Tag Archives: non-fiction

Neighborhood Notes: Saving seeds, selling e-books

Did you know you can hand-pollinate plants with a paintbrush? Did you know that you can read e-books and support a neighborhood book store at the same time? True facts! These are things I learned when writing two new pieces for NeighborhoodNotes.com, my favorite hyper-local news site.

As of this morning, you can read this piece about small, independent booksellers who are testing the waters as online merchants and e-booksellers. I had a great time getting to know the owners of Portland’s Broadway Books, St. Johns Booksellers and Microcosm Publishing while diving into the economic and even political issues that have arisen with changes in the publishing industry. My research for this piece harkened back to the Brave New World session on publishing that I attended last year at Wordstock. Honestly, I don’t think the option of indie book stores selling e-books came up at that panel less than a year ago, so I hope this is a sign of new positive options for the industry.

For all you gardeners and locavores, check out this piece on seed saving. I’ve always wondered why anyone would do such a thing when seed packets are so cheap at big-box stores, but it turns out that seed saving can contribute mightily to the biodiversity of a region, or even a neighborhood. And if you’re looking for new ways to dig in to gardening, this story includes advice and workshop dates from experts at Portland’s Independence Gardens, Handmade Gardens, Portland Nursery and Herb’n Wisdom.

Each of these pieces was featured on The Oregonian‘s website, thanks to Neighborhood Notes’ partnership with the Oregonian News Network. The ONN (not to be confused with the Onion News Network) is a hyper-local news stream from several Portland news outlets and blogs, and it’s a good model of the collaboration and web-based innovation that’s helping journalism move forward.

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My student featured on Smithmag.net

I love me some memoirs. And I love brevity. So when Smith Magazine rolled out the Six-Word Memoir project, I knew it would be part of my life in some way.

Oddly, I’ve never posted my own Six-Word Memoir on SmithMag.net. But I bring it up in conversation and compose mini-memoirs in my head all the time. It’s a brilliant vehicle for sharing personal stories that are razor-sharp.

This month, as a warm-up for their writing exercises, I started asking my high school English students to write six-word memoirs at the beginning and end of our free-writing sessions. I hoped that my students would eventually find meaning in the practice, and I soon found out that one student had taken ownership of the six-word craft in a way I hadn’t expected.

“Ms. Thompson, I love six-word memoirs!” she said when she came to class one morning. “My mom grounded me from my computer, but I told her I had to log on to SmithMag.”

A week or so later, she came to class radiant.

“People are reading my six-word memoirs now!” she said. “I’m getting comments and people like what I’m writing. One of them recommended that I write posts on SheWrites.com.”

Today we were preparing for our last day of the in-class state writing test. I was trying to cross a hundred ‘t’s while dotting a thousand ‘i’s before we started our session. But my mentor teacher asked me to pause and hear some good news from this student.

“They gave me the featured memoir of the day!” our student reported.

I was about to tell her how proud I was of her when she showed me the chosen memoir. Now I’m more than proud of her. I am awed. And grateful.

Classroom Publishing: Issuu.com saves the day!

How does a student newspaper take the prospect of NO MONEY and turn it into an opportunity?

I’ll do my best to make this story short. I’m a student teacher this year at an Oregon high school that is preparing for drastic budget cuts. As such, the budget is nearly gone for production of the student newspaper that I’m helping advise. My mentor teacher and her students were trying not to succumb to doom and gloom, and we started looking for ways to turn this change into an opportunity.

So, again, how does a student newspaper take the prospect of NO MONEY and turn it into an opportunity? First, all of the students agreed to start hustling advertising sales, which is new and kind of scary for a lot of them, but puts them in a situation that is no different than any professional news publication. Second, we started considering affordable (or free!) options for developing an online presence for the newspaper, just in case there were times when we wouldn’t be able to pay for paper publication.

Two years ago a pair of students started developing a website for this paper, and it’s getting close to being ready for launch. But that process is always more complicated than anyone wants it to be. So while that’s in the works, we were looking for free online publishing options. A blog would be the first logical choice, but the school district has blocked any and all social media sites, including blogs. So that was out.

After a bit more digging, I found Issuu.com through an association of journalism teachers in Virginia. Issuu.com is a free (or $20/month for extra features) site that lets you upload just about any kind of document so it can turn into a shiny, almost magical online magazine. The results have a very iPad-y vibe, even when you’re not looking at them on an iPad.

When my mentor teacher and I showed the Issuu.com demo video to our students this week, they were absolutely enchanted. There were pockets of exclamation around the room that were so encouraging: “We could do new issues whenever we want! … We could publish photo spreads in color! … We can put hyperlinks in the stories! … We could link to it on Facebook! … It’s like Christmas morning! … It’s going to make all our dreams come true!”

