Five Days & Nights Sans Social Media

Will I miss the Internet and the host of online communities wherein I’ve embedded myself via social media outlets? Can I function in a world without the ability to connect to my virtual universe?

Since we live and breathe electronic products and virtual worlds every day, I never paused to think about such questions. But, I would soon find the answers to these queries, whether I wanted to or not.

Whoa, Sandy!

On Monday, October 29, 2012, my family of six was ready for Hurricane Sandy (a.k.a. Frankenstorm Sandy, Superstorm Sandy), a massive storm whose wrath would be felt by so many folks all over the East Coast.

Heeding the advance warnings from weathermen, media and government officials, my family and I had lots of bottled water and nonperishable food items stocked away. We had the requisite flashlights, candles, matches, radios, batteries and plastic disposable candle lighters filled with the precious fluid we’d need in case our matches failed us. Our phones and computers were charged to their full capacities. We even tidied up our home and did all our laundry, so we’d have a nice comfy place to ride out Hurricane Sandy.

As a treat, and mostly because she wanted to test out a brownie cookbook I just gifted her, one of my daughters, the baker of the bunch, even finished making fresh batches of two brownie flavors.

Sweets are perfect treats during a storm.

After enjoying slices of homemade veggie pizza and heaping portions of beef stew—complete with potatoes, carrots and the trimmings, we settled in front of our computer monitor to watch reruns of “The Neighbors”, “Modern Family” and “Once Upon a Time” on Hulu.com before heading off to bed.

Soon, our living room was filled with a healthy dose of giggles and gales of laughter as we watched the first two shows and munched on our brownies. We gasped and held our breath as we anticipated what Emma Swan, Snow and the gang might experience in the company of Captain Hook in “Once Upon a Time”. Then, in a flash, in between our guffaws, our monitor went dark and there was a momentary bout of silence. We looked at each other, dumbfounded—unprepared for the darkness that cloaked our living room and whole home in a nanosecond.

“Whoa,” my eldest daughter said, confused.

“What happened?” asked another.

“Is the computer screen broken?” said the third.

My husband looked around the room, puzzled. Then he glanced towards the window, and realized the buildings around us had nary a light, unusual for Manhattan.

Following his gaze, I looked at our windows, too. “Uh-oh. Blackout,” I said to the kids. Whoa, Sandy!

My husband went to our fuse box just to be sure, and opened our apartment door to check our hallway. We concluded that the whole building must be in darkness, a sure sign of a blackout. We could hear nearby tenants talking, sounding as confused as we were just moments ago.

Anticipating that I’d eventually lose my cellphone service, I snapped a picture of my kids with flashlights under their faces for a spooky pre-Halloween photo. I immediately shared it with my Facebook friends announcing we had just lost power. Like wildfire, a number of them “liked” the photo and prayed for our safety. I was touched by the fast replies—the instant magic of social media.

That photo and my one reply to all who posted their concern were the last posts I’d be sharing on my Facebook profile page for nearly a week. I posted because I wanted to reassure my family and friends that we were okay, so far. While my phone was fully charged, the cell towers might soon stop sending out signals. Who knew when I’d be posting again?

Pages Gone Dark…What to Do?

From Monday, October 29 to the wee hours of Saturday, November 3, my Facebook page was static. The inability to access my FB wall or Twitter feed was as eerie to me as the sight of the darkened island of Lower Manhattan was to everyone who viewed it from television screens, in parts unaffected by Hurricane Sandy. The City that never sleeps looked like it was in a deep, peaceful slumber—hibernating while the superstorm ravished the island, causing the Hudson River to overflow from its west, and gush into the pit where One World Trade Center is being rebuilt at Ground Zero. Meanwhile, the East River spilled over the east side of the Big Apple. Manhattan was assaulted from both sides, and the effects would be felt for days (weeks for many folks).

My kids armed with their LED flashlights.

