Now this PR gal knows how it feels to be the subject, rather than the writer, of a press release. With a background in public relations, I’m all too familiar with press releases. I find it incredibly rewarding to find stories worth sharing and putting others in the spotlight. (Thus, Saturday Spotlights.) Well…
I’ve had a taste of prime time myself this week!
When WSU University Communication’s intern, Marcus, interviewed me about my international award and gratitude research, I recalled I had his exact job (except at BYU) six years ago. As a Features Writer Intern, it was my job to track down newsworthy research findings in two colleges. Fast forward to now, and I’m answering instead of asking. Quite surreal.
Since Weber State University’s release Tuesday, it’s been a flurry of sharing my research on gratitude. Wednesday brought a newspaper article with a shout out on the front page, Thursday a prime time TV interview, and countless congratulations in between. What a rush. I never could have guessed my little abstract, submitted last fall without expectation of acceptance, would garner such attention. I’ve thought a lot about the quote that serves as Jabari Parker’s Twitter bio:
“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” (John Wooden)
I don’t expect to have every future endeavor fall into place as this one did. Hard work rarely results in such visible results. But I will continue to share stories worth telling, and pursuing my passions. As the Weber State press release quoted me, “I am coming away feeling empowered to continue to surprise myself. I want to be a contributor, whether that is in a professional or an academic sphere.” I don’t know where exactly my interests in research, communication, and gratitude will take me. But this writer sure hopes there’s a book (or three!) along the way.
I can’t end without saying thanks. I feel a swell of gratitude for this experience. Thank you to Weber State University, the MPC program, CCI, and MarketStar. Thank you to the Standard Examiner and KSL 5 for sharing that gratitude DOES matter in the workplace. Thank you to my Ryan, who literally goes around the world and back to support my dreams.
And thank you, reader friend, for joining the journey. Your support means a whole lot to me.
CHECK IT OUT
WSU Student Recieves International Award for Thesis on Gratitude in the Workplace (Weber State press release)
WSU Study: Gratitude Rates High in the Workplace (Standard Examiner article)
WSU graduate receives international award for master’s thesis (WSU Signpost article)
Crystalee Beck Receives Best Theoretical Paper Award (CCI press release)
Sometimes when you shoot for the moon, be ready surprise yourself.
Turns out writing can take you places – literally – and here’s my recap. It’s been a month since I returned from attending the CCI Conference on Corporate Communication 2014 at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University where I presented findings of my master’s thesis. Thank goodness for pictures and press releases, or I might think it was merely a dream.
Putting the “International” into CCI
My first time to such a conference, where 25 nations were represented by scholars and professionals, I loved saying “the United States” when asked where I was from. I met friends from Italy, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, England, Australia, Canada, China, Malaysia, Netherlands, and many U.S. states. We all spoke English. Imagine the variety of accents! I didn’t realize it would be such an academic crowd; the majority of those who attended hold a Ph.D. and teach at universities. A fascinating group, they truly understand communication – our meals together were noisy with buzzing conversations of common interest.
My Turn to Present
During that four-day conference, I soaked up as much as a jet-lagged body could from others who are also passionate about communication. By the time it was my turn to present on the third day, a pit of nervousness welled up. I’d seen so many impressive presentations from these intellectuals, many of whom had decades of experience on me. Yet, when I stood up and looked out at the crowd, including my good husband who took a trip around the world to be my support crew, I felt at ease. I was among friends. I did my best to represent my university and company, sharing key findings of my research on managerial gratitude.
That night at the Awards Dinner, I had one of the biggest surprises of my life when MY paper was named “Best Theoretical Paper” of the conference. I’m still stunned, and have replayed those couple of minutes many times in my mind. The standing ovation. The applause of new friends. The heavy glass award. I held back the surprised tears, barely. Thank you to the CCI Conference Judging Committee for selecting my paper. It made all my hundreds of hours in the university library definitely worth it. And shout out to Christina Genest, CCI Associate Director and Michael B. Goodman, Ph.D., CCI Director, who made everyone in attendance feel like family.
Want to know more about Corporate Communication International? I know I’m a huge fan. Check out the CCI site, here.
