Monday, October 27, 2014

New College Students and the Nature of Learning

A little red car speeds down the road, the driving hauling everything he or she has.
Face and embrace anxiety and confusion in order
to prepare yourself to learn new things.
Learning is like driving your car in a strange place: It's exciting, it's a little scary, and you don't really know where you're going.  

When you drive your car in an unfamiliar place, you may not know which lane to use, which road to travel, or where to turn.  You might get confused, or frustrated, or tempted to give up.  Learning can be like that, too.

However, after you live in a place long enough, or visit a place often enough, you don't even have to think about your way, and you forget that you were ever lost. But, where would you have gotten if you had given up?  Would you still be sitting on the side of the road?

Embracing Anxiety, Excitement, and Confusion

When a student first goes to college, whether or not it's in a new town or a new place, professors expect students to learn about new things and to learn new ways to do things. Having previous knowledge of a topic or task is a great starting point, but without a little anxiety, excitement, or confusion, there may not be any real learning taking place.  Without pushing beyond the limits of the familiar or what a student already knows, there may not be any real learning taking place.  Students should expect a little anxiety, a little excitement, and a little confusion.

Problems occur when students are unprepared for the frustrations and discomforts that accompany real learning.  It's essential students are taught that these feelings are not only okay, but expected, and a sign of progress.  Embracing these feelings is especially difficult for students who have never been taught to cope with uncomfortable feelings, who have never previously had to struggle in school, or who have always been at the top of the class.  For some students, these feelings are entirely foreign, and are therefore discouraging, as well.  These students often want to shout, "But I have already done this!" or "I already know how to do this!"  Yet, real learning will only take place if those students accept and embrace the struggles of real learning.

Combating Discouragement with Open-Mindedness

To combat discouragement, students should remain open-minded and remember that learning is a lifelong process.

Open-mindedness entails accepting that there are multiple perspectives to issues; issues that sometimes have either no solutions or multiple solutions.  It also entails a willingness to learn about those new perspectives, or new ways to solve problems, make decisions, or communicate effectively. All experiences have the potential to be real learning experiences when a student is open-minded.

Students must also stay open-minded to the fact that learning is a lifelong process.  Giving up on learning is akin to stopping on the side of the road and refusing to drive any further.  A student can only get to where he or she is going by driving, and driving takes time.  Learning, like driving, takes time - a lifetime, in fact.

Want to read more about being a great student?  Try

I Hate My College Classes!  Help!

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Product Review: All-n-One Knitting Loom

 Knitting looms are hot ticket items for Christmas this year. Take a look around and they seem to be everywhere, from craft stores and big box stores to grocery stores and dollar stores!  These looms come in sets, or singles, for a wide array of price points.  They're round, long, spiral, small, hand held, big, brightly colored, pale, adjustable, "sock" loom size, bulky weight gauge, light gauge, double knit, single knit, plastic, wood, and even metal.  Holy mackerel! It's a lot to consider, isn't it?

I was a bit perplexed by the choices, myself, so I emailed the nice folks at Authentic Knitting Board and asked them if they had a product that would solve my particular problem: I didn't like the toy-like plastic sets that allow for only bulky or double-strand knitting.

To paraphrase, they said, "Never fear!  The All-n-One is here!"

Authentic Knitting Board's All-n-One Loom does just about everything I want to be able to do on a knitting board or round loom. It's a knitting board, round loom, and sock loom in one. It can also be used with a variety of yarn weights, which gives finished projects the coveted look of needle knitted items.

Why the All-n-One Loom Is the Best Choice in a Sea of Choices

This loom by Authentic Knitting Board has several competitive advantages.  First and foremost is its versatility, which gives more bang for the buck.  That's closely followed by the company's obvious dedication to educating customers.

Versatile and Classy Design

The All-n-One Loom is versatile and classy.  

Its base is a lovely, finished wood, and its adjustable parts are held together with metal nuts and bolts - sturdy, reliable, durable, and easy-to-replace if lost. The grooved pegs are made of a stiff, ivory plastic. I could hold the loom in one hand while working with the other. I felt, as I was knitting last night, like I was playing a fine instrument.  I felt like I was making something special.

The board is 18" long and came well-packaged in a box that looks quite modern and sophisticated, while still indicating this is a fun, but useful, tool.   The knit hook is included, and it is also made of wood and metal.    The interchangeable 5-peg sliders and spacers are what allow for both knitting in-the-round and double-knit board knitting. The pegs are spaced 3/8" apart, which is what allows for the use of worsted weight yarns.

