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Image of postcard with headline, "Hear Our Voice"

What’s Next?  3 easy ways to keep protesting after the Women’s March

After last weekend’s worldwide Women’s March, many friends are asking, “What’s next?” That was one fabulously successful day: we still face four more years of Trump and a Republican Congress committed to limiting women’s hard-fought gains.

Luckily, several organizations stepped up with quick, simple ways to keep the energy going. Click through the links and see what you think.

  • 10 Actions 100 Days. If you do only one thing, subscribe to the Women’s March email. My pink hat is off to our fabulous organizers. Their follow-up promises to be just as amazing. This week: postcard party! They even provide the postcards – either print at home or send to your local print shop or office store. Invite a few friends over, put on a pot of coffee, and jot quick notes on the issue(s) most important to you. Add a stamp and you’re done.
  • Daily Action Alerts. Get one text per day that’s focused on one key issue and one person to call.  They pick the most effective call that can be made from your ZIP code that day. Hit the number in the text and you’re making a call. Easy! If my legislator is already on board, I don’t have to figure out who else to call. If I don’t feel I know enough about a particular issue, I can always skip that day. BTW – I’m using Google Voice for free texts and free calls.
  • 5 Calls. Want to make more than one call per day? 5 Calls has you covered. Type in your ZIP code and up pops a list of topics. Click on any that interest you for key information, your legislator’s phone number and a script.

Now, I’m one of those people who will look at a list, try to take on everything (temporarily forgetting I have a job and family to take care of), then get frustrated because I didn’t do enough. That’s why I really like the Daily Action Alerts – it’s a great way to keep participating without getting overwhelmed. I can always add more calls or activities on days when I have more time.

Got a pressing issue of your own? Here is the official list of House of Representatives phone numbers.

More resources are coming online daily: if you see one you like, add a link in the comments below. I’d also love to hear about your experience with using any of these services. Just drop a line.

#WhyIMarch: I marched for the Equal Rights Amendment. And I’ll keep marching ’til we get it right.

I’m looking forward to walking with so many beautiful women on a beautiful day (in January! I know!) at the Women’s 1/21 March on Chicago.

Why I march: women still do not have equal rights.

Yes, the “pussy grabbing” tape was my trigger, but that’s the symptom of diseased thinking. This is bigger than a single president. Many still believe it is ok to sexualize and demean women. Who can forget the poignant stories behind #YesAllWomen, #notok, #RapeCulture, #EverydaySexism, #NoEsNo. Or the fact that 70,000 rape kits (that we know of) still haven’t been processed.

That’s just my middle class perspective. Other women face forced child marriage, sex slavery, genital mutilation and far worse than the typical Chicago woman.

Protests work. Eventually. 

I marched for the Equal Rights Amendment (more years ago than I care to admit). At that time, the local police force was all male, there wasn’t a term for sexual harassment, rape was not yet defined as a violent crime, physicians (male, of course) were dismissive, and women who spoke up were told “boys will be boys” and to laugh it off. Quietly, of course.

Although we didn’t get ERA (grrr!), look at what we did get:

  • Title IX
  • Anti-discrimination suits that paved the way to better jobs and (somewhat) better pay
  • Rape redefined as a crime of violence
  • Laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation
  • Women in the military
  • Three women on the Supreme Court
  • More women in Congress
  • Birth control and pregnancy covered by insurance (mostly)
  • An official, party-nominated woman running for President.

Do we have equality yet? Not even close. We still face glass ceilings, pay gaps, lack of child/elder care, racial/cultural discrimination … and physical attacks that are still dismissed all too frequently.

Heck, we’re charged more just to get our shirts cleaned.
We’ve made progress – slow and painful – but progress. If the road to equality were easy … we wouldn’t need to march.

Focused on equality. 

Saturday will be a gorgeous day for a walk. I’ll soak in the sun, the signs, the warm energy of 50,000+ other marchers, and the self-confidence that comes from speaking up.

Will there be people I disagree with? Of course. I’ll learn from them.

Will some people be there for altogether different causes? It wouldn’t be a protest without side issues. But I’m clear on why I’m there and can avoid distraction.
Will there be harassers? Possibly. I’ll lock arms with my friends, hold my head high and walk right past the trolls. In peace.
Alone, my voice is nothing. Put 50,000+ individual voices together downtown … add in 300 other marches around the world …

We will be heard.

And I’ll rest easy knowing I took advantage of my freedom to speak up.

