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When I asked my boyfriend TED (his last name is Talk) to surprise me this morning, he surprised me twice—not only with the talk he selected, but how he gave me my surprise. Instead of asking me if I wanted to see a totally random talk (I would have gone for that) or to pick a topic (there are 3 on Ants, 2 on meditation, and 9 on yesallwomen—which I didn’t understand was a twitter hashtag about misogyny and violence about women until I looked it up one minute ago), TED asked me how I wanted to feel.

I love how sensitive a guy TED is.

He asked, “What kind of talk do you want?”

Beautiful? Courageous? Funny? Ingenious? Inspiring? Fascinating? Jaw-Dropping? Persuasive?

I picked Inspiring. Then TED, ever considerate, asked me how much time I had.

TED served up “One Inspiring TED Talk in under 5 minutes.” Teacher Clint Smith @ClintSmithIII spoke on “The Nature of Silence.”

clint smith

TED knows that short can be good. I tell my students that if a talk or paper is short, it’s easier to reread or replay. Repetition is one of the keys to memory. I needed to replay Clint’s talk to remember the four phrases he displays to inspire his students. I could only remember 3:

Read Critically

Write Consciously

Tell Your Truth.

Want to know what the fourth is? Clint can tell you himself as he tells his truth.

Clint inspired me by simply standing there with his hands in his pockets and speaking about his mistakes. Mistakes are compelling. Especially when they bring about change.  Maybe next time I’ll ask TED for a 10 minute talk.

What did you hear in what Clint said, or didn’t say?



It’s not easy to take yourself on a date. In fact, even though Julia Cameron suggests you do this in The Artist’s Way, (which I’ve been dutifully following since January by writing daily morning pages)  she also knows that you (and when I say you, I mean I) will try and weasel out of it.

Walking through the arboretum on Ann Arbor's first hot day.

Walking through the arboretum on Ann Arbor’s first hot day.

Oh, let me define, in Cameron’s words:

An artist’s date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.  It might be a visit to a great junk store, a solo trip to the beach, a visit to an aquarium or an art gallery— these cost time, not money.  It might be a long country walk, a solitary expedition to the beach for a sunrise or sunset, a sortie out to a strange church to hear gospel music, to an ethnic neighborhood to taste foreign sights and sounds— your artist might enjoy any of these. Or your artist might like bowling.

How did Cameron figure me out so quickly, even though she had never met me? She says:

Commit yourself to a weekly artist’s date, and then watch your killjoy side try to wriggle out of it. Watch how this sacred time gets easily encroached upon.

But I knew I was meeting a friend to talk about The Artist’s Way. I HAD to have an artist’s date to report. I am so grateful for this. Otherwise I would never have gotten my buttskie out the doorskie. Little did I know I’d be able to write around 300 words illustrated by six or so photos in just 15 minutes.

After the recent rains, I thought we might be getting close to having the Peony Garden in the Ann Arbor Arboretum in bloom.  I read the “Peony Garden Countdown.”

“The peonies are getting taller. Recent rain and more to come plus much warmer temps mean accelerated growth for the plants. What does this mean? The garden is likely on schedule unless we get cold weather later in May—not unknown in Michigan. Stay tuned for more frequent updates as May unfolds.”

Peonies looking like red licorice.

Peonies looking like red licorice.

I took a walk there yesterday from my office–about 25 minutes to get there.

When I got there, I spoke into my phone and recorded what I saw and thought:

I know at this point I only have minutes to record my story. When I walked into the park, I saw a redheaded young man in purple shorts and no shirt staring at his phone either pre-run or post run and then another young man run by that looks similar to him except he has dark hair and he’s wearing UM shorts, okay really he looks nothing like the first guy except he also happens to be a fit male shirtless runner. My face is wet with sweat and there is not a cloud in the sky.   The patches of peonies are between 6 inches high to knee-high. The red ones look a lot like red licorice, and the green ones look a lot like skinny celery. A few people were sitting around on blankets. Some young women are with babies. Another woman is holding a yoga mat and walking her little dog. Some other people are sitting on a bench across from me, and a young couple are walking down a path, holding hands. There is no way that I would possibly be here if I wasn’t going to be meeting with someone, and no way that I would be doing this also if I didn’t feel like I needed to schedule an artist date. She’s absolutely right (Cameron)– I can’t believe that I might’ve missed this. Everyone around me is wearing shorts or dresses. I think I might be the only idiot here actually wearing long jeans, okay I rolled them up, but they are still long jeans. Sweat is dripping down my back. But at least I’m out and about. The biggest peony buds are the size of Hershey’s kisses.


A bud the size of a Hershey's kiss.

A bud the size of a Hershey’s kiss.

Long pants rolled up on a hot day are not my best look.

Long pants rolled up on a hot day are not my best look.

Flowers that are not quite in bloom are like a pregnant woman—healthy and full of promise for the future. Exciting in a way, and different from seeing the fragile flowers that eventually emerge, and who will eventually wrinkle (the human analogy is annoyingly obvious.)

So see the flowers BEFORE they bloom.  Then, when you see them AFTER they bloom, you can say to them, “I knew you when you were just this tall!”

And if you are curious, go to the Ann Arbor District Library and listen to this talk on May 19 at 7:30.  Fleeting Beauty, Enduring Value: the Peony Garden at the Nichols Arboretum.

Have you seen Ann Arbor’s Peony Garden?  It’s worth the trip.


Are you a black and white kind of person? Do you like to bifurcate concepts for simplicity’s sake?  I can be yin/yang kind of gal, which is why I am putting forward here my theory of the Two Reasons Most People Write. (By the way, being a black and white kind of person is not necessarily a good or bad thing, just like fifty-two shades of grey.)

Erica Jong Writing Advice from Buzzfeed

Erica Jong Writing Advice from Buzzfeed

If you think I am being socially incorrect or you are annoyed at the very concept of dividing up anything into two categories, remember that you are reading more than letters now. You are reading digital letters, which at their heart are hexadecimal values, which are made up of only 0’s and 1’s.

Two Reasons Most People Write—We write…
For our soul For our ego
To learn our story To share our unique story with others
To scribble in our journal To be published
To become better writers To be more widely read by others
For insight For impact
To explore inwardly To explore outwardly
Yin Yang
Because we are searching for our own value in a world of 7 billion people Because we are obsessed with sharing.We want others to know who our lips have touched. We want to talk about our own tastebuds, fingertips, hairstyles, belt size, brain doodles, brainstorms, and opinions.


Why do you write? Please comment after this blog.


I spoke about these two reasons for writing at the meeting of WXW of Washtenaw County last Thurs, April 16, when I spoke about how to create a one minute introductory video. Which category does the one minute introductory video fall into?

Trick question. I’d say both.  We have to spend some time writing for our soul–digging into our own past experiences and playing with words to come up with something we feel good about. But how do people hear our ideas, which may differ from the meaning inside our head?  For example, if you say “I’m crazy about helping writers,” will people hear the words “I’m crazy” and consciously or unconsciously feel a teensy bit wary of the sanity of the writer?

Because our words affect others, this workshop had group support built in so we could give each other feedback. On Thursday April 16, this is what happened in a nutshell at the WXW meeting, after I said we were going to “Have Fun and Get it Done!”:

  1. I had fun discussing the three basic concepts here for about 15 min.
  2. We broke into groups of 4 (or 5 is OK too), exchanged contact information, and named our groups with an animal or food in the title. Some fun names so far that I can recall (please help me add to this list!) include Chocolate Monkeys, Caffeinated Achievers, Wilderness Explorers and the Hot Tamales.
  3. We filled in the blanks in the one-pager I handed out. (20 min.)
  4. We each read our “0 draft” to our group mates, and the listeners only gave non-judgmental feedback (by merely repeating exact words or phrases heard).
  5. Demonstration from Meg Fairchild on how to upload from your phone video to youtube, with a brief description of the youtube editing and subtitle tools.
  6. Wrap up and request to keep me up to date on any video intro you produce.

Do you have a favorite one minute video introduction (filmed or still in the script stage) to share? I’d like to post it here.  Please write to me at debbiemerion@gmail.com, or include it in a comment below.

Thank you to Lori Byron at FamousinYourField, Meg Fairchild at Torrance Learning, Carole Baker at SolutionsFirst, and Heidi Weise at Clearly Aligned for their support with the April 16, 2015 WXW event, and thank you to all of the lovely women (and the one brave guy) who attended.

Debbie Merion accidentally giving herself the finger, while explaining at WXW "Say It and Show it" how to thwart the editor in your elbow who squelches your creativity.

Debbie Merion accidentally giving herself the finger, while explaining at WXW “Say It and Show it” how to thwart the editor in your elbow who squelches your creativity.

Erica Jong image was originally here.

Yin Yang image was originally here.


I’m one of those realistic writers who knows what people mean when they see an article you’ve published, and they say, “it looks good.”

They usually mean that literally, i.e. it looks good—there is a nice (printed or web) page layout, maybe an interesting photo with a helpful caption, the words are arranged attractively on the page.

That makes sense. Images transmit information faster. Try this example.

text vs. graphics

So when introducing yourself or your business on your web page, why don’t you try a one minute video introduction in addition to posting your story or bibliography? This is a rather new concept. Everyone knows the phrase ”elevator talk,” but google “one minute video introduction” and you’ll see some mighty slim pickings indeed.

(There is indeed one bright spot. This introduction is great, but also was likely done by a professional.)



Here’s my own video, shot on my cellphone, which was held on a tripod:

Video Intro or Bio?

Academic Bio for Debbie Merion

Debbie Merion, MFA, MSW is the founder of Essay Coaching (essaycoaching.com), where she coaches student and adult writers to grab their pens and laptops and write to a level of excellence. She is the eBook Editor at Solstice Literary Magazine, and the author of Solving the College Admissions Puzzle. Her work has appeared in the Barnes and Noble Review, Solstice, The Bear River Review, Hour Detroit, the Ann Arbor Observer, and Choice Magazine. She has received a Gold Medal in the Global Ebook Awards, and an Excellence in Journalism Award from the Detroit Society of Professional Journalists.


This blog covers the WXW workshop on April 16, 2015 called “How to Write a One-Minute Script to Introduce Yourself by Video” AKA Say AND Show it.  “The event is at Mediterrano Restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan from 11:30am-1:30pm.  Read more about this event here.

If all goes as planned (the event hasn’t happened yet) this is what was said.


Three Major Points to Remember When Writing


1.  Repetition can be your friend.



2 Images make more of an impact than words.  

Write word pictures.



3  Saying you are awesome isn’t awesome.

We pay attention to (and remember) examples.


What We Remember

  • Pictures and Metaphors—Readers form images in their minds of the situations and people you describe in your essay.  “I think of myself as a sneaker” was a metaphor used as a theme in a college essay that remained memorable over the years to one college admissions counselor.  Make sure that a metaphor is explained and fits well for the idea you want to communicate.
  • Names—names of people, places, books.
  • Sensory details—colors, smells, sounds, textures, tastes.
  • Nouns—Interesting things, things that mean something to you.  For example, your piano, your ice skates, your grandfather’s watch.
  • Dialogue—Phrases said that are pithy, wise, honest, funny, or perfect for the moment and the speaker.
  • Emotions—Either described in the essay, or aroused in the readers. See The Emotion Thesaurus.
  • Surprises—Story surprises can delight us, just like surprise parties and gift surprises do.
  • Numbers and values—For example, the above list provided eight ways to make your essay memorable.


Two truths and a Lie

  • People can remember 1000 images at an average of 63% after two years
  • The longer the video, the less the attention of the watcher
  • 87% of statistics are made up on the spot


Memory, Vision and Attention images from Brain Rules Illustrated

Graphic description image courtesy of  info.shiftelearning.com

Pinterest folder of informative images supporting my talk

For a chuckle read my latest story, published by Barnes and Noble:  Dear Sapphire Cross, . My other published stories are here at debbiemerion.com.


Demonstration of Uploading the Video

IMG_0879 IMG_0880 IMG_0881 IMG_0883 IMG_0884


 Additional Videos

A 10 second video

A two minute video

Meg Fairchild



 The End.

2012-12-15 13.41.27



I am a Capricorn with science geek rising. So when I watched the movie “The Theory of Everything,” I became a teensy-bit obsessed with Stephen Hawking. Then I picked up (can you say you picked up a book if you really just ordered it on your iPad from the Kindle store?) and read his autobiography, My Brief History. It was one of those books short enough to read in a few hours, if you don’t spend too much time pondering his explanations of how he has figured out the beginning and end of the universe. I was curious to learn a little more about his voice. Because his electronic voice isn’t really his own and cannot emote like ours can, for example getting louder, faster or higher when excited, the best way to understand his voice is to read his autobiography. What makes him desirable enough to have marriages with two lovely women, one of which he attracted when he was severely debilitated, and father three children? I think most of these qualities were also apparent in the movie, but it was interesting to read his own words, which I’ve quoted here from the book.

1 Focus. His intense ability to focus is demonstrated by the fact that he has written seven books and a number of scientific papers at the speed of three words a minute. He writes via a gizmo on his glasses picking up microscopic movements of his cheek. So when he turns that attention to his family, I’m sure they feel it intensely.

From http://whoisstephenhawking.com/

From http://whoisstephenhawking.com/

2 Fun loving – He has fun with life. He is clearly fond of making bets – and enjoyed the fact that he was the subject of them. For example, “When I was twelve, one of my friends bet another friend a bag of sweets that I would never amount to anything. I don’t know if this bet was ever settled, and if so, which way it was decided.” In the 70s he bet scientist Kip Thorne that a certain star did not contain a black hole. In a way he bet against himself, because he had “made a big intellectual investment in black holes.” But he was clever, because he said if he won, he’d get the consolation of a four-year subscription to Private Eye magazine (which is an English magazine with a humorous take on the news). But if he lost, he could give a subscription of Penthouse to his friend Kip. (Kip eventually won, “much to the displeasure of his wife.”) To see Hawking and his family having fun, watch this video of his family taking the ALS ice bucket challenge for him.


3. Doesn’t pity himself—When he was in college at Cambridge, he was in the hospital for two weeks just before his twenty-first birthday, and doctors did a series of medical tests on him to determine what was wrong. But the anecdote he told of these days reveal one way he has kept his own spirits up:  “The realization that I had an incurable disease that was likely to kill me in a few years was a bit of a shock. How could something like this happen to me? However, while I was in the hospital, I had seen a boy I vaguely knew die of leukemia in the bed opposite me, and it had not been a pretty sight. Clearly there were people who were worse off than me—at least my condition didn’t make me feel sick. Whenever I feel inclined to be sorry for myself, I remember that boy.”

Hawking is really quite a guy. Did his positive outlook and focus help him find love and outlive his prognosis by 50 years? I’d guess it did.

Visit the ALS Association to donate or read more about how you can make an ice bucket challenge.  This blog is in memory of my college roommate Sarah Phillips, who died of ALS while Bob and I were living in Cambridge, England in the early 80s, just miles away from Stephen Hawking.

June 20, 2014.    On June 9,2014 I gave up sugar, gluten, dairy, and alcohol, (all of which I usually  enjoy a great deal.  I’m the type who grabs a handful of free restaurant mints.) Although this is only for 21 days, a friend still called this “a torturous diet.”  “Why?” she asked.  A good question indeed.   The reason is that I’ve always wanted to see what it would be like to live without all of these consumables that I know change my moods.  Also, my dentist told me again I shouldn’t have sugar, which I think is kind of crazy since his livelihood is only helped by my teeth disintegration.  I’ve also noticed I have the beginnings of what these days is politely called  “a muffin top,” and I just wanted to see if I could let my liver have a nice few weeks without wine.   And I was bored with my usual food and cooking.  And I found a friend of a friend who is a knowledgeable professional and supervises these diets and I like her, and I could never do this without supervision. I’d cave in a day.

And… and… and, every day I keep finding more interesting things about why to do this goofy thing.   Food is tasting better.  I ate out twice this weekend and was not totally annoying when talking with the waitperson. No one seems surprised; everyone is picky these gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan, recovering-alcoholic days. I realized I could still have a nice dinner at Gratzi’s while watching everyone at the table order a martini and eat the warm bread except me. Our waitress at Zingerman’s Roadhouse was totally into this diet as soon as I told her (she asked me if I had allergies so I had to explain what I was doing), and recommended I could order a fruit salad, even though it isn’t even on the menu!

Three things I can’t do with you for the next 21 days (until June 30).


waffles   1.  Eat waffles.





Full disclosure, I can’t remember the last time I ate waffles. But I do like them. So please don’t walk up to me and pull a warm waffle out of one pocket and blueberry syrup out of the other and offer them to me. The reboot eliminates gluten—which is in waffles, Zingerman’s rye toast, and that fabulous soft warm bread they present to you in Knight’s restaurant wrapped up inside a basket like a present, when you have just sat down and are starving. No more breaking bread for me for three weeks, although I know it is rude to refuse a present. Gluten is known to cause stomach problems. So far giving it up has mostly meant for me that I can’t have my morning bowl of Smart Bran. We will see how smart an idea going gluten-free was in 21 days.

wine 2.  Have a glass of Kendall Jackson chardonnay.

The reboot really doesn’t specify which kind of wine or alcohol to give up—the reboot means giving it ALL up, including my favorite KJ. No Glenfiddich, grey goose martinis, Bell’s Oberon. Truthfully, I didn’t miss a glass of wine yesterday with dinner, because cooking dinner was so much work I couldn’t think of anything else but.

450px-Ice_cream_cone_  3.  Stop by Dairy Queen.







DQ has two no-no’s in it for me: dairy and sugar, which as a child were my two major food groups, along with gluten. (I didn’t eat any meat, fish, chicken fruits or vegetables as a child. For the next few weeks that is all I am going to eat. Oh, the irony. ) I now will give up my twice-a-day yogurt and close to a gallon of milk each week. Will cows be standing around the water cooler wondering why they don’t seem so popular for the next 21 days? I doubt they’ll miss me. But I’ll miss them. And by the way, if you are wondering if there really is milk in DQ, there is. Here are the ingredients in chocolate DQ softserve, so you can see there is plenty of ingredients in there worth giving up for 21 days(e.g. artificial flavor): Milkfat and nonfat milk, sugar, corn syrup, whey, cocoa (processed with alkalai), mono- and diglycerides, guar gum, artificial flavor, polysorbate 80, carrageen, vitamin A. Palmitate.  I found that out here.

Will you send me any good recipes if you like to eat this way? Or just a nice beet. Which I will try to eat.

I have a habit—good or bad, I’m not sure which—of signing up for physical challenges and then ruing the moment I did. I worry about the event. My neurosis surfaces from deep in my genes and whispers annoyingly, “Why did I say I’d do this? I could stay in bed and read a good book.” Then I get started, and remember why: I like to try new things. There was trapeze school on the Santa Monica pier with the kids in 2011. The bike trip through Vietnam later that same year. And now the 5-Borough Bike Ride, with Bob, friends from Florida, and 35,000 others on May 4, 2014.

There were times when I found the 40 mile ride exhilarating, just seeing the number of riders at the start. The sea of helmets in the photo below is only about 15% of the 32,000, because we were half-way down the pack and there were three different start times.

sea of faces

At times the ride reminded me of the Running of the Bulls–exciting, fast, crowded, and a little bit dangerous.

fast and a little dangers

At the end:  That great feeling of accomplishment and fun you get when doing something new with friends and a 50-something body.

four of us with bikes

(That’s me in the “please-don’t-hit-me” orange jacket)

Here are five things I learned in the 5 Borough Bike Ride:

1 .  The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is 4 miles long, which means 2 miles up and 2 miles down.

The V-N was the last of five bridges on the ride. It has a very gentle but long uphill (which stopped some folks).   Then we coasted (“Woo! Hoo!”) two miles down to the end.


 2.  There is more than one kind of Kind bar.

Kind bars sponsored the ride and gave them out at rest stops like it was Halloween and everyone was wearing a cyclist costume. Kind bars look to me like nuts glued together with some sort of goop. Healthy goop, of course. But the Kind Bars folks also gave out a grain-only bar at the first rest stop. That’s the kind of bar I liked much more.

3.  Defensive biking skills are helpful and rare.

I’m a little nutsy about following safe biking rules.  They may be the only rules I love. I wear a mirror on my helmet, and look at it every 2 seconds. When I’m passing, I say, “passing on your left,” or “coming up on your right.” When I slowed down I said I was “slowing” (there’s no brake lights!) To people who gave me the same helpful signals, I always said “thank you” to the back of their head as they whizzed by.

4.  New Yorkers can be very cool about being crowded and waiting.

There were long lines for the bathrooms, the ferry, and food, as well as subways crowded with bikers, but I didn’t hear one grumpy or offensive person.  Yay NYC! bikes on subway

5.  Uncle Junior from the Sopranos (aka Dominic Chianese) has a great voice. He sang the Star-Spangled Banner at the starting point.

Who knew?

Thank you to our friends who invited us, our cousins who fed and housed us, and to Bob, who loves these adventures too, but skips the neurotic worrying before.

Read more about the ride here.

Also, if you see an ad below,  I don’t receive anything from it.  They just stick it on the end of my blog. “That’s how they getcha.”

On June 17, 2013, I had the honor of working with 60 female Jewish cantors at their annual Women’s Cantor Network conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan.   Our challenge:  write a song in two hours.  A song by sixty women musicians?  I don’t know even two women who can agree on the same type of coffee to order in Starbucks!

But I had a secret weapon:  Jewish Rock Star Robbi Sherwin as my co-leader for the songwriting workshop.  She’s done this dozens of times–but in a weekend, not in two hours.  However, Robbi and I both idle at the same speed– hyper fast, maybe a teensy bit slightly nutsy fast.   We prepared during three one-hour skype meetings. We had wall boards, 3 x 5 cards, markers.  And Cantor Extraordinaire Annie Rose was there helping.  What could go wrong?

Nothing did!  We wrote a song. After two rounds of Natalie-Goldberg-type writing practice,

–I remember a time when I felt welcomed by friends, family or colleagues.

–I remember a time when I tried something new to welcome people to my home or temple

I taught everyone how to recall catchy phrases as nonjudgmental feedback, they wrote down the phrases on 3 x 5 cards in small groups, we collected the cards, and then Robbi and I collected choice phrases into a song.   The words are below.   Robbi spent time after the break discussing what the song would sound like, and came up with a fabulous melody. This blog isn’t happy about playing the MP4 song here–but I know Robbi has recorded it, and it’s an amazing song, written by amazing women.  Lucky me to be with them for a day.

DSC_0177 DSC_0186 IMG_1396


If you see an ad below, it’s because I haven’t purchased the “no ads upgrade” which I just heard about.  That’s how they getcha.

If you are interested in  more information, check out my new class, Publish Your Own Ebook.

As easy as we hear it is to publish an eBook, you still have to know how.  Here’s how in three steps.

  1. This blog post:  Setting up Your Amazon Account
  2. Next blog post:  Telling Amazon the name of your Book and the name of the publisher  (you)
  3. Final blog posts:  How to convert your content to be readable on the kindle.

Tools needed for the process described in this blog post:

A computer with internet connection. For the minute, we are going to assume that you have a document that is correctly formatted for the Kindle.  That assumption may be incorrect, but don’t worry.  We will cover how to correctly format your eBook in a future blog post.

Time needed: 

Less than one hour.

1.  Go to kdp.amazon.com. You’ll see:  Welcome to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. If you already have an Amazon account, you can sign in.  However, even if you have one as a reader, you might want to set up a separate account for the books you will publish, using a different email address.

2.  To set up a new account on amazon, sign out, and then you will see:  Sign up.  Click on that.

3.  On the next screen, enter the email address you will use for your publishing account, and click “I am a new customer”. A new screen appears.

4.  Enter your name and password and click Create Account.

Here are the screens you will need to complete to finish creating your account.  We will go through each item below.

KDP account screen 1

To be continued…

I have joined the Solsticehood.  We are a select group of dedicated, passionate, inquisitive, supportive, tolerant people who are crazy enough to think they have something to say.  Our amazing director is Meg Kearney,  Townie author (and hottie) Andre Dubus III taught a fabulous class in January.   For now, I’ll just let the video below talk for me. I think I’m in it, but I’m not sure, what do you think?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FP9qRD4_FIs]

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