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Wondering how to create engaging video for your business? Want to use video more creatively in your marketing? To explore how to create engaging videos that work in organic social posts or paid ads, I interview Ezra Firestone on the Social Media Marketing Podcast. Ezra is an eCommerce marketing expert and the founder of Smart […]

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Raymond Antrobus | Interview

Congratulations on the sweep of prizes you’ve won for The Perseverance – most recently the 2019 Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award. In your speech at that ceremony you made reference to building a new canon, and you’ve spoken elsewhere about the importance of a writing community. How do you find the London poetry ‘scene’ – a word which evokes both canon and community? Are they antithetical?

Thanks! In that speech I was talking about revising the literary canon we have as well as building new ones. We can customise our canons. It took me a long time to develop the confidence to do that. I studied O’Hara, Lorca, Larkin, Neruda, Walcott and I learned from their work but I became a better poet once I stopped trying to emulate them. I say that even as someone who has not done very much formal academic study of poetry or writing, but I have spent a lot of time teaching and visiting schools and universities where I often feel disappointed with how narrow the required reading lists are still. I feel lucky to have been nurtured by open mic and Slam communities –  not just in the UK but Germany and the States. I had spaces where I could share my writing and be excited to hear others. That’s been invaluable to me and I’d say even in those spaces I became a better poet when I stopped trying to win Slams. I aligned my motivation with the poems I had to write rather than the poems that I assumed audiences wanted to hear. Developing critical community came a lot later and I had to be very deliberate about that. I owe some of my development to The Complete Works and to Cave Canem, both of these programmes put me in spaces where I didn’t have to be defensive about what I wanted to write and how I wanted to write it. They are both spaces designed for poets writing from the margins.

 

The collection and one of its poems is named after The Perseverance pub in Hackney, which I understand is still open today. I was struck by the strong sense of place in the collection. Perhaps you could expand a little on your choices about how you represented London, maybe even specifically Hackney, in these poems, and the mediation of public and private in your work?

 I grew up in Hackney so this wasn’t a stylistic choice. It is where my voice comes from. Nowadays when I talk to people who didn’t grow up in Hackney it’s like we’re talking about two different places. The gentrification of the area really hurt and angered me at first (especially when I was teaching in the area and was losing students because their families had to be relocated because their council homes were sold off). I’ve had to let that go and accept the changes. I visited a high-security men’s prison recently and a few of the inmates grew up in Hackney too. They had read The Perseverance and told me how much they enjoyed seeing their area represented in my poems. Most of them have been in prison for over ten, fifteen years so they don’t have the full picture of how much Hackney has changed but I found the fact that these men identify with the poems very affirming. I’ve been a private poet for most my life. I was writing as young as six and I didn’t start sharing my work until I was around nineteen, becoming a poet publically moves you from small l literature to capital L literature because now it’s public so you begin or pick up conversations with your personal history and the history of your country and language. There’s an Albert Camus quote I love that says ‘I have never written anything that was not, either directly or indirectly, linked to the country in which I was born.’ This realization deepened my relationship with both reading and writing.

 

In one of the most-discussed parts of the book, you redact the entirety of Ted Hughes’s poem ‘Deaf School’ with thick black lines. Another poem, ‘The Mechanism of Speech’ is an erasure: certain words from Alexander Graham Bell’s lecture have been selected to form the text of the poem, and the rest erased. I wonder about the difference between these two forms of redaction: in the one, the absence is clearly visible in the black line, and your poem comes after, as a response; and in the other, you cherry-pick from Bell’s words to form your poem and the only record of absence is white space. How do you think these differ conceptually?

