Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

I met Joyce Carol Oates at a book signing about 15 years ago. The prolific writer had just finished her tenth-hundredth book and was making the rounds. Everyone in line had her new book tucked under their arm or pressed against their chest. For some reason I think it was Blonde – the one that imagined the inner self of Marilyn Monroe. Whichever book it was I hadn’t bought it yet, much less read it. I carried in my hand a beat up paperback copy of stories of young America – the tagline for Oates’ mid-sixties collection of short stories Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

When I finally got front and center of Ms. Oates and handed her the paperback, she laughed. “Where did you get this from?” she asked.

Probably a used bookstore, or maybe a flea market. I didn’t know. I just had it in my possession since college, when I first discovered the short stories of Joyce Carol Oates. When I wrote short stories, too. When I was going to be just like her – only less prolific. She could keep the novels and biographies and dissertations on boxing. I just wanted to write short stories. And for a while, I did.

“What do you do?” was the next question Ms. Oates asked me. Because I’m not sure I ever answered the first.

“I’m a writer,” I replied – because I was (am) a writer, an editor, a marketer, a publicist. I work with words. I don’t write short stories (right now) but I’ve always done what we refer to now as producing “content”. Tons of it.

“Isn’t it fun?” Ms. Oates said to me. “Writing. It’s great.”

I nodded, smiled. I don’t remember what I did to tell you the truth. But I got my beat up copy of Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been signed to “K.T.” – my initials – the ones I used when I wrote (might still write) short stories. Because in addition to wanting to be just like Ms. Oates, when I was a teenager I also wanted to be just like J.D. Salinger (until I learned more about him). But Salinger is no more (I once saw Joyce Maynard in the Whole Foods parking lot in Marin, but that’s an entirely different story!). Joyce Carol Oates is on Twitter.

Which brings me semi-circle at least to some next steps for Kathy (K.T.) Drasky and KazzaDrask Media, because where you are going always depends on where you have been. There are a couple of posts on this site that elaborate on a few iterations of my 30-(yes, count ‘em!)-year career in the word and image business.  (Links are posted at the end of this entry.) But it’s safe to say that probably no career choices have been more changed since the mid-1980s than those that are related to the way we communicate.

I’ve spent the past 6 months taking a look back at the smaller picture – the past five years of blog posts I wrote that explored some of the work I was doing, but more precisely, the manner in which how I was doing that work was changing. I’ve also looked back at the bigger picture – the 30 years of work, first in the publishing industry, and then as a freelancer – a journalist, a copyeditor, a fact checker, a publicist and ultimately the all-encompassing “digital media specialist” and “content provider” – which means, generate, upload and get people to click.

The result of all-of-the-above, led to the selection of three words to sum up what I’ve come to find I am most passionate about, not just now – but for the past 30 years – which undoubtedly means I will hold them dear for at least 30 more.

Creative. Content. Curation.

That’s where I’m going. It’s where I’ve been.

Other posts:


One of those all-too-common unfortunate errors of our digital age occurred last week when Esquire’s online site erroneously placed this horrific 9/11 photo known as “The Falling Man” next to a story titled “Making Your Morning Commute More Stylish”.

Stop laughing.

Esquire then made matters worse, according to the social media police, by posting this tweet in response to complaints:

“Relax, everybody. There was a stupid technical glitch on our “Falling Man” story and it was fixed asap. We’re sorry for the confusion.”

Apparently the use of the word “relax” triggered more outrage according to PR News, since the use of that word “is not really a good tactic when you are in apology mode.”

PR News then goes on to make the case first encountered by emailers back in the day that carries over onto the social networks: humor, snark, irony – whatever you want to call it – does not always translate in these restrictive formats. For every person that “gets it”, there are apparently three who do not. That hypothetical 3-to-1 ratio creates a backlash that goes full-speed into the social media cycle until, mercifully, the next “crisis” in communicating comes along.

The photo of “The Falling Man” was taken by Richard Drew for the Associated Press. The story in Esquire of the same name (written by Tom Junod) was originally published in 2003 (and reprinted last week). The image and the words – when placed correctly – are a haunting reminder of a terrible day in American history. The error – and its backlash – have probably led more people to actually read this piece and recall the fate of as many as 7 to 8 percent of the World Trade Center 9/11 victims whose only way out of the burning, about-to-collapse 110-story building was to jump.

I don’t think anyone who may have initially laughed at this error – or the concept of a man falling from a building next to a story about commuting – is a bad person. In fact, they probably are no stranger to a hellacious commute, one that forces you to develop a tough exterior and a sense of humor. I’ve been there. Relax. That’s why I now work from home.

Photo by Richard Drew for Associated Press.

Ringo Starr, 21st Century Man, Compiles eBook about Best 20th Century Rock Band

Ringo Starr is one former Beatle who is not afraid of embracing the 21st century.

Yes, it’s true. Ringo has written an eBook!

Aptly titled Photograph (after his 1973 hit solo single released after the Beatles broke up), the 72-year-old drummer shares the story of his life via pictures, video and audio.

While there may be a bit of interest in seeing snaps of baby Ringo growing up in Liverpool or an older Ringo traveling the world, the ultimate sales trigger will be the 100 never-before-seen candid photos of the Fab Four during their catapult to fame and years as the best rock band of the 20th century during the mid-to-late 1960s.

The eBook is actually an iBook, available exclusively from Apple’s iTunes on pre-order for $9.99 now (for delivery on June 12). In addition to the photos, you’ll also get video and audio narration by Starr himself, who says, quite frankly, “These are shots that no one else could have. I just loved taking pictures and I still do.”

Bravo, Ringo!