Photo of sunrise over ocean by

Election 2016: My anti-toxicity playlist

I’m praying for a peaceful end to Election Day 2016. To get through the day with hope and joy, I’ve started this playlist. What songs would you add?

  • None of Us Are Free – Solomon Burke
  • Put Your Lights On – Carlos Santana
  • Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah) – Andy Grammer
  • Born This Way – Lady Gaga
  • Every Little Thing (Is Gonna Be Alright) Aaron Neville
  • Respect – Aretha Franklin
  • I Will survive – Gloria Gaynor
  • One Love – Bob Marley
  • Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • Black or White – Michael Jackson
  • Peace, Love and Happiness – G. Love & Special Sauce
  • Star Spangled Banner – Jimi Hendrix
  • Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
Stet Masthead, May 2016

22 Tools Professional Writers Rely On Daily

Which gizmos and gadgets do professional writers rely on? Four pros shared their favorites at recent meeting of Independent Writers of Chicago. Here’s a summary I wrote for the May, 2016 Stet, the group’s monthly newsletter. I’m looking forward to giving some of these a try.

Screen shots of the original article, followed by the text. Click to enlarge.

Photo shown in article by Richard Eastline.

Technology for Freelance Writers – What Works Best

In a lively panel discussion format, four IWOC members demonstrated their favorite technology tools that help them stay productive. Common threads included easy ways to record interviews and lengthen battery life.

Tom Lanning, Program Chair, introduced the panel with a quick demonstration of his most used “semi-digital” mobile device – a standard reporter notepad.

First up was David Steinkraus, IWOC President, whose business focuses on environment, science and technology. His first recommendation – his MacBook and his iPhone.

  • Record interviews and meetings. David recommends HDR Pro, an iPhone app. His key advice: whichever app you use, make sure it prevents the phone from sleep mode while you’re recording. In fact, David recorded the podcast for this presentation using HDR Pro on his iPhone.
  • Make and record calls. If you have not used Skype for outgoing calls recently, David recommends giving it another try: the call quality has greatly improved. If you want to record your calls, he recommends the Call Recorder plugin by ECAM software. It even records video for Skype-to- Skype calls.
  • Energize your devices. David uses a portable phone battery charger for an extra 10,000 hours of phone life, which means you don’t have to stop to recharge in the middle of the day. Before you buy, make sure the ports are compatible with your products. If in doubt, get a charger with both fast and slow ports. Other brands: Brent likes the Jackery Giant + 12,000.
  • Save your wrist. Mousing all day can be hard on the body: moving the mouse means moving your whole arm, which can be lead to neck and shoulder pain; griping a mouse can irritate the wrist and lead to carpel tunnel. David recommends a trackball pointing device, specifically the Kensington Slim Blade Wireless Trackball Mouse. In addition to saving your body, the trackball gives you greater accuracy for detailed photo and audio editing.
  • Focus on writing, not file finding. For most documents David relies on Scrivener software which combines word processing and project management. Because you can import all your research – Word files, PDFs, photos, web pages, sticky notes – to one tab, you save time looking for files scattered among several apps. Plus, it offers a dual pane view, one for writing, one for the research. Jennifer Lyng Rueff added that she loves the sidebar view, which makes it easy for her to find scenes, and drag-and-drop them to other places in her book manuscript. It exports to Word, ePub, rtf, and more.

Richard Eastline offered some life-extending ideas for your phone battery: Reduce screen brightness. Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not needed. Switch to apps that have white type on a black background.

Next was Roger Rueff, who has a business focused on software documentation and training manuals, plus a side job as a scriptwriter. Currently, Roger writes “old school” using Vista and Microsoft Office 2003 on a 2006 PC, but he is updating to a new Samsung KO2US laptop, which brings up migration issues.

  • Streamline email storage. Roger needed an improvement over the notoriously bloated Outlook. He found cloud-based FastMail, which frees up PC space, is accessible from all his devices, has advanced filtering, prevents advertising, and offers unlimited email addresses. Because Gmail limits user email addresses to just five, it was a no-go for Roger, who has multiple email addresses just for his work as IWOC web guru.
  • Grab better screen shots. Roger relies on the advanced features of Snagit for the shots in his documentation. Snagit offers drag-and-drop screen grabs – even capturing long, scrolling webpages – a timer to get shots that include the pointer, stamps, text boxes, highlights and other special effects. PC and Mac
  • Create software demo videos. For his training videos, Roger uses Camtasia, a Snagit companion, with advanced video editing for demos, training videos and PowerPoint slide shows. PC and Mac.
  • Measure your angst. Lastly, Roger recommends the iPhone app, Seismometer, which measures impact when you bang your head on the table after a frustrating call.

