Thursday, November 05, 2009

It's a working lunch with Mitzvah, the Mutt. Although I'm having Japanese Pan Noodles with tofu and Mitzvah prefers burgers!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

B is for Branding

I've been reading a lot about branding lately, and no, I don't mean the type that involves hot fires and cattle. I mean personal branding, that new Web 2.0 idea that you're not just a human being, you're also a brand.

A personal brand is essentially what you're super-good at and why you're unique, and the best personal brands also identify their target audience/market/customers. When I worked at a local food shelf in the mid-90's and was the only one who could sweet-talk a computer into coughing up needed info from our database (I eventually created a new database for them), they started calling me "Techno-goddess" and I will admit that affected to some extent how I saw myself. I was actually good at something and people appreciated it!

Today I ran across this article: Does Your Brand Tell a Powerful Story? - Brand Story - in which it suggests that telling your brand story is what will set you apart from all of the other people who do the same thing you do and are also good at it.

But in this age where social media has practically eliminated privacy from our lives, where many feel that they have to tweet and blog and update their statuses (stati?) just to have their presence on the planet acknowledged, where do we draw the boundaries?

I can see the Twitter conversation now...
SomeTwit @birdword LOL The day couldn't get longer. Taking a break now. #toilet
birdword RT @SomeTwit Taking a break now. #toilet Me too. Who else?

I mean, how much of us do we need out there?

One of my favorite bits of comedy is from a 60's Peter, Paul & Mary album with a track called Paultalk. Noel Paul Stookey is talking about society's obsession with itself, noting that first we had a magazine called Life. Then there was a magazine called People. Not all of life, just people. And then, in a brilliant bit of self-obsession, came Us. Not them. Only us. Finally, he said, he expected any day a magazine called Me. A dozen pages of Reynolds Wrap®. (Ironically, this comedy bit was performed long before Self magazine came out.)

And here we are. Me. And not just Me, but Me 2.0. (There's a book by than name, too, btw. All about--wait for it--personal branding.)

There are things I could share that make me unique, that make me stand out from all of the other Jewish suspense author/publishers out there (because there's so many of us). But do you really want, or need, to know that I tripped over a sprinkler head when I was seven and broke my little finger and it never healed right and it's now forever bent? Do you really need to know that I keep insisting on the spellings of catalog and dialogue and see nothing wrong with the inconsistency? (And my editor can't stand that.)

How personal do I need to get to personally brand myself and stand out from the crowd?

Well, apparently all you need to do is look for the Jewish author/publisher with the crooked pinkie who can't spell. Somehow, I don't think that's what the personal branding experts had in mind.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Reads for the New Year

I recently read two books that I think of almost like opposite ends of a spectrum. The first book, The New Jew: An Unexpected Conversion by Sally Srok Friedes, was one she sent to me after reading this blog (Hi Sally!). The second, The Shiksa Syndrome, I found in the new fiction section of the local library.

The New Jew is a true story of a former Catholic who pursues conversion to Judaism despite her husband's reticence and the less-than-welcoming attitudes of rabbis she meets (see my review). In The Shiksa Syndrome, a born-Jewish woman pretends to be non-Jewish in order to attract and keep a Jewish boyfriend (see my review). One is running to, the other running from, and at the heart of both is what it means to be Jewish.

Good food for thought during these Days of Awe.

FTC Disclaimer: please see disclaimer notes at the end of each review. Thank you.

The New Jew: An Unexpected Conversion by Sally Srok Friedes -- Book Review

"The New Jew" has become very personal for me. It came along at just the right time to highlight what I have and what I’ve lost, what being Jewish means and what being part of a Jewish community means. It is a love story with Judaism and Jewish community, complete with awkward beginnings, passionate disagreements, and a honeymoon.

The book begins with the death of author Sally Srok Friedes’ mother-in-law in present time. This was a poignant start, as I had just lost my mother when I began reading. The funeral and shiva (first week of mourning) descriptions truly depict Judaism and a Jewish community at its best. We are then taken back to the beginning of the author’s journey to becoming Jewish, back when becoming Jewish wasn’t a goal at all.

Time and again, the author tries to get more involved in learning about Judaism so that she doesn’t feel so lost and ignorant when around her husband’s family and folks at the synagogue, but each time, she is insulted, ostracized, and marginalized by rabbis who are opposed to interfaith marriage and see her marriage to husband Michael as a crime against Judaism. It is to her credit that she perseveres.

