How to Write Essays to a Prompt for Tests, Work, or School

Sample Prompt: Explain a complicated process that you can do well to someone who doesn’t know how to do it.

If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. Ernest Hemingway

Writing Is a Complicated Process                                         Do you struggle when you have to take a writing test, or write a report? As a teacher/consultant writing essays was my forté, yet writing to a prompt is a complicated task.  When I think about my professional life, I probably spent more time writing than almost any other single activity, either writing or grading essays for over 20 years.  Writing professionals have boiled essay writing down to a few steps which can be easily explained to someone who doesn’t write.  While most people THINK they know how to write if they can put words down on paper, they struggle to write even a simple five paragraph essay to answer a prompt.

Notice the blingy water.
Notice the blingy water.

Definition of an Essay

Commonly essays fall into four categories : expository, descriptive, narrative, and argumentative. Essays  convey information rather than tell a story, although they may use facts or short stories to persuade or convince readers to take action. An essay consists of three parts:  an opening paragraph, the body, and the conclusion.  Many teachers in our county use Step Up to Writing to teach this process to students and teachers alike.
  1. An opening paragraph restates the prompt stating three or more examples or facts.
  2. Body paragraphs expand on the three or four facts, one paragraph per main idea.
  3. The concluding paragraph points back to the opening paragraph and summarizes how the paragraph addressed the stated prompt.
PG and Pie
Ideas Matter: Brainstorm and Analyze  Before Writing 
Step Up to Writing  steps sound simple enough.  However, even though the process is simple, fuzzy ideas swim in the writer’s head and often come out jumbled.  Maybe the writer knows nothing about the prompt. Before I write anything I take a few minutes to ask myself questions about the prompt.  I usually jot down some notes in an informal list or outline.  If I can use the computer during the test or when writing for publication I search for a quotation and a definition or explanation of my topic. Most important: Make sure to answer the prompt.
  1. Analyze the prompt or break it into pieces.  Ask, “What DO I know about the prompt?  OR How can I relate it to something I know better and still answer the prompt?”
  2. Ask, “What can I write in a few paragraphs without repeating myself?”
  3. Consider, “Who is my audience?”
Research , Research, Research
Writing to a prompt is difficult for many reasons.  An author who does not know much about the topic may cut corners and merely copy the prompt word and repeat it multiple times throughout the essay. Unprofessional essays often start and end with the words, “Today I am going to write about (prompt words)”  This might be acceptable in first grade, but beyond that writers need to display more sophistication in their writing.
  1. Wikipedia is fine for quick bits of information partly because each entry has a bibliography which the writer can also check. It is good to have more sources than just Wikipedia. I use Google, but there are other ways of getting information quickly off the internet.
  2. Books and articles provide detailed information. Digitized books allow the writer to mark what he or she wants to remember and to sort out unnecessary information.
  3. If time is not an issue, articles and scanned documents can be processed into searchable PDF documents using inexpensive or free downloadable programs.
  4. When writers don’t have these options, note cards work well. I always note the title, author and page number, so I can go back and check my sketchy notes. I don’t take time to write detailed notes.
  5. Highlighting works well on printed material that the writer can keep.
  6. Post-it notes allow the writer to comment on materials and books he or she needs to return. Writers can color code these by book or article, topic, time period or any category they choose.
writing, blogging, book reviews, New_Office04
Weed Out All But the Most Important Information
Essayists can’t use it all.  According to the brain laboratory at UCLA, people have more than 70,000 thoughts per day. One short essay can’t utilize all these thoughts, so the first step is deciding which thoughts are keepers. When I write under pressure on a topic, use these techniques.
  1. Brainstorm on paper. Lists, webs, and tables all work well.
  2. Move to an outline. Find connections between the list of words. Sort them into categories. Writers may do this mentally, but it is more effective if they write it down. I use the old fashioned outline because it puts my thoughts into a hierarchy, most important first.Manny's Trip to Spain
Match Writing Style and Vocabulary to the Task
Prompt writing is a formal process.  Vocabulary, spelling, and style become issues.  My blogging style is informal, uses simple vocabulary and sentence structure, and I attempt humor. Formal writing style differs in several ways. 
  1. It uses a more academic lexicon or vocabulary.
  2. Sentence structure varies.
  3. The tone is generally, but not always, more serious.
  4. Each sentence starts with different words.  For example, after I have written this essay, I will go back over it and circle all the initial words.  If I have more than two or three of the same beginning word, I will change one of them.  I will look at how many of the same words I use within the sentence as well.  Word processing programs and the internet have dictionaries and a thesaurus at the writer’s fingertips, so there is no excuse for repeating the same word constantly. If the internet is not allowed during an essay, use the scratch paper to free-associate synonyms.
  5. Spelling is most difficult for me if the internet is not an option. When I can’t remember how to spell a word, I substitute a word I can spell.
  6. Punctuation errors show up, and even though there are differences about how to punctuate. Study Strunk and White before you take a test, or take it with you.
Ralph's remodel003
Keep the Conclusion Uncluttered
Students, test takers, or essayists who utilize these tips will have a passable essay for any project, exam, job application, or work-related report, and become an expert in writing to a prompt.
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Using the Creative Cloud by Adobe

As many of you know, the job of designing a brochure somehow dropped on my unartistic shoulders.  I created something using the Creative Cloud for our Board Meeting on Saturday, and received immediate feedback about what to change.  This was my first time ever to use Adobe Illustrator, and it represented about 8 or more hours of intensive effort.  I just LOOKS so easy a first grader could do it!  I would not call Illustrator an intuitive, user-friendly program.

My first attempt using Adobe Illustrator
My first attempt using Adobe Illustrator

Today I spent the entire day creating a new brochure with an artsy look rather than a blocky photography look.  My husband helped me on this one by brainstorming with me, then finding me a nice artsy print to get my creative dry mouth (there were not juices) started.  He also agreed with Cotton that the California Bear Flag was the primary symbol to use to anchor this brochure.

