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A long-time member of the Shenouda Associates Inc. team, Donna Muldoon shares her entry into the technical writing business. Reluctant or not, her writing skills are strong and solid, and her editing skills are impeccable.  — Judy Shenouda

Donna-Judy

Donna, the reluctant writer, with Judy, the boss!

I am a reluctant writer.

From my first aptitude test in junior high to my last career counseling tests as an adult, I was told that I should be a writer. Even Mrs. C, my high school English teacher with the feared red pen, commented that I should be a journalist. But I always disliked writing. It was painful, a dreaded chore, whether it was a simple thank you note or a speech to be presented. Sometimes the words came easily, but other times, they wouldn’t come out of my pen no matter how soon that assignment was due.

But here I am—after 22 years as a technical writer—still reluctant to do any real writing. I’m defining real writing here as creative writing—the opposite of technical writing. For me, creative writing requires thought, imagination, attention-grabbing sentences, interesting characters, and maybe some human emotion. None of that is in my wheelhouse.

So, when a career counselor suggested that I consider technical writing, I needed more explanation as to what that entailed. The counselor set up a meeting with someone in the field, with the warning that this was not a job interview. With a business writing sample in hand and absolute certainty that no amount of information would convince me that writing was for me, I went to the meeting. The expert in the field turned out to be Judy Shenouda! Over the course of two hours, Judy explained the concepts of technical writing and showed me some examples. The sight of 200-page finished publications did not fill me with waves of excitement, anticipation, or confidence! But Judy made me an offer that very few people ever receive: I could try out working on a technical writing assignment for a month to see if I liked it. If Judy was willing to take a risk, there was nothing for me to lose.

The first 10 years, the next 10 years, and still counting

I tried out that job for 10 years, becoming the sole writer for one complex product that encompassed over 50 manuals, totaling more than 2,000 pages. In addition to becoming familiar with the product, I learned how to write using a controlled language, how to publish on FrameMaker, and how to build periodic CDs for the distribution of the manuals.

Skip ahead to now. Read More

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For someone who is much more adept at creating with words than creating with pictures, I’m learning how much fun it is to match words with pictures. While in the process of updating my three books and branding them with a consistent look and feel, I’m preparing to redo the book cover for my first book, Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal.

In my quest for pictures, I discovered Pixabay.com, which provides “Beautiful Free Images.” I searched combinations of key words such as careers, success, steps, stairs, path, journal, and more. I discovered many, many images from very talented artists that are available for commercial use. My idea is to wrap the entire book cover—front, back, and spine—with an image. I’m considering the three options below. Read More

Courtesy of Intercom, the Magazine of the Society for Technical Communication, May 2015

Courtesy of Intercom, the Magazine of the Society for Technical Communication, May 2015

In the spring of 1985, I was working in a career services office for a university when a request came from a corporate manager for someone to write a policies and procedures manual. Though I had not worked in corporate America and had not written a manual, a colleague encouraged me to apply. With a degree in Public Communication and a major in Literacy Journalism, I had solid writing skills. I took the four-month assignment, enjoyed the work, did it well, resigned from the university, worked through an agency on a variety of technical and business writing projects, and, a year later, launched my own business.

Part of what I love about running Shenouda Associates Inc. is the ability to schedule my own time. By now, I know what needs to be done to keep the business humming along. My calendar is filled with key dates, so that at the start of any given week, I can set priorities. No longer is every day or every hour booked, which means I have the luxury of doing some of my own creative work, including self-publishing my own books.

Overall, my job includes activities in the administrative, HR, and marketing areas and, of course, many day-to-day activities revolve around the craft of researching, writing, editing, and publishing. Read More

You have a book that’s waiting…for you! It’s in your head. It’s in your heart. It’s in your bones. You can feel it wanting to take shape and become alive.

Purchase a journal, your future book. Now, pick it up. Maybe you’re apprehensive, wondering how you are going to fill these empty pages, how you are going to make a book that, next year, will have a place at the table of a book sale, a place in which others can peruse your book, purchase it, read it, benefit from it, and enjoy it. Now, relax a bit. Take a deep breath, because, like Santa, who is arriving very soon, you have a team that helps you carry the load. You have your very own Rudolph, your own Dasher, Dancer, Donder, and Blitzen.

