Thursday, May 17, 2012

SEO Marketing - Professional Writing Sample

Below is an example of an informational article written for SEO purposes.
The 600 word article was completed in 12 to 14 minutes with little to no research involved.

When a user performs a search on Google, or another popular search engine, he or she will be presented with a long list of links from across the internet that match the query terms. These searches are generally completed within less than a tenth of a second, which allows the user to access the information that he or she is looking for almost instantly. The only way that the search engines are able to present information this quickly is by previously indexing all the websites in their database.

This indexing process requires that the search engine's crawling software to continuously find new websites, update their current cache of web pages for new information, and categorize all websites appropriately based on their keywords, structure, and other basic information. The way that search engines like Google find and rank websites is very important for a business owner to understand today, especially if he or she wishes to grow the business through various internet marketing efforts, such as the SEO partnership. This is because currently, the most common way for a user to find a new website is by going through a search engine. 

In fact, according to Nielsen, the leading research agent on consumer activity, search engines account for about 65% of all incoming traffic for e-commerce websites. Although the same statistics may vary slightly for websites that are not classified as e-commerce, the retail business owner can still learn from this finding. With an SEO partnership, the business owner can harness the popularity of search engines, using these websites to divert a large amount of traffic to his or her page. SEO is a form of internet marketing that stands for Search Engine Optimization. When performed by an experienced and professional internet marketing agency, SEO will essentially elevate the rankings of a certain website in Google's search results, as well as other search engines. 

Because the traffic that Google diverts to different websites will vary on the search terms entered by the individual user, the SEO partnership team must evaluate the keywords and phrases that best represent the business owner's website. However, this process is not as straightforward as choosing the "best" matching keywords, because there is often a high level of competition for these phrases. Rather, the internet marketing team must choose keyword phrases that are likely to get the business owner's website ranked on the first page of search results. Sometimes, this may require that the internet marketing team choose keywords that are not as popular with the average user.

In order to better understand this concept and how an SEO partnership is an integral part of a successful business strategy today, it will be necessary to review an example. If a business owner that specializes in mobile dog grooming services in the Salt Lake City, Utah area seeks SEO services, the internet marketing team will begin the process by performing advanced keyword research. During this process, the marketing team will see how many searches are performed locally for the keywords and phrases that relate to mobile dog grooming. The most popular search term will likely be "dog grooming Utah," or perhaps "dog grooming Salt Lake City." 

However, the marketing team will likely find that there is a very high rate of competition for these search terms. This means that while the terms are very popular choices for users in the local area, there are also many other business owners that will be competing for these keywords. As a result, the small business owner will likely be able to rank on the first page of Google by using the keywords that are of medium competition and popularity. When the SEO services are completed, the business owner will see a great increase in his or her online traffic, conversion rates, and earning potential.

The Emersonian Truth - Academic Writing Sample

In "Self-Reliance," Ralph Waldo Emerson postulates that humans are mere receptors of what he calls “truth”: 
We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity.  When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams, (141).
This reception of truth is conveyed through “involuntary perceptions [to which] a perfect faith is due,” (142).  This perception is different for every person, but may not be discredited, for “perception is not whimsical, but fatal… it is as much a fact as the sun,” (142).  The natural way in which different individuals perceive situations implies that there are many versions of reality and truth. 

Truth is subjective, Emerson states, different for every person.  One man’s truth is not necessarily the truth of every man, but of particular significance to the singular person.  However, the problem with ascribing the word “truth” to every man’s whim in every place in the world is that truth can no longer be defined.  Truth instead becomes a vast well of nothingness in which both the highest and lowest levels of thinkers can toss in their two cents.  The meaning of the word itself is so convoluted, that one wonders why we still use the word at all.  This is again reiterated in “Self-Reliance”: “Good and bad are but names readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it,” (Emerson 135).  However, Emerson does not let the fallibility of language diminish the meaning of truth, but instead aspires to show every individual that their version of truth is not “wrong” because it does not coincide with the socially-accepted norm. 

  Because higher thinking and logic cause the human mind to immediately categorize events, phenomena, and theories into a way that fits social hierarchy and other distinctions, it is against rational thought and even human nature to embrace the Emersonian idea of truth.  This may be why “we are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other,” (Emerson 146).  It is too difficult for humans to rationalize the idea that the once solid and steadfast notion of “truth” is merely a construct of the person who claims it to be so.  Our inability to understand “truth” as a myriad of meanings and contexts causes most to disregard this view and to revert to the classic version of truth as “right” or “good.”  

