Selected Writing Projects
Here are samples of original writing and rewriting, based on my own research as well as client-provided material.
How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America (and the World) And What You Can Do About It
The first edition -- How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America And What You Can Do About It -- debuted in 1998. It was a surprise success for author Bill Quinn and publisher Ten Speed Press, selling out four printings.
Bill continued his scrutiny of Wal-Mart: collecting press coverage, corresponding with readers, and spreading the word. Late in 1999 Ten Speed decided to produce a new edition, completely updated and expanded from 114 pages to 171. The book's revised title would alert readers to Wal-Mart's march toward global dominance.
When Ten Speed tapped me to develop the new edition, I was only distantly aware of the Wal-Mart phenomenon. I immersed myself in all things Wal-Martian, drawing on sources from websites to industry analyses to Wal-Mart annual reports. I rewrote and polished the author's new material, produced much of the international coverage (striving to match Bill's distinctive voice), and melded these with the first edition.
I am now a fervent opponent of the mega-retailer's unconscionable policies and actions. Consider the following excerpt from chapter 6, "Five Ways Wal-Mart Is a Menace to America -- And the World."
MENACE #4: First the Supercenter, Now the "Neighborhood Market"
Shutting down superstores and forcing customers to drive farther to a Supercenter is a menacing strategy that's devastated our more rural areas. Reaching into urban outskirts and other resistant pockets of America with "Neighborhood Markets" is another.
As of January 31, 2000, there were 721 Supercenters in the U.S. -- with 165 more in the works -- and 383 more around the globe. Now comes a devilishly ingenious new approach: the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. Sounds cosy, no? So what is it?
Well, it's a lot like your mom-and-pop market -- on steroids. Like the mom-and-pop, the new "small" Wal-Mart outlet is mainly a grocery store, with one third devoted to general discount merchandise, plus a drive-through pharmacy. But "small" is relative -- the Neighborhood Market averages 40,000 square feet and covers about as much acreage as a football field.
What's the strategy behind these "mini Wal-Marts"? In the 1999 annual report, then-CEO David Glass remarked, "we think there may be some business that we are not getting purely because they may not be as close to the customer or convenient for small shopping trips. That's where we think there may be an opportunity for the small grocery/drug store format..."
Since a proposed new Neighborhood Market will take up "only" one-half to one-quarter the acreage of a monster Supercenter, Wal-Mart may be more likely to sneak it in "under the radar" of an unsuspecting town -- or even a fiercely anti-Wal-Mart town. Al Norman's Sprawl-Busters website describes how residents of Plano, Texas fought off a planned 113,000-square-foot Supercenter...so Wal-Mart came back with a 52,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market. Caught off-guard, exhausted from a long struggle, the folks of Plano may not regroup fast enough to fend off the new threat.
The Neighborhood Markets are Wal-Mart's newest "merchandising laboratories." And who can fault them for trying to detect what customers want, and deliver it? Well, just possibly, the thousands of honest-to-goodness neighborhood markets across the country, still serving their neighbors, who will be driven out of business by the latest weapon in the Wal-Mart arsenal.
Read the whole book, and fight back!
Garden Plant Writing
I researched and wrote hundreds of descriptions of garden plant groups (genera)
for Sierra On-Line's popular consumer CD-ROMs:
· Complete LandDesigner
· 3D Landscape
· Garden Encyclopedia
My writing had to convey in just a few paragraphs the essence of each plant group: its appeal and uses, any drawbacks, and basic care needs. This called for vivid, accurate, concise writing.
Example: The Hordeum Plant Group
An ancient staple food of common folk and their livestock, Barley still nourishes body and soul in winter soups and stews, and remains essential to the beer-brewer's craft. Gardeners choose ornamental species with fine silky flower heads. Plant on a slope where late or early sun will backlight the glistening sprays. Dried stalks add a rustic touch to floral arrangements, and take dye well. H. jubatum, dubbed Squirreltail or Foxtail Barley, bears long, straight awns with a soft reddish tinge.
They need full sun and a loose, well-drained soil. Sow seed in spring or autumn. Barley tolerates heat and drought better than other cereal grains. Pick heads while still green and hang them upside down to dry in airy shade.
For the same Sierra On-Line CD-ROM titles, I wrote photo captions for individual plants. I needed to capture each plant's unique qualities in one to three sentences. (The program provides more specific gardening information on a separate screen.) I worked from notes provided by horticulturalists, and often conducted additional research as needed.
Examples: Individual Plant Captions
Notes provided to me:
Jasminium officinale 'Variegata';Vine
Notes:leaves variegated; climbing, twining, and spreading across ground; fls. with an essential oil used in perfumes.
My completed caption:
With rippled, ivory-rimmed leaves and richly fragrant flowers, this hardy climber covers a slope, wall or arbor on its own.
Notes provided to me:
Notes:similar to Larix occidentalis; shoots initally pubescent; conical tree form becomes irregular with age; bark is thin flaking, grey-brown; cones 1 to 2 inches tall with pubescent scales and broad, long exserted purple bracts; leaves to 1.5 inches long, stiff, with white wool; discovered by David Lyall, Scottish surgeon and naturalist, in 1860 while working on the International Boundary Survey; generally rare; not yet highly successful in cultivation;
My completed caption (with some research of my own):
Discovered in 1860 by David Lyall, a Scottish surgeon and naturalist, this timberline native needs bracing alpine conditions. Its branches grow crooked and drooping with age. Soft bluish-green needles turn golden in the fall.
Getting the Public School You Want
Here are two excerpts from Getting the Public School You Want (School Wise Press/Publishing 20/20, 1997). This overall state guide is the publisher's adaptation of the book I wrote specifically for Alameda County. I used a collection of literature from Alameda County schools, gathered by the staff at Publishing 20/20. I also conducted my own Internet research, visiting websites of the schools, the district, and the California Department of Education. (You'll find the complete book online.)
"What Are the Benefits of School Choice?"
Choice energizes parents and students to investigate the array of new options. We enter into the process by defining what we want from a school, researching the choices, and applying to schools that offer what we seek. Choosing a school kindles commitment and re-involves parents with the school and system. We have always pitched in as field trip leaders, fund-raisers, and classroom helpers; now we're joining in the governance of schools, making decisions on site councils, even banding together with teachers to form charter schools. . . .
As strongly as we believe in the value of school choice, we'd be remiss not to acknowledge the arguments against it, and the demands it makes. Critics voice concern that only affluent parents, who can spare the time and money, will choose -- and as they pull their children (and their state funding) from faltering schools to more successful ones, the gap will only widen. Children of parents who don't know or care to choose may be left behind. . . .
There's also concern that schools filled to capacity can simply close their doors to outside applicants, effectively negating choice. It's up to the districts to tell every family about choice, to sell its advantages, and to support schools in reinventing themselves to win back and retain their customers.
"We Didn't Get the School We Wanted"
There are effective and ineffective ways to let the district know you are dissatisfied with your assigned school and need a different one. The decision-makers will be sifting through stacks of arguments, pleas, and threats. State your case calmly, and back it up with specifics. Real logistical concerns -- such as medical care, day care, and transportation needs -- carry more weight than badmouthing your assigned school. Address your child's proven educational strengths and weaknesses; demonstrate how your desired school better meets her needs. Include testimony from teachers.
If your district has an appeal form, draft your response on scratch paper before you fill it in. If there's no form, write a letter. And before you seal the envelope, have a friend or co-worker read your message for tone and content. Ask them to honestly point out anything that could work against you. (You're feeling emotional -- your kid's future is at stake!) Take their suggestions gracefully, and rewrite until you're satisfied.
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