What Digital Marketers Need to Know About Blockchain

Bitcoin-Price Impact Group Kelly Konya

[Published on The Impact Group’s blog on February 28, 2017

Link to full article here.]

The World Wide Web 3.0 is fast approaching. As all businesses know, the Internet has single-handedly changed the realms of sales and marketing. With every new technological innovation, businesses must adapt their strategies to remain competitive.

At present, the way we currently understand how the Internet works is based on hypertext transfer protocol (better known as HTTP). In an enlightening 2009 TEDTalk, the English engineer, computer scientist and inventor of HTTP Tim Berners-Lee said that the next phase of the web will directly deal with data sharing and the concept of “linked data.” Linked data, as Berners-Lee outlines in the talk, will be adopted conceptually as “blockchain” and will address the issue of data ownership in the digital age.

Could This Be the End of Web 2.0?

In 2018, we are right at the tail end of Web 2.0. Marketers are dealing with an overwhelming amount of data, most of which is managed and created by the largest tech companies, like Google, Facebook and Amazon. The accessibility to and ownership of this data is an issue that is constantly raised in some of the most important debates in our government and industries today. Who controls the distribution of data online? Who is given access to the data that is shared by consumers?

Since data is mostly monopolized by the major tech companies, many marketers feel they are being cheated out of data that they should be able to claim for themselves. Companies like Facebook, which has nearly 3 billion users worldwide, have a massive amount of influence over digital marketing, becoming walled gardens of data. In certain cases, marketers want to regain this control or to at least be able to claim some of this marketing revenue. After all, it is their products and their advertising dollars being spent.

With blockchain, this debate ends.

What Blockchain Means for Marketers

All business owners should recognize that blockchain is much more complex than cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. In fact, it is the ultimate peer-to-peer network that will disrupt countless industries. At its most basic understanding, blockchain gives consumers the chance to store and distribute data without having it copied by central authorities. This means that users are responsible for managing the upkeep of their stored data, since the technology is entirely decentralized.

As mentioned above, at the tail end of Web 2.0, central authorities (like banks and government entities) generally manage consumer data. But with blockchain, this will no longer be the case, granting users greater cybersecurity and jurisdiction over their own data.

While it may seem like the financial sector will face the most changes from blockchain innovations, digital marketers will also need to adapt to using this technology. As a result of blockchain’s enhanced privacy, consumers who use cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to complete transactions will be able to do so anonymously. This will have a significant impact on digital marketing, which currently relies on the purchasing of this type of data from tech companies.

To dissect the main ways that blockchain will affect digital marketing, here are the main areas where marketers can expect changes:

  • Goodbye to the Middleman

    Currently, the middleman is a main player in digital marketing, as companies must invest in advertising in order to attract customers. Blockchain will essentially eliminate the need for a middleman—or, in other words, central authorities like Google or Facebook—that control ‘transactions’ or marketing/ad campaigns. Instead, marketers will be able to communicate directly with the platform where they wish to publish an ad. This way, blockchain makes it easier for marketers to target real users without needing any mediator to sanction the ad or marketing strategy. In the short-term, this will decrease marketing and advertising costs while (hopefully) increasing profit margins.

  • Reversing the Current User Model 

    Most often, consumers feel undervalued by marketers today when their personal data gets used for the wrong reasons, like spam or irrelevant campaigns. However, blockchain returns the power over personal data to the consumer and effectively reverses the consumer model. Once personal information is managed in blockchain’s more secure database, digital marketers may have to seek permission to use certain data. For example, in a recent radio interview, one blockchain expert said brands may have to change the way they gain subscribers. Instead of requiring users to subscribe to a newsletter or e-mail list, consumers now have the power to respond autonomously—and even require payment from marketers seeking their loyalty or personal data.

[End of excerpt. Link to full article here.]

Travel Writer, Auschwitz: “I remained ashamedly stoic, wondering ‘why did we come here?’”

Irish-Times Kelly Konya Freelance Writer

[Published by the Irish Times, June 27, 2015

Link to full article here.]

As we exited the railway station, the abandoned buildings and lots spread a sensation of musk and gloom throughout the air. The pebbles bouncing along my suede lace-up boots were so dusty, it was as if they hadn’t been kicked in years.

I knew that going to Poland for the sole purpose of seeing Auschwitz was problematic, and our roundabout trek from Kraków to the site underscored this fact. The woman at the airport gave us confused directions; the Starbucks barista put us on the wrong bus entirely. It was as if the town itself wanted to forget that the camps were there.

As soon as I walked to the camp’s entrance, something didn’t feel right. Auschwitz has been converted into a museum. There were headsets to use for guided tours, a souvenir shop with books and posters, and a tiny food court of vending machines and tables.

