Tag Archives: Washington Post

Dr. Seuss Must Be Rolling

I don’t usually watch TV commercials. I have a DVR and generally fast forward through them. I LOVE movies and I respect the artistry involved in film making, including an especially creative commercial, but I also think of most commercials as subliminal messages that whisper, “You’re not good enough unless you own this (look like this, etc.).”

Last night, when the kids made me stop fast forwarding so they could watch an ad for the new movie, The Lorax, but instead we discovered a car commercial, I was sure that Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) must be rolling over in his urn.

There he was, the modern cartoon Lorax, romping through a car commercial in an untouched Truffula forest, without a hint of irony. While searching for a clip of the commercial I discovered that several people had beaten me to my rant, including this article, Is the Lorax Really Just Hawking Big SUV’s? at The National Post.

The Lorax has been one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books since I was a budding environmental scientist, collecting frogs at the age of six from the corn field ditch in my back yard. For those of you that are not familiar, Seuss’ classic clearly refers to a bad guy, the Once-ler, in search of fortune, who cuts down every last Truffula tree in the forest to be made into a variety of unneccessary consumer goods, converting the land from fairytale to wasteland, forcing several dependent species to relocate or die. The Lorax has been accused over the years of being “anti-capitalist” and “blatant indoctrination of children,” and perhaps rightly so. But would Dr. Seuss approve of the Lorax appearing in a car commercial, even if that commercial mentions fuel economy?

We can’t ask him, but if you read The Lorax yourself, I think you’ll agree that this beloved author would be very disappointed. Why couldn’t the Lorax appear in commercials for taking the bus or riding bicycles, for energy conservation, or alternative energy like solar or wind power? The answer is $$. None of these environmental ventures spend (or can afford) that kind of bank on marketing the way car companies do, so the environmental movement is destined to be helmed by certainly less recognizable and dynamic cartoon characters.

A part of me is really torn on this issue. My grandfathers and my sister worked for car companies in Michigan before the jobs moved to Mexico and other countries. But if I’d written a book with as much staying power and clear message as The Lorax, leaving it behind among my greatest works for the world to appreciate some twenty years after my death, only to have its core message and ideals polluted (pun intentional) for financial gain, I think my ghost would haunt these folks who truly missed my point with Paranormal Activity proportions.

I will definitely watch the newest remake of The Lorax with my kids, at home on DVD, where we can fast forward through the commercials (for things other than movies that now grace even DVDs), and pause to discuss the global significance of Seuss’ story. Is it brainwashing? You betcha. Just like learning about Dr. Martin Luther King’s message. If we don’t learn from our past mistakes and make better choices in the future, we won’t have any natural resources left to fight over.

But please, don’t take my word for it. Reread The Lorax and decide for yourself.

Further reading:

NPR blog post The Lorax Speaks for the SUV’s

The Washington Post The Lorax Helps Market Mazda SUVs to Elementary School Children Nationwide

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Yes, Twins ARE Everywhere

An article published in yesterday’s The Washington Post, Twins are Multiplying, Raising New Questions for the Nature vs. Nurture Debate, by Janice D’Arcy confirms that there actually has been an increase in the incidence of twins in the U.S. population, and not just among celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, and Celine Dion. Fertility treatments and older mothers are the major contributors to the increase from 1 in 53 births in 1980 to 1 in 30 in 2009. The latest data is based on a Center for Disease Control and Prevention Report released this month.

Even though I knew twins were more common in older moms when I became pregnant with fraternal twins in 2003 at the age of 33, I didn’t see myself as older. The shock was staggering when the doctor asked, “Are you the couple that really wanted twins? Congratulations!” Although we did have help when we used an anonymous sperm donor, I was not taking ovulation drugs so my twins probably fall in the “older mother” statistic.

Ruby and Raven, the fraternal twins conceived from my donated eggs, are here in part thanks to In vitro Fertilization (IVF).

