Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the month “April, 2011”

Tips for Authors to Leverage Twitter

I am still struggling with how to use Twitter. I feed my blog into it and have tweeted a few reminders for reading and workshops. Yesterday I splurged to the tune of $1 for a pocket-size Twitter for Dummies book at Office Depot. I haven’t opened it yet, but it sits so handy in my bag.


But last week I saw an article by Dana Lynn Smith – Ten Great Ways Twitter Can Help You Promote Your Book on Book1Blog. Incidentally this a blog that I keep meaning to unsubscribe from in an effort to declutter my inbox, but they keep feeding me with excellent resources such as this one.

Twitter is, she says, not about selling books, but provides  an excellent way to build your networks and reputation. We all know that we  sell books when people meet us, whether face-to-face or online. Here are a few of the tips that Ms. Smith recommends. To read all ten, click here.

  1. Help others by sharing information, while you gain a reputation as an expert. You can post links to helpful articles, recommend resources, offer tips and discuss other books that you enjoy.
  2. Stay on top of news and trends in your field or genre, and get ideas for your articles and blog by reading the tweets of the people you follow.
  3. Ask for help and get instant responses – things like feedback on your book title, cover design or website. It’s amazing how helpful folks are.
  4. Spread goodwill by helping your peers. Introduce people to one another, recommend other related books, or re-tweet interesting posts from people you follow.

What I like about Ms. Smith and others who seem to be recognizing this trend: we make friends online by asking for help and helping others. There is something very cozy and intimate in this otherwise virtual and detached world. I still believe in meeting over a cup of coffee to help someone who asks for your advice. But time and geographical restraints means we can reach and be reached more efficiently in the age of the Internet. We can still, however, leverage this medium to create a supportive community.

Dana Lynn Smith, by the way, is a nationally recognized book marketing coach and author of The Savvy Book Marketing Guide.

In the spirit of this article: please share your best Twitter practices in the comments below.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

An Author’s Code of Practice

Earlier this month I gave a workshop for the California Writer’s Club on Transformational Fiction and exploring fiction as a tool to change the world. It was a great session with a group of committed and serious writers all of whom provided insightful material.

At the end, I shared the following takeaway, though not part of the actual workshop, I believe it touches on many of the challenges that writers face. I would like to encourage people to create their own code of practice and hang it in full view from where they sit to write. If you do write your own, please share it with us.

THE SERIOUS WRITER: 9-FOLD CODE OF PRACTICE

These nine tips are inspired by the teachings of Stephen King in his book On Writing. The credit is his, the honor to pass it on is mine, the opportunity is yours.

1. Write Every Day

No excuses. None. If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up, but write the next day. If you can, set a consistent time of the day, but either way, this is a daily practice like anything else for which one strives for excellence. If you can, dedicate a place in your house purely for writing. When you are there, do nothing else. Don’t wait for inspiration. Write, write, write.

2. Write a draft. Then let it rest.

King recommends that you crank out a first draft (don’t stop to edit or contemplate) and then put it in your drawer to let it rest. You need to transition from creator to editor and a break helps build the correct perspective.

3. The Ten Percent Rule.

When you revisit your text it’s time to remove all the superfluous words and sentences. Kick out the clutter and your message gains clarity and power. King advises to cut by 10%. Tough to do, but you won’t regret it.

4. Sacred Space.

This is a profession, a business. If possible, have your own physical place to write. Treat it like an office desk. It should be clean, uncluttered, but you should own it. Just entering and sitting down, puts everything else out of your mind. If you can’t have a physical space, create a mental one. I have certain playlists on my iPod and wear headphones. Kids? Yeah, they are in the house somewhere.

5. Shut Up And Listen.

King has a professional network to back him up. Most of us use family, friends, writers’ groups, and other networks. Solicit honest, constructive feedback – compliments are nice for our ego but don’t advance our manuscript. You don’t have to take every piece of advice that every person suggests. But you do need to listen and consider.