As my family and I grew accustomed to darkened rooms and the coldness that we wouldn’t have noticed had we our usual automated timed cycles of heat, we developed a routine, filled with what became our roster of daily activities. We also learned to take our flashlights with us wherever we went.

These little LED flashlights became an integral part of our everyday supplies. Never leave home without 'em.

For five days, board games that aren’t played with often enough when laptops are operational suddenly became part of our go-to arsenal against boredom. Our activities included tidying up our rooms a bit more. Books that my kids had outgrown were stacked in knee-high piles ready to be donated to the next gently used books drive at their schools. My girls buried themselves into books they had already read but wished to travel into once again. My eldest daughter and I started flexing our creative muscles as we worked on our ideas, plots and outlines for NaNoWriMo. She was preparing for her first foray into the Young Writers Program for NaNoWriMo, and she was full of questions and ideas.

During the first two days of our interlude with darkness, I found myself reaching for my cellphone quite often, wanting to capture my kids at play via the built-in camera. I flung silent curses at Sandy for keeping me from my virtual buddies. I desperately wanted to post a photo or update my status on my Facebook wall. I’d catch myself, realizing that I couldn’t do anything, all the while wondering what posts or tweets I was missing in the virtual world.

I mentally cursed Sandy again. To no avail, of course, as Sandy roared and wailed outside through Monday night and all day Tuesday, sending scaffolding and cranes perched atop tall buildings to the streets. Directly across from one of our windows was a scaffolding that fell from a higher building onto the rooftop of another, many stories below.

Casualty of Hurricane Sandy's strong winds

While we were stuck in the comforts of our world at home, we didn’t have a total grasp of how bad things were for so many others, more adversely affected by Sandy. We got bits of news via our battery-powered radio, but the signals were pretty spotty and we wanted to conserve the battery. At about 11 a.m., each day, we briefly turned it on for updates regarding the status of the public schools, which were closed for the week.

Meanwhile, water rushed and covered many streets, including Chambers and West streets in Lower Manhattan, as well as those in other areas throughout the five boroughs. Water overtook the 108-year-old subway system where stations like South Ferry (No. 1 train stop downtown) were ceiling high with water.

My camera phone wasn’t getting any signal so I couldn’t check my email, FB page or Twitter feed. Nor could I text anyone. It soon ran low on battery juice (perhaps from my attempts to get a signal). I sighed, frustrated. So many things were beyond my control.

Thankfully the kids stayed in good spirits, making our dark days and nights bearable. While I couldn’t access the online world, which included close friends and beloved family members, I soon decided that right in my apartment were those most precious to me, anyway. I joined my kids in a couple of rounds of Monopoly, and relished our five days and nights sans power, chatting and bonding with them. We actually enjoyed our time together, something we miss now that we’re all back to our hectic schedules.

Let There Be Light…

With weary eyes, my husband and I both noticed partially lit buildings around us, at about 4:50 a.m. on Saturday, November 3. The significance of the brightness from afar escaped us for a few moments.

Let there be light...

“Hey, that building has lights,” said my husband, bolting up from our bed. He rushed to our bedroom window, parted the shade, looked out and glanced back at me with a boyish smile.

“Really?”

“Yeah, look,” he replied, motioning for me to take a peek.

Noticing the lights in the nearby buildings, I soon wore an equally huge smile. What did I do next after I hugged him with excitement? Well, I walked over to my bedside table and grabbed my cellphone, of course. He had recharged it partially the other day at a streetside pop-up charging station, so I knew I should have enough juice to snap a photo and post on my FB wall. After all, some folks were wondering how we were faring, so I had a duty to share the news.

About an hour or two later (when most everyone else awoke), FB buddies had given the photo their thumbs up, and welcomed us back to the grid. I’m once again amazed at social media’s virtual power and magic.

Since we got our power back, my fingers have happily tapped away on my keyboard, welcoming and thanking many new Twitter followers and FB likes on our fan page. I’ve tweeted and shared photos and my thoughts.

