It’s Time for the Sixth Installment… PodCamp Western Mass.

18 Apr

Be part of the push: share the press release here!

A full day of lively discussion, info-sharing, and plenty of documentation via smartphone, tablet, or laptop awaits at PodCamp Western Mass. 6 (#PCWM6), this year slated to convene on Saturday, April 19 at Holyoke Community College’s Kittredge Business Center.

The event welcomes anyone interested in learning more about social media and networking, from beginners to advanced practitioners. It’s one example of an ‘unconference,’ at which participants choose the topics they’d like to discuss on the day of the event. It’s the longest continually running PodCamp in New England, organized by local volunteers.

As a co-founder, this is my take on the day: it’s a democratic approach in line with the key tenets of social media and networking, which aim to involve everyone in a global conversation.

Our world has always been a social one, and while technology is moving the medium forward, it’s still a very human phenomenon. ‘Real-life’ events like PCWM highlight that fact, and offer all types of people – extroverts and introverts alike, opportunities to both learn and teach.

PodCamps also aim to promote education, innovation, and collaboration between new media enthusiasts and professionals of all types, including bloggers, social networkers, marketers, and the people who read, watch, and listen to them. Anyone can also suggest or lead a session, and topics often include overviews of current and emerging trends.

PCWM will be held on Saturday, April 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at HCC, with an after-party at Slainte in Holyoke to follow, with a special after party performance by country singer AJ Jansen. Attendees are encouraged to bring laptops, power strips, smartphones, and cameras, and can come and go as their schedules allow. The cost of the program is $30 and $10 for students, which includes a box lunch and morning refreshments, as well as a PCWM t-shirt as supplies last. Tickets are limited, and participants are encouraged to pre-register via EventBrite.
About PodCamp WesternMass
PodCamp WesternMass (PCWM)launched in 2009 to allow anyone interested in the online world to share ideas, hear from industry experts, and participate in discussions at their own pace. PCWM is part of a large network of similar events; the first PodCamp was held in September 2006 in Boston, and today camps are staged around the globe in response to this rapidly growing phenomenon. To learn more or to register, visit the PodCamp WesternMass website (

Solid Gold Sponsor: HCC Kittredge Center

Timeless Classic Sponsor: Constant Contact

Front Row Sponsors: Winstanley Partners, RedHeaded Diva

Backstage Sponsors: Valley Gives , Epic Filmmakers

Get on the Bus: Next Stop Virtual Blog Tour!

14 Apr

Thunderbird Typewriter, JCS 2007

A couple of weeks ago, author, artist and mom Suzi Banks Baum (look, it rhymes) invited me to join the “My Writing Process” blog tour. This tour rolls out across three new bloggers each time the bus leaves the station; I’m one of three posting today, and in a couple of weeks down the road, three more bloggers will continue the trip.

So, essentially, I’m charged with answering the four questions below and choosing the three new writers who will follow me. Enjoy, and stay tuned until the end to find out who’s next!

1)     What am I working on?

In addition to the writing I do at my full-time gig (directing PR and Social Media), which currently includes releases about retail options for building professionals and an abominable snowman, I’m participating in the WordxWord Festival’s 30/30 Poetry Challenge. For every day in April, participants are assigned a prompt and given 24 hours to submit a poem. The short time frame takes away the editing, the tinkering, the perfecting… but what’s left is a body of work that appears along with that of hundreds of other writers with completely different interpretations of the word or phrase of the day.

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?  

I’ve written in a lot of different genres, both professionally and for fun, but these days a lot of my writing comes in the form of informational releases and strategy proposals, not to mention sentences that are 140 characters or less. There’s just as much discipline and creativity involved in these pursuits as there is writing a magazine article or a short story, but they’re definitely different animals. What I like about the more ‘businessy’ writing I do is it requires a lot of restraint, and I think that’s one of the skills that makes for a better writer.

3)     Why do I write what I do?