Kelly Konya Freelance Writer

It was hard to know the standard, or if there was any standard at all, for carrying oneself through a museum honoring 4.1 million lost souls. I didn’t know whether to smile or nod to the workers. I didn’t know whether it was offensive to ask where the bathrooms were. People were taking pictures of killing walls and barbed wire and sky-high guard towers. Groups of children were on tours with their schools. Leftover rain cut through creases in the barracks as if the walls were crying. The sun was setting. There were carvings of names on doors. There were crosses dispersed throughout the mud and grass. My friend desperately wanted to leave. I peeked into suffocation cells.

The entire time, as my friend’s eyes welled with tears while I remained ashamedly stoic, I wondered, Why did we come here? What lesson can be learned?

The unexplainable attraction to sites of mass death or suffering is labeled “thanatourism,” or dark tourism. Ground Zero in New York City, the Dachau, Mathausen, and Terezin concentration camps, and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia are only a few of such places that tourists flock to each year. Some psychologists believe the appeal of dark sites is hidden beneath a human desire to feel more alive. According to Dr. Philip Stone of the Institute for Dark Tourism Research, people feel anxious before visiting dark places, “and then better when they leave, glad that it’s not them.”

Whatever my reason for visiting Auschwitz, I did not leave feeling alive, nor did I satisfy any morbid intrigue. In fact, walking through Auschwitz left me feeling anything but full of life; instead, I felt demoralized and more alienated by humanity than ever before.

After we had finished walking around the main camp, I was exhausted and felt wrong for admitting it. As we rode to our hotel in a taxi, every house made me imagine the Jewish Poles being yanked from their kitchens. Every street was one where the Nazi’s tanks rumbled down its center. To me, everything in the town was Auschwitz, and I could no longer separate the two.

Later that evening as we watched a Polish television station in a trance, I tried writing down anything that might someday help me to digest the sights of the past 24 hours. Drawing many blanks, I still pressed on and pasted the postcard I purchased of the famous sign at Auschwitz that reads, Arbeit macht frei, or, “Work will set you free” in the back of my journal. Bought for 25 cents, it would be a reminder of my entrance to exploring darkness at its worst, to remind me to urge humanity to its best.

The Importance of Being Social on Social Media

The Impact Group Kelly Konya Freelance Writer

[Published on The Impact Group’s blog, blog.igpr.com, February 12, 2018
Link to full article here.

This is not news: social media marketing has a 100% higher lead-to-customer turnoverthan traditional methods of outbound marketing. With such a high percentage, it’s no surprise that 84% of B2B marketers utilize social media in some form to promote their best-ranking strategies. No matter what you are trying to market or who you are trying to reach, using social media in your marketing strategy is essential to growing your brand.

At this point in time, not being active on social media is basically a death sentence for your brand. Think of it like this: have you ever encountered brands on Twitter or LinkedIn who suddenly appear, announce their service or product and then disappear completely? It’s frustrating, irritating and will probably cause you to unfollow or disregard their message immediately.

This is a bad habit that many brands, unfortunately, use on a regular basis. Since it’s so easy to send out content on social media channels nowadays, companies can easily get into a routine of sharing, sharing, sharing—so much so, that this technique turns into spamming. Marketers who are prone to spamming don’t realize the importance of actually being social on social media.

It’s not called social media for nothing. Social channels like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are designed so that brands and marketers can engage with their networks in one concentrated place. Otherwise, the platforms would, quite simply, be plain old media.

Would you ever walk into a crowded room at a conference, announce your product that’s for sale and expect people to jump at the offer? Of course you wouldn’t. The principles of social media are no different. If you think of social media as socializing without being in physical proximity to someone, then you should realize the value in discussing, sharing, listening and genuinely building relationships through focused, thoughtful interaction. This, in time, will result in that impressive lead-to-customer turnover that every marketer is seeking.

social media engagement strategies

If you’re still wondering why it matters to use social media platforms socially, here are several compelling reasons:

Boosting Web Traffic

One of the most obvious reasons to use social media is to boost traffic to your website. When you create a new post on your website—whether it be a new product feature or a blog post—you have to develop strategies for how to get the word out. Uploading the post and thinking you’ve optimized it won’t guarantee that it will reach any audience whatsoever. Instead, you need to use social media as your go-to advertising and marketing tool to generate traffic.

Well-placed social media posts can make a massive difference in the lifespan of the product, feature or service you’re hoping to promote. According to marketing hub Shareaholic, social media is the #1 driver of all website referral traffic. With millions of videos, tweets, photos, shared links and articles created every day, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be using these platforms to boost your website’s traffic, too.

Plus, marketers who use social media actively and socially will also improve your website’s SEO—a huge factor in determining your ranking online. Search engine crawlers know which pages are earning consistent traffic versus the ones who are left floating in the Cloud with no page hits. With the help of well-designed social media posts, marketers can drive targeted audiences to certain pages and cause these pages to climb much faster to the top of search engine results pages.

Connect with Your Network

Part of what makes social media so powerful is the improved interaction with your customers, competitors and industry leaders. By following their channels, you will gain insights into their daily lives (and can even adjust your marketing strategy as a consequence)! What kinds of posts and stories do people in your network share? What types of posts do they respond to the most?