  Emerson continues to baffle the human mind by claiming that contradiction, hypocrisy and constant inconsistency can be ignored in the pursuit of truth:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines… Speak what you think now in hard words and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, thou it contradict every thing you say to-day… Is it so bad then to be misunderstood?... To be great is to be misunderstood, (138).  
By ignoring inconsistency, or rather, embracing inconsistency, Emerson hopes that people will continue to seek for truth without being constrained by the hypocrisy and contradiction that the modern, logical mind condemns.  This practice is obviously problematic, in that if a man proclaims a “truth” one day and disavows it the next, his original “truth” and all other proclamations are thereby discredited.  Emerson’s search for truth unabashedly ignores the basic logic that governs and defines human thought, thus ensuring that any proclamation made in such inconsistency will most certainly be ignored and widely regarded as folly.  Our logical faculties impede our search for “truth”:  “In these instances the intellectual gifts do not make the impression of virtue, but almost of vice; and we feel that a man’s talents stand in the way of his advancement in truth,” (246.)  

It is therefore unsurprising to read the last lines of Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance,” as contradictory as it is to his statement above about the necessity of contradiction: “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.  Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles,” (153).  The contradiction in this being that principles that cannot be explained or easily defined would not be able to “triumph” in a world where human understanding is still ruled by logic.  Because the principles do not have a solid definition on which they are based, they will be instantly disregarded in favor of more steadfast morals.  

While the linear world in which we live calls for an absolute definition of truth, Emerson directs every individual to search for the truth themselves, even if they must “contradict every-thing,” (138).  Perhaps this incredible quest for the impossible will bring the peace that comes to the individual that “speak[s] the rude truth in all ways” (135) and thereby attains a heightened sense of self.

Health Professionals - Professional Writing Sample

Below is an example of an informational article written for SEO purposes.
Full keyword has been censored to avoid spam comments.
The 600 word article was completed in 12 to 14 minutes with little to no research involved.

For every professional working in the medical community, it can be difficult to establish a treatment plan that balances the needs of the patient with his or her financial concerns, personal situation, and individual health profile. While most medical doctors or  C—  dentists will learn in their respective schooling programs and training sessions that their foremost responsibility is to advise and treat a patient in a way that will address the health problem without causing undue harm to the patient in other ways, it will become clear through experience that each patient will also rely on his or her medical doctor or dentist to deliver advice that may extend beyond the realm of health. For instance, when a patient makes an appointment with a dentist due to an extremely painful tooth, the problem area will be x-rayed and the dentist will make a diagnosis. 

If the dentist tells the patient that the only way to ease the dental pain is through an endodontic procedure that is quite expensive, the patient may have difficulty paying for the procedure with his or her meager finances and lack of dental insurance. In response to this information, the dentist will be expected to advise the patient on how to decrease the costs of the necessary dental treatment, even if it may go against the best dental treatment option for the patient. For example, in addition to the endodontic treatment option for the painful molar, the dentist may also extract the tooth completely for a fraction of the cost, which will eliminate the patient's pain. However, in general,  C—  dentists will attempt to avoid extracting a tooth when the tooth can be treated and saved through an endodontic procedure. 

This is because the patient may experience other dental issues in the future if the tooth is extracted, rather than healed with a root canal. Once the tooth is extracted, the other teeth surrounding the open space will begin to fill this gap. This can result in a crowding of the teeth in other areas of the mouth, which can be painful and unpleasing to the eye, as it may change the way that the front teeth align. However, C— dentists may still suggest this option to a patient without financial means to pay for a root canal procedure in order to accomplish the primary goal of that patient's visit: to eliminate the pain and discomfort associated with an extremely infected tooth. From this analysis of a dental visit, it is easy to see how  C—  dentists will often balance their expert opinion of a preferred treatment plan or solution with the individual needs and circumstances of a particular patient.

However, it is also clear to see how the costs of medical and dental services can decrease the kind of care that a doctor or dentist is able to deliver to his or her patients. One solution to the problem of cost is to install a universal healthcare system, which would cover all citizens of a certain nation and offer free health visits, procedures, and medications. However, there are many who object to this option in the United States, as it would not work seamlessly with other aspects of the national economic system. This is why many dentists in the United States have begun offering special treatment options and clinics for those individuals who are uninsured or are unable to pay for certain services. These discount services will often be subsidized by state health programs that cater to low-income families. With these programs, even patients without insurance or financial means can receive medical and dental treatment.