In one way or another, I’ve been a writer professionally for my entire career. I chose that path on purpose and if the writing process wasn’t part of my job in some way, I don’t think I’d be very happy. Poetry is my first love, and I’ve been trying to be more diligent about crafting a body of work. Shameless plug: some of my past writing is in the right sidebar, there. —>

The Joyce, JCS 2007

4)     How does my writing process work?

Hmmm… I think I’m part of the ‘write drunk, edit sober’ contingent of writers – though not necessarily literally. That’s to say I just start and write what’s in my head, whether it’s dirty and ugly and messy or not. Then some hard editing starts after the bulk is down on paper. I try not to poke and prod too much – a natural stopping point has to come eventually. I work at finding that point.
Now for the next victims! On April 21st, these three intrepid bloggers will take you on their on existential journey:

Christine Parizo

Rob Cushing

Karo Kilfeather


…good looking bunch, no?

Tastes like Learning*

30 Mar

You know what I can’t stand? Social media seminars that charge an arm, leg, and first-born for an hour-long talk, a slew of white table cloths, and some rubbery chicken facsimile that gets stuck in my lower intestine sometime around 2 pm.

I also loathe the idea that all social seminars worth attending are held in major cities or only once a year. I’m down for a trip to Boston or NYC from time-to-time, sure — I’m not a hermit. But if I can stay in my Berkshires backyard, the limited driving equals a lower likelihood that I’ll be late and frazzled, or on a train when that banquet hall chicken effect starts to kick in.

A seminar I attended this week had the right idea, held as part of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau’s ongoing Brown Bag Series. Ranging in topic from Virtual Business to Bridging Generational Differences, these once-a-month events are a gold mine for business owners and others in the area. Participants simply need to register, pack their own bag lunch (I used an actual brown sack, because I’m literal like that), show up, and take a seat to add some knowledge to their continuing education base.


…note my punctuality in the top left corner there.

I’ve actually led two of these sessions before — Managing Social with HootSuite and a #Hashtag How-to — but this week’s topic was Blogging for Business with my friend and fellow social maven Kaitlyn Pierce of Pierce Social.

It can be tough to lead a workshop when you’re not sure what your audience’s level of understanding will be, and when it comes to social media, it’s almost sure to be all over the map nearly every time. But Kaitlyn really hit it out of the park — I was Tweeting tips feverishly throughout the entire hour and learned a lot of tactics I hope to put into play at my job and here at WriterJax. Here are a few of my favorites, for example:

• The most often asked question from anyone hoping to blog, for business or otherwise, is ‘what do I blog about?’ It can be daunting getting started, looking at a blank canvas with hundreds of bells and whistles tucked into the left sidebar next to it. But a few prompts can help get the creative juices flowing; start with posts that answer FAQs. Who are you? What do you do? Why do you do it? Build on that by explaining your process — if you’re a baker, for instance, what are your specialties? Do you try to use specific types of ingredients? Do you have a kitchen work-flow? ‘Link round-ups’ are great posts too — your five favorite sites, places to click over to for news on a specific topic, or a top ten list of online resources for your industry, to name a few. At a business with more than one employee, staff profiles are a great post idea that can repeat for weeks or months, giving you a great cache of content at the end.

• Speaking of having a lot of ideas in the hopper, try creating an editorial calendar for your blog that puts future posts on a schedule. As a writer and a publicist, I use editorial calendars all the time, but until Kaitlyn pointed it out the idea was lost on me as a blogging tool. Duh – it makes so much sense! You can keep things low-tech by using a day-planner and multi-colored Post-it notes, or go high-tech and use an online tool. Pinterest has a whole section of calendar ideas, and has its own plug-in, created by CoSchedule. SproutContent has a list of seven other tools to try (oh look, a link round-up post!)

• K-Pierce also had some smaller but no less important blogging tips taken right from the most recent of best practices. Photos, for example, have long been modeled after print lay-outs when it comes to placement on blogs. But now, the trend is to place photos to the right of the text, not the left or the center. You know, like I always do. Until now, that is.

Have any blogging tips of your own, or questions for that matter? Leave ‘em in the comments.