I recently stumbled across a fabulous TED Talk. Elizabeth Gilbert, known for her internationally acclaimed memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love,” shared insights into what it was like to have skyrocketing success as a writer.
Surprisingly, such writing fame made her feel the same misplacement of self as she did in her years as unpublished waitress. The heights of success and lows of rejection felt the same to her subconscious: an unsettling distance from her center. After that explanation, she really caught my attention by saying she needed to get back “home” as quickly as possible.
Gilbert describes home as “what we love more than we love ourselves.” For her, it’s writing. When I grant myself the time and space to flow with words, I really feel at home too.
What is “home” for you?
Ok, world record books, listen up. My baby recently graduated from a master’s program! She attended classes (in utero), patiently let me write my thesis during maternity leave, and sported her own mini cap and gown. Yep, she’s quite the accomplished 12-week-old. Ha!
All jokes aside, it was a thrill to graduate last week from the Master of Professional Communication program at Weber State University. Being in the Class of 2014 came with special allure during the university’s 125th anniversary year. You can see sheer joy in this picture. I felt such relief to have pulled off my degree as an exhausted new mom, and literally could not have done it without an ultra-supportive husband. He’s the best.
There are many reasons folks go after advanced degrees. I wanted to polish my skills, and increase my professional confidence (double check). Besides the new line on my LinkedIn profile, less in my bank account, and a fancy piece of paper for my wall, what did I get out of grad school? Allow me to share a few key takeaways.
This very blog was launched as part of an Advanced Writing class assignment in summer of 2012. It’d been a long-time desire of mine to start a blog, and getting school credit (and editing on my initial posts, a la Dr. Josephson) was enough to jump-start a launch. I made a marketing plan, threw myself a “blog party,” and here you are, reading the outcome. By having a digital platform, I’ve had many, many people approach me who I never would have met otherwise. It’s been wonderful to make these new connections and learn so much from professionals featured on Spotlight Saturdays.
New video skills
I’d never once edited a video before the MPC. After a summer of practice in our New Media class, I felt comfortable enough to try my own video. Little did I know it would go viral. My pregnancy announcement on YouTube has had 38, 600 views to date.
Published master’s thesis, presenting at an international conference
It’d been one of my goals of grad school to be published. That meant I needed to write an original paper worth publishing. I learned through the process that sometimes when you shoot for the moon, you hit it head-on. I submitted an abstract of my thesis topic awhile back and was delighted to be not only accepted, but asked to present at an international corporate communication conference. My thesis is titled, “Perceptions of Thanks in the Workplace: Uses, Effectiveness, and Dark Sides of Managerial Gratitude,” and it was the most challenging academic project I’ve ever done. After nearly 150 hours recruiting, researching, data-analyzing, writing, and editing (all during pregnancy and maternity leave), I’m really pleased with the result. I’ll be sharing key findings on this blog in the coming month, so stay tuned.
Conflict resolution capabilities
The class that stretched me most was Clair Canfield’s “Conflict Resolution” class and his “trust the process” mantra. Before that eight-week block class, I saw conflict as something to be avoided. He opened my eyes. I came away liberated from old fears, willing to see conflict (two parties expressing seemingly opposing needs) as an opportunity. Don’t make me mediate Russia and Ukraine, but I do have tools now to creatively work through my own personal conflicts.
Associations with intelligent professionals and mentors
Our 22-student cohort has spent many, many hours together in the past two years. I spoke at our master’s hooding ceremony, and as I shared then, I literally have learned from every one of my student peers. We’ve laughed together, worked through group projects, and shared much of ourselves.They are a fun, talented bunch, and I will miss them. I’ve also really appreciated the supportive MPC Director and my empowering Thesis Committee. Kathy, Sheree, and Susan, your belief in me and my ideas has helped me believe in myself.
My mini graduate
Saved the best for last. My favorite line of my 46-page thesis is in the Acknowledgements section: “And finally, thanks to little Lydia, who made the author a mother during the course of this research.” Being her mother is the best thing I’ve ever done, and having her during my master’s program made it all the more memorable.
In sum, I grew in grad school. Grew my skills. Grew my network. Grew a baby. You can say I’ve gained two new titles in the past three months, both of which I cherish. Call me Mama, MPC.
