Announcing the official 12.12.12 essay contest

Announcing the official 12.12.12 essay contest

December 4, 2012 |  by  |  Live life fully, Wordbliss  |  , ,  |  121 Comments


To celebrate the rad date coming to a calendar near you, I’m pleased to announce the one and only 12.12.12 essay contest.

All that stands between you and one of the 12 fantastic prizes below is a 12-word essay. (Yup, you read that right!) Write your essay on any topic, any style. Haiku it up. Give me your best poetry. Go sappy, bold, or scientific. Whatever you do, use your own words. Give your original essay a title, and enter by 11:59 p.m. MST on December 10, doing the following:

1. “Like” the delighted to write Facebook page (if you already did, you rock!)
2a. Write your 12-word essay in the comment section of this post – OR- 
2b. “Share” the essay announcement and your essay on Facebook.

I’ll judge the essays on December 11, and announce the 12 winners on 12.12.12, at 12:12pm. (Yeah, I’m getting pretty into the number thing – after all, the world won’t see a six-digit matching date like this until January 2101!)

After selecting six winners in predetermined categories, I’ll do a random drawing to determine the other six, so everyone has a chance to win.

New note for ARIZONANS: If you live in the Phoenix-metro area, you’re eligible to win the photo shoot with Selena of Sorensen Studios. Please indicate {from PHX} with your essay entry.

New note if you’re under 18:  I have a prize just for you! Please indicate your age, like this: {age 16}. Thanks, and good luck!

Prizes, baby!

We all know the best part of contests are the PRIZES and I’m pleased to announce these totally awesome sponsors for this celebration of words.  See descriptions of prizes below. Value totaling more than $700.*


1. Artist (and my talented mama!) Chalice offers an original 18 x 24 acrylic painting, “Drop of Honey.” It’s hand-stretched 3/4″ solid wood frame, perfect for frameless display. See her ColorExpression Fine Arts Studio Etsy shop for colorful gift ideas you won’t find anywhere else. ($150 value)

2. Brittany of OohThePlacesYoullGo Etsy shop will give a lucky winner a unique notebook journal. ($5.25 value)

3. Wordologist Amy Taylor offers a website analysis and one free hour of copywriting services. Check out her site to see how she works the word magic: ($150 value)

4. Creative genius Nick of will let a winner choose an 8×10 print of one of his General Conference message designs. See the selection here. ($20 value)

5. Clever Preston of Ink of Me agreed to sponsor a typography masterpiece, “Home is Where the Heart Is.” Love the personalized options! ($15 value)

6. Ready for your closeup? Win a mini photo shoot with Selena of Sorensen Studios! She took the typewriter pictures of me you see here and makes every shoot FUN. *Only for friends in the Phoenix-metro area. ($250 value)

7. Write like Shakespeare! This calligraphy set includes two traditionally made hand-cut quills, one ink bottle with powdered ink, ten pieces of marbled paper, and a Chauncery Cursive Calligraphy Guide – everything you need to get started. Sponsored by Jason of PendorasBox. ($15 value)

8. Just in time for Christmas, Elizabeth is sponsoring this set of Vintage Snow Man Christmas Gift Cards. See her darling Etsy shop, MSLIZZ for more gifting ideas. ($6 value)

9. Crafty Caitlin of Caitlin’s Creations handmade this paper bunting from patterned scrapbook paper, vintage dictionary pages her blue and white striped bias tape. Comes with velcro closures for easy hanging. ($12 value)

10. From her brand new site (check it out!) Lemons and Lace, Joslyn is sponsoring a Chevron Craze turban headband, handmade with black and white chevron fabric and black bow. Made with stretchy knit for all-day comfort. ($9.99 value)

11. Author and blogger Brittany will send a lucky someone her book, “Play Together, Stay Together: Games that Fortify Your Family.” Check out her blog for ideas on strengthening your family through recreation. ($9.99 value)

12. This hand-crocheted hat with detachable flower was made with 100% acrylic yarn. It was made to fit slouchy style on infant/smaller toddler or beanie style on larger toddler/smaller preschooler. See more of Emma’s creations at ($25 value)

*Value of prizes is actually higher than denoted, since shipping and handling are not included. The sponsors will be sending the prizes to the winners and/or coordinating the services.

In defense of four-letter words

In defense of four-letter words

November 14, 2012 |  by  |  Wordbliss  |  , , ,  |  8 Comments

Why do four-letter words get such a bad rap? There's much more to them than wash-your-mouth-out varieties.  Think about it. We livelove, and grow every day.