Initially I wanted the Ted Hughes poem to be struck through rather than redacted so it would still be readable but this wasn’t going to fly with the Ted Hughes estate. I’m on a small press and we couldn’t afford a lawsuit so we went with a full redaction of the poem. It was more cathartic to do it that way I found and it ends up saying more. I’ve had some great responses from D/deaf students I’ve shared that poem with. One twelve-year-old student pointed out that the redacted lines look like audio channels that he’s seen on his audiologist’s computer screen when they were programming his cochlea implants. This for me is an example of how creativity at its best inspires new ways of understanding each other. This is why creativity always needs a place in education. As for the Alexander Graham Bell’s erasure, the first draft of that was over ten pages. The initial idea was to have a pamphlet-length erasure, but that didn’t work so I tried to make it a sequence but the more I thought about that the more it irked me that I was giving Bell so much room, so I went with the one short section that ended up in the book. I have my own ideas about how these erasures compare conceptually but I don’t want to get in the way of someone else’s ideas, which might be more interesting than mine, like the boy who told me about the audio channels.

 

Several of the poems in the collection engage with historical texts and the history of the D/deaf community. Some of these names may be familiar to your readers (Helen Keller, Charles Dickens, Alexander Graham Bell) while others were unfamiliar, at least to me (Laura Bridgeman and Mable Gardiner Hubbards). You refer to people from the recent past as well, with poems about Daniel Harris, a deaf man killed in the USA in 2016, and three deaf Haitian women killed in 2016, Jesula Gelin, Vanessa Previl and Monique Vincent. In offering a kind of voice to those who are no longer with us, you put these people in conversation with the reader. What do you hope your reader takes away from that conversation in which you are a mouthpiece?

I can’t tell anyone what to take away from my work, that is what capital L literature is in some ways, a conversation with the ghosts all around us. Mable Gardiner Hubbards was the deaf wife of Graham Alexander Bell and I managed to read excerpts from her diary. It’s an upsetting read, she was so deeply ashamed of her deafness and much of that seemed to come from her husband’s psychological abuse. Daniel Harris, Jesula Gelin, Vanessa Previl and Monique Vincent – what happened to them was sad, despicable, a capital I Injustice that was totally preventable. If their deaths aren’t spoken about then we are all in danger because the ignorance that killed them lives on.

 

There is a long poem telling the story of an anonymous woman named Samantha, which is based on interviews, as well as another poem based on a conversation, ‘Conversation with the Art Teacher (a Translation Attempt)’. How different was it to tell the stories of people you had met compared to telling the stories of people you had read about? How different was it to tell the stories of people who are alive but not named, as opposed to named but not alive?

Well those conversations (Art Teacher and Samantha) are the stories of Deaf friends of mine. I feel honoured that they trusted me to share some of their story. I didn’t just want to just mournfully highlight the persecution of the Deaf but I wanted to uplift all of us and honour the ways in which we persevere. I feel connected to D/deaf communities around the world and have been welcomed into many spaces in the last few years. I’ve visited deaf schools in the US, Jamaica, Trinidad, Ukraine, Bali and around the UK. The global social stigma of people living with disabilities is so profound that I would call their experiences human rights violations. There’s a lot more to say about that.

 

You’ve spoken about how poetry is essentially a form of conversation. ‘Miami Airport’ however, is not so much a conversation as an interrogation. It’s also one of the few poems in the book which isn’t left-aligned. What’s your relationship to your poems as visual arrangements on the body of the page, as opposed to records of spoken or signed language?

At one point my ambition was to be a photojournalist. That shows up in the poet I’ve become. Two hearing poets that taught me a lot about shape and space are Mimi Khalvati, who was my tutor while I was on the Complete Works programme and Robin Coste Lewis, who was my mentor when I was at Cave Canem. Both of them had a way of speaking about poems before they’d even read a word in it, they’d have us look solely at the shape of a poem and ask, ‘Is this something you want to read.’ This renewed my questions about what poems are and can be. They taught me a lot about how to charge white space so it pulls readers in. I will also say that one of the reasons The Perseverance took so long for me to write was because I was grappling with the question of how to write a book in a language that has harmed and alienated so many of the people I want it to talk to and with. Illiteracy in Deaf communities is very high and the written and spoken word is privileged in ways that continues to cause harm. But I sought out D/deaf poets like Raymond Luczak, Ilya Kaminsky, Meg Day, Douglas Ridloff, Dorothy Miles, Bea Webster, Donna Williams, Richard Carter and all of these poets showed me what sign language does in the air and in some cases on the page.

