Watch Your Language serves as professional grammar police

Small Business Spotlight for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 7, 2013

Most people probably have one, the self-described grammar police ready to correct an error in tense or any participle left dangling.

But Elinor Grusin and Bill Brody are certified, called upon by newspaper editors and university deans, looked up to by college students. With a century of the written word in their arsenal, Grusin and Brody have teamed up to offer guidance and red marks as Watch Your Language LLC, an editing and writing service for the linguistically challenged.

“While the grammar, spelling and punctuation skills got progressively worse, we found that many businesses were having problems for the same reason,” Brody said. “We said, ‘Why not make a little business of it and we’ll see what the demand really is?’”

Longtime journalists and former U of M professors Bill Brody and Elinor Grusin have created Watch Your Language LLC, an editing and writing service.

(Photo: Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The problem with poor grammar and spelling, he continued, has “reached plague proportions” and is cyclical with students going into the workplace without the skills necessary to get their messages across. Those messages, in turn, become public and are read by future students and professionals who see such mistakes as passable work. Newsrooms, too, understaffed as the industry contracts, are putting out stories, whether in print or televised, that are marked by errors.

For these two longtime teachers, such substandard copy is pure heartache.

“The sad part is so many people don’t recognize it,” Grusin said. “I’ve had so many students think that something is correct because they’ve seen it written incorrectly so many times or they’ve heard it spoken incorrectly. And it’s kind of endemic.”

Brody and Grusin, though sharing a business name, work independently. Their clients range from individuals to corporate entities, and fees are customized depending on the size and involvement in a project. Those projects are as varied as the clients themselves, ranging from writing company newsletters to ghostwriting manuscripts, editing dissertations or rewriting corporate documents.

Grusin counts International Paper and FedEx among clients and, in addition to typical editing services, has coached workshops for corporate writers.

“Our position is, if you’ve got something that needs to be written or edited, we’re the people who can help you with it,” Brody said.

The business was officially launched only weeks ago and the website,, is part informational and part educational. Services are listed, but so are resources for those who want to better their communication skills. The message is clear: if you don’t choose us to help you, please help yourself . . . (read more)


Community Foundation awards 15 nonprofit grants

Spot news feature for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 4, 2013

The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis has awarded grants totaling $188,500 to 15 area organizations. The Nonprofit Capacity Building grants are meant to help fund the cost of improving operations and increasing efficiency.

The foundation put out a request for letters of intent and received about 40, which were reviewed by a committee of 12 community volunteers. That committee then asked for proposals and conducted site visits for half of those before making decisions on the funding.

“This particular committee was really designed to focus on taking nonprofits to the next level and us providing an opportunity for them to do that, whether it be technology, or staff training or marketing plan – something that will take them from where they are to where they really want to be at that next place in their strategic plan,” said Sutton Mora Hayes, vice president of grants and initiatives.

The winning organizations were required to provide matching funds, and individual grant amounts ranged from $2,500 to $24,000. The work done by these nonprofits are as varied as their needs and include Agape Child & Family Services Inc., with $20,000 for a Salesforce donor and volunteer management system; Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, with $12,500 for visitor-tracking technology; and WEVL, with $8,000 to increase webcasting capacity.

Michael Detroit, associate producer for Circuit Playhouse, said when they found themselves in the enviable position of being able to hire for two positions in development, they knew they would need the equipment and training to allow that staff to do their jobs.

“This was something that came about where we needed funding because it was not part of our original budget,” Detroit said. “So when the opportunity came up to apply for this Capacity Building grant through CFGM, we pounced on it.”

The 501(c)(3) entity Circuit Playhouse Inc., which incorporates Circuit Playhouse and Playhouse on the Square, was awarded $8,500, and will utilize the entire $17,000 for specialized software called Theatre Manager, used for ticketing, marketing and donor tracking, as well as the training that goes along with it.

The Foundation, with its GiVE 365 initiative, recently awarded $88,983 to a dozen nonprofits that responded to the theme “Home is Where the Heart Is.” The Capacity Building grants have no theme, and there are no restrictions on what an organization’s needs might look like. Instead, Hayes said, “you have all those different organizations and they kind of come in on the same playing field because they’re all looking for that capacity-building thing.”

The funding comes from three sources: direct donations to the Community Partnership Fund, endowment income and portions of excess operating funds if there are any. The total grant amount may change from year to year, and took a noticeable hit after the economy’s slump . . . (read more)


Mann takes on development role at Shelby Farms Park Conservancy

Memphis Standout profile for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 4, 2013

Cameron Mann has traded in an office of brick and glass for one of trees and meadow.

Perhaps not literally, but his new position as development manager for corporate and foundation support for Shelby Farms Park Conservancy promises to be more pastoral than musical, as his previous work with the Memphis Music Foundation proved to be.

