Monthly Archives: April 2013

Example of Travel Journal.


My adventure here is more than half over now, and that makes me rather sad. Of course I still have a lot to do before I go, but knowing that the time to leave is coming. I really don’t have the words to express my true affection for Japan. Yet, I know I’ll be back again someday, and I have a lot to get back to in Canada that won’t wait forever.

I’m on a free period, and I know everyone has been dying to hear more about Japan, so here goes…

My weekend was amazing. Saturday night after I posted, I met one of Okaa-san`s friends, Ken-san. We talked for a bit, and his energy was really refreshing. He was just so spirited.

Sunday morning, we headed off leisurely for Koya-san. While it is a mountain, the name Koya-san is usually used to refer to the alpine basin near the top of said mountain. We drove for a long time, but finally reached the gateway to said basin; we stopped to admire the view from the top. So high up, and the air was just amazing. Fresh and crisp, but not cold. Got a few photos of the view from the edge, and of Daimon, the giant gate guarding the Western entrance. Oh, so ornate! The colour was a rich vermillion, with carvings of birds and flowers, as well as two large stone warrior guardians. Simply beautiful.

Koya-san was a lovely little town. We parked the car and got out and walked. Stopped at a few temples along the way, and walked through an amazing cemetery. There were stone mausoleums, effigies, shrines everywhere, nestled amongst ancient, amazing trees. These trees were probably 10 feet around, some of them, and hundreds of feet tall. It was just so peaceful in the cemetery…again, I don’t have words to properly, adquately describe the place. Beautiful is the only one that doesn’t sound cheap.

At the end of the cemetery was a Buddhist retreat/temple. The only word I have for it is breathtaking. As soon as I set foot on the grounds, I felt a profound sense of being, the best I can describe it now was feeling everything at once. The energy of the place was amazing, and the smell of incense everywhere, along with the rhythmic chanting of monks.

I’m returning from Tokyo on Thursday night with Espe. Friday night, I’m departing again for Tokyo. We`re going to stay at the Disney Resort, and return on Sunday. Craziness. But it feels so wonderful, to be adored this much.


Example of Travel Article


Hanging around: my night in the AirHotel

On a rainy night last week, I climbed gingerly up a ladder and stepped into a red structure hanging like a balloon from a tree, deep in the woods of Holt Hall in Norfolk. The balloon began to expand as if by magic, its sides unfurling like petals; I lay down and the sky was visible through a porthole above me. There was a strange, soothing singing; a hand and face appeared at the porthole, and a smiling woman dressed in a kimono descended, set out four cups and saucers, and offered me tea.

A cross between a pop-up hotel, an art installation, a performance and a retreat, AirHotel has just embarked on its UK premiere at the Norfolk and Norwich festival. The project is the brainchild of Time Circus, a collective of Belgian artists whose previous installations include a fairground where the rides are powered by the audience, and (currently in development in Antwerp) a sustainable floating village.

AirHotel’s seven mobile structures, made from recycled materials, sleep between two and six people. They are beautiful and playful, like something designed by a mad professor with lots of help from a very imaginative child. The Love Nest looks as if some mythical bird has fashioned an outsize nest; El Ambassador, where I eventually ended up spending the night, is a cocoon that sways in the wind. Inside each room there are mosquito nets, embroidered linen, nightlights and notebooks in which to record your dreams.

“We think of ourselves more as scenographers of the imagination than theatre-makers,” explains producer Sara Dandois. “As we were building, we began to wonder whether where you slept would affect your dreams. Does sleeping in mid-air make your dreams more exciting?”

There is certainly something very dreamlike about the whole experience. You might be invited to take a turn in the ecological Wellness Machine, to guest at the staff disco, or to hear a lecture on the theory of “too muchism”. “People only stay one night,” says Dandois. “But some of them turn up with enough luggage for two weeks, laden down with phones, iPads, iPods.” Guests are permitted just one string bag of possessions.

Was the quality of my dreams improved by a night in the AirHotel? To be honest, on a wild and particularly rain-soaked night, with no other humans on site (I was the first guest), I barely slept a wink.

