Saturday, October 15, 2011

Spotlight: Susan Crossman

1st  You have written about  the importance of corporate literacy numerous times. Education of good literacy begins much earlier? can you explain your insights

Literacy is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart and as an avid reader and writer, one of the most exciting parts of parenting for me so far has been teaching my own three children how to read and write.  It’s a capability that literally holds the key to greater worlds for them and it’s critically important for success in any field.

As a writer actively servicing a business clientele, however, I often meet corporate executives who are frustrated by low levels of writing capability among employees. Poor grammar and spelling, and bad document structuring techniques are bad news for a firm’s bottom line. When important letters, memos, reports, and even promotional materials are poorly written, the organization’s message is garbled, its reputation is tarnished, and action that should be taken is not.

Employers blame universities and universities blame public schools. The employees themselves are often very self-conscious about their limited skill set in the area and it’s tough for everybody. I believe literacy starts at home. Many parents assume their children’s public school is taking care of that grammar issue and we also assume that high schools are teaching young people how to write a coherent essay. Indeed, some are. But anecdotal reports seem to indicate that writing skills training today is nowhere near as comprehensive as it was a generation ago.  

As parents with far too much on our plates already, it’s hard to knuckle down and personally provide the training our children might be missing but I think it’s probably the only way to ensure our kids acquire the skills necessary to ensure they become valuable members of the work world. And I say that with regret – as a self-employed single mom I don’t always leap to review my children’s school work with them either, even though I take great joy in word-work.  More importantly, however, I don’t want my children’s careers limited by their inability to express themselves powerfully in writing.

     2nd  What advice would you give to existing writers who want to improve and get more recognition for their craft?

I believe we are each on our own writing continuum and the possibility to improve is always there. Even after decades as a professional writer, I am still taking courses about things that might help me extend my own writing envelope and I encourage other people to do the same.

My training these days tends to be in the area of hypnotic language patterns, personality profiling, web conversion and publishing. I find courses and seminars through my own network as well as a number of other sources. For example, most community colleges offer writing courses, and the Editor’s Association of Canada runs some excellent programs. Other writers run workshops and webinars on different aspects of writing as well. 

I decide what courses I want to take by first becoming clear on my business and personal goals and then asking myself what my weak spots are. There are no gold stars for ignorance but a world of possibility opens to those of us who are willing to take a step into the unknown.

I also think that as writers we all improve by reading a lot. I usually have at least two books on the go at any one time and although I have very little time available for reading these days, I still make it a priority to read a little every day.

In terms of more recognition, I think writers are wise to set up their own blog and contribute to it faithfully. Invite people to read it! Offering to contribute articles to a community or non-profit organization’s newsletter or online blog is also a good idea. And, of course, you want to use social media to funnel people to your published work – tweet about it, Facebook it and even put a link in your email signature  so people will know you are serious about this writing business. There’s a certain amount of “something for nothing” that goes into building your reputation as a writer but if you’re willing to put in your time, work very hard and focus on continuous improvement, then you’ll get there eventually.  

Susan  Crossman


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