* Today’s blog title was inspired by The Simpsons’ Ralph Wiggum.


Words of Wisdom from Martha

7 Mar

Martha Stewart you have to actually do things

From the Couch with Jammie Pants: The Oscars 2014 Fashion Post

3 Mar

Oscar Whirlwind, (C) JCS 2007

Surveying what the stars are wearing with an appropriate level of snark is one of the most enjoyable parts of awards season, especially when it’s from the couch, phone in one hand and chips and dip in the other. I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who likes to get into the action with me, and doubly lucky that his number one complaint is that too many female celebrities look like they need to take a few extra trips to In-N-Out.
That said, I’m writing with a bit more positivity this year. Rather than a best and worst list (I’ll save that for the Met Gala) I’m running down the trends I noticed along with some of my favorite girl-looks of the night. Overall, everyone had their high points, including those who missed the bulls-eye with their ensembles; even Liza Minnelli rocked a cobalt blue streak in her hair along with her satin pantsuit that I appreciated.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 9.06.38 PM

Speaking of which…
The 2014 trends:
I’ll Have a Blue Oscars
Shades of blue were everywhere this year, on both men and women. Several men had dark blue tuxes — Leonardo DiCaprio seemed not to notice his was one of them until E! pointed it out  — and leading ladies including Sandra Bullock and Amy Adams were In the Navy, too. It didn’t deviate from the standard black enough to make a huge difference, though — it just made a lot of otherwise well-dressed people fade into the background. Deviating from the subdued palate, and one of my best dressed nominees of the night, was Lupita Nyong’o in what she dubbed Nairobi Blue. I wasn’t a huge fan of her headband — she doesn’t really have a lot of hair to hold back — but the dress looked effortless, and she continuously swept its full skirt up and to the sides as she moved all night, like a modern day Cinderella.
Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 7.31.51 PM
More importantly, Lupita had the best speech of the night after winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, complete with a quote I’m sure will be showing up on the coolest t-shirts and in the most thoughtful greeting cards soon. Deservedly.

“No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

Frozen Frocks
The other big trend of the evening was a spate of light neutrals that seemed to take notes from the icy, animated Oscar-winning film. Cream, white, silver, ecru… for the most part, these winter whites blended into each other and started to bore me as they streamed onto the red carpet, one after the other. The guys got into it, too, with an inordinate amount of white tuxes a la Ryan Seacrest, Jared Leto, and Matthew McConaughey. Not a big fan of those, either… to me, men in white tuxes look like they should be carrying trays of smoked salmon. One exception to the white-out, though, was Giuliana Rancic, who wasn’t walking the carpet so much as she was working it for E!, but still had one of my favorite dresses and looked like a fairy snow princess. To coin a phrase.
Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 7.42.39 PMSplashes of Color
All of the white, gray, Navy and black did do a good job of highlighting those in attendance who wore something bright, however. The few ladies in red were like poppies in a sea of carnations… Jennifer Lawrence and Pink seem to be getting the most attention in the blogosphere, but my favorite was Karen O’s performance dress. Punk it was not, except maybe for her shoes parked off to the side, but still one of the prettiest and most unique looks of the night.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 7.38.45 PM

Some other highlights from the couch: Ellen broke Twitter and Robin Meade and I had a little Tweetversation, along with Twitter Queen Maya. HLN TV also favorited some photos from our Foodie Oscar Parties, and I ate an obscene amount of this dip.

Also: Unique Vintage is featuring some of its Oscar-inspired looks this week, if you’re in the market for an awards season-inspired dress.

You Got Me What?! V-Day Edition

13 Feb

I just can’t get by with one weird holiday items blog post a year. Plus, it’s been two months since my last post, and that’s a cardinal sin in blogland.

So, with the latest snow storm swirling outside and in the spirit of cold-induced procrastination (Read: I don’t want to go outside), here are some of the oddest Valentine’s Day gift options I could find on the interwebs today. Sadly, it wasn’t that hard.

