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 July, 2008

Critiquing with Heart
 by Sandy Tritt, Inspiration for Writers

Joining a critique group can be a great way to learn more about writing. But how do you know what to say—and more importantly, how do you say it? .... (continued below...)


English Teachers in Japan: The Power of Influence


by Robert Wright

I first arrived in Japan in May, 2005, from Toronto, Canada.  I had landed a teaching position from one of the top English conversation schools in Japan.  At the time, Toronto was becoming a great place for big business, especially in the Film Industry where a new trend had started to shift over the border. This was partially because of the events of September 11th, and the fact that in Canada, movie makers are able to cut their costs significantly. The city was also planning a big movie production facility close to the docks, and I was privileged to have been called up to do some extra work for movies that were being shot in the area.  It was a very critical year for me with regards to my decision making and what I wanted to do with my future. I had always wanted to travel the world but the only problem was my innate issue of not being happy at 30,000 feet off the ground. To put it simply, I was afraid of flying and of having no control while flying.

At the same time, many young people who wanted to travel were also talking about teaching English and getting paid for it. They looked towards Japan and other parts of Asia where the English teaching industry has a stronghold because many foreigners from around the world can live and work there. I wanted to get over my issues with flying, I wanted to travel to the other side of the world, and I wanted to get paid for doing it. My decision was set in stone, and I killed many birds with it. I found myself on Craigslist uploading photos of my entire apartment, including my car. I felt like a furniture salesman and it was very hard to leave the beach area of downtown Toronto.  This was essentially the final stage before departure, after getting my visa from the Japanese Embassy and all paperwork finalized. I was set and ready to go. How hard could teaching your native language be?  I was motivated because the company advised all new employees that: having no previous English teaching experience was better!

Finally, I arrived in Tokyo Japan, a city that I call “The Matrix”, a city with 27,000 000 people. My first impression was that the huge crowds made the famous Caribana festival held in Toronto every August look like a small group of people. The city is big, it’s busy, and in the summer the humidity levels are so high in Tokyo that sweating becomes your hobby. I was also very shocked at the fact that there were so many lights all around. When you think of the lights of New York City, times it by 10 and you will be in the Matrix. I was welcomed at my new school by a beautiful Japanese lady after a one-week paid training period. I forgot about everything I had learned at that point but quickly regained memory when she introduced herself as the manager. I later found out that, in Japan, its ok the get obliterated with your boss or co-workers, as long as the next day you have total tabular rasa about the previous night and are able to conduct regular lessons. This is the reality of being an English teacher in Japan.

You will love everything happening around you because it’s all fresh and new. You will not even have the time to get over your jet lag because as soon as you arrive you will be busy doing many things preparing to meet your students and start your lessons. You will meet many other expats who can speak the language and in that case, might have a better job or for sure make a lot more money. They look at you with a sneaky kind of smile like they know something you don’t. The next thing that will come out is them saying with obvious higher intonation “Oh, you are an English teacher”. You will reply “yes” and you will probably tell them that you are enjoying your job very much, especially the parties that nobody talks about the next day. The conversation will go on and for the most part, if you are talking with someone who was a previous teacher, they will be trying to tell you to get out of it because there are so many other opportunities here, especially when you speak Japanese.

These ex-teachers have overlooked the biggest part of being an English teacher in Japan or anywhere in the world for that matter. They overlooked “the power of influence”. From experience, English teachers are some of the most influential foreigners living in Asia. Their prestige might not equate to that of a multi-talented foreign expat who works for a multi-national company listed in Forbes or Fortune 500 magazines, but their influence can carry great weight.  This is primarily because teachers come in contact with Japanese people from every industry you can think of. They teach them privately or in groups and a lot of times you will be the first foreigner these people have ever spoken with, literally. A lot of Japanese people have never been outside their borders, and the ones who go out for vacation or for business, quickly realize the importance of speaking English and they become relentless in wanting to achieve a high level of fluency. Mind you they pay a lot of money for it and I am not going off topic but English conversation schools and the Board of Education can afford to pay their teachers more money. The students look up to the teachers, they admire them; they listen to what we have to say, and try to follow our advice seriously. We become their friends and we change their lives forever.