However, as we begin to relish and embrace the comforts and complexities of 21st Century technology again, I can’t help but feel a tad bit nostalgic of the semi-simplistic life we led during our short bout without power. Our five days and nights spent in the dark were uncomfortable and inconvenient in many respects. I wouldn’t wish the discomfort upon anyone. Nor would I opt to go through it again. However, I have to admit that forcing us to live without any electronic devices caused us to get back to engaging in a more basic, genuine and wholehearted manner. We really laughed, joked and enjoyed each other’s company. Yes, we also briefly battled the restlessness of cabin fever.

While we, along with many others, were greatly inconvenienced by Hurricane Sandy, I know that my family and I are fortunate. We were stuck in our own home, had clean clothes with which to layer to stay warm, a working gas stove for our meals, trickles of cold water in our faucet, food and lots of bottled water. We had each other.

We’ve basically resumed our normal routines. Schools are open. For the most part, mass transit is operating. The nor’easter that hit our area midday yesterday, November 7, brought some sleet, rain and blustery winds of 60 mph. Since our commute throughout the day was ultra messy, a part of me was afraid of what I’d discover the next morning. But, to my relief, I awoke to find we still had electricity. Unfortunately many others, who just got their power, lost it again.

Editorial Creatives extends our thoughts and prayers to all those along the eastern seaboard who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy and the nor’easter. We’ll soon be featuring details on some nonprofits that are at the forefront of offering disaster relief throughout NYC and NJ. In the meantime, please stay safe, warm and dry.

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Cornucopia of Blessings

Time seems to be on the fast lane these days—we’re halfway through November, which means crisp autumnal temperatures, yellow and reddish-orange foliage, plus loads of holiday merriment.

Twice as fast...

One of my favorites is right around the corner—the holiday that reminds us to look into ourselves and remember that no matter what our situation, regardless of the twenty million things that we’re juggling—we’ve much for which we should be thankful. So, amidst the things that occupy my plate(s), is an important task—my own yearly tradition of writing a list. Not just any list.

2011 brought about an array of projects to Editorial Creatives. Before I become too engrossed with holiday preparations, I wanted to share a partial list of my cornucopia of blessings. I’m sure you’ll agree that when we sit down to reflect on our life, we realize that there’s an abundance of blessings for all.

My Top 10:


    1. Family, Friends & the One Up Above. Without your unwavering support and unconditional love, there wouldn’t be special people with whom I can share and celebrate my milestones. Your words of encouragement give me confidence to pursue my dreams—especially when it seems the journey is too difficult to trudge upon, or when I get sidetracked on the road to publication, and life in general. Thanks for your strong presence in my life. I’m eternally grateful to have crossed paths with all of you, and look forward to exploring what lies ahead together.

    And, of course, to the One Up Above—thank you for always being there, and for this passion that always yearns to create, evoke and share.

    2. Social Media Communities. Without your collective support and understanding, I’d be very lonely in the virtual world—Facebook, Cyberspace and soon—Twitter, etc. As peers, you understand that while we work mostly on a solitary basis—no writer is an island. You help inspire me when I become fixated on that blinking cursor, wondering where my muse has gone. My thanks to all my Facebook family and friends; plus my buddies at She Writes, WoMen’s Literary Cafe, Matador, Weekend Notes, the Mother Hood and NearSay. Thanks for the friendships, and support.

    3. Online & Traditional Print Publications. Without your assignments and projects, I wouldn’t be able to continue working by using my love for prose—my dream career. My life wouldn’t be the same without all of you.

    4. The Internet. Whether you prefer to be called the World Wide Web, the Internet, Cyberspace, etc., you’re home to hundreds of my online articles, style guidelines and blogs (some ghostwritten). Thanks for keeping my words safe and sound, and available to those who seek them. You’re also home to many peers with whom I’ve had the pleasure of befriending on Facebook, and online communities.

