Friday, April 29, 2016

What Makes a Great Blog?

(Blogjob tags: advertising on blog sitesadvertising on social sitesAssociated ContentBlogjobBlogspotcomparison among Internet writing sitesGoogle +Live Journalmust blogs be personalniche audience for blogsshould blogs be more like televisionTwittertypes of blog readerswhy different people read blogs.)

This post was suggested by @rextrulove , in an in-house forum discussion of "what makes a quality blog post." @rextrulove suggested (in a reply to another Blogjob friend who often posts "my day" type content) that "quality" blog posts should be more impersonal, more like magazine articles or newspaper reports rather than "me-me-me." me, if it's not personal, it's a (short, probably underresearched) article rather than a blog post. (Commercial sites' "blogs" that feature handfuls of short articles about their product or service are probably just what those sites' customers want, but they're not Real Blogs.) Then again, if it's too personal, it might be a boring blog post.
Or--"All the Facts Ever Gathered About the Frog Species..." is an article, and should be paid and published as such. (Some sponsors always want to pay less for more. Writers must not let them. Writers are sufficiently underpaid already.)
"What I Learned by Looking Up This Frog I Saw Today" is a blog post, specifically a phenology post, which is one niche market I've been able to tap into (and enjoy reading).
"I Look Like a Frog Because All I Did All Day Was Sit Around Watching TV" is probably a boring blog post, though it shows more insight than really boring bloggers achieve.
But it seems to me that what too many advertisers want is for blogs to be more like television--bland, with "opinions" only if they parrot Mr. Bigshot's own, lots of blather about current products that aren't actually good enough to sell themselves, more pictures than words, more emotion (but only fake, hyped-up cheerfulness) than thought, and no suggestion of interest in life without the overmarketed products...and that's where bloggers need to take a stand.
Because what advertisers like is not what actual readers like. If readers wanted content that's more like television, they would be watching television.
Without doing any formal research, just considering what user-tracking software has told me about different blog sites for years, it seems to me that blog readers fit into a few distinct categories:
  1. Occasional readers who are surfing the'Net or looking up some specific topic. They are not interested in a blog or blogger as such.
  2. Unwanted readers--spammers, hackers, spybots. Some days this is the largest category of readers.
  3. Site managers and moderators checking for problems.
  4. Bloggers, ourselves, checking how the blog looks and how much we've already said on the topic that's on our minds today.
  5. Bloggers' personal friends, fans, and e-friends. This group of readers are interested in "my day" posts.
  6. Those "niche markets" of people who share bloggers' interests--the game, sports, phenology, book, vampire, or other "communities." This group are more interested in the topic than the blogger. They may or may not bother reading "my day" posts. They'll follow a blog as long as it contains enough about their topic.
  7. Researchers, who do want magazine-quality if not book-quality content, if they can find it online. They're the ones who don't want links to blogs to turn up on web searches. They're totally uninterested in blogs and will read a blog post only if they can't find enough material at a reference site.
  8. Advertisers, who, according to recent scientific studies, probably entered that field and thrive in it because they have fundamentally different brains that limit their ability even to talk to readers in any of the other categories.
Advertisers literally own television...which is why many readers seldom watch television, and won't read blogs that are more like television.
This is what I've observed since joining Blogjob last summer. Writing Internet content has been my job for more than ten years.
Although I was new to the job when I started writing for Associated Content, I had thousands of readers there. AC (1) paid writers enough that we could do a limited amount of actual (fun, cheap) research in order to write articles rather than blogs; and (2) suggested topics for worthwhile articles that would fit in with impersonal, content-related rather than reader-stalking, advertisements; and (3) had, before they sold out to Yahoo, real live human editors who spotted flaws and suggested improvements. Any of those three things would be a huge improvement in any of the writing sites that exist today, but advertisers would have to pay for them.