The job we do can be very fun and exciting but at times become repetitive depending on the structure of your school and the limitations. The bottom line still remains, however, is the fact that we get the opportunity to teach people and change their lives as much as they change ours. This is the power of influence. 

In the end, it’s all relative and it comes right back around to the teachers. They help us to adapt well to their society and we help them to learn a language which in these parts are priceless. For us, we get the opportunity to build great friendships which leads to seeing a part of Japan that is rarely seen by the average Japanese. They are the best hosts and they will spend an arm and a leg to make sure their foreign visitors are well taken care of. As teachers, we try our best to influence our students with the language as well as sharing experiences from our home countries which helps them to broaden their outlook on the world outside Japan. Many teachers have found the way to make the best of teaching English in Japan.  After a few years, we quickly realize that, even though we should get paid a lot more for what we do; the job is satisfying, honest and we have the power to change lives and our own in the process.



Critiquing with Heart... (continued)

Writers tend to think of their writing as their babies, birthed from their souls. And it’s never easy to hear that our babies—especially our firstborns—are less than perfect. The purpose of a critique is to teach, not to destroy, so how we say something is every bit as important as what we say.

The first and most important rule is to critique the work, not the writer. All critique should be in third person, not second person. For example, saying, “You used the wrong tense here,” puts the writer on the defensive. By rephrasing that to, “The tense changes from past to present here,” or, simply, “Tense change,” you have redirected the problem from the writer to the writing. An easy way to see if you’re doing this is simply to look for the word “you.” Anytime you see it, change the focus of the sentence to the writing. (This rule also applies to first person memoirs—“the narrator” acts in a memoir, not “you”).

The second rule is to be specific. General criticism, such as “this doesn’t keep my interest” or “I don’t like this,” will let the writer know he has a problem, but it won’t let the writer know how to FIX the problem. Study the work until you can see why the piece bores you. Perhaps the writer gives too much background information or includes exposition that doesn’t advance the plot. Perhaps the writer jumps viewpoint characters or setting. Perhaps the writer spends too much time developing a subplot that isn’t important to the main plot, or gives too much detail about a character who isn’t instrumental to the story. Knowing these things allows the writer to FIX the problem.

The third rule is to be honest. Saying “this is great” does not help a writer become a better writer. Ignoring problems does not help a writer become a better writer. Study the problem until you can state exactly what it is that doesn’t work. If you can’t pinpoint the problem, at least let the writer know your reaction to the writing, such as feeling lost. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand something. If you don’t understand, there’s a good chance other readers won’t understand, either. Trust your instincts.

The final rule is to put a positive spin on the critique. Begin every critique with a positive statement, and end every critique with a positive statement. Find SOMETHING good to comment on, even if it’s simply that the correct manuscript format was used. Starting and ending on a positive note reduces the natural defensiveness that occurs when criticized and helps the writer accept the not-so-positive comments in the middle. And don’t forget to put a positive spin on all the comments in between. For example, instead of saying, “The dialogue doesn’t sound natural,” say, “The dialogue would be stronger if more fragmented sentences and contractions were used.”

The critiquing world is definitely one in which the golden rule applies. Treat the writers you critique as you want treated—with honesty, with compassion, and with respect. Writers deserve no less.

Visit Sandy’s website for more writing tips and essays on the writing life—www.InspirationForWriters.com.  Sandy loves to give workshops for writers (but does ask for some help with expenses!)


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The Antidote for “Author Invisibility”?

Learn the PR Way to Get Your Book Some Badly Needed Attention!

By: Marsha Friedman

A shocking realization occurs to many authors not long after they publish their books: They realize they are invisible.  It quickly becomes apparent that the book-buying public simply can’t see them…or their books.  That comes as no surprise with 270,000 books published in 2007 alone. 

