Archive for the 'graphics' Category

Visual Tools for Writers: Storyboards

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Storyboards are illustrations placed in sequence to help visualize a scene or narrative. Used for 80 years or more in film and animation studios, they have a lot to offer writers. While some storyboards for movies are regarded as works of art in and of themselves, drawing ability is not necessary to use storyboards. Stick figures are characters too.

I tend to use storyboards when I am writing complex actions. It’s easy to get caught up in the words and have the actions lose their gravity. By sketching the scene, even in the most basic form, I can track movements and consequences. It grounds the action, making it more believable. The reader can follow the action without backtracking to figure out what’s happening to who, where and when.

stick figure storyboard sample of visual tools for writers

Storyboards can help writers with pacing. A quick sketch of the basics of each scene can show slow spots. Five consecutive scenes of two talking heads smoking cigarettes in coffee shops? Might be exactly what you’re after. Or it might be worth revisiting…

Storyboarding on Post-it notes is an effective way to play with your narrative sequence. Seeing your whole story in a single glance helps you build coherence. It’s wonderfully easy to explore options as you move scenes around. Doing this with pictures, rather than written notes, gives the process immediacy. You can see more of your story with one look and you can evaluate options faster.

For writers, storyboarding is a thinking-and-doing tool, not a work of art. Don’t stress about your artistic ability.

If you are interested in learning more about using visual tools please consider attending my Graphic Facilitation Workshop Saturday April 28, 2012, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Handmade in America offices in downtown Asheville.

Structured Note-taking

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

This is a blank handout from my recent workshop on Killer Presentations. The participants have this and a colorful array of markers and pencils. I have a huge version of this on the wall and fill it in as we go along. I’m always fascinated to see how people engage the information and make their notes their own.

My finished version of this section’s notes are below.

Screen-writing class notes

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

On February 14, I attended the first class of Maryedith Burrell’s screen-writing course, as offered through the Great Smokies Writing Program. I recorded a half hour discourse on the history of the narrative in western civilization. It went at a breakneck pace and as full as the page is, I still missed some stuff. It was great fun and I learned a lot in the process.

Download a printable version of the graphic notes from the workshop. (1.2 MB)

Flatiron Writers Workshop: Done & dusted

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

On February 11, the Flatiron Writers and Papershine co-sponsored their first workshop: Creating Your Writing Life. Despite the snowy weather, twenty brave souls joined us at the Unitarian church in Asheville for the daylong workshop. The seminar focused on helping people develop the commitments and habits necessary to realize their writing goals. It was a wonderful and productive day.

I graphically recorded the whole day. It was great fun, because that was my main role, listening and drawing. Often I am facilitating or teaching as I do my graphics, so my attention is divided. The ‘artwork’ suffers. As a group, we had used visual processes to develop the outline, and that gave me a leg up as well; I had a plan for laying out the information before the event started.

Download a printable version of the graphic notes from the workshop. (2.3 MB)

Stay tuned for our next workshop!

My Writing Life

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

My writing life, in prepartion for next weekend’s workshop with the the Flatiron Writers.

New Workshop: Creating a writing life

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

I’m partnering with the Flatiron Writers to present:

Creating Your Writing Life
This is an all-day workshop designed for those who want to make consistent and sustainable room in their lives for writing. It’s about nurturing that creative space within you, and feeding it with production and pages. Let us help you uncover the resources within to get yourself writing regularly and with purpose.

Learn more and register here: Creating a Writing Life
Learn more about the Flatiron Writers.

Presentations Workshop

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Last Friday I led a four hour workshop on giving presentations. The audience was primarily parents who have children with disabilities. These parents are very active in the community as advocates, educators, and activists and sought new ideas for communicating their message. These are the day’s graphics.

I organized the class into three basic sections: Content, Methods, and People. Of course, these elements all overlap to create a successful presentation, but by taking each in turn, we didn’t get overwhelmed.

We discussed ways to hone in on and organize content. My guiding principles are clarity, honesty, simplicity, immediacy and impact.

We talked about four common methods for presenting information. I discussed the limitations of PowerPoint presentations and the benefits of using graphics as a way to share ideas and informations.