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Monkey see, monkey read

Monkey see, monkey read

October 17, 2012 |  by  |  Wordbliss  |  , , , ,  |  No Comments

As you read this sentence, you're distinguishing words from gobbledygook letters. You're even connecting meaning to the words you see. Pat yourself on the back; you're one step ahead of smart baboons. Researchers in France's Aix-Marseille University discovered this year that baboons can learn to identify English words. Reported in this month's National Geographic, "Choice Words" explains the study. Researchers presented four-letter combinations to six Guinea baboons, giving the primates a screen indicator to choose if they were looking at a word or non-word. With practice (try 10,000 attempts each!), the baboons could spot actual words with nearly 75 percent accuracy.

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Words with friends: What's in YOUR name?

Words with friends: What’s in YOUR name?

Words with Friends, I was way ahead of you. Bust out the creativity, and boredom hasn't got a chance. With so many words to read, write, and discuss, there's an endless supply of entertainment. Introducing...a word game you can play whenever you need to fill time on a long plane taxi, waiting at the bus stop, or to combat death by meeting. Entertaining for kids of all ages, this game can be played anywhere you can find pen and paper - no cards, Scrabble pieces, iPads, or batteries required.

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Is happiness for sale?

Is happiness for sale?


We’re surrounded in words: food packaging, billboard ads, tweets, newspaper articles, targeted Facebook ads, and text messages. Ads target us with increasingly sophisticated technologies. Admittedly, I contribute to the phonetic flurry of marketing messages, while doing my best to create relevant content that’s worthy of eyeball time. In observing and critiquing other marketing material, I notice patterns of catch phrases, like:


Advertisers seem to lure consumers on an Easter-egg-like treasure hunt for happiness, persuasive pathos at its best. After all, is there anything we want more than to be happy? While a brilliant marketing tactic, I’ve spent considerable time thinking about whether I agree with deploying such a power-packed word in the name of sales.

Above you see a sign from a local women’s gym. Every time I pass by, my eyes shoot straight to that top phrase: “Happiness is a gorgeous figure.” Really? Is that all it boils down to?

We’ve all seen Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness” tagline, which has been selling sugar water since 2009. On Coke’s  happiness site, they declare: “The quest for true happiness is not really a quest at all, but a decision and a choice. So don’t wait another moment. Open an ice cold Coca-Cola and choose happiness!” Interesting.

I’m quite a Disney fan, and I’m sure you’re aware they’ve declared their land “The Happiest Place on Earth.While it’s a joy for my family, I know others who do all in their power to avoid it.

The most far-fetched happiness ad I saw on my way to work. It’s from CLEAR, and apparently they’ve solved the happiness equation too: “Happiness can be found with a mobile internet provider.” 

And let’s not forget Happy Meals, which can change a child’s life for $2.99. At least they’ll be cheery while chomping those chicken nuggets and playing with the soon-to-be-broken toy, right? Just wait until the next day, when they throw a fit for more “happiness.”

Does happiness really boil down to the Mad Men advertisers’ definition on this Youtube clip: “What is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.”

Advertisers know the “pursuit of happiness” is near and dear to Americans, branded into the U.S. Declaration of Independence as one of the “inalienable rights” with which all human beings are endowed by their Creator.  But do they really expect us to believe happiness is found in a gorgeous figure or downing a bottle of Coke? (And don’t those two contradict?!) Do you agree?

While I don’t have all the answers to the marketing mix, I don’t believe true, enduring happiness can be bought.  Nor does it have a price tag. True happiness, for me, is found in meaningful, loving relationships. It’s a product of being true to myself and my values. It’s found in enjoying nature, progressing and learning, and engaging the creative process.

I’d love your thoughts on the topic: Can happiness really be found in a Coke, as the ad says? What’s your philosophy on happiness in our world of consumerism? Do you have other examples of “happiness placement” in ads? Let’s hear it.


The dying art of handwriting; is cursive cursed?

The dying art of handwriting; is cursive cursed?

September 5, 2012 |  by  |  Wordbliss  |  , ,  |  20 Comments


Flash back to elementary school and you’ll recall learning cursive handwriting. You swooped loops, dotted and dashed, trying your hardest to mimic Mrs. Anderson’s delicate letters on the board.