I couldn't figure how to color this one blue.
I couldn’t figure how to color this one blue.  I still thought it was cool.  Do you recognize anyone here?

I couldn’t find the same picture he did, and I thought I would be so clever and Photoshop of our own meetings.  It didn’t transfer well into Illustrator, so he emailed me the picture he found.  I made major changes on it before I used it.

This was the best I could do in Illustrator.
This was the best I could do in Illustrator.  Oops a flag pole in the middle of the sky.  Weird.  The colors don’t really go here, but I hat to take a break.

The hardest part after he found the anchor artwork for the meeting was to create a seamless look between the artwork and the background.  I’m not sure I could do any of it again at this point.  I found that it was easier to merge the pictures and the background in Photoshop than in Illustrator.  I couldn’t even get the paintbrush tool to activate on the layer I wanted in Illustrator, and I couldn’t flatten the layers.  So back to what I knew.  I got a little paint on the photos, but I’m hoping it gives that artsy-dreamy look.  I need to brush up my coloring skills.

I tried using the select tools, but forgot how to use them correctly, and so I just colored around the map – that took forever!!!  I also had to do it more than once.  The first time I thought I coud just place it into Illustrator.  Place is how you get your photographs to stick on the background in both Illustrator and Photoshop.  That is in the file drop down menu.

I found out that Photoshop CS6 is different enough from Elements 10 that I had a bit of a learning curve, but I was able to McIver my way through the project.

After I was as pleased as I could be in the amount of time that I wanted to devote to my 4th makeover, I saved the project as a jpeg and then placed it over the first page white blank sheet in Adobe Illustrator.  Then I just added the words.  V helped me with the words, too.  He used to be in advertising, and he focused me on what was really the reason for the brochure – to GET PEOPLE TO JOIN THE ORGANIZATION!  So that went in the top right hand corner.  DUH!

This was my third attempt.
This was my third attempt.  Here it looked like I scribbled around the map because I was dodging the words.  Has any one ever been to the state of Califronia?

I got it all done, and sent out to our Exec. Board, and realized I had misspelled California.  Believe it or not I had to start back in Photoshop and get my three pictures together again on the background.

This was the most time- intensive part.  this was my fourth attempt.
This was the most time-intensive part, and it was my fourth attempt at creating the brochure.

I finally got the words back on  using Illustrator because the words are sharper if you use Illustrator rather than Photoshop.

This is my final draft - SO FAR!!!
This is my final draft – SO FAR!!!

I had a few changes to do to the inside, but those were simple.  So this is the journey I’ve been on for the last few days since our start long ago with the simple cover you all voted on.

You overwhelmingly picked this design for the front of the brochure.
You overwhelmingly picked this design for the front of the brochure.

Thanks so much for all your input.  I appreciate when YOU offer suggestions.  Thanks also to V for all the help you gave me this morning, and the patience to see me through my tears without trying to SOLVE all my problems.  I knew I could do this if I just put my mind to it.  I was not going to be overcome by a computer program!!!!  🙂

My First Photography Up for Sale on Fine Art America Website

I saw Enice’s photography on this website, so I thought I’d give it a try as well.  So far I only have 10 pictures posted, but they are also advertised on my Facebook page.  I’m excited, because I finally got myself started.  This business is mostly a hobby, but I would like it to be a successful hobby just because I like to be successful.

The way I will measure success is that 1) the pictures are of technically of good quality ( clear, the right brightness, etc.) 2)  the pictures are well composed (interesting subjects, good balance, framing, etc.) 3)  The pictures have appeal (people just enjoy looking at them), and 4) The pictures have salability (usable for decorating, cups, t-shirts, cards, advertising, calendars, etc.)  Who knows where this will lead, but this is my next experiment.

TC History Gal Productions

I started out with pictures of cats because they seem to have so much personality.  I realize that most of you are photographers as well, so you are not too likely to purchase pictures from me, but I would love your opinions. You have been so helpful in the past about giving me such good ideas.  How would you rate these?

V's favorite is Boulder Monitoring.
V’s favorite is Boulder Monitoring.

V’s favorite is Boulder Monitoring.  That’s what I felt like doing yesterday afternoon instead of driving to Ontario.  But I drove 5 hours instead.  I hope that you will come and like my Facebook Page, and join me on this adventure.  I’ll be sharing how it is going or not going as we go along.

Like me?
Like me?

The next thing I started this week, I did out of necessity.  Earlier this week I asked you to vote on the front of a brochure that I designed in Photoshop.

You overwhelmingly picked this design for the front of the brochure.
You overwhelmingly picked this design for the front of the brochure.

Although I really had no desire or inclination to design a whole brochure, no one else volunteered to do it.   To create this masterpiece, I tried out a new product, Adobe Illustrator.  You can see that the basic design that you voted on  is on the right, which is the cover.  I changed the picture, and used too big of a font for the words at the bottom.  I also included more pictures on the inside flap and back to represent the various branches of social studies.  Wikipedia quotes our own National Council for the Social Studies to define social studies.

Social studies is the “integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence,” as defined by the United States Americans National Council for the Social Studies.[1]   … Many such courses are interdisciplinary and draw upon various fields, including sociology but also political sciencehistoryeconomicsreligious studiesgeographypsychologyanthropology, and civics.

The brochure that you all helped me design.
This is the first draft of the entire brochure that you helped me design.

Ralph, you’ll notice no smelly sock unless you consider the bear smelly!!!  Cotton, I found the Bear Flag on the map, and I thought that was too cool.

I also finished as much as I could with the tri-fold brochure.   Paula made some suggestions for technical revisions, but our board made some other substantive comments that may WILL change it as well.  Here were some of the comments/questions I heard around the room as soon as I passed the out the brochure.

Would it be more effective to have a brochure with artwork rather than photographs?  (I don’t have the ability to do artwork!!!)

This was done by a real graphic artist for our conference in March.
A real graphic artist created this for our conference in March.

