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Suitable for kids aged 30-38.

Corey Feldman + glasses and a razor = Skrillex

[As seen here, too. This post was tagged #LOL by the editors at Tumblr! OMG!]

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I can’t stop smiling right now. So many of my favorite things came together yesterday: the writing community, the revising craft, helping others, and one simple exchange at the speed of social networking. And in the end, I have something to show for it. It’s just a seed right now, but soon a community of writers and non-writers will grow to help each other better craft the written word. Introducing:

Readers Aloud

Readers Aloud is an open exchange project, pairing willing voices with revising writers or others who need read-aloud versions of written work.

Writers, join the group to take your manuscript to a whole new level – HEAR your latest revision from a reader’s voice. More than you ever could before, you’ll pick up on subtle, nuanced changes you should make.

How Readers Aloud makes it happen:

1. Those who want something read aloud leave a post on the wall describing their project (genre, word count, etc).
2. Volunteers comment on the projects they’d like to lend their voice to. Every little bit helps – even just a chapter. More commenters can chip in, crowdsource-style.
3. Writers and volunteers decide amongst themselves how to exchange text and audio files.
4. Give what you get! If you get help with your read-aloud project, help someone else with theirs – anything from a chapter to a whole book.
(Non-writers can post projects, too!)

I’m excited to help my fellow writers – starting with the group’s co-founder, author Kat Yeh. Kat’s work-in-progress will be the FIRST Readers Aloud project. After all, it helped inspire the group (see the story below)!

Enter our Charter Member Contest!

Join Readers Aloud (for free, of course!) and leave a comment below. For every comment from a new member, I’ll read aloud & record 250 words of Kat’s book. So challenge me – if 200 new members leave comments, I’ll read the whole thing!

Writers, get a chance to win!

Writers with a work in progress: tell me in your comment. We want to help! If you’re our randomly selected commenter, we’ll read aloud and record three chapters of any WIP to give your revision a boost.

To qualify, join the group and leave your comment by 11:59 CST on Monday, July 9. The winner will be announced July 11.

And do your writing community a solid – send your writing buds to Building our numbers will make it easier for all of us to get read-aloud help!

So… where’d this group come from?

My author friend Kat Yeh asked a question of her Facebook friends last night:

Does anyone else read their manuscript aloud during revision?

Kat wanted to know if she was the only one talking to herself. Of COURSE not! (Gosh, you’re silly!), the internet said. Harold Underdown, legendary editorial consultant and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, commented,

“It’s a technique I recommend. Even better is to have someone read it to you.”

Many other writers echoed this, in the 37 comments Kat’s thread collected. At one point, she lamented that her manuscript was probably too much for one reader to take on – 53,335 words. So, my unthinking brain (it does that sometimes) typed “Crowdsource it!” in the comment box. But then I thought, Yeah – I could read her a chapter and record it. That’s easy! 10, 15 minutes tops. So in another comment, I offered to read a chapter. And then the two of us got to talking about the idea of an exchange… And that’s how Readers Aloud was born.

Become a charter member and read aloud with us. Add your ideas or general comments about the group below. Our brains are storming with thoughts on helping non-profits, starting a monthly best-of podcast, approaching acting schools and sketch troupes… The read-aloud sky is endlessly blue, and we welcome your thoughts!

How I Was Convinced to Join Pinterest Today

Just like you, I’d been hearing about Pinterest from every corner. And quite possibly like you, I hadn’t joined yet.

Don’t get me wrong – I ♥ social media. It celebrates individual voices while also creating a new concept of global reach. (As a writer, I’m always wowed by how powerfully social media brings writerly comrades together – we’re a very solitary ilk, after all.) That said, Pinterest didn’t seem like my thing. Scrapbooking meets wish-listing? Meh. I’d just wait until something extraordinary convinced me.

Today was that day.

Jacqueline Courtney (center) united her backgrounds in design, publicity, and digital strategy to create Nearly Newlywed. (Photo ©Lisa Beggs)

Today, I heard about, a website that sells pre-worn designer gowns and gives buyers a guaranteed opportunity to sell them back afterwards. “A smart business in itself,” you’re thinking, if you’re anything like me.

What I learned afterwards drove me to click.

(Keep in mind: I’m the farthest from wedding-gown shopping as you can get, without being a dude.) “Nearlyweds,” as the company calls gown shoppers (I’m falling deeper in love at every turn!), can request personal shopping service via Pinterest. “WHAAAAT,” you’re thinking, if you’re anything like me.