Knowing this information is basically like doing market research. In turn, socializing on social media can make you a more thoughtful marketer and give you plenty of ideas for new campaigns. If you’re doing it right, using social media will lead to real relationship building, which is truly the end-goal of the platforms. Your presence can connect you with like-minded, non-complementary and contending businesses. Slowly, your network will blossom. The more you share and engage, the greater and more influential your brand will become.

What’s more, being social on social media will make you more noticeable. Your brand presence can even boost your status at events, campaigns and other client engagements. A social media study by J.D. Power & Associates recently revealed that 87% of satisfied customers said their interaction with a company via social media “positively impacted” their likelihood of purchase. Clearly, your social media game matters to your audience, and giving them a trusted place to interact with your brand will lead to their satisfaction—and their support.

being social on social media channels

To Sum Things Up…

In 2018, your Twitter handle or Facebook page is effectively your business card. Consumers appreciate when you listen to, engage with and understand their needs, and the best way to do that is by being social on social media. Brands with active social media channels have more loyal customers—it’s that simple. Don’t miss out on the many ways that social media can improve your brand and boost your customer acquisition and retention rates. It’s an equal playing field in the social marketing arena, so get out there and start sharing (and sharing thoughtfully).

Goodbye Vacation Days! Here’s How to Pitch a Work Holiday to Your Boss

Kelly Konya Freelance Writer Coworker Blog

[Published on Coworker.com, January 18, 2018
Link to full article here.]

It’s okay to admit it: you’re still bogged down by set vacation days, paid-time-off, and other limitations of your work schedule that keep you from traveling. You may sit there and wonder how you can manage to set out on new adventures in exciting countries while still keeping your boss happy. The truth is, it can be done—if you simply pitch the idea of a ‘work holiday’ for the benefit of both your company and your own long-term fulfillment.

What is a Work Holiday?

A work holiday is a new concept. It is set to revolutionize the way remote workers actually work, free from any imposing restrictions of staying in one city. Much like taking a vacation, proposing to go on a work holiday gives workers the chance to occasionally work remotely by extending their stay in a new place beyond an initial short-term timeframe.

In many cases, it makes perfect sense for companies with the ability to have employees work remotely as a way to help utilize vacation days, and allow for vacation time to be integrated into regular days spent working. Location shouldn’t matter—instead, it should enhance productivity, and if that call for being inspired by a unique location, then bosses should see the value in giving employees the wings to explore.

Think of it like this: you have the opportunity to visit Ireland, working remotely and attending a weeklong conference in Dublin. You ask your boss if you can stay in Dublin for an additional three weeks, rounding out the month, and she says yes! In an instant, you now have the chance to experience the city for an entire month—living like a local, touring the city’s attractions, and finding a great coworking community in an energizing setting. This is a work holiday.

Kelly Konya Freelance Writer Coworker Blog

Benefits of Work Holidays for Your Company

Since improving employee happiness is a high-ranking priority on many startups and business owners’ to-dos, it will be valuable to companies to offer work holidays. Imagine all of the opportunities for your business that can stem from you taking a trip. In the eyes of your company, you can become a more well-rounded employee and individual, benefitting in the following ways:

  • You will improve your ability to communicate and general language skills
  • You can develop your independence and personality
  • You will learn new working styles and build international networks
  • You may improve your professional skills and gain new qualifications

By engaging in cross-cultural activities and interactions, you will garner powerful insights into international marketing and other successful business strategies while developing your own point of view. Such experiences may even spark ideas for new business practices for your company, which they will definitely want to hear.

Your boss should be quick to recognize how important traveling can be to your development as an individual and as an employee. In fact, travel is even linked to making better entrepreneurs, having a hand in boosting creativity, productivity, and encouraging problem-solving skills. People with international experience typically display more originality, inspiration, and are quick-thinkers. For digital nomads, travel is the answer to gaining a bicultural perspective and finding fulfillment in your work.

And, of course, there are many advantages for you.

Coworking spaces around the world present some truly matchless opportunities that will leave you feeling fulfilled, both on a personal and professional basis. Now, there are coworking spaces in wine country, in places with access to scuba diving, in cities teeming with startups, and many even offer accommodations through co-living coworking spaces. It’s easy to find your tribe, and it’s even better when you can stay with your new tribe for more than a few days.

By taking a work holiday, you can build a new “work-home,” or better yet, you can even call it your “vacation home.” There is an ongoing myth surrounding digital nomads that constant travel leads to unreliability, but wouldn’t you work better if you were able to finish your tasks and get excited about all that you could then explore? It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to stop into a pub where there’s live music on your way home, or to try new street food on your lunch break. These experiences won’t ever take away from your productivity—on the contrary, they will enhance it, leaving you more enriched and fulfilled after waking up in an exciting place.

