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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Tuesday
    Nov172009

    Google Books Settlement Will Bring More Out of Print Books to Family Historians

    As a fan of Google Books, I am pretty excited about last week’s settlement for the class action lawsuit filed by authors and publishers over digitizing rights by Google Books. The preliminary agreement, if approved, will bring more access to full-text books to the public AND compensate authors and publishers. This could be a happy solution for all parties.

    Three years ago, or just about the time Google Books really started rolling with a massive list of digitized books, the Authors Guild and
    Association of American Publishers sued Google over the rights to digitize their works without compensation. Writers everywhere have been watching the results of this action.

    One major result of this settlement is a new expanded Google Books Search which will include out-of-print and in-print books. Authors and publishers will have an option to make books available for print or purchase to readers that are still under copyright but out-of-print. This will be a great boon to researchers, since niche books often have short press runs and become difficult to find.

    Titles for Google Books will come from two sources: The Partner Program (authors and publishers) and The Library Project (world-wide libraries). This will undoubtedly boost the number of books available for search and access, especially older out-of-print books that are being digitized by libraries.

    A second major change is the way users can access in-copyright books, whether in-print or out-of-print. Google Books presently shows snippets of these books; under the new agreement, users could purchase access to the full text through an individual Google Book account, or have access through library or institutional subscriptions.

    Google Books notes that out-of-copyright, out-of-print books will continue to be available for download and printing. The implication is that this service will also continue to be at no charge.

    For researchers, this means that Google Book Search can return results for active, current books, hard to find out-of-print books, and older copyright-expired books all with one search.

    Google Books also makes note that expanded subscriptions for libraries educational institutions and public will also be offered creating “opportunities for researchers to study the millions of volumes in the Book Search index. Academics will be able to apply through an institution to run computational queries through the index without actually reading individual books.”

    I’m not sure what that last bit means, other than maybe researchers will be able to tally volumes in a given category or subject, but the fact that it is included as a distinct item indicates further interest in the topic.

    As part of the settlement, Google Books will also be creating the Authors Rights Registry to assist author-searches and insure that authors are compensated for their work. This may be a bit of a slap on the hand to Google, but can only be good for authors and publishers.

    Tuesday
    Nov102009

    Tech Tuesday Surprise! It’s Here, It’s Awesome: Kindle for PC App

    This morning Amazon released the Kindle for PC Application, Beta, bringing Kindle content to Windows 7, Vista, and XP desktops, with the Mac Version to follow.

    The clean interface presents with two main buttons -- Archived Items shows the cover image of books purchased or downloaded through the Kindle Store, Home displays books downloaded to the Kindle for PC App. Booklists can be sorted by Most Recent, Title, or Author. Unfortunately, there is still no way to sort by category or subject; hopefully this is something that will be added in a future update.

    kindle-pc-home

    Why would you want to read a Kindle book on your desktop, laptop, or netbook computer? Here are a few of my favorite reasons:

    1. Genealogy guides published only in Kindle format, like Nancy Hendrickson’s How to Trace Your Frontier Ancestors are especially useful for their web links, and with PC access I can click directly on the link to visit the recommended websites.
    2. With access to the nearly 400 genealogy books now available for the Kindle I can read, search, and use the links in these books on my PC, iPod Touch, or Kindle anywhere almost instantly. Downloads occur in seconds.
    3. Likewise, my favorite classics, available as FREE etexts at Project Gutenberg are also available through the Kindle for PC Application. I like the idea of integrating my ebooks in one place. Kindle Nation Daily has posted easy instructions for downloading the MobileRead Mobipocket guide and catalog to free books. I can't wait to explore the catalog and catch up on my annual re-reading of Jane Austen.
    4. Ten font sizes and varied words per line make reading on screen easier than ever before.
    5. Read on the iPod Touch or iPhone for awhile, then switch to the PC. The book is synchronized so you can pick up where you left off.

    The biggest drawback to reading on the Kindle for PC is that it's a bit dangerous to read an ebook in the bathtub! Couch Potato Club members, be forewarned!

    Friday
    Nov062009

    Shades, The Magazine Comes Into the Sunshine

    What excitement to wake up this morning to the premiere edition of Shades, The Magazine, now online at Shades of the Departed. footnoteMaven has been hosting an exceptional blog-format publication for some time and the magazine format brings Shades to a new level of innovative design and accessibility.

    shades-2009-11

    Antique photograph enthusiasts and family historians yet to meet Shades, are sure to find much of interest in the monthly magazine. What began as a vehicle for sharing footnoteMaven’s extensive collection of antique and vintage photographs has grown to a publication offering historical research, archival techniques, lessons in photo restoration and digital scrapbooking, and features on innovative ways to use and share photographs.

    As one of the several columnists and writers privileged to be a part of Shades for many months, I am excited about the new format and design. What a surprise, as well, to see the photo-inspiration for Penny Dreadful’s monthly story as the cover photo in this November Issue.

    Congratulations, footnoteMaven! And thank you for making Penny Dreadful a part of Shades of the Departed Magazine. I can’t wait to see what you have planned next.

    Thursday
    Nov052009

    Have You Voted Today?

    The polls are still open for the Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs. Cast your ballot and help select the top genealogy blogs to be featured in Family Tree Magazine this spring, 2010.

    Voting is open through November 5, 2009 at the Family Tree website where the nominations are listed in 10 different categories. Voters are asked to select a specified number of top blogs in each category. Nominations in the Photo/Heirloom Category include

    Above the Trees
    Photo-Sleuth
    Sense of Face
    Shades of The Departed
    The Family Curator
    The Practical Archivist

    A helpful list of all nominated blogs with links is available at footnoteMaven. Congratulations to all the nominated blogs and bloggers!

     

    Wednesday
    Nov042009

    No Kindle? No Problem? More ebooks now available for Kindle for iPhone and iPod Touch; PC, Mac and Blackberry Apps on the way

    Members of the Couch Potato Club take note! The ebook reader wars are heating up, which is only good news for fans of public domain ebooks. In recent weeks, Amazon has positioned its Kindle ebook reader to remain a top choice in electronic readers even if you don’t own a pricey Kindle.

    The newest version of Kindle for iPhone and iPod Touch makes the entire Amazon Kindle booklist available on a handheld device at no additional cost, and in a market ploy to maintain market strength, the list of Amazon ebooks now numbers over 360,000.

    To make good things even better, Amazon recently announced the forthcoming Kindle for PC, a free application for Windows PC. The Beta software will allow users to purchase, download, and read books from the Kindle Store, select varying font sizes, and view notes made on the Kindle. Windows 7 users will be able to zoom in and out with a finger-pinch and eventually turn pages with a finger swipe. Way cool!

    Of course, Mac users are already clamoring for a Mac application, and according to a CNet interview with Drew Herdener, Amazon’s Director of Communication, they won’t have to wait long. The Kindle for PC app will be followed “in the the next few months” with Kindle for Mac, and Kindle for Blackberry.

    I have been trying to read ebooks on my computer for some time, but always been frustrated by the uncomfortable reality of either sitting at my desk in front of a monitor or juggling a laptop and trying to “pretend” it was a book. I even tried using a nifty utility eRotate to spin the text 180 degrees on my netbook so it would feel more like a real book.

    Amazon’s Kindle, with it’s totally free wi-fi connectivity for downloading books and its digital ink technology answers the Want List for an outstanding ebook reader. It looks even better recently, as Amazon announced the much-awaited International Edition, and another huge price drop which brings the Kindle in line with Barnes & Noble’s competition, Nook.

    When my book club reading list started to grow, I realized I could save quite a chunk of change by purchasing the Kindle version of the books I needed to read. Most Kindle books are priced at $9.99 or less; this could amount to a considerable savings over $16.99 and $24.99 editions.

    I first tried reading books from Amazon’s Kindle book list on the Kindle for iPhone App available for the iPod Touch. With the quick finger-flick used to turn the page, and the clear sizeable font, it was a good reading experience, albeit somewhat small. I did find, however, that the lighting technology was tiring and I could not read for a long period of time without extreme eye fatigue.

    The Kindle2 reader avoids the visual fatigue issue by using a different technology completely. The text appears on the screen as black words on a white background, just like a printed page. There is no backlight, which is easier on the eyes, and the battery is only drained when the page is “turned,” saving battery power. It is also possible to customize the text size and even enable text-to-speech on many books.

    Lately, Kindle blogs have been buzzing with news of the increasing number of ebooks available at Amazon, and the scores of FREE books available as well. When Wallmart announced that holiday best-sellers would be priced at $10, Amazon promptly announced the $9 price-point for many of the same new titles. The special pricing doesn’t last long, however, sometimes only a few days. With the Kindle for iPhone and forthcoming Kindle for PC, these Amazon specials will be a real bargain.

    Tuesday
    Nov032009

    Are You Blogging with the Genealogy Blogger’s Almanac?

    Last month, The Family Curator launched The Genealogy and Family History Blogger’s Almanac, a seasonal calendar of blog prompts and ideas for the month of November. Are you a blogger who downloaded the premier November Edition of The Blogger’s Alamanac? If so, how are you using the writing ideas?

    As the days move towards the hectic holiday season, many bloggers find a special need for an editorial calendar in planning and scheduling articles. The Blogger’s Almanac aims to spark your imagination with new ideas and suggest seasonal topics you can write about before the busy holidays arrive.

    I hope you have found it useful, and that the seasonal prompts have helped you with article ideas or with scheduling blog posts ahead of time. Please leave a comment and share how you are using the ideas in The Blogger’s Almanac, or take a few minutes to respond to a brief survey.

    Click Here to take survey

    Tuesday
    Oct272009

    Family Curator Tours Scan Digital World Headquarters

    After enjoying the convenience and service of sending several panorama photos to ScanDigital for scanning, I decided to take a field trip and see for myself how a mail-order scanning service operates.

     

    ScanDigital is housed in a tidy brick building one block off Main Street in downtown El Segundo, California. The towering pipes of nearby refineries and the thunder of jets from LAX are in strange contrast to the homey Anytown, USA atmosphere of this sleepy beach town. Some call it one of Los Angeles's best kept secrets, and residents are careful to keep it that way, leaving the noisy trendy beach scene to neighboring Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach.

     

    ScanDigital, El Segundo, California

     

    Inside, the office is a large open space with a reception area toward the street and several work stations arranged along both walls in the central area. Today, a young art student is arranging bits of film, old slides, and film reels against a  bright tangerine colored wall; he is filming a short promotional video.

     

     

    Photo-Synthesis from Pamela Weiss on Vimeo.

    I am greeted by a young woman who introduces herself as Pam Weiss, Public Relations Director. I explain the purpose of my visit -- could I tour the facility and take a few photos for a blog article? She waves her hand at the interior and smiles. I am surprised. I didn't expect to see so many employees and such a quiet, focused atmosphere

    .

    Workstations around the perimeter of the room are set up with multiple scanners. Pam explains that regular, consumer scanners are used for most orders. At one station, a tech carefully peels  back plastic from magnetic scrapbook pages and places the page on a flatbed scanner. He shows me how he frequently cleans the scanner glass and manipulates software and scanner for the best results.

     

    Across the room, a young woman oversees a tower of machines, working to transfer the contents from VHS tapes to DVD.

     

    Home movies can be converted from almost any media to DVD format, ready to view at home.

     

    As we move around the room, founder Anderson Schoenrock and Vice-President  Matthew Stone come in from lunch and Anderson stops to explain how the business began with co-founder  Mike Mothner to fill a need voiced by Mike's mom for a service that could digitize her family photo collection. According to Anderson, the two tested and rejected high-volume scanners with automatic feeders because of the possibility for damage to the photos. In the end, Anderson explains, they felt that careful hand scanning was the safest procedure for their customer's valuable images.  For the same reasons, Anderson emphasizes that all work is done on-site, nothing is sent out to other contractors. This makes their cost slightly higher than the competition, but customers know that all work is being done in the USA.

     

    Anderson holds the two oversize colored photographs I delivered for digitizing.

     

    The company also enforces a rigid protocol to insure that images are not lost or misplaced. Each incoming order is registered online; walk-in customers are invited to use the front desk computer to set up an account, and orders sent by UPS are registered before shipment.

     

    When an order arrives at the office, it is opened, checked, logged, and placed with shipping materials in a covered plastic bin. A printed inventory tag is slipped into a pocket on the outside of the bin and the container placed in a secure room adjacent to the workroom.

     

     Each order is stored in individual bins for processing by the scanning technician, then returned to storage until the items are retuned to the customer with the finished digital images.

     

     

    An email notifies the customer that the order has been received and is in line to be processed. When the order is ready for work, a technician takes the entire box to the workstation where everything is kept in one place and worked on individually.

     

    Scan technicians have a choice of scanning equipment to choose from, depending on the size and nature of the images. Gloves are available when working with heirloom photographs, although typically not used when handling plastic covered scrapbook pages.  Photos are generally scanned as JPG images, but Anderson added that special  requests for TIFF or high-resolution scans can be accommodated.

     

    After scanning, the photos are returned to the bin and the images passed to another technician who checks the order for quality and completeness. Some image touch-ups may be completed at this point, such as general enhancement or blemish removal, although they do not offer full restoration services.

     

    The customer is notified as the order is completed and the staff prepares the originals and image CD or
    DVD for shipment. Walk-in customers can return to the office to pick up their order.

     

    I was impressed not only by the personal attention to each order, but by the obvious dedication to offering a high quality product. The young entrepreneurs at ScanDigital and their attentive technicians are a reminder of old-fashioned business sense addressing a 21st century need. ScanDigital's website offers an informative overview of their service and a blog filled with ideas for photo-shoots, scrapbooking, and working with family photographs. You can read the previous article about my experience using ScanDigital's services to digitize my panorama photos here.

     

    ScanDigital is offering Discount Code to Family Curator readers who would like to try their services. Enter CURATOR10 as the coupon code when registering your order. And, please leave your comments for others to hear about your experience with ScanDigital or other scanning services.

     

    Note: I was not compensated for this review in any way. The idea for the tour and review originated after reading Twitter posts requesting information or recommendations of ScanDigital. Thanks, TwitterPals!

    Thursday
    Oct222009

    The Family Curator Sends Heirloom Photographs to ScanDigital Photo Scanning Service

    Bigger treasures are not necessarily better, but they are a bigger challenge. My grandmother saved everything, and I am slowly and carefully scanning and storing each photo, letter, and document. That is, except the growing stack of oversize items that are too large for my flatbed scanner. I have hesitated to send them off to the Never-Neverland of a mail-order scanning service. . . who knows where they would go or how they would be cared for?

    That is, until I met the founders/scanners from ScanDigital at the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree last June. Matthew Stone, Vice-President, Operations, was answering questions in the exhibit hall and explained the service and procedures, emphasizing the LOCAL operation. ScanDigital's offices are located in El Segundo, the family beach-town known as one of L.A.'s best kept secrets. This didn't sound quite so scary. I was assured that all scanning was done on-site, not sent off to a foreign country (and, I didn't even know that some places did that!)

    Heirloom photos stored tightly rolled, now cracked and creased

    When I came across a cache of large panorama photos from the 1920s and 30s, I decided it was time to try  ScanDigtal. Since my son and daughter-in-law actually live in El Segundo and offered to drop off the photos for me, it didn't seem like I was sending my precious heirlooms off into the boonies. Katie was asked to use the lobby computer and register an account. She left the photos and within days we received an email that the order was complete; she returned to pick up the photos and image CD. Pretty nice daughter-in-law!

    Images were scanned at 600dpi as JPGs,as requested. As I do not plan to print the photos or greatly enlarge any portion, I felt the standard ScanDigital resolution would probably be fine. The scans came out clear and straight, but it was obvious my photos had major problems. Years spent tightly rolled resulted in creases, cracks, and tears; these will need some restoration work.

    Great Western Paint Mfg. Co. 5th Convention Kangaroo Club, K.C., Mo. Jan. 14-15, 1930

    ScanDigital was careful not to cause further damage to the photos, and as a result some images bear slight shadows where the scanning technician held back from flattening the photograph to the glass. When I called to ask about this, ScanDigital offered to rescan those images, but I will wait to do so until (and if) I am able to relax the photos.

    Employees of the Gurley Candy Co., Sept 20, 1929

    My conversations with ScanDigital left me very curious about their facility and procedure and I asked if I could bring in my next photos personally and take a tour.

     I imagined a large warehouse full of Kinko's-size scanners or maybe a front office and a fleet of vans who rushed orders to an nearby warehouse where the "big" equipment was manned by an army of busy technicians. There would be a low hum from the machines and everything would be sterile and white.

    I think they were a bit surprised by my request, but said to just "come on by." So, I did. 

    . . . to be continued with details of The Family Curator's tour of ScanDigital and a Special Savings Offer.





    Tuesday
    Oct202009

    Happy Birthday Princess Usha from your friend Susie Brown

    From Mom's 'Princess Diaries'

    My Mother has pushed and pulled me along our genealogical journey, and this week she brings out yet another surprise. Mom often talked about her little playmate, The Princess of Indore, and this week she asked me to make an Internet Appeal for Help – she would like to reconnect with her fondly remembered playmate, Usha-Devi Holkar.

    My research has revealed an intriguing family history (see below) and we are excited to see what more we can learn. If you can help, please leave a comment below. Mom will be watching!

    Princess Usha and family

     

    Happy Birthday to You

    Happy Birthday to You

    Happy Birthday Usha Holkar,

    Happy Birthday to You.

    Happy Happy Birthday Usha, The Maharani of Indore, India.  I remember our fun days when we attended Hoover School and then we would go to your Palace to play. What fun times we had.

    I remember celebrating with other school friends your 6th Birthday party in your upstairs playroom.  You were a fun friend and playmate and I have thought of you often over all these 70 years.  

    Celebrate and enjoy your October 20th Birthday.  

    Love, Susie Brown Freeman

     

    Mothers are always right.

    In 1937, the handsome young Maharajah of Indore, recently widowed and still in mourning for his first wife was reportedly visiting Southern California with his five-year-old daughter when he fell ill with bronchial asthma. He was admitted to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan in Los Angeles where he met an attractive young American divorcé, Marguerite Lawler, born in Fargo, North Dakota. She later accompanied the pair to Europe as the child’s governess and was married to the Maharajah Yeshwant Rao Holkar on September 19, 1938.

    That same year, the Maharajah moved into his newly-completed Southern California palace with his bride and young daughter. The Santa Ana Register noted, "A man's home is his castle, and the castle being built for the world's richest man, the Maharajah of Indore, in Santa Ana is not only a castle; it is literally a fortress. It will guard that which is more dear to him than all of his income-it will guard the safety and continued well-being of his daughter, Princess Usha."

    The gracious home at the corner of Heliotrope and Santa Clara in Santa Ana was estimated to cost $50,000 to build at the height of the Depression; another $150,000 was spent on furnishing the mansion. But while the Maharajah enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle that included custom automobiles, international travel, and over a dozen homes, his daughter Usha enjoyed attending the neighborhood public school, Hoover Elementary, and playing with the local children. Susie Brown was one of the little girls invited to join in playtime at the Princess’s palace home.

    Today Suzanne recalls the big black car that brought the girls from school to the palace, and the upstairs playroom filled with toys and games. A governess or other attendants were always within sight, the Princess was never alone.

    Too soon, life changed at the Palace for Usha and her little friends. The Maharajah and his bride, Marguerite returned to India where they enjoyed a much different lifestyle. In 1942, Marguerite returned to the United States, and the Maharajah followed the next year to file for divorce.  As part of the divorce settlement, she received the Santa Ana home and the couple’s home in Emerald Bay, along with the care of Princess Usha.

    Only hours after his Reno divorce from Marguerite was final, on 6 July 1943, the Maharajah married Mrs. Euphremia Watt Crane.  Their son, Richard Shivji Rao was born 18 May 1944. 

    Ever resilient, Marguerite joined the Waves and Princess Usha returned to India at age 10 to live with her family. Marguerite married again and lived once more at the home on Heliotrope and Santa Clara until moving to Corona del Mar where she lived until her death in 1963.

    Little Princess Usha inherited the throne of Indore, and now contributes to her native country as a generous patron of culture, medical advancement, and the arts. She will be 76 years old this year. Happy Birthday Princess.

    Usha-Devi Maharani Sahiba Holkar XV Bahadur

     

    Many thanks to footnoteMaven for pushing me to uncover more of Mom's Princess Diaries and for confirming Usha's story on the Internet.

    Sources

     “The Fabulous Cars of the Holkars of Indore.” Indian Royalty, Maharajas and More, 9 September 2009. http://akshay-chavan.blogspot.com/2009/09/fabulous-cars-of-holkars-of-indore.html.

    Indore, The Holkar Dynastyhttp://www.royalark.net/India/indore5.htm.

    Marsh, Diann.  Santa Ana, An Illustrated History (Heritage Publishing, 1994), excerpt in “Santa Ana’s Richest Resident, The Maharajah of Indore.” Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society. http://www.santaanahistory.com/articles/maharajah.html.

    naneria. Yeswantraro Holkar, Lifesketch of Yeswant Rao Holkar Bahadur. http://www.slideshare.net/guestcd1c42/yeswantrao-holkar.

     

    Tuesday
    Oct202009

    National Day on Writing Events Begin Today

    The United States Senate has passed a resolution declaring October 20, 2009 as the National Day on Writing highlighting the National Gallery of Writing and a webcast of special events. Sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the National Day on Writing is "collecting a cross-section of everyday writing through a National Gallery of Writing" to "better understand what matters to writers today."

    The Gallery of Writing will collect writing in diverse styles from people across America. Contributions will be accepted until June 1, 2010 and will be open to readers through June 30, 2010. Be a part of history and submit a recent blog article, story, poem, email, or audiovisual piece.

    Friday
    Oct162009

    Start Writing with the Blogger's Almanac

    You have downloaded The Genealogy and Family History Blogger's Almanac and found a topic that you would like to write about, but you are having trouble getting started with the first sentence or two. Every writer knows the feeling of staring at a blank page or screen and waiting for inspiration. That's when it can be helpful to have a few reliable tricks; here are a few favorites to break writer's block --

    Be a Journalist, Find a Slant for your story -- You want to write about Uncle Ernie's expererience in the Korean War, but that's a big topic. Maybe you can narrow the topic a bit by writing about how he was so eager to enlist that he fibbed about his age, just like his dad had done a few decades earlier. Now you have more focus, and a smaller, more manageable topic.

    Be a Detective, Find the Five W's -- It helps to make notes as you brainstorm your topic. Jot down the five W's, and fill in the blanks: who? (Uncle Ernie), what? (carried on a family tradition), where? (Hometown, USA), when? (19xx), why? (because his older brother and two best friends had just enlisted).

    Be a Mason, Build the Foundation -- Use the elements of the 5 W's to craft a solid sentence (or two) that answers those questions. It doesn't have to be especially elegant at this point, it just has to be solid. Uncle Ernie kept with the family tradition of military service when he enlisted in in the Army during the Korean War.  Like his brother and best friends, Ernie would serve with distinction; and like his father before him, Ernie enlisted under false pretenses by pretending to be older than his actual years.

    Your story is off and running. Fill in the tale with details about each of those five w's, beginning with the most exciting or unusual, and the tale will take shape. Reread over what you have written to check spelling and grammar, and polish your prose. Then, post and enjoy.

     

     

    Tuesday
    Oct132009

    Tech Tuesday Delayed Due to Digital Disaster

    From Mr. Curator  

    With true trepidation it is announced that publication of Tuesdays’ Tutorial will be delayed due to a (not so Dreadful) digital disfiguration done at the dinner hour during the drudgery of preparation of a delicious gastronomic delight.  Clearly, chopping chives for Arista di Maiale can cause cessation of the creation and circulation of curatorial columns for the curious.  Publication will resume when the wraps are removed.

    Saturday
    Oct102009

    Use Blog Prompts to Jump-Start Your Writing

    It’s October, do you know what you will be publishing on your blog for the next two months? By the time “Jingle Bells” hits the department stores it is nearly too late to “plan ahead” for holiday postings, but if you start now to organize your blogging life, by late November you will be enjoying your turkey dinner without blog-induced indigestion.

    The November Issue of The Genealogy and Family History Blogger’s Almanac presents a variety of seasonal writing prompts that make it easy to plan ahead for timely blogging articles.

    In contrast to an Editorial Calendar, which is used to schedule articles, writing prompts (or themes) are specific topics on what to write. By definition, an editorial calendar is used by newspapers and magazines to schedule major features. It is used by editors in assigning stories and by the sales and circulation departments to solicit advertising. Most magazine editors know that people will start thinking about cool-weather cooking in the fall when the weather turns cold, so they schedule crock-pot and soup recipes. The savvy advertising sales department sees this on the calendar and is able to sell advertising for slow-cookers, freezer containers, and even expensive enameled cast iron soup pots.

    Bloggers may not be slating advertising on an Editorial Calendar, but they can use it to keep track of upcoming Carnivals or daily themes and to schedule posts using their blogging platform's advance posting features. A calendar can encourage regular blog updates, and help you see when you last wrote on a certain topic. It can also give a quick overview as to how your blog-life will be be impacted by real-live activities. Veteran bloggers like footnoteMaven know the value of a personalized Editorial Calendar. Her recent article Set Up a Blog Editorial Calendar gives the nuts-and-bolts for designing and using a calendar, and shares several great ideas for keeping your blog-life organized.

    Are You a Writer or a Poster?

    Teachers know the value of writing prompts in the classroom, so do college admissions boards. Each year, the University of California releases the college essay topics (or prompts). These topics are so useful in helping students fashion thoughtful personal essays that they are used by many other colleges for their student applications. Just because a student writes to a prompt does not mean he is unoriginal or not creative. Quite the contrary, when hundreds of thousands of students write to the same prompt, excellent writing truly shines. In fact, the prompt all but disappears.

    So, how can bloggers effectively use writing prompts? First, you probably know the kind of blog you want to publish. Ask yourself a few questions:

    • Is my blog a casual activity? How much time do I want to spend writing blog posts?
    • How much time do I want to spend reading other blog posts?
    • How much time do I want to spend commenting?

    In my experience teaching English and journalism, writing prompts were helpful for most students. A good prompt helped get the pen moving across the page. Students happy to settle for a passing grade would often dash off the required word-length and submit the paper. Those high-achievers (ok, bloggers, you know who you are!), in contrast, used the prompt as a starting point for something else. Sometimes they wrote two or three entire papers before they got it right, but they kept working on it. Often, the prompt helped most in giving focus and direction to their paper.

    The same thing is true every Tombstone Tuesday --

    Writers publish carefully  researched and well-written interesting stories about people and places, often complete with source citations.

    Posters publish photos and brief captions, often focusing on artistic or humorous interpretation or on personal research.

    It doesn’t matter, though, if you are a writer or a poster, writing prompts can still be helpful. Sometimes bloggers switch back and forth between the two roles. Writers get busy, burned-out, or just plain bored and turn into Posters for a while. Posters surprise themselves by becoming inspired and motivated to write a full feature article that generates comments and tweets.

    Think "Outside the Blog-Box" With a Writing Prompt

    A writing prompt can help jump-start either writers or posters. Here are a few different ways to think about using a prompt --

    from  The Blogger’s Almanac, November

    Weather Report – Do you drink your morning coffee with your local weatherman (or woman)? Do you recall their names?

    How often do we think about something so mundane as the weather report? Most of us check it when we plan our clothes or activities for the day. Will it be sunny and warm, raining, humid?

    I turn on the television and watch the Los Angeles weather report on Channel 7 ABC News with Dallas Raines. What a great name for a weatherman!  We have Johnny Mountain here too.

    Idea! Is a good name a requirement for being a weather person?
    Idea! What other weather reporters have symbolic names?

    My husband listens to the radio beginning about 5am. He gets the weather report on the air. He needs to know if it’s going to rain unexpectedly because he might have a house open and under construction. That means he has to move fast to put the the house under cover.

    Idea! How much rain usually falls this time of year?
    Idea! Have we ever had a flood around here? Are there any photos?

    Thinking about rain brings to mind rainy days when the boys were younger.

    Idea! Where are those photos of the boys in slickers and rainboots?

    What about Blog Carnival themes or the Daily Blogging Themes posted at GeneaBloggers?

    Idea! For the next Carnival of Genealogy: Your Favorite Genealogy Society, tap your local society's riches to discover your town's weather history, or research the genealogy of weather reporters in your hometown. How long has the local weather person been at the job? Who did your parents turn to for the weather report?

    Idea! For Tombstone Tuesday stretch yourself to stay in the weather prompt. How does your local cemetery handle cemetery care are during the current season? What particular issues of tombstone care are a result of your particular local weather?

    Idea! For a quick Treasure Chest Thursday article find your oldest pair of weather related gear (umbrella, rainboots, bikini?) and write a story with article about how it came to be in your closet.

    You get the idea! Combine writing prompts like those in The Blogger's Almanac with a personal Editorial Calendar and you will be one step closer to blogging through the hectic holiday season with time and space for those serendipitous moments that beg to be shared. There's lots to write and post about. Happy Blogging!

    Friday
    Oct092009

    Blogger’s Almanac Available at CGS Conference and Online Saturday 10 October

    almanac-title-web The Genealogy and Family History Blogger’s Almanac , November Issue, will be available Saturday October 10 online at The Family Curator and in person at the California Genealogical Society and Library in Oakland, California where Thomas MacEntee iis presenting Become a Genealogy Blog User and Building a Genealogy Blog.

    If you can’t make it to Oakland to hear Thomas’s presentation, followed by Craig Manson on Blogging and the Law, you can still be one of the first to download a free copy of The Blogger’s Almanac at The Family Curator.

    The Almanac features weekly themes and blogging ideas for the month of November as a helpful calendar for scheduling blog posts in advance during the busy holiday season.

    Wednesday
    Oct072009

    Research in Boston with a Virtual Visit to NEHGS and 4 New Online Journals

    NewEngland114

    I love Boston, but if NEHGS keeps adding online material my visits might get fewer and farther between. Just this week, the New England Historic Genealogical Society announced the launch of “Genealogical Journals Online: A National Collection.”

    The Journal web page brings together access to several of the country’s premier publications in one easy-to-navigate place. At present the site includes searchable online databases for

    • The American Genealogist
    • The Connecticut Nutmegger
    • New England Ancestors Magazine
    • New Netherland Connections
    • The New England Historical and Genealogical Register
    • The Virginia Genealogist

    Membership in NEHGS is a great value if you live in New England or can conduct research there in person frequently. But if you have New England ancestors and live in another part of the country, it’s an exceptional value for the quality and quantity of available online resources. The only drawback is that membership doesn’t include clam chowder or a lobster roll.