is nearly impossible for a writer writing about the book he’s writing.

Anyhoo, without further ado or digression, here it is:


I’ve spent the last two years working on a fantasy novel featuring a young heroine who can literally become anyone. This allows her to break stereotypes and see how the world treats the person she has become. Her world is largely patriarchal, but living a secluded life in the woods with her adoptive mother, she brings a different perspective to everyone she meets, human or otherwise. With an indomitable spirit, keen intellect, and unwavering sense of justice, she could restore her father’s throne. She just doesn’t know that she’s the princess who was supposedly killed twelve years ago.

Written for fans of Harry Potter and Lord of the RingsThe Lost Royals follows Tildy as she crosses the realm of Evereign to regain her true name and kingdom, while struggling to maintain a sense of self in a body going through more changes than your average teenager.

——————–

In our world – the real one – where we continue to see gender inequality and other prejudices, I think girls and boys need more role models who help them look at others as human beings first. I see the book series as a way to encourage reading, form a more compassionate society, and expand children’s minds to think in creative ways. I want to someday sit down and read these books to my kids, nieces, and nephew, telling them, “I wrote this with your future in mind.”

Depending on my level of success with the series, I then intend to start a non-profit that will create illustrated books for the waiting rooms of children’s hospitals. As someone who spent a lot of time with my premie son in Children’s – Minneapolis, and watched my older son reading to him, I can attest to the welcome distraction that a storybook can provide.


I share this today because it’s an example of me refining my synopsis (some might call this a blurb, talking points, or elevator pitch). It’s something you need to write and revise several times, smoothing down the rough spots until it rolls off the tongue or keyboard. If you’re lucky, people will ask about your story. They’re more likely to be intrigued and engaged if your response is interesting, effortless, and concise.

Take any opportunity to work on this – it will help when you finally sit down to write that inquiry letter you’ve been dreading.

Good luck with your writing!


Michael Wallevand is a Senior Product Manager at Thomson Reuters, managing Integrated Marketing Solutions for FindLaw, the world’s leading provider of online legal information and law firm marketing solutions. He has developed products that have generated a hundred thousand unique pieces of content, whilst using organic and paid advertising to drive traffic to attorney websites across the US, UK, and Canada.

© Michael Wallevand, February 2018

An illustratration [sic] for the importance of proofing

This post is approximately 600 words, some of which are likely misspelled because that’s what happens when writers talk about typos.

Holy lexicon, do I hate misspellings. When it comes to my own writing, I’m a firm believer in self-flagellation. And I know there’s a special place in dictionary purgatory for self-proclaimed grammar perfectionists and those people who allow typos into published books.

Regardless of how much you’ve typed, or how fast you do it, typos are a way of life. When it comes to typing, I’m a cheetah with 30 years’ experience: bursts of speed followed by periods of rest and reflection. If I’m particularly inspired, I probably reach 120 wpm.

kermit-writing

My skills aren’t perfect nor to I claim them to be. To counter this, I’m a ruthless spellchecker. No, that doesn’t mean I frequently click the button in Word, although that is like having a second set of eyes on your work. I mean that every few paragraphs, I pause to reread what I’ve typed, reviewing for spelling, grammar, flow, pace, and content, among other things. Then I type a few more paragraphs and reread the whole thing again.

You’re probably beginning to develop a picture of my (often annoying and exacting) work ethic, which means we’re about two or three paragraphs from it biting me in the rear.

Even for WordPress items, I’m often writing them in Word, rereading, proofing, and editing constantly as I go. I do this even after I’ve pasted (what looks like) the final copy into the post editor. I preview my text and give it another run-through or two. Using this method, I catch 99.9% of the potential typos I make (that sounds like an unverifiable statistic and possibly hubris, for which I will likely be punished in the form of many typos here). It works very well, nonetheless.

Until that query email I sent.

I researched and researched, finding literary agents’ submission requirements on their websites and Twitter. I found examples of what others had done. I wrote my query. Then proofed and rewrote and edited and rewrote. Finally somewhat satisfied, I pasted it from Word into an email, rechecked and edited again, typed the subject line, and sent it. I liked it well enough that I copied it for my next query, ensuring that I changed any pertinent agent information. I copied the subject line, too.

And that’s when the spellchecker caught the typo. In. The. Subject. Line.