Virginia Woolf: Bride

The tenth of August, 1912.

Earlier that year the Titanic met her demise, 
becoming the only thing its maker promised she would not.

Did you read about it in the paper, hear it from a friend? 
Did you see the obituaries and look into the eyes of a woman named Edna 
or Joyce and did the pull of her soul tug you down down down?

Did you wear something traditional? Something white? I can’t imagine 
you like this; I will assume you wore wool trousers 
and a collared shirt. Your lips you deigned to paint a rose pink 
so close to your natural color he didn’t even notice it on you.

Did you think of them as you said Yes, Yes, Yes—their bodies 
went into the ocean and the ocean stole the lights from their eyes.

The officiate watches your lips say Yes, but 
could he see the lipstick? 
Could all those souls, frozen, bobbing, slick, dark, fit so neatly into your chest?

Did you know then you wouldn’t be able to carry them all?

- Alyssa Udall, 2014

Debt Consolidation - Professional Writing Sample

Below is an example of an informational article written for SEO purposes.
The 600 word article was completed in 12 to 14 minutes with little to no research involved.

In order to understand the importance of non profit debt consolidation and other financial recovery services today, it is important to review the nature of credit card debt, specifically. When a consumer makes a large amount of purchases on a credit card, or multiple lines of credit, he or she will receive a monthly bill from the credit card company. Rather than paying off the total balance of all credit transactions, the consumer will need to make a small payment of about 5% to 15% of the running total of that line of credit. This way, consumers can take several months or even years to pay off various purchases. While this is a great way for consumers that need to make a variety of transactions to buy products without paying the full amount upfront, acquiring too much credit card debt can be very dangerous for those with unstable sources of income. This is because if the consumer makes his or her payments late, the creditor or lender will assess a large fee on the credit account, which can range from $15 to $50 for each instance. 

This financial penalty becomes more severe for payments that are missed completely. This means that theoretically, if a consumer that has a large amount of credit card debt were to lose his or her job and miss regular debt payments for several months as a result, the consumer could be facing a much larger debt balance when he or she finally recovers financially. This is further complicated by the fact that credit cards have some of the highest interest rates in the financial sector, which means that the consumer's balance will continue to grow quickly while he or she is recovering from this personal financial crisis. Many consumers in this situation believe that simply abandoning their debt is the only action available to them, as they have no way of paying off their debts on their own. However, this could lead to serious financial consequences in the long run! Consumers with high volumes of credit card debt should instead consider non profit debt consolidation services.

Non profit debt consolidation is a perfect solution for those consumers struggling under mountains of credit card debt. This is because with the consolidation process, the consumer will be able to benefit from a lower overall interest rate in most circumstances. The difference between measured interest rates, especially in relation to credit card debt, is often due to whether or not the debt is considered secured. Secured debts or lines of credit will most often boast low interest rates, because they are able to leverage the ownership of a personal asset against the line of credit. This means that if the consumer were to default on the loan, the lender would be able to seize this asset as payment for the unpaid funds.

The most well-known example of a secured loan is a mortgage or home loan. Credit card debt is considered unsecured debt, because the consumer is not required to have his or her personal assets leveraged against the total debt burden. However, when a consumer with large amounts of credit card debt decides to seek non profit debt consolidation, he or she may be able to leverage ownership of a property or vehicle against the new consolidated loan agreement. This will allow the new owner of the debt or debt to offer the consumer a much lower interest rate on the total loan balance! This will lower the consumer's monthly payments towards and will save him or her thousands of dollars throughout the loan term. With debt restitution programs like debt consolidation, consumers can get rid of their unsecured credit card debt and live without the added stress of a high debt burden.

Why You Will Never Reach the 1st Page of Google - Professional Writing Sample

Yes, the title of this post may seem a bit depressing, but just hear me out.

I’m here to talk about the top mistakes that people make in SEO in relation to keywords, which in turn, basically guarantees that they will never reach the top of Google.

Let’s say that I’m starting an online shop focusing on baby products. The problem that most people encounter in relation to keywords is that they use terms  like “baby products” in their SEO campaigns without recognizing the popularity of that term or exploring other options. There are many problems with using generic, short phrases like “baby products” as your main keyword that you would like to market to search engines. 

For example, consider online entities like Babies-R-Us and Graco that have hundreds of thousands of dollars to commit to online marketing. Large companies like these dominate the online marketing world because they have almost unlimited resources while, sadly, you do not.