6. Read a Lot.

When you read, you learn. It might remind you of what you should be doing: a cool technique, style or voice. Sometimes you learn what not to do. There are always lessons to learn. Read (or listen to it – the audio is brilliant) Stephen King’s On Writing annually. You won’t get bored.

King reads his own book - v. powerful to listen to.

7. Network.

Writing is only a solitary art if you want it to be. Meet writers at writers’ groups, clubs, conferences or online. Support others and you’ll find support (no leaching). Proclaim that you are a writer. Some may smirk, but you’ll discover new friends and contacts, often unexpected.

8. One-third:One-third:One-third.

Allocate your time to thirds: 1. market what you have published (or plan to), 2. edit what you have written, 3. write your next book.

9. Enjoy and Believe.

It’s the only sustainable way.

10. Deliver More Than is Expected. Always.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

A Zoroastrian Revival

Let’s talk truth. When it comes to the environment, Christianity, Judaism and Islam have failed miserably. These monotheistic religions are not overtly hostile toward the environment but they place humanity in an elitist position, thereby relegating all else to servitude.

Prior to the rise of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, mankind worshipped many gods with a significant portion dedicated to mother earth. The so-called pagan religions respected nature and, in turn, help protect the environment. Then along comes the big three monotheistic religions—endorsing man’s entitlement over all things earthly—and the entire ecosystem begins to progressively deteriorate.

Man has forgotten how to work with nature and now pushes against her, consuming a lot of energy in the process. We are so out of control that we use 10 fossil fuel calories to produce one calorie of food. These fossil fuels—in the form of pesticides, fertilizers and desiel—have turned the soil barren and the skies brown. Take a shovel to any industrialized farm and turn over the dirt. You will not find anything living; no worms, no ladybugs and no beneficial bacteria. It’s all dead. Plants will only grow with more fertilizer and more pesticide—death breeds death.

It’s odd that these three faiths would have such little respect for all creatures and earthly elements when one considers their origin. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all derivatives of Zoroastrianism. Yes, that’s right, Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic—one god—religion dating back to 2000 BCE or 4000 years ago.

The three prevailing “one almightly god” religions are fundamentally the same and, for all practical purposes, just copy-cats of Zoroastrianism. However, Zoroastrianism has one major difference. From its inception, it preached ecology and care of the environment with respect and reverence for nature. Zoroastrians must protect the sky, water, earth, plant, animal and fire. At the end of times, when “all things” are harmonious, mankind must give the world back to God in its original perfect form.

The eco-friendly beliefs of Zoroastrians are in stark contrast to the trivial considerations Judaism, Christianity and Islam gives to nature. Imagine what the world would be like today if these three religions also copied the environmental aspects of the original “one god” religion.

Perhaps we need a Zoroastrian revival.

-Roger Ingalls

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

One Door Closes, Another Opens

Yesterday was a crazy day. It began with the news that Unwanted Heroes didn’t make the cut for the last fifty in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Good luck to those who survived. I will file my acceptance speech away for another year.

At the end of the day, I wrote the final words of the to Unwanted Heroes’ sequel. I began this book in February, spending about an hour a day writing and a few days of intensive typing. Almost three months and 91,500 words later, I pushed ‘save’ after typing those magical words: THE END.

Obviously, this is still a rough draft which is desperately awaiting the eager eyes of the Berkeley Writer’s Group, as well as a list of  ‘Things to Follow Up On’. But it is an exciting moment when you finish a first draft. It seems as though the story is real.

I’m trying to come up with a creation analogy. Conception happens at the beginning of Chapter One. Holding the real book in your hands is perhaps the actual birth. So I guess, seeing the fetus on the ultrasound and hearing a heartbeat, might serve here.

Best of all, I already have an idea for the next book. But I’m going to hold off in the meantime, in order to edit the two completed manuscripts that I have, and to restore some sanity in my relationship with my wife and children.

