Tag Archives: Twitter

breaking news of the bookish kind

outside the Carnegie Museums
Pittsburgh, PA
taken by me, September 2012

I’ve been given the green light to break some news in this space here – but first, some background of sorts.

Pittsburgh is the kind of big small town where people are, for the most part, very approachable. Maybe it’s our proximity to the Midwest, maybe it’s something that hearkens back to this city’s gritty steel past, but there is something ingrained in this town that makes folks naturally inclined to be helpful, to give someone new a chance.

(I happen to think it’s all that, plus a symbolic byproduct of being surrounded by all these bridges.)

As a transplant here, I’ve had a bit of a tough go of it, professionally-speaking. Unemployment and a now almost year-long job-hunt has changed me completely, permanently. Reinventing oneself sounds easy on paper; in reality, it’s damn harder than I ever imagined.

Fortunately, when someone in Pittsburgh knocks you down, three more usually extend a hand or an opportunity to help you back up.

On Tuesday, I happened to be in the right place (Twitter) at the right time (in the morning) when I spotted a tweet from Tony Norman, columnist and associate editor (and now, books editor) for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. We had met in October at Podcamp Pittsburgh through my friend Sue Kerr. Unbelievably, Tony had heard of my very blog.

So I emailed on Tuesday, then I found myself with Tony today talking books, and local politics, and about my 11 year old son’s ambitions to be Pittsburgh’s next mayor (hey, we sort of have precedent in such matters), and (who the hell knew?) our shared native hometown of Philly.

The result of all that?

I’m now among the Post-Gazette’s freelance book reviewers. I’ll be reviewing literary fiction and my first review should be within the next month or so.

I know, right? Needless to say, I’m beyond thrilled. Sure, it’s a nice notch in this writer/editor/blogger/consultant/whatever else comes along life of mine, but know this: not only does the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette give ink to books (a rarity among metropolitan newspapers) but Tony also seems committed to local writers. His weekly books column includes local books (including self-published works) that have been published in the past year. Yes, you read that right, folks.

I’ll say it again, for it bears repeating: a major metropolitan newspaper whose book editor gives print time to all books, the big bestsellers and your neighbor’s e-book alike.

Because that’s how we do things here in the ‘Burgh.


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PodCamp Pittsburgh. This Weekend. I’m So There.

I’ve come to realize that living in Pittsburgh means making some tough choices – especially on the weekends.

Especially this weekend.

There are a ridiculous number of amazing-sounding things going on this Saturday and/or Sunday in Pittsburgh. (Actually, that’s true of many weekends here. Honest to God, I’ve never seen a city with so much to offer as this place does. It’s crazy.)

This Saturday, I am in serious need of a clone. On one hand, there’s Women Read/Women Write, an event bringing readers and writers together to celebrate the books women love to read. It’s free. Take a look at that agenda. This is exactly my thing. Perfect for the novel in progress. 
But. BUT! I also happen to need a little thing known as a JOB, and since that doesn’t seem to be happening in the traditional “Email-resume,Get-interview-Get-hired” type of way (I’m good for steps #1 and #2, not so much #3), I need to do whatever I can to attract and secure more freelance writing and consulting work
I’ve been giving some thought to somehow trying to connect both of my blogging endeavors in some way – somehow merging the professional with the personal. Whether it can be done, I don’t know – but that’s where PodCamp Pittsburgh 7 comes in, making this excellent timing for me in regards to potential networking, and learning, and all that good stuff. 

This Saturday and Sunday at Point Park University, you can take part in this, too. (Registration is still open. And. It’s. FREE.) 
What exactly is PodCamp Pittsburgh?

Wonderful question (as a certain political candidate would say). Anticipating such, the @pcpgh peeps put together The Beginner’s Guide to PodCamp Pittsburgh, from where I cut and pasted this from:

PodCamp is the most awesome thing in Pittsburgh.

But if you really want to get specific…
PodCamp Pittsburgh is a social, new media conference. It started in 2004 and was originally built around podcasting (hence the name PodCamp), and has since grown across North America. PodCamp Pittsburgh has also evolved into a study of information sharing online and how it affects us in different ways every day.

At PodCamp Pittsburgh, you’ll learn how to get started (or how to grow) sharing what you do with everyone else in the world through voice, video, pictures, text and other forms of media. You’ll find out what (and how to use) the latest tools others are using to accomplish great things.

(In other words, don’t be like me and see the word “pod” and think that this is a podcasting only type of thing. Clearly, it’s not.)

Did I mention that PodCamp Pittsburgh is FREE? Yes … free. It’s supported by volunteers, of which I will gladly be one on Saturday while also attending several sessions. (You can see the full schedule of sessions, their descriptions, and speakers here.)

I’m incredibly excited about this. PodCamp Pittsburgh is the perfect opportunity to make connections among those in our city’s traditional and new media scene and it is exactly what I need right now. 