So our student production manager decided to test the site by uploading files from the students’ most recent issue from December. He showed us the results yesterday and I heard gasps and “wow!” across the classroom. When he finished the demonstration, we actually burst into applause.

We’re planning to use Issuu.com while the newspaper transitions to online publishing, and it’s likely we’ll continue using it even after the paper’s full website is launched. We like it that much. I particularly like that it still leaves room for students to practice page design while incorporating web elements such as embedded video functions (hopefully this will make for a good match with our upcoming use of SchoolTube.com). The students like it because they will be able to share it in school assemblies and recruitment presentations, they will be able to link to it on their social media sites at home, their parents will be able to email it to their friends, the school will be able to link to it on its website, and the students will be able to say on their resumes and college applications that they were part of their school’s first-ever online news publication.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking of using Issuu.com for my upcoming school presentations and reports, and ideas are brewing for ways to use the site for my creative writing. I am continually excited and amazed by all of the free or low-cost tools available to us on the web. Our opportunities are nearly limitless at this point. Doom and gloom, be gone!

Neighborhood Notes: 12 new Portland spots to check out

If the last few months are any indication, Portland might be getting a brand-new bird-themed business every 30 days. Aviary opened last month, Little Bird (cousin of Le Pigeon) opened in December, and Branch and Birdie home decor opened in November. All that is great with me. But it proves that “Portlandia” is right about this city and our obsession with putting birds on things. And you know what? I really like bird graphics and I can’t get over it.

All birds aside, my friends at NeighborhoodNotes.com got word of 12 businesses opening in Portland in January. There are plentiful new dining options, including Guild Public House, Sizzle Pie, Girasole Pizza Co. and Panera Cares Community Cafe (a pay-what-you-want shop!). There are also new options for locally made vodka, custom guitars, bicycles and spa pampering.

Here’s a bit of the story…

Listen, Portland people. I don’t ever want to hear any of you complaining about not having anything to eat (accessibility issues aside, natch). Because this city cranks out piles of fanciful food options. Every. Single. Month. That is pretty remarkable. This month your new options include craft vodka, double-decker and vegan pizzas, locally-sourced menus, and, as always, meals and atmosphere with Euro-influence. Not to mention new options for bad-ass bicycles, guitars and spa treatments. Now go forth and live it up!

Click here to read the rest of the story!

Neighborhood Notes: Fashion trucks give business a new spin

I just published a story at NeighborhoodNotes.com about people in Portland who fix up old trailers and buses and turn them into  vintage and resale clothing boutiques. Can we say “most-super-fun-story-subject-in-forever”?

(Full disclosure: I have been a vintage clothing collector since coming of age in the thrift store-laden 1990s. Here’s a photo of me the 1920s dress I bought with one of my first-ever paychecks.)

Thanks to Lodekka, Wanderlust, Showvroom, Heather Zinger and NeighborhoodNotes.com for their collaboration on this piece. Now go read it and check out the photos!

Neighborhood Notes: 15 new ways to live it up in Portland

Interstate Lanes in North Portland (not new, but plenty of good fun)

“Despite a slow economy, holiday distractions and plain old cold, we got word of entrepreneurs opening 15 new Portland businesses in December. So if you’re looking for new ways to enrich la vida local in 2011, you now have the option to try the sister bistro of Le Pigeon, two expansive indoor play spaces, and a gardening shop that sells taxidermied animals in costume. (Watch for the general Francophile theme this month—it’s pretty lovely.) Here’s to our community’s small business owners and new things in the new year!”

Check out the list and the rest of the story at NeighborhoodNotes.com!

Neighborhood Notes: New reasons to love Portland

Forgive the attempt at gangster language, but Southeast Portland is blowin’ up, yo! That quadrant of our fair city is home to four of the 17 new businesses we got word of in the last month—with even more indie biz goodness in the works. It boasts a board game shop, a gallery and artists’ hub, and a drool-worthy Italian deli, while the rest of town now offers more art and craft fun, a donation-based yoga studio and a vintage store housed in a camper. Did I mention last month that I love living here? Because I love it even more now.

It’s that time again. Time to take stock of some Portland entrepreneurs who are striking out and hoping to make a living and make a contribution to this city. My new business piece was published by the good folks at NeighborhoodNotes.com today and you can read it right here. Oh yeah.

PS: This photo is from the interior of Beulahland on SE 28th around 1 a.m. after a good round of true Japanese-style karaoke at VoiceBox.