Friday, December 12, 2008

NC Songwriter’s Co-op Announces 11th Annual Songwriting Contest Winners

"Letha Costin, Keith Hill, and Garrison Doles won the top three places in the 11th Annual North Carolina Songwriter’s Co-op Songwriter’s Contest. NCSC’s hand picked industry professionals based their selection on the entries’ lyrics, melody and presentation."

Raleigh, NC December 1, 2008 – Letha Costin, songwriter, female vocalist and bass guitarist for the acoustic "folk & roll" trio Tranzenders, walked away with the winning songs in the 11th Annual North Carolina Songwriter’s Co-op Songwriter’s Contest. She led the field of eight finalists with her 2-song submission of "Unmarked Pavement" and "Memoirs of a Mountain." Two distinctively different styles showcased her songwriting talent.

"It's an honor to be recognized by an organization that is so full of talented songwriters. I'm also extremely excited about doing some shows with some of the other co-op members in 2009. It's going to be a great year!" exclaimed Costin.

Rutherfordton, North Carolina resident Keith Hill took 2nd Place with "As If" and "When God Moves a Stone" and Garrison Doles of Orlando, Florida claimed third place with "Mahalia Jane" and "We Give Ourselves Away."

The three winners were chosen by industry professionals Catesby Jones: Hit Singer/Songwriter; Harriet Schock: Platinum Award-Winning Songwriter, National Recording Artist, and Songwriting Instructor; Linne Black: Co-owner of Pitchy Women Music/ASCAP and Pitchy Women Pluggers, hit songwriter and Coordinator of NSAI Winston-Salem; Michael Graziano: Recording Studio Owner, TV Producer/Director; and Philip van Vleck: Music Writer/Critic for Billboard, Dirty Linen and the Durham Herald-Sun.

Finalists Tracy Newman (Tracey Newman and The Reinforcements) of Los Angeles, CA; Larry Nixon (Nixon, Blevins & Gage) of Raleigh, NC; Nick Parent of Cary, NC; Mary Rocap of Cedar Grove, NC; and Gail Sevin (Daniel Lee "DiEL" of Oakton, VA) were announced as well. All submitted two selections each showcasing their unique style, lyrics and presentation.

Cash, certificates toward equipment purchases from Sam Ash Music, and a gear bag filled with an assortment of gift certificates and products from the Music Loft of Carrboro, Levy’s Leathers, GHS Strings, an award from NCSC and more were received by the three winners and five finalists.

The top three winners were also honored with certificates from Oasis CD for producing their next CD, press releases from Batson Group Marketing and PR, business cards from Guildmaster Graphics and web hosting from Costin, as the first place winner, also received a year’s membership in Taxi, the world's leading independent A&R Company and dinner for two at the Gulf Rim Café in Hillsborough.

For more information on NCSC and to hear the music of the winners, finalists and honorable mentions go to

About NCSC:
North Carolina Songwriters Cooperative is a non-profit organization dedicated to the support and promotion of songwriters. PO Box 335 Carrboro, NC 27510

Media Contact:

NCSC: Eileen Batson - Batson Group Marketing and PR 919.327.5021

Monday, November 24, 2008

No-stress Thanksgiving Day and Evening with Your Guests

How to Have an Enjoyable No-stress
Thanksgiving Day and Evening with Your Guests

Compliments of my friend and chef Claire Idhammar

To all of you who are ready and/or may be stressed to cook for Thanksgiving here are some simple suggestions and tips from some of your favorite chefs on the Food Network, gourmet magazines and …myself, Claire Idhammar of My Two

Schedule ahead
1. Do not shop too late. If you do, just simplify the meal as much as possible.
2. Preparation is important. Be sure to coordinate the cooking times for your feast
3. Prepare dish by dish and cleanup as you go
4. Have your all your ingredients and cooking tools available: good sharpened knives, salt/pepper, oils/butter, spices and herbs

CUTTING BOARDS: Use easy to handle boards
Wooden ones for vegetables, bread, and carving meat
Plastic boards for raw meat/poultry

1. It is strongly suggested to follow the cooking times on your bird.
2. For example: a 3 pound Turkey Breast should be cooked approximately 2 ½ hours to reach 155 degrees inside.
3. Tip: For a moister turkey, stay on the safe side and cook at a lower temperature for a longer period of time.
4. After roasting keep your turkey covered with foil in a 200 degree oven before serving.
5. Let your turkey rest for 15 minutes before carving.

1. If using a whole bird your first choice should be dressing on the side so your bird will cook
uniformly in the oven.
2. If you choose to stuff the bird make it simple like apple, celery, and chestnut mix.

1. Start from the backbone on either side from the skin inward and slice downward.

1. Prepare and marinade your turkey 12-24 hours the day before
2. Marinade should be done the day before- (24 hours in brine)
3. Stuffing can be made the day before and oven cooked Thanksgiving day
4. Gravy - 2 hours before or even the day before
5. Main dish - Thanksgiving Day

1. Plan for 2 or 3 sides
2. Have one strong side dish – mashed Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, Potatoes au Gratin, mashed yam/sweet potatoes
3. 1 or 2 more supportive sides – string beans, artichoke casseroles, and/or other creative personal sides.
4. Cranberry sauce - (store bought with a personal touch of chopped pecans and orange zest) or made from scratch.
5. Serve your preferred salad (light and fresh).

DESSERTS - Serve cookies, fruits, pies and sweets with coffee or tea
1. Tip: Ask your guests to bring their favorite dessert.
2. If you prepare desert choose a light desert (Mousse au Chocolat) – apple pie (simple and easy to prepare).
3. Store bought pies - pecan pie with a spoon of ice cream; a traditional pumpkin pie with topping.
4. And store bought cookies for the kids.

*Cranberry – Ginger Sauce
*Artichoke casserole
*Cranberry Sauce Cider with Cinnamon

CRANBERRY-GINGER SAUCE - Ah Martha !!! from my collection. One of my preferred sauces. It can be made 3 days ahead and kept refrigerated
1 bag of fresh or frozen cranberries- (12 oz.)
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoon of water
2 tablespoon sherry vinegar – (red vinegar can be an option)
Bring the first four ingredients to boil in a saucepan, at good heat, let the cranberries pop and then simmer 15 minutes at medium low heat
Stir in, one tablespoon at a time, the vinegar, to adjust the tartness. Adjust to your taste adding a sprinkle or two of sugar .
Let cool at room temperature and refrigerate up to 3 days
Serve with some ginger zest-

(8 servings)
4 medium Russet potatoes
3 packages of thawed / drained artichokes
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 table spoons of fresh lemon juice
2 garlic gloves
1 small chopped onion
¼ cup Pecorino Romano
¼ cup Parmesan cheese both grated
Breadcrumbs to cover
Fresh herbs (parsley, thyme , rosemary) or dried herbs blend
1 teaspoon of coarse salt
Small pieces of butter
Boil potatoes , when cooked and cooled make ½ inches rounds slices
Preheat Oven at 325 degrees
Combine Cheeses, parsley, breadcrumbs, herbs, salt in a medium bowl and stir
Brush 2 large baking dishes with olive oil. Lay artichokes and potatoes in a single tight layer
Sprinkle with breadcrumbs , cheese mixture
Whisk lemon juices , oil and garlic and drizzle over the breadcrumbs topping , add some lemon zest, small pieces of butter
Cover dishes with parchment and foil, bake for 30 minutes – increase oven temperature at 375 degrees.
Continue to bake uncover until breadcrumbs are brown and crispy, 20 minutes –Serve hot.