Like people, words come in all shapes and varieties. Some are much easier to swallow, and much more fun to write.
I’ve been chin-deep in writing my master’s thesis lately. While I can pull it off, this type of academic writing is true work for me. It’s detailed. It’s exact. It’s stretching me in ways that make me feel I’m really making my graduate degree more than a piece of paper. (If you’re interested, I introduced the topic here.) I guess I’m a glutton for a good challenge, because I chose to include quantitative research. While I’m really proud of myself for putting together a publishable academic article (my thesis abstract has been accepted at an international corporate communication conference!), this is not the kind of writing I’d want to do every day.
No, in my heart of hearts, I have a thing for writing (and reading) essays. Personal narratives, to be specific. Pouring my heart into words does make me feel vulnerable, but it’s such an exhilaration to know snapshots of my life have been recorded in word.
Happy to share the first paragraph of my recently published essay, “The Pregnant Lady in My Mirror,” on Mamalode:
One day I met a pregnant lady in my mirror. She appeared there suddenly, after two positive lines indicated a big change was coming. Her eyes sparkled with joy; she’d dreamed of this for a long time.
Read the rest of this essay here.
Ever ate humble pie? I had a serving recently and want to share about the tart taste, lest I forget.
I received an email from a gal I lived with in college. (Believe it or not, I had 47 roommates during my undergraduate years, so that’s not a giveaway of her identity. Out of respect, I want to keep her name and the specific issue at hand anonymous. Let’s call her Ally.) I hadn’t heard from her in ages, and was quite surprised to see her name in my inbox. In eight eloquent paragraphs, Ally let me know I’d hurt her feelings. She wrapped up with, “I hope you treat (someone else) with more dignity and grace than you did me.”
Let me back up. This Ally is a mover and shaker, a real spitfire kind of woman. She thinks for herself, and has been a public spokeswoman about an important issue. She and I have strong, opposing feelings when it comes to this particular topic. Nearly a year ago a popular blogger wrote about it and I’d added an angry, judgmental comment, referring indirectly to Ally.
Fast forward to now, and I don’t feel the same way. Not at all. But when I clicked on the link she sent me, there were my old thoughts about her, posted for anyone on the Internet to see. Ally was completely justified in being upset about the cutting words I’d left behind. I responded to her email, apologizing with words like these:
Rather than giving you the chance to hear what I thought directly, I wrote a hasty comment on the ___ blog. A comment I quickly forgot, until you sent it to me nearly a year later. The Internet has a long memory.
Indeed it does. As one with a communication background, you’d think I’d know better. But I’m human. And this is the lesson I learned:
The words we leave in our digital wake can make waves long after we’ve forgotten them. Post wisely.
I reached out to the blogger, asking for my comment to be removed. As for Ally and I, she forgave me and we’re moving forward as friends.
Turns out tart humble pie can turn sweet, mid-bite.
Every now and then you come across young talent and think, “This kid’s really GOT IT.” Say hello to this month’s Saturday Spotlight, a writer of the musical variety. Sammy Brue is a 12-year-old songwriting, Sundance-performing folk singer. He’s been catching the eye of the media (Esquire magazine interviewed him recently) and is the star of a documentary in the making. Sammy’s lyrics hold maturity beyond his seventh-grade years and his tunes carry a unique, down-to-earth realness that sticks, long after hearing him. Big record label, here he comes. (Don’t miss his video below. Dare you to watch without getting the tune in your head!)
Q. Sammy, you’re 12 now. When did you start writing songs?
I got my first guitar when I was 10 and about two weeks later I wrote my first song. My dad taught me like three chords, and all my life I’ve grown up listening to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash – that’s where I got my folk scene, and I guess I taught myself.
Q. How many songs would you say you’ve written, and do the words or tune come first?
I’ve been writing a lot lately. I think I’ve written like 15-18 songs. I do a lot of short songs, and that’s when I put my songwriting to the test. I usually write the first two verses and then I get stuck until two weeks later. Sometimes I do the tunes first, and sometimes with the words first.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration?
Q. This was your second year performing at Sundance in Park City. How’d it go?
I saw a whole bunch of movie stars and stuff like that. I usually busk on the street. In the main place I play at, HP Lounge, where I’m most popular, and Indie Lounge. Sylvester Stallone’s brother Frank loved me so much he told his manager about me, and his manager is pretty legit.