Also, consider how search engines like Google rank sites: the shorter the keyword, the more searches you will have. Therefore, the shorter the keyword or phrase, the harder it is for you to rank number one in Google, for the search engines understand that shorter phrases are more popular and more indicative of relevance.

Basically, when people start a site (or start optimizing their site), they tend to choose keywords that are all wrong for them.  In order to avoid this, use the Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool to research key terms and phrases.  First, I would make a list similar to this:
baby products
designer baby products
baby items
baby gifts
These are common keyword phrases that others with similiar online stores will use to generate traffic to their site.  Once I enter in these keywords (and check the “use synonyms” box), Google will generate information on these terms and other similar phrases.  You can use this information to pick keywords that are popular, but not over-saturated with competition.

By using what are called “long tail keywords” (phrases of three or more words) you will have a much higher chance of getting a great ranking in Google.  This works to the smaller online business’ advantage, because longer keyword phrases have less competition and will allow them to rank on Google’s top page.  

Although the traffic generated from these words is quite a bit less than the traditional two-word phrase, it’s better to be at the top of Google for “cheap handmade baby products” than on page 24 for “baby products”.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Freelance Writing - Professional Writing Sample

Below is an example of an informational article written for SEO purposes.
The 600 word article was completed in 12 to 14 minutes.

The worldwide marketplace today offers an individual many opportunities to get paid to write. For instance, a writer can now choose from a regular salaried position, with a typical forty hour work week schedule, or a home based business, where the writer can compose blogs and articles. When browsing the internet, it is difficult to see how the writer can actually earn a steady living by writing casual blogs and articles, like those which are mostly read by friends and family members. This is because blogs can either be written for pure entertainment value, such as those who keep their own personal blog to communicate with loved ones who live far away, or for internet marketing value, such as for those business owners who need to increase their website's ranking in Google.

In internet marketing, the more keyword-based content that is being directed to a certain website through hyperlinked text, the higher that website's search engine rankings will be. Therefore, the online business owner will contact a professional internet marketing service like Writer's Domain to create a large amount of content on the business owner’s behalf. When the marketing is completed, the business owner will notice a large increase in the amount of traffic being diverted to his or her website through search engines! In order to get paid to write these types of articles, the writer will need to apply for an open position at Writer's Domain. During the application process, the writer will be asked to write a sample blog or article on a random keyword or phrase.

For instance, the writer may be asked to write two hundred words on the phrase "city living Tulsa, OK." Although this keyword phrase is not grammatically correct, the writer should not change the sentence to "city living in Tulsa, OK," as this will greatly diminish the internet marketing value of the phrase. As of today, an article will only increase the keyword rankings of a website if the keywords and phrases match the search engine queries word-for-word. Because many consumers in the vicinity of Tulsa, OK will use the phrase "city living Tulsa, OK," rather than the grammatically correct phrase, the content must include this exact phrase if it is to be beneficial for the client of Writer's Domain. In order to get paid to write from home with Writer's Domain, the writer will need to include the exact phrase given in their sample writing test within the title of the article.

Each article or blog written for Writer's Domain should have its own unique title, which means that the writer will need to include a few words before or after the keyword that they are given to write about. For instance, the writer can create the title "Learning About City Living Tulsa, OK" when writing about that keyword phrase. Then, when composing the blog or article, the writer should also include the exact keyword phrase at least two times in the body of the text. Because the phrase is grammatically awkward, many beginning writers can have difficulty inserting the required keyword into their writing. However, in order to get paid to write from home today, the writer will need to overcome this challenge quickly! It can be helpful to think of the phrase in its grammatically correct context when writing a keyword-based article like this. Then, when the writer wishes to enter in their keyword phrase, the sentence will still flow naturally. After the writer is approved by the Writer's Domain staff, he or she will begin to earn a steady income by writing informational articles from home!

Internet Marketing Services - Professional Writing Sample

Below is an example of an informational article written for SEO purposes.
The 600 word article was completed in 12 to 14 minutes.

In order for a retailer or service provider to earn a living from e-commerce sales, he or she will need to proactively market the website or online shop to consumers. If the business owner simply waited for consumers to find the company's website through various means, the business owner will find that the traffic ratings of the website will be dismally low. In fact, it is nearly impossible for a business owner to sell products or services through an e-commerce website without either hiring an internet marketing service provider or performing internet marketing tasks on his or her own time. 

While many small online business owners who are greatly concerned about the costs of running their company will attempt to market their own e-commerce site in order to save money, it has been found to be much more cost-effective to purchase internet marketing packages from a professional internet marketing agent. The professional marketing agent has a great deal of experience in driving high-quality traffic to an e-commerce website through internet marketing methods like search engine optimization, social media marketing, and affiliate marketing, which is also called pay per click advertising.

Because a team of professional internet marketing agents  has had many years of experience, the time they spend marketing the online business owner's website will be very productive. However, if an online business owner attempted to market his or her e-commerce site without the help of an internet marketing company, he or she is unlikely to see results from this time spent. By placing a very small percentage of their monthly budget towards internet marketing services offered by a service provider, on the other hand, small online business owners will find that this investment will be returned through an increase in their incoming traffic, increased conversion rates, and greater sales revenue. 

When considering how the conversion rate of an e-commerce website can be a great indicator of the website's overall success, small business owners will find that internet marketing methods like search engine optimization are almost essential for their company's success. The conversion rate of an e-commerce website today can be measured by using any number of free web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics. These websites allow e-commerce business owners to have data collected about how many visitors are finding their website, where these visitors are located, and the website's greatest sources of incoming traffic.

In order to find the conversion rate for a certain e-commerce website, the online business owner will need to find the number of total sales made on the website during a given month. Then, the business owner will divide this number by the total number of individuals who visited the website during that same time period. For instance, if the total sales data for an e-commerce website during the month of April was 137 and the total number of visitors was 2,740, the conversion rate of the website during that time was exactly 5%. 

In general, a conversion rate of 4% or more is not possible without the help of an internet marketing service provider. Without internet marketing campaigns being put in place with the goal of making the e-commerce website more accessible to the consumers who are most likely to make a purchase on that site, the online business owner will see a conversion rate of less than 1%. When this dismal figure is combined with the low traffic ratings, the business owner will be further convinced of the value of internet marketing services.

Joan Didion and the Disintegrating American Identity - Academic Writing Sample

       Joan Didion’s fiction is written in such surprisingly sparse language as to generate some unease with her readers, because in general, one would not think that the defining moments of a life—death, divorce, abortion—should be described with equal importance as a hair appointment or a restaurant menu. However, Didion’s distinctive style creates an opportunity for her readers and even her characters to analyze people and events in order to create meaning out of a cold explanation.   Cynthia Griffin Wolff in “’Play it as it Lays’: Didion and the Diver Heroine,” describes this phenomenon in relation to the novel’s main character, Maria:
Maria cannot take… events with such cold, matter-of-fact competence. She has trouble with time: she forgets appointments, she forgets to call the answering service, she forgets to pay her bills. In all the things that ‘matter’… Maria is hopelessly inept. But in the more vital elements of life, she is the only person in this world who takes account, the only keeper of the record. She remembers her mother, even dreams about her…. And after the abortion, she is the only one who remembers the fetus that was flushed down the drain, (486).
       In this passage, Wolff allows Maria to create meaning of her present situation through a remembrance of her past.

       The stark difference between the events and their description is, in its own way, Didion’s attempt to describe what she views as disintegrating in American life.  Edington describes the feeling, stating, “the American dream has spun out of control, and images of apocalyptic vision suggest that the moral disarray of Hollywood anticipates the decline and fall of American society,” (67).  Or in other words, the evil that Didion sees in the classic Hollywood lifestyle, portrayed in Play it as it Lays, seems to preclude American society’s overall degradation.  In a review of Kazan’s America America, Didion expounds on this notion:
America, America, God shed His grace on thee: it is the idea which has informed all our history, the idea which sent and still sends us West, the failing dream which drives us into easy violence and neurotic resignation and off the Golden Gate bridge; the remembered dream which haunts our uneasy wakening. No people ever expected so much of a country; none ever risked such failure, (qtd. in Brady 453).
       Didion therefore translates this philosophy into her prose of nothingness, exemplifying the willingness with which Hollywood, and America, enters the moral apocalypse.  In Play it as it Lays, Joan Didion describes cataclysmic personal events in startlingly objective and minimalist prose, making the devastating eerily casual, in order to display a disintegrating American identity.  