In his new role, Mann will be focused on corporate and foundation support both regionally and nationally, working to raise the $2 million it takes every year to run the 4,500-acre park, one of the largest urban parks in the country. He comes in at a time when the conservancy is still in phase one of an ambitious 20-plus-year master plan to increase access and broaden usage, and as concerns over a proposed roadway through the park has emotions running high.

“It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to the challenge of it,” Mann said. He also gives credit to executive director Laura Adams, director of strategic operations Linda Brashear and director of development and communications Jen Andrews, as well as the rangers, who have done so much to put the master plan in motion. “A lot of amazing work has already been done, but certainly this is just kind of the beginning of the journey.”

Mann was born in New York City and moved in 1982 with his family to Memphis at age 5. He attended Memphis University School and then headed south for New Orleans and Tulane University, where he majored in American studies with minors in philosophy and communications. He graduated in 2000 and spent a year in London, working in international wholesale marketing for WorldCom.

In 2001, Mann’s father, Don, was starting up Young Avenue Sound, a recording studio in the Cooper-Young neighborhood that also housed the new label Memphis Records. He came home to work with his father and stayed on for seven years. It gave him the opportunity to work with the music and the music community, a longtime passion for one half of the band Lord T & Eloise . . . (read more)


The blokes of summer

Feature cover story for The Memphis Flyer

Oct. 3, 2013

Welcome to Memphis Cricket: 250 players, 8 teams, and the occasional sticky wicket

It’s the stuff of childhood. A boy stands in the green grass, sun on his face, dust in his eyes, and awaits that pitch to come screaming down the line. He’ll grip the bat, aligning it with anticipation and hope to get the big knock that will give his team the lead. It’s the same scene the world over, though we’re not talking baseball. This is cricket, and these are the blokes of summer.

Cricket in Memphis means weekend days filled with intense play for the nearly 250 men of the eight Memphis teams, part of the Ark-Tenn Cricket League governed by the U.S.A. Cricket Association, which is, in turn, overseen by the International Cricket Council.

It’s a Saturday morning in Bartlett, and the early September sun is already scorching the neatly clipped grass. The players for the Bartlett Youth Cricket Club (BYCC) and the Memphis Cricket Club (MCC) are prepared for the heat with oversized, floppy hats providing shade and faces slathered in sunscreen. Nearby, tennis matches are in full swing as a farmers market is set up in the parking lot. A children’s football game gets under way, and the aroma of a family reunion cookout wafts through the air. Players lounge in the shade of a portable canopy with Gatorade, bottled water, and Marlboros to trade tips and strategies in their native languages, as unfamiliar to the casual observer as a baseball catcher’s hand signals.

Sal Samana is an officeholder of the BYCC, whose members, many hailing from Pakistan, as he does, wear the green of that country’s national team. Samana makes a point to mention the city of Bartlett, saying he “appreciates the opportunity for a place to play the game.” The city, when contacted by the league, was willing to set aside the field and create a pitch for the teams to play on. Another field was created by the city of Memphis behind the Hickory Hill Community Center on Ridgeway at Winchester.

Cricket is somewhat new to Memphis, but elsewhere around the globe, there is evidence of cricket being played as early as the 16th century, sometime after Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the earth but before the Gregorian calendar was adopted. Its popularity was later spread throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations into every outpost under royal rule. Today, it is played by millions in 106 countries, second in world popularity only to soccer.

Photo: Justin Fox Burks

Cricket had its heyday in America in the early 1700s, when it was known as America’s pastime. Really. A match between the United States and Canada in the 1840s was attended by 10,000 fans and is regarded as the first international sporting event. It was around this time that America’s current national pastime — baseball — was invented, and its allure would soon surpass that of cricket.

Organized cricket came to Memphis in 2006. It’s a game still on the fringes in this country, yet there it is, every weekend between March and November, on the fringes of Freeman Park on Bartlett Boulevard just outside the Memphis city limits . . . (read more)



Duty: The view at UTHSC

Cover feature for The Downtowner magazine

Oct. 2013

October 2013

October 2013

In 1911, a puzzle of sorts was put
together in Memphis that resulted in the
UT Health Science Center, the flagship,
statewide academic health system.

You probably pass by it every day —
on the way to and from work, on the
way to and from an Orpheum show or an
AutoZone Park ballgame — there, along
Union and Madison at the cross streets of
Dunlap and Manassas. If the time of day is
right, you see hundreds of lab-coated and
scrubs-wearing people, backpacks slung over
their shoulders and cell phones clamped to
their ears, streaming in and out of the redbrick buildings.