I’m sad about ABNA. I thought this might be my year, but I finished the day with a smile on my face, and another story to tell when I am one day a member of the A-list.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Tax Mysteries Uncovered! (part 2 of Why Some People Pay More Taxes…)

In part 1 I started to explore how a business owner benefits more than an employee from public roads. Let’s go a little further with this simplified example.

 We’ve already seen that an employee benefits from public roads in that he or she can get to work to earn some money. The business owner gets the same benefit from his trip, plus the benefit of the worker coming to work to do something of value to the business.

 But let’s look at other uses of roads by the business. We have already said that the business in this example is “old-fashioned” in that it actually makes something, in the U.S.A., and without the aid of robots or too much automation. Then the business sells its product to either consumers or retailers. How does the business get its products to buyers? Most likely in trucks.

 These trucks use the same roads that we all drive on and pay for through our taxes. So this use is a benefit for the business and the business should pay its “fair share” for the construction and maintenance of the roads.

 But it’s even bigger than that. Trucks loaded with cargo cause exponentially more damage and simple wear-and-tear on roads than do passenger cars – even big SUVs. Because of this, roads have to be built much thicker and stronger in the first place, but they must also be re-paved, have potholes and cracks fixed, etc. much more often.

 The result is a situation that mirrors the discussion in part 1: both the business owner and the worker use the roads to go to the store to buy things. But the business uses the roads to make a profit. Once again, the imperative is simple: Pay for what you get!

 Okay, we’ve mostly talked about businesses so far. In part 3 I’ll start looking into individual benefits from the things that taxes pay for. Again, this is not to say that some people are “bad” and therefore need to pay more taxes. It’s simply based on the same principle we all observe every day: Want two donuts instead of one? Pay for two. Want a Fat Tire instead of a Coors? Fat Tire is better (6,428 times better, by my calculations) and it costs more – if you want it, you have to pay for it.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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Matza, Matza, Matza

Every year, as Passover approaches, we Jews promise not to buy too much matza. We have to eat it for a week, we don’t want any left over. And every year as Passover comes to a close, we stare at several unopened boxes that sit on the shelf taunting us.

There are, however, plenty of creative solutions. Don’t believe me? Ask talented singer, Michelle Citrin:

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

The Red Room

I recently mentioned a local author, Devorah Major, and that she is a member of Red Room. I have crossed paths with a few of their members, all very impressive people, including one of my local favorites, Kemble Scott.

I was surprised to discover that their members include Salman Rushdie, Khaled Hosseini, Thich Nhat Hanh, Stephen Colbert, Tobias Woolf and many more very familiar names.

The Red Room was founded in San Francisco by author Ivory Madison in 2002. From what I can glean from their website, The Red Room was originally created to provide an ideal physical  environment for  writers to sit down and write. Presumably, it was also a place where, in the company of other authors, one could receive support and advise from each other.

Today, The Red Room seems more of an on-line community. Authors have their own Red Room websites and blogs. Services such as editing, web and blog hosting, and numerous courses, are also offered.

Are you a Red Room author? Please share how the club has helped you. For some endorsements of Red Room from their website, click here.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

 

Sir Punk Rocker

Bob Geldof is/was a hero of mine. It is not often that Her Majesty knights a punk rocker who freely swore on TV (when it was not okay to do so), who wore his heart on his sleeve, called it as he saw it, and never flinched from courting controversy.

The Boomtown Rats were my favorite band in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. One hot English summer, the youth were incarcerated by the sound of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John crooning Summer Nights at each other every night at 5.50pm as they stood at No. 1 in Capital Radio’s daily Top Ten. And then there was Rat Trap, crawling up the charts and it was, I believe, on a Thursday that Rat Trap reached No. 2.

London held its collective breath (wildly embellished from a then 14-year-old’s memory) and that Friday, Capital Radio boasted record listening statistics as at 5.45pm, whatever song had reached No. 3 finished and whoever had obliviously booked that advertisement slot months before enjoyed unexpected exposure.