       Throughout Play it as it Lays, Maria suffers from an extreme lack of context as her personal history fragments and begins to disappear.  This is most evident in her hometown of Silver Wells, New Mexico.  In an unexpected coincidence, Maria meets an old friend from Silver Wells, Benny Austin, some years down the road in a Vegas casino.  Benny begins to reminisce about the town, claiming that Maria’s father could have been a “Rockefeller in Silver Wells today,” (Didion 6).  Maria responds by cutting his dreams off abruptly, “There isn’t any Silver Wells today… It’s in the middle of a missile range,” (6) briefly summarizing the disappearance of personal history and context.  But not even Maria can ignore her past completely, asserting that “NOTHING APPLIES” (4) when painful memories from the past reemerge.  Reflecting back on her conversation with Benny, Maria thinks “maybe I never should have left [Silver Wells], but that line of thinking leads nowhere because as I told Benny there is no Silver Wells,” (9).  Wolff describes Maria’s return to nostalgic thinking: “not even Maria can disengage her mind from the past. It crowds upon her in not altogether disconnected fragments,” (481).  These fragments return to her in pieces, as she sometimes awakes from the monotony of daily life to find that “Silver Wells was with her again,” (Didion 86) another chilling, brief way of reminding the reader that Maria’s destroyed history continually haunts her.  

       Wolff asserts that the silver in Silver Wells stays innately with Maria throughout the novel, crafted by Didion to show the importance of this lost city:
Maria is a girl of the silver screen, and she was reared in the town of Silver Wells, a town where the ‘wells’ have never had water and where the silver stopped flowing long ago. But silver still drifts in and out of the fiction—in echoes of her mother's longing to cross the ocean in a silver plane, in the silver vinyl dress that Maria buys to help herself forget the abortion, in the silverlake home of the charlatan hypnotist… (485).  
       This particular lack of historical context for Maria renders many aspects of life meaningless, as she mentions that thinking of her nonexistent past “leads nowhere,” (9).  H. Jennifer Brady, in “The Fiction of Joan Didion”, elaborates, stating that “for Didion the idealization of a ‘lost world’ imbued with traditional norms is itself suspect since our remembered past is a mythic construction,” (463) which plays in nicely with Maria’s assertion.  Maria’s memories of Silver Wells are a “mythic construction” because its relevance has been lost in its abrupt disappearance, a disappearance that is never fully realized in Didion’s cold prose.
       This contextual void also resonates in Maria’s memories of her personal relationships: with her mother, her husband Carter, and her lover Les Goodwin.  Maria is “consumed… by questions” about her mother’s accidental death, as she “woke crying for her mother” (60) and spent time imagining and reimagining the situation.  After her speculations drew out, Didion explains: “Maria did not know whether any of that had actually happened but she used to think it,” (61).  Just as Silver Wells disappears from Maria’s present, her reality, and her memory, so does her mother.  Just as Silver Wells falls victim to annihilation by missile, so does her mother by wild coyotes that devour her body.

       The cool way in which Didion describes these horrific events contrasts with their importance, as in the description of Maria’s reaction to the news of her mother’s death: 
My father’s letter was mailed to an old address and forwarded, I read it in a taxi one morning when I was late for a sitting and when I hit the fact in the middle of the second paragraph I began to scream and did not work for a month after, (9).
       The loss of her mother, the terrible way in which she died, the delay incurred by Maria’s change in address all contribute to an overwhelming void in the protagonists’ life.  A void which she miserably attempts to fill with her arcane reminisces about the death.
       Maria’s personal relationships with Les Goodwin and Carter suffer in a similar manner.  Didion relates Maria’s problem with these relationships: 
She tried to remember Carter.  She tried to remember Les Goodwin.  She could remember it all but none of it seemed to come to anything.  She had a sense the dream had ended and she had slept on, (69).  
Unlike her mother’s death, Maria remembers Carter and Les Goodwin clearly.  However, even when she can recall details and events and conversations, she can extract no meaning from it all.  In doing this, Didion asserts that an absence of memory and a lack of physical presence are not the only reasons that one lacks context.  For Maria, both memory and physical presence are not enough to make relationships meaningful.  The choice to portray Maria in this light is further explained by Brady:
[Didion] chooses in Play It As It Lays to portray Maria Wyeth from within the confines of a deliberately limited self-consciousness because of her perception that the decision to live in a truncated present causes life to become two-dimensional, or "thin" when viewed from an imaginative perspective, (463).
This “truncated present” of the Hollywood ideal that Maria inhabits lacks context: history, significant personal relationships, connections from memory.  This is artistically portrayed by Didion, as her language and style of writing mirror Maria’s “thin” existence, a style that Vivian Gornick convincingly describes: “The prose of nothingness is given texture, inner distance enriched, etherizing numbness lent dimension,” (6).