Q. What’s the best part – writing a song or performing it?
Performing it because I love watching the faces of the people, the look like, “Oh my gosh.” I love being center of attention.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself on the road a lot and in school probably. Living a good life, playing music.
Without further ado, here’s a Sammy Brue original, titled, “I Don’t Wanna Die.”
Connect with Sammy Brue
Know that thrilling feeling when you meet someone by happenstance and the two of you instantly connect? That’s how I feel about a book I started this week.
As part of my pre-baby nesting rush, I asked a dear friend to take me on a library run a couple weeks ago (thanks, Priscilla!) Knowing I’d have hours of feeding time ahead, I ambitiously brought home an armful of books, hoping for potential “friends” to keep me company. Granted, I’m going at it slower than I’d like (already had to renew library reservations), but I’m so glad Wendy Lesser’s Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books (2014) caught my eye in the “Popular” section.
The book’s theme (writing about reading) complements this blog’s intentions of “writing about writing.” She’s endeared herself to me, this author, knowing just how to phrase poignant feelings I have about reading, words, and literature. A few share-worthy gems from her introduction:
Reading has, at any rate, the virtue of being one-to-one. It’s just you and the book, enclosed within a private space; it some ways that means it’s just you, alone with an inert object you are temporarily bringing to life. (p. 6)
Isn’t that lovely? It’s true, reading is such an intimate act. Yet, there’s also a sense of conversational partnership between the reader and the writer. I also love this:
Reading literature is a way of reaching back to something bigger and older and different. It can give you the feeling that you belong to the past as well as to the present, and it can help you realize that your present will someday be someone else’s past. This may be disheartening, but it can also be strangely consoling at times. (p. 6)
I completely agree. Reading (and writing) allows one to transport through time and space, experiencing another’s thoughts. Lesser’s words on revisiting books mirror my recent assertion that “books are friends to be revisited again and again,” with the beautiful analogy:
Even the second or third or tenth time you read it, a book can surprise you, and to discover a new writer you love is like discovering a whole new country. (p. 4)
A whole planet of reading awaits. For now, I’m content keeping track of my when-I-can-get-them moments with books on my new Goodreads account, admiring the tiny sleeping beauty in my arms.
Please share: What are your suggestions on authors and books you love?
Here I sit, belly ripe and heart full, ready to welcome my first baby. At 39 weeks along, she’ll be making her world debut very soon. As I told my husband recently about this coming babe, I believe if there’s one thing we can do to grant her a head-start on living life fully, it’s teaching her to love reading. Here’s an open letter to our daughter; my take on why books matter so very much.
Dear little one,
We are so excited to meet you! We’re here to help you learn and grow, and feel honored for the privilege of being your parents and love you already. As your mama, I will teach you to educate yourself, explore the world, and become familiar with the thoughts and lessons of those who have come before you. Thanks to my sweet auntie who hosted a book baby shower for you, and many people who love you, we have a little library prepared for your earliest days. Here are seven things I’ve learned about books:
1. Books are friends to revisit again and again.
From the picture books of your childhood to the chapter books you’ll read later on, books can feel like friends. C.S. Lewis wrote, “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once…” and “Clearly one must read every good book at least once every ten years.” When you go back to books from yesteryear, you read from a different perspective. Some of my very favorites, like The Princess Bride, I reread every year.
2. Books allow you to visit new places without ever leaving the room.
See the world! From Winnie the Pooh’s sweetly simple Hundred Acre Wood to the intergalactic space visions of Ender’s Game, there are many places your mind can go when reading. Your imagination has the power to paint mental pictures that feel more real than watching movies.
3. Books feed your mind. Choose to fill it with the good and uplifting.
In one of my all-time favorite speeches, Douglas Callister said, “If we know the books located at the bedside, we know much about the man.” This is true. He added an important thought from President David O. McKay: “With companions, so with books. We may choose those which will make us better, more intelligent, more appreciative of the good and beautiful in the world, or we may choose the trashy, the vulgar, the obscene, which will make us feel as though we’ve been ‘wallowing in the mire.'”
