The Apple of Your Eye

Novelist and English professor Mona Simpson delivered this eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs. Not everyone will be remembered by millions, but anyone can aspire to succeed in both career and family contributions. I especially love Steve’s last words.

How will those you love be remembered? Even a couple of pages can convey the personality, values, and contributions of someone whose legacy matters to you.

You could go multi-media, like Apple’s memorial event (if you want to keep making the technology transfers), but remember Steve’s advice: “Simple can be harder than complex. . . . but it’s worth it when you get there because then you can move mountains.”

Related Post:

Stories from College Drop-Out Steve Jobs


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All rights reserved.

Do You Look like a Writer?

Naturally, I teach my students to write, but what gets more attention is inspiring them to look employable. Before job fairs and interviews, I’ve taught men to choose, tie, and wear a tie, and women to update their hair styles and choose modest, professional, flattering clothing. Want a real job? Then learn to look like a grown-up. If you’ve been an adult for a while, it could be time to update your hair style and the cut of your jackets.

This advice for male students reminded me to pass this idea along:

So let’s encourage writers to the same career success. Most of us were nerds in high school. Many hang onto that image, even priding themselves on not caring for their looks. For some, it’s a defense, either fearing rejection, not realizing how good they’d really look if they gave the picture the right frame, or not knowing they could ask for help with this. Some even hide under a mop of hair and shapeless clothes to avoid a social life. Some would do something more for their looks but assume it would take too much time.

Actually, a great hair cut and a planned wardrobe can be great timesavers. And sure, you can be sloppy and get away with it. People will only think you’re eccentric. Aren’t all writers a little nuts? But writers are artists, and many of us consider beauty a cardinal virtue. Why not wear that on our sleeves? Why not look our best and even learn public speaking skills?

So if you haven’t changed your appearance since high school, try an experiment. Get a makeover artist to design a real hairstyle and see how you like it. Learn to use makeup effectively. Find out how it feels to let your beauty shine on the outside. (I had help myself: editing for image consultants has been one of the perks of my job.) I think you’ll find it raises your confidence and encourages your creativity. It can become a career breakthrough to be noticed in a crowd and discovered to be brainy as well. Go ahead–have it all!


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All rights reserved.

Summer Survival

Is summer over yet?

Oh, yeah, I don’t have a break. And my children do! So here’s what I want–or rather don’t want–for me (and everyone around me) to be sane:

No unfinished chores. No whining about housework–and not from Young Son either. No fussing about when allowance is due, and how much is owed. No rethinking every day what needs to be done. No raised voices. No conflict. Sound impossible?

It’s happening! It’s My Job Chart!

My Job Chart screen shotIt’s free. (It’s supported by Amazon purchases; many families choose retail rewards as part of their planning. That’s it!)

The evening we set it up, eleven-year-old Young Son rushed around to do all of his chores rather than wait a whole day to begin earning. Naturally. I had to watch my computer because he sneaked into my side to add additional jobs, like “Make Mom’s bed.” He awarded it 15 points. (Hmmm. Would you pay 15 cents to have your bed made daily?) The child who would rather scrub toilets than sweep floors is suddenly doing both.

My favorite part is the messaging between the site and the parent’s cell or e-mail (or both). Here are a few messages I’ve received:

“I love this. I think that the way that they do this is absolutely amazing.”

“You are the most awesome mom a kid could have. Thank you for raising me to be nice, kind, n civilized.”

“I love you so blinking much, that i’m jolly well tearing up,wot wot!”

“You’re a blinkin’ genius, wot wot!”

(Yes, I am, thank you, but in this case, credit goes to Gregg Murset, My Job Chart founder, financial planner, and father of six.)

And Young Son enjoys my notes as well:

“I always knew you were a hard worker, but this is inspiring. I appreciate all you’re doing.”

So I’ll return to my teaching prep now as a delightful child practices musical theater solos while scrubbing his bathtub.


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Friday Flick: Virtual Choir

We’re so glad Eric Whitacre did not make it as a pop star. Here’s a TED talk on his composing and creating influences: Mozart and a fan on YouTube. It’s also about the lengths to which humans will go to connect, and how well we do connect across technology. Enjoy!

Eric Whitacre Virtual Choir on TED Screen shot
Eric Whitacre Virtual Choir on TED


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Books: Too Good to Die

Antique_books_copyright_Jesse Karjalainen_iStockPhoto_5233400
© Jesse Karjalainen, iStockphoto® #5233400

True–you’re reading this online and you probably read eBooks of some sort. But technology also expands the options for traditional books as well.

Back in 2005, Valerie Kirschenbaum published Goodbye Gutenberg: How a Bronx Teacher Defied 500 Years of History and Launched an Astonishing Renaissance. She was teaching the Canterbury Tales when a high school student asked, “How come our books are not in color like they used to be?” This led to her researching beautifully designed books of earlier centuries, and proposing that since we’re no longer limited to black-and-white and a single font or two, why not design full out? She gets so carried away, there are chapters where you’re ready for boredom relief. But when you reach the chapter printed in black and white, it’s so stark, it’s hard to believe we’re tolerating that.

(I would have titled this book Welcome Back, Gutenberg. I’ve been to the Mainz museum and seen an original Gutenberg Bible; it was stunning. Gutenberg did not invent ugly books. Let’s blame someone else.)

Many of the possibilities she predicted are playing out all over the digital book world. We don’t even remember how recent this is. We’re already so accustomed to it, I feel obligated to apologize for not illustrating this post.

Meanwhile, traditional bookmaking–handbound, letterpress, you name it–is also kicking. Here are a few projects and ventures I happen to know of. Please chime in to share more!

Pyracantha Press at Arizona State University: fine art limited editions

The Paper Studio, Tempe, AZ and online

Elissa Campbell’s handcrafted journals at Blue Roof Designs

Quinn McDonald’s, Raw Art Journaling

University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Kohler Library of Artists’ Books

Minnesota Book Arts

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.

HBR on Hiring Humanities Majors

Second Road’s Tony Golsby-Smith writes for a Harvard Business Review guest blog, “People trained in the humanities who study Shakespeare’s poetry, or Cezanne’s paintings, say, have learned to play with big concepts, and to apply new ways of thinking to difficult problems that can’t be analyzed in conventional ways. Here are just a few things that the liberal arts crowd can help you with” [and he describes each in some detail]:
  • Complexity and ambiguity
  • Innovation
  • Communication and presentation
  • Customer and employee satisfaction

Naturally, a bit of debate ensued–humanities and science majors are both well trained for that. And I found myself relating to many angles discussed.

While I agree with most of Tony’s observations, I wouldn’t suggest that I might have prevented the BP oil spill.

But on the other hand, I never dreamed as a baby English major, even while taking turns on our academic journal’s dedicated typesetting computer, that my work would become dependent upon technology, and that I’d even become a passionate contributor to it. Maybe we can’t be classified by majors anymore.

We’ve always had our Renaissance examples. When I was sixteen, I visited a friend’s American-on-sabbatical family in Germany, where the physics professor dad designed my itinerary like a course in humanities, his true avocation. It seemed remarkable at the time.

Now what else could we be? How could we not be interdisciplinary, constantly learning, collaborative beings?

What a great era for creating–on as many canvases as possible!


Harvard Business Review: Want Innovative Thinking? Hire from the Humanities

A Word about Copyright

Copyright folder and stamp copyright Paga Design iStockPhoto 000014148465
© Paga Design, by iStockPhoto® #14148465

My composer son believes in copyright karma. In high school, while pirated music surrounded him, he could have played his iTunes around the clock for two weeks straight without duplicating a track, and every note of it was legally paid for. He wanted others to respect his intellectual property rights so he lived it.

In this era of downloadable music, photos, and books, the profits are tiny–we have to hope quantity compensates–and the connections between creators and buyers are rare.

On this site, I like to give copyright notice for the photos I use and their sources, even though that isn’t required. I do it to thank those artists and organizations who created and distributed them, and to protect their rights whenever someone wants an image they spotted here. I rename the files to include the copyright owner so they can’t be illegally used unwittingly. Remember, that just because we aren’t charging for our use of someone’s work does not give license to reproduce or display it.

Recently I learned that the stock photo service I’ve enjoyed for several years hosts a discussion forum to celebrate works spotted in use. Apparently, it’s the colleagues who usually post these, not the buyers. We buyers could be more thoughtful. I know that whenever I have taken time to thank a photographer and share my image placement, that gesture was enthusiastically welcomed. Here’s what I posted on the iStock in Action forum:

“Lately I’ve gotten lazy about contacting individual photographers to thank you for the great shots to illustrate my blog. And because I’m involved in WordPress’s PostADay2011 challenge, there are more of you to thank! I just learned about this forum, so I’m thanking you publicly and collectively.

“Thank you for the photos that fit my blog perfectly and made that touch of class affordable. Thank you for the ones I almost chose. Thank you for a few still waiting their turns. Thank you for images that inspired blog posts instead of the other way around. Thank you for those that stunned me or made me smile. Thank you for capturing the beauty in the world.”

“Today, I thank Parema for the ice cream cart:” (And I linked to Thursday’s blog.)

And now I’ve picked a new one, so I owe Paga Design a thank you note.


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011, All Rights Reserved

Photo © Paga Design, iStockphoto® #14148465