If this trend continues, perhaps being a twin will eventually lose it’s social novelty and the misunderstandings and misperceptions (such as that fraternal twins are very similar) will become only a faint memory?

Increasing Your World Profile

Writers conferences, agent blogs, and how-to-get-published books all say that it’s not enough to just be a good writer these days if you want to land that book deal. You have to be a demonstrated leader in your field. Some common ways to demonstrate this is through public presentations, interviews, and workshops.

Martin and Flacco’s book, Publish Your Nonfiction Book suggests that you get other people to write about you. When I read that, I wondered, “How the hell am I going to do that?”

An improv friend who is also a writer, educator, project management specialist, and businesswoman, Ramona Abbott, (yes, she’s all that and more) suggested a web site that she’s used. It worked for her, she was interviewed as a an expert source for the world-renowned Washington Post in March and in April was interviewed for a Utah-based podcast. She is getting people to write and talk about her expertise, positioning her as an expert in her field. This is exactly what agents and editors are looking for in a new author. In addition, she’s training herself to become a confident interviewee and presenter, a skill that is paramount in selling your book after you land your deal.

What is that web site you ask? HARO or Help a Reporter Out. I’d heard of this website in writing class I’d taken, as a resource for me as a reporter if I needed experts and questions answered. But it never occurred to me to monitor it as a source, until Ramona forwarded me a query from a reporter looking to write a story about assisted reproduction.

Last month I signed up at HARO to receive daily e-mails that list what reporters around the globe are looking for. I spend about 10 minutes each day looking over the reporter queries. About every three or four days, I find one that I can respond to as an expert or source. I focus on the areas where I’m trying to establish myself as a trusted contributor: environmental science, assisted reproduction, parenting, and special needs.

On Monday afternoon of this week, I responded to this query:

Summary: Getting out of the house!

Name: Melanie Parker (Women’s glossy)

Category: Lifestyle and Fitness

Email: omitted

Media Outlet: Women’s glossy

Deadline: 07:00 PM EST – 19 April

Query:

We’re a nationwide women’s magazine (circ 3.5 million), looking
for your tried-and-true tips for how to get out of the house
efficiently in the mornings. Could be anything–how you get
yourself and others awake, fast shower and beauty tips, or
night-before strategies. Anything that works for your home. Moms
and non-moms equally appreciated. Please email them in, along
with your name, age, city, state, number of children (if
applicable) and job title and company and phone number (just for
contact purposes), and I’ll be in touch. Many thanks.

By Tuesday morning, I received an e-mail from Parents Magazine Lifestyle Editor Taryn Mohrman saying that she liked my tip so much that she plans to use it for their September issue! Of course, I’ve learned the hard way not to count my chickens before they hatch. It’s still possible that Taryn will have more than she can use for September, and my tip might still get bumped. If that happens, I’ll be disappointed, but not crushed because I’ll know it’s not about the quality of my work, it’s about a last-minute decision that editors must make every day.

However, my hopes are high, because Taryn also then asked me to make a short video of the same tip for use in their tablet/iPad version of the magazine. Once I submitted that, she asked me for a photo as well. So come September, there is a fantastic chance that my tip, video, and photo will appear in Parents Magazine.

Taryn was easy to work with and very professional. I worked hard to do the same for her.

Of course, I can’t share the tip with you now, but it focuses on a quick and easy way to herd your children out of the house on time each day. I developed the tip as part of a writing class I took with Christina Katz, called Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff. I still highly recommend this class as a way to get started publishing in the parenting field.

If you’re not familiar with parenting publications, Parents is one of the most widely read in America. The credit in Parents, although small, will be the biggest to date on my writing resume. It will help solidify my credibility as a journalist.

My tip will appear in the “It Worked for Me!” section of the magazine. How ironic that this post is all about how HARO worked for me.

I have Ramona and Christina to thank for their education and encouragement. Please help me thank them by checking out their web sites and blogs. If you’re an aspiring writer, or just want to put a little umph in your career, check out HARO and let me know how it works for you.