In a much-discussed 2010 study by professors from Tel Aviv University, INSEAD, and the Kellogg School, researchers found that “travel and living abroad have long been seen as good for the soul.” So while your company is benefiting from your enhanced performance as you work from a new place, you can also guarantee that you, on a deeper level, will find a higher quality of life and boosted happiness. With a break from your daily remote working routine, you will cultivate gratitude, mindfulness, and the importance of living in the NOW.

With so many advantages to taking a work holiday for both you and your company, the next step is simple: pitch a trip to a coworking space in Dubai next time you touch base with your boss, and soon you will be off on your next adventure. Don’t forget your computer!

Should You Outsource Your Marketing?

Kelly Konya  Freelance Writer Cleveland Outsource Marketing The Impact Group

[Published by The Impact Group’s blog, blog.igpr.com on January 23, 2018
See link to full article here.]

Great news: your business is growing.

Bad news: your business is growing.

While growth means you are doing something right—like attracting and retaining ideal customers—it simultaneously makes for a serious conundrum from a marketing perspective.

When a business first begins, employees must juggle many different hats. Most of the technical jobs are filled fairly quickly to ensure that the business is compliant and the standards are kept on track. For instance, outsourcing the major financial decisions to a CPA or external bookkeeper is often a straightforward decision. There are rules and regulations that can be overwhelming to understand, and the penalties for a bad decision can be devastating.

The same goes for healthcare management. This function is generally easier to outsource to an external organizer who can guarantee that your employees are receiving good coverage and the business is not violating any rules.

But then there’s marketing…

Growth complicates the decision about how your company should facilitate its marketing strategies. Hiring in-house makes for expenses and risks that are not easily redirected; outsourcing can lead to complex communication and organization. With such a strategic role on the line, making the wrong choice can have long-lasting repercussions.

Consider the Basics: What is Marketing?

First of all, marketing is a broad term that many people define differently. So, let’s consider the definition of marketing. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary,marketing is defined as “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.” (Fun fact: the first known use of the term “marketing” was in the year 1561!)

This definition does not provide clarity on what marketing truly entails, so let’s unpack this definition—

Marketing ultimately includes the following:

  • Research – determining the whowhat and why of your ideal target audience and defining their buyer personas based on market research and preexisting data (surveys, interviews, etc.)
  • Campaign management – developing the best methods for attracting and retaining your ideal targets in the form of an outreach campaign.
  • Design – creating a look and feel that will resonate with your target audience. Design can include anything from a website, brochures, ads, business cards, signage, postcards and so on.
  • Content management – writing engaging B2B content for all designed elements, including social media strategy and other content marketing tools, that is fine-tuned to your buyer personas.

Ask Yourself the Tough Questions

Knowing all of the facets of marketing that make for a successful strategy, you should ask yourself: Is it necessary to create a marketing department to perform all of these functions? Or might it be better to outsource these functions to an agency?

Hiring an entire in-house marketing department will allow you to have a marketing team that is on-site and therefore close to your sales team and other departments. It will also allow you to drive the direction of their work and priorities.

However, the benefits of having your team on-site can quickly be overshadowed by the expense of hiring a full-time staff. As of January 2018, the average salary of a Marketing Director is $135,744. What’s more, this amount doesn’t include the benefits and payroll taxes—which will generally raise the amount by 20%.

While many businesses will opt to hire a marketing coordinator instead of a director, it will still be a costly decision that may not make sense for your company—especially if you project steady growth from this point forward.

[End of excerpt]

5 Benefits of a Collaborative Environment

Kelly Konya Freelance Writer Coworker

[Published on Coworker.com, August 22, 2017
Link to full article here.]

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

When we envision a typical workplace, we think of an office with plain white walls, an overflow of post-it notes, and plenty of divisive cubicles. Employees oftentimes feel the pressures of deadlines and the need to compete with their coworkers. In this sort of environment, there is no room for working together and creating an efficient, functional team.

But this is the old workplace structure. Today, companies realize the benefits of interpersonal balance, resulting in work environments that promote both collaboration amongst coworkers and the opportunity to have individual time to complete personal tasks. With the ability to share information quickly, individuals who engage in collaboration are more likely to succeed. A study by leadership company Fierce, Inc. cited that 86% of the employees claim a lack of preparation for workplace failures. It is no secret that teamwork directly impacts and enhances performance.

But what about those of us who work from home or have remote positions? No matter the job, nomadic workers like freelancers or members of startups will attest to the power of connection.  Finding a network of like-minded people in a collaborative workspace can lead to meaningful work and a range of dynamic benefits.

Benefit #1: Inspires Creativity

People who work in remote settings often have to be creative to stay ahead on their projects. Most of the time, creativity is the lone factor that leads to some of the best and most groundbreaking results. And while many creative types can usually tap into their innovative frame of mind whenever it’s needed, brainstorming alone isn’t always ideal.