Dammit.

writers-block-1

I had typed “An Illustratrated Children’s book”. Look at it. LOOK AT IT! By the black hand of Delosh, how did I miss that? Did I forget to hit the spellcheck button one last time? But even now, knowing full well it’s spelled wrong, weirdly, deceptively, it still doesn’t look that wrong. I have seen far more egregious errors. Perhaps that’s what bothers me the most.

Fortunately – mercifully – in her rejection response, the agent didn’t mention that the SECOND word she read had been misspelled, nor did she gently remind me of the importance of proofing your submission before sending it. It was the first time I’d appreciated a form letter response.

I probably spend a disproportionate amount of time checking my work compared to the time spent writing, and while I’m OK with that for now, I am relaxing my standards a smidge. You should, too. Chasing perfection is the relentless pursuit of imperfection. And we have more important things to do, like writing great stories.

–Mike
Click for more self-flagellation about typos.

© Michael Wallevand, January 2018


Michael Wallevand is a Senior Product Manager at Thomson Reuters, managing Integrated Marketing Solutions for FindLaw, the world’s leading provider of online legal information and law firm marketing solutions. He has developed products that have generated a hundred thousand unique pieces of content, whilst using organic and paid advertising to drive traffic to attorney websites across the US, UK, and Canada.

Celtic Christmas Poem

When I read ancient tales like Beowulf or the Odyssey, I like to consider the challenges faced by translators. It’s not simply replacing one word for another; in some cases, it’s also preserving the rhythm, often at the expense of what we’d consider ‘standard grammar’. Rhythm is a critical component of memorization, which was essential for stories that passed from mouth to ear, rather than by written page.

I kept that in mind when I wrote this poem in 2005. I put myself in the mindset of a translator struggling to capture the flow of some ancient chant. To me, it’s a combination of science and art, with the latter given preference. You’ll hear similar things in modern music, when the lyricist chooses rhythm over the rules taught in high school English.

Without further preface, my Celtic Christmas poem:


Come, my dear friends and do hearken
And sit by my fire for awhile.
For I am about to regale you
Of the Scourge of the Emerald Isle. Continue reading

Writing Update: Dec 12, 2017

This post is approximately 700 words.

On December 10, 2015, overwhelmed and underwater in life, I sat at the keyboard to begin writing the first book in The Lost Royals series. It had been years since I’d seriously written, but I recall how quickly the inspiration blossomed again.

Two days ago, the second anniversary passed by, unremarked. When I realized this today, I knew I needed to refocus myself.  Of late, my head has been so far up my own rear end with responsibilities and disappointment and anger and frustration and regret, that I’d taken my eye off the ball. Off the work. Instead taking the opportunity to reflect on how far I’d come – as I’d done last year – I simply forgot about the date.

But at least I did some writing.

My intellectual side knew it wasn’t a big deal, but my emotional side Continue reading

My Writing Rules Differ From Yours #1

This post is approximately 800 words and talks about grammar. I mean, a lot. Now’s your chance to flee.

venkman

“Actually, it’s more of a guideline than a rule.”

Still here? Cool. Now we can nerd out about grammar without the eye-rolling judgment of boring people.

This will be the first in a series of recurring posts about English grammar. As a person who delights in the rules (and their exceptions), the eccentricities, and the history of the language, you’d be forgiven for assuming I’d be a crusty curmudgeon about the guidelines, norms, and other grammatical commandments. And often, you’d be right. But it also means I put a tremendous amount of brainpower into thinking about the rules.

And how I’m going to break them.

Don’t get me wrong: the rules are great. They aid comprehension and help ensure understanding between author and reader. However, in the fantasy world I’m creating, I’m making up everything from character names to locations to vocabulary. All of these things need to be understood by the reader, especially in instances where I’m breaking a rule to conform to the norms of my created world. If I can prepare the readers in some way, by the time she or he gets to my non-standard phrase, they immediately understand what I’m saying. They’ve been taught without knowing it.

I’ll use a real-world example so I don’t get you hung up on characters named Flurbbydurm and Nicanick or whatever other nonsense I can conceive (Note: these aren’t really from my book). As a product owner at Thomson Reuters, I’m frequently asked questions by email. My first inclination is to write back, “I have As to your Qs.” Now, every English-speaker I know, including myself, will read “I have as”, possibly understanding my intent when they get to “Qs”. But as a writer, I’ve failed my readers. I’ve written something they thought they understood, only to immediately discover they read it wrong. I’ve ruined the flow and broken the reader’s concentration. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves as a reader, whether for pleasure or work.