The most frightening event in Play it as it Lays is Maria’s abortion.  In the beginning, Maria is forced into the abortion by Carter, who tells Maria he will take their daughter Kate if she does not do it.  When she calls the number of the doctor that Carter gave her, Maria speaks with a nameless man:
“You want an appointment with the doctor,” he said.
“When could he see me.”
“The doctor will want to know how many weeks.”
“How many weeks what?”
There was a silence.  “How advanced is the problem, Maria,” the voice said finally, (56).  
The chilling description of the abortion advances throughout the novel, to a point that borders on the ridiculously nonchalant.  For example, Maria later has a phone conversation with Carter, who wants to know if Maria is going through with the procedure, asking impatiently, “what did they say, Maria,” (62).  Maria, perturbed by the doctor and Carter’s casual treatment of the abortion, blurts out: “They said they’d call me up some day and on the day they called me up I’d meet them some place with a pad and a belt and $1,000 in cash.  All right, Carter?  All right?” (62). The ridiculousness continues when Maria drives with the doctor to the place where the procedure will take place.  During the drive, the abortionist asks, “Get pretty good mileage on this [car]?” (78) and explains to Maria his plans to buy a Camaro, to which Maria replies, “You think you’ll buy a Camaro,” (79).  The indifferent nature with which Didion describes these events makes them all the more important, as if by leaving out the psychological and ethical problems with Maria’s abortion she makes them all the more imbedded in the text.

Maria’s reaction to the abortion mirrors those preceding it, in that her problems with it resonate in Didion’s lack of explanation.  For example, Maria obsesses with the fact that the abortionist had flushed her fetus down the toilet that day.  The sound of the plumbing in her house becomes unbearable, but “of course she could not call a plumber, because she had known all along what would be found in the pipes, what hacked pieces of human flesh,” (97).  The lack of morality in Carter and the abortionists’ actions surrounding the event haunt Maria in these delusional fantasies. Maria tries to distract herself by going back to work, buying a sleek silver dress and having a fling with Les Goodwin.  However, the memory of her would-have-been child continually haunts her. Didion explains, “she bought a silver vinyl dress and tried to stop thinking about what had he done with the baby.  The tissue.  The living dead thing, whatever you called it,” (115).  

       When talking to Les Goodwin, Maria analyzes their conversation: “They mentioned Kate, Carter, Felicia, the weather, Oxnard, his dislike of motel rooms, her fear of subterfuge.  They mentioned everything but one thing: that she had left the point in a bedroom in Encino,” (135) Encino being the location where her abortion was performed.  Maria, unlike those around her, remembers the abortion as an extremely significant event, the repercussions of which she suffers through daily.  Part of her suffering is that she is the only one who recognizes the abortion’s importance.  However, Brady purports that the significance is not fully recognized:
Didion's portrait of the psychological effects of this abortion is chilling. Its traumatic impact on Maria derived in part from the fact that her bereavement is never acknowledged on a conscious level… (464).  
Not only is the abortion ignored by her husband, lover and friends, but by Maria herself, for the only way she can deal with the incredibly pain the situation has caused her is to attempt to ignore it completely.  However, Wolff asserts that 
We are not meant to rest satisfied with the delicate nuances of Maria's emotional life; quite the contrary, Didion demands that we use Maria's agonized explorations as a vehicle for the examination of nothing less than our heritage as Americans, (481).
Therefore, Didion’s art lies in her ability to portray importance and assign significance through a character that “professes to know nothing but nothingness itself,” (482).  Gornick takes the analysis further, stating that:
“This is the literature of the walking wounded. Didion's contribution to this literature is a rhythmic use of ellipsis devoted to capturing the taste and feel of permanent interior hell. Volumes of unspoken messages are trapped inside her tight-lipped juxtapositions, her mysterious transitions, her extraordinary sentence repetitions…” (6).
       Didion’s “literature of the walking wounded” is an extremely appropriate fit for what the author sees as declining in American society.  Maria is rendered in such a way as to represent those in modern times who feel themselves pulled into a new disintegrating morality without the ability to turn away.  Brady states that in Play it as it Lays
We see a Hollywood society with no sense of history, of the links between then and now, and we watch this world disintegrate into suicides, abortion, sexual promiscuity, divorce, and neurotic lethargy: into nada, (465).
       And Didion’s portrayal of Hollywood’s tragic decline can be applied to all of America, as it is the most famous of American stereotypes and the most longed-for ideal.  This, for Didion, is the most significant tragedy of all.    