How it works:

    1. A gown shopper (AKA nearlywed :) makes a Pinterest board with gowns and/or visual inspirations for her gown
    2. She follows Nearly Newlywed on Pinterest and leaves a comment with a link to her board
    3. The personal shopping team visits her board, then tags her on their own dresses they think she’d like.

As I read more about the personal shopping service on the site, a friendly chat message popped up:

Hi, we’re online right now and available to answer any questions or discuss feedback! – Jacqueline

Hmmm. I decided to bite. What transpired was an impromptu interview with the site’s founder, Jacqueline Courtney:

Margo: I love the Pinterest shopping feature – how did the company come up with that?

Jacqueline Courtney: It was really an organic idea – we wanted to find a way so that I could chat with girls about their inspiration, and also offer advice on dresses that they may not consider or see in storessince some of our gowns are a few seasons past. Pinterest seemed like a natural choice, since it is so visual. 

M: I think it represents what Pinterest should evolve into. Another example of true customer service via social media.

JC: Definitely – and one thing that is important to me is to have our Pinterest site still be authentic, so our products are contained to one or more board. And we are also suggesting other dresses and staying involved in the larger discussion.

Ironically (and downright metaphysically), Jacqueline was proving her point about being a part of the larger discussion… by making herself available for this tiny one with me.

So, the clues are all there – her business savvy is spot-on. In fact, the idea was born out of a huge needs gap – Jacqueline herself had bought (and then sold) a Vera Wang gown for her own wedding years ago. The process was less-than-pretty; it was in dire need of elevation.

Where the magic comes from: my theory

Nearly Newlywed’s mission statement, “Making brides happy,” comes to life on the site. NN makes a daunting shopping process easier and budget-friendlier for nearlyweds, most impressively by meeting them on a platform they’re already using (or should be). Simple move, but it stands out. It proves that they’re motivated to become more active in emerging channels and platforms – not just to say they did – but rather to create an extraordinary experience for their prospects and customers.

Jacqueline’s love for what she does has become almost tangible. And in my estimation, that’s when and why the magic happens – why some companies just seem like they’re “doing it right.” NN is living, Pinteresting proof that companies that embrace change will have more customers falling for them (and will even inspire those outside the target market to blog about them). Companies that embrace change – just as their customers do – will forever mark themselves as thought leaders.

All this love talk has me a little flustered… So let’s turn to you – who do you think is using social media to the fullest?

Last week, a friend invited me to be part of his marriage proposal.

The friend was Len Kendall (one of the founders of First, he mobilized hundreds of people by inviting them to a Facebook event. This was his venue to explain his plan to propose to Katie using an internet meme. The FB event also opened up a venue for discussion (and a little trash talk) among contributors.

This morning, Buzzfeed let Len take over their homepage for the day. (They loved the idea when he approached them with it two weeks ago.)

On Len’s proposal post, anybody could post their contributions through a meme generator embedded in the comment tool. Buzzfeed created this tool just for Len. With it, users simply uploaded a background, positioned the picture layer of Len proposing, and added their own message. Hundreds of us added to the “meme” and shared the posts to their social networks. Len even directed contributors to share with the hashtag #SayYesKatie.

At about noon CST, Len posted an update – Katie said yes!

Scott Lamb, BuzzFeed’s managing editor, says, “It’s been one of the biggest and fastest growing community reaction posts we’ve ever done.” Jack Shepherd at Buzzfeed even posted a Best-of #SayYesKatie post.

So the story traveled, as good stories often do.
#SayYesKatie appeared on MSNBCThe Chicago Tribune, and Mashable, among other outlets.

My contributions

(Buzzfeed post)
(Buzzfeed post)
(Buzzfeed post, based on Marquese Scott’s jaw-dropping dance video.) 

So, what does it mean, Double Rainbow?

Stop – I’m not even half as cool as a DR. But here’s what I think.

With the maturing and evolution of the social web, people now have the power to bend the internet. We’ve used the web billions of times to promote other media, but now we can do so much more to harness its own power. I know this is all very meta, but just think of it this way:
When television was first came along, people thought it was a great way to advertise radio.

If an individual like Len can “bend” the internet to tell his story, in what amazing ways could the social web tell yours?

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