Although I did have a few concerns about the design when I first looked at the product, once I started to use it, I was no longer concerned.

First, I was concerned it would be difficult to ewrap between the 3/8" spaced pegs. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it really was.  I had no difficulty finding a way to wrap that was easy and speedy: I set the board upright in my lap and wrapped around the pegs with the yarn at the tips of my fingers like I was holding a pencil.  Voila!  And I had no wrist or hand pain!

Also, I did have a concern about the wing nuts used to hold the sliders in place.  I thought I might bump them while using the board, but the wing nuts were no problem at all.

Dedicated to Customers and Dedicated to Educating Customers

Authentic Knitting Board stands behind a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and one look at their Web site makes it easy to see they have a serious and heartfelt dedication to educating customers.

This All-n-One kit comes with a very thorough, easy to understand instruction booklet and 4 projects to get a knitter started.  The images in the booklet are clear and crisp, making them easy to follow and understand.  The instructions are also written in clear, concise language, which makes it easy for beginners like me to understand.

Furthermore, the Authentic Knitting Board Web site offers video tutorials, free patterns, and how-to basics.  

They even have a Yahoo! discussion group!  The FAQ page helps customers decide which board to buy without any hard sell language, wishy-washy language, or upselling. They are as proud of their basic loom knitting kit as their  scarf size Tadpole Kit knitting board product as they are their 38" afghan knitting board.

What I found most heartwarming on their Web site, however, is this particular piece of their mission statement:

"Our mission also involves assisting women's relief groups with knitting boards and personal instruction.  Our goal is to see these individuals grow in self belief that they, too, can create beautiful, useful, warm garments for themselves, their families, and as a means to supplement their family income."

How could anyone ever doubt this is a company worth supporting?

An A+ Product from an A+ Company

All in all, the All-in-One is an A+ product from an A+ company.  The versatility of the board, its classy design, and the company's dedication to educating and supporting their customers makes me feel as warm and fuzzy as a new afghan.  The All-n-One Knitting Loom would make an excellent gift for any crafter this holiday season.  

Want to read more about fiber arts and arts and crafts?  Try

Which Weaving Loom is Best for Beginners?
How to use Beautiful Buttons
Arts and Crafts and Healing

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lulu versus Amazon: Which is the Better Publishing Platform?

The homepages for Amazon KDP, Lulu, and CreateSpace
Customers and Costs are Two Major Considerations

Are you considering publishing using either Amazon or Lulu?  There are benefits and drawbacks to each.

Within the last year, I have published both print books and electronic books using both Amazon and Lulu. There are drawbacks and benefits when using either of these two publishing platforms, but I do prefer Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing over Lulu's publishing platform.

Although other publishers may hold opposing views, here's the skinny according to Amy Lynn.

The Pros and Cons of Publishing Using Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing 

The Benefits

The three most important reasons why I prefer Amazon to Lulu are all related to Amazon's infallible ability to sell sell sell.

First and foremost, Amazon's  pièce de résistance is its number of shoppers and the level of trust those shoppers have when placing online orders.  I, myself, lose hours on Amazon some nights just by browsing arts and crafts supplies.

Also, for publishers like me, there are some ways to capitalize on those numbers and that trust while at the same time benefiting the reader - a win win!  For example, I can set Kindle Countdown deals, free giveaway days, Kindle Matchbook pricing, or Lending Library settings for each of my books, helping me promote and gain reviews. Furthermore, Amazon will also, at times, reduce the price of my print book while I make the same royalty via my CreateSpace agreement and settings.

Furthermore, Amazon's ability to sell sell sell to readers means they do not try to hard sell me on their packaged publishing services. I know there is help available,  but their system is easy enough to navigate, and their rules and formatting guidelines are easy enough to follow, that I do not need to purchase those services.  Did I mention they do not push their professional services to me every time I access my account?

The Drawbacks

As with all good things, however, come a few bad.  The two worst things I have to say about publishing with Amazon are to do with revenue and bookkeeping.

Amazon Kindle Direct and CreateSpace do not allow for multiple payees to be set in their payment systems.  If two or more people collaborate on a book, only one of those people will receive payment from Amazon.  That places the burden of the split on one person, most likely a person who has little to no experience with bookkeeping.  Come tax time, that could be a nightmare.

It's also very difficult to project Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners Lending Library revenue. Because it is a sliding relative scale and pool from which writers are paid, no one really knows what to expect month to month.  Part of good business is being able to project pipeline income, but with this particular system it is nearly impossible.