    5. Self-Publishers or Indie Publishers. You provide an option that allows authors to publish their work within the creative and financial terms they choose, and streamline what can be a long and sometimes arduous process.

    6. Creative Muse. At times I wonder where you’ve gone—especially when I needed help painting that blank screen with prose that informs, entertains, amuses and challenges. But, my dear friend, you’ve been a mainstay—sometimes in the form of something funny or thought-provoking my kids said or did. I even find you in the simple things that surround me, like my favorite tree—the Gingko Biloba, or through the glistening waters under the Narragansett Bridge, the serenity at Central Park’s Turtle Pond or the granite outcrops of coastal Maine. Thanks for breaking through my thoughts cluttered with daily tasks, as you loyally shine streams of inspiration.

    7. Fellow Writers. There have been periods when my lovely muse went off to some unknown adventure without advance notice, and writer’s block set in. By perusing and reading your wonderful works, my own creative spark reawakened. So, thanks for all the articles in glossies or online magazines, newspapers or newsletters. Kudos for the books of all genres that ignited my imagination on countless occasions.

    8. Technology. The 21st century brought about the demise of many traditional publishing and journalistic jobs. But, it has also seen the advent of new resources and opportunities for writers, editors and readers. With the click on my pad and a few keywords, I can conduct online research for my work, email my interviewees, submit my write-ups, check how my articles ranked, and meet new friends in the many online writing communities.

    My heartfelt gratitude to the creative geniuses that impacted my own work—Bill Gates and Steve Jobs—leaders who brought the world software programs and hardware, such as PCs or my Mac—my handy dandy mobile office. E-books, here I come.

    9. Bookstores & Libraries. To all online or brick-and-mortar purveyors of books, thank you. It’s always wonderful to find my bylined online work with a few keywords. One day soon, I aspire to have physical stores sell my future books, and I’ll have a chance to see those published works on shelves, and perhaps use your venue for book signings, readings and meeting some future readers.

    And, to the great library—thanks for housing such cherished treasures. I remember my frequent visits to a number of libraries as a child—holding stacks of books, anxious to embark or continue my travels to faraway lands.

    10. Contests & Challenges. Thank goodness for contests and challenges like the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Because of NaNoWriMo, I now have thousands of words for a pretty cool draft of my future novel—prose, which I didn’t have last month.

My deepest gratitude to all of you reading this post. I hope you’ll visit frequently. Please feel free to share your thoughts. Let’s traverse this exciting literary journey—together.

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Why Do I Write?

Did you know that today is the National Day on Writing? In commemoration of this wonderful event, which has been officially declared by Congress and sponsored by the National Council and Teachers of English, I joined my fellow SheWriters (a wonderful community of women writers), and cited my reason(s) for writing using 140 characters or less.

My 109-character response speaks volumes:

    “Writing is the creative outlet that truly satisfies my free-spirited muse. Without it, we’d both be restless.”

Anyone who has known me for a while, understands the dilemma I face when I’m not able to string words together due to writer’s block, or because a hectic schedule prevented me from committing those words to paper (or on screen). While some creative folks design jewelry and dresses, or express their passion through mixing flavors and ingredients by cooking, I can’t wait to fill empty pages in my journal or that white computer screen with descriptions of my experiences at those dining venues, or share a review of some family-friendly activities. Or to write freely about whatever topic aches to come out at that given moment. To go through a day without my preferred mode of creative expression is quite troublesome, indeed.

One of the greatest things about writing is that you don’t necessarily need to be a published or paid professional writer to even craft prose. In our information- and social media-driven world, we may not realize just how many words we write on a daily basis. Whether it’s for personal use via short text messages, Facebook posts, Tweets, e-mails, letters, notes, blog entries and more; or for professional or business means, such as marketing or promotional material, plays, poems, advertising copy, books or magazine articles. We use and write words all the time—at various points throughout the day. Truthfully it’s hard to fathom a world where words are irrelevant or nonexistent.