 

I understand your next book will be a picture book for children, Can Bears Ski? illustrated by Polly Dunbar, who is also deaf. Was it different to consciously write for a young audience? What do you think adults can learn from the language(s) of children?

I’m so proud of Can Bears Ski? It’s being published by Walker Books and I can’t wait for it to be in the world. Initially it was written as a poem but it never made it into The Perseverance. Then while I was visiting deaf schools I would always look at the libraries and I remember feeling let down by the lack of representation for D/deaf children in any of the books. Then I had a vision to rewrite what I considered a failed poem as a children’s story, something that could be useful and fun for D/deaf children, particularly if they have hearing parents (as most D/deaf children do). It’s not so much about learning from the language of children, it’s a lot more specific than that. It’s learning how to communicate with deaf people generally (especially if they rely on lip-reading rather than sign). I couldn’t sign until I was 11 and my parents never learned it so Can Bears Ski? focuses on communicating with deaf children who can’t yet sign. Polly Dunbar was the perfect collaborator for this project; her illustrations precisely capture much of what I remember about deafness as a child. We didn’t meet in person until we’d finished the book and it was very emotional the first time I read it aloud with Polly in the room.

 

 

The Perseverance is available now from Penned in the Margins. 

Photograph © Suki Dhanda

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Break Free B2B Interview with Ben Wallace

Break Free B2B Interview with Ben Wallace

How does the air we breathe affect the work we produce?

It’s not a question I’d pondered very frequently, until I had the opportunity to chat with Ben Wallace for the latest episode of Break Free B2B. But it’s one of many considerations that came to light during his illuminating interview with TopRank Marketing President Susan Misukanis and myself.

As CEO of Link Positive, a clean-energy business development service, and co-founder of soon-to-launch energy optimization implementation startup Minify Energy, Ben consults companies about energy efficiencies, reducing environmental footprint, and creating a more comfortable workspace. As he explains, there are business and marketing implications that go well beyond what is apparent on the surface.

To illustrate this, he urges a focus on the “Triple Bottom Line”: Planet, Productivity, Profit. All three are intertwined, and they are critical to the way B2B organizations present themselves and succeed in the marketplace today and in the critical years ahead, factoring climate change and the values of new generations defining the workforce.

Planet, Productivity, Profit: These components make up the Triple Bottom Line, according to @BenWallace. #BreakFreeB2B #SustainableBusiness Click To Tweet

In our wide-ranging conversation with him, Ben explores sustainability from many angles, including how it functions as a marketing tool, practical ways to make improvements, the concrete effects on employees, and what the future holds.

Break Free B2B Interview with Ben Wallace

If you’re interested in checking out a particular portion of the discussion, you can find a quick general outline below, as well as a few excerpts that stood out to us.

  • 1:31 – Following in his father’s footsteps
  • 3:27 – Moving from consumer goods to B2B 
  • 10:50 – Shifting to building management 
  • 12:11 – The influence of air quality on cognitive ability
  • 16:56 – Equipping old building to meet new environmental challenges
  • 22:27 – Influencing employee health when you don’t own the building
  • 26:00 – The value of green buildings
  • 28:45 – The ultimate in user-centric building design
  • 29:55 – Sustainability as a marketing tool
  • 32:55 – The role of compliance programs in sustainability
  • 34:20 – Focusing on sustainability as a corporate value
  • 37:13 – Have we lost the war against climate change?
  • 42:19 – Does your company need a sustainability audit? 

Susan: Ben, could you talk a little bit about an “aha” moment which made you think you could help make workplaces more healthy environments? 