Then the DJ announced: “After six Weeks at No.1, their reign is over.” London (well, at least me and my mates) cheered even if we couldn’t text each other or update our Facebook statuses. Five minutes later, the Boomtown Rats had arrived.

But it takes more than displacing John Travolta to earn a knighthood. Even the most stodgy Brits nodded in approval as six years later Bob Geldof galvanized the music world with the Live Aid concerts.

For the next 25 years, Geldof has led the activist charge to relieve the massive debt in Africa. He has never shied from controversy or let politics get in his way. When George Bush publicly stated he was willing to fight AIDS in Africa, Geldof embraced him.

Bob Geldof is not a model of chivalry or the kind of gentleman that one conjures up an image of a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, on his knee, head bowed as Her Majesty nobly swings her sword. In the music world of cheap commercial popularism, he never embraced the grovelling need for marketable acceptance.

But Bob Geldof is a relentless activist, a showbiz man who kept it real, and kept it real for many others in the celebrity world and on the street. So what if he used profanity on T.V. in the middle of the Band Aid concerts, it shamed people into reaching into their wallets and answering the call of a desperate nation.

Bob Geldof has saved millions of lives. He has often single-handedly led a charge for a desperate and forgotten part of our world. He has woken many of us up and released us from our own Rat Trap …

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

Declaring For A Green Generation

This short power-point was put together as a school project as part of the push to create a generation for whom environmental values are an integral and natural part of their lives. It was made two years ago and updated.


Today, on Earth Day, let us each make a commitment to one behavioral change, no matter how small, but a commitment that we will integrate into our lives.

If not us, then for our children…

Happy Earth Day,

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

California Leadership: Real Health Care Reform

Is the adage, “As California goes, so goes the Nation” still true? Obviously, there’s a lot of truth in that saying, just look at these trends: anti-smoking laws, car emissions and mileage standards, civil rights and medical cannabis. These were considered radical in their day but are now widely accepted ideas. And don’t forget California’s pop culture: skateboarding, drag racing, valley girls, car-hops, and plastic boobs.

This year California will have the opportunity to spread her leadership wings again by passing Senate Bill 810, Single Payer Universal Health Care.

You may be asking: why do we need a State health care program when we just passed a Federal Health Care Reform package? Well, the Federal reform does have some good elements but it is a watered down piece of crap. By the time the conservatives and lobbyists got through with it, the insurance companies were laughing all the way to the bank. The old dog Republican leaders are still screaming repeal but that’s just positioning propaganda for the lemming followship. These leaders know it’s a sweet honey-hole for the ones that grease their palms.

Can California afford Single Payer Universal Health Care? The short answer is yes. The State is the seventh largest world economy.

Let’s compare the economic power of California with two countries that have great universal health care, Canada and the United Kingdom. California has 37 million people and a GDP of ~$2.0 Trillion. Canada has 34 million people and a GDP of ~$1.6 Trillion while the UK has 67 million people and a GDP of ~$2.3 Trillion. Revenue per capita for California, Canada and the UK is $54K, $46K and $37K respectively. These numbers easily show that California is, by far, richer than many countries that offer universal health care.

The United States is the only modern industrialized country that does not have universal health care. Compared to other countries, the US health care system is ranked 37th, pathetic considering we are the richest country is the world. Big Business should not be allowed to profit from healthcare insurance while having the power to also deny the protection. It’s like the fox guarding the hen house. For profit health insurance is a moronic notion.

Excessive “Hollywood antics” are now prevalent in politics but Californians are wise to this over-the-top acting. They are not fooled by Sarah Palin “death panel” rhetoric and understand that separating the financial component from the actual medical care is beneficial. Life, death and health decisions will be made by doctors and not by Wall Street’s paper-pushing financial executives.

California will lead the nation by passing SB 810.

-Roger Ingalls

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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