This is UTHSC — The University of Tennessee
Health Science Center — and the institution
has a longer and more ingrained history than
The Orpheum and AutoZone Park combined.
In 1911, a puzzle of sorts was put together
in Memphis when pieces of UT-Nashville’s
College of Medicine and Medical College, The
University of Memphis’s College of Physicians
and Surgeons (including its College of
Dentistry), and the Memphis Hospital Medical
College were dismantled and reassembled to
become the University of Tennessee College
of Medicine. The small, four-story building at
879 Madison held three colleges: medicine,
dentistry, and pharmacy.

Among the many to lead the institution
over the years was Orren Williams Hyman,
professor of histology and embryology, who
oversaw operations for 50 years, beginning
in 1921. He brought about vast changes and
advancements, commencing with removing
the tobacco juice–encrusted radiators in the
classrooms, as well as the rats that enjoyed
free reign in the cadaver room.

Since those inauspicious beginnings, the
school has grown both physically and in
educational scope. It now encompasses three
integrated sites across the state — Memphis,
Knoxville, and Chattanooga — with 2,850
students and 1,100 regular faculty members . . . (read more)


Coston-Holloway finds myriad ways to give back

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 3, 2013

Joann Coston-Holloway, an associate with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, is Shelby County’s district representative for the Tennessee Bar Association.

One of her roles is helping plan the Young Lawyers Division’s upcoming Wills for Heroes event, where attorneys will provide basic wills, living wills, and health care and financial powers of attorney to first responders and their spouses or partners.

Volunteers will be available for assistance on Oct. 12 at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

“The volunteers come away with more than, I think, the heroes because you get to hear about their stories, different situations that they’ve been involved in and you just really, really feel good being a part of knowing you’re making a difference for them because they’re out every day putting their life on the line to make a difference for you,” Coston-Holloway said.

Originally from New Orleans, she saw first responders in action during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 while a student at Xavier University of Louisiana studying political science. Coston-Holloway had her heart set on becoming a lawyer but wavered during her third year and dabbled in some other interests.

The pull, however, was too strong.

“I found myself realizing this is exactly what I want to do and I can’t run from it,” she said, “so I changed it back to political science.”

Coston-Holloway was inspired by things she saw as she was growing up that she wanted to speak out about, and it was a law degree that she knew would give her that opportunity. She graduated from Xavier cum laude and entered Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, La., graduating in 2008. While still in law school and looking to “spread her wings,” she interned for Baker Donelson during the summer after her second year . . . (read more)


Holding court

Emphais: Education feature for The Memphis Daily News

Sept. 28, 2013

University of Memphis law school enrollment holds steady as nation’s declines

As has been reported in national newspapers and business magazines for months, the fall’s law school enrollment nationally is down from this time last year and beyond.

Andrew McClurg teaches torts to first-year law students at The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, where enrollment is holding steady compared to last year.

(Photo: Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The American Bar Association’s ABA Journal reported in August that “Law school applications for the fall of 2013 have dropped 17.9 percent and applicants are down 12.3 percent.”

But the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law enrollment is holding steady with 112 first-year students, the same number as last fall. Prior to 2008 and its economic slump, however, that number might have been as high as 150 students.

“I think that’s probably typical across the country, you look in terms of enrollment being down 20 to 30 percent from peak times is fairly standard,” said Peter Letsou, dean of the law school. “We’re moving roughly with national trends again this year. I think we did a little better enrollment than most did, but it’s very much a national tidal wave that’s hitting all of us.”

Law school enrollment typically shoots up in bad economic times. Prospective students often react to a poor job market by investing in education to acquire skills and become more marketable for the cycle’s eventual upward turn.

“We had a significant recession in the very early ’90s, and during that period law school applications shot up on the order of 50 or 60 percent,” Letsou said.

The recession of five years ago, though, was the first such downturn to affect the legal profession. While there were slight increases in applications for the first year or two, eventually the profession contracted and law firms began layoffs and cutting back significantly on the hiring of lawyers . . . (read more)


Junior Achievement adds business savvy to education

Small Business Spotlight for The Memphis Daily News

Sept. 28, 2013

For Kim Cherry, executive vice president of corporate communications for First Horizon National Corp., a panel discussion with Kemmons Wilson Jr. and Pitt Hyde drove home the rich history of the city’s entrepreneurial spirit.

As a lifelong Memphian, however, she also is well aware of the history of poverty and bankruptcy here.

It is this disparity, this push and pull, that makes an organization like Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South so important to her.

“I don’t know that there is an organization more important to a bright future for Memphis,” said Cherry, Junior Achievement’s board chair.

CubeSmart team member and Junior Achievement volunteer Skip Betts teaches JA Company Program to a class at Germantown High School.

(Photo: Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)

The three pillars of the nonprofit education organization’s mission are work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

“Our organization is interested in giving the kids the skills necessary to be successful once they finish school,” said Larry Colbert, executive director. “What makes our organization successful on teaching these economic education programs is our delivery system. That’s different than anybody around in how they get the information into the hands of the students.”