Then I moved to Blogspot as an Amazon Associate, which doesn't pay. For the first three years the Amazon interface software never worked at all. Guidance about what people wanted to read came entirely from readers and was almost exclusively about politics, which left me feeling that the politics section was eating my blog. Blogspot is hosted by Google, where at least one major shareholder has published his desire to censor our kind of politics completely out of cyberspace:
Nevertheless, and despite being a blog and therefore hidden by search engines, the Blogspot has consistently enjoyed 10-20% of the daily readership I had at Associated Content. Hundreds, but never thousands. (Yes, I blog about topics obscure enough that people do stumble across the Blogspot via search engines.)
So I was finally invited to post the same kind of content at Blogjob...and it's so much the same kind of content that I decide what to post where by putting two posts on Blogjob and the third post of the day, if there is one, on Blogspot. I've seldom bothered to post links to Blogspot posts even on Google +. I've consistently posted links to Blogjob posts on Google +, Twitter, and Live Journal. I've cross-linked from one site to the other, alerting readers that they'll find more of their kind of content at the other site. Yesterday I put "Part 1" on Blogjob and "Part 2" on Blogspot. And still, the Blogjob has consistently enjoyed 10-20% of the daily readership the Blogspot gets. Dozens, but never hundreds. Hardly more than my never-publicized, seldom-used Live Journal attracts.
Three likely reasons: (1) Blogspot employs more site monitors. (2) Blogspot attracts undesirable readers. (3) Blogjob allows some types of ads--ads that stalk readers rather than tying into content, ads that pop up while pages are loading, ads that block readers' view of the content--that some readers hate. Those readers won't click on a link to Blogjob, much less on the ads we Blogjobbers conscientiously add to our posts. My Blogspot partner won't read my Blogjob.
Advertisers love ads that distract readers from content. Readers hate them.
Advertisers hate "personal opinions," especially when "your personal opinions about politics conflict with mine and those of the people I've hired." Some readers hate opinions different from their own, too...but others don't. Advertisers who've decided, e.g., that supporting same-sex marriage or tax-funded abortion shall be their new dare-to-be-trendy bid for sympathy from aggrieved groups to which they do not personally belong, really hate the "opinions" of, e.g., women who've never wanted tax-funded abortion. (Or LGBT-types who've never wanted same-sex marriage. Or African-Americans who don't feel represented by President Obama.) Readers, however, just might be in those categories that advertisers loathe, and they like posts that at least show due respect to their opinions.
Advertisers love posts that rave over new, still largely untested, products. Readers are very unlikely to enjoy (or trust) them. Readers will read an occasional honest "Funeral Poem for a Dead Space Heater" or "Ode to My Good Old Clunker of a Car," and like it, but they'll avoid a blog that reads like a store catalog.
Advertisers like lots of images of smiling, overgroomed humans in fashionable clothes. Readers like fewer images, and prefer close-up, clearly detailed photos of objects, plants, or animals.
Advertisers, and some readers, find it easier to learn from a "how to" video than from a "how to" article. More readers, like most writers, may tolerate an occasional, simple, amusing video if their browser happens to support it, but generally dislike videos.
Advertisers would like it if more readers thought the way they do. Scientific studies suggest that this won't happen; these differences are wired into our brains, possibly before birth.
Readers, not advertisers, made the great blogs what they are. When I think of "quality blogs" I think of Matt Drudge, Brad Hicks, Michelle Malkin, Daily Kos, Scott Adams, the late lamented Ozarque...people, including me, are still reading and citing Ozarque's blog after her death. Now that's "quality" in a blog. Those are blogs advertisers dream of being able to exploit and, by and large, can't.
That kind of quality is not achieved by trying to offer advertisers too much of what they want. It can be maintained when bloggers are willing to work with those advertisers who, like Amazon, are willing to work with us...but it is achieved by consistently putting readers first.
Maybe Blogjob ads would be more profitable if advertisers put readers first, too.