Sources: Apple.com and FStoppers.com

Traditional Media One Ups Social Media in Marriage Equality Race to the Finish Line

This week’s marriage equality cases before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) have been nothing short of historic. For the generations that have come of age since America’s last civil rights victories in the 1950s and 1960s, which is pretty much social media’s biggest demographic everybody, the tidal wave of support has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Facebook and Twitter feeds turned into a sea of red and pink, as gays, lesbians and supporters changed profile pictures to a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) logo designed specifically for this week. And, in true social media fashion, silly riffs on the original were fast and furious, with everyone from Martha Stewart to Peeps Easter candy getting into the act. That’s social media for you.

So, who can blame some older school ways of getting the word out like digital and print, and namely Time magazine, from wanting a piece of the fast-breaking action? Professional and armchair SCOTUS watchers will tell you that it is nearly impossible to read any court decision based on the brief hearings conducted by the nine justices, regardless of their typical liberal or conservative leanings. But tweets and blog posts coming from Washington were cautiously optimistic that both California’s Proposition 8 (which took away the right of gay and lesbian Californians to marry) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bans federal recognition of same-gender marriages performed at the state level, were on their way to the discrimination dustbin.

While decisions on either case may not come from the SCOTUS until the end of June, what are remaining print sources supposed to do? Time took a gamble this morning when it issued the digital version of its print magazine (still four days away from newsstands) proclaiming “Gay Marriage Already Won.” For good measure, there will be two versions of this cover, one showing two women kissing, the other showing two men.

Granted the subtitle of the four-page digital story claims that while SCOTUS may not have decided the issue yet, the American public has. (Surveys report anywhere from a solid 51% of Americans now favor marriage equality to upwards of 60%.) The younger and more social media-savvy those surveyed, the higher the supporters go – which according to Time makes marriage equality a done deal. New people being born and old people dying is a tradition older than marriage.

All this is good news for equality, justice and a country that claims everyone is created equal yet has an ugly law in place that denies same-sex married couples 1,138 rights afforded to opposite-sex married couples (including Social Security benefits, inheritance laws, joint tax filings and immigration – just to name some of the most devastatingly denied). Of course, should SCOTUS buck the court of public opinion later this year, that will probably be a much more serious story than Time magazine’s print edition taking a leap of faith to try beating social media to the finish line with this story.

Which brings to mind another Time magazine cover from 16 years ago next month. Essentially Time scooped all its mainstream competitors back in April 1997 when it detailed sitcom star Ellen DeGeneres decision to out her TV character as a prelude to her own coming out in real life. (Yes kids, life was so much more complicated in those early Internet days). DeGeneres’ bold move at the time was worthy of a national magazine cover that (temporarily) ended her television career. I think we all know how that turned out.

Photo credits: Time magazine covers courtesy of Time.com. To see the alternate gay marriage cover featuring two men, click here

‘Editor & Publisher’ to Cease Publication After 125 Years

A sign of the times (sigh). Here’s the official obit: ‘Editor & Publisher’ to Cease Publication After 125 Years

For something a little more in depth, please see Will Bunch’s piece in the Huffington Post, “While Dying, Editor & Publisher Showed Journalism How to Live”. In the “shrug, oh well, life goes on” category, Bunch reports:

For much of today, “Editor & Publisher” was a top trending topic on Twitter — ironically, a symbol of both its impact and of the massive technological changes that conspired to kill it.

There’s much more here. E&P was a publication (both print and online, since 2003) that ran stories that reminded those of us who write to also think. All of us who have left behind the old school for the new media pastures this decade has abundantly provided — and those who never knew the old school especially — should take pause. Take 30 seconds before we hit that “Publish” or “Update” button. Think of how much more we can contribute the ongoing universal dialog that has replaced “news” by doing so.

(Read more)

In Memory of Writer Donis Ford

“Don’t Wait for the Mood to Strike! Write and Write often!”Donis Ford

My good friend, Donis Ford, passed away suddenly last year. Donis was a “working writer” for most of her career, and I do not use that term loosely. For more than 20 years, she met weekly deadlines as a business journalist for the Institute of Office Management & Administration (IOMA) in New York City, where I met her in 1988 when she hired me as a production editor. We did 11 (yep, 11) monthly newsletters for lawyers, accountants, engineers, etc. (yeah, fun stuff).

Donis’ passion as writer though, went beyond the earning-a-living grind — over the years she wrote and published numerous short pieces, many devoted to her love of all things tea — high teas, Japan (where she traveled a couple of times), tea room and book reviews and more. Donis was always working on a novel — and asking how and where could she get more time to devote to her fiction while churning out constant copy to pay the bills. She changed her “scenery” a number of times — moving from the City to upstate New York to San Diego back to her native Arkansas and ultimately to Syracuse, NY — all in an effort to find the space she needed to create.

Donis was a proud member of the Harlem Writers’ Guild and I am seeking other members of the Guild to help me establish a grant in Donis’ memory. I know she would want this to be to help someone find the time and the space to write what they are truly passionate about, not just to write to earn a living. If you were a friend or colleague of Donis’ and are interested in helping me make this happen, please email me at kazzadrask@yahoo.com.

And, Donis — I know you’re up there and ready to call me out on this fantastic photo of you I’ve put up here. Just so you know — I’ve got a lot more. And, I miss you.

The Glamour Industry

In 1984 I had my degrees in Communications and English and I was ready to rock n’ roll! My first job out of college was as an editorial assistant for a division of Prentice-Hall called Appleton-Century-Crofts. This didn’t last long really, because after just a few short months the company was bought by Simon & Schuster and I was promoted to production editor! My starting salary was $10,500; with the promotion I think it went up to $11,000. The Appleton offices moved from New York City to my hometown of Norwalk, Connecticut. And I lived with my parents. Who says I hadn’t just entered “the Glamour Industry”?