If photographs are suitable, what photographs really illustrate these divisions of social studies?

This man is a sailor, which in my mind suggested economics.  Maybe it wasn't the best photograph to illustrate economics.  It got a laugh!!
This man is a sailor, which in my mind suggested economics. Maybe it wasn’t the best photograph to illustrate economics. It got a laugh!!

Even more basic than those questions, do we just illustrate the definition of social studies, or do we move past that to illustrate what the council does?

1) the advocates for keeping social studies as a core subject to continue to be taught in American public schools?

2) provides professional development for teachers grades k-16,

3)  identifies quality instructional resources and

4) assists in developing and implementing state policies including standards, frameworks and assessments.

There is so much to designing a brochure.  The designer and the organization have to identify what is really important and somehow represent that graphically!  How do REAL graphic designers ever do it????

Thanks for coming along with me in my busy-ness this week.  I’ve been so wrapped in meetings this week month that I hardly knew know if I’m coming or going.  You all have helped by my anchors and my boulders.  Thanks for being there.  I’m monitoring you!

Have a nice rest of the week-end.  What are you all doing??  I have a meeting tomorrow for Tulare County Historical Society.  Anyone want to come??  Don’t forget to write to, like love tell me what you think while I’m busy going to meetings.   🙂  Lots of Love, Marsha 🙂

Another New Career: Designing Brochure Covers

I decided instead of not posting while I’m working, I would bring you into my workspace.  Although I am not a graphic artist, I am designing covers for a new brochure for California Council for the Social Studies.  So I’d like you to help me judge attractiveness.  You should probably know what the organization is all about.


California Council for the Social Studies

  • advocates for and promotes social studies education as an essential foundation in developing citizens for a democratic society in the 21st Century.
  • provides professional development for social studies teachers through state and regional and local conferences.
  • identifies and produces quality instructional resources and programs to improve classroom instruction of social studies
  • assists in the development and implementation of state and local policies, legislation, framework, standards, testing and other instructional components.

So here are a few brochure covers I have played with.  I won’t be at all insulted if you have some constructive feedback for me because these are ideas.  Paula may redo them all, but I wanted to give her something to work with to start.  One of these designs has an image that may be copyrighted that I have altered a bit, but if we use it I’ll get permission or purchase the image.  Since we might not choose it, I’ll leave it for now.

Brochure #1
Brochure #1
Brochure #2
Brochure #2
CCSS Brochure #3
CCSS Brochure #3

So what advice do you have for me?  Do any of these look like a possible brochure cover?

Comment Competition Ends Midnight Dec. 31, 2012 PST

Autty Jade has taken up the challenge.  For months she has led the pack for numbers of comments – and numbers of words, too.  Today, her record was broken by Ralph with a total of 55 comments to Autty’s 50.  Autty has vowed that Ralph is not going to beat her, so watch out Ralph!  This girl’s keyboarding fingers move faster than Superman’s when he has a pressing deadline at the Daily Planet, AND Lois Lane is in trouble..  Poor, unsuspecting Ralph; he didn’t even know there was a contest.

Ralph 55
Ralph 55 comments on Marsha Lee’s Vanity Blog
Briney Lass
Autty Jade 51 comments on Marsha Lee’s Vanity Blog

Close behind the two leading commenters, with 45 comments on Blog Marsha Lee, is my new-found sister in Australia, Eternal Traveler.  Her daughter has decided that we are two of a kind, and therefore I am her aunt.  So it’s official I have a niece.

The Eternal Traveler - 45
The Eternal Traveler – 45

Lagging behind the three top expressionists are Dianne Gray and ADinparadise, tied at 28, and Sharechair, at 17 all time comments on Marsha Lee’s Vanity Blog.  If Ralph takes off on vacation, and Autty’s computer goes on the blink again, we may have an unexpected winner.  It could be YOU!!!  There are plenty of days left to comment.

Prizes will be announced at a later date, but whether champagne is in order remains to be seen.  Autty Jade KNEW she had to get her computer fixed when she read that Ralph and I were cavorting around with online champagne bottles.  Ralph popped them, I poured them, and Kalev imbibed them.  Rumors were that Kalev drank all 10 bottles of champagne.   Kalev had a great night’s sleep, and kept quiet all day today.  I’ve not heard a peep out of her since the trip to find snow.

I discovered today that Ralph may have had cameras installed in our cupboards to make sure that V and I are not harboring any unaccounted for bottles of champagne.  We have been searching for the cameras since we saw the insides of our cabinets live on Ralph’s site.  We were hoping that the cameras had vacuum cleaners attached to them to get rid of any unsightly dust bunnies that might appear on the internet.   Unfortunately he wasted his time and money because there are NO champagne bottles, full or otherwise, ensconced in our cabinets!

Lurking dust bunnies
Lurking dust bunnies

I’ll keep you posted as the contest heats up.  Presently not all competitors know there IS a contest.  In fact no one does.  So it remains to be seen if top contender, Ralph will even pick up the comment gauntlet.

So Ralph, The Eternal Traveler, Dianne, AD, Sharechair, and any others of you that think you can race against Autty, The Commenter Extraordinaire.


I’ll post the results daily except for Christmas and Christmas Eve during Renee’s 16th party.  I made a mistake telling all of you it was going to be her 17th birthday.  Renee has been fudging on her age for the past few months telling us that she is already 16, when in fact, she is JUST turning 16.  Don’t forget her amazing party starting Dec. 24th right here on Marsha Lee’s Vanity Blog.  🙂

* Note  The editor of Marsha Lee’s Vanity Blog denies any responsibility for rumors that may have started here.

Mama Kitty, do you really believe that I could have drunk all that champagne?    I don't remember a thing about it.
Mama Kitty, do you really believe that I drank all that online champagne? I don’t remember a thing about it.  I think Ralph drank it, and tried to blame me for it!!!