Maybe it’s exactly what you need, too.

Leave me a comment if you’ll be there or follow me on Twitter @bettyandboo or at my professional account, @thefirmangroup. Would love to meet you and say hi!

I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

 copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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The Sunday Salon: Read-a-Thon Wrap Up

I’ve written about them before, but we’re incredibly lucky to have the group of friends that we do. The amazing thing is, I wouldn’t know these people at all if I didn’t know The Husband. They’re originally his friends from grade school; the first day of kindergarten in 1975, in one case.

Yesterday two of The Friends drove nearly six hours from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh for one night just to hang out with us, eat some hoagies, watch the Yankees-Tigers game (oh, Derek …), and just provide some distraction (and some laughs) from our life these days.

We are – as always – grateful beyond words.

That meant that my participation in the Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon was more limited than usual, but that’s okay. While waiting for The Friends to arrive, I managed to read a total of 60 pages in my current book, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.

I also spent some time cheerleading for other Read-a-Thoners via Twitter. Although I wasn’t much of a participant in this Read-a-Thon, (and I don’t even think I got to everyone I was supposed to), I hung out on the Twitter more this time than ever before – and I liked it. However, I don’t know how much I would have Tweeted if I had been more of a reader, though.

While we were watching the Yankees game, I did explain my frequent attachment to my phone as being part of a 24 Hour Read-a-Thon – and the good-natured consensus was that this was the epitome of geekiness.

(I can take it. I’ve been called much worse things than a book geek. I’ll wear that moniker proudly.)

I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Links I Liked

It has been awhile, I know, since I shared some links with y’all.  A few of these have been hanging around in my Drafts folder, chomping at the bit to be shared, but they’re still good. 

On Father’s Day:

Love this post from the Ms. Magazine blog on Ending the Cold War with My Father.

On Parenting:
Jason from Out-Numbered is one of my favorite bloggers, especially since I met him at BlogHer’10 last year.  This post of his (“When Her Face Gets Long”) is one of my favorites of his. 

On Social Media

Six Pixels of Separation muses on the mutterings of Twitter and the reactions of brands to these gripes.

If you’ve been doing this blogging thing for any length of time, you’ve experienced the blogger blahs. It varies in severity and in form from one blogger to another, but this guest post by Steff over at ProBlogger has some good tips on “Curing the Dreaded Blogger’s Malaise.”

Know any kids under 13 who are on Facebook?  The Family Factor has some interesting, eye-opening statistics about “The Faces of Facebook.”  A sampling:  “Of the 20 million minors who actively used Facebook in the past year, more than one-third or about 7.5 million were younger than 13 and not supposed to be able to use the site. More than five million were 10 years and under, whose accounts were largely unsupervised by their parents.”  …. What was even more troubling was that the report found the majority of parents of children 10 and under seemed largely unconcerned by their children’s use of the site. Only 18 per cent made their child a Facebook friend, which is the best way to monitor the child and only 10 per cent of parents of children 10 and under had open and direct conversations about appropriate online behaviour and threats.”

On Autism, Special Needs:

Turns out that, for one blogger, Calling Something Retarded Is … Well … A Pretty Big Deal, After All

Why one blogger is keeping the blue lights burning, even though Autism Awareness Month is over.

Back on February 14, 2010, I blogged about Jennifer Daugherty and the horrific murder that ended her life.  (Jennifer was 30 years and mentally-challenged.) As a follow up, the first of six defendants (yes, SIX!) in this god-awful case received life in prison.  Jennifer Daugherty family’s statement is also worth the read … and said with complete class. (And in keeping with their wish for privacy, I won’t be blogging about this case in the future.)

And finally, stark.raving.mad.mommy’s take on the Autism Study of the Day:  Autism and Anti-Depressants: Don’t Freak Out.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Not Making Cents

So, I’m checking my emails on my BlackBerry today and I see a message from a nonprofit organization. 

Now, as some of you know, my day job is that of a fundraising professional for a nonprofit. Because I do what I do (and have for 20 years), I tend to look at the communications and fundraising strategies of other organizations from a completely different perspective than most people. 

The email stated that the charity really could use some help this holiday season.  Um … well, is there any charity that can’t use a little extra at this time of year, in the middle of a never-ending recession that has impacted many nonprofits (and other businesses)?   I don’t know too many charities that are doing just fine, thank you. 

The author of the email went on to say that she hoped I would write a blog post about their organization, or tweet about them, because the readers of The Betty and Boo Chronicles might be interested in helping kids. 

Now, I have all the faith in the world that my 3 readers of this blog are, in fact, caring people who would like to help kids.  You might even want to support this particular charity, or perhaps you have in fact written them a check in the past.

Here’s the thing, though:  I haven’t. 

Other than recognizing their name, I have absolutely zero connection with this organization.  None. 