Ben: The vast majority of buildings out there don’t have smart sensing and controls in them—about 15 to 20% of the buildings have smart controls, and it’s mostly the class A high-rises for those who can afford it. But now, technologies are emerging with low cost sensors [such as] cloud compute—and the technology is there, especially with some of these born in the cloud, born digital, companies, making it accessible and affordable for pretty much everyone. And, also taking into account that usability factor and making it easy and so it’s not as complex to deploy … 

I think the biggest aha there … is occupant experience.  And, wellness and indoor air quality is one of the factors that has a huge impact on your cognitive ability. And there’s CO 2 levels … outside they’re around 400-500 parts per million, but in a building, they can rise up especially as people are breathing and you get a lot of occupants in a building … You know, you find you might be tired after lunch and blaming it on the pasta lunch you had, but when it’s quite often the CO 2 levels rising to a point where you’re really more lethargic, and have less cognitive ability. 

And so one of the big things that we saw there was the correlation of indoor air quality and productivity. And there’s something called the Cog Effect Study that Harvard has been working on for a few years now that has shown 100% cognitive ability improvement for green buildings that have better indoor air quality. 

And so the sad irony about that is many schools, for instance, have really poor air circulation … So the place where you need the most cognitive ability in a learning environment is often suffering the most are those with CO 2 levels. And so that was something that really was brought to light. The people in the building that are the ultimate customers—your tenants, your employees and everyone else.

You might be tired after lunch and blaming it on the pasta you had, but it's quite often the CO 2 levels rising to a point where you're more lethargic and have less cognitive ability. — @BenWallace #Productivity #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet

Susan: How can agencies make more sustainable choices?

Ben: You can take control of your waste stream and you know, give some upward pressure to your property owners … And as well, thinking about just the smart use of scheduling. I mean, there’s a lot of equipment that runs 24/7 out there and lights stay on. Buildings are the second-largest consumer of energy after transportation in the US. HVAC and lighting makes up somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of that typically. 

So, there’s quite a bit that can be done with just some smart scheduling and smart controls. … Start looking at some [energy-saving programs]. US GGBC is a great resource for that, which is the Green Building Council. And the Department of Energy, which is where the ENERGY STAR benchmarking program exists—quite a bit of resources available there … 

I think you, as marketers, and as an agency, you can do a few things. One, you can choose clients with that factor as well, just as they’re looking at choosing you based on that. Maybe look at those who are in the emerging new energy economy and sustainability-oriented organizations. But I think just bringing that forward as much as possible, knowing the factors from supply chain and renewable waste stream and highlighting what your employees are doing out in their homes and in their communities as well … Recognizing what you do collectively is something that you could just conscientiously keep track of and look at how to improve your energy efficiency and good corporate citizenship from a global climate perspective.

Susan: Can you speak to incorporating your sustainability efforts into company values and brand messaging? 

Ben: Absolutely. We’ve seen an even flow of sustainability messaging over the years. There’s a period of kind of heavy greenwashing that was going on in the ‘80s, in the ‘90s. And so you’ve seen recycling programs and you’ve seen a little bit of energy efficiency with ENERGY STAR products and things like that. But the sustainability and corporate citizenship story can get a lot bigger …

It’s really expanded and it’s more and more important, widely recognized as something especially critical for us. They are sometimes considered the triple bottom line benefits. You’ve got profits and it’s definitely good for profits if you’re saving energy, saving on maintenance, getting a better lease. You are creating a more productive environment—there’s a huge set of layers of profit opportunity.

Really what we come back to so much in this is: how is it supporting wellness and reduced absenteeism and, just a happy productive workforce? But then the planet impact is the third “P” of that … There’s a lot of companies and states and cities that are just plowing ahead with a path to 100% renewable or zero carbon footprint. And so it’s a long haul to get there. But there are ways that you can not only save money and reduce your carbon and start measuring … to get to net zero over time—consuming less energy or producing more energy than you consume is actually going to be positive. There’s opportunities around that from a corporate perspective and roadmap that will align more so with what cities and counties are doing. 

Stay tuned to the TopRank Marketing Blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Break Free B2B interviews. Here are a few interviews to whet your appetite:

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Do you want to write a book? Is 2020 the year you finally accomplish your dream?