I was going to wait until 12:00, but I just CAN’T do it!!!  Let the games begin!  And may the best commenter win!  Win lose or draw, I love you all!!!


Concept is hard to visualize.  It can be anything and nothing all at the same time.  Without concepts, we can work, and play, but we can’t do it sustainably effectively or with passion.  Most of the time we think of concepts in terms of what is.  A dog is an animal with specific characteristics.  Addition is a concept of combining groups.  Liberty and freedom are concepts that is not so easily illustrated.  Which brings me to the point of my exploration.  Not all concepts are immediately visible and easy to explain, but they existed in the mind of the inventor before they ever became a concept the rest of the world could use:  the light bulb, the wheel, the internet.

water-dragon-poster1My husband conceptualizes space much better than I do.  When we bought our house 11 years ago, is was a mess.  There was a short driveway right up against the side of the house, and everything else was weeds.  Several years later it was still somewhat a mess, but V. always carried a concept of what he wanted in both the back and front yard.

SFW Concept - landscaping 2

This may look like grass, but we (hahaha) watered AND MOWED our weeds.  The back yard started with three dying orange trees and an overgrown garden with bricks running through it where the brown patch of dirt is.  He began right away removing the trees and the garden, piled the bricks from the lopsided paths, tore down the grape stem fence around the perimeter of  the garden.  I couldn’t see doing it.  I thought I’d putter in the garden, and clean it up a bit.   However, rattlesnakes hang out here in the summer, so every high weed could have a snake lurking under it.  V didn’t like that concept.

Concept - Landscaping1
You can still see where the three orange trees had been. The tractor helped us keep down the weeds.

V. wanted to put in a pool.  So he laid out his concept with a hose so that I could visualize it.  He left it there, and would change its shape from time to time.  He walked the pool guys out to show them the concept when they came to talk to us. Our neighbor ordered EXACTLY the same V-designed pool from Tahiti Pools after they shared V’s concept with him.  Maybe you can see a pool here better than I did at the time.  I was all in favor of putting in a pool.   Below you see the same exact area.

concept landscaping 9

Concept - landscaping 4

The picture was my present to him – my concept of his favorite things.  What I conceived I was able to do, but he wasn’t!  haha

concept house and car mergeimg copy

He wanted to landscape the front as well.  We explored the grounds of one of the Central Coastal Wineries to check out their concept of landscaping with grass paths.  He adapted the concept of grass pathways with growing something pretty in each framed area.  He mapped it out his concepts for me using Microsoft Publisher.  He took me out to the yard and walked me around where all the changes would be made.  He didn’t ask for much input from me.  He constantly talked about his concept because he didn’t think I understood it well enough, and it was a huge investment of time and money.  He wanted me enthused about it.

SFW Concept Landscaping 3
He got his pathway all laid out in stone. All the stones in the yard were part of his master concept.

You can see the basic paths.  Then he slowly filled them in.

Challenge landscaping 6 concept - landscaping 5

This porch and landscaped flower area had been the location of the narrow driveway when we moved in.  V made it beautiful.

concept landscaping 11

It’s interesting about concepts.  They motivate people.  If you grasp the concept, you can communicate it.  V would talk to me daily about his concepts.  Soon I was able to see it, and support them, and add my two cents once in a while.   Even now I am amazed that it is as beautiful as it turned out to be.   Concepts and living your dreams – the next challenge of Jakesprinter are very much connected in my mind.  The concepts that V could communicate – his dreams – allowed us to live his dreams.

Watch his concept unfurl.
Watch his concept unfurl.

concept landscaping 13

Motivate by concepts.
Motivate by concepts.

For more concept ideas click here.

Featured Blog

Yesterday received a comment from Amy that read, “Hi Marsha, You might enjoy reading this post Re-blog Susan’s post…”  I adore and trust Amy, and was touched that she knows me well enough to refer me to another blog.  So I went there immediately and found Susan, another kindred spirit.  So Susie AKA Coming East is my Featured Blog for the day.

Here’s a wonderful picture of her from the newspaper when she stood in line at the opening of Whole Foods.  I’ll tell you what it is that attracts me to Susie.  It’s her dry British-ancestry sense of humor.  She doesn’t need pictures like I do to prime her pump, but she does tell down-home stories.  She does take beautiful pictures, though if you read her Challenge posts.  If you like me, you’ll love her.  I pressed the follow button before I even finished the first article.  I’ve gone back tonight to “camp out” like Russel Ray.  (It’s after 12:00 a.m here and I can now surf for free.  My husband is monitoring my internet use now since we used up last month’s allotment in 2 weeks.)

So visit Susie, then YOU tell me if I wasn’t right about her.

You’re Invited to Renee’s Online Birthday Party

Featured Blog

Who’s Renee?   I started following Renee and her mom’s blog 6 month’s and 2 weeks ago, making her the 8th blog I followed.  I followed her because she gave me one of my first awards before I even knew what an award was.  Little did I know that this expert blogger  was a mere 16 years old.  Over the months I have gotten to know Renee a bit better, and found out that her birthday is on Christmas.  How hard is that???  Since she lives in New Zealand, and I live in California, the likelihood of us ever meeting to have an actual birthday party, I thought, “Why not try to have a party online?”

PG sniffing around for an invite

So please join me in my blog-party experiment.  I’ll host the party starting on Christmas Eve, which I think is Christmas Day in New Zealand. and continue to have that as my only post through Christmas Day.  Come and wish Renee a happy birthday with me.  To visit her and get acquainted ahead of time click here.  That will get you started.  From there you can go to her second blog The Odd One Out.   Keep in mind that she’s only 16.  I know you will be as blown away as I am by her many interests and talent.


Gif compliments of

Why Fly Through Cyberspace With a Vanity Blog?

