Archive for January, 2012

How do you respond to a smile? With a smile of your own. How can you resist the smile of a child? Or a mother? You can’t.


Say hello to Livvy, one of our twin granddaughters (and smile). Can’t say this is a candid because Livvy was posing just a little, but her smile is unposed.

Maddy & Sue

And here’s Maddy with her mother Sue. I took a series of photos until I captured this magical smiling moment. This one is a candid. Bettcha you’re smiling again. Can’t blame you.

These two images came from the same roll of Tri-X that yielded last week’s photos and there are a few more yet to come. I love my 50mm Takumar lens.

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Click to enlarge

I held off publishing this image because of the quality, actually the lack of quality of the fingernail size, Minox negative. The small size is handicap enough, but the terrible processing must be seen to be believed. I like the photo enough to pull as much as I could from what I had to work with. Hope you like it.

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The scene was Christmas Eve at my daughter Sue’s home. The kids had their polyanna and were sitting on the floor in the family room opening their gifts.

It's So Beautiful

Here’s Livvy opening Maddy’s present for her, a priceless moment, Maddy looking on as Livvy holds Maddy’s shirt up and says, “Oh Maddy, it’s so beautiful.” The words, the expressions on their faces, the moment, captured, preserved and shared. Glad my timing was good.

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The most successful sales letter in advertising history begins with a story. This single letter mailed for over 20 years and generated an estimated $2 billion in subscription revenue for the Wall Street Journal. It’s hard to argue with a good story. Story-telling bypasses critical thinking, flies under the customer’s radar, and triggers an emotional response that reduces or eliminates sales resistance. Story-telling engages customers dynamically and moves them from problem to solution, helps them discover your product or diffuses their skepticism.

The Journal letter opens with the story of two men returning for their college reunion after 25 years. These two men were very much alike. They were personable, above average students and happily married with three children. Both went to work for the same company. “But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was it’s president.”

The letter writer wonders what makes such a difference in a person’s life. He says it’s knowledge and what people do with what they know. He goes on to tell about the Wall Street Journal, that the whole purpose of the Journal is to “give its readers knowledge – knowledge they can use in business.”

People responded to this letter because of the story, because of the dream and the life changing power of knowledge. The story used the contrast between two men, but the same technique can work by showing how a person moves from a problem to a solution. The product may be the hero in the story, but people buy the life changing dream.

When Porter Stansberry launched his breakthrough investment newsletter, he used a powerful story to introduce people to the then new Internet. His headline was brilliant. “There’s a New Railroad Across America And it’s making some people very rich…” He invited readers to imagine themselves in top hat and tails. He painted a picture of a railroad magnate, riding the rails in his private car in the 1850s. He talked about the incredible riches for those who were smart enough to invest in railroads in their infancy as they exploded across the continent.

Porter used the story of the romance and riches of the great age of the railroads and revealed the single, simple secret of wealth. It worked. Readers were ready when he talked about how his newsletter could show them how to tap into the wealth of the Internet. Porter turned the unfamiliar into the familiar. People subscribed to his letter in droves and made him millions. They responded to the story and bought wealth and lifestyle.

Story diffuses and often eliminates skepticism. Why should people believe you? Of course you’ll tell them all about your wonderful product. Testimonials, the compact stories of satisfied customers can turn skeptics into buyers. Testimonials are powerful and give you instant credibility. Without credibility, you’re doomed. Who would you believe, you the seller or the customer who tells how your widget increased his Internet sales by 57% the first time he put it into action?

Story-telling doesn’t just engage customers, it grabs them by the emotions. You can’t sell people, but story can persuade them to buy. People don’t buy products, they see how their lives will be changed and buy the dream. Your story puts them into that dream and converts prospects into customers.

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Last week I introduced you to An Emerald Ring, a short story I had just finished, leaving you with the promise of a series of posts describing my creative journey as I wrote An Emerald Ring.

The catalyst was a Kindle book I purchased because it was on sale and the title intrigued me. I had no intention of writing a novel but when I began reading “the 90-day novel: Unlock the story within” by Alan Watt, I was hooked. Why not John? Go for it and I did.

Follow each daily exercise in this book for 90 days and you will end up with a first draft of your novel. You spend the first 28 days “Imagining the World of the Story” and begin your draft on day 29. By the time I reached day 29 I realized that I didn’t want to write a novel. I wanted to write short stories. So I stopped, but not before I learned a host of valuable lessons.

I learned that you can’t make a mistake when writing a first draft because you never stop to judge or correct what you’ve written. The important thing is to let your creative right brain come out to play.

“Storytelling is a right-brain activity. The moment we attempt to come up with logical solutions to human behavior, we are out of the story.” the 90-day novel: Unlock the story within – Alan Watt

I’ve always let my inner critic (my left brain) poke his nose into my writing too early. Al Watt taught me to ignore outcomes and concentrate on the process. It works. I wrote whatever popped into my mind, never second guessing. Save the second guessing for the re-write. I was amazed at some of the insights that came out when I quit looking in the rear view mirror and just wrote.

I took those lessons and applied them to crafting An Emerald Ring. I knew how the story would begin and how it would probably end, but I had no idea how I would get from beginning to end. I began playing in the world of my story, watching the story emerge gradually over many drafts.

Next week, I’ll show you some of my favorite tricks, beginning with my secret first draft writing weapon. If you missed the first part of the series and would like to read it, here’s the link: Monday Musings: An Emerald Ring, the Story.

And here’s the link where you can download the full text of An Emerald Ring with my compliments.

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