I found myself on an emotional rollercoaster with her, embarrassed when a rabbi uses his Rosh Hashanah sermon to rant about interfaith marriages and presenting Judaism as an exclusive by-invitation-only club rather than welcoming those who might add to the Jewish community. I was saddened by Michael’s distance from Judaism while he resists Sally’s embrace of it, even as I knew his was a completely normal reaction. I cheered when Sally finally found a rabbi—and a synagogue—who could truly appreciate not only who she was, but who she could become.

Everyone’s Jewish journey is different, and yet there are shared elements that remind us how we are all connected. In "The New Jew," we can all find ourselves within these pages.

FTC Disclaimer: I did receive a copy of the book from the author, with the understanding that if I was willing and able to review it here, I would. If not, I wouldn't. I received no other compensation and there was no expectation of the type of review (positive/negative).

The Shiksa Syndrome by Laurie Graff -- Book Review

When I first finished reading "The Shiksa Syndrome," I wanted to say that I didn’t like it. I wanted to say that because it frustrated me. On far more than one occasion, I was arguing and groaning in irritation with Aimee Albert, the main character and the woman through whose perspective we read the story. Then I realized that more than anything, the book was effective. It engaged me and got me emotionally involved. Laurie Graff did her job and did it well.

Aimee is a Jewish woman who loves being Jewish, but her boyfriend doesn’t seem all that into what being Jewish means to her. She decides, therefore, to find a Jewish man to date. But the more she looks around, the more she discovers that all the eligible Jewish men are dating non-Jewish women. Intentionally. So when she and her non-Jewish best friend Krista are at a kosher wine tasting and in walks gorgeous, rich, and Jewish Josh Hirsch, Aimee doesn’t correct him when he assumes she isn’t Jewish.

In fact, she sees this seemingly minor omission of her identity the linchpin of her success at keeping Josh for a boyfriend. Lies build upon lies, and Aimee’s true identity is buried beneath the layers until she’s not sure exactly who she is anymore—the shiksa (non-Jewish woman) Josh wants her to be, or the Jew she knows she is.

What I do take issue with in the book is that it presents the vast majority of Jewish men as completely uninterested in being Jewish and finding a sort of status in dating a non-Jewish woman. It does focus on a very New York Jewish dating culture, with which I’m not familiar, so maybe some of it is regional.

I was annoyed with Aimee for her subterfuge and for betraying who she is. I was annoyed with Josh for being so dismissive about his Jewishness. But I fought and laughed and cried along with the characters, and kept thinking about the story long after I’d closed the cover, which is really at the heart of what makes a good read.

FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation, not even a copy of the book, in return for this review. In fact, I found the book in the new fiction section of the library and it looked interesting so I checked it out. And it stuck with me enough I had to blog about it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Testing the ability to update from my phone.

Staying in Sync

I'm speaking tomorrow (Friday, August 14) at the MIPA/IBPA Regional Publishing University. In addition to working on my presentations, I'm setting it up so that right before I get up to speak, I can text a note from my phone and have it update here, as well as on Facebook and LinkedIn, among others. More to make a point than because I want to blast my status around the known universe.

So, we'll see if it works. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reading Jewish

I read a lot, although admittedly, my recreational reading time is generally about thirty minutes before I fall asleep each night. Something like a year (or more?) ago, I was going to write reviews of the books I was reading anyway. In fact, a publicist I know started sending me some of the books that crossed his desk, so I could have many from which to choose. Alas, I dropped that ball.

I read two of the books, The Godfile: 10 Approaches to Personalizing Prayer by Aryeh Ben David, and Getting Our Groove Back: How to Energize American Jewry by Scott A. Shay. I really liked them both and had things I wanted to say. But life has a way of happening and I never got around to writing them. I plan to change that. My apologies, Stuart!

I enjoy reading suspense/thriller/mysteries with even occasional Jewish references, and lately have been devouring books by Linda Fairstein and Paul Levine.

Then, by chance, I found The Shiksa Syndrome by Laurie Graff. I just finished it last night, wanting terribly to take the main character aside and give her a good talking-to. It was like a Jewish Grease gone wrong (for her), and a good read, about a Jewish woman pretending to be Not (eg: Not Jewish) in order to catch the attention of a Jewish man who is looking "outside the tribe." I'll write a full review shortly.

Tonight, I'm starting on a new book, both new to me and new to the world: The New Jew: An Unexpected Conversion by Sally Srok Friedes. There is actually a strong tie between finishing The Shiksa Syndrome and starting The New Jew: the idea that Judaism is big enough and strong enough (and similarly, that G-d is big enough and strong enough) to accommodate Jews with a wide variety of practices and beliefs.

