Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The End of a Good Run

This is probably obvious to everyone here, but I've chosen to end The Latino Edge. .

When I first wrote for The Latino Edge, it was one of two blogs dedicated to Latino issues in America when those issues weren't popular with traditional media outlets. Almost six years later, with the help of those that blogged after us, traditional media is paying attention to the Latino struggle. With that being said, I feel good about what has been accomplished here. It's time to turn to other ventures.

Take care, my dear readers. Be blessed always and never forget who we are.

Johnny Rivera
Chief Baby Bottle Washer

Monday, February 08, 2010

8 Secrets to Extraordinary Writing

Extraordinary writing is one of the most important skills to acquire if you intend to make a career as a wordsmith. Having good writing skills is a must. There are no short cuts to excellent writing. Either you are a master craftsman or you are a humdrum hack at best. The choice is squarely yours.

Use the following secrets in your journey to writing attention grabbing articles.

  • Learn to write well. Give your craft excellent form by learning different writing techniques and styles. Writing for the web is quite different than writing for a magazine or newspaper. Create a diverse writing portfolio. This gives you the ability to write for different mediums, thus making you more marketable than your competition. Learn to write well, or not to write at all. - John Dryden, Essay on Satire

  • Practice, practice, practice! Set aside time to write daily. Write at least 1200 words a day even if you do not have anything specific to write. This helps to sharpen your skills and correct any errors you are making. Practice, practice, practice writing. Writing is a craft that requires both talent and acquired skills. You learn by doing, by making mistakes and then seeing where you went wrong. - Jeffrey A. Carver, American science fiction author.

  • Keep your eyes and ears open for inspiration. Your inspiration can originate from a conversation, a song, a line in a book, or even a Chinese take out menu. The discipline is to be aware of your surroundings at all times. As a writer practices awareness, the mind disciplines itself to the point where awareness becomes automatic. The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web. - Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter, sculptor and draughtsman.

  • Rewrite your article. Look for ways to strengthen a sentence, a thought or flow. Rearrange paragraphs if you must. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short.

  • Proofread. Maniacally check for syntax, grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. Your readers will not take you seriously if your articles, essays, or even e-mails are filled with errors. Avoid slang whenever possible, unless its use enhances the piece.

  • Create an interesting first paragraph. It is your article's hook. It is here that your readers will decide if they want to continue reading or move on to another piece. Write your first paragraph last. This gives you an opportunity to customize it to the bulk of your content.

  • Know your audience. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback. You need to know if your readers are excited or falling asleep half way through your article. In the 21st century market, people will not buy content. They will however, buy service. Allow your writing to become flexible and selfless. Writers who feed and entertain their audience will be successful. Your audience gives you everything you need. They tell you. There is no director who can direct you like an audience. - Fanny Brice, American actress, comedienne and singer.

  • Write a thought provoking ending. Your last paragraph should be more than a summary of your article. It should make your readers pause to think about what they just read. If necessary, include a call for action.

Although clever writing and communication takes patience, practice and time, it is without doubt worth the effort. This alone will set you head and shoulders above the mediocre and lukewarm.

Tick tick tick tock. The clock is running. Why are you still here?

Go write!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Six Steps to Writing Soul Stirring Articles

The most effective articles are ones that captivate the reader from the onset. These articles are thought out, each word written for maximum effect. The article that fails to engage the heart and mind of its intended audience will fall flat and will not entice the reader to respond to the author's call for action.
The question that begs to be answered is this: "how do I write a soul stirring article?" I am glad you asked. Here are six points to writing that electrifying piece.