There are basically only two things one can do with a blog, read them or write them, but most bloggers do both.  I just learned that what we have here a vanity blog.  It’s called vanity because Marsha Lee is not performing a service or selling a product for profit.  I’m just writing for the pleasure of it.  Oooh, I’m SO vain.  I probably have a blog all about me.  I’m SO vain.  I probably have a blog all about me, ’bout me, ’bout me…

So what about you?  Even bloggers wonder why so many people are starting to blog.   How many of you liked getting letters or post cards when you were kids?  Why?  How many of you use Facebook or some other social media?  How many of you have a hobby that you like to discuss with fellow hobbyists?

You’ve Got Mail

Blogging is ONE literacy activity among MANY other choices.   Why get started down the blogging path when there is already plenty of other stuff to help you pass the time?  Which of these activities do you enjoy in your spare awake time?

  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • emails
  • bills
  • junk mail
  • My Space
  • news
  • magazines
  • TV
  • video games
  • board or card games
  • hobbies
  • books or Kindles

Are YOUR eyes tired yet? On top of reading and writing folks need to devote a little time each day to eating, grooming, working, running a household, and raising kids – the first or second time around.  Ah yes, then there’s sleep.  So why blog?

Millwood62a copy
The blogging path is fruitful and leads to… OK we don’t know where it leads, but it sure is fun.

Let’s start with why one would involve him or her self in reading blogs.  I only started reading a blog out of curiosity and to please a friend whose daughter wrote one – every day.  It was about her life as a photographer and her beautiful family.  I didn’t know her, but she engaged, not just me, but had comments galore that were as much fun to read as the blog itself.  I thought, “WOW, this woman is Erma Bombeck.”  I fell in love with her and with the process.

For me blogging is the height of entertainment.  I used to spend hours playing Spidersol while I talked on the phone, finished a project and wanted to vege, or I couldn’t sleep.  Blogging is a lot healthier activity, and, surprisingly, not as hard on my eyes.  It’s fun, relaxing and informational as well.   Other bloggers share their own reasons for blogging, but since I wrote this post, I happen to agree with them.

People Read Blogs Because:  “

  • I like to interact.
    • I love to take guesses, vote on silly answers, and converse.
  • The content including titles are what attracts me.
    •  I read blogs because they help me write.
    •  I am following you because your blog is named Blue Fish Way.  Blue fish are the only of their species still in existence, or extant. Extant also means projecting. In psychology, one projects when they attribute traits of one person on to another in order to subconsciously manifest unresolved issues from a past relationship. A person like that has issues. If a blog resonates, provokes, challenges, or interests me I follow it.
    • I like pretty things, a face, a blog or post design, and great photographs.
    •  I am always curious about what other bloggers have to say.
    • I follow blogs that tickle my fancy,
      • a poem, joke, way out posts, quality of post that has a different slant.
  •  The personalities are what keep me coming back. 
    • I also follow people who I think I can help in one small way or another.
    • Bloggers are ordinary people with no agenda, who are not being paid to write.
    • Good bloggers are a dose of intelligence and with to mix with my daily meals of everything else.
    • Bloggers’ comments are what make us friends.
    • I like bloggers who are kind, sweet and witty.
    •  I read because I am proud of the blogger.
    • I love a blogger  who is a uniquely passionate and courageous spirit: outspoken, controversial “Kalanian” like me,
    • Successful bloggers expose their spirit and soul.
  • Bloggers read out of fairness and sense of etiquette.
    • When someone takes the time to like, follow, or comment on my blog, I return the action because it’s polite.
  • There is a sense of community.
    • iI’s pretty much the only way I get “grown-up time”
    • I read blogs because it lets me peek into people’s mind and their circumstances and in turn helps me to understand my own circumstances better.
    • It’s raw and real, like looking into shards of people’s lives.
    • Blogging lets me know that I am not alone.
    • Blogging is like going to the thrift store.  I LOVE surprises. You don’t know what you will find, you’ve just got to enjoy browsing.
    • I interact with people all over the world, something I wouldn’t do outside of blogging.”

Even though most bloggers start reading blogs because they write one, they didn’t have as much to say about why they started writing.  I read my friend’s daughter’s blog faithfully for a year, without ever making a comment,  I thought to myself, I could do this.  Like most bloggers I love to talk, and I like writing even better.  I blog to get feedback from live readers.  I have content I want to share with someone, and I can’t burden my poor husband with all the stuff in my mind, so I need an expanded audience  I wondered who might read a blog, and was scared that no one would.  So I started to blog to find out.

People Write a Blog Because:

  • “I want to find my place and establish myself in the world.
    • I suppose it is to get my face out there, be noticed, recognized  and hopefully to be followed myself.
    • Blogging has totally changed me.  My blogging experience has been about opening up, making sense of my life, and figuring out how I fit into the bigger scheme.
    • t gives me a chance to lead my world.  The blogger is the leader and all the followers are the students.
    • I blog to share information with my students.  I post:
      • assignments
      • homework
      • content
      • writing tutorials
      • photography tutorials
      • Pictures of class activities and photos that students share.
  • For the most part I read and write posts for the connections I’ll make.
    • It is so easy to talk through the blog to far away countries, and I can reach so many more people through the blog.
    • It is certainly worth doing because it gives me pleasure to see that many like my blog, and reading the wonderful comments is so heartwarming.
    • I met a blogger living close by accident and it is nice to meet bloggers from my home country.
    • People crave interaction. To be heard, understood, accepted, or even argued with. Life is full of love. Love is defined differently to everyone.  Readers read what writers write and writing is an art form. All is love. God Bless!
    • Blogs offer an unfiltered perspective, which inspires me, but also gets me thinking outside my little me-shaped box.
    • I have met so many other writers online who often have so much in common with me.
  • Bloggers have a skill to share.
    • I go to sleep and wake up thinking about stories, I take photos with the direct aim of being able to write a story to go with them.
  • They want to learn.
    • I  learn a lot about computers. haha.
    •  I can get advice, jokes, and compliments.
    • The writing and the process itself, satisfies me immensely.  If I didn’t write, I’d burst at the seams.
    • An opportunity to play with words and thoughts in a new way – I believe there is a lot more to be discovered about why me? and why now?.
    • Writing is important to me because it’s the only way I know how to communicate something without stumbling.  I could never voice any of this without writing it first.”

