Posts Tagged ‘LinkedIn’

Start your Writing Engines!

April 10, 2014

Spring is in the air and to me that means a major work shift is underway. No more holing up inside while the snow falls and the wind howls outside. With the warmer weather beckoning, it’s a great time to come up with a list of things you want to do that could make great articles, blog posts, short story locations, or LinkedIn or Facebook updates. We all know that a happy, active writer is a productive writer! With the longer hours of daylight it is definitely possible to have a full day of writing, interviewing, and researching combine with taking several jaunts a week to places you’ve never been but always wanted to go. The first step is to make a list so that when you have some free time; you don’t just sit there twiddling your thumbs going “Hmm…what should I do?”

Here are a few things on my summer “to do” list so far:

Visit Hemlock- Canadice State Forest (and lakes)

Go to the Dairy Cow Birthing Center at the New York State Fair

Take the Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Ride tour

Bicycle the Erie Canal Heritage Trail

Check out St. Marie among the Iroquois

Take the Mark Twain Trolley tour

Take the self-guided Grand Prix Race tour through the streets and countryside of Watkins Glen

Find new places to pick fresh fruit

Attend the Cazenovia Counterpoint Festival

Explore as many new wineries and cheese farms as possible!

 

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A few things that will make achieving these more likely:

Pencil them on my calendars (work and home) so there will be time set aside for each activity

Invite family or friends to come with me so I’m less likely to blow it off

Research them ahead of time so I know what things I particularly want to see and do while there

Purchase things that will make my adventures fun (i.e. picnic basket, Empire Parks Pass, new sneakers)

Feel free to send on any of your ideas/suggestions too!

What do Weight Loss and Writing Have in Common?

April 7, 2014

This morning, I’ve come to the conclusion that writing is suspiciously like losing weight. For example:

If you don’t weigh yourself vigilantly every day, it’s really easy to let the pounds creep on until one day you wake up, get on the scale, and discover that you have a real problem. In the same vein-if writers don’t write every day, you’re writing gets rustier and sitting down to the page becomes easier and easier to put off until, one day you do sit down and are amazed and horrified to discover that you are having trouble forming a cohesive or meaningful sentence. Even worse, the dreaded writer’s block may have set in while you were avoiding completing your daily pages so now you have an additional obstacle to overcome.

Secondly, it is really easy to come up with excuses to eat things you probably shouldn’t. You know exactly what I mean! Things like ice cream, potato chips, and pizza. There is always a reason, you had a tough day at work, your husband is driving you crazy, or the dog puked on the rug again. It is ok to enjoy treats or comfort foods once in a while; none of us is perfect (nor would we want to be!) But, if you indulge yourself every single day then it becomes a bad habit rather than an extraordinary circumstance. Then you have a problem… It’s the same with writing. There are so many reasons not to write. There is a snow day and the kids are home (again!), you are coming down with the flu, or no one has paid you yet for work you submitted months ago. Taking an occasional few hours, even a day, off isn’t the end of the world. However, when a few hours become a week and you’re spending your time finding things other than writing to fill your hours with until suddenly the work day is over, then you might need to do a little “attitude adjustment”.

Finally, to achieve your desired weight you need to exercise. Stretching and moving are a key component to getting in shape. The same goes for writing. Like athletes, most of us writers have exercises to help us get warmed up before we hit the page full stride. I journal and then do a 20-minute writing exercise from one of my many favorite writing books. This may sound like time wasted, but it isn’t. Writing in a journal allows me to clear my mind of any emotional baggage that might be lingering from the previous day. And the exercise gets my creative juices flowing so I’m ready to use my prime writing time constructively and creatively. If I skip either of these, it’s easy to see the difference in that day’s pages.

By the way, are you interested in learning what prompted this post? Has anyone noticed that I haven’t blogged in almost two weeks? It’s truly amazing to me how every morning I would think to myself “must squeeze in a blog post today” yet, by the end of the day, I still had managed to do everything but a post. And now it’s the second week in April. My how time flies when you are avoiding things! And the funny thing is, I really like blogging once I’ve gotten started. So-here we go; I’m back in the saddle once again with the goal of two posts per week.

Take a few minutes to think about what you might have been avoiding, in your writing or other parts of your life, and how you can address it. Remember bathing suit season and publication are just around the corner!

 

Timing is Everything!

March 26, 2014

As a freelance writer, I find that one of the most difficult things to do is to constantly be thinking several months (sometimes as many as six to eight!) ahead when writing articles for submission or querying editors about pieces you’d like to write. This can be stressful on a number of levels:

  • If you’re not careful you can forget that you submitted something, forget to check if it ever made it into print, and neglect to invoice the publication. That might not be a huge loss to bear for a single article but if it becomes multiple pieces the financial toll can escalate quickly.
  • Time-sensitive articles need to be submitted well in advance or they won’t make it into the issue they should appear in. This is especially true for all holiday-themed or seasonal pieces.
  • Some editors want photos to accompany the article as much as they want the actual writing, which can be easy for us wordsmiths to forget. If you’re writing about an annual event then you may need to get pictures this year when it occurs to go with the article that you’re submitting a few months after you took the pictures for next year.
  • One last thing that can be easily overlooked is that not everyone works on the same schedules we freelancers do. Many people are only available to speak with (or exchange emails with) Monday through Friday during regular business hours. And let’s not forget vacations and school breaks. People takes those frequently and most likely will not want them interrupted by you!

If all this sounds complicated, it’s because it is! And I highly recommend getting submission and interview dates on whatever type of calendar you work best with

Here are a few examples from my work desk:

  • Back in January, I submitted one of my more popular articles about Father’s Day to several family publications as a reprint. I haven’t heard back from any of them but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t planning to use the piece. However, I don’t want to gum up my QuickBooks with unnecessary invoices, so I made a note in my calendar to Google them in June if I haven’t heard anything at that point. If the piece appears, I’ll submit an invoice and get paid.
  • Another piece that readers have enjoyed in the past is about the growth of the maple syrup industry in New York (and the Maple Weekend Festivals) that happen in March. I haven’t written about this since 2011 so I’m thinking of drafting a new piece for next year. In pursuit of this, I went to a sugar house (off the beaten path), talked to all the people running it, and took a nice assortment of photos. That positioned me nicely to start working on selling an article in November 2014.

Sapsquatch Maple-3-2014 006   March is Maple Month!

  • In regard to schedules, the times and occupations I’ve found that I really need to plan ahead in are seasonal workers, teachers from K-12, college staff and faculty and college students, and any adult that might have school-age children. For example, I like to write an article relating to Banned Book week, which is in September. That means I have to submit the piece in July when most school librarians are on summer vacation! So I need to either interview them in June, before they go on break, or be sure to get a home or cell number and permission to call them in July.

Have any timing tips of your own to share? Feel free to send them on!

Do Book Covers Matter?

March 21, 2014

 

Throughout our lives, we are told “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. But does that advice always hold true? Does a book’s cover matter as much as what’s inside it? Common sense tells me that it shouldn’t; that we should give every book a fair shake, regardless of its outside appearance. But a recent example in my own life showed me that this doesn’t always hold true. I received Rