I am a writer & I have someone to thank for it

Posted by A. Smith on Oct-6-2011

“Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?”  ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Like everyone else who walks this earth I have many dimensions, but perhaps the identity that most fluently crosses into my personal and professional life is this:

I am a writer.

As I am quick to share with many, writing is my passion – a true love. Writing comforts, empowers, and centers me. It lives in me, runs through me, and, I hope, touches others.

In looking back on my life, I realize the writer in me emerged as a child. I can remember pairing up with my older brother John, breaking out the typewriter, and publishing a newspaper when I was probably six or seven years old. No kidding. Fast forward to high school, and I clearly recall writing as an outlet, penning everything from poems to love letters.

But, I can’t help but wonder if I would have stayed the course, actually turning writing into a huge part of my career, had it not been for the influence of somebody. In retrospect that “somebody” turned out to be my 12th grade English teacher who I would not credit until this past summer, more than two decades after high school graduation.

Let me shed light on my revelation: A few months ago, I was looking through my hope chest. I came across a composition book, opened it, and began to read. It was the journal from my senior year, in which my assignment was to write in for five minutes at the beginning of every class. I smiled as I read entrees about my Pop-Pop, babysitting, life in general, and so much more. To my surprise, I was flooded with memories and pride.

Then, I read comments written by my teacher and it hit me…I was already a writer back then. She recognized it, and she helped me discover it. She nurtured my gift. I instantly felt a sense of gratitude, followed by shame as I realized that I had never credited this teacher. As a matter of fact, truth be told, I didn’t consider her a very strong teacher.

Wow, me, someone who dismisses standardized test and how we measure teachers today had failed to recognize that this teacher made a difference not by what she taught me academically but by how she encouraged me – how she gave me five minutes every day to develop my passion.

Thank you, Mrs. Dodson. I hope you would be proud of me today for what I have done with my writing. I think you would be.

I feel so blessed to do what I love. And, I cannot say this without adding tribute to Steve Jobs, who left this world today – a world he changed forever. One of his many, many famous quotes is:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to…love what you do.”

I am happy to say that I do. I write.

Perhaps these remarks shared by Mrs. Dodson in my journal help explain why I write:

“Angela, I admire your feelings of warmth for your family and life in general. You seem to have a peacefulness about you, an ability to discover the good, the positive, the worthwhile around you. This is not a trait to be taken for granted – nurture your optimism (hopefully it will spread to some of those around you).

Keep writing. I enjoy reading your journal so much. Even if it sounds corny, I feel refreshed and inspired.”




I’m a writer who’s fallen for pictures

Posted by A. Smith on Apr-16-2011

Graphic Facilitation

Image by danielroseca via Flickr

I am the kind of person who very quickly gets sucked into things. For example, the first time a friend e-mailed me a TED Talk (John Wooden on Success), I became an instant fan and added “Attend TED” to my bucket list on the spot. I fall fast and I fall hard.

This was the case nearly a decade ago when I attended an International Conference on Appreciative Inquiry in Miami. Granted I was there to learn about this strength-based methodology, but more than anything I walked away captivated by a process called graphic recording – a visual way of mapping information using words and pictures that are both informative and emotionally engaging.

Graphic recorders are scribes who listen, synthesize, and transcribe information generated in different kinds of group settings such as strategic planning, world café, group dialogue, meetings, etc. It is a way to capture the moment, connect people, organize complex ideas, and uncover themes, among other benefits.

My fascination grew when I attended a three-day branding summit at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in 2006 and had the opportunity to watch the masterful Diana Arsenian work her visual magic once again. This time, I also had the pleasure of sharing in conversation with Diana over dinner and learned firsthand the power of graphic recording, which is used all over the world and in major corporations.

I have shared my passion for visual recording with many people over the years. And, I have reaffirmed my belief in it, and in using pictures, many times. For example, last year, at SXSW, I attended two sessions that reinforced for me the importance and value of visual thinking. Both are worth sharing:

The reality is, in work and in life, we underuse pictures. Yes, this from a writer. But, this because I think writing and drawing are actually quite similar: both are about listening, distilling, and communicating stories in meaningful ways.

Visual learning engages people, enhances creativity, stimulates emotion, connects ideas, improves decision making, and so forth – and, it’s fun.

So, if you were to peek at my bucket list today, you’d see that along with “Attend TED,” I’ve also added, “Learn graphic facilitation,” to the mix. Picture that.


Here are a couple of fun websites I discovered in writing this post:






I also have to plug my friend Jessica Esch, a fellow Mainer, who uses sketch notes and who is delving into graphic recording:



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