Delicious and simple
2 bags (12 oz each) of fresh cranberries
2 cups ( 16 fl oz.) apple cider (unfiltered)
1/4 cup of water
2 cups of sugar
1 small cinnamon stick
In a medium large sauce pan combine apple cider, sugar, water, bring to simmer at low medium eat, stirring, add the cranberries, bring to simmer for 10 minutes, time for the cranberries to pop.
Let cool at room temperature
Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours
Serve at room temperature


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Brief Primer on Marketing and PR

Marketing: (definition) The moving of a specific product (or service) into public hands. This is accomplished with effective promotion that creates want in your target public so they buy what you are offering. At Batson Group Marketing we always keep in mind what is needed to create response or demand for your product or service.
Public: (definition) a type of audience

I. Your Marketing Plan
Your marketing plan is designed to give you short- and long-term goals as well as a strategy to achieve those goals.

A. You need a strategy. You must make a marketing difference. You have to be distinct. Think of how much advertising you run into every day. Magazine ads, television, some places you'll even find advertising in bathroom stalls!
1. There are several key factors you must identify to make your marketing plan a strong one. That’s where MARKETING RESEARCH comes into play:

  • Who are your potential customers?
  • What's the most effective way to inform your potential customers?
  • What do your customers want?
  • How can you position your product/service in an appealing manner?
  • Look closely at your target market. What's their age, sex, profession, income level, educational level and residence?

If you're selling $70,000 vehicles, it really is a waste of time to target an audience who's making minimum wage.

B. Drip Marketing
Let’s say part of your overall MP is to use ‘drip marketing’. Drip marketing is not water torture… compare it to drip irrigation, where farmers and gardeners apply small amounts of water to plants over long periods of time instead of all at once.

Here’s a rough drip marketing campaign plan
Step 1: Develop your Plan (Plan something EVERY month)
Step 2: Strategize the Execution of Your Plan
Step 3: Decide who your Target is.
Step 4: Create consistency by developing your slogan or phrase. Then place it on every promotional piece. Many times your promo material will be referred to as Marketing Collateral

Marketing collateral (Definition) A collection of marketing communications pieces used as part of an organization's overall marketing strategy. It’s the stuff you send out so people know who you are and what you provide. Marketing collateral might include: brochures; data sheets that provide an overview of the features of a product or service (often a technical overview); and white papers - articles, usually of a technical nature, that showcase an organization's products or services and shows why those products or services are useful to the industry the business serves; Postcards, Newsletters

1. What collateral can you use for your drip marketing campaign? Here are a few that will get you started:

  • Postcards
  • Newsletters
  • Email Newsletter (You'll have to be careful of spam filters)
  • Promotional or Sales Brochures

Think of your drip marketing campaign as a way to nurture your current and potential clients. You campaign should keep them aware of your products and services. With this thought in mind your campaign will succeed.

C. Business Card
Remember, every successful home business conveys a unique message about their brand. You’re telling a story. And the business card is a small, yet integral, part of that story telling process.
Consider logo options that offer an element of consistency with your brand image.

  • Decide on the most relevant information that will be of value to those in possession of your card. How can they best reach you – e-mail, phone, fax, mail? Use the information that can provide a return on investment, and omit the rest.
  • Size Best to follow traditional business standards (3.5 X 2).
  • Keep the back of your business card blank. Some people opt at the last minute to add a mission statement or a catchy phrase on the back. But if you can’t win over somebody with information on the front, don’t expect any residual returns from what goes on the back.
    Important Design Note: Be careful of some companies who insist on printing their logo on the back of your card. Find a company that wants to make YOU money, not them. I favor

D. A Brochure is Part of Your Business Identity
Leave-Behinds - This type of brochure is named for the brochures you leave behind after meeting a potential customer. Write this type of brochure with a complete description of your product and its benefits. Summarize your sales pitch to echo the one you just gave. Keep your words forever in their brain - or at least long enough to get them to buy your product.

Point-of-Sale - These are best described as the type you might encounter while standing in line at the bank. You notice a rack of brochures and it just so happens they're conveniently located right there for you to enjoy. You take a brochure. You'll read about it later. Point-of-Sale. Write a catchy headline and make sure you have a nice visual to work with the headline. Your goal is to get potential customers to see your brochure, be curious enough to pick it up and, even more important, keep it.
Respond to Inquiries - When people ask about your product, they're obviously interested. Sending this type of brochure is for a qualified buyer. They're qualified because they're much more likely to buy than someone who hasn't contacted you. Since they've already expressed interest, write this brochure to take your prospect to the next step: the buying process. Hammer home all of your sales points and pack your brochure with facts to convince them they can't live without your product.

Direct Mail - This is the type of brochure you include with your direct mail package. You know the sales letter sells but a brochure used with direct mail contains photos, your product's sales points and even technical features.

Sales Support Tool - Sales support is very similar to leave-behinds.
Your salesperson uses them to guide them through their sales pitch. They have larger pages, larger photos and larger headlines.
Now that you know the types of brochures, figure out where they fit into the buying process for you. That way, you'll not only know the type of brochure you need, but the information your copywriter and designer needs to have.

E. Small Budget Advertising
Budget Publications - This includes weekly shoppers, free local TV guides, newsletters, and community papers. These publications are targeted toward a specific audience with relatively low ad rates. You're looking at a small market segment either geographically or by the consumer's special interests.

Classified Ads - Weekly newspapers, metropolitan dailies, national magazines. Readers in these areas may not be looking for your product, but your ad will be seen by individuals who are looking for specific information. On that note, classified ads need to be written in a clear and simple manner. Only feature one product/service per ad. If you offer more than one product, consider running a separate ad for each product you want featured.

Coupon Mailers - You've probably received a package of these at some point. They contain cards advertising several different companies and their products. These are also known as "card decks" and reduce the cost of mailing from 34 to 40 cents all the way down to about 5 cents per piece.

Handbills and Fliers - While you may not want to distribute handbills on the street yourself, you can hire a high school or college student to do the grunt work for you. There are even distribution services you can hire at a low cost to pass these handbills out. You'll still save money on your advertising and it only takes one customer to make up for the cost. You can also post fliers on bulletin boards, hang ads on doorknobs and pass out your promotional materials in office buildings.
Another place you might want to consider distributing these materials is at a trade show for your specific industry. Think of all the targeted prospects that are right there at your fingertips!