I divided the People section into two parts: the Audience and the Presenter. Throughout I emphasized the idea of a call-to-action. What do these people need to know right now? What do you want them to do tomorrow? I’ve worked in human services long enough to know that if you don’t provide clear instructions and a strong impetus, even the best idea will die slowly and painfully in committee.

The last section of the day was about the Presenter. At Chloe’s feet you’ll find practical ideas for making your presentations go smoothly. Arrayed around her head are many of the more conceptual ideas that guide a good presentation.

Many thanks to Darlyne Sahara, Gwenda LedBetter, Fred Lashley and Jim Johnston for their contributions to making this workshop a success.

Planning Graphics: Small scale project management

Monday, December 5th, 2011

I have been doing a small stone work project in Chapel Hill recently. This is a 3.5 hour drive from home which encourages me to plan the project in greater detail. I can’t run home to grab a chisel I forgot I needed. This graphic shows the way I organized the project for myself on an odd scrap of big paper. I was particularly concerned about the hidden costs of working so far away- forgetting an important tool, not realizing that running the truck is way more costly, etc. The dollar signs represent my costs of doing business (gas, materials, hotel, etc.) I had my specific budget numbers at the bottom of the page. It has worked exceptionally well so far. I did before the bid was finalized to make sure I covered my costs and have used it as a guide since the work started, to make sure I hit milestones and am properly prepared.

Here’s the work so far. Just waiting for the ironwork to be completed.

Marketing Plan: The Tree House

Friday, November 18th, 2011

A few weeks ago I led a workshop on DIY marketing. I liked the workshop and engagement I got with the group, but I came away from it wondering if I could deepen the impact and increase the likelihood that the strategies I advocate would be used. I decided to pilot a facilitated marketing plan. The structural core is the same as the workshop, but the primary goal is to create a meaningful plan with a business owner and their team. Tanya of The Tree House, a soon-to-open early learning center and cafe in North Asheville allowed me to test the idea with her team. We met this morning for three hours in business space, even now in mid transformation. The graphic above represents our work for the day.
We started with a title and then spent some time detailing the big picture goal- to the right in the graphic. We discussed some of the unknowns, fears and assumptions that might derail the project. I don’t linger in the negative, but I think it’s a powerful tool to recognize the doubts and roadblocks; it strengthens the resolve and helps us to move towards the goal. We discussed the people we wanted to reach with our marketing campaign before taking a short break. After the break we dived into the strategies we would employ to reach those people: media, content, and distribution channels. Names in blue indicate persons responsible for the work. That’s an important aspect of a good plan. Ideas are good; actions are great; people making those actions happen are golden.
I think this model has some real power. People in the group talked about how it made the marketing concrete. Diffuse ideas accumulated over the last few months of planning are becoming real. Just in time too! The Tree House will open within the next few weeks!

Click the image for a larger, more legible version.

Getting Started In Graphic Facilitation: Tools of the Trade

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

This is a list of the basic tools and sources you’ll need to get started graphics and visual organization in your training and facilitation work.


Sometimes called banner bond, the perfect paper for graphic wall work comes in rolls. It’s generally best to find it on-line and Dick Blick is my preferred vendor. I prefer the 48″ variety. The weight of the paper (20# and 24#) doesn’t matter much. Heavier stocks are a little bit more durable which can be helpful when reusing graphics.


Artist tape is white and can be used to cover up mistakes as well as fasten paper to the wall. It’s sticky enough to do the job but doesn’t damage surfaces. I have been using it exclusively for eight years and never had it take any paint off a wall. It can be expensive in stores but Blick’s prices are very reasonable.


The Alvin Zippy is absolutely the best paper cutter for this type of work. These are often available at local craft stores.



The Grove makes Charters Markers, which are the best markers for facilitation I’ve ever used. I order them by color now, as I primarily use black, blue, green and purple. I have enough red, yellow, orange and brown to last me for years. You might start with full sets and then over time, figure out which ones to order individually. They last a long time and are worth the price. Sharpie makes a set of markers that are okay, but blunt quickly and have some odd colors. Avoid permanent markers and the scented varieties. White board markers often go through the paper.