This month is off to a relatively productive start, at least as far as writing words goes. Just check out this journal shot I posted to Instagram on the 8th.

Instagram @authortabathashipley


Of course, if we dig a little deeper we notice that most of those boxes are filled with red stripes … idea journal.

Reminder: My idea journal is what I use all the time for jotting down scenes, characters, or ideas with no story attached. I also use it for poetry that helps me connect with a current character.

Why is the idea journal getting so much love right now?

I’m in between projects.

  • I’m DONE editing and formatting Training Tutor.
  • I’m DONE writing the zero draft of the YA Contemporary.

There’s literally nothing I’m zero drafting right now.

Mostly, the idea journal for the 8 days you see on this graphic is centered around three story ideas. I keep coming back to these three, despite the fact that I haven’t fallen in love with any of them. Maybe one of them will turn into something … maybe not. Right now, I’m just working my process and writing what feels right.

Anyway, here’s something I found in the idea journal that you haven’t seen yet. Enjoy.

The phone on the desk rang and she grabbed the handset without pause. “This is Sheri,” she said. 

“Sheri, it’s Mark.” 

Sheri leaned back in her chair, a smile playing at the edges of her mouth. “Hey Mark, how are you? How’s Sean?”

“He’s good. We’re good. How’s the dog?”

Sheri was the proud owner of an adorable pit bull she had rescued from a lifetime of dirty looks from people who misjudged him for his breed at the pound. He was the biggest baby she had ever met and the only baby she had any need for.  “He’s amazing, as always. What do you have for me today, Mark?”

Mark worked in the social media division. Basically his job consisted of combing through social media accounts for nearby businesses, looking for things that could be used to their advantage. There was nothing nefarious about their peeking at these things, at least not that Sheri was aware of. The information Mark used was public knowledge, posted on public websites. They were using it to bring the training companies needed to the forefront of their schedules. It was good for both parties. 

“I have one small fish, one update on a medium fish, and a note for you that may help you bait a big fish.”

Sheri pushed herself forward and grabbed a pen and a notepad. The code wasn’t exactly hard to crack. Mark had information about a small company that needed a small, common training, that was his small fish. The medium fish would likely be a company she’d already reached out to or worked with, something to help her land them or bring them in for more training. The big fish was the one that required paper. Big fish normally involved a lot of money or a lot of training. These were usually companies with more than one location or a lot of employees. Things that could keep her trainers busy for a long time. “I’m ready,” she said, her voice thick with excitement.

“Alright, the small fish is a mom-and-pop in Peoria. Three yelp reviews in the last ninety days all mention a waiter who is difficult to understand and messes up orders. Probably just one guy, but worth a shot,” he said. 

“You’re thinking they may be good candidates for customer service training.”

“I am. Name of the company is Out of the Frying Pan. Owner’s name is Chess Sullivan.” Sheri noted everything down in her careful block letter handwriting, evenly spaced and touching the horizontal lines at the top and bottom of the space. 

Mark continued. “The medium fish update is for Tellex Bank.”

Tellex Bank was a company Sheri had already done sensitivity training for. She’d had two of her best trainers out there about three months ago after Tellex had a social media post claiming they had turned away business from a gay couple. Sensitivity training normally required a followup. Sheri would have to check her notes to see if the follow up had been conducted and what the results of the visit had been. “Another sensitivity issue?” she asked, already writing a few notes. 

“No. This time I found a Google review from a few unhappy customers who had their home foreclosed on.”

“Not exactly a reliable source,” Sheri said. People who wrote reviews while angry normally made accusations that the company dismissed. It was easy to tell yourself that someone was being irrational when they were angry. Companies normally weren’t looking for training to combat a negative review that was only the result of someone who was upset at the situation. 

“Right, but they included a screenshot of the letter with a few grammatical errors circled. I did some digging and found a few more complaints that mention grammatical errors in communications from the bank. Some are in emails, some are in print. Nothing big, like ad campaigns, but still something you may be able to work with since you already have a relationship.”

“Possibly.” This wasn’t as simple as providing a training, this was more of a long game. She understood why Mark had called this a medium fish. It would take a little work but it could be a bigger pay off. If she could get Tellex bank to think they had a problem with written communication, she may be able to convince them they needed to give written English tests to their employees. These tests would have to be developed, surely she could find a team to do that. They would have to be paid for their time, of course, but it would improve communications for the bank. Then, if anyone failed to pass the exam there would be reasonable argument for a grammatical training seminar. Sheri was sure she could put together a team of trainers for that. She wrote it all down. 

“You mentioned a big fish?” Sheri said, cueing Mark into the fact that she was done writing. 

“I did. I think you already have a file on this one. Sunbelt Coffee?” Mark prompted.

Sheri resisted the urge to squeal with delight. Sunbelt Coffee was a very big fish. They had locations all across the country and were practically synonymous with coffee. She already had a few documented cases in her files of customer complaints but nothing big enough to affect business for someone national with millions of customers. Companies like that didn’t hire trainers unless the problem threatened their normal operations or unless there were a lot of problems all at once. “I do have a file and I’d love the chance to add to it.”

“So it may turn out to be nothing, it will really depend on how the company spins it,” Mark started. “Basically there’s a hashtag trending on Twitter that applies to them. #CarelessCoffee.”

It would have been better if the hashtag called out the company directly, but Sheri knew that was a big ask. “What’s the idea behind the hashtag?” 

“Basically, someone pointed out Sunbelt doesn’t donate to any small charity organizations. They do have donations to some larger, national ones. People are defending them by pointing those out. But there are a lot of people who think they could be doing more in their communities. There’s a few people pointing out the percentage of their donations is too small for a company so large, things like that. Like I said, this could be nothing. Or, it could turn out to be something. You may want to watch it.”

“I may want to strike fast. Has anyone from the company made a statement?” she asked, wheels already turning. If Sunbelt wanted to reach out to local communities and show they were being active, they’d need someone inside. Someone who could organize things with their local organizations for them. Someone who could make phone calls. She could bring in full teams in various states all across the country. She had the manpower to make this possible. 

“None that I’ve found. I don’t see any indication that they are aware of it at this point.”

“Oh, I’m sure they’re aware. They probably have their own team of Mark’s digging through social media. If you found it, they found it.”

Mark chuckled. “They wish they had a team as good as me, honey.” 

“True,” Sheri conceded. 

“But, that’s not the point. The point is your average Joe from middle America is unaware that Sunbelt knows anything about this trending hashtag or, more importantly, it’s link to their coffee company. They could still argue that this hashtag could apply to any coffee company in the nation. Until it’s linked back to them, they have the luxury of feigning ignorance.”

Sheri smiled. “Ignorance, a company’s best tool.”

“That’s business, baby.”

Sheri clicked her pen and dropped it onto the notepad. “Alright, I’m going to get to work on these right away. I think I’m going big fish hunting. Wish me luck.”

“Luck,” Mark said. “Bring in the big money.”

“You mean fish,” Sheri said, teasingly. 

“Sure I did.” 

As always, this is a zero draft directly from my idea journal with very little editing. Be cool, don’t steal.

That’s it for today!

Feel free to drop a comment letting me know what you think of this idea.

See you next time!

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