Month: May 2009

Referral Friday: PresentationCamp L.A.

attendees of presentationcamp LA

Cliff Atkinson, Jason & Jodi Womack at pCampLA09

Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

Okay, so strictly speaking, this isn’t me putting the word out about some small business or entrepreneur*.

So if nobody profits from nor can you buy anything from PresentationCamp L.A. (other than a $10 admission ticket), why the hell am I promoting it here on Referral Friday?

Because PresentationCamp, like all BarCamp**-type “unconferences”, is about people who really give a shit about what they do getting together to help each other get better at what they do. And if that doesn’t have “entrepreneur” written all over it, I don’t know what does.

This one should be no different, except that instead of a group of people getting together to give little presentations and foster little discussions about…whatever, we should have us a fine crop of people who just nerd the hell out on presenting: speaking, crafting great presentations, storytelling, etc. Maybe discussions will spring up around the use of humor or props or improv; maybe we’ll talk mind-mapping or how to present yourself well in a job-interview situation (which could come in handy about now) or how to put together a presentation quickly. These, and MORE!, are ideas we’ve been floating out there.

All I know is that if it’s 1/4 as fun as the one that Cliff Atkinson went to up in San Francisco earlier this year, it’s gonna be a hootenanny. If you are somewhere on the continuum of digging on presentations, you’re gonna meet your people. Like me!

The details are below; if it’s not for you, but you know someone who it is for, please, pass along a link to this page. Or tweet it, or Facebook it, or whatever the hell. And if your business, small or otherwise, wants to get in front of 100 SERIOUS presentation nerds, please contact me (communicatrix AT gmail DOT com) about sponsorship. Any amount or in-kind donations welcome!

Final thought: while part of the reason I decided to get on board early was my always-intense desire to TALK TALK TALK, I honestly don’t know if I’ll present anything. Part of it is being busy, dealing with sponsorships and logistics and suchlike, but another part is that desire for ME to TALK TALK TALK has somewhat receded. I will if what I think I have to add is something other people want to TALK TALK TALK about, but ultimately this thing, it’s way bigger and way cooler than one person getting up and doing a dig-me thing: this is about everyone becoming better communicators.

And we all know how I feel about that…



PresentationCamp L.A. | June 20, 10am – 6pm
5405 Wilshire Blvd. |  Los Angeles, CA  90036

Buy tickets now

Image © Don Campbell via Flickr. More photos by Don Campbell of the very first (!) PresentationCamp, at Stanford, here.

*It’s also, as you can see from the title, about a Los Angeles-based event, although participation is not limited to citizens of our fair city, and so far we have people coming in from as far as New Zealand (albeit because of a handy layover on the way to somewhere else, I mean, really).

**You can read all about the genesis of the BarCamp model on the wikipedia, which is, as my pal and former writing partner, Rick Crowley, put it so well, “the greatest repository of information that may or may not be true.”

Dirty little secrets (A poem about hating poetry)


I wash my hair
once a week
nominally because my stylist says,
“That’s what the New York girls do”
but mostly because
I am lazy.

I pluck my eyebrows
in the the rear-view mirror
and stump hard
for the bright white sink
with the bright white light
because these days
the rogue hairs
and the dried yolk
are harder to spot than they used to be.

I sit atop a thousand little secrets
that I hold
because of the shame
because of the fear
because of the habit

I move forward
when I pull them out from under me
one by one
flinging them hither and yon
like jewels
or monkey poop,

You can make something beautiful
or something silly
out of almost anything
if you try

Even yourself
Especially yourself

Most of the trying
is in the letting go
and the rest
is just finesse

Like poetry

to be honest
I do not like
nor do I write

My dirty little secret

is not poetry
is just prose
made smaller
and flung hither and yon
like jewels
or monkey poop,


Image by dboy via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The Whore of Babylon has some books she’d like you to buy


I read a lot of books. Not as many as I did when times were simpler and Internet access spottier, but still.

In my ongoing quest to (a) point all y’all toward the good stuff and (b) make some goddamn money, it occurred to me that I might neatly combine those two things with a page of links to reviews in all the various places I write them, along with affiliate links so that if you want to support me and my crazy habit of taking stuff in and writing about it, you could. Hence, this “Books! Books! Books!” page.

So we’re clear, I buy a lot of books second-hand or check them out from the library. I also buy new at indie booksellers where I can, to support, and I hope you will, too. I <3 Powell’s in Portland, Elliott Bay Booksellers (Seattle), and Vroman’s, Chevalier’s and Small World here in Los Angeles). I used to love Barbara’s in Chicago, Scribner’s in NYC…well, sadly, I could go on and on. QED, right?

But sometimes, it’s easier to buy through Amazon: for gifts, for people in remote towns without good bookstores, for the 3 am shoppies. Also, for making me a few bucks (via affiliate links) which I then pump back into the economy. (Here’s a direct link to my Amazon store, if you’re a rural, gift-shopping, insomniac. Or also want to shop for SCD supplies.)

Short answer: buy when you can, where you can, as you can, to support authors. If you can support your local economy, too, awesome. But if you can only afford the library, there’s no shame in that. Read away. It’s what most writers probably want, when you get right down to it.


Book links on communicatrix-dot-com

Quick links to critical pages referenced in this post

Image by Jon Feinstein via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Ask Liz Ryan about your resume


Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

The job market is…interesting these days.

Or so I hear.

And in times when something like the job market is defined as something like “interesting,” you want someone to help you make sure you’re putting your best foot forward in it. That person, I can say without any reservation, is one Liz Ryan.

A former HR exec at a Fortune 500 company, Liz would seem, on the surface, an odd person for a creative nutjob like myself with a cuss-filled, oddity-ridden website like this here blog to be recommending. But here’s the thing: Liz ain’t no corporate drone; she’s a sharp, forward-thinking, social-media-getting gal with the best sense of humor outside of this here time zone. In other words, she is completely artist-friendly. In fact, she’s got her own big streak of hambone, in addition to the razor-sharp wit, she’s a bona-fide opera singer in her spare time.

How’s that for a crazy hobby?

Anyway. Liz does all kinds of work for very fancy, probably non-artist types: corporate workshops, big-wig executive coaching, and high-flying speaking gigs (I salivated when I saw that client list, I swear, I love getting in front of suits and mixing it up). But she also offers two services for regular old regular people who are trying to stand out in a buyer’s market: resume critiques and resume overhauls. Neither one is cheap, but I can all but guarantee they’re a good value; I’ve been watching Liz do “resume spruceups” for years now on her popular mailing list, and how she manages to turn incomprehensible business-speak into summaries so crisp and compelling, I want to hop on a plane and go meet the person…well, it’s Jedi-knight-level magical. (She also offers a by-the-hour consult option if you just want to ask the oracle.)

If you’re not ready to buy, or if you’re such a ninja that your own resume is already spectacular, I’d still suggest you join her popular online community, the Ask Liz Ryan group on Yahoo. 25,000 members strong as of this writing, it’s a powerful resource for information on a wide-ranging bunch of issues at, as she puts it, “the intersection of work and life.”

Including some phenomenal advice, and even an occasional example of how to spruce up your own dismal resume, from the maestro herself for the immensely reasonable price of bupkus.

Ask Liz Ryan
637-B South Broadway #222
Boulder, CO  80305

Phone: 303.440.0408
Fax: 866-630-0409

Photo © Colorado Daily

Poetry Thursday: Life on ice


Some days
seem to move like glaciers,
slowly at top speed
imperceptibly in low gear
never getting there
wherever “there” is

Some days
seem to spread out from under you
like five-star rinks
freshly scrubbed by Zamboni
and ready for action

The trick, then,
is knowing two things:
which is which
and that neither is better

Slow days
for taking in
Zamboni days
for flying by
Natural ice
for anchoring your world
Man-made ice
for strutting your stuff

All days are just days
whether they fly by
or inch along
whether they’re filled to the brim
or deceptively empty
not good
not bad
just days
to live

All ice is just ice
thin or thick
rough or smooth
enduring or evanescent
not good
not bad
just ice

Except maybe Vanilla

Then again,
even he
has his moments


Image by crackers93-on work experience! via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Rassum frassum!


While my default happiness setting is far, far higher than it was pre-epiphany (and my fuse far longer), I’m not immune to the occasional public outburst nor am I unwilling to pull on my stomping boots at a moment’s notice.

When it’s happening all the time, it’s a bad thing. I know, because: (a), it used to happen to me all the time and it was, indeed, a bad thing; and (b), I lived long enough to see three otherwise reasonable and gentle men devolve into red-faced, screaming poopoo-heads when confronted with such INTOLERABLE HORRORS as someone asking a question they deemed inane, someone doing something in traffic they deemed inane, and television.

No, really, television. Because yelling at the TV, that gets shit done.

Here’s the part that’s good about me acting like a gigantic ass on an ass tear (rhymes with “bare,” not “beer”): it means I’m getting better. In fact, the first time after my Crohn’s hospitalization that I knew I was going to be alright was when I leapt out of bed and roared at the attending nurse for…I forget. It was stupid, and in fairness to me at the time, my brains were right scrambled on mega, mega-dee-degga doses of full-bore steroids. (My doctor had to come in and have a little talk with me about how steroids work…and don’t.) (And yes, I apologized and was nice afterward. Well, nicer.)

When I first get slammed with a Crohn’s flare, I’m weak as a kitty and, provided I am not completely sleep-deprived, pretty meek and grateful. There’s a little inappropriate anger ramping up to the flare which is about me, pissed off at being inconvenienced again, but mostly, I’m good. When I’m really, really sick, I’m great. Grateful.

Then, when I start to get better…ta da! It’s rassum frassum about the littlest thing. Maybe it’s pent-up rassum frassum, me letting loose because I’m angry at myself for being weak and getting myself sick in the first place and screwing up all the things I wanted to do that I couldn’t because now I was sick, dammit. Not really sure about this, but it’s a good thing to meditate on.

Yeah, I know, meditation. Again.

I didn’t want to get into that in this piece. Hell, I don’t want to get into it at all. I made a promise to get back into yoga three weeks ago and the furthest I’ve gotten is transferring my yoga mat to the car. And that’s without even unrolling it first to see if anything started growing in there during its four years of non-use.

What I wanted to address was indicators lights vs. wailing alarms we learn to accommodate, even as we, I, become less accommodating to my highest self and other people, period. You know how that battery first goes on the smoke alarm and you’re all over it, but there’s no 9-volt handy and you keep forgetting to put it on the list, or you put it on the list but you keep forgetting to bring the list with you to the store, and a year and a half later you have someone over and they’re, like, “What’s that beeping?” and you’re, like, “What beep, oh…yeah, the smoke alarm just went out and I need to get a new battery.”

Uh-huh. Or maybe you’re a real Virgo and you always have a backup wardrobe of batteries, but there’s a mole you ignore, or a gently-tightening waistband you too-hot-dryer rationalize away, or whatever. As my friend, Mark Silver, put it so succinctly in his most recent newsletter (which you should subscribe to, because it’s one of the few good ones, especially now that it’s finally HTML, and hallelujah!), “Humans have an almost infinite capacity to tolerate pain and suffering, thank goodness.” (As an ellipsis freak, I might have swapped out the comma for greater humorous effect, but then, I am a clown and he is a gently witty Sufi master, so really, it’s pretty perfect.)

I can catch myself in my rassum-frassums, which I guess is an evolutionary step forward, albeit an incremental one. I’m not sure how early I’m catching them, though, and how much collateral damage I’m creating along the way. The BF was raised on a farm in Indiana, which is to say he’s a bit of a stoic when it comes to sucking it up; I think it was a good two years until I saw him blow his stack, and even then, it wasn’t much of one. Sanguine, that’s him. Or knotted up inside, perhaps. When you’re that stoic, it can be hard to tell yourself, I’m guessing.

Me, I don’t have to guess. If something’s really wrong, it should be noted and dealt with. If the something that’s wrong is me, it should be noted and dealt with even faster.

Oh…and whatever you do? Don’t pour coffee on the problem…


Image by dariuszka via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Capers, deprivation and working it like Julia Child


Did you read Julie & Julia? I did, and I enjoyed much of it heartily. Not precisely for the book itself, which is a perfect example of marvelous voice and great story minus adequate time and editing, but for the way it brings to vivid, crazy-passionate life the joy of throwing yourself madly into what you do.