4. Don’t waste your time with books you don’t like.
In addition to choosing good books, explore what interests you. Berenstein Bears books? Good call. Books on ancient Aztecs? Cool. Books on how to make finger puppets? Right on. I’ll warn you now there may be school-assigned books in the future you don’t prefer. But when selecting your own reading material, never feel you have to finish a book if it becomes drudgery to read. Life’s too short! There are too many hundreds of thousands of fascinating books out there to waste time with books you don’t like. As Wendy Lesser said in her book Why I Read, “there is nothing shameful about giving up a book in the middle: that is the exercise of taste.”
5. It’s OK to write (and even color) in books you love.
Make sure you own it, though. We never write in library books, k? When I say this, I’m thinking about all the scriptures I’ve highlighted, and non-fiction books I refer back to again and again. Some words merit highlighting so you can find them again later. Plus, adding your own thoughts and drawings gives you a snapshot later of who you were when you first read them.
6. Books are a tangible manifestation of knowledge.
While the Internet is a source of limitless information, there’s something about physically turning a page that can’t be replaced. Of course, make use of computers and whatever other wiFi-driven inventions that will arise in your lifetime, but also keep books close at hand. Especially books like journals, which let you touch the written word. I’ve written decades of journals with the intention of sharing them with you someday, when you’re ready.
7. You can write your own stories!
When you’ve learned how to write words, you’re never too young to write your own stories. As I shared before , when I was 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. You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to, but I’ll be giving you notebooks and journals to capture your own stories.
I can hardly wait for our adventures together to begin.
February 6, 2014: I must add, our lovely daughter made her world debut the day after this post. She’s a Groundhog Day girl, and meeting her has filled places in my heart I didn’t know existed. I’ve already read a couple books to her, and so have her grandparents. Welcome, little one!
We’re in the thick of Sundance season here in Utah this week, and the internationally recognized film festival is close to home. In fact, one of the film screening sites is literally a four-block walk from where I live (going to see a film this week!), and I love seeing the Sundance banners boldly waving on street signs throughout Ogden’s downtown.
They bring me back to my encounter with the film festival’s founder.
I was a full-time flight attendant at the time, greeting passengers in SLC as they boarded our flight to LAX. The gate agent came to me, whispering giddily we’d have a VIP on this flight. I’d met a few celebrities working my flights, but never before went into the fits of girlish squeals of some of my co-workers. I wasn’t one to ask for autographs or to take pictures. But when a living legend took a seat in 1A, I was giddy as could be.
From head to toe, he wore white: white hat, white jacket over a white t-shirt and white pants. They matched his teeth. And he could pull it off in a I’m-Robert-Redford-and-this-outfit-was-custom-designed-for-me kind of way. He carried only a brown briefcase. The lines of his aging face surprised me, as well as how attractive a man could be in his seventies. That chiseled jaw wasn’t quite as sharp as his Butch Cassidy days, but still there. So was the squinty-eyed, ravishing smile. I remember hanging his jacket in the First Class closet and putting his briefcase below it before take-off.
As I served First Class, I must have been the smiling-est flight attendant taking orders in the sky that day. I brought him the requested hot drink (from my recollection he had hot tea…or was it coffee with Baileys?) and a snack basket to choose from. I got out his suitcase and he worked on papers throughout the hour and a half in the sky. He was courteous, but not wanting to rally a lot of attention. Although my fellow flight attendant and I would peek at him from the front galley, I respected his space beyond the typical flight attendant-passenger interaction and tried not to look as starstruck as I felt. At one point, he engaged a conversation with me:
RR: Have you ever been to Sundance resort?
Me: Yes, it’s sure beautiful up there. I’m glad you’re preserving that area.
RR: Hmm, well, you look familiar to me. (Here comes my big line, people. No hesitation.)
Me: You look familiar to me too, Mr. Redford.
He smiled that heart-stopping smile and even laughed a bit at my comment. (Robert Redford thought I was funny!) That gave me the courage to ask for his autograph, which holds a special spot in my journal:
And those were my words with the one and only Robert Redford. Share with me: How were your celebrity encounters? And what about your Sundance experiences?
Robert Redford picture via The Marquee Blog on CNN.com