But the morning was different: the milkman had been, and as I started picking my way across the mud in search of civilisation, my spirits soared. A fox and a deer ran past, and I felt the exhilaration of someone who had survived a mad adventure that I will be embellishing for years to come.

Managing Your Time In The Exam



15 mins – Read questions, underline keywords and read the 2 passages

30 mins – select points and complete the summary QUESTION 3

40 mins – Directed writing question including planning QUESTION 1

25 mins – Writer’s effect (DON’T spend more than 25 mins on this. Not worth the time and marks) QUESTION 2

10 mins – EDIT paying attention to DW and summary


Section 1 – Directed Reading

10 mins – Read through stimulus material, question and select points, plan

40 mins – Write

Section 2 – Narrative

10 mins – Read question, identify key words, brainstorm on the topic, plan (including planning the ending)

40 mins – Write out

Remaining 20 mins – EDIT (VERY IMPORTANT)



Interviewer: “Where did you grow up?”

Famous person: “Florida.”

Interviewer: “Where did you attend college?”

Famous person: “Florida State.”

Interviewer: “What was your major?”

Famous person: “Soil and water science.”


That’s what your reader will do when you write an interview like most run-of-the-mill writers. After all, common sense tells us the interview process should be logical and matter-of-fact. The interview process is the best way to gain information.

What many people don’t know is the question determines the amount and kind of information that can be obtained. In other words, there is a right and wrong way to ask a question if you are expecting to get what you came for. By understanding the process, you will create an atmosphere for a great interview.

Open vs. Closed Questions

A “closed” question is one that the can only be answered with a yes, no, or limited response.

An “open” question is one that is based on the 5 W’s-who, what, when, where, why, or how.

For more extensive replies, ask the person to explain, recall, or describe. These types of questions result in detail which will keep your audience interested.

Taking time to prepare well for an interview using open ended questions assure a smooth interview. Open ended question create a situation where the interviewee has the responsibility of providing the information.

Be in control of the interview, don’t let the interview control you.

There are different types of questions you can use that are very different in character and usage.

Closed questions

Definition There are two definitions that are used to describe closed questions. A common definition is: A closed question can be answered with either a single word or a short phrase. Thus ‘How old are you?’ and ‘Where do you live?’ are closed questions.

A more limiting definition is: A closed question can be answered with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Thus ‘Are you happy?’ and ‘Is that a knife I see before me?’ are closed questions, whilst ‘How are you?’ and even ‘How old are you?’ are not, by this definition, closed.

This limited definition is also sometimes called a ‘yes or no’ question, for obvious reasons.

Using closed questions

Closed questions have the following characteristics:

  • They give you facts.
  • They are easy to answer.
  • They are quick to answer.
  • They keep control of the conversation with the questioner.

This makes closed questions useful in the following situations:

  •  As opening questions in a conversation, as it makes it easy for the other person to answer, and doesn’t force them to reveal too much about themselves:  It’s great weather, isn’t it? Where do you live? What time is it?
  • For testing their understanding (asking yes/no questions). This is also a great way to break into a long ramble: So, you want to move into our apartment, with your own bedroom and bathroom?   
  • For setting up a desired positive or negative frame of mind in them (asking successive questions with obvious answers either yes or no )  Are you happy with your current supplier? Do they give you all that you need? Would you like to find a better supplier?
  • For achieving closure of a persuasion (seeking yes to the big question). If I can deliver this tomorrow, will you sign for it now?  

Note how you can turn any opinion into a closed question that forces a yes or no by adding tag questions, such as “isn’t it?”, “don’t you?” or “can’t they?” to any statement.

The first word of a question sets up the dynamic of the closed question, signaling the easy answer ahead.

Note how these are words like: do, would, are, will, if.

Open questions

Definition  An open question is likely to receive a long answer. Although any question can receive a long answer, open questions deliberately seek longer answers, and are the opposite of closed questions.

Using open questions

Open questions have the following characteristics:

  • They ask the respondent to think and reflect.
  • They will give you opinions and feelings.
  • They hand control of the conversation to the respondent.