Bargain Broadcasting - If you're looking to hit the airwaves, you can find some good deals on radio, your local TV stations and even cable. But you have to make sure you're reaching prospects, your target market.

Co-op Advertising - A lot of companies overlook one of the easiest ways to get your name out there. Co-op advertising is a program in which several businesses take in the expense of advertising by advertising together.
Say you're in the interior decorating business. You can co-op with furniture companies, carpet dealers, etc., to reduce your advertising cost and increase your exposure.
Advertising doesn't have to be expensive to be effective. It can make or break your business...but it doesn't have to break your bank account in the process.

Public Relations: (definition) The art of making good works well known. The purpose of PR is to make you, your company, it’s actions, products or services well known, accepted and understood. Effective PR assists the company to exist in a favorable climate so that it can expand, prosper and be viable.

Press Release or News Release or Media Release
Definition: Newsworthy articles intended to be published in the media for the purpose of showcasing a company's activities to the public or its market.
It’s a PR world! You read papers, books and watch TV and it’s not a very nice world. Well, that’s PR at work. PR is a partially developed technique of creating states of mind in different types or audiences or publics.

Agreement with one’s message is what the PR is seeking to achieve. Thus the message must compare to the personal experiences of the audience. So PR becomes the technique of communicating an acceptable truth – and which will attain the desirable result.

PR is an activity concerned with presentation and audience. When someone writes a news release it is slanted for the publication that reaches a type of audience and writes for that audience.

And again that is where marketing research comes into play with surveys.
Step 1. You need to survey for the public [you have to find out who your public is].
Step 2. You then survey that public with regard to the product or service. [So you know what that public needs, wants and thinks.]

Unfortunately PR is abused. Examples of how PR shapes how we think...
Example 1. Public relations firms and corporations have seized upon a slick new way of getting you to buy what they have to sell: Let you hear it from a neutral "third party," like a professor or a pediatrician or a soccer mom or a watchdog group. The problem is, these third parties are usually anything but neutral. They have been handpicked, cultivated, and meticulously packaged to make you believe what they have to say--preferably in an "objective" format like a news show or a letter to the editor. And in some cases, they have been paid handsomely for their "opinions."

Example 2. You think that nonprofit organizations just give away their stamps of approval on products? Bristol-Myers Squibb paid $600,000 to the American Heart Association for the right to display AHA's name and logo in ads for its cholesterol-lowering drug Pravachol. Smith Kline Beecham paid the American Cancer Society $1 million for the right to use its logo in ads for Beecham's Nicoderm CQ and Nicorette anti-smoking ads.

"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed. He who molds public opinion is greater than he who enacts laws." -- President Abraham Lincoln

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." -- William Casey, CIA Director (first staff meeting, 1981)

Andrew Hayward, now top man at CBS News, told Goldberg after the 1996 piece that "of course, the networks tilt left", but that if Goldberg ever quoted him as saying that, he would deny it.

In 1996, veteran CBS News reporter and producer Bernie Goldberg committed the unpardonable sin of publicly mentioning the issue of liberal bias in the media. For that he became persona non grata at CBS. In 223 pages of his book, "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News" (Regnery), Goldberg tells how friends and colleagues turned on him, from junior CBS reporters all the way to Dan Rather. But much more than that, he exposes a bias so uniform and overwhelming that it permeates every news story we hear and read- and so entrenched and deep rooted that the networks themselves don't even recognize it.

Keep in mind that not all the news you hear is true but some of the Press Releases may be.

Hope you find this useful.
~Eileen Batson

Info for this was gleaned from a variety of sources over many years of experience, study and workshops.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Well Do You Know the Constitution?

From “Straight Talk” - a weekly commentary written by Chip Wood

September 17th, is Constitution Day - a day specifically designated by an act of Congress when Americans are supposed to honor the remarkable document that created our system of government. The date was chosen because the Constitution was approved at the original Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787.

The act that created Constitution Day mandates that all publicly funded educational institutions provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on that day. Let’s see how well the schools have done their job. Ask a recent high school or college graduate to take the following brief quiz. I’ll be interested to hear how many of the 25 questions he or she answers correctly.

And be sure to take the quiz yourself, too. Even if you score 100%, it’s good to be reminded of some of the fundamental principles that our country was founded on.

1. Has the Constitution always guided our country?
1. No. Originally the nation functioned under the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation. Eleven years after the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution was written, agreed to, and sent to the states for ratification. When ratified by nine states (as the document itself prescribed), the Constitution was declared to be the new governmental system. That occurred on September 13, 1788. The new government was ordered to be convened on March 4, 1789.

2. What are the three branches of government named in the Constitution?
2. Legislative, Executive and Judicial.

3. Does the Constitution allow the Supreme Court to make law?
3. No. The very first sentence in the Constitution states: "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States….” Any Supreme Court decision is the law of the case that binds only the plaintiff and the defendant. The meaning of the word “all” has not been changed.

4. Does the Constitution empower the President to make law?
4. No. Executive Orders issued by the President that bind the entire nation are illicit because, as noted above, “All legislative powers” are possessed by Congress. An Executive Order that binds only the employees of the federal government (such as granting a holiday) is proper because the President should be considered to be the holder of power much like that possessed by the CEO of a company. But the entire nation is not in the employ of the President. The President does have a role in lawmaking with his possession of a veto. He can veto a measure approved by Congress (which can be overturned by a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress), or simply allow it to become law by doing nothing within 10 days, “Sundays excepted.”

5. Does the Constitution give the federal government any power in the field of education?
5. No. The Constitution contains no mention of any power “herein granted” in the field of education.

6. Where in the Constitution is there authorization to dispense foreign aid?
6. No such authorization appears in the Constitution.

7. Does the Constitution mandate a minimum age for a Senator?
7. Yes. To be a senator, one must be 30 years of age. He must also be nine years a citizen of the United States and an inhabitant of the state he will serve as a senator.

8. What are the Constitutional requirements for a person to be President?
8. A President must be a natural-born citizen (not an immigrant who became a citizen), must be 35 years of age, and must have lived in the United States at least 14 years.

9. Did the Constitution give the federal government power to create a bank?
9. No. Congress was granted power to “coin money,” meaning it was to have power to create a mint where precious metal could be stamped into coinage of fixed size, weight and purity. There is no constitutional authority for the federal government to have created the Federal Reserve.

10. Can the provisions of a treaty supersede the Constitution?
10. Absolutely not. Thomas Jefferson responded to those who consider treaty-making power to be “boundless” by stating, “If it is, then we have no Constitution.”

11. Does the Constitution allow a President to take the nation into war?
11. It does not. The sole power to declare the nation at war is possessed by Congress. Congress last used this power at the beginning of World War II when war was declared on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Germany declared war on the U.S. the next day.) A congressional vote to authorize the President to enforce UN Security Council resolutions should never be considered a substitute for a declaration of war.