I’ve never made a contribution. 

I don’t Like them on Facebook. I don’t follow them on Twitter. 

I’ve never been to their website.

I don’t know anyone who is involved in this organization.  I don’t know the author of the email, and I don’t know how she knows of me.  (Has she read my development-related tweets, especially today’s from a conference I was at and tweeting about?  Is she a regular reader of my blog? Do we have a mutual colleague in common?) 

So, this is where my absolute flabbergasted-ness over this solicitation comes into play.  Given my complete disconnect from this admittedly worthy group and cause, how does this even make any iota of sense? How can I endorse something that I know nothing about or ever been a part of?

Sure, I could write you a nice post saying that the XYZ organization is great, they do great work, look at their fancy banner and microsite, you can follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook, you should donate some money to them RIGHT NOW.

I could say all of those things, but there’s a key credibility issue here – again, because I am not involved with this group.  I don’t know that they’re not cooking their books.  I don’t know their ratio of administrative costs to program costs.  And, frankly, I’m not inclined to do the research to find out such because there are other causes that I do support and that I am closely connected to. 

In this economy, donors are limiting the number of organizations they support because there’s too great of a need and too few resources and funds.  So one’s philanthropic decisions are made on the basis of connections – which organization you’re connected with, charities that have helped you or a loved one out.

Donors are sophisticated and much smarter than ever before.   We have more tools at our disposal. You can tell when someone is bullshitting.  You know when someone is just paying lip service to a cause, when someone doesn’t have the passion.  And similarly, you know when someone does. 

That’s what powers real, authentic, genuine fundraising.  That’s what will get you the big bucks.  Not an ill-conceived tactic that smacks of “let’s-find-some-of-these-you know-these whaddaya call it’s? Mommy bloggers, they are, people with kids, and see if they will write about how great we are. We’ll raise tons of money.”)

We’ll all finding our way in this “new normal.”  As fundraisers, we’re all chasing that proverbial pot of gold at the end of the URL, trying to figure out how to raise money through this newfangled social media thing-a-mah-bob. 

But it’s really not all that difficult or all that much more different than what we were doing long before Al Gore invented the Internet. 

It’s about trust.  Ethics. Credibility. 


That’s what has always made sense.

And cents. 

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

A few of my blogging friends in the autism community will be silent tomorrow, in the name of supporting Communication Shutdown.  It’s an initiative that encourages people to stay off of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and blogs for one day in order to show what everyday life is like for many people with autism who have difficulty communicating. 

I understand the thought behind this (kind of) and I absolutely 100% support those who are participating

I’ve just chosen not to be among them. 

I’m not sure how my not going on Facebook or Twitter or blogging would draw attention to this issue – but I truly respect and understand those who feel that doing so can. To me, it feels too much like hiding.

You see, even though I use pseudonyms for my kids, it took a long, long time for me to become comfortable with the idea of talking about how Boo’s autism diagnosis has impacted and changed our family (and continues to do so).   One of the reasons I started this blog two years ago was to share the day-to-day happenings with relatives and friends “back home” and elsewhere.  But I also had a hidden agenda.  I also wanted to share with them what life was really like raising a child with autism and his twin sister who is becoming a little more self-conscious and aware of her brother’s issues. I wanted there to be some understanding behind the “he’s doing great!” sentiments that family members would share on special occasions – that, yes, he is doing great (most days) but ….But.

I took my inspiration from Susan Senator and then from MOM-NOS, two of the first “autism mom” bloggers I read way back in the early black hole days of life following diagnosis.  It would still be several years before I decided to start a blog about our own experiences.  And in doing so, I found this community of other kindred souls and people I’ve come to call my velveteen friends. 

These are days I can’t remain silent.  We’re having a bit of a tough time behaviorally with Boo, with Halloween being the latest freakin’ nightmare (when he wasn’t talking gibberish or baby talk, he was yelling way too loudly and nearly running into the streets; he criticized neighbors’ candy offerings with rude “I don’t like these!”; he departed several houses by wishing the occupants a Happy Hanukkah and attracted more than a few stares, along with bedtime questions from Betty about what she should say if her friends say something tomorrow about Boo’s strange behavior). 

I wasn’t prepared for this because while his behavior has always been slightly quirky on Halloween (for two years straight he walked up to each house, notepad and pencil in hand, and asked each occupant their name as if he was a census-taker), he’s never been like this. 

I can’t remain silent today or tomorrow – about this or anything else – because if I do, then maybe that prevents someone who also had a hellacious Halloween or is going through a rough time to hear that there is someone else who is going through something similar.  And if you stay silent today or tomorrow, then I can’t hear from you what I need to hear:  that we’re doing the best we can, that you’ve been there too, that you are there.

I can’t remain silent because I fear it would be a little like hiding.  And once you decide to stay in bed for one day, it’s easier to justify doing the same for the next day.