This makes open questions useful in the following situations:

  • As a follow-on from closed questions, to develop a conversation and open up someone who is rather quiet. What did you do on you holidays?  How do you keep focused on your work?
  • To find out more about a person, their wants, needs, problems, and so on. What’s keeping you awake these days? Why is that so important to you?
  • To get people to realize the extend of their problems (to which, of course, you have the solution). I wonder what would happen if your customers complained even more? Rob Jones used to go out late. What happened to him? 
  • To get them to feel good about you by asking after their health or otherwise demonstrating human concern about them. How have you been after your operation? You’re looking down. What’s up?     

Open questions begin with such as: what, why, how, describe.

Using open questions can be scary, as they seem to hand the baton of control over to the other person. However, well-placed questions do leave you in control as you steer their interest and engage them where you want them.

When opening conversations, a good balance is around three closed questions to one open question.

The closed questions start the conversation and summarize progress, whilst the open question gets the other person thinking and continuing to give you useful information about them.

An open-ended question is designed to encourage a full, meaningful answer using the subject’s own knowledge and/or feelings. It is the opposite of a closed-ended question, which encourages a short or single-word answer.

Open-ended questions also tend to be more objective and less leading than closed-ended questions.

Open-ended questions typically begin with words such as “Why” and “How”, or phrases such as “Tell me about…”.

Often they are not technically a question, but a statement which implicitly asks for a response.

 Leading Questions

A leading question is a question which subtly prompts the respondent to answer in a particular way. Leading questions are generally undesirable as they result in false or slanted information.

For example: Do you get on well with your boss?

This question prompts the person to question their employment relationship. In a very subtle way it raises the prospect that maybe they don’t get on with their boss.

Tell me about your relationship with your boss. This question does not seek any judgment and there is less implication that there might be something wrong with the relationship.

Writing Follow Up Questions For Interviews.


The purpose of an interview is to Inform & Persuade

The interviewer needs to ensure that the answers are Clear and Convincing

If they aren’t the interviewer should ask Follow-Up questions to clarify the answers.

Oprah Winfrey is a well-known talk show host who has interviewed many prominent people. Read through the excerpts her interviews and observe how she uses follow-up questions to ensure the interview is clear and convincing.

In this excerpt, Oprah is asking Steve about his attempts to overcome his drug addiction. Identify how she clarifies his answers

Oprah: What did drugs do for you that fame and money and adoration couldn’t?

Steven: They made me feel like a rock star before I was one. Because I thought that’s what rock stars did—fake it till you make it.

Oprah: You’re two years sober now?

Steven: Yeah. I had 12 years before.

Oprah: And until you get back to that point—until you safely make it to 12 years again—is there always a fear that you might slip?

Steven: You know, I just have to keep it honest and open. ‘Cause I do feel like doing things I used to do. It’s called euphoric recall. I’ve got to be careful with that. But I’m so locked and loaded right now in AA and my 12-step program that I’m good.

Oprah: But that doesn’t mean you will never get high again.

Steven: No, it doesn’t. That’s the thing. I know I won’t, but I have to be careful.

Oprah: When you say, “I know I won’t,” you mean you believe you won’t, you think you won’t, you don’t want to?

Steven: I mean I’ve set myself up with a sponsor I talk to every night. I’ve got a bunch of great people in my life who are sober as well. They’ve been to the dark side of the moon. I love them. And I go to meetings.

Oprah: What happened when you got the call for American Idol?

Steven: I’m actually the one who put it out there…I said to my manager, “Get me something to do when I come out. If I’m going in there, I want something to do when I get out.” I’d been talking to Marti Frederiksen, who I write songs with, and it turned out he was writing songs with Kara [DioGuardi], who was one of the show’s judges. And I went and wrote a song with them as soon as I got out of rehab. And they said, “You gotta do American Idol. You’d be a perfect judge.”

Oprah: Is it true that when they called, you said, “Is it still getting good ratings?”

Steven: I did. I also thought, “Am I going to take over for this grump who likes to put people down?”

Oprah: You mean Simon Cowell?