I want to close this article with a quote from a comment made on one of my posts from my friend Jim, aka MHDriver (motor home driver).  Jim has a wonderful eye for photography, and has a collection of beautiful photographs he has taken over the years.

Marsha, I went to night school for photography. The problem was it was 35mm film. The digital camera is kicking my a–. The Nikon F3 and several of the lens, digital meter, and many other items were stolen in Las Vegas. Every thing was in a back pack that I carried everywhere. What was really stolen was my passion for photography.  It took several years before I purchased another camera, that is the present one.  I took a few pictures now and then.  It wasn’t until I started blogging that I started getting some of that passion back.  With the help of people in the blogging community, I’m starting to get some of that passion back.  Because of people like you I feel a lot of encouragement by the hits, the like button, and the comments.  I say, “Thank You Marsha and to all the other bloggers that has visited my site.”

Like most people Jim has tons of photographs that were probably sitting around with no one to ever look at them.  He needed an outlet to share them.  Blogging gave him that outlet.

Maybe you’re a reader who has thought about blogging.  There are many, many bloggers who rally around new bloggers and welcome them into a loving community.  Platforms like WordPress provide challenges and support articles that smooth the way so that anyone who has something to say can find a place in the blogging world.  Do I sound like a blogging evangelist?  Why do you think I wrote this post?

  1. Maybe I just want more hits on my website.
  2. Probably it has changed my life.
  3. It could be that I am being paid several thousand dollars by WordPress to write this post.
  4. Or I’m hoping to sponge a free night’s stay at all my new friends’ home so that I can travel the world.
  5. I’m going to get rich writing my new novel that will be turned into a box office hit movie.
  6. I’m doing a presentation for Kiwanis Club, and I needed to get my thoughts together.
  7. Possibly V. is playing poker tonight, and I was bored.
  8. If I don’t write a blog I’ll lose my job.
  9. Maybe my blog will help V sell more real estate.
  10. I really don’t know why I sound like such a blog sales woman.  What’s up with that anyway?

Disclaimer:  The quotes above are not exact quotes, but are a categorized compilation of the comments on the following posts, edited by me to read smoothly together.


Thanks to Hal for the following YouTube Christmas Flash Mob.

Internet Purgatory Solutions

I’m beginning to feel jinxed as I struggle technologically to blog.  First I had my problems just learning the ropes, then I started jumping unannounced and uninvited into people’s spam boxes.  That all came to a head when WordPress shut me down for pasting in a spam comment with the little gravitar.  NOW I’m voraciously eating up internet gigabytes like there’s no tomorrow, and maybe I’ve sailed to the end of the world, and fallen off the internet safety web.

So I thought you might want to know what happened today.  V likes to keep me happy, so instead of making me wait until Nov. 24 when Wildblue fills my gigabyte food bowl again, he bought me 2 gigabytes of service.  We answered emails and comments together for a half hour, and he checked the gigabyte meter.  Amazingly we had used 1 gigabyte.  We hadn’t downloaded anything.  We hadn’t pulled up any pictures, visited any of your websites, nothing.  So we went to his office, and I quickly published the post I worked on last night from 12:00 – 2:40 a.m.  Gigabytes are free and unlimited from 12:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. local time.  Then I answered emails in the evening for about 45 minutes.  Poof, the other gigabyte disappeared into my ravenous cybertummy.  At that point I got messages like, “Your email has not been sent.”

So V called Wildblue, and insisted that a few emails do not create even megabytes of information, let alone gigabytes.  Even photos can be done in megabytes, and I avoided photos.  I sent my Foothill Magazine friend a link to my post instead of sending photos.  The technical support person agreed with V, and credited our account for the 2 gigabytes, and gave us unlimited gigabytes that should go into effect by TOMORROW NIGHT until they figure out our problem.

Meanwhile, I waited until midnight to start writing my posts for the rest of the week, and It took until about 12:20 for even Wildblue’s normal unlimited gigabytes to kick in.  I couldn’t get on even with the modem directly connected to my computer.  V pressed some magic buttons, and after about 20 minutes he was able to pull up my screen.

To Wildblue’s credit, they are trying to help us.  Thank y’all for being so patient and visiting me when I haven’t been able to visit you back for about the last week or more.

Trackbacks, Pings

… [Trackback]…

[…] There you will find 77615 more Infos: […]…

Tara Hunt
“A trackback is an acknowledgment. This acknowledgment is sent via a network signal (ping) from the originating site to the receiving site. The receptor often publishes a link back to the originator indicating its worthiness. Trackback requires both sites to be trackback-enabled in order to establish this communication.Trackbacks are used primarily to facilitate communication between blogs; if a blogger writes a new entry commenting on, or referring to, an entry found at another blog, and both blogging tools support the TrackBack protocol, then the commenting blogger can notify the other blog with a “TrackBack ping“; the receiving blog will typically display summaries of, and links to, all the commenting entries below the original entry. This allows for conversations spanning several blogs that readers can easily follow.” Wikipedia
This information helps me somewhat, but there are 40+ of these trackbacks in my spam files, so am I to assume that all trackbacks are SPAM?  Even my own trackbacks, which come up automatically when I do a series of articles such as my Hawaii trip and embed a link to my other articles, are in my spam files.  WordPress has a series of articles that I’m sure I’ve read, and you may have also, but for me it takes some rereading to successfully negotiate the mechanics of blogging.

“Comment Spam

Comment Spam refers to useless comments (or trackbacks, or pingbacks) to posts on a blog. These are often irrelevant to the context value of the post. They can contain one or more links to other websites or domains. Spammers use Comment Spam as a medium to get higher page rank for their domains in Google, so that they can sell those domains at a higher price sometime in future or to obtain a high ranking in search results for an existing website.”

