Let’s face it: the digital world is here to stay and if all of us are going to be using websites and social media to communicate, shop, share and live then we had better be doing it well. One of the biggest stumbling blocks that is facing companies, non-profits and charities these days is good, quality content on the social media and websites that keeps them informative, relevant and interesting. This is because of a very simple fact of life: Web designers and business owners are not writers. Here is a very short but convincing list of reasons you should hire a writer today.

  1. It’s their job. Simple, right? Most successful business owners or managers are those people that realize they need to put their talent in all of the right places. You’re not going to ask your sales director to sit down and write a few blogs a week. A writer loves writing and is darn good at it too, so why not put them in charge of the content for your website, blogs and company eBooks? They won’t get sick of it. They’ll flourish and, as a result, your business online presence and power will flourish too.
  2. It’s what they’re trained to do. There are not many people who can claim to have written hundreds of blog articles and even millions of words, but writers can. Most writers have Arts degrees (or two, or three) and so have been trained and conditioned in the art of writing papers in very short periods of time that have to be relevant and concise. Most writers have honed their craft with other writers and willingly have subjected themselves to rigorous peer review to perfect their skill, page after page, word after word. We’ll leave the business to you if you leave the writing to us.
  3. It will make your life so much easier. Why fight and struggle to generate a few paragraphs of writing for a blog article or suffer with an EBook on your to-do-list for months? If you hire a writer, you can spend your precious little time on more important things like other areas of business, developing new products and services, or even taking time off to spend with family.
  4. It will increase your business. Hiring a writer means you are going to get more content onto your website and social media. Diversified, regular content updates, particularly on blogs or media streams increases your hit rate via search engines and the likelihood that someone will seek out your business online or because they found you online. It also generates more word-of-mouth marketing by increasing your online presence and your “shareability”. The more you post online, the more you will be talked about. Household name status leads to more business. Period.
  5. It can make you a pioneer in your industry. There is a lot of big business that is really slow to get on the technological bandwagon and often, when they do, their approach can be a bit archaic (see: old fashioned, not hip). By hiring a web-savvy writer, you’re investing in your own company and raising your status from dowdy, run-of-the-mill business to an industry pioneer that all the cool cats are talking about. Hire a writer today and watch your business grow, transform and blossom for the better.


There are a lot of stereotypes out there about a lot of different kinds of people and writers are no exception to the rule. However, as we know in life, most stereotypes don’t hold weight. Let’s take a look at the common misconceptions about writers and determine just how true they are.


  1. We read too much. Ok, this is definitely true. But that’s all part of the craft. You can’t write if you don’t read because you haven’t been studying the masters of the craft. Sure, writers are also the types of people who will read the back of a cereal box or the ingredients on a shampoo bottle just because the always require something to read, but that’s what also makes us diverse in our writing skills. It’s the reason we can write blogs and marketing pamphlets as easily as we can short stories or poems. Writing and reading are mutually exclusive, kind of like love and marriage, but without all the messy modern divorce and heartache.
  2. We’re melancholic. How many writers out there are perceived as being sad, depressed or melancholic? Thanks a lot Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf. Now, any time you tell someone you’re a writer, they look at you like you need to be on Prozac. Yes, like all artists, writers can be prone to bouts of melancholia, but this is only because we’re looking at the world a little more carefully than everyone else and in doing so, we see its heartbreaking beauty and chaotic self-destruction. We also may or may not have a penchant for drama.
  3. We’re unemployed. The same adage that is true of students getting their Arts Degrees is often said to be true of writers: that the only thing we need to learn in University is how to properly pronounce Do you want fries with that? This couldn’t be further from the truth. While many writers are able to write one-hundred-percent of the time (lucky bums!), other writers have day jobs that support their writing lifestyle and ambitions. Click here for a list of famous writers and the day jobs they kept throughout their career.
  4. We have cats. Ok, while this may be true of Michelina, this is definitely not true of me. Writers tend to have cats over dogs because they are less maintenance which means that we can get more writing done. However, if anyone that has a cat can testify, cats tend to gravitate towards warm laptop keyboards and so can interfere with the modern writer’s work.
  5. We all want to be Steinbeck. While it is true that many writers tend to be ambitious, that ambition doesn’t always translate into writing the next great American or Canadian novel. Many writers are satisfied with being surrounded by words, glorious words, and immersing themselves in the lives of their characters and unfolding drama. In fact, some of the best writers weren’t ever concerned with fame or notoriety but simply wanted to write and write well. michelecats

Think that all writers spend their time in front of the laptop, notepad or typewriter? Think again. Some of the most famous writers in the history of literature also kept their day jobs –  some of which were more prestigious than their writing careers!

  1. Kurt Vonnegut : Saab dealership managerkurt-vonnegut
  2. John Steinbeck : apprentice painter, fruit picker, caretaker, construction workerJohn Steinbeck
  3. Stephen King: high school janitorstephen_king-coming-to-boulder
  4. J.D. Salinger: Swedish luxury liner director of entertainmentSalingerforweb_2761034b
  5. William S. Burroughs: exterminatorwilliam-s-burroughs
  6. William Faulkner: postal workerWilliam_Faulkner_1954_(3)_(photo_by_Carl_van_Vechten)
  7. T.S. Eliot: bankerThomas_Stearns_Eliot_by_Lady_Ottoline_Morrell_(1934)
  8. Robert Frost: paper boy, teaching assistant, lightbulb factory workerrobertfrost
  9. James Joyce: piano player and singerjames-joyce
  10. Nabokov: entomologistvladimir-nabokov
  11. Margaret Atwood: baristamargaret-atwood
  12. George Orwell: officer of the Indian Imperial Police in BurmaGeorge-Orwell-001
  13. Jack London: cannery, oyster piratelondon
  14. Jack Kerouac: gas station attendant, cotton picker, night guard, construction etcJackKerouac_NewBioImage_0
  15. Joseph Conrad: gunrunnerjosephconrad
  16. Lewis Carroll: mathematician, photographer, teachercaroll

A few clear instructions on proper sentence structure!

Live to Write - Write to Live

diagramA sentence is a complete thought, containing both subject and verb. The subject is what the sentence is about, and the verb is what the subject is doing.

Here’s an example of a sentence: I write.

“I” is the subject, and “write” is what I do.

Simple as that. (“Simple as that” is not a complete thought; it’s a sentence fragment, the sort of thing your English teacher would murder with red ink, but which creative writers can get away with when they know what they’re doing. “Simple as that” has neither a subject nor a verb. It’s a modifying phrase, and phrases aren’t sentences at all; they’re not even clauses.)

Sentences come in several varieties determined by the kind and number of the clauses it contains.

A clause is either independent, containing both a subject and verb of its own, or dependent, meaning it has to lean on…

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Translator Max Shmookler, who is currently co-editing a collection of Sudanese short stories with ArabLit contributor Raphael Cormack, explores the tension between what Sudanese readers think is a great story and the story that will appear “great” in English translation. This post is the first in a series, and originally ran on Baraza:

By Max Shmookler

sudan-palmsOne of the unexpected benefits of preparing an anthology is the chance to read through enough mediocre literature to begin to ask yourself what “mediocre” actually means. This summer, as Raph Cormack and I co-edit a book of Sudanese short stories in English translation, we are finding out that our attempts to distinguish the great stories from the mediocre raises interesting questions about competing literary aesthetics. Figuring out which stories to include and how to justify our selections to the publisher has been a hands-on lesson in how a literary canon, even a marginal canon…

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I feel rather lukewarm about this “Year of Reading Women,” despite an earnest belief that women’s books are (generally speaking) not taken as seriously as men’s:

Joanna Walsh's "year of reading women" bookmarks. Joanna Walsh’s “year of reading women” bookmarks.

Which women’s voices will this #readwomen2014 prioritize? Does it touch on any of the reasons why we gravitate toward male protagonists? Will it be, in the main, a celebration of English-language women’s voices? Of women at the center or the peripheries?

But despite my reservations, there’s a good enough chance that I’m wrong — in my lukewarmness — so if you’re keen to play along, this is a list of twelve suggestions of Arabic-writing women. Bonus points where the translator is also a woman. So here it is, one for every month of the year:

January: Hanan al-Shaykh, Story of Zahra, trans Peter Ford. You just cannot go wrong with Story of Zahra, which…

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