These Web sites save time, put punch in your day
Published: March 2, 2010
Sometimes I wonder how we writers did our work without the Internet. I often mention what that was like when I speak to groups—how long it could sometimes take to locate a snippet of information. Now that we can take advantage of the world’s largest repository of knowledge, we all have our favorite bookmarks. There are a few in my own files that often make work easier, give me access to developments affecting my profession and put a little punch in my day.
Kay B. Day
If you’ve ever written an article about health care, taxes or legal issues, and you want to cite an official government source, you’ll soon learn the federal bureaucracy can be a bit like il Labirinto, the garden maze at Villa Pisani. That’s a maze you really can get lost in because the hedges are taller than people. A good place to begin your search is the official listing, Government Departments and Agencies from A-Z at the General Services Administration Web site. The alphabetically arranged listings are also indexed by topic and by organization.
If you write for Web sites, you want to stay informed about technology. There’s no better place to learn than Wired. Whether it’s Google’s latest venture or individual vulnerability from hackers, this is the go-to site. Wired also has a print magazine—they broke the story on hackers who took down the whole country of Estonia and that story is one of the best-written I’ve seen in a number of years.
News junkies—I confess I count myself among you—can get the inside scoop on news gathering at one of the world’s oldest international news agencies, Agence France Presse. AFP has roots in Agence Havas, the world’s first international news agency dating to 1835. AFP sells content to media but the organization also hosts a blog that’s free to the public. Correspondent features posts from writers around the world. AFP describes the purpose: “Through it, we aim to give readers of AFP news online the stories behind the headlines and a clearer idea of how we cover the news.” I’ve often found nuggets useful to time-sensitive stories there and the site is a great springboard for ideas as well.
Are you a history buff? I got bitten by that bug too, and one site that I turn to repeatedly for both entertainment and little-known tales is US History. The Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia hosts this site—there’s even a textbook online covering periods from pre-Columbian times to the present. There are sections on rules and regulations for display of U.S. flags and George Washington’s farewell address. Those are just a drop in a vast bucket of information.
If the stress of being a writer gets to you, a bit of entertainment is in order. You can find that at Your Daily Poem, a Web site founded by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer. We’ve interviewed Ferrer for a prior column and you may be wondering why, when there are a number of fine poetry resources, we chose her site. That is because she does things differently. Ferrer features poems in keeping with seasonal holidays as she did by featuring a week-long display of love poems at Valentine’s. She does an annual Poetry Parade each April, selecting a daily poem in honor of National Poetry Month. Ferrer pulls poems from centuries past, from notable academics and from emerging poets who have a day job but pen verse in their free time. You can also sign up to get a free poem in your email each day, and that’s the first thing I read when I open my messages. At least it gets the day off to a positive start.
We’ve often mentioned ProBlogger and if you blog, there’s no better fountain of wisdom than this site where you will also find a jobs board.
These are a few of the many Web sites that have saved time and put a pleasant punch in my day. As I wrote this column, I wondered where to find specifics about il Labirinto. For all things travel-related and for information on exotic locales, I turn to Travel Muse.
It’s hard to imagine life as a writer without the Web, although somewhere in the dim recesses of my mind, memories of stacks of index cards with scribbled notes emerge. It’s not a pretty picture.
Read our previous Web Savvy for more good bookmarks, Web Stroll: Special sites help build your platform.
And be sure to explore the full site here at The Writer where you’ll find markets, a forum and articles on craftsmanship.
In our next column, we have a special feature about top milblogger Michael Yon. When it comes to war reportage, no one can top his writing skills or his creative approach to funding his adventures.
Florida journalist Kay B. Day has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The author of two books, she has written for
The Christian Science Monitor, United Press International,
The Florida Times-Union and Sky News. To learn more about Kay Day, see www.kayday.com. To read Kay's other Web Savvy columns about writing for the Web, click here.