Current convention suggests that Q’s and A’s are the acceptable forms, though I believe grammatical rules disagree. You might be thinking, “But Mike, if you’re adhering to the rule, how can you be breaking it?” Well, if everyone believes something counter to the rule, is it still a rule? In college, yes; otherwise…frequently not.  Anyways, it’s my first post on this – I want to ease you into my head my world.

Philosophical grammatical arguments aside (tell me THAT doesn’t sound like an obscure college major…that I wish I had), I generally despise using apostrophes for things other than possessive pronouns, contractions, single quotation marks, and sometimes as part of a colloquial abbreviation (Y’all comin’ back? Yeah I know, you probably won’t after a 800-word post about grammar. Sigh.). Oh, and names, like D’Artagnan.

That’s a really long way of saying, I won’t type DVD’s, CD’s, or DVR’s. And I certainly won’t type A’s and Q’s, no matter what the opinion du jour is.

As a writer, your first inclination should be to re-write. That’s your other option here, and perhaps easier to accomplish without sounding pedantic <looks in mirror>. Yes, yes, what we’re writing is personal and we’re in charge and it’s our way or the highway. Unless you’re doing the reader a disservice. Yes, yes, I know I’m delighting myself more than my audience when I type an email with Qs and As. But it amuses me.

Did you catch what you just read there? You probably didn’t read “as” this time, which means I’ve done the proper set-up. I also reversed the order: since “qs” isn’t a word, you read “Qs”, which put you in the right mindset to read “As”. And there’s the second option, also fulfilled: rewrite it. I usually prefer one or the other, but in this instance, I’ve served the audience’s need for comprehension and my selfish need to be clever.

Those people that read through this – and I thank you for bearing with me – might think that this was an awful lot of words in discussion of a single English rule. Now you know a little bit more about the thought I put into everything I write.

And I do mean everything.

–Mike

PS: Interesting side note for future me: I spent much of this post singing the “Family Finger Song” to Benji as I wrote it. I’m not sure how I typed one thing whilst singing another.


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Things I Did After Sitting Down To Write This Morning

This post is approximately 400 words, and likely sounds familiar to other writers.

Since the dawn of humankind, storytellers have been shaking their fists at the sky, cursing the suddenly important things that got in the way of the work. I believe they shouted something like this:

O, procrastination! Thou art a foul contra-muse who plague-eth my writing time and sendeth me on unnecessary and irrelevant paths.

That might not be a direct quote from writers of yore, but I think it’s pretty close (I’ll probably start using it myself). To be clear, I’m not talking about the demands of daily life (e.g. human interaction, food, or taking out the frickin’ garbage because you can smell it from the other room). Rather, I’m talking about those things that should be put off until the writing session has concluded. BUT OMG, THEY SUDDENLY CANNOT WAIT! THE WORLD’S FATE DEPENDS ON THAT THING BEING DONE RIGHT NOW!

Bad writer.

Stitch spray

It happened earlier this week. As annoying as it always is, Tuesday was particularly disheartening because I’d taken a week off and it was one of my writing days. Consequently, my output for the day suffered.

But not all was lost. I’ve worked to make up the time and the experience gave me the topic for today’s blog. Check out my list of obviously world-saving endeavors:

  • Got coffee
  • Checked Facebook
  • Watched cool acoustic version of Take On Me by a-ha
  • Listened to Prince’s I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
  • Polished and scheduled blog post
  • Reviewed website stats
  • Added formatting to older posts for consistency
  • Got more coffee
  • Researched WordPress Premium
  • Chastised self
  • Took notes for writing this post
  • Put this post idea aside for a couple days (finally on-task!)

Morning well spent, eh? Oh, well.

Many of these things are important to the job – especially coffee – but most could be done outside my scheduled writing time. I do have some tricks that keep my train of thought from derailing, but they failed me on Tuesday. I’ve been doing writing of one form or another for twenty years, and still, I am plague-eth.

As you see at the end of the list, however, I pulled my morning out of the nosedive. But it took awhile and more effort than it should have. I consider this post a visual reminder that it will likely happen it won’t ALWAYS happen and those days are good indeed.

Good luck with your writing!

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, October 2017