That answers the question, “Why do spammers spam?

“Spammers are relentless; because there can be substantial money involved, they work hard at their “job.” They even build automated tools (robots) to rapidly submit their spam to the same or multiple weblogs. Many webloggers, especially beginners, sometimes feel overwhelmed by Comment Spam.

There are solutions, though, to avoiding Comment Spam. WordPress includes many tools for combating Comment Spam. With a little up front effort, Comment Spam can be manageable, and certainly no reason to give up weblogging.”

I came across another article that advises for and tells how to disable trackbacks and pings.

Given my history with spam, would you all y’all advise me to press “Delete Permanently” or “Not Spam”?


Writing to a Prompt: A Complicated Subject

The WP Prompt:  Take a complicated subject you know more about than most people, and explain it to a friend who knows nothing about it at all.

Writing essays is my forté, yet writing to a prompt is a complicated task.  As I think about my professional life, I probably spent more time writing than almost any other single activity either writing essays myself or grading students’ and teachers’ essays for over 20 years.  Writing professionals have boiled essay writing down to a few steps which can be easily explained to someone who doesn’t write.  While most people THINK they know how to write if they can put words down on paper, it has been a shock to me to realize how many people struggle to write even a simple five paragraph essay to answer a prompt.

Essays usually convey information rather than to tell a story, although they may use facts to persuade or convince readers to take action as well.  New writers need to know that an essay consists of only three parts:  an opening paragraph, the body, and the conclusion.  Simply outlined, the opening paragraph restates the prompt stating three or more examples or facts. The next three paragraphs expand on the three or four facts stated in the opening paragraph.  The concluding paragraph points back to the opening paragraph and summarizes how the paragraph addressed the stated prompt.
These steps sound simple enough.  However, often the writer is asked to write to a prompt about which the writer has to search the depth of his memories to create a coherent response.  Other times the writer must research the topic to write an intelligent essay.   Notice that the first thing that I did to prepare for THIS essay was analyze the prompt or break it into pieces.   I didn’t just start writing.  I asked myself questions such as, “Of all the complicated things I CAN do, what ONE thing can I do WELL?  Of those possibilities, what can I write about in a few paragraphs?”  Next the prompt asks me to explain it to a friend, so I asked myself, “Who is my audience?”  Before I write anything I take a few minutes to ask myself questions about the prompt.  I usually jot down some notes in an informal list or outline.  In this case I also began with both a quotation and a definition or explanation of my topic.
Writing to a prompt is complicated for many reasons.  An author who does not know much about the topic may cut corners and merely copy the prompt word for word, and preface it with the words, “Today I am going to write about…”  This might be acceptable in first grade, but beyond that writers need to display more sophistication in their writing.  It would be better to start with a quote or a definition instead. 
On the other hand if the author has too much information about a topic, writing becomes complicated.  In this case writing can take many turns and twists because, according to the brain laboratory at UCLA, people have more than 70,000 thoughts per day.  One short essay can’t utilize all these thoughts, so the first step is deciding which thoughts are keepers.  When writers struggle with this, the result is that their writing is unclear.  That is the reason if I am writing under pressure on a topic I begin with brainstorming, then move to an outline.  I may do this in my head, but it is more effective if I write it out.
Finally writing to a prompt is a formal process.  Vocabulary and style become issues.  My blogging style is rather informal, uses simple vocabulary and sentence structure, and is often funny. My formal writing style as I would use in a writing prompt, differs from that in several ways.  I use a more academic lexicon or vocabulary, and vary my sentence structure, and I am usually more serious. Each sentence starts with different words.  For example, after I have written this essay, I will go back over it and circle all the initial words.  If I have more than two of the same beginning word, I will change one of them.  I will look at how many of the same words I use within the sentence as well.  I word processing programs as well as the internet have dictionaries and a thesaurus at the writer’s fingertips, so there is no excuse for repeating the same word multiple times.
Once I have thought out my topic, analyzed the prompt, brainstormed facts, organized the facts into similar paragraphs I started the actual writing process.  Next I wrote a clear and concise opening paragraph.  Following in next three or four paragraphs I developed the topic.  Finally I closed the essay with a summarization.  After writing I checked to make sure that I didn’t repeat myself or use all the same type of sentences. I proofread my piece one last time before considering it complete.  If you do these simple steps, you will have a passable essay for any exam, or job application.  Although a writer may not be a best selling author, he or she can follow some simple steps to become an expert in writing to a prompt. 



Academic Vocabulary is one of the six major shifts in language arts standards as states are moving to implement the Common Core Standards.  Teaching academic vocabulary is going to be ubiquitous.  Every content area teacher ia already responsible for teaching vocabulary.  All content teachers teach the vocabulary that is unique to their content.  Where, but in a history class, would you learn the word Senate?  The shift in academic vocabulary instruction due to the implementation of the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts is that all content area teachers will  become responsible for teaching Tier 2 words, words that are ubiquitous across all content areas.


The word ubiquitous is ubiquitous.  While  this is an accurate and true statement it is the perfect example of why having students use vocabulary or spelling words in a sentence is not an effective learning strategy.  However, the question is whether or not the word ubiquitous rises to the level of being classified as academic vocabulary that should be taught by direct instruction by content area teachers.  I would argue that it does not.

Granted when you meet a person and he or she uses the word ubiquitous in general conversation, your first impression is that the person is well-educated.  I know that because it happened to me.  I remember exactly where I was when I when I first heard the word ubiquitous.  My husband and I were eating lunch at Hometown Emporium in Exeter, California, when a friend approached him and said, “My friend, you are ubiquitous.”  I was impressed with this friend, and we spent the next five minutes discussing his choice vocabulary word – and that was my introduction both to the word and the friend.


Only Tier 2 words are targeted for direct instruction by all content area teachers.  Is ubiquitous merely a showy, ostentatious Tier 3 word, or is it truly an academic necessity Tier 2 word? Based on the work of Isabel Beck, who categorizes academic words as Tier 1,2 or 3 level, I would classify ubiquitous as a Tier 3 word.  It is not a common or Tier 1 word like pencil or high use word like the.  It does not have different meanings in different content areas like Tier 2 words:  table, key, or expression.


To give you an example of a ubiquitous Tier 2 word, let’s put the word table on the table.  To do that I’ll create a table to demonstrate how it is used in different content areas.


Even though Common Core standards are only adopted nation-wide for language arts and mathematics, language arts standards are particularly ubiquitous.  To make a point, I would argue that Common Core standards in English Language Arts are even MORE CORE, more ubiquitous, if you were,  than in mathematics because students have to read, write, speak, and listen even to master the core mathematics standards.

Common Core standards are ubiquitous in the United States.  Again, I would argue that the major shift of teaching academic vocabulary may be the most ubiquitous of the six major shifts in language arts standards.  Words are important.  They represent the expression of all we think and do.  Words are ubiquitous.

Dropbox v Google Docs

Not all technology eliminates frustration and irritation from my life, but for the most part these two applications do.  Although I use Google Docs almost daily, I should be a Dropbox salesperson.  For now, I’ll keep my day job, because I’m afraid that I couldn’t live for very long on my commission checks since both of these products are free.

I could be a Dropbox salesperson.

I often work on large projects with several collaborators, and the way I write, the projects usually need lots of edits.  Before Dropbox I used to email myself work to do at home.  I was thrilled that I could do that!  I would write or edit, then email it back to work, where my secretary/editor would edit.  We had so many copies in our computers that we got lost in the stacks of virtual files.  We created new names, and new files to keep them all straight.  One time the server at the office went down, and when it came back up again there was a new P Drive.  What no one knew was that for some reason I was still accessing the old P Drive, and my secretary was editing on the new P Drive.  Oddly we didn’t catch on to that fact for days.  Hopefully this doesn’t even sound vaguely familiar to you because I guarantee it was frustrating.

Even simple games take time to develop.

Dropbox and Google both store documents on the web and have different benefits, but personally I prefer Dropbox for most uses because of the following reasons.

1)  Dropbox uses whatever software you are using.  I use Microsoft products, and Dropbox stores all my documents as Word docx.  Google has good products, but they do not have all of the flexibility that I have spent years learning in Microsoft.

2)  Most people say they receive and can open up a document that I send them from Dropbox.  I have had people complain that they couldn’t open a Google Doc.  That may not be the problem with Google Doc, but with me the techy-less wonder, or even possibly the techy-less friend to whom I am sending a link.

3)  I can open up Dropbox without even being on the Internet, do my work, and as soon as I turn on the internet, the work syncs to the cyber cloud.  You have to log in to use Google Docs, and on my pokey computer, that can take more time that I want to spend.  I’m not in the twitch generation, but I have become  accustomed to instant.

4)  This makes me happy.  Everyone with whom I have shared a Dropbox folder gets a little message every time I make a change on a document.  People say, “I got lots of notifications that documents have been changed.  You must work REALLY hard.”  Did you hear that boss?   Actually I’m never satisfied with what I write, but they might also be seeing all my secretary’s  or one of my collaborator’s hard work instead.  I just smile, the project is active!

" 9 files have been synced."

5)  Using Dropbox you don’t create multiple versions of documents that get in your way all the time.  All of the revisions are saved, but you have to click on a tab to locate them, so they are not in your face all the time.  With Google I seem to end up with revisions with the same name as the original documents.  It doesn’t take much to confuse me.

6)  Another problem I have with Google and other cloud-only applications I blame on my internet provider.  Rural America where I live is internet-challenged, and the monopoly service I use puts the brakes on the internet speed when I have loaded too many megabytes of information during a 24 hour period.   When I am using Google Docs and that happens, I  type a few words, and wait for Google to catch up with me.  Sometimes Google completely has left out part of what I typed.  That was so irritating that I quit composing in Google, and did my work offline, and then uploaded it to Google later.   I have not had that happen since I learned to manage my download bytes, but trust comes back slowly so I still do most of my writing on Dropbox offline for that reason.

7)  Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a size limit on the document that can be uploaded to Dropbox, but I have exceeded my megabyte limit on Google when uploading a document containing several pictures.

However, in spite of my love for Dropbox, there are some things that Google does better.

1) For example, if you are collaborating in real-time, you can see the edits instantly, and you can chat as you write.  So it’s like you are thinking out loud as you write.  You can have several people online all doing the editing and chatting at the same time.  Confusing, but doable.  With Dropbox the changes are not visible until you save and sync your document.  Even then, your collaborator is still seeing the old document, until they close, and reopen it.  This is not convenient when you are working in real-time together, even when you are all in the same room.

2)  I had an another experience in which several of us were taking notes on an agenda created in a joint Dropbox folder.  My notes wrote over someone else’s notes, and his were gone, and all Dropbox had to say about it was “Marsha’s corrupted copy”  Both of us were red in the face that time.  Mine was embarrassed.

3)  I have nearly run out of space with Dropbox.  If you get your friends to use Dropbox you earn more space.  I like that.  If you want to open up another Dropbox account with a different email account, you get more space, but you don’t have the same convenience as you do with your primary account that is downloaded to all your computers.  You have to go online to and log in with a different email account, and that is a hassle.  I think it is better to have all your files in one account and bite the bullet to buy more space than to have all your files spread over different accounts.  Saving space by using multiple accounts is bad when you forget in which account you stored the minutes to the meeting,  and the meeting just started, and it’s time to read the minutes.   I have never run out of space with Google Docs.

When I was a middle school student, my mother learned to drive just so she could bring me the homework I forgot to take to school.  At least that’s what I thought at the time.   Moms of the”igeneration” will never understand that chore.  Homework is accessible from everywhere and even the dog can’t eat it.  Thank you technological cyber-geniuses.  That’s one less problem for moms in the 2012 world.