20 Lessons I Learned While Travelling

Our wonderful WACC NA friend and colleague Gregg Brekke has something to be proud of! (My words, not his). His brand new book is freshly pressed and we are very happy to share in the excitement and joy of this accomplishment. As a girl with (hopefully) incurable wanderlust, I jumped at the chance to have a short e-mail interview with Gregg to give you a better sense of what’s going on with his book.

Erin: How did the idea for the book come about?

Gregg: The idea for “20 Life Lessons Learned While Traveling” came in a brainstorming session with the publisher. There are now twelve books in the series with plans for more. I had just completed a two month nonstop travel blitz and thought that might be a good jumping off point for a new title.

Erin: How many countries have you been to?

Gregg: I’ve been blessed to have education and job experiences that have taken me to over 20 countries and every state in the U.S. It’s still hard for me to believe because growing up I lived in the same house from birth until I graduated high school. That’s probably part of the reason for my wanderlust…

Erin: Where do you want to go next and why?

Gregg: For my next trip, I’ll probably go somewhere in Africa – Kenya or Namibia. As a freelance journalist I cover a lot of mission partner activities and there are strong connections with local partners in these countries. I may return to the Middle-East soon too – to continue work on a documentary project.

Erin: What life lessons did you learn writing the book?

Gregg: Working with talented people is a joy and in writing this book I learned to appreciate that more. As a photographer, video producer and writer, I often have the final say in what a product looks likes in its finished form. Writing a book is a bit more back-and-forth with your editor. With a short format devotional, writing had to be concise. For each of the “20 Life Lessons” I write about, there is at least one real-world example of the practice I used myself – but there was no room for these examples in the book. I’m thankful for the editorial and design team at Pilgrim Press for helping me convey the emotional and/or spiritual experience of these practices in very few words and with great images.


Is Your Document Understandable to People Who Don’t Have a PhD?

Yes, this was the heading on a document that went around the office this morning. Like many in the non-profit/church/ecumenical/think-tank/social justice land we have a hard time keeping our writing familiar and accessible. Wooden, academic writing seems to be our go-to style. There was lots of good stuff in this guide for friendlier writing, but I share with you only one tip because it’s pure gold!

Did you know Microsoft Word has a tool to tell you how readable your document is? Miraculous!

– Click Microsoft Office Button
– Click “Word Options” . . . it’s tucked down at the bottom of the menu
– Click “Proofing”
– Make sure “Check grammar with spelling” is selected
– Under “When correcting grammar in Word” select the box called “Show readability statistics”

To test it out, run the spellchecker! It’s great! Our friend says that you are looking for a reading ease score between 60 and 70 (100 is easiest) and a grade level test of 7.0 to 8.0.

Have fun! Try it out and share what your writing scored.

PS – I am extraordinarily relieved that my latest written efforts for my PhD scored a 32 on Reading Ease and a Grade Level of 13.3 (I often get flack for writing to plainly, too casually, and use too few technical terms).

PPS – I am also a little fretful that my latest efforts for work (an email newsletter intended for mass consumption) rated a 43 and a Grade Level of 11.

“The Help” wins 2012 Wilbur Award

The Religion Communicators Council announced the 15 Wilbur Awards for 2012 March 9 in New York. The awards honor excellence by individuals in secular media—print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures—in communicating religious issues, values and themes during 2011.

The Religion Communicators Council has presented Wilbur Awards annually since 1949. Secular communicators enter work in eight categories. Juries of media professionals coordinated by council members across the country evaluate submissions on content, creativity, impact and excellence in communicating religious values.

The award is named for the late Marvin C. Wilbur, a pioneer in religious public relations, longtime council leader and former Presbyterian Church executive. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is underwriting the 2012 Wilbur Awards.

To read the full press release, see all the winners, and learn more about the RCC and the Wilbur Awards, please click here.

International Women’s Day

A great story from Jean greeted me this morning when I braved my inbox. Check it out: International Women’s Day: The Measure of a Woman Thanks, Jean! And happy Women’s Day to the myriad creative, hard-working, funny, and very smart women I work with, hang out with, and am related to!

PS – When I hit publish on this post, WordPress suggested I add the tags “clothing” “fashion” and “style” to it . . . ugh . . . oh WordPress, help the cause, will you?

Who makes the news?

Watch the roundtable here!

The groovy crew at WACC North America pulled off a most excellent round table in Chicago last night. It was a great collaborative effort, with help from  Religion Newswriters’ Association and the University of Missouri’s Center on Religion & the Professions.

We were pleased to have on our panel for the second time  June Nicholson, Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Communications, Virginian Commonwealth University and our own Sarah Macharia, from WACC Global, outlining the findings of GMMP 2010.

Our working journalist on the panel was award-winning Manya Brachear, Chicago Tribute religion reporter, who has also written for Time, The Dallas Morning News, amongst many important publications.
It was very interesting to hear Elisa Munoz from The International Women’s Media Foundation outline the findings  of her organization’s research, “Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media” which focused on women journalists and their careers around the world. There was certainly resonance between GMMP and IWMF’s research in the area of women in the newsroom.
Don’t stress if you are drooling with envy and sadness that you missed out on this! Technology to the rescue.

Just click here and watch or listen to the whole thing at your leisure!

Reason #312 I’m happy to be off The Facebooks . . .

I saw this headline on MSNBC (why, why do I still look at that website? But that’s another problem for another post . . . ), “Govt agencies, colleges demand applicants’ Facebook passwords” The article attached to it detailed what seems to be a widespread and increasingly normal habit of having coaches be a mandatory, full-access “friend” on Facebook for college, for employers (or prospective employers) to hover over your shoulder while you flip through your Facebook pages, and other equally icky things.

This isn’t just an invasion of privacy, this is like saying, “Yo! Before we offer you this job, I just have to come to your house and root through your sock drawer and talk to three of your ex boyfriends.” or like, “Yo! You maybe have basketball skills that make Kobe Bryant curl into a fetal position and weep for his mommy, but the fact that you like Nine Inch Nails, Indigo Girls, and the Republican Party just doesn’t work for us.” Now I’m not at all advocating that you should get to be all stupid all over the internet without consequences, but as a person who has an impressive appetite for the inane and frivolous, I would feel so sad if someone rejected me for a job based on the volume of LOL cats on my Facebook.

Talk about a heap of NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. I really feel for the people who get caught in these trade-offs between money and privacy. Likely there are hundreds and thousands of poor kids who’ve worked hard to get a athletics scholarship who can’t afford to say “no thanks” to these intrusive policies. Similarly, if you know the anxiety of debt and unemployment and really need work, how can you protest such invasions and sacrifice the chance for a regular paycheque.


My first month as a cell phoned person . . .

Meet Leonard. He’s my (slightly not as new, but still pretty new) LG smartphone. I really enjoy having him in my life. And despite my ill-informed predictions, my life and history as I knew it, didn’t end when he came into it. Though it is snowing in Toronto today, it’s already March and we haven’t had much winter. So I’m thinking Leonard will need a new, less rugged sock in the near future.

I sent just under 1300 text messages.

What does this say about me?

PS – I need a good Android app for budgeting/managing household finances . . . I have a feeling my addiction to a certain retail outlet may be more disturbing than I realize.