Vladimire Herard, who reports on health care, pharmaceutical and senior living industries, focused on tools for interviews.

  • Interview online. Vladimire meets her subjects in conference rooms, which automatically records her sessions.
  • Record in-person interviews. Vladimire’s recommendation: the Olympus WE-802 voice recorder, which holds 1000 hours. Recordings are scene indexed to save time finding the exact quote she wants.
  • Read textbooks. She finds the Kobo reader especially helpful for reading books related to her specialty.

A word about wiretap laws. If you’re curious, the Digital Media Law Project describes state and federal laws. But the easiest thing to do – just record your subject giving consent to being recorded when you start your interview.

Brent Brotine, advertising, marketing and direct response expert, handles a lot of detailed financial information. To make sure he captures the details, he has several ways to record calls.

  • Record VOIP calls. Google Voice offers free VOIP phone numbers that forward calls to your cell phone. Google Voice calls are recorded automatically.
  • Record cellular calls. Brent uses an Olympus TP-7 Telephone Pick Up cord that connects to both his iPhone and his Olympus VN-702PC voice recorder, which is similar to Vladimire’s.
  • Record landline calls. His Radio Shack Digital Voice Telephone Recorder 43-01237 plugs into his landline phone and its headset.
  • Transcribe calls. When he needs a written script, Brent looks for transcribers on
  • Amplify your headphones. Brent uses his Boostaroo Audio Amplifier and Splitter to share movies and music with his spouse on long plane rides.
  • Amplify yourself. Brent carries packs of Starbucks Via to give himself a boost anytime. There’s always hot water somewhere!

Lastly, Stewart Truelsen, who produces high-quality interviews for broadcast, recommended pro gear.

  • Record podcast quality. Stu uses a Marantz PMD660 recorder and a Shure microphone.

Where to find all these gadgets? IWOC has no affiliation or recommendation for retailers: the links in this article (Note: I included links on the original article. I have no affiliate links.), go to Amazon, simply for all-in-one place convenience. Other hardware retailers include Best Buy and B&H Photo, a New York store that carries pro gear, often at better prices. Apple software is available through iTunes or the App Store. PC software can be downloaded.
– Laurel Johnson

What do you think? What tools to you use to stay productive? My first purchase is the Jackery battery booster. What’s yours?


Brochure cover for LLS Moving Forward

Moving Forward: Welcome to Survivorship

Sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between heavy editing and a total rewrite. Originally, a very dry document with confusing navigation, I added warmth by taking the focus off the disease and putting it on the young adult survivors.

On a personal note, this was one of my more rewarding projects after spending much time with my niece when she had lymphoma.

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Sales kit back

Color Sales, Simplified

Store associates raved about the new color tools.

We wrapped up the new brochures in a training kit to introduce store associates to the new color journey tools. Here’s just one of the enthusiastic reviews.

“My associate loved the new Color Tools. She said the Best of the Best brochure will be her new go-to.” – Store Manager

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B2B sales kit - sample written by Laurel Johnson, Copywriter,

More Sales Are in the Bag!

McDonald’s owner/operators had been creating their own direct mail and FSIs to drive traffic to their stores. Trouble was, these fliers weren’t necessarily within the McDonald’s brand guidelines. I wrote and creative directed this kit which introduces a template-based system that made ordering customized marketing materials as easy as ordering lunch. The result: this project bagged more than $1.000,000 in new billings for the ad agency.

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Friend of a friend

Thank you, Danny. I was laid off two weeks ago, so today is the day I’m going to suck it up and try to expand my LinkedIn network further, even to people I used to work with. All the fears you mentioned – did they like me – do they have a grudge – are very dominant this morning. Thanks for a great post!

Danny Gregory

So, recently, a business associate told me I should further develop my network on LinkedIn. I know that’s sort of a horrible sentence but there you have it. I have business associates and they advise me to do things that probably have some purpose beyond my understanding. Generally I am okay with following their directives so long as they don’t involve public nudity or large amounts of money. They know more than me about some stuff.

The way LinkedIn works is by burrowing into your address book and your resume and your underwear drawer and pulling up long lists of names and smiling portraits and you are supposed to click on people who you know and want to link to. When you do, each person’s links are then joined to yours in an ever-expanding gyre of connections until every man, woman and Chihuahua on the planet is arrayed in concentric…

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Restaurant sign with misspelled menu item

Stake for dinner? At least it’s high fiber

Love the attempt at rhyming, though!