Book Review: Marjorie Morningstar

(Who'd even try to sell a book that sold as well, as long ago, as Marjorie Morningstar? I would; it's fit to read, and I have a copy. Blogjob tags: 1950’s bestsellersJewish identityJewish religious practicenovel about boring familiesnovel about failed actorsnovel by Herman Woukreligious lives of people without spirituality.)

A Fair Trade Book (wow!)
Title: Marjorie Morningstar
Author: Herman Wouk
Date: 1955
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: none
Length: 565 pages
Quote: “I daydreamed of presenting myself to Marjorie, a successful playwright, when she’d be just another suburban housewife.”
Marjorie doesn’t want to be just another suburban housewife. She wants to be an actress. She’s willing to compromise her Jewish identity as much as her boyfriend, Noel, has compromised his. Their families, who take being Jewish seriously, naturally worry about Noel and Marjorie and their other teenaged friends.
Marjorie Morningstar was a bestseller in its day. As a piece of American cultural history it may still interest some readers. My opinion is that it goes on too long and, although the male author understands young women’s sexual behavior quite well, he doesn’t show much understanding of anything about them beyond that. We see Marjorie thinking in relation to men. We don’t see her thinking alone.
Although Marjorie’s religious affiliation is a main theme of the novel, we see her religion expressed only in terms of obedience or disobedience to rules. This is not necessarily due to incompetence, but neither is it clearly due to the tradition of “verbal modesty” that makes some observant Jews wary of discussing religion, nor to an intention to communicate that Marjorie is a thoughtless teenager—we’re not shown even a glimpse of a more serious girl who might have been the good example Marjorie doesn’t follow.
It’s not just that Marjorie hasn’t had her feminist consciousness raised, either. Real women her age are only in their seventies today. Many of the ones who were boring before feminism came along are boring still; most of the ones who were interesting before feminism came along are interesting still. And Noel is, if possible, even less interesting than Marjorie. And Jane Eyre and Becky Sharp were more interesting than Marjorie even in 1855.
I think the most charitable interpretation of Marjorie Morningstar is that Wouk really was writing out his feelings about some former friends, which would explain why Marjorie, Noel, their friends, and their parents are such a dreary set of people. If you read just one chapter at a time, you can even admire Wouk’s skill at communicating the emptiness of these people’s lives. Just don’t try to read very much of it at one setting—your mind will choke—and do spend some quality time, in real life, in cyberspace, or in books, around Jewish people who are interesting. (Wouk's Don't Stop the Carnival contains some (, and the late Sam Levenson wrote some hilarious alleged nonfiction on the subject.)

Wouk was born in May 1915 and, as of April 2016, he's still alive, so this is still a Fair Trade Book. Buy it that way while you can! $5 per book + $5 per copy means a total price of $15 if you throw in one of Wouk's other bestsellers, and $1 per book will be sent to Wouk or a charity of his choice.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April 28 Link Log Part 2

Reuters/newspaper/Twitter day, getting the Portal Paper to bed, means the Link Log is long enough to split between this site and Categories on the Blogjob page: Animals, Boycotts, Economy, Funny, Food, Green. Categories here: Health, Heroes, Maryland, Mental Health, Obamacare, Phenology.


Nicotine is not good for living creatures. Its basic function in nature is to be a pesticide. We all know that. However, here are three indisputable facts that support Jacob Sullum's position: (1) Vaping doesn't subject bystanders to secondhand smoke; (2) Vapors are unlikely to contain the blue mold and mold spores that are likely to infest tobacco, triggering allergy reactions to natural smoke and to buildings where tobacco has been used or stored; and (3) Vapors don't contain the carcinogen dioxin, which is released when bleached white cigarette papers are burned, and which has been pinpointed as the real reason why cigarette smoking is more associated with cancer than pipe or cigar smoking. So, for smokers who can't afford to go into a nic fit while working or driving, an "e-cig" is a nice thing to have on hand.

Here's the (short) sequel to The Poisoning of Michigan, an incident I've actually heard expatriate Michiganians cite as a possible explanation for the brain-damaged behavior of some former neighbors they'd left behind...that city manager in Flint comes to mind now...


By way of explanation of one of my tweets...Far below the one to which I responded, in my increasingly crowded Twitter feed, was a tweet that basically said "Thanks but y'know my son the U.S. Marine doesn't like being called a hero." Which is typical. I can call George Peters and Shalecka Boone out as heroes (for overcoming disabilities and doing good things in our community) because they're dead; I wouldn't daaare mention the names of other people who've qualified for total-disability pensions and worked their way off again. And law enforcement? Hello, they're the community who taught me about never letting a real name or photo be published. #ThinBlueLine


Stay leafy, Gorgeous Prince Georges County! Not everyone (of any race) wants an "urban" atmosphere. I missed living in Takoma Park at first, and never gave up shopping in Bethesda...but over the years Hyattsville became truly a nicer place in every way. (Majority Black, yes, but fully integrated, and most people got along just fine.) Crowding makes people crazy, especially when they drive.

Mental Health 

For those who feel phobic about sharing their cars, car pools, houses, etc...


I don't like to open The Blaze from this computer, but Jon Street sucked me in with this headline.

Not exactly a surprise:

Phenology Link

Scott County, Virginia, sometimes shares D.C. weather patterns, sometimes not. This year we shared the "slow spring season" pattern, which is why, if you're actually allergic to pollen, it's been a great year. (If you're allergic to glyphosate, God have mercy on you--and me.)

April 28 Link Log Part 1

(Reclaimed from Blogjob with its tags: adopt an injured adult catAppalachia VABig Stone Gap VAjoke and pun contestsLittle Bookstore of Big Stone GapMonsanto boycottnew Nestle boycottTarget boycottugly (irregular) fruit and vegetablesWashington Post Style Invitational.)

Reuters/newspaper/Twitter day, getting the Portal Paper to bed, means there are enough links for both Blogjob and Blogspot. Categories here: Animals, Boycotts, Economy, Funny, Food, Green. At https://priscillaking/ : Health, Heroes, Maryland, Mental Health, Obamacare, Phenology.
Here's a truly ugly-looking cat--"ugly" in this case meaning badly damaged. My cats could use a "Care Package" today, too, but if anybody out there wants to save and adopt the neediest, most pitiful adult cat in Wise County, click here:
(Wendy Welch's new book is available, in all the best bookstores, and from Amazon, as a new book. You can buy it from me, secondhand, in maybe three or four more years.)
A lot of these seem to be underway. Alphabetically:
Monsanto. Even more charges against the corporation everybody loves to hate...some links repeat the ones posted yesterday, and the blogging restaurateur let a computer correct a mistyped "countries" to "courtiers," but, still...
(And here's a new one:
However, poisons don't have to be manufactured by Monsanto to be harmful to humans (and counterproductive to farmers). From an e-mail:
"Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency admitted that Dow’s highly toxic herbicide blend Enlist Duo—created for use on the next generation of genetically engineered crops—is likely significantly more harmful than the agency initially believed.
The EPA revoked registration of this herbicide, which blends glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, with 2,4-D, a poison used during the Vietnam War as an active ingredient in Agent Orange.
But in a horrible turn of events, Dow won the right to continue selling this toxic blend until after the EPA concludes its studies…which could take years."
Nestle. (Again.) "For blocking GMO labeling." This is especially odd on Nestle's part because, for the last couple of years, their famous Butterfingers candy bars have been one of the few cheap snack foods that contain corn that have not triggered my nasty reaction to E. coli-enhanced corn. I'm guessing that that means they've relied on BT-enhanced corn, which is not exactly healthy for humans either...of course, it also means I'll never know when Butterfingers may make me sick.
Paypal. Thanks to @LarryElder for this tidbit: "PayPal pulls out of N.C. HQ's in Singapore where homosexuality's illegal. Cirque du Soleil's out--but Dubai is ok." (He has a fast-moving site; the story may be hard to find. Personally, I'm not willing to boycott Paypal, but some people are.)
Target. Warning: this is one of those cheap e-petitions where you can read it first, if you click on it, you've signed it "as is" with no room for comments. Mine is that safety (including little boys' safety from female and/or homosexual male predators) is not about sex-segregated group restrooms and fitting rooms; it's about private, one-or-two-users restrooms and fitting rooms. Apart from the relatively low risk of being sexually molested in a group restroom...we've all lived through a few years when Norwalk Flu just went around and around and around, and the easiest way to be exposed to it was to be in a group restroom while someone else's airborne virus was wafting around those little partitions. The risk of that is high for any age or gender.
Some readers may appreciate (and share) Norb Leahy's opinions here:
Funny Things
For those who didn't know...this is the funniest thing in the Washington Post every Sunday:
Food (Yum) 
"Ugly," natural, locally grown fruit and veg...Scott County farmers know how it's possible, in the context of vegetables, for "ugly" to be a term of praise. That walrus-face-like potato I retweeted is the kind of thing farmers and gardeners can eat at home, or share with friends. It's not the "ugly" brown spots of things that have started to go stale (although it's often possible to cut off the bruised spots and enjoy the delicious remainders). It's the apples that are just a little too big or small, the Siamese-twin strawberries, the potatoes that grew around rocks into strange shapes, and especially the yellow tomatoes. Yellow tomatoes usually grow into strange shapes and always have a distinctive color, and they're sweeter and juicier than the commercial red kind...Here's a British view.
Speaking of potatoes...
Eastern Virginia's Dominion Power is a branch of the same corporation that owns southwestern Virginia's Appalachian Power. Both companies like to boast of what they occasionally do to clean up a site they've fouled up, but...(Yes, conservative followers, this is a Democrat site. Can't get the facts without reading both sides.)
First Dominion closes a plant and lays off workers to get credit for reducing pollution, then Dominion starts dumping coal ashes into the same river, fifty miles upstream. No wonder people are ticked off..

Book Review: Thomas Face-de-Rat et Amelie Melasse

(Reclaimed from Blogjob, where it was tagged: books for first year French classbooks in Frenchchildren’s booksearly work by author of Kinra Girlsfriendship between primary school childrenKinra Girlspicture books.)

A Fair Trade Book (? ???)
Title: Thomas Face-de-Rat et Amelie Melasse
Author: Moka
Date: 1993
Publisher: L’Ecole des Loisirs
ISBN: none
Length: 54 pages
Illustrations: drawings by Mette Ivers
Quote: “Mais le pire, c’etait qu’il y avait aussi une petite fille dans la voiture.”
This is primarily a picture book for French-speaking children up to about age eight. It’s simply told, with plenty of illustrations, so it an be understood by students during their first or second year of French classes.
Readers over age eight will guess where the plot’s going. Thomas didn’t want his ninety-year-old neighbor to die; he didn’t want other people to move into her house; worst of all, the new neighbors included a girl his age. Naturally, the children will tease and annoy each other. Naturally, they will become friends.
For the benefit of older readers, however, there is a discreetly narrated adult romance in the background. In case any older readers want to be entertained with a tiny hint of suspense, I won’t describe this element of the plot further.
Moka offers students a few new words that may not be found in first-year French glossaries: bisous-bisous, teckel, sans-gene, pivoines, cadenas. Students can follow the text while guessing these words, but if they’ve not done so already they should probably let this book motivate them to buy a good French dictionary.
Top students in first-year French classes, and average students in second-year French classes, are likely to find this a fun read.
However, I'm in a peculiar situation with this book. Picture books sometimes have short lives, French books aren't always marketed in the U.S., and it's beginning to look as if the copy of Thomas Face-de-Rat et Amelie Melasse that I had (and have sold) may have been the only one sold in this country. (This happens, because U.S. State Department employees organize annual bazaars where they often sell unique copies of things not published in the U.S.) So I've traced and e-mailed the author, but as of today I can't say whether I can actually sell Thomas Face-de-Rat or not! Ridiculous situation for a bookseller to get into. Actually there are other online sources besides Amazon, if anyone out there wants this book; having to go to them merely means higher prices.
Here, meanwhile, is an Amazon link you can use to buy one of the author's newer, more widely distributed books.
(Moka promptly and courteously replied to my e-mail, explaining that Thomas Face-de-Rat et Amelie Melasse has been out of print for years. Some writers don't mind if their early books go out of print, especially if they're doing well with more recent books...anyway, I've found a certified Nice Writer and added the Kinra Girls series, which I've not yet seen in real life, to my Amazon Wish List.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April 27 Link Log

It's the Google blog feed and Google + day! Categories: Animals, Books, Money, Movie, Nature, Recipes, Women, Writing.


Will P.E.T.A. lunatics want to "liberate" your household pets from the misery of being part of your human family? Of course they will...if they're given a chance to babble about it. They appeal to clueless kids' love of animals, but the leaders of P.E.T.A., like those in H.S.U.S., don't actually like animals and are really more interested in establishing more bureaucratic tyranny over private individuals.

If you don't like pennyroyal, or don't like its "birth control benefits" for yourself or your pet, here's another way to repel fleas that may be healthier than chemicals. (It works on both dog and cat fleas, but it does not work fast enough if a real infestation has developed. If you want to use brewers yeast, start before the weather gets warmer.)


New books by "Joe Hill," Louise Erdrich, Tim McGraw, more:

Long overdue, and frankly not much fun to write...I had her blessing, years ago, to write the pre-funeral "tribute" part of it as a novel. Part of the angst of writing this memorial piece was the fact that I never finished or published the novel. It had good bits, but I'm a slow writer and kept wanting to revise and update it...

(Not the latest GAVSD book, but the most complete...if you've read the others and need only short summaries of the techniques discussed at length in them. The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense was the first book that introduced and named the GAVSD system; You Can't Say That to Me was the one written as a "first book" on GAVSD with reader feedback.)


The yo-yo toy came after the yo-yo patchwork fad, shown here:


And people trust those who work at this company to make decisions about their medical care... (obnoxious ad cookies alert)

This one is just for Grandma Bonnie Peters, who hates those traffic "roundabouts" in Kingsport.


Correspondents in Fauquier County e-mailed me about showtimes for this new documentary movie there. Good news--it's showing in Bristol on the second of May. Local readers are hereby invited to invite me to join any car pool that may have room for one more. Nonlocal readers can look up showtimes and locations in their State at .


Bristol, Virginia

3004 Linden Drive, Bristol, VA 24202 US

(276) 669-2091


First the apology: Though Forbes is a respectable magazine, is a nasty web site, with lots of clutter and cookies and blatant invasions of privacy--in order to post comments from Google + users, they demand to be allowed to "manage the contacts" of those users! !!!!!

(Their "top comment" absolutely begs for a reply, and I know of no blogger who's better qualified than I am to write that reply--but, probably because the site's programmed to go into Snit Mode when denied permission to fill readers' e-mail with spam, the site's not posting the following comment:

"@Paul Mawer, I'm an independent writer. Last year I earned $1855 before deductions. Do I eat regularly or well? Can I afford to make badly needed repairs to my home? Of course not. But I have a home. And nice clothes. And (not nearly enough!) people who pay me for honest work. And although I would and do prefer being hungry to being an able-bodied welfare cheat, I also have a country that funds SSI pensions for those who need them (and for too many people who don't). So, yes, I consider myself better off than a beggar in Calcutta.
Then again...pen friends in Zambia would consider themselves lucky if they got up to $1855 for a year. They can't afford to pay cash for anything. They grow their own food on the riverbank or catch it in the river. They build their own houses. They seem to be, and feel themselves to be, much, much better off than a street hustler in Lusaka--or along Baltimore's Mile of Shame on Route 1 for that matter.
So, maybe there's some relativity about poverty in any country. All I can say for sure is, I'd rather be who I am, where I am, than go and live like those pen friends in Zambia." )


(What's the difference between Nature and Phenology? Phenology posts are dated, so they can be scientifically studied. Nature posts are just general information or, as in these cases, pretty pictures. Spring is inspiring a lot of people to share those.) (if you have time to scroll through lots of pretty pictures, check out her ABC of plant posts!)

Photo essay on loneliness:


Authentic tabouleh (everybody spells this word a different way) is made from wheat, but if you have good fresh veg, it works just as well with rice. Few people will even notice which one you've used.

Hmm. I, frankly, can't edit these veggie burgers into anything I could use...although, as mentioned in my comment, my cats would like them! But if you can eat wheat and cheese and would like a cheap and simple (lacto-)vegetarian veggie burger for lunch, you might consider these the cat's meow.

This one is not a recipe so much as a confession. I did this kind of thing in my twenties, when I ate wheat. I've done similar things, modified to use rice or rice-based pasta, as an adult. (Instead of cheese, I'd add a congenial vegetable, and/or substitute different vegetables for the tomato sauce. Then I eat the veg, most of the rice, and as much of whatever cheap chicken or turkey product I used as I feel like eating after the veg, and the cats get most of the meat and usually a bit of rice...and because it's human food, they love it. Sharing food is the basic inter-species bonding ritual.)


Just sayin'...


Some good points to consider here:

Anyone who's read some of the grotesqueries that were posted on Bubblews by people using translation software can relate to this writer's need to be extremely careful...but...

(Btw, if you're bilingual and want a real hoot, I suspect that reading the French or Russian edition of this blog would provide one. I didn't ask to be automatically translated into those languages and can neither turn off nor edit and . I'm fairly sure both blogs "read" as preposterous as some of those computer-translated Bubbles from Thailand...)

Remembering Suzette Haden Elgin (Ozarque)

(Reclaimed from Blogjob, with all its links and the following tags: a soft answer turns away angerGAVSD booksLanguage Imperativemiseducation of Christians about communicationNative TongueNeuro-Linguistic ProgrammingOzark Trilogypersuasive communicationpre-Internet life of Priscilla Kingscience fiction and fantasySuzette Haden ElginThe Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defenseverbal abuse.)

This started out, per +Andria Perry 's suggestion on Google +, as a book review. It was hard to write as a book review without including a long overdue obituary blog post. That made a double-length post. To spare your eyes, I'll break it up--since I've already posted a book review this morning, today you get the memorial piece, loaded with book links, and next week the straight book review will appear. Click on any book image to buy the book from the Amazon Associate who posted it there, or use the addresses in the left-hand sidebar to buy any or all of these, or the others, from me.

One of the most valuable books I ever read was The Last Word, actually Book Three in a series that grew to more than twenty books. Prentice Hall published the initial "trilogy" in which this one was the volume that discussed how to make presentations so persuasive that people didn't argue, thus getting "the last word." Other publishers bid higher for some of the other books, and some of the limited-interest books, like the one for verbal self-defense in law enforcement, were self-published; final counts vary depending on what people include.
You Can't Say That to Me: Stopping the Pain of Verbal Abuse--An 8- Step Program
While the writer known as Suzette Haden Elgin (and as ) was alive, she kept the rights to market her books through her own store and web site, so I never wrote reviews of them but steered people straight to her. Now I can sell them as secondhand books for profit, but I've not cared to think about it. She was a good pen friend (and e-friend) for a long time.
In 1987, I was a sickly university dropout, still clinging to a useless hope of recovering my life with the "help" of Seventh-Day Adventists. "Vapping" was their dialect. Sneaky verbal attack patterns were what I'd learned as the way educated people spoke English in Maryland; I knew I didn't enjoy listening to it, and didn't like to be told anyone had guessed I was from Maryland--but I didn't know why. Nor did I know why the non-Adventists in Maryland with whom I worked disliked Adventists and, often, disliked me.
Like a lot of women at that time, I'd experienced life as one big beauty contest; I am indisputably "the plain one" in my family, so maybe people didn't like my face...except that most of the jobs I got were pretty-face jobs, and, on closer examination, people seemed to be more alienated after I talked. Was it my accent? No, in Washington they didn't seem to think I had one. Color? Most people seemed to see me as White. Hostility to "smart," "bold," or "liberated" women? That was no more of a problem in Washington than envy of my looks is in my family; for similar reasons. (I sometimes fail to recognize envy because I've spent most of my life around people more abundantly blessed than I am.) Deep-rooted emotional problems from the past that were unconsciously seeping out...that was the default explanation for eeevvverything in the 1980's, of course, but therapy hadn't uncovered any buried emotional traumas from my early childhood.
Later John Bradshaw would write a book that described the kind of "childhood wounds" that had made it possible for me to mistake snarky hostility for a regional or class dialect. I never met him, but my psychological profile appears in the chapter of Homecoming titled "Healing Your School-Aged Child." It's a matter of miseducation more than emotional trauma, so I think it's valuable, as did Elgin, to emphasize that improvement is a cognitive process of learning skills...because there are times when a mean mouth is a good thing to have. It's just that those of us who developed a mean mouth in middle school can also benefit from learning more gentle, grown-up ways of communication that weren't taught in the middle schools we attended.
Anyway, in 1987 I stumbled across The Last Word in a library, and this book really did change, possibly even save, my business life, anyway. It offered a simple, rational explanation of why some of the things I'd so often heard and said are so annoying, and what to say, instead, when I didn't want to sound like a hateful, poisonous, conceited teenage troll. The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense was just what I needed to go from "dropout and failure-in-life" to "Bright Young Thing whose typing, editing, computer, and hostess skills are valued in diplomatic circles."
Well...until I'd acquired a serious enemy within that community, anyway. But that's another story. (So is the question, "Why diplomatic circles more than federal circles, when you're obviously so much more interested in domestic issues?" but its answer is short enough to fit here: brown eyes.)
Elgin's name was already familiar, though I shared an apparently widespread reaction: "The same person who wrote those wonderfully quirky, short and funny yet deep, tasteful yet intense, science fiction stories, also writes serious nonfiction?" (Or vice versa.) She did. She was. She wrote songs and poems, too, and also blogged, recorded live music, and did visual art. Her old-style Southern Lady voice was consistent throughout. It was only when Earth Song came out that I realized that the Laadan Project (a scientific study of constructed languages) had been real, started subscribing to Elgin's privately printed Newsletters...and made a friend for life.
Her life wasn't nearly long enough; she was only in her mid-seventies when she "really" retired, even from blogging, and not even eighty when she died. (There will never, ever, be another blogger, blog moderator, writer, polymath, or Southern Lady like her...not that that's stopped me trying.)
I never bought the cassette tapes of her "filksongs," or the "special" booklets and teacher/trainer notes about GAVSD. I did, at some time or other, buy a copy of each of her full-length books except Pouring Down Words; over the years some were damaged or permanently "borrowed," but I still have most of them and can recommend all of them...the novels to anyone who wants to read quirky science fiction novels, and the books about communication to anyone interested in building their skills. And the Ozarque blog, at which the writer discussed all of her books, other projects, interests (including charities), and life.
The Ozarque blog "is being maintained as a memorial." For her many readers, pen friends, and e-friends, it's the best memorial she could have. It revived her writing career at a low point and made her, at an age when most people dismissed blogging as a fad, one of the world's champion bloggers--so, no points for guessing, she was also a booster of blogging and the Internet.