12. Can you name any of the four crimes mentioned in the Constitution?
12. The four crimes mentioned are: Treason, bribery, piracy and counterfeiting.

13. Should the Bill of Rights be considered part of the original Constitution?
13. Many do hold that view because if the promise to add a Bill of Rights had not been made during the ratification process, some states would not have ratified the Constitution.

14. According to the Constitution, how can a President and other national officers be removed from office?
14. The President and other high officers of the federal government can be impeached by a majority in the House and tried by the Senate. Impeachment does not constitute removal; it should be considered the equivalent of an indictment that must be followed by a trial. Two-thirds of the senators “present” must approve removal at the subsequent trial to effect removal.

15. What authority does the Constitution give to the Vice President?
15. The Vice President stands ready to take the office of President if a president shall die or become incapacitated (as defined in the 25th Amendment). He is also the President of the Senate and has the power to break a tie vote should one occur.

16. How many amendments have been added to the Constitution?
16. There are 27. The first ten (the Bill of Rights) can be considered part of the original Constitution. Amendment 18 was repealed by Amendment 21. This means that, in 220 years, only 15 other amendments have been added. The process was deliberately made difficult to keep anything dangerous or silly from being added to the Constitution in the heat of passion.

17. How is an amendment added to the Constitution?
17. Congress can propose an amendment when two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to do so. Any proposed amendment must then by ratified by the legislature or a convention in three-quarters of the states. Amendments can also be proposed by a federal constitutional convention called by two-thirds of the states. Any amendment arising from a constitutional convention must also be ratified by the legislature or a convention in three-quarters of the states.

18. Does the Constitution say anything about illegal immigration?
18. Not directly. But Article IV, Section 4 assigns to the federal government the duty “to protect each of them [the states] from invasion.” It does not specify that the invasion must be military. When 20 million enter our nation illegally, it is an invasion that should be repelled by the federal government.

19. What is the process mentioned in the Constitution for adding new states to the union?
19. By a majority vote in each House of Congress, a new state can be added to the union. This was done twice in 1958 to welcome Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states.

20. Is the term of a President limited by the Constitution?
20. Yes. In 1951, Amendment 22 was added to the Constitution to limit any president to two terms. The only president who served longer than two terms was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who held office during a fourth four-year term. He died in April 1945 shortly after beginning his 13th year in office.

21. Which part of the federal government holds “the power of the purse”?
21. The House of Representatives. Article I, Section 7 states: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives….” If a majority in the House (218 of its 435 members) refuses to originate a bill to raise revenue for any particular purpose, no funds can be raised for that purpose.

22. Does the Constitution provide a method for expelling a member of Congress?
22. Two-thirds of each house has the authority to expel any of its members for cause even though the member has been elected by voters.

23. What does the Constitution say about financing an army and a navy?
23. Congress can raise an army but “no appropriation of money” to fund it shall be for longer than two years. And Congress can provide for a navy without that same restriction regarding funding. Why? The men who wrote the Constitution feared the possibility that a standing army housed within the nation might arise and seek to take power. But they did not fear that a navy would try to do so, because a navy and its weaponry did not reside within the nation, only at sea or at coastal seaports.

24. How many times is the word “democracy” mentioned in the Constitution?
24. The word “democracy” does not appear in the Constitution. Our nation is a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy. The Founders feared Democracy (unrestricted rule by majority) and favored a Republic (rule of law where the law limits the government). James Madison wrote: “…. Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

25. Does the Bill of Rights grant the people free speech, freedom of the press, the right to possess a weapon, etc?
25. No. The Declaration of Independence, which provides the philosophical base of our nation, states very clearly that our rights are granted to us by our “Creator.”
The various rights noted in the Bill of Rights were not granted by government. The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to prevent the federal government from suspending any of those God-given rights, including the right to possess a weapon. Those who claim “Second Amendment rights,” for instance, make a big mistake with such a statement. If the right is granted by the Second Amendment, meaning by government, it can be taken away by government. If the right is granted by God, only He can take it away.

It wasn’t as easy as you thought it would be, was it?
What would this country be like if the Constitution were fully and honestly enforced today? I hope some day we’ll come a lot closer to finding out than we are today.

Straight Talk is a weekly commentary written by Chip Wood. For many years Chip was the host of an award-winning radio talk show in Atlanta, Georgia.� He is the founder of Soundview Publications and serves as an MC at several investment conferences.� His weekly rants and raves are free for the asking at To ask a question or to comment on something you've read in Straight Talk, please write to

Copyright 2008 Soundview Communications, Inc.

Read the Constitution and other documents at and

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Your Actions Today Determine Your Future by Grant Cardone

What you do today, not yesterday, is what will determine how you live your life tomorrow. Its unfortunate that so many people spend time regretting yesterday, stewing over it, planning their life around it when its over, gone, finished! Yesterday in no way can impact tomorrow. "Yesterdays" only ruin your ability to create a tomorrow.

read more | digg story

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Judges Announced for NCSC Annual Song Contest

NCSC presents their 11th Annual Song Contest. Songwriters from across the world have entered the contest to win over $6000 in cash and prizes. Entry deadline is Sept 30,2008.

Raleigh,NC (August 11,2008) – The entries for the North Carolina Songwriters Co-op (NCSC) song contest have been pouring in from Indie songwriters since the contest was announced. Entries are limited to the first 250 submissions of two songs each.

"New to the judging panel for this year's song contest is Harriet Schock, Platinum award-winning songwriter." said Jon Batson ASCAP member and Judging Director.

Judges for this year’s contest are:

Catesby Jones: (Wilmington, NC) Hit Singer/Songwriter;Penned songs for several Nashville publishing companies including hits recorded by Travis Tritt "Country Club" and Chet Atkins "Read My Licks."

Harriet Schock: (Los Angeles, CA) Platinum award-winning songwriter, national recording artist, and songwriting instructor. She wrote Helen Reddy's hit song "Ain't No Way to Treat A Lady." Harriet just finished shooting Henry Jaglom's new film "Irene in Time." Harriet and her whole band are on camera performing her songs. Harriet also provided music for the highly acclaimed Jaglom film "Hollywood Dreams."

Linne Black: (Winston–Salem, NC) Co-owner of Pitchy Women Music and Pitchy Women Pluggers; Member of The Nashville Songwriters Association International and Coordinator of NSAI Winston-Salem; Voting member of National Academy of Recording Arts; Member of BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.); and hit songwriter "If I Could Just See You Now" (Alabama)

Michael Graziano: (Raleigh, NC) - Recording Studio Owner, TV Producer/ Director;

Philip van Vleck: (Durham, NC) - Music Writer/Critic for Billboard, Dirty Linen and the Durham Herald-Sun.

Songs are judged on originality, lyrics, melody and composition

Details and entry rules for the contest are online at and the NCSC website

About NCSC:
North Carolina Songwriters Cooperative is a non-profit organization dedicated to the support and promotion of songwriters PO Box 335 Carrboro, NC 27510

Eileen Batson
Batson Group Marketing and PR
Raleigh, NC


Sunday, August 17, 2008

The New Recipe for Search Engine Ranking

The New Recipe for Search Engine Ranking
By John Eberhard

One of the characteristics of the web is that it is constantly changing. What may have worked great two years ago may be a dismal failure today.

After doing some extensive research I have come up with what I think is the best recipe for search engine success today. This is after reading these sources, among others:

The Unfair Advantage Book on Winning the Search Engine Wars
By Planet Ocean Communications

The New Rules of Marketing & PR
By David Meerman Scott

Tiffany Dow’s Blog

Videos and eBooks
by Stompernet

Following the experiences of my client Stan Dubin

So here goes on the new recipe:

Keyword Selection and SEO
For gaining good organic (not paid through Google AdWords) position on the search engines, it is vital to find keywords with decent traffic, but without high competition. This is a process of mining not for the obvious choices, but for undiscovered gold.

Yahoo Search Marketing, formerly Overture, used to have a free search term suggestion tool that was the best tool on the web. Unfortunately, they took the tool down recently, or sometimes it works but it has old data.
My tool of choice that has replaced this is the free search term tool from Trellian:
It has a limit to how many searches you can do per day.

Another valuable tool is Wordtracker.
This is an online paid service ($60 per month). I’m not crazy about this tool but it does give you an invaluable insight into the value of a keyword, which it calls the KEI, or Keyword Efficiency Index. This is a score (the higher the better) that is based on a high number of monthly searches, and a low number of web sites competing for that keyword. This is how you can find gold.

Once you know what the best keywords are for you to work on, which is based on their having some decent traffic but low competing sites, then it’s time for search engine optimization. This involves:

Putting the keywords appropriate to your pages into the meta-tag keyword block
Putting the keywords into the headlines
Putting the keywords into the page title and the “meta title,” which is what shows up as the title for your page, underlined in blue, when the page comes up on the search engines
Putting the keywords into the text on the page
Putting the keywords into alt tags, which are text tags attached to graphic images on the page. These show up when you mouse over the graphic and leave the mouse there.

Anchor Text
In earlier articles I have covered the fact that even more important than anything you do on your site, it is vital for you to have links to your site coming from other sites. Google considers this the most important criteria in ranking your site.

According to the Planet Ocean book, THE most valuable thing that you can have in terms of raising your rankings in search engines is called “Anchor Text.” This means a keyword, let’s say “affordable SEO,” that appears on another web site, and where that text is underlined in blue and linked to your site. If the service that you delivered was affordable SEO, and a number of other sites had the words “Affordable SEO” and that text was linked back to your site, that would be the most valuable thing that you could have in terms of raising your ranking in the search engines for the keyword “affordable SEO.”

So the trick is building up links to your site, not just with your web site address, but with anchor text that includes one of the keywords you are working to get rankings for.

In the past, most search engine marketing experts did what was called reciprocal link building, where you link to another web site and they link to you, usually on a “links” page. And most search engine marketing experts today still recommend this as their core method of building links with anchor text. This method has slowly been dying out for a year or two, and even those experts who recommend it will qualify and say it should not be more than a certain percentage of your link building actions.

Then in May 2008, Google changed its algorithm again and the word on the street now is that the new algorithm gives much less credit to links that are reciprocal.

So how does one get anchor text links built up to his web site, without using reciprocal link building?

Content Hubs with Anchor Text
We have been submitting articles to content hubs, also called article directories, for over two years. We have built thousands upon thousands of links to client web sites through this technique. The problem was that you could just get your web site URL into the articles, you couldn’t put in anchor text. So it built up links, but not the most valuable kind of links.

Until now.

We have done research and have listed out a fair selection of high Page Rank content hubs that allow anchor text links into the articles. It’s a new ballgame with content hubs.

I’m a relative latecomer in the blogosphere, and was finally convinced of the necessity of blogging by my client Stan Dubin, whose blog has gained excellent ranking on some long tail keywords by putting the keywords prominently into his blog posts, often in the title.

I have since started two blogs myself and am now working closely with clients on their blog activities.

One of the benefits of blogs is that you can put in, wouldn’t you know it, anchor text. You can use keywords in your posts and then link those keywords back to appropriate pages on your web site. My thought on this is that this works best if your blog URL is a different one from your main site.

Another advantage of blogs is that there is a group of search engines specifically geared to blogs and if you notify them (called “pinging”) after you make a post, the new post gets into the blog search engines and then into the regular search engines.

And when you set up your blog, put up links on it, to your other web sites and blogs, using – guess what - anchor text.

Optimized News Releases
In his ground-breaking book The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott talks about the new rules of PR, including the swelling popularity of news releases on the web and how these can be used to talk directly to customers and potential customers, not just be directed at media people.

The key is to write a press release that is keyword rich, put it up on your site, or on a blog (my thinking is putting them on a separate blog just for your releases is better – that’s what I am doing now), and also post it on several online PR sites. These PR sites will then get it into big news sites like Google News.

And of course, when you post the release on your blog, don’t forget to add – you got it – anchor text. And some of the PR sites will allow you to add anchor text as well, usually for a fee.
My thinking on the releases is the best frequency is to do them once a week. David Meerman Scott says to find ways to write and send out releases all the time., and Tiffany Dow’s blog recommend setting up pages on Each page should be on one specific topic, and can feature one article or multiple articles on that topic, videos, and links to your sites and other site of interest. Link to each of your sites that are on-topic to the page, to all your blogs, and to other pages that you set up which I’ll describe next. And would you be surprised to know that your links can be in the form of anchor text?

Anyway, every time you write a new article you should put it up as a HubPages page.

Facebook Page
I’ve become quite a fan of Facebook, and have now gotten into creating “Pages” on Facebook. These are pages that are devoted to promoting a business, and can have descriptive text, contact info, links to your sites and blogs, links to your other pages of interest such as your pages, videos, and photos. You can ask all your friends on Facebook to join as a fan, and once they do that you can send out information to them on a regular basis, such as sending out new articles, posting new videos, pictures relating to your business, and so on.

Squiddoo is another site similar to HubPages where you put up what are called “lenses.” Treat the same as Rinse and repeat.

Social Bookmarking
Now that you’ve created articles on your site, posts on your blog, news releases either on your site or on your blog, pages on Facebook, pages on, and lenses on Squiddoo, all with anchor text and all linking around to one another, the next step is to join Digg and and start bookmarking each page and each new post or article. This adds another link to each of these pages and allows people to find your articles or sites or posts through searching on these sites.

So that’s the new best recipe as far as I can see today. By doing all these things, you can be proactive. You don’t have to take the idiotic approach that Google recommends and write good content and then wait for people to find it and link to it. You’re in control. You create the content. You put it up all over the place. You create the anchor text. You create the rankings. Let’s get to work!

My thanks to John Eberhard for an outstanding write-up
Los Angeles, CA
See John's Blog: "Real Web Marketing Blog"

The Cure for False Virus Alert Emails

Hello Folks,
I received a message from my friend JoJo in LA and wanted to pass this on.

Over the last month (and indeed, over the last many years !), I have gotten many "Urgent! Virus Alert!" e-mails from many people, warning me that my entire hard drive will be erased and so on. In each case, the e-mails that were forwarded to me contained the line "This has been checked on!" ( is one of several informational web sites that provide information on whether various e-mails that are circulating are true or false/hoaxes.)

I beseech all of you who, in your desire to be of help, pass on such reports: CHECK THEM OUT FOR YOURSELF FIRST. Do not just blindly accept what the last person sent you (who also blindly accepted it, because they knew the person who sent it to them, who also blindly accepted it, and so on, for a chain going back literally THOUSANDS of e-mails).

There are many sites that can be checked. is probably the most well-known. It is very simple. For example, if you receive a report that there is an "invitation" e-mail regarding the Olympics that will wipe your hard drive, just go to Snopes and search for the word "invitation" (without the quotes). Up comes a link to a page telling you all about this false report.

You could even just search on Google, for example, for the words "invitation olympic" (without the quotes). The first item on the results page is a link to's page telling you how this is a complete false report. If you instead searched on Google for the words "invitation olympic hoax" (without the quotes), this is even a more specific search, and up will come 109,000 sites, each one verifying that this supposed virus is actually a totally false report.

See how easy this is!

So, BEFORE YOU FORWARD ALARMING REPORTS, VERIFY THEM YOURSELF. You can LITERALLY save MILLIONS of people from being upset for no reason, just by you, yourself, not sending on one more alarming report.

Things spread like wildfire on the internet.

We can be responsible and help calm things down, just by simply having a look ourselves at the data and verifying it before speading it to the rest of the planet.

~ Eileen

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

TeenScreen Lawsuit Advances: Federal Court Affirms Family’s Right to Sue School for Subjecting Teen to Mental Health Test Without Parental Consent

For those of you who have bought into the "TeenScreen is a good thing propaganda" read on...

Below is the press release from the Rutherford Institute in Charlottesville, VA

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—A federal court has given the green light to a civil rights lawsuit filed by Rutherford Institute attorneys in defense of a 15-year-old Indiana student who was subjected by school officials to a controversial mental health examination without the knowledge or consent of her parents.

In ruling that the lawsuit filed on behalf of Chelsea Rhoades and her parents, Teresa and Michael, may proceed to trial, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana upheld the claims that the local school district deprived the Rhoades family of their federal constitutional rights to family integrity and privacy when it subjected Chelsea to the “TeenScreen” examination. A copy of the lawsuit is available at

"This ruling rightly recognizes that parents have an intrinsic right to control their children’s education, as well as safeguard their mental and physical well-being,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute.

On December 7, 2004, Chelsea Rhoades, a student at Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., was subjected to a mental health examination known as “TeenScreen” by personnel with the Madison Center for Children, a local mental health center. The mental health exam consisted of questions seeking only a “yes” or “no” answer, with no opportunity to explain or offer an alternative response. Only students with an opt-out slip were excused from taking the exam. All other students were divided into groups of 10-15, herded into classrooms and placed in front of computers.

After completing the examination and being escorted into a private hallway by an employee of Madison Center, Chelsea was informed that, based on her responses that she liked to clean and didn’t like to party very much, she suffered from at least two mental health problems, obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder. Chelsea was also told that if her condition worsened, her mother should take her to the Madison Center for treatment.

According to Chelsea, a majority of the students who were subjected to the TeenScreen exam were also told they were suffering from some sort of mental or social “disorder.” Chelsea’s parents were not informed about the mental health screening exam until after it had taken place, when Chelsea spoke to them about her so-called diagnosis.

In September 2005, Rutherford Institute attorneys filed suit in federal district court on behalf of the Rhoades family, charging that school officials violated Chelsea’s constitutional right to be free from unnecessary intrusions by the state. In rejecting the school district’s attempt to have the case dismissed, the court also ruled that the school is liable for the false diagnosis of mental illness that was given to Chelsea.

Mental health screening exams like TeenScreen have increasingly been adopted by schools in 43 states, reportedly as part of an effort to identify students with mental health problems or at-risk tendencies for suicide that cannot be seen outwardly. However, while federal and state law generally requires that parents grant written consent in order for their children to take mental health screening exams, some schools had relied on “passive consent” forms in order to administer the exams.

Passive consent requires parents to return a form only if they do not want their child to participate in the screening. However, according to the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, as well as Indiana state law, schools are required to obtain “written parental consent” before engaging in such programs as mental health screening.

Founded in 1982 by constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute is an international, nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights.

The Rutherford Institute Post Office Box 7482 Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482
Phone: 434-978-3888 (8:30 AM - 5:00 PM) Fax: 434-978-1789

Sign the Against TeenScreen Petition:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Is Your Child a Target in Today’s Education System?

Is resistance futile? That’s the question concerned parents across the country are asking with the rollout of a seemingly beneficial program called TeenScreen.

If you are not up on the latest way to "help" our young people, this is it in a nutshell. TeenScreen is a program developed by Columbia University’s Child Psychiatry Research Department. Their goal is to screen every school-aged child before graduation for suicide and "mental disorders" using a computer survey and then recommending those that are considered "at risk" for "treatment."

The Truth Behind TeenScreen
What TeenScreen really is, is a very controversial, unworkable, and unscientific suicide screening program developed by psychiatrist David Shaffer. It is obvious that psychiatric drug manufacturers are very interested in this program because it will funnel more customers to them - our children.

Shaffer himself admits that TeenScreen identifies "a whole bunch of kids who aren’t really suicidal, so you get a lot of false-positives." This means that a whole bunch of kids with nothing at all wrong with them, will be interrogated by mental health clinicians to find out what's "wrong".

TeenScreen's goal is to screen every child in the United States before they graduate from high school. The pharmaceutical companies love this, because it mean thousands and thousands of more kids on psychiatric drugs (the ones with the FDA Black Box warnings) and labeled for life with a "mental illness."

How Kids are Tested, Labeled and Drugged
A simple test is given to students and the results are scored using a screening checklist based on "symptoms", to determine what "disorders" the student is manifesting. These symptoms are the sole basis for any diagnosis of mental disease. The screening questions are specifically geared to match criteria from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth edition (DSM- IV), a manual that comprises all the "symptoms of and treatments for 297 mental diseases" that were voted into existence by the American Psychiatric Association.

Strong evidence suggests that the intended treatment for those so labeled is psychiatric drugging, using antidepressants and mood-altering drugs such as Ritalin, Xanax, Celexa, Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Thorazine, Luvox and other similar drugs which are known by the FDA (and the pharmaceutical companies) to cause depression, violence, suicide and homicide. Kids involved in the horrific shool shooting were found to be prescribed and taking these types of drugs.