This is done through volunteer consultants in school classrooms from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“We are basically a conduit between the business community and the school system,” Colbert said.

JA volunteers teach an hour per day for a five- to 10-week program, depending on the grade. Students learn the basics of economics, how a community works and “why mom and dad have to get up in the morning and go to work,” Colbert said.

At 307 Madison Ave. Downtown, across the trolley tracks from Downtown Elementary School, is JA Biz Town. Since 2002, this replica miniature city with 15 standalone businesses is where fifth and sixth graders have gone to conduct experiential learning . . . (read more)


Career shift lands Fish in financial planning

Memphis Standout profile for The Memphis Daily News

Sept. 27, 2013

To hear the way she speaks of Memphis, and to know the many ways in which she works to better her community, one would never guess thatKathy Fish was not born and raised right here.

Originally from Rochester, N.Y., where she was the third of eight children, she first visited the South after a free-spirited, cross-country trip after high school.

“I fell in love with this city,” she said, explaining her return here as an X-ray technician student at the Baptist College of Health Sciences, and then to the University of Memphis to study biology with the plan to become a physician.

Upon graduation, however, health care in the country was in transition and so was she, determining that what she wanted was “to have it all: work, job, family, own a business. I just felt like I needed to go in a different direction.”

She altered her path and eventually earned an MBA from the University of Memphis.

It was a degree – and a passion – that would eventually lead her to found the financial planning service Fish and Associates.

“We do comprehensive financial planning to include investment management; we work with people on estate and tax planning, (and) income planning.”

Fish felt all along that she wanted to work for herself and “to somehow be able to control my own destiny,” and her boutique firm works to help people with a similar mindset, those who also find themselves in transition – whether it be from a change in career, death, divorce or any other life event.

Her client list is extensive and diverse, yet, she said, “I have a special desire to have meaningful conversations about money with women. I don’t exclusively work with women clients, but I do have a good amount, probably at least 40 percent of my clients.”

She maintains a financial and philosophical blog called “A Man is Not a Plan.”

Her first job in the business was working with the Memphis office ofExecutive Financial Services Inc., which was closed only a year and a half after her start. Fish continued to share office space with others from the firm and to grow her own client list within the industry, going out completely on her own in 1996 . . . (read more)


Math problems have other solutions, but what about other problems?

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Sept. 26, 2013

Mathematical meltdowns pose problem with no good solution

Three-fourths of my children do pretty well in math. One-fourth is having trouble with the subject. If I recall my sixth-grade math correctly, that adds up to only one kid. So the problem to be solved is why is there so much noise in this house?

Nightly math homework for one-fourth of these kids has become an exercise more philosophic than algebraic. Instead of solving for a product or quotient, she wants to solve for why math exists at all, what it all means for her and for all of us in the grand scheme of her texting and television watching.

The reasons why she shouldn’t have to do homework multiply exponentially: She’s hungry, she’s thirsty, she’s tired, her pencil isn’t sharp, bad weather is looming.

Lately, the problem has been with multiplying fractions. Not my problem, of course, but hers. It has led us nightly into spasms of fits and wailing and gnashing of teeth. It’s also upset my daughter.

Time passes interminably as she stalls. The autumn sun angles lower, its light slanting in at a 45-degree angle. As this geometric event drags, I begin to wonder myself: Why? Especially in this age of computers and Google and telephones that can tell you exactly how fast that train from Portland must be traveling to meet the other train from New York.

I’ve traveled by train from Memphis to New Orleans and Chicago, and was never asked to prove a math theorem. So when one-fourth of my children plaintively asks when she’ll need to halve and integer as an adult, I can answer with certitude: “Not on a train.”

Of course, I know math is important, and that understanding the basic concepts at an early age helps to build the foundation one needs to grasp the more complex equations later on. And I know that without math we wouldn’t have these computers or Google or futuristic telephones. Nor would we have cake or television or banks that are too big too fail until they do, a result of amoral math.

Question: If an 11-year-old’s bedtime is in 30 minutes and she’s put off the 20 math problems for homework until just now, how long will the meltdown last? Answer: I’ve left the house, so I have no idea.

I’ve sat down with her to walk her through the homework, and I have to say that I’m not very good at it, either. And I don’t think this is because it’s “new math.” They look like the same numbers I used in the sixth grade.

These kids, all of them, are smart and curious and willing (mostly) to do the work. But they’re swimming upstream; they’re running into the wind because, unfortunately for them, they are the sum of the parts of their parents, and neither of us was all that good with math to begin.

To answer her question truthfully, neither of us uses math that much as an adult, aside from some basic accounting necessary to run a household and our nightly homework session. Other than that, I’m just trying to figure out how fast and how far a train pulling out of Central Station in Downtown Memphis will get me from this mathematical meltdown.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal