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Another Year of Public Performance Presentation Skills Success

As you may know, I am on the faculty at Western Colorado University, in the Graduate Creative Writing Program. For the last four years I have coached grad student creative writers (poets, genre novelists, and now screenwriters) on Public Performance presentation skills during the department’s summer intensive in beautiful Gunnison, CO.

Each year I have been impressed with the quality of the writing across the genres, and also with the willingness of each student to open up to my coaching, which I’ve designed to help typically introverted writers to embrace public performance of their own works. After all, a good reading can help sell books! And it’s very important to all of us on the faculty that we are preparing our writers to succeed in the real world.

My group of students for 2019 was terrific–and more diverse than ever. In addition to coaching the third year MFA students extensively (all of whom must give a public reading of 15-20 minutes from their work), I also held a session with the second year genre fiction class, and conducted a number of sessions with the first year poetry group. The improvements in each case were palpable to all in the room. As is typical, some students took small but tangible steps toward comfort in public performance, and others seized the opportunity full on and ended up delivering truly exciting readings.

My congratulations to all my students. Well done! Here’s a picture of me with the 2019 MFA/MA graduating class. I can’t wait to hear more from all of you.  If you’re a writer looking to hone your skills, you should check out the excellent program we have at WCU and join us.  It’s a low-residency program with a great in-person summer residency each year.  I’d love to see you there!

Join us for the remaining 2019 sessions of the ATDNYC eLearning SIG!

Apologies I haven’t posted in a while; it’s been quite a busy year so far, and promises to remain busy through year end. We’ve had some great ATDNYC eLearning SIG sessions so far this year, and I want to let you know about the three remaining sessions coming up:

Wednesday, September 18th We’ll be offering a hands-on session on how easy it is to create your own background graphics for your eLearning using just your smartphone and a little savvy. No prior photography experience required! My co-chair David Truzman and I will share examples and coach you on creating simple images that will work well as backgrounds for your eLearning slides. We’ll also talk about using background visuals as metaphors for your project. You can read more and sign up here.

Friday, October 18th A Scavenger Hunt Outing! We’ll be meeting outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 5:45pm to start a scavenger hunt (we’ll enter the museum as individuals) for eLearning metaphor photo images in the museum’s regular collection. Then after two hours of image hunting, we’ll meet back outside the museum and relocate to a nearby restaurant to have dinner and share some of the images we’ve found. You can read more about the outing (and the Met’s admission and photography guidelines) and sign up here.

Wednesday, November 6th We’ll be back at CUNY for an end-of-year showcase. This is your chance to shine! Share a few slides from one of your projects inspired by topics we’ve covered this season, whether it includes some elements of gamification, some background images metaphors–whatever you’re most proud of and able to share with the group. Each presenter will have 5-10 minutes to show their slides, discuss them, and ask for feedback (if you want it). You can read more and sign up here.

You can attend any of these three sessions on its own. However, if you’re able to attend any two or more, you’ll reap that much more of the rewards. I hope we’ll see you there!

ATD eLearning SIG Meeting on The Rise of Web-Based Development Tools

On July 26th, ATD NYC eLearning SIG co-chair Mark Cassetta and I gave a standing-room-only session on The Rise of Web-Based Development Tools.  Mark gave an excellent demo of the web-based tool Adapt.  And I followed up with a brief look at the Rise web-based tool included with the Articulate 360 suite.  There are of course other web-based eLearning development tools surfacing, but we felt these two were the strongest ones out of the gate.

Adapt has been around longer (since 2013), and as Mark demonstrated, is currently far more fully-featured than Articulate’s Rise tool.  The fact that Adapt is open source and offers a fully-functional free version should send you running to check it out.  Rise is not free; it’s only available with a subscription to the Articulate 360 suite.  But as I demonstrated, this new tool already has a great look and feel, and allows you to put together great-looking modules in a fraction of the time you’d need developing in Articulate’s Storyline, or Adobe’s Captivate or similar products.

Mark and I pointed out that in addition to providing for faster, cheaper development, web-based tools are also designed to create content that is fully responsive in design–the courseware will automatically adapt its layout depending on whether your learners access it from a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone.  In this day of one-the-go, just-in-time training, this mobile-friendly element is huge.  And the learning curve for both tools is surprisingly low.

You can read more about Adapt here: https://www.adaptlearning.org

And you can read more about Rise here: https://articulate.com/360/rise

Our next ATD NYC eLearning SIG session will be on Wednesday, September 27th–put that date in your calendar now!

Teaching Presentation Skills to Graduate Student Poets and Novelists

This was my second year as a member of the graduate creative writing faculty at Western State Colorado University, in Gunnison, Colorado. I was first hired in 2016 by my Harvard classmate David Rothman, head of the program and of the poetry concentration, to teach a summer intensive on presentation skills to second-year grad student poets. Once I got there and the genre novelists heard about the work I was doing, they asked me for some sessions, as well. This year, we baked that into my teaching schedule. So I had a handful of morning sessions with five delightful and talented genre fiction writers, all of whom were seeking coaching for their final pre-graduation presentations. And in the afternoons, I taught my 8-session summer intensive “Poetry in Performance,” coaching three extremely talented poets.

This photo is of me with the 2017 graduating genre fiction novelists after their final presentations: from left, Kaleb Erickson, their wonderful writing instructor for this year, Candace Nadon, and Carla Mercado on my left. In the back: Vincent Harper, Marissa Harwood, and Ketura Barchers.

 

 

 

 

And in this picture, talented composer Justus (Jay) Perrotta (L) joins me in congratulating my three poets Ellen Metrick, Brian Calvert, and Brian Palmer, after their final 25-minute presentations. Jay has interest in setting some of the poems he heard to music. All three poets knocked it out of the park, and brought tears to many audience members’ eyes–including mine.

Well done, all! You did me proud, and I look forward to seeing and hearing more of your work.

New eLearning Overview Built with Articulate Rise Featuring Fully Responsive Design!

It’s a great time to be creating eLearning; development tools continue to evolve, and a new player on the scene is a real game-changer–especially if you need high quality mobile learning.  As if  Storyline wasn’t great enough, with their new Articulate 360 suite, Articulate now offers us Articulate Rise.  The main difference between Storyline and Rise is this:  Rise is an entirely online course development tool, and the content published from Rise features a fully responsive design.  That means whether your learners access a Rise course using a laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone, Rise automatically detects the type of device and delivers the course optimized for viewing on that type of device!  It’s practically magical.

Now, Rise can’t currently compete with Storyline in terms of more advanced features and types of interactions, but for basic, linear informational courses needing a bit of stylish interaction, Rise offers a number of elegant templates and a lot of room for creativity.  And because it’s template-driven, it means building a course with Rise takes less time–and less money.  Of course, you can still add your own branding and color scheme.

Another difference to keep in mind: since audio files do not autoplay on mobile devices, so any audio you include in a Rise course will require the learner to click to hear the audio file.  But that’s a small price to pay for eLearning content that looks great on any device.  (And of course you should never put critical information only in audio for any eLearning course.)  Thanks to tools like Rise, high quality mobile learning is now within every company’s reach.  And Articulate continues to enhance the features of Rise, so this is truly only the beginning.

Click on the image in this post to see the sample Rise course I created.  It’s an updated version of my eLearning Overview.  This brief course will walk you through the process of creating eLearning–and give you a great look at Rise in action at the same time.  I think you’ll agree it’s quality eLearning in a very stylish package.  I’ve already used Rise with some of my clients, and they are thrilled with the results.  Take my sample course for a spin, and let me know what you think!

If you want to learn more about Rise, it will be one of the tools we discuss at our next ATD NYC eLearning SIG meeting on Wednesday, July 26th.  Watch the ATD NYC web site for details and to register.

Recap of Recent ATD NYC eLearning SIG Sessions

As you may know, I’ve been co-chairing ATD NYC’s eLearning Special Interest Group (SIG) for a few years now; first with Enid Crystal of BlackRock, and now with Mark Cassetta of RBC.  We put a lot of work into our sessions, and attendees tell us they get a lot out of them.

In March, we hosted one of our popular roundtable discussions on the topic Making eLearning Interactions Meaningful.  As a group, we put together a list of common types of eLearning interactions, and then had a lively (and illustrated) discussion about how we might use each of those types of interaction in a way that adds relevance and resonance for a particular project.  After all, not every type of interaction is an easy match with every learning topic.  We looked at and discussed samples brought in by some of our creative SIG members–it’s always great to see ideas in action, hands-on.  Attendees told us afterward they left with their heads full of new ideas for how to choose an interaction type based on their topic and what they’re trying to say.  That’s what we love to hear!

In May, we held a session called Video 101: Lights!  Camera!  eLearning! which was very well attended both in person and online.  Video is becoming more and more popular as a teaching tool, as it becomes easier and easier to for us all to create.  Look at YouTube, after all.  It’s become a great, global training resource.  We talked about when it’s a good idea to consider adding video, and about the common challenges that arise when you decide to include video clips as part of your eLearning (like file size and formats).  We spent a good amount of time looking at a wide variety of sample video clips being used for different types of micro-training moments: endorsement, informational, step-by-step training, role-play, guided tour, quizzing, and more.  We also talked about the basic gear you need if you want to shoot your own video clips, and examined a typical lighting setup for a good-looking “talking head” clip.  Once again, attendees told us they left armed with a lot of great ideas for enhancing their own elearning back on the job.  We recorded this session, so if you’re an ATD NYC member, it will be available soon on the member web site.

If you’re in the NYC area, don’t miss out!  We only hold six eLearning SIG meetings a year, and every one of them is crammed with great ideas and great discussion.  If you’re not already a member of ATD NYC, consider joining.  The annual cost is quite low, and while there are many great Chapter events, and other SIGs, the eLearning SIG meetings alone are worth the price of admission.

Our next eLearning SIG meeting will be on Wednesday, July 26th.  Mark your calendar, and watch the ATD NYC web site for details and registration.  Our topic will be The Rise of Web-based eLearning Development Tools, and it promises to be another great session.  In fact, I have a new blog post coming up in which I’ll share an example of a course built with Articulate Rise (see what I did there?), a great new web-based development tool that offers fully responsive design.  Stay tuned!

Class Up Your Learning With Free Images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

In case you missed this news item in February, I decided to do a quick blog post about it.  Those of us creating a lot of eLearning content (and training materials in general) are always looking for inexpensive–or better, FREE–stock images to enliven our learning content.  True, the new Articulate 360 Suite includes a Content Library with some decent images (more on 360 in another post), and Adobe’s package also offers a stock image option–though a lot of that one seems to come with a price tag.  Death to the Stock Photo started out strong, but for me their image bundles have grown less interesting lately.  Likewise for Unsplash–sure, the photos are often swell, but how many 8mb mountain landscape shots do we need in corporate eLearning?

Sometimes help comes from unexpected places.  In this case, it comes from NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.  In February the museum announced it was making a treasure trove of copyright free (or copyright waived) images available to the public on their web site, for FREE.  Another reason to love that venerable institution (and seriously, if you haven’t ever been, it’s the El Dorado of art, and you really should spend a few hours there next time you’re in town).

To check out what’s available, visit their Collection and then check the box for “Public Domain Artworks” from the list of filters on the left.  Once you’ve done that, select other filters on the left to further narrow the results, browse to your heart’s content, and download what you need for your project.  The museum will continue adding images to this free databank over time.

Will you find lots of images of corporate businesspeople?  Well, no.  But if you’re creating a course with a metaphor, you could make great use of some classical art–and “class up” your learning content in the process!

Busy, Busy Busy–The View From Here

Hi there!  In case you occasionally check out my blog, you probably noticed that I went on a national tour of a new play in the fall of 2016, and apparently vanished.  Sorry about that.  Long story short, the tour (which was terrific) ended after a couple of months due to producer challenges, and when I returned to NYC, I found myself very busy with eLearning and other learning-related projects from a number of new clients.  So I have been neglecting my blog and my Facebook page due to the workload.  I’ve also decided to discontinue my newsletter, and just focus on the occasional new blog and FB post instead.

Stay tuned for some new posts soon.  No, really.  🙂

 

Big News: I’m in the “Cheers Live On Stage” National Tour!

Cheers_LogoAt last I can share this news: I’m playing the fabulous role of the mysterious Eric Finch in the upcoming Cheers Live On Stage national tour, which opens this September where I grew up: Boston, MA. I’m beyond thrilled to be working again with the fantastic and delightful Matt Lenz (who directed me in the award-winning 30th Anniversary production of The Foreigner at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in 2014), along with my buddy Sarah Sirota (we just appeared together in Like Money in the Bank in NYC), costume designer extraordinaire Michael McDonald (who designed costumes for The Foreigner) and a host of other lovely people. The web site is still in progress, as is the itinerary; I’ll provide updates as soon as I have them! (And if you don’t remember who Eric Finch is, don’t do research–just come see the show and be surprised!)  This is my first national tour, and I’m very excited.  I hope to see you when we come to your town.

You can read the press release by clicking here.

May Contest! Win a Copy of My New Audiobook “Black Sails White Rabbits”

BlackSailsWhiteRabbitsI’m celebrating the release of my first audiobook narration, Black Sails, White Rabbits; Cancer Was The Easy Part, by holding a raffle!

If you’d like to win a FREE copy of this audiobook, just make a comment on this post including your real name before 11:59pm on May 30th, 2016.  I will compile all the names, pick one at random, and announce the one lucky winner the first week of June.

Of course, if you don’t want to wait and you’d like to show your support now (not to mention hear a rippingly good tale), this audiobook is now available on Audible.comAmazon.com, and on iTunes.  If you make this audiobook your first purchase (not freebie) on the Audible website, that helps me even more!

Black Sails White Rabbits is the extraordinary autobiography of sailing athlete Kevin A. Hall, whose dreams of competing in the Olympics and raising a family were put on hold at the age of nineteen when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.  Then bipolar disorder.  Then testicular cancer again.  And Kevin’s bipolar disorder takes the form of what is now called “Truman Show Delusion”–when an episode hits, he thinks he’s the star of a global TV program.  How Kevin has weathered his illnesses, faced his demons, and achieved his goals makes for one heck of a tale–at turns darkly funny, frightening, surprising, sweet, and moving.  Kevin is a super-bright man, and he doesn’t pull any punches; you’re right there with him as it happens–and that’s especially true of the audiobook version.  He’s not only a great sailor–he’s a terrific storyteller.

I’m honored that Kevin selected me to narrate his book.  He had his choice of some extraordinary talent, but when he attended the Alice150 international convention with our mutual artist friend Wendy Ice in October 2015 in NYC, he saw me perform my new one-man show Through the Looking-Glass Darkly, and decided I was the man for the job.  I’m thrilled Kevin is so happy with the resulting audiobook.

If you want to enter my May 2016 raffle, remember to make a comment on this post before June 1st.  If you want to buy the book now, you can use the links included in this post.

If you enjoy the audiobook, and know others who would, please do share this information with them.

Thank you for your support, and good luck!!