You have Writer, Designer, and

Researcher, Reviewer, and

Editor, Publisher, and

Printer, Bookseller, and

As you may recall, you have

The most famous one of all

Your very own Rudolph, your Muse,

With a passion so bright,

Who guides your book to light.

In your journal, your future book, write Dedication at the top of one page; on another page, write Acknowledgments. Consider now the team pulling your sleigh, the team making your book real. Add their names to your book. Of course, this will change over time, but you don’t need to wait for your book to be complete to think about those you will thank, the contributors who will appear in your Dedication and Acknowledgments.

Let’s start with your muse. Who or what is inspiring you to write this book? Add the muse to the Dedication. Read More

Back cover for A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way

Back cover for A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way

A new look

This week, I dressed up my blog! The old header, which highlighted Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal, my first book, is gone. A new, impressionistic splurge of colors now appears. Just above it, there is a new menu item, Eating Our Way. Just above that, there’s a new book title, A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way. And to the right, there’s a new image, showing off one very tasty dish―part cookbook, part inspiration, part memoir―that is now hot off the press! With this facelift completed, I sit back, look, and enjoy it.

A new book

The reason for this new look? I wanted to include my new book in this blog. The original blog focused on how to transition successfully from one phase of work or one phase of life to another, based on the process detailed in Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal.

This refreshed, revitalized blog retains the existing blog entries and categories and additionally showcases the results of paying attention to the many earlier postings in this blog. Being mindful of Capabilities, talents, and strengths; Decision-making, problem-solving, and organizing; Motivation and inspiration; Self-discovery and self-actualization through exploration and reflection; and Work and life balance; I now have A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way as an addition to my Products, services, and offerings. It is now among my Success stories!

A new opportunity―for you

Look over this blog. See what resonates. Let the postings, the comments, the books, the menu, and the categories evoke something positive in you. Let the impressionistic dots, patterns, ripples, waves, and colors splashed in the new header allow you to picture an opportunity that is waiting just for you. Perhaps it is a project, a product, or another creation. Tell us about it. Tell the world!

It is said that advice is cheap. We know that many people give it freely. So freely, that those of us on the receiving often end pay little attention. Since this month includes Valentine’s Day, I started thinking about how advice is sometimes a precious gift. Let me introduce you to Thomas Transport, Star Singer, and Polly Politico. Consider how their advice can inspire you to dream about your career success, give you high hopes, and motivate you to take some next steps!

Like Orville and Wilbur Wright, Thomas Transport is an inventor. He dreams of combining technologies from land, sea, and air transports into a brand new vehicle. Others say that Thomas’s new vehicle can’t be built, because the design he envisions has never been built before. Yet, he continues to tinker with the many scrap parts he collects from builders of traditional modes of transportation. He persists. His advice? Keep at it. Accept others’ discards. Experiment. You might just transform what appears to be junk into a real treasure.

Star Singer lost her job and her home. Yet, she continues to dream that someday, one of those homes she sees with a “for sale” sign will be her home. As she looks at the smoke coming from a chimney, she envisions a day when she will be warmly snuggled inside. Though hungry, Star finds it difficult to ask for help. The solution? She volunteers to work in a community cupboard as payment for food. She sees others with needs, offers a smile and a song, starts entertaining for free, and then finds paid gigs. One day, she will have a home and fill a community cupboard for others. Star’s advice? Whatever your current circumstance, pick up the pieces, start over, and remember to give back.

Polly Politico dreams of one day being President! Still in her 20s, she runs for mayor of her town and dreams of empowering all constituents—young, old, disenfranchised, and privileged—to revitalize the community. Read More

Notetaking (Photo is courtesy of geekcalendar’s photostream, flickr.com, Creative Commons)

Are you thinking of attending a professional conference? Are you weighing the cons with the pros? Sure, this will cost you money—likely out of your own pocket—and  time. While you’re away, that looming project deadline will not disappear. Neither will that family event. Yet, you’d like a change of scenery. You could benefit from a renewed sense of purpose. You know it’s time to recharge! You decide Yes! You will go.

A while ago, I committed to doing a presentation at an out-of-town conference of technical communicators and made my travel arrangements. Early last week, I got my act together, finalizing my presentation, taking care of responsibilities on the business and home front, and preparing myself for a few days away. Read More