Coming together in a collaborative workspace is a better way to foster creativity and learning. When people connect in a shared environment, collective brainstorming thrives. Even if we are used to working on your own, having other individuals in the room may help us to seek out new perspectives. If we are stuck or unsure where to go with a project, don’t suffer through it alone. Instead, ask questions and gain insight from other people. Hearing other opinions can encourage enthusiasm for our own ideas—which in turn allows creativity to reach new bounds.

Kelly Konya Freelance Writer Coworker

Benefit #2: Furthers an Individual’s Goals

Setting personal goals is extremely important to success as a remote worker. Working towards deadlines and finding the motivation to handle every nitty-gritty detail can be challenging. But in a collaborative environment, there is plenty of room for individual empowerment.

The truth is, completing individual goals is better when there are other people around to partake in the positive consequences of a job well done. Sharing our goals with other people will make us more inclined to complete them. Identifying and discussing goals in a truthful and effective way will help us to hold ourselves accountable and accomplish each step. Plus, we can praise our fellow workers for their successes, infusing positive energy into the “office.”

[End of excerpt.]

Building Community through Laughter

Kelly Konya Saint Mary's College Courier Freelance Writer

[Published by Saint Mary’s Courier, Spring 2017 issue.
Link to full article here.]

Think of the last time you laughed.

You may surprise yourself by recalling your laughter wasn’t during a funny moment at all. Though we always associate laughter with humor, we laugh when we’re exhausted, when we’re nervous, when we’re crying. It’s a gesture that, when dissected, isn’t so simple.

Saint Mary’s associate professor of religious studies Anita Houck has long recognized the complexity of laughter and its substantial power to unite us.

“Laughter creates, expresses, and shapes how people engage with each other. Laughter is also a social lubricant and helps to break the ice. People use laughter to bond with each other, but they also use it to exclude others, and they do both within and across community boundaries, and for all kinds of reasons,” Houck said. Further, when we laugh at jokes, we laugh because the joke is built on shared knowledge. The joke may even be offensive or exclusionary and still we stifle a laugh. In wrestling with the difficult question of how to deal with humor, Houck turns to the work of philosopher Ted Cohen. In his book Jokes, Cohen draws attention to humor and its complexity. Instead of denying something is funny, we are better served to “try remaking the world so that such jokes will have no place, will not arise,” Cohen says. The unjust assumptions we have about others will no longer be part of our shared cultural knowledge, and jokes that are based on them will no longer be funny.

[Excerpt ends here. Click this link to read full article.]

Release Salinger’s Manuscripts!

[Published by Trinity News, January 27, 2016
Link to full article here.]
Another year has gone by and Salinger’s unpublished works remain a mystery to the public; how long will his literary estate keep this up? And is posthumous publication ever really unjustifiable?

Imagine this: it’s 2005 and J.D. Salinger is seated in his small shed nestled somewhere in the hills of Cornish, New Hampshire, alone. Little notecards charting his infamous characters like Holden Caulfield and Seymour Glass flutter from a large bulletin board. He writes and writes a little more each morning, secluded from the reality that he renounced shortly after publishing The Catcher in the Rye in 1951. He has not sent anybody a story to publish in over half a century. And still, he concludes this morning’s writing and places the new prose within a fireproof vault next to other stories that fans may never read.

It is now January 27, 2016. Six years have passed since Salinger’s death, and not a single page of his unpublished prose has been placed in the hands of any publisher.

In fact, the rights to Salinger’s works belong to family members who do not seem to have any intention to release the writings. His son, Matthew, once stated, “All families should be able to protect the privacy of a deceased family member,” and by working tirelessly against lawsuits and the Salinger fandom to detain his father’s unseen works, he is doing just that.

This past year, the independent publisher Devault-Graves Agency filed a lawsuit against the Salinger Literary Trust in a Tennessee court on March 16. According to the Agency, the Salinger estate had “thwarted” their attempt to publish international editions of three Salinger short stories, “The Young Folks,” “Go See Eddie,” and “Once A Week Won’t Kill You” in a collection titled, Three Early Stories. The stories have already been in the public domain in the United States since 1972, but the Trust took serious issue with the publisher’s contracts with 13 foreign publishers to reprint the stories. The action would, apparently, violate foreign copyright laws.

Devault-Graves knew that Salinger was notorious for protecting his property and copyright, but this is a different situation entirely. Many of the foreign publishers consequently ended their contracts with Devault-Graves and hampered the Agency’s business relationships. According to Graves, it’s “ridiculous” for the Trust to claim global rights, and the estate has effectively “gone beyond the boundaries of where they should.

The Salinger Literary Trust had their way in the end; Devault-Graves dropped the lawsuit in December 2015, claiming it was “no loss” for the Agency, but a way to put the Trust “on notice that we will defend our right to publish in every foreign market that is legitimately open to us.” The three stories, at this point, have no prospect of foreign publication.

Clearly, neither side of the equation truly wins in a situation so muddied by lawyers and litigations and intellectual property rights. The public domain—surely the underlying threat behind keeping or releasing the works—is still left in the dark despite anyone’s best efforts. Another year has gone by, and Salinger’s literary estate has stayed put, out of print.