If you are within arms’ reach of 50, you might remember Julia Child that way, too, the wild, delightful, not-quite-right lady who dug in and made do and generally got down with her food as an extension of herself. Julia was her food, and her food was Julia, and it was all infused with a kind of messy, art-infused passion you just don’t see in a Rachael Ray (who has energy, but fueled by the sell) or a Martha (who has passion, but confined by control) or a Giada (who has the sex-ay, but is, unlike dear Julia, gloriously unhampered by the plainness that plague mere mortals). Big, wild, plain-faced Julia burst through the screen and grabbed your heart because she was all about life, and just used that food as a vehicle to deliver the goods. (Also, she was funny, which goes a long way towards making things work.)

What’s more, while Julia brought fine, French cooking to a land whose food at that time was neither, one got the sense that she’d do the same kind of I-love-life cartwheels cooking up a burger or a baked potato as she would any of the fancier items in her repertoire. My own memory is shot (thank you, 1980s!), but YouTube continues to fill in the gaps and offer sound backup to my theses, as in this clip where Julia waxes rhapsodic about roasters with a lineup of actual, dead chickens. Good lord, no wonder a nation was transfixed by her! Even an idiot girl of 10 who had to be tricked into eating Dover sole by being told it was tuna fish in a different shape could dig that fusion of Method truth and vaudevillian showmanship.

I have been thinking inordinately about food and joy and showmanship of late because finally, and really, given my diagnosis and my age and how ill I fare when my fare is less than fair, it probably is final, I am back on the diet I use to manage my Crohn’s disease, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. As I’ve said before, it’s not that it’s the worst diet in the world, and I’m happy I was dealt the Crohn’s card instead* of something that wasn’t so easily managed by diet, lifestyle choice and exercise. It’s just that…

Well, French fries. And rye toast. And Coca-Cola. And chocolate, especially those Fannie May dark chocolate creams.

It’s like meeting three awesome friends in the first grade that you spend an entire lifetime goofing off and carousing with, and while, yeah, maybe some mornings after you wonder if you shouldn’t spend quite so much time with them, you still wouldn’t want to tell them that you’d come to a point in your life where the relationship wasn’t serving you, that you’d grown apart and that while it wasn’t them, it was you, you still needed them to understand that you could never, ever hang out ever again. Especially since, given their popularity among throngs of total strangers, you were likely to run into them for the rest of your lives on a regular basis. Awk-ward!

I was talking this over yesterday with my friend, Lucy Rosset, a.k.a. Lucy of Lucy’s Kitchen Shop, where many of us SCD-ers buy our SCD-legal supplies. I told her about my backsliding and my shame and how yeah, I knew pizza was a hoodlum but he was so hawt, I couldn’t resist. And Lucy agreed, but then she turned the conversation toward cool stuff we could eat. And all of a sudden, dontcha know, we were talking smoked salmon bites and salade Nicoise and dolled-up sandwiches with bacon and avocado and all manner of other delicious “legals” nestled together in the same small space of almond or cashew toast and damned if I wasn’t fired up to get all Julia Child on my food, to love up what I had, the gizzards and ends and weird parts, instead of bemoaning what I couldn’t. It was Lucy who got to the heart of it: we can’t have everything, but we can put crazy attention and focus and creative thinking into what we can, and, in addition to making our food taste a whole lot better, exercising that creative muscle has a wide-ranging, beneficial effect on everything we put our minds to.

It’s a nice kind of a practice, in these strange economic times, to focus on what’s true and before me. It’s a nice kind of meditation for an artist, to work with the materials she has, and to come up with something beautiful out of it. I have seen nothing less than magic worked with no more: fairy worlds from duct tape and plastic, empires from WordPress and persistence, re-written futures from collaboration and creativity.

We never have nothing. And what we can do with it?

Now that’s really something…


*Dear Universe: Please feel free to not deal me additional cards. Thank you! Love and xxx, Colleen.

Photo © LAist and/or Ken Roht’s Orphean Circus and/or photog Jim Hickcox. God bless the Internet! Share nicely!