Most kids in school today will not share this memory. I learned recently in the National Geographic’s  “Disappearing Act” article* about cursive’s path to becoming obsolete in our digital age.

First, a mini history lesson. Did you know cursive filled the need of the quill pen? “Fragile and prone to splattering,” the quill made for tricky learning in grammar schools, but cursive’s “continuous paper contact” made writing easier for beginning youngsters. When block print was introduced in the early 1900s, “cursive classes slid to the third grade.”

In the past two generations, the widespread adoption of computers has sealed cursive’s fate. “As of the start of 2012, 45 states had adopted the Common Core State Standards for education, which included instruction in typing and use of digital tools for writing but leave out cursive altogether – the ‘start of the end,’ according to handwriting historian Steve Graham.”

Call me a literary preservationist. I can’t help but feel sad the age-old form of communication, letters written in cursive, has become an archaic art.

I’d love to know: What do you think about the dying art of cursive? What about a future world where handwriting may not exist? Do you think that will ever happen?

*National Geographic magazine, July 2012, quotes from the magazine article

Image courtesy of Practical Pages.

'Bouquet of newly sharpened pencils' time of year

‘Bouquet of newly sharpened pencils’ time of year

August 29, 2012 |  by  |  Wordbliss  |  , ,  |  2 Comments


Back to school time is in the air. Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) put it best in You’ve Got Mail: “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” (Insert happy sigh by almost every woman who’s ever seen this film. Men: take note.)

You don’t have to live in New York to appreciate the thrill of the first day of school. It’s time to turn a new page, progress to the next grade, reunite with friends and make new ones. This week I’ve seen little kids at the bus stop dwarfed by their big kid backpacks. I’ve read a flurry of Facebook posts sharing excitement for college football and mixed feelings on starting new classes. I’ve started a graduate leadership communication class myself.

Here at the cusp of fall, I can’t help but think back and realize: I’ve loved school since before I was old enough to attend. At the ripe old age of four, I could hardly wait for kindergarten. In fact, I’d give myself hours of “assignments” copying words I couldn’t yet read out of books. We still have the Little Mermaid spiral notebook of my carefully crafted letters. At six I crayon-illustrated and wrote my first books on copy paper, and created library cards for my family to “check out” my growing collection.

More than two decades later, words, language, books, communication, and academia continue to lure me in. On the subject, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan said, “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”

Bring it on.



Word wrangler and rodeo riders

Word wrangler and rodeo riders

August 15, 2012 |  by  |  Wordbliss  |  , ,  |  10 Comments


Howdy, partner. I often refer to writing as word wrangling. I may not be a boot-stompin’ cowgirl, but you bet your bottom dollar I spend my days lassoing words.

Recently my husband and I attended a local rodeo that attracted riders from across the country. As we hooted and hollered with the crowd, I realized the similarities between writers and riders go beyond the fact that they’re homophones.* In fact, here’s six.

6 things writers and rodeo riders have in common

 1. Your end result is on display for all to see. After drafts and edits, revisions and headaches, a writer’s work is out in the open, available for the audience, whether that’s a boss, a grant-awarding committee, a client, or a national consumer audience. Likewise, rodeo riders spend endless hours perfecting their lasso or getting their grip just right for their 10-second bull ride in front of the beer-guzzling crowd.

2. You take ownership of the animal. To be a successful writer, you must take a decisive lead over concepts and words, deciding where to go and how to get your readers there. When a rodeo rider takes that leap into the arena on bare back, darn tootin’ they own their animal.

3. You have stiff competition. With approximately 15 million books published in 2012, and an avalanche of digital media sources, there’s more to read than can ever be read. It’s intimidating for writers. The rodeo competitors we watched also had a narrow margin between champion and the guy no one remembers. That’s tough love, but it’s true.

4. You make your craft look good. When a writer gets it right, their words jump off the page (or screen). It’s both a talent and a hard-earned skill. The same goes for rodeo queens. Woo-whee, they whip around that arena with hairspray-plastered locks flying behind, and it’s almost like you’ve witnessed art in a cowboy hat.

5. You like attention. Let’s face it: If you’re going to throw your ideas out to the world, you like the spotlight. In fact, there’s almost nothing a writer likes more than having others partake and respond to their words. Comments are the way to their heart. (Not hinting here…OK, well maybe.) Rodeo riders are the same – whether on a bull, steer wrestling, barrel racing, tie-down roping; they’re addicted to those bright stadium lights and the roar of the crowd. It’s pounds of work for ounces of spotlight, but it’s worth it.