The First 10 Steps to Write Your Book in a Year

A new year is a time for fresh starts and audacious goals. And if your goal this year is to write your book, you’re not alone. One year is the perfect length of time to write and publish a book, as long as you know the right steps.

The First 10 Steps to Write Your Book in 2020

What are the steps to write a book? How do you get started? What should you do right now, this week, and this month in order to start your book writing year off strong?

Want a free printable guide? I’ve created a printable one-page guide to the first ten steps to write a book. You can download your copy here to keep track of your progress throughout the next few days and weeks.

Now, let’s take a look at the steps.

1. Create your intention

Your intention is a brief statement of when, where, and how long you’ll write each day. If you plan ahead right now, you’re much more likely to follow through and actually write.

My intention looks like this: I’ll write my book every weekday morning from 8 am to 10 am at the café down the street. What’s yours?

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2. Find an accountability partner

Your intention only works if you follow through to complete it. Find one person you trust and ask them to hold you accountable to following your intention.

3. Write a premise

Who is your character? What is their goal? Who (or what!) is stopping them from accomplishing it, and what will happen when they reach it?

In just one sentence, describe these fundamental elements of your story.

4. Get feedback

Find three people you trust and share your premise with them. Do they want to hear the rest of the story? Or do they have suggestions for ways to make it even more exciting?

It’s scary to share your ideas and your writing with other people. But getting feedback now will help ensure that the story you spend months writing will be one people want to read, so don’t skip this step.

5. Read your competition

Find three books similar to the one you’re writing and read them. They’ll keep you inspired as you write your book.

6. Create an outline

Write down everything you know about what will happen in your book. You can make your outline as detailed or as sparse as you like, but take time to think through your entire book from start to finish.

A few weeks from now, when you’re in the ugly middle of the writing process, you’ll find it incredibly helpful to have these notes about the arc of your story.

7. Write your first chapter

This is it: start writing! Sit down at your desk, open your word processor, and write your first chapter.

8. Build your author website

Sure, right now you’re focused on writing your book, not publishing it. But the best time to start building your platform and readership is right now, long before your book goes to print.

The first step to publishing your book to a crowd of raving fans is to build your author website. Here’s our complete guide to creating an amazing website.

9. Publish something small

Publishing, like writing, is a skill that you improve at as you practice it. Don’t wait to finish your book before you publish your writing for the first time.

Long before your book is ready, get started by publishing something small — a blog post, a short story, or even a deleted scene from your book.

10. Don’t quit

To publish a book in 2020, you’ll have to use all of 2020. You can’t go work on something else. You can’t stop until your book is finished. Commit right now to finishing.

Print the 10 Steps

Want to save these ten steps and print them out so you can refer to them throughout the month? I’ve created a printable guide to help you get started writing your book.

Is This the Year You Write Your Book?

Let’s face it: writing a book is hard. It’ll take time, effort, and determination.

But I believe you have what it takes. You’re up for the challenge.

Just imagine: a year from now, you could be holding your published book in your hands.

I can’t wait to celebrate it with you!

What’s your writing goal for 2020? Let us know in the comments below.

PRACTICE

The first step to write your book is to create your intention. Take fifteen minutes to write your intention. Make sure to include the following elements:

  1. When will you write?
  2. Where will you write?
  3. How long or how much will you write?

Share your intention in the comments below so we can all support and encourage you. And be sure to cheer on your fellow writers, too!

The post The First 10 Steps to Write Your Book in 2020 appeared first on The Write Practice.

Relax And Celebrate National Nothing Day! | Writer’s Relief

Today is National Nothing Day! So if you’re feeling stuck on your latest project, instead of hunkering down and forcing yourself to write—try doing nothing! In this article Writer’s Relief found on TheWritePractice.com, sometimes taking a break and relaxing can actually get your creative juices flowing again. Seems like it worked for Bob Dylan. He bought a cabin and was ready to give up music altogether. But after a few days, he wrote some of his best work!

Learn more about how relaxing and doing nothing may help you do something really great!