With this much competition in the marketplace combined with no media coverage the result is no connection to the buying public.  The author hasn’t been interviewed on successive talk radio shows or appeared on TV.  Neither has there been any newspaper coverage nor conspicuous book reviews in popular publications.

In other words, all the known antidotes for “Author Invisibility” are absent.  Small wonder this affliction has reached epidemic proportions, killing the careers of so many promising writers.

A horrible waste, especially since "Author Invisibility" is so readily treatable.  The antidote involves specific publicity techniques that can quickly promote otherwise unknown authors and books.

Fortunately, my publicity firm EMSI always keeps this valuable antidote in stock.

Here’s How It Works

We promote you using the very latest broadcast media (talk radio and TV), print and internet publicity techniques.

  • For talk radio—the watering hole of the reading public—EMSI is one of the few publicity firms to guarantee 10-to-20 minute radio phone-in interviews.  And not on bottom-feeder stations, either.  Interviews are in the top 100 markets around the country, boasting 5,000 watts of power or more on the AM dial.  The authors who appear on as many shows as they can possibly get on swear they owe their book success to talk radio interviews.
  • For coverage in print, we first review a client’s book and then do in-depth research of the topic.  From there, we write a 400 to 600 word article, designed to grab the media’s attention.  We accomplish this by writing our articles in the same journalistic style as newspapers and magazines.  This will go out to a customized database of targeted journalists at major daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, wire services, national magazines, regional magazines and trade publications that match the demographics of your book buyer.

Add to this distribution a special industry tool used by journalists looking for “that one special story,” and you end up with perhaps the most comprehensive print campaign available.

Of this service, one publisher (a client) proclaimed, "We've had more inquiries from journalists in the past two weeks than I've gotten on my own in the past year.”

  • For internet marketing, we distribute your article to a targeted group of article banks.  Article marketing is extremely valuable in building your profile on the web in addition to strengthening your own webpage in search engines such as Google and Yahoo!
  • Yet another way to cure "Author Invisibility" is to appear as a guest on local news shows in your hometown in addition to cities you may be traveling to.  TV appearances combined with local talk radio interviews and book signings can create hot buzz for you and your book. 
  • Although appearances on major network TV shows can be a great hit for you – National Cable TV opportunities can be a bonanza as well.  Now, with cable networks offering so many specific channels on so many specific topics, chances are far better for authors to reach their precise target markets.   For example, let’s say you wrote a book that focused on fitness.  Maybe a show on the Discovery Health Channel or Fit TV would be a perfect, cost-efficient match.

By the way, when it comes to arranging TV appearances for our clients, we work on a contingency basis – so clients only pay when a TV appearance is actually confirmed.

Invisible No More

So you now have more targeted media options than ever before.  Needless to say, pinpointed national coverage like this can instantly yank you from the depths of obscurity.  If you’ve suffered from the ravages of "Author Invisibility" for more than one book now, take heart.  You and your writing can beat this affliction today.

 About Marsha Friedman

Marsha Friedman is a prominent business woman, publicity expert, radio personality and public speaker.   Her company EMSI (Event Management Services, Inc) is a national public relations firm.  Launched in 1990 her firm represents authors and corporations in a wide array of fields such as business, health and fitness, food and beverage, travel and lifestyle, politics, technology, finance, law, sports and entertainment. Some of the more prominent names on her client roster are Teamster’s President, Jimmy Hoffa Jr.; Sergeant's Pet Care Products; Former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane and the famous Motown Group, the Temptations.  Visit her company online to find out more about EMSI's pay-for-performance, retainer-free publicity campaigns for your book! http://www.emsincorporated.com

FREEBIE - If you didn’t write a book proposal before writing your book, you missed a vital step in the process of successfully producing and marketing a book. Don’t let sagging sales determine your grim future in publishing. Write a post-publication book proposal and get back on track. Order Patricia Fry’s FREE report, The Post-Publication Book Proposal. PLFry620@yahoo.com.

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Publishing New Writers,

July, 2008 (no. 906)


Publisher: Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.

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