6. You know you can’t win them all. Alas, not every marketing email gets the click-through rate you want, manuscripts get rejection letters, and some worthy blog posts get ignored. Writers are no strangers to rejection, but with some grit, their next victory may be on its way. Rodeo competitors know that only one name will grace the billboard as the winner. Especially if you’re these guys.


*Flashback to your English class. “Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings.” Think flower and flour, peace and piece. Next time you’re on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,’ you’ll thank me; I take a 5% winning commission.

Party time!

Party time!

August 8, 2012 |  by  |  Wordbliss  |  , ,  |  6 Comments


Confetti? Check. Cue the music; it’s time to celebrate!

You may have already heard about this writing blog, liked the Facebook page, or stumbled here serendipitously (isn’t that a great word?) No matter what brought you, I’m delighted you’re here.

I’m Crystalee, and I love to write. The way I see it, our world is made of words, and I can’t get enough of them. After all, without words, how would you get a card in the mail from a long-time friend, see funny grammar mistakes on a bathroom sign,  quote your favorite movie line, critique a billboard advertisement as you drive by, or feel that pat-yourself-on-the-back satisfaction when you get a sentence just right?

When words come purposefully together, magic happens. Writing or reading, you’ve no doubt realized words have tremendous power. You know the feeling, when you read a book, article, or even a phrase and it touches you, reaches something deep inside and makes you want to share with the nearest person who will listen?

I call feeling that wordbliss. I hope we’ll have many wordbliss moments here – I’m thrilled to learn from you.

On this launch post, I’d like to recognize the wonderful people who encouraged, taught, edited, and assisted me.  Here’s the kind village who helped launch this blog:

Thank you everyone who’s already liked, followed, tweeted, subscribed – I’ve seen every one of your names and sincerely thank you for your support.

Thank you talented Blaine for designing the logo and being patient in the process.

Thank you Selena Sorensen for sharing your gifted photographer’s eye.

Thank you Jen and Katy for being my pre-photo hair support team.

Thank you Phil, Amy, Katie, and Samantha for being the first professionals who will be featured. You’re all oh-so-talented and I’m ecstatic to share your words.

Thank you MPC professor, Dr. Josephson, for editing upcoming posts and supporting this launch as my summer grad project. (And giving it an ‘A’!)

Thank you to my amazing colleagues at MarketStar who trust me as go-to editor, writer, and manager of company blogs and social platforms. That experience gives me confidence for this venture! Dave, Adam G., Adam P., Phil, Manuel, Tim, Brenda, Candis, Catina, Travis, Jeff, Katie B., Jay, Julie (the list could go on and on): thanks for teaching me every day about marketing and business at a best-in-class level.

Thank you Katie Salter and Ryan Olsen for your professional and peer edits of my pre-launch marketing plan.

Thank you Mark Carpenter for challenging me to start a blog years ago and being my mentor and friend.

Thank you my mentor in Chicago, who believed I could write. I’ll never forget when you told me during my internship I’d have “one helluva career.”

Thank you Adam Price, my brilliant developer/designer guru friend, for helping me get WordPress set up.

Thank you Amy Wilde for being my special writing friend. Your encouragement means more than you know.

Thank you Mom for regularly library visits when I was a kid and instilling the belief I can do anything I set my mind to.

Thank you Dad for yesteryear’s reading challenges and your adventurous way of exploring new lands and thoughts.

Thank you Jim, Sue, Ron, Trisha, Erika, Matt, Emily, Crysti, Dave, John, Rob, Jen, Kensi, Richard, Tami, Randy, Riley – I’m blessed to have such great family. I love you all.

Most of all, thank you to my Ryan, who lets me stay up too late writing, probably more than he’d like.  You’re my favorite.


P.S. Tune in this Saturday for the first spotlight to meet a communication professional who worked behind the scenes at the Olympic Games in 2002.

Let the countdown begin

Let the countdown begin

July 19, 2012 |  by  |  Wordbliss  |  No Comments

Delighted to meet you. In the next couple weeks I’ll be launching this long-awaited writing blog. Part-personal goal, part-grad project, I’ve been cooking up ideas for this baby for more than a year!

Thanks for being one of the very first to check out You’re welcome here anytime.

Your writing friend,



P.S. If you’re liking what you see, please let me know with a ‘Like’ on the Facebook page. –>