1. Protein Panties?

First of all, a Google search for ‘weird Valentine’s Day gifts’ actually returns a disturbing amount of items for the kinkiest of fetishists out there. Meaning you’re not so much into feet or whips and chains as you are in naughty knitting or penis-shaped cakes. In an effort to pick just one of this type of gift choices, I’ve gone with Brief Jerky, because the name is genius and I’m a sucker for anything featuring smoked meat. If you follow that link, there’s even a DIY how-to.

brief jerky

2. Points for Fundraising

Kudos to the Bronx Zoo for trying a holiday-themed money-maker for their important nonprofit, but they might have picked an animal slightly more cute and cuddly for adoption than a Madagascar Hissing Roach. Seriously, naming a star in the galaxy after your beloved is so last century. Over-sized insects are the ‘I love you’ of the future.

3. 12 Steps to Love

I can actually think of a few people in my life who would legitimately love this gift, and it is rather creative and crafty. Forget the cookies, candy bars, or –  horror — actual flowers… give a booze bouquet. Fun fact… this idea comes to you from the hallowed halls of Illinois State University.

4. Eat my Face

If you’re still hoping to give a traditional present with a twist, there are chocolates molded into just about anything available out there. Really – think of the weirdest item you can and Google it along with the word ‘chocolate’ and you’ll find it. Here’s my latest favorite — Chocolate made to look like you and your partner’s faces. It’s a great idea, if not a little self-involved… aside though: is it me or does the couple in the photo below look like they’re experiencing some sort of allergic reaction?


5. I Love You, Now Get to Work.

For the sweetie you hope to cajole into bringing home more bacon (and yes, there’s plenty of V-Day-themed bacon out there, too), might I suggest the handmade desk organizer. Points for the need to use power tools to make it, but couldn’t it at least be in the shape of a heart? Slackers.

valentines day gift ideas

Making Spirits Bright: Berkshire Lyric Christmas Concert 2013!

9 Dec

Berkshire Lyric and the Blafield Children’s Chorus, 2013

“Making Spirits Bright, a Concert of Christmas Music” will take place at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Park Square in downtown Pittsfield on Saturday, December 21 at 7:30.

The 85-voice Berkshire Lyric Chorus will be joined by the its youth faction, the Blafield Children’s Chorus, in a wide-ranging choral program of some of the most beloved music of the season.

Jack Brown, Berkshire Lyric’s artistic director, said the concert is the latest in a more than 50-year tradition of choral performance in the region.

“Berkshire Lyric recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and this annual holiday concert remains a heart warming and nostalgic evening of great Christmas music for the whole family,” said Brown.

The concert will be led by Brown and accompanied by Joe Rose. The featured work will be Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols,” performed as part of the celebrations of the centennial anniversary of his birth. This famous work originally written for a boy’s choir has been reimagined for Berkshire Lyric and celebrates their own Blafield Children’s Chorus in several movements. Teresa Mango will perform the virtuoso harp part and also accompany the chorus in a moving arrangement of Silent Night to end the program.

“The chorus always enjoys singing with the great St. Stephen’s Pipe Organ in the rich acoustics of this historic church. There will be a sing-a-long portion for the entire audience to join their voices,” said Brown. “Another special treat is the addition of Metropolitan mezzo-soprano Marjorie Dix. She is the Berkshire Lyric 2013-2014 Season Guest Artist and will also be featured at our summer Tanglewood Concert on June 1, 2014.”

For more information and to order tickets, please visit Tickets may be purchased online or by cash or check on the day of the event.


About Berkshire Lyric                                               

Berkshire Lyric has been a fixture in the Berkshire musical landscape for more than 50 years, beginning as a lyric theater performance group. It has since grown to be the only multi-generational music performance and educational group in the Berkshires, providing scholarships, tuition-free education, and quality performance opportunities to Berkshire residents of all ages. As a non-profit, federally tax exempt charitable organization, Berkshire Lyric is supported in part by grants from local Massachusetts Cultural Councils, local corporations and gifts from individual contributors.


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