Steven: Yes. The last thing I heard Simon say [on the show] was, “I don’t like you, and I don’t like country and western.” I thought, “How dare you?” That’s not what music’s about. Not liking a genre? That’s really not nice.

Checklist when writing an interview

  1. Are all the meanings of the words and phrases used CLEAR?
  2. Do I know exactly HOW an event occurred
  3. Are all the STEPS of the plan clear?
  4. Has the interviewee given EXAMPLES to illustrate their point?
  5. Has the interviewee used EVIDENCE to support his claim/ opinion?
  6. Have opposing views/ COUNTER-ARGUMENTS been brought up when necessary?
  7. Has the interviewee given a satisfactory response to these?
  8. Are there good REASONS offered?
  9. Are the CAUSES for something clearly explained?

Useful phrases for writing a formal letter of recommendation.


HELPING WORDS Admirable, Efficient, Intelligent, Respectful, Approve, Endorse, Invaluable, Responsible, Capable, Energetic, Inventive, Self-motivated, Commendable (praiseworthy), Ethical, Loyal, Sensible, Competent, Excellent, Meticulous, Successful, Congenial, Experienced, Outstanding, Suitable, Conscientious, First-rate, Personable, Tactful, Considerate, Hardworking, Praiseworthy, Thoughtful, Creative, Honest, Productive, Trustworthy, Dependable, Imaginative, Professional, Valuable, Diligent, Indispensable (to the team), Recommend, Discreet, Ingenious, Reliable, Dynamic (have / possess), Initiative, Remarkable, Effective (have), Integrity, Resourceful.

POSITIVE COMMENTS/EXPRESSIONS Tom is able to energise a group of people towards a common goal. He acquits himself/herself well. He would be an asset to any organization. He has a broad range of experience and skills. I can attest to Tom’s excellent working relationship with his team mates. He is a creative problem-solver. He is dependable/eager. He has done much to improve/increase/better/upgrade… He has discharged his duties and responsibilities as a team leader in his section well. He has distinguished himself from the rest of the cadet by… I will not hesitate to recommend Tom for … I have every confidence that Tom will make a good Chairperson of the … I have great respect for … I have been impressed with … Tom is held in high regard by many of his team mates. He has held various positions of responsibility and has never failed to discharge his duties to the best of his ability. I highly/wholeheartedly recommend Tom for the position of … I am writing in response to your request for information about … Tom has made many fine contributions to the … I have nothing but praises for Tom. He has outstanding leadership qualities and … I recommend Tom for the position of Chairperson with complete confidence that he will discharge his duties to the utmost of his capabilities. Tom is well thought of by his team. I believe I am in a good position to make an informed and unbiased choice. He is a dynamic individual with several admirable qualities. He has made several invaluable suggestions that reflect his maturity and common sense. He possesses initiative and the drive to succeed. His determination to pursue his goals will put him in good stead to handle tough challenges. He is clearly one who has the interests of the students at heart. She has an impeccable/a flawless academic record and outstanding CCA achievements. She is one who is able to balance her time well. His eloquence speaks volumes of his ability to persuade and convince others. (adjective: eloquent; speaks well; articulate) Being affable and having a keen disposition to listen, she is one whom others turn to when they encounter problems or difficulties. (If you are disposed towards something, it means that you are inclined towards something) Her enthusiasm and eager-beaver attitude is infectious and motivates others to carry through difficult tasks. Her positive and never-say-die attitude means no tasks are considered Herculean to her. Meticulous and organized, she is one who plans well and executes her tasks with near clock-work precision.

NEGATIVE COMMENTS/EXPRESSIONS Teachers have commented on his tardiness and inability to meet deadlines. Her quick-to-act disposition also means that she has a tendency to make rash decisions. A good leader should not make decisions based on spur-of-the-moment impulses and whims. He lacks the patience to listen and accept ideas from others. His thorough lack of organization means he makes eleventh-hour changes which often upsets the plans originally made. She often over-estimates her ability in her eagerness to achieve more. Her overconfidence exposes her tendency to set unrealistic goals.