In a recent survey of child psychiatrists it was discovered that 9 out of 10 children in their care were on at least one of these or similar drugs. Despite the recent FDA "black box" warnings, it is not unusual for a child to be put on two or more psychotropic antidepressant drugs — drugs that the FDA says can trigger suicidal thoughts. Do you want your child to be on these drugs with their potentially deadly side-effects?

What is the reason for these psychiatric screenings? The psychiatrists will say it's to prevent teen suicide and violence. Look at the questions being asked and see if you think it serves that purpose. Also look at what will happen to your child once someone reviews your child's answers. How would you fare on the test?

You could probably find out what your teen is thinking by talking with them. You say they won't talk? Try going away to someplace away from the city and people and cell phones for a weekend, just you and them and acknowledge who they are and listen to them. Be interested in them, not in shaping their behaviour, just in knowing who they are. Listen, do not advise, or correct, or disapprove, just listen and let them know that they were heard.

It is important to know that the teens who commit mass murders are teens who were placed on psychiatric drug before they had the desire and means to kill. The side effect of the mental drug was homicidal tendencies. These drugs do more harm than good.

TeenScreen Violates Federal Law by Using "Passive Consent" on Parental Consent Forms
TeenScreen is very tight-lipped on the screening materials and the questions they ask students. Why is this? This is actually against the law called the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment.

The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment
Parents need to know this Federal law exists (commonly referred to as PPRA). It says you have a right to inspect those questions and materials before consenting to any screening of your child and that this screening requires written parental consent. Even so, in a TeenScreen newsletter they discuss making screening a matter of the schools curriculum as a method to bypass this law and use passive consent instead. This is a purposeful method of avoiding parental complaints against their children receiving highly controversial and potentially dangerous psychiatric testing and drugging.

Watch Out for "passive consent"
In some areas, TeenScreen currently uses what they call "passive consent" or "opt-out consent", which requires no written parental approval to screen their child. Instead, a passive consent form is sent home to parents with the child and if they don't return it, signed by their parents, TeenScreen considers that the parents approve. But what if a parent never sees the form? What if the child never delivers it?

Leslie McGuire, TeenScreen’s Co-Director, says: "Unless we hear from you that we can't screen your child we assume we have your permission and we're gonna' screen them." TeenScreen officials discovered that using (illegal) passive consent boosted the number of teens to be tested from 50% to over 95%.

Is Resistance Futile?
The answer is a resounding NO. But it is clear the "game is afoot" and "tag - you’re it" is the game being played on an unsuspecting public.

Thanks to the following web sites for the information in this article.

The Great and Powerful Oz - 0 ..... Homeschooling - 1

For those of you who might have heard something about a recent court case in California regarding the legality of homeschooling in California, here is the site that gives the true and up to the minute information.

In a nutshell, here is what was ruled on August 8, 2008:
"Today's court ruling held that (1) California statutes permit home schooling as a species of private school education; and (2) the statutory permission to home school may constitutionally be overridden in order to protect the safety of a child who has been declared a dependent. Homeschooling, therefore, remains a legal educational option in California. "

This is a big win for the white hats. I don't know about you, but the question that looms large to me is "Why is the 'Great and Powerful Oz' fighting so hard to make homeschooling illegal?"

Oh wait, of course! They (educrats, Big Pharma and those who are supported by them), don't want a bunch of independent thinkers around. If they did actually want intelligent free-thinkers, TeenScreen would not exist. See my post: Is your child a target in today’s education system?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Jon and Eileen Show

Folks always seem to want to know what we are up to since leaving Los Angeles. Here is a quick update on what's happening here in Raleigh, NC on what I call "The Jon and Eileen Show."


Jon is busy writing his next story/novel? We'll see where it goes.

Nina Knows the Night is at our editor Alice Osborn. NKTK follows the adventures of Nina Richardson a mild-mannered law school dropout who becomes a kick-butt heroine after innocently acquiring a metal case filled with military-like weapons. Determined to knock out the growing crime in her formerly posh-turned-run-down urban neighborhood she discovers her superpowers to be her own inner-strength and purpose.

The Trasaron Chronicles is now available and will be on Amazon and others sites soon. This character driven sci-fi novel explores survival, interpersonal relationships and quality of life when many of Earth's population are displaced elsewhere. Always riveting and often humorous, Trasaron captivates the reader in an ever-evolving tale set on an inhospitable world. $24.95 + $5.00 S&H in the USA BUY NOW

JON BATSON: THE PUBLISHER - Midnight Whistler Publishers

He is working with Beverly Eakman and her latest book, Walking Targets. She has been invited to speak at a number of conferences and the books and DVDs are selling well. $24.95 + $5.00 S&H in the USA BUY NOW


Jon is entertaining folks at the retirement facilities with songs they remember of the 30's and 40's; he did the Festival of the Eno, is booked to sing at the Carrboro Festival the end of September as well as some local gigs. Next one is Saturday August 9 at the
Gulf Rim Cafe in Hillsborough. He is also booking talent for the NCSC Summer Showcase there.

EILEEN BATSON: Batson Group Marketing and PR
Walking Targets - Just penned a deal with The Hollywood Education & Literacy Project in Miami with Barbie Rivera H.E.L.P. Miami- They are using the sale of the book as a fundraiser. Also a putting together a deal with a successful tutoring group in Burbank and a chiropractor to carry the book.
NC Songwriting Contest - Chose this year to help promote it. Last year I was the Director and am unable to put in the time for that. Deadline is September 30th,

New Clients for PR - White Pear - Delicious Bath and Body Products, Design Mill Faux Finish Studio, Alice Osborn - Writer/Seminarist, Crowley4Carpets, Fresh Faces by Lauren, Coffee and Contacts their upcoming Lunch and Learns with Susan Hite August 21st and Barbara Hemphill October 9th.

I have expanded my line of product offering to include a variety of top-of-the-line home care products; skincare, anti-aging solutions and cosmetics; and supplements - the only global vitamin and mineral brand to grow, harvest, and process plants on its own certified organic farms. I am continuing to focus on my gift program for individuals and busineses, so whatever you need, let me know. Use referral # 1645629


This is an awesome group of women in business started by Jeanne Moyer (EcoBroker) and Jean Hedges (author and mortgage broker). We now have eight chapters in North Carolina and growing. I organize the one that meets at the Royal Bean on Thursdays. Check us out at

Song Contest Call for Entries

Song Contest Call for Entries: North Carolina Songwriters Co-op Annual Song Contest

NCSC presents their 11th Annual Song Contest. Songwriters from across the world can enter online with or mail their entries to NCSC. Deadline is Sept 30,2008.

PRLog (Press Release) – Aug 9, 2008 – Raleigh,NC - The North Carolina Songwriters Co-op has launched it's 11th Annual Songwriting Competition. Songwriters, Bands and Musicians are able to enter a contest that is aimed at independent songwriters who have received less than $10,000 in royalties. Songs are to be judged on originality, lyrics, melody and composition.