Kelly Konya Freelance Writer Salinger Manuscripts

The question remains: is it justified to guard unpublished works from the public forever?

Posthumous publication is a controversial and even ethical issue that has affected the ways writers are remembered after their deaths for centuries. Salinger is far from the first writer to leave behind a wealth of unfinished, unpublished manuscripts with little instruction on what exactly is to be done with the documents.

This uncertainty causes debate over authorial intent and the way the unreleased works may affect the lasting perception of the writer by the public. For some, it is especially concerning if posthumous publishing can be justified when an author has explicitly stated that their manuscripts be destroyed after their death (like the poems of Emily Dickinson or The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov). But it’s undeniable that we would lose much more than we would gain if we had always listened.

Take for instance the utterly unconfirmed legend that Virgil had no intention for The Aeneid to ever hit the shelves. And if we’re making a list: Franz Kafka’s The Trial, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, The Garden of Eden, and The Dangerous Summer, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Love and Friendship, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King; all of these works were published posthumously, without the oversight of the author. Can you imagine if these novels were never printed?

These novels have indisputably enriched our society and our fuller understanding of the artist at work, even after death. With dedicated readers craving every word an author has written, it seems massively unfair to withhold works and breed disappointment; as in the case of J.D. Salinger, authorial intent can only go so far until readers begin denouncing the deceased writers’ intentions with each passing year of non-publication.

A glimmer of hope for Salinger fans came in 2013 with the publication of Salinger, the latest documentary-style biography of the writer by David Shields and Shane Salerno. Within the biography were claims by two “independent and separate” anonymous sources that Salinger left instructions “authorizing a specific timetable (starting between 2015 and 2020) for the release of unpublished work, including five new Glass family stories; a novel based on his relationship with his first wife, Sylvia Welter, a German he married shortly after World War II; a novella in the form of a counterintelligence officer’s diary entries during the war; a story-filled “manual” about the Vedanta religious philosophy; and new or retooled stories fleshing out the story of Holden Caulfield.” Could this really be true?

We can indeed speculate with wide-eyes that the story of Holden Caulfield didn’t end in a mental hospital, but still the unfortunate fact remains: 2015 has passed without any hint of a new Salinger novel on the horizon. Shield and Salerno’s biography has been generally discredited; Matthew Salinger and Salinger’s widow, Colleen O’Neill, have remained determinedly silent on the subject of Salinger’s unpublished works since his death; and agents from Little, Brown and Company (the publishers of The Catcher in the Rye) have also refused to confirm any forthcoming Salinger fiction. For fans, it looks like the waiting game will continue.

In ways, I’m haunted by Salinger’s final interview in 1980. Salinger told reporter Betty Eppes:

“There’s a marvellous peace in not publishing. There’s a stillness. When you publish, the world thinks you owe something. If you don’t publish, they don’t know what you’re doing. You can keep it for yourself.”

So who am I to feel hostile towards the Salinger Literary Trust—the unmoving defender that has kept me from falling in love with more of Salinger’s ingenious stories and characters—when, really, this might be what Salinger wanted?

I realize Salinger’s fanatically reclusive behavior is a testament to the extent that he hated the publishing world and the pure “phoniness” of praise more than most writers would or should. But even if the rumors of his authorized timetable for publishing his unread stories are false, I find it extremely difficult to understand the Trusts’s intentions to continue keeping his work from the public. After all, he is gone—how much can his living wishes matter to us now?

It goes without saying that the value of these unpublished manuscripts has expanded considerably for the obvious fact that there is no more of it. Knowing Salinger’s works inside and out, I can hardly imagine that the manuscripts would be of poor quality and damage the writer’s lasting reputation. If anything, posthumous works honor an artist’s legacy in a distinctive, more essential way than biographies or the already-published works. It’s a twistedly lovely power to freeze a writer in death and continue to watch the writer develop; for a Trust to take that capacity away from loyal readers is always unjust and in opposition to the purpose of art.

What This Nobel in Literature Really Means


[Published by Trinity News, October 28, 2015
Link to full article here.]

When Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in Literature last week, I immediately received word of the achievement from a friend on Twitter. She tweeted to me, “LIT JOURNO NOBEL!!!” to which I replied, “AND A WOMAN!!!” To say the least, we were excited. Historically, only 11.6 percent of Nobel Literature winners are female. But it wasn’t that statistic alone that caused us to be so stunned by this news.

Alexievich is the first woman to win the Nobel in Literature for non-fiction writing, ever.

Before this year, only three men have won for non-fiction writing: Bertrand Russell in 1950 for philosophy, Winston Churchill in 1953 for history, and Jean-Paul Satre in 1964 for philosophy, though he declined it. With Alexievich now part of this list, winning for what the Swedish Academy has defined as “polyphonic writings” that are “a monument to suffering and courage in our time”, it is a win for women, surely, but also for a particular lesser-known genre within non-fiction writing.

