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January, 2008

Greek Ghosts

Making The Write Impression
Meeting deadlines, delivering on promises, and following up
By  Helen Dunn Frame

Even though I knew it was prevalent in Central America, the mañana syndrome still took getting used to when I moved to Costa Rica in March, 2005. It is diametrically opposed to my habit of being punctual, keeping my word, and following up. In contrast, it's not unusual for a Tico, as Costa Ricans refer to themselves, to arrive an hour or two late, or not at all, and forget to call. While some Gringos, the non-pejorative name for foreigners, will say these are universal Tico traits, it's not true in every case. For example, a Tico refrigerator repairman recently arrived at the hour cited, an executive of the government electric and phone monopoly called to make sure that ADSL had been installed as promised, and I can practically set my clocks by the comings and goings of my neighbours who own a store in town.
When I accepted the offer to write this column, it occurred to me that addressing meeting deadlines, doing what one promises, and follow-up would be good topics for the first one. They are important characteristics for writers to have no matter where they live. Basically, it is good salesmanship and PR.
You might respond, "I'm not a salesman." Most definitely you are. Writing is about five percent inspiration and 95% work. Then marketing begins. Just because you penned it, doesn't mean people will buy or run it unless you sell, sell, sell. Sell the manuscript, sell yourself, and sell the sizzle.
Keep in mind media lead times. Magazines need four to six months. Weekly newspapers plan content four to six weeks ahead, while daily newspapers schedule two to three weeks in advance. Two to three days to weeks to months are required for radio or TV. It's always wise to contact the specific TV or radio station, magazine or newspaper, or online newsletters and e-zines to determine their requirements.
When you make a commitment to write something and submit it by a given date, you lose credibility and perhaps even the chance to contribute again if you fail to meet the deadline. Obviously, circumstances like illness or a death in the family can prevent you from complying. Then it's up to you to let the editor know so he or she can scramble to fill the hole you left. Remember it is okay to tell the editor up front that you can't make a specific deadline and negotiate a more reasonable one based on your other commitments. Believe it or not, editors are human, understanding, and sometimes able to adjust schedules.
After a reasonable amount of time has passed – seven to 10 days, or several weeks, depending on what the product is – follow up by phone or e-mail to make sure it was received. No matter how busy an editor is, yours will appreciate your thoroughness. For example, I sent an article by e-mail that was never received. If I hadn't inquired, the editor would have assumed I didn't keep my word even though I sent it before the deadline. It's especially important for me to check because from time-to-time Internet correspondence in Costa Rica goes to outer space. Hopefully submitting early buys points for the time when a crisis occurs. Sometimes it is necessary to follow up more than once.
As I told my son when he started dating, "If you say you will call, do so." Several days ago I spoke with a Gringa about riding with her to a meeting and participating in a club event. She hadn't called as she said she would by the day before the meeting so I phoned her. "Oh, I was going to call you." Yeah, when? This puts me off; imagine what an editor would feel who was counting on hearing from you.
Rather than fill space in this column with information about me and my varied experience, if you are interested in knowing at least something about my background, please go to where you will find a brief biography.
As I scribe this column, I hope you will glean at least one bit of information each month, even if it is only something that refreshes your memory. I'm sure you all join with me in wishing Buzz, whose departure provided this opportunity for me, much luck in his new endeavours.
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Helen Dunn Frame. A Syracuse University journalism school graduate, published in major newspapers, magazines and trade publications in the United States, England, and Germany. Her writing skills and love of travel led her to write her mystery novel Greek Ghosts. Email: Web site:

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The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

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As though you’re hanging drapes;
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Like wild summer grapes.

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The one inside our dreams.

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To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
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That sets us free from our bond.
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That lets our words lift us beyond.

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Consider your mind the darkroom,
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Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

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