Entries are limited to the first 250 submissions of two songs each. Dwight Sullivan, coordinator for the organization stated, “ NCSC is a non-profit group of songwriters supporting songwriters and the art of songwriting. We open our contest to many genres of music to give everyone an opportunity.”

Returning sponsors include Sam Ash Music, Oasis CD, Taxi, GHS Strings, Levy’s Leathers, the Curran Foundation, The Music Loft of Carrboro, Sonicbids, Batson Group Marketing and PR and Guild Master Graphics. A special package deal between NCSC and Sonicbids includes a six-month subscription to Sonicbids as well as membership in NCSC with each contest entry.

New sponsors include Awesome Websites, The Beat Magazine, Coffeehouse Tour, GoGirls Music, and the Gulf Rim Café. By becoming a sponsor, businesses, organizations and individuals align themselves with a statewide cooperative with a history and reputation for producing a quality contest.

This year the board members decided to forgo the live performance pre-requisite and offer cash as well as prizes to the three top winners and five finalists. “Everyone is feeling the hit of high gas prices. Many touring musicians have had to cancel shows. Even getting to local gigs can be a strain on the wallet.” commented long-time award-winning songwriter and ASCAP member Jon Batson.

Judges for this year’s contest are industry professionals:
Catesby Jones: Hit Singer/Songwriter;Penned songs for several Nashville publishing companies including hits recorded by Travis Tritt "Country Club" and Chet Atkins "Read My Licks."
Harriet Schock: Platinum Award-Winning Songwriter. National Recording Artist, and Songwriting Instructor. She wrote Helen Reddy's hit song "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady." Harriet just finished shooting Henry Jaglom's new film "Irene In Time." Harriet and her whole band are on camera performing her songs. Harriet also provided music for the highly acclaimed Jaglom film "Hollywood Dreams."
Linne Black: Co-owner of Pitchy Women Music and Pitchy Women Pluggers; Member of The Nashville Songwriters Association International and Coordinator of NSAI Winston-Salem; Voting member of National Academy of Recording Arts; Member of BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.); and hit songwriter "If I Could Just See You Now" (Alabama)
Michael Graziano: Recording Studio Owner, TV Producer/ Director;
Philip van Vleck: Music Writer/Critic for Billboard, Dirty Linen and the Durham Herald-Sun.

Details and entry rules for the contest are online at and the NCSC website

About NCSC: North Carolina Songwriters Cooperative is a non-profit organization dedicated to the support and promotion of songwriters. NCSC assists new and established songwriters by providing a nurturing, supportive environment, resources for self promotion/ marketing information, and holding workshops designed to enhance songwriting and performance skills. PO Box 335 Carrboro, NC 27510

Eileen Batson
Batson Group Marketing and PR
Raleigh, NC

Pete Leary
Guildmaster Graphics

# # #

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Confessions of a frugal bride? Try Miserly!

I read Sue Stocks’ story "Confessions of a frugal bride" this morning in the News & Observer of how she came in well under the $28,000 average cost of weddings. She’d find me downright miserly.

After 5 years of living together in Los Angeles, Jon Batson and I married in October of 1994, six months after making the decision to make the leap.

Both being artsy folks, me graphic design with interior design and theatre background and he a singer-songwriter with film, TV and theatre background, we knew lots of talented people. Once the announcement was made friends literally flocked to help and be a part of our ceremony.

Here’s how it went…

First Challenge - Finding a place outdoors in Los Angeles with a waterfall that did not want all the money we could make in our lifetime. Amazingly we found
Pickwick Gardens in Burbank. We met with the ceremony coordinator, checked out the facility and it was perfect for us. Outside, gardens, flowers, waterfall, space for the rehearsal dinner, floral arrangements, bridal lounge (including champagne), canopy, chairs for 200 guests - a great package for $600. That’s right there are no missing zeros $600.

I decided on an eggshell and burgundy/mauve color scheme and went to work. Marti, one of my best friends in LA is an event planner so she was a great help. We decided to cover the poles holding the canopy in silk flowers wrapped around cream-colored tulle to add color and drama. The tulle was cheap, cheap , cheap especially at the wholesale fabric place downtown. For the flowers I scoured the local craft store, found what I wanted, read the label to determine the company they came from, placed an order and got them wholesale.

I picked a dress that fit the occasion and could be worn easily at another formal event. Jon already owned a tux as did all the groomsmen – remember this was LA. The gals liked and looked beautiful in their multi-use burgundy dresses from the supplier in the garment district. Gifts for the wedding party folks I purchased wholesale as well – silver boxes for the ladies, and silver key chains for the guys.

We sent out the invites (postage was only 29 cents back then). At their own expense family flew in from the east coast for the big event and stayed at the hotel near the Media Center in rooms I had negotiated down to the big convention rate. Ok, so I knew the events manager.

The rehearsal dinner was a blast. There were 30 of us - family and friends. At one point I noticed my mom staring at one of the guests I asked her about it and she commented that he looked so familiar. I told her it was an actor friend of ours Michael Fairman. Dad picked up the tab, which was an unexpected boon.

The day of the wedding Marti zipped over to the flower mart for my bouquet of dendrobiun orchids, bridesmaids flowers, boutonnières and the corsage for my mom, then sped over to the facility to direct the team of volunteers who put the tulle and flowers up and took them down after the ceremony. Charli’s gift was the most amazing chocolate cake with butter crème frosting. Her husband needed a wedding for his portfolio and took the photos we wanted under her direction.

Joy Graysen, Rozlyn Sorrell and Juanda Marshall were the vocalists. When Rozlyn sang people came out of the buildings because they thought Whitney Houston was performing. Jon wrote and sang "One Rose" to me. For music Enya, Handels’ "Water Music" and the traditional processional were our choices and Joe worked the board; Stan, the borrowed video cam; and David was our Minister. After our vows we wowed all 200+ guests as we and the bridal party did the tango a la True Lies as the recessional. Many of the guests joined in.

After the obligatory photo session we all went inside to one of the rooms the facility provided us to use. The staff had decorated the cloth-covered tables with live flowers and the trays of canapés were delicious.

Oh, did I mention this cost us nothing. Turned out the facility needed the grounds to set up for another function and had to provide a place for us to go. Now true, I found that out 10 days before the wedding and was so "upset" I could not have the cake cutting outside that they gave us the room, set-up, dance floor, food and cash bar as a way of making amends.

From start to finish the entire event cost us about $2,000. Mom and Dad could not believe it. They said it looked like a $15,000 wedding. He gave me a check and paid for the morning after breakfast too, or maybe it was my Uncle, I don’t remember.

Everyone had a great time and talk of it still. In fact when I was a bridesmaid at my friends’ wedding there a few years later the same coordinator remembered me and told me the staff use our wedding as an example how to put on a great show on a budget.

Keep Creative!