The Pros and Cons of Publishing Using the Lulu Platform 

The Benefits

So, why, you may be asking, did I publish through Lulu if I appreciate Amazon's ability to sell sell sell?

I have one answer only: With Lulu, I can set multiple payees per book with adjustable revenue percentages per person.

In the past I have never truly made profit (or even regained the capital) on published poetry chapbooks.  Thus, there wasn't any revenue or royalty to send poets. With Lulu, however, I can offer a revenue split with no capital lost to printing costs.  The poet can order and sell as many copies as he wants at any price.  In the meantime, the book is also available online to order as an eBook or as a hardcopy. Again, it's a win win!

The Drawbacks

Unfortunately, although the multiple payee system is a BIG benefit, it is really the only benefit to using Lulu instead of Amazon.

Lulu's Web site is more difficult to navigate than either the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Web site or the CreateSpace Web site.  Part of the reason it's difficult to navigate is the abundance of ads for their publishing services that are inserted into the publication process fields or as major sections on each page.  It's a very hard sell and could confuse self publishers into thinking these are services they must use instead of services they have the option to use.

Even more of a drawback are Lulu's costs per book.  Their print books cost more to order than CreateSpace books.  For example, to order my own 30-page book from Lulu costs around $11.00.  To order my 150-page book from CreateSpace costs $6.00.  Both books have full color interior pages. That discrepancy is glossed over in Lulu's sales pitch that writers will "make more" on Lulu.  What they do not mention is that the reader also has to pay a lot more, thereby lessening sales.

In the end, I would much prefer to use Amazon's publishing platforms over Lulu's publishing platform.  Even though Lulu's platform allows better management of payments to collaborative teams, Amazon offers many more opportunities for sales and lending than Lulu can offer with sales alone.

Learn more about self publishing your poetry!  

Sign up for my discounted online course on Udemy, Publish Your Own Poetry Chapbook,  with over 10 lectures and 1.5 hours of content with lifetime access!

By the end of the course, students will know how to plan, produce, and distribute a poetry chapbook.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Product Review: MICA Beauty Cosmetics Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel

MICA Beauty Cosmetics Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel in a One Ounce Pump
My face is smoother than I remember it being, ever.

I recently tried a MICA Beauty Cosmetics product called "Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel."  To get right to the heart of the review: I love it, but I don't think I'll buy it, again.  Here's why.

Why I Love Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel

I purchased my Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel from Carlos Perez with Heat Lounge Express in Atlanta, Georgia.  I have been using Vita-C once a week for the past month, as directed by the salesperson, after showering.  I place two pumps on my fingertips, place the dots on my cheeks and forehead, and then use small circular motions to remove dead skin.  I can see the dead skin coming off, which is both "Wow" and "Ew."

After I rinse my face with lukewarm water, I use my Clinique Clarifying Lotion and moisturizer, and again, I have to say "Wow."  My face is smoother than I remember it being, ever.

I have tried a lot of other products for exfoliation: Mint Julep Mask, Clinique Seven Day Scrub, honey and baking soda, baking soda and lemon, Buff Puffs.  Nothing else has come close to this level of smooth and silky, and nothing else has worked for so long.  I really only need to use this once a week.

"So, why," you may be asking, "will you probably never buy it, again?"

Why I Will Probably Never Buy Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel Again

Amy's hand, covered in balls of dead skin that's been released with MICA's exfoliating gel.
The Vita-C Gel rolls the dead skin right off the back of my hand.
When I purchased the product, the very nice salesperson, Carlos, told me to use the product once a week, after showering, on my face and neck.  Using it as directed, he told me the product should last about one year. It's one ounce, and after using it for one month on just my face, I am not convinced it will last one year.  At the time I am writing this review, that one ounce costs $149.95.  That just isn't in my budget at this time for a cosmetic.

I also have some concerns with the ingredients.  According to the MICA Beauty Web site, the ingredients are as follows: "Water, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Butylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Polysorbate 80, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Polysorbate 60, Methylparaben, Cellulose, Triethanolamine, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium, Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Lactose, Fragrance."

I am perfectly happy with the first four ingredients, but I get a little nervous when I start seeing ingredients that end in "ethanol."  Hypocritical of me, perhaps, since my Clinique products also contain "ethanols," but at this point I am trying to stop using products with ingredients I do not fully understand.

Now, if the price is no object and "ethanols" don't bother you (as I said, they are in a lot of products), you will not regret your purchase.  I absolutely love what it does for my skin, and I am really keeping my fingers crossed that it actually lasts a full year . . . even though it makes me say "Ew."

Want to read more about beauty and skin care products?  Try

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.