  • Know your target audience. The relationship between writers and their audience is like very much like dating. The most effective relationship is the one of mutual giving and understanding. The best clothing is worn. The best foot is put forward in a shiny shoe. You are simply dressed to kill. This type of relationship building writing is much more effective than showing up at the cafĂ© in a raggedy outfit. It is of paramount importance that writers placate their audience's needs. As writers, we serve our readers' interests. Lose this focus and you will absolutely lose your audience.
  • Pick the topic carefully. Communication is the breath of life of any relationship. When I am dating someone, my main focus is to keep the relationship fresh, invigorating and exciting. As a writer, I pick topics that elevate the mood. No one likes a constant crab. You want to create an atmosphere where your audience feels right at home while reading your piece. Do this and they will come back for seconds and thirds.
  • The title must pique curiosity. I could have titled this article, "How to Write an Article". That title is not juicy. It is lifeless. It is blah, bland and vanilla. However, the title I chose will cause a reaction. Which writers does not want to stir the precious soul of their readers? We all do. Personally, I want to tease my readers with the title and leave them wanting more.
  • The first sentence is your "hook". The first line of any article should be like a passionate kiss. Some people just do not know how to kiss. Yet there is that one person whose kiss melts you just in the right places. Their kiss is so delicious that it creates a hunger for more - lots more.
  • Quality content. Your story must pluck the heart strings. It must gingerly and cunningly intoxicate. Over the top writing, done tastefully and in moderation, creates a stirring interest to continue reading through to the end. Keep million dollar words to a minimum. Some articles read like a dictionary. Dictionaries are not particularly exciting. Avoid using street vernacular. Wrap your ideas with subtle sophistication. NEVER use vulgarity. Create a flow from one sentence to the next. An article should always present your thoughts with melodic clarity. There is no mistaking what is on your mind.
  • Call for action. Once writers have created a pleasant atmosphere, they have given their readers a glimpse into the future. Your audience feels good about the time they have spent with you and they will want to visit with you again. Your presence in their lives will become important. They will want more of you and they will excitedly look forward to the next encounter.
Soul stirring poet, Maya Angelou wrote, I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

I look forward to seeing you again, my beloved reader. Until we meet again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Are You a Money Maker?

Are you interesting?

What is your brand? Is it marketable? Would consumers rush to Wal-Mart to buy your latest creation en masse? Does it have the Simon Cowell “WOW Factor”? Even we writers face a dilemma when we [finally] write: do we keep faithful to the art or do we write for our audience?

If you’re in the habit of turning a profit – and we all are; it’s why we work - you know it’s necessary to be aware of the pulse of your customer (or audience). Anything we create for public consumption must be able to provide what the public needs. Your product must provide a service - a reward for money well spent.

Juvenal, Roman philosopher, poet and author of “The Satires” wrote, “… for the People… anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.” While Juvenal meant this as a cynical outlook of humanity, modern businessmen and women took this ancient philosophy to heart. Translated into today's language, entrepreneurs understood that consumers will spend their hard earned money readily on two things: being fed [physically and emotionally] and being entertained.

Most sports fanatics venerate athletes to the point of worship. They will spend gobs of money supporting their favorite teams via tickets, sports memorabilia and buying other products. They will also know useless stats of their favorite players. Why? Sports feeds a need and it entertains. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Naturally, we will have many detractors that will accuse us of selling out. I don’t subscribe to that notion. There are bills to pay and mouths to feed. Our detractors will not support us while we play the role of starving artist. Second lesson: ignore anyone who criticizes your work. Let them pay first. Then they’ve earned your attention. Otherwise, “dogs bark but the caravan moves on.” On that note, let us move on.

People are not interested in how cool you are. They want to know what you can do for them. And they are correct to feel this way. Is your brand fulfilling a physical or emotional need? For example, if you’re a comedian, most don’t care if you have won awards. As a consumer, I want to know if you can make me laugh hard. I’ll remember how you made me feel rather than your accomplishments. If you make me feel good, I’ll buy a ticket to your show. Do not create something that merely satisfies you and expect your audience to support it. Create something that plucks the heartstrings of your audience.

Consumer needs change daily. What was a hot ticket item yesterday is today’s clichĂ©. In order to take advantage of this, you must be observant and fluid. In the streets, it’s known as “hustle and flow”. Captains of industry practice this axiom on a constant basis. For example, auto companies are retooling their factories to meet the demands of their customer base. Monolithic SUVs are not in style. Lean, green and economical is the flavor of the day. Hummers were the rage of the last decade. Now they are the scourge of America.

One of the first users of social media, surprisingly, was 50 Cent. While he was the top money making rap artist in 2003, he sensed the rules of the game were about to change. He embarked on finding new ways to connect to his audience. He went to the Internet while most artists in the industry were hanging on the old and dying business model. Through his website, he posted raw uncensored videos and the latest happenings in his world. His fans found a new social portal and felt closer to him. While other rappers were fast becoming yesterday’s news, 50 Cent’s fan base grew. Today, 50 Cent is not only a globally known rapper but also a multi-media mogul, and an author. He has the full support of his fans. Why? He fulfilled their needs. He hustled and flowed.

The same can be said of Ringling Brothers, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, KISS, Rammstein and Metallica. When you go to one of their shows, you’re in for an epic event. Over the top, done well, is more memorable and profitable than safe and pacified [read: boring].

So the question remains: are you interesting? How can you tell? How is your audience responding? Are you making money? If not, it's time retool your creative factory.