Now I'm going to stop blogging so I can get to reading.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Warning: Cute Kid Story

Wow, I guess it's hasn't been as long as I thought since I posted last. I was on another blog that I've badly neglected and that kind of inspired me to write something, just to let my two readers know I'm still alive. So I thought I'd share a comment from Younger Son today. We were talking about a birthday party Older and Younger Sons will be attending tomorrow and how the invitation said to bring the "water weapon of your choice."

Younger Son: I can use my new water pump squirter at the party tomorrow.

Me: Yes, you can.

YS: Cool! I just hope it doesn't rain.

Me: It might; we could get a few showers tomorrow.

YS: I guess G-d has a water weapon too. And G-d will win. G-d always wins.

And for a relative change of subject, my best friend in high school also has two boys and has the awesome-est way to refer to them: Son the Elder and Son the Younger. I love this! So much that I think I may use it here in place of my less creative descriptions. So very First Century, the time of my favorite rabbis. Gotta love the history.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chemically Enhanced Marketing

Hi. My name is Sheyna and I'm an introvert.


I had a bad headache today and took one of the most effective OTC headache meds for me. It has a painkiller that helps my headache. And it has caffeine, which I've discovered helps my marketing skills.

Caffeine makes me happy. It boosts my self-confidence, decreases my anxiety, and brings out the closet extrovert in me. I can accomplish, overcome, and succeed. I am the person I dream myself to be. That's the upside.

The downside is that I don't regularly "do" caffeine in any form, so when it hits my system, it's effective. It also can make me a little jittery, a little scattered. By this afternoon, I felt I should have a sign on my forehead that read, "I am not as disorganized as I appear."

So I can use it when I need it, but I have to use it sparingly. I'd like to use it every day. Who wouldn't want to wake up feeling good about herself, ready to take on the world? Especially when you've had a lot of experience not feeling that way?

Apparently for some people, the same effect is achieved with alcohol. I'd like to think that the caffeine-enhanced me has far more common sense than the alcohol-enhanced me. Actually, I know from experience that the alcohol-enhanced me is sleepy and not nearly as fun. But I would hate for anyone to think that I advocate any kind of chemical enhancement for marketing (or other) purposes.

It's a dilemma. Caffeine gives me the edge I need to really put myself out there. But it's only effective with occasional use, and marketing is a full-time job. Some day I'll figure out how to get the upside of caffeine without the downside. Until then, maybe I will have a refill on that coffee...

Monday, April 13, 2009

How Much Affliction?

Matzo is the "bread of affliction" (Devarim 16:3), also referred to as the "poor bread," and bread of poverty or oppression. But just how much affliction is enough?

The observance of Pesach (Passover) provides for us a different sort of bondage. Those of you who observe Pesach know what I'm talking about. Shouldn't every box of matzo come with a free jar of Metamucil? Or a Fleet enema?

For some of us, it's annoying and potentially embarrassing. For others, such as those coping with IBS, it can cross the line into a health issue. One physician claims it's life-threatening.

So how much affliction is too much? At what point does it cross that line?

There are things one can do to try to offset the symptoms:
  • eat high-fiber Pesach-friendly fruits and vegetables such as raspberries (8g fiber/cup), pears (5.1g fiber/med pear), artichokes (10.3g fiber/med artichoke), and broccoli (5.1g fiber/cup) - although brocoli has its own digestive issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, from which these numbers come, "Recommended fiber amounts for women is 21 to 25 grams a day and for men is 30 to 38 grams a day."
  • drink lots of water
  • exercise
  • try prune or mulberry juice
  • when the symptoms are too severe to treat with food, water, or exercise, try a warm bath or heating pad
Additional fiber content information is available on this fiber chart.

We were meant to understand what it's like to go without luxury foods (like bread) for eight days. We were meant to see ourselves as if we're also leaving Egypt. We were not meant to understand through matzo what it feels like to be disemboweled (IMHO).

Only three more days to go. Meanwhile, those raspberries are looking really good.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon in the News Again

I'm not sure if keeps making these controversial decisions due to some inherent flaw (sort of like the classic input-output error), or if it's intentional to keep them in the news, even if it means protests and losing customers.

From itself, through Mark Probst's blog: "In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature."

There are lengthier explanations and open letters making thier way around Twitter including:
BookSquare: Open Letter to Amazon Regarding Recent Policy Changes and
Publishing Talk: An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos

Makes you wonder what's next. If sex is taboo, maybe religion and politics are next.

UPDATE 4/13/09: claims it was all an error.