According to Sara Danius, the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Alexievich has “devised a new genre” that extends beyond the material at hand and emphasizes the importance of form. However, Alexievich’s genre is not “new”, and can be defined by much simpler terms: literary journalism.

Have you heard of it?

When I first learned of the term “literary journalism”, I was skeptical. I had grown comfortable with calling the style of writing “creative nonfiction” or “longform”. I wasn’t looking to fall even deeper into the rabbit hole of all the subcategories within nonfiction that continued to confuse my understanding of truth versus accuracy.

But as I’ve come to discover, literary journalism is neither a new version of a catchall term nor a new genre, and it’s important that we acknowledge this. Though Alexievich is the first writer recognised for writing in this nonfiction style by the Nobel Foundation, writers like Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion, Lillian Ross, Gay Talese, John Jeremiah Sullivan and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc are just a few of the already-established masters of the form. Pick up any magazine with long features, like The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, or Harper’s, and the genre will stare you right in the face. It is not, as I said, anything “new”.

By definition, literary journalism is “a genre of nonfiction writing that adheres to all of the reportorial and truth-telling covenants of traditional journalism while employing rhetorical and storytelling techniques more commonly associate with fiction”.

In other words, literary journalism is literature as journalism.

The form includes literary techniques typical in fiction like character development, voice, and symbolism to create a consciousness and meaning on the page that build upon the reader’s ensuing reactions. The main challenge of the form is to portray real events with true passion and emotion, helping the reader to feel the fact. In the style’s condensing of reality, the writer is able to editorialise through literary techniques like imagery and metaphor, which are not typically found in traditional journalism.

This is the genre of writing that Alexievich should be recognized for mastering — a genre that embraces a long tradition of first-rate storytellers. Her style cannot be belittled to a “blending of journalism and literary flourish,” as the New York Times described it. In literary journalism, these two genres do not need to be blended because they could never be separate.

According to Alexievich’s website, she had searched for a genre that “would be most adequate to my vision of the world to convey how my ear hears and my eyes see life”. In literary journalism, she found it.

Reading one of her famous pieces, “Zinky Boys”, which is about the Soviet war in Afghanistan, I can appreciate the brilliance of Alexievich’s literary journalism style through the disparate voices and the construction of the interviews in varying scenes and summaries. Alexievich carefully presents readers with brutally vivid information that evokes in us a sense of hopelessness, immediacy, and unbearable grief. No other style could achieve such heartbreak while examining the internal life of humanity.

Many of the articles I have read about Alexievich’s win claim that she is “unpopular” with her compatriots and is even considered by some to be an “unpatriotic traitor”. Isn’t that always the story? People who seek the rawest and the most shockingly faithful portrayals of reality are scorned for frightening us. But it’s undeniable that this is the writing that breaks barriers and now, apparently, that wins Nobels. Perhaps literary journalism and nonfiction in general have not been widely recognised before, but it’s never too late to start. I’m ecstatic to be alive for this amazing achievement and win for literature. At last, non-fiction isn’t seen as second-rate to fiction and poetry.

Much in the way Fintan O’Toole recently noted in the Irish Times that the Dublin Theatre Festival has shown that the trajectory of theatre is in the midst of a great transition to a documentary style, so too is writing bending its established boundaries. In our world of ambivalent social opinion and disparate beliefs, perhaps this is the best way for our artists to understand truth. And it’s this literary journalism style of writing — allowing readers to see and feel humanity in its purest, truest form — that is the style worth praising on any scale, from classroom to Nobel.

Saint Mary’s Father Inspires Message of Hope


[Published by The Observer, October 14, 2014
Link to full article here.]

As the capstone event of Support a Belle, Love a Belle (SABLAB) week at Saint Mary’s, Tom Seeberg, the father of Elizabeth “Lizzy” Seeberg, addressed the College community in a lecture titled “Believe – Giving Witness to Hope,” in Carroll Auditorium on Thursday evening.

Seeberg was a first-year Saint Mary’s student when she committed suicide following an ongoing battle with anxiety and depression. Her death came 10 days after allegations of an Aug. 31, 2010 sexual assault involving former Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo. Students said the College community remembers Seeberg as an outgoing, smiling, caring student who loved Saint Mary’s and her fellow Belles.

Senior and co-chair of the student government association’s (SGA) social concerns committee Kaitlyn Tarullo said SABLAB started in 2011 partly as response to Seeberg’s suicide.

“Her story is extremely important, and we felt like it was an appropriate time to invite Mr. Seeberg back to reflect on his journey a few years later,” Tarullo said. “Hope is an attitude that can start with a daily struggle but then eventually, over time, transforms into a lifestyle.”

Tom Seeberg began his talk by reflecting on the Saint Mary’s campus, which he said remains a positive place for him and his family.