The Woman Warrior - Academic Writing Sample

In an attempt to explain her mother’s story-telling habits and the implications this has on Chinese-Americans like herself, the narrator in The Woman Warrior states:

Whenever she had to warn us about life, my mother told stories that ran… a story to grow up on.  She tested our strength to establish realities… Those of us in the first American generations have had to figure out how the invisible world the emigrants built around our childhoods fits in solid America, (Kingston 5).
First generation Americans like the narrator are tasked with making their parents’ stories useful in their modern lives, often by distinguishing between truth and myth.

Throughout the novel, the narrator refers to these tales as “talk-story,” a version of story-telling.  Having frequently heard her mother’s tales of ancestors and ancient Chinese myths, she begins to question the veracity of her mother’s words.  At a pivotal point in the novel, the narrator claims, “I can’t tell what’s real and what you make up,” (202).  However, after the telling of the disgraced aunt’s story at the beginning of the text, she takes her mother’s words and embellishes them with her own ideas, bringing her aunt’s story to life.  The narrator claims:
If I want to learn what clothes my aunt wore, whether flashy or ordinary, I would have to begin, “Remember Father’s downed-in-the-well sister?” I cannot ask that.  My mother has told me once and for all the useful parts.  She will add nothing unless powered by Necessity,” (6).
In order to complete the aunt’s story, the narrator takes her mother’s bare and sterile words and invents the details, giving meaning to the demise of her ancestor.  However, the narrator still blames her mother for feeding her false realities, stating “You lie with stories.  You won’t tell me a story and then say, ‘This is a true story,’ or, ‘This is just a story.’  I can’t tell the difference,” (202).  Because the narrator’s creative mind invents details in order to make her mother’s stories meaningful, she misleads herself, and it is she, not her mother, who confuses reality with fantasy.  
At another point in the novel, the narrator has just finished telling the story of how her mother took her sister Moon Orchid to see Moon Orchid’s husband, who had abandoned the sister in China and has since started a new life in California.  After this elaborate tale, the narrator admits:
In fact, it wasn’t me my brother told about going to Los Angeles; one of my sisters told me what he’d told her.  His version of the story may be better than mine because of its bareness, not twisted into designs.   The hearer can carry it tucked away without it taking up much room, (163).  
This same bareness of story is what motivated the narrator to invent the circumstances around her disgraced aunt.  Both stories, originally, could be “tucked away [without] taking up much room” because they were incomplete and did not carry the significance that the narrator so desperately wanted.  These stories are “[stories] to grow up on,” as the recipient of the tale must mold it into something that will be useful to them (6).  Without being “twisted into designs,” the stories are simply stories (163).  As the narrator begins to add the details and create meaning around the bare words, she becomes unable to tell the difference between fact and fiction.  

In the climactic event of the novel when the narrator confronts her mother, she cries, “I don’t want to listen to any more of your stories; they have no logic.  They scramble me up,” (202).  However, earlier in the novel when the narrator asks her mother about a rumor that was going around her school, her mother replies, “No.  No… They’re just talking-story.  You’re always believing talk-story,” (183).  This inconsistency is lost on the narrator, as she continues to blame her mother for feeding her false realities.  She refuses to see that her mother’s criticism, “you’re always believing talk-story,” is in fact true.

Just as Kingston embellishes the novel with significance, the narrator gives life to the bare, traditional stories of her mother.  She creates meaning in the details and confuses reality with fantasy.  However, in doing so, she indeed figures out how “the invisible world the emigrants built” around her fits into her new Chinese-American identity (5).

White or Wheat? Creative Writing Sample

Creative Writing Sample
Flash Fiction / Prose Poem

White or wheat? the girl behind the counter of the sandwich shop asks me, and I get the feeling that she has had a really terrible day, so I point to myself, the picture of ignorance, and I say, I'm Irish. I watch her eyebrows draw down in confusion and then, after several painful seconds, a slow smile spreads out across her face like the tide getting ever closer to lounging sunbathers, unaware and blissfully hot, and I think I finally understand why people write poems, because that smile those eyes that girl in the green apron will be with me forever. So I order my ham and cheese lunch and she throws a chocolate chip cookie in for free with a secret in her eyes that only I understand in the context of deli meat secret terrors florescent lighting the daily grind dirty tile floors minimum wage ponytails in hairnets traffic sanitary regulations white or wheat? and I leave the shop with more than a little of that girl on my back, a loathsome, beautiful passenger.