It’s a sure bet that in your own way, you’ve actually participated in today’s National Day on Writing. Here’s an article via the New York Times regarding what some folks are doing today to celebrate – Blogging the National Day on Writing.

Editorial Creatives urges you to share your own experiences with words. Do you like to write? If so, what do you like to write? Have you posted blogs or Facebook entries, or Tweeted today?

We look forward to reading or learning about what you’ve written. Happy writing!

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Exploring Writing Genre Series: Part 1: Understanding Creative Nonfiction and Nonfiction

Nonfiction includes travel stories, personal essays, memoirs and journalistic articles that appear in magazines, newspapers and websites.

There are many types of writing—advertising, personal journals, poetry, commercial, academic/literary, scriptwriting, technical writing and more. Technology has expanded writing opportunities to also encompass blogs, website content and social media. These writing types are either nonfictional or fictional works.

A World of Words

As we engage in everyday activities, we are recipients of numerous writing types and forms—whether we realize it or not.


    Commercials. We watch catchy and perhaps, flashy advertisements on TV (nonfiction or fiction).
    Periodicals. As we sip our morning jolt of caffeine, we peruse or scan the print newspaper, for any late-breaking information or a reporter’s interview of a political figure (nonfiction).
    One-Page Letters. When we get home from work, there are those one pagers describing the latest fundraising events for our children’s school (nonfiction).
    Television. We may have time to catch an episode of our favorite comedy show or made-for-TV movie (nonfiction or fiction).
    Movies. As moviegoers, we’re exposed and transported to 1.5 to 3 hours of a fantasy world—made up of dragons, wizards or talking trees (fiction). Or, we could be watching true-to-life tales of a woman’s fight to save gorillas in a foreign country, such as Dian Fossey’s plight for the mountain gorillas of Rwanda (nonfiction).
    Magazines. If we have a bit of time to sit down and relax in the evening, after work or when the kids are in bed, we may opt to enjoy an article or two from our favorite print glossy (nonfiction or fiction).
    Social Media. Throughout our day, our Facebook “friends” post their latest activities or news (fiction). Or, perhaps we tweet our latest blog post link to a growing group of followers who re-tweet it to their groups (nonfiction or fiction).
    Books. Whether we’re turning the pages of an actual printed book in our hands, or scrolling down our computer or e-reader screen—books can transport us to distant and exotic lands (nonfiction or fiction), or inform us of a famous person’s life story (nonfiction).
    Catalogs. As we browse through a clothing catalog, we are lured into purchasing or learning more about a product—through persuasive copy (nonfiction).

As you can see, words are an integral and powerful component of our lives—surrounding and influencing our choices—in more ways than we realize! When presented with the various modes that words are used to communicate our ideas, thoughts, beliefs, etc., as we did above, it can get pretty overwhelming!

In this series, Editorial Creatives begins exploring the different types and forms of writing. We thought it only fitting to start off with our specialty—nonfiction, or more specifically—creative nonfiction. In order to delve into this area, it’s best to first clarify and define certain key words.

Definitions:

Nonfiction – Writing dealing with facts, information and events rather than imaginative narration. Examples: documentaries, late-breaking news, etc. (source: Dictionary.com )

Creative Nonfiction – According to Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction, a high-quality nonfiction publication, creative nonfiction “presents or treats information using the tools of the fiction writer while maintaining allegiance to fact.” (source: Creative Nonfiction Foundation )

Also known as literary nonfiction, creative nonfiction includes memoirs, personal essays, travel writing and nature writing. This genre has existed in dramatic works such as Ernest Hemmingway’s “Death in the Afternoon,” and George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London.”

Our next blog posts on the creative nonfiction genre will detail memoirs, personal essays, travel writing and food writing. So, stay tuned, and come back to learn more about this interesting genre.

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