“It is always awesome to come to this campus, and you might think it wouldn’t be … [but] in the days that, if you will, followed Lizzy’s death, so many wonderful things happened for us,” Seeberg said. “I am honored that you think I can deliver some message of hope to you all … [for] this is such a great and spiritual place for us.”

Though he has no professional credentials in speaking on mental health, sexual assault or spirituality, Seeberg said he does have the credentials of being a dad.

“I’m Tom Seeberg, but I really love being known as Lizzy’s dad. It’s one of the proudest things anyone could call me,” he said. “And I can assure you that what I tell you about my journey here is not manufactured; the foundation of it came in the immediate days following Lizzy’s death, and the power of those days has never left me.”

He said hope, for the Seeberg family, coincides perfectly with the mission of the Holy Cross order, the meaning of Spes Unica and the realization of the difference between little hope and what he called “capital-H Hope.” Before discussing how he found hope, though, Seeberg painted a picture of his loving daughter and Belle, Lizzy.

“She was very, very outgoing – you would have to meet her several times before you understood she suffered from an anxiety disorder,” he said. “We became soulmates [and] closer through her struggle. We participated in some therapy together; we became real good buds.

“She told us everything. There was never any holding back. Through her bouts of depression, she was always very good at raising the white flag and saying she needed a time-out.”

He and his wife, Mary, first began dealing with signs of Lizzy’s anxiety and depression issues when she was in the eighth grade, Seeberg said.

“She was going to be dealing with anxiety and depression for the rest of her life,” he said. “Difficult situations for everybody were always going to be more difficult for her … but the thing about Lizzy was, she wanted to get up every day and punch life in the face. She wasn’t going to be denied having a normal life, and [going to] college was an important part of that.”

However, after a difficult first semester at the University of Dayton, the Seeberg family decided there must be another alternative for Lizzy to better support her mental health, he said. The alternative was Saint Mary’s, where Lizzy wanted to enroll as a first-year and have a fresh start in college.

“She felt she knew more about herself, and she felt very confident [at Saint Mary’s],” he said. “Some of her doctors are on record saying she was as strong and determined as they’d ever seen her. She was very committed to us in saying ‘I’m going to use all my tools and all my resources,’ meaning diet and exercise, the counselors here, her friends [and] us.”

However, in the final days of her life, Lizzy Seeberg faced challenges that were beyond her capacity, her father said.

“[On September 9th], she went to a sexual assault awareness event, and for whatever reason, I think it hit her, and it all began to unravel and close in,” he said.

Following his daughter’s death, Tom Seeberg said there came moments of grace that began to build “capital-H Hope.”

“As we were walking the dog [that Sunday], we were talking and saying, ‘Let’s be real about this, something has hit us here that’s the worst possible thing that can happen, and it became this prayer – a simple prayer of ‘God, show us the way. We need this to be our finest hour. We need these next several days to be our finest hour,’” he said.

For the Seebergs, the funeral and burial process were dark, but also beautiful, as the “Lizzy spirit” pulled the entire family together, he said.

“Over that next week, we saw our faith; we saw hope and love carry us,” Seeberg said. “I was the only one able to make it to the memorial here, [and though] I’ve never been a touchy-feely faith guy, I’ve never been an evangelizer or anything like that … when Caroline Bacchus’ [Lizzy’s former roommate] mom embraced me, it was just incredible. And when we were about ready to walk into the chapel, and there were some 400 folks in there, it was incredibly moving.

“And when Carol Mooney handed me Lizzy’s class ring … and said, ‘Once a Belle, always a Belle,’ I just about collapsed. I have to say, it was about the first time in my life I’ve been touched like that.”

For Tom Seeberg, this build-up of spiritual moments led him to what he called “getting it.”

“The reason why we are here on earth, we can know it intellectually, but I didn’t really get it until then,” he said. “It’s this ability to go beyond ourselves, to cry tears of happiness or tears of grief … it’s to experience love that is transforming.

“That’s the big capital-H Hope, and all other hope rests upon that. Light does conquer darkness; life will conquer death, and we will see Lizzy again. And therefore, get about acting as a witness to that belief, and that means doing something. … For us, it meant moving forward, not moving on. Wear the scar – it’ll fade, but wear it for all it means. And do something positive with it.

“That’s the spirit in which we’ve been living,” he said. “The reality of Lizzy never leaves me … so hope is where we live. Our prayer in desperation was answered.”

In the conclusion of the talk, Seeberg discussed the issues of mental illness and sexual assault on college campuses, wishing for Lizzy to be a symbol of hope in such challenges.

With respect to mental illness, Seeberg said he is grateful for an increased awareness of mental health and a decreased stigma compared to 10 years ago.

“There’s hope in your efforts in Support a Belle, Love a Belle and Irish State of Mind initiatives. There’s hope in just talking about it,” he said. “There’s hope when people get a little edgy about it. … There’s hope in asking for help. You have to believe that help is available for you if you need it, and there’s hope in the help that’s available.”

[End of excerpt]