It’s especially interesting to see how this whole Communication Shutdown thing is playing out in the autism community.  There’s no hatriolic vitriol being spewed by the differing sides, which is mighty refreshing. We’re fine with those who are participating and we’re fine with those of us who aren’t. Live and let live, peaceloveandunderstanding, agree to disagree, and all that good stuff.  It’s a lesson that more people should take notice of and take to heart. 

Accepting others’ differences and other people’s choices.  Maybe that’s an unintentional byproduct of the day, and if so, I’ll take it. 

I hope Communication Shutdown does succeed in bringing awareness and funds to those with autism. The more of both, the better. I’m glad they are doing this and I’m glad it has attracted such interest.

And if you’re participating in Communication Shutdown, I’m glad you’re doing so … and I’m even more glad that it is just for one day.

Because your voice is just too valuable and important to lose.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Those Who Share the Journey

And there we sat, passengers on an Amtrak train going nowhere in the city of nonstop hustle and bustle. A Saturday evening in New York City.
In August.
The signs foreshadowed the evening’s events:  Train 165 to Washington, delayed 0:10.  Then we were advised to STAND BY. Finally we boarded, only to be told the train was experiencing “mechanical difficulties” and that we’d be on our way as soon as possible.
We were apologized to and thanked for our patience and for choosing Amtrak.
I looked around at my fellow passengers, a sparse lot.  High school students from a Philadelphia prep school, talking academics and Classics Club and college applications, fresh from seeing West Side Story for the first time and suitably awed. A guy across the aisle, searching for an Internet connection. A middle aged woman, asleep.
The train needed a new motor, one that was on its way to us. The crews were working as quickly as they could. More apologies, more thanks for our patience, and a suggestion to feed any nicotine cravings.
“If you feel the need for a cigarette, you’re welcome to step out onto the platform to do so.”
Several people departed, pacing the platform alongside our smudged windows. The glow of their cigarettes soon became the only illumination as pffffft went the train’s lights, taking the air-conditioning with it. (Did I mention this is August?  In New York?)  Unable to read, I turned on my laptop and edited my BlogHer ’10  photos by the monitor’s glow. Snippets of cell phone conversations, pick-ups postponed, plans thwarted.  Clicks of texts. 
Reaching out to make a connection with anyone except those right in our midst.
An hour later, the motor had arrived and had been installed.  Cleared to go, we chugged towards Newark and Trenton and Philadelphia. 
It was after 11 p.m. when the train arrived and we departed, a weary lot, the evening’s exhaustion etched on our faces.  I lugged my suitcase and conference swag and laptop case and purse down the steps, catching a glimpse of someone familiar.
“Rachel?”  I said.
The person turned. 
Rachel Simon?!”  I said, greeting one of my favorite authors of all time.
We hugged, Facebook friends that we are, commiserated about the train ride and the delay.  “I can’t believe you were on my train!” we exclaimed. She had been at a conference in Stamford, me at BlogHer.  Yes, I absolutely did know of Cecily Kellogg’s blog and how about that? She was at BlogHer too, as was I, and such a small world that she knew Rachel too. 
Together we walked into the breezy night and Rachel pointed out her car, her husband at the wheel.
“Would you like to meet Hal?” she said, and of course I’d already had done so, through the pages of her most recent book The House on Teacher’s Lane (titled Building a House with My Husband in hardback) and the bestselling Riding the Bus with My Sister.
Hal greeted us with the bemused look of one accustomed – and thus unfazed – by his bride chatting animatedly with a stranger, a new or long-lost friend (it didn’t make any difference) at a city train station shortly before midnight.
We shook hands, I introduced myself with the tagline of being a longtime fangirl of Rachel’s.  We hugged goodbye, promising to stay in touch and find each other on Twitter, departing in different directions into the night. 
I smiled all the way to the parking garage where my car was parked. Wow, I marveled, the frustrations of the delayed train melting away in the summer’s air.  How cool was that? What are the chances that one of my favorite authors – and one of my favorite persons, truly – had been on this same train with me and I didn’t even know it.  If I hadn’t been on that broken-down train or if I turned around to spend one more night in New York, I would have completely missed this chance. 
We are all connected, aren’t we? I thought, as the effects of three days of being immersed in the power of connections online washed over me once more.
Yes, we are most definitely on this crazy journey together.
Especially when we think we’re just traveling solo.
The photo pictured above  was one piece among the spectacular artwork included during BlogHer 10″s Voices of the Year Gala and Art Auction, curated by Kirtsy and unveiled on Friday, August 6 in New York.  For more on the event and how you can be part of this auction, which benefits The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to assist with Gulf cleanup, click here.  I’m not sure of the photographer’s name, but as soon as I find out, I will add it here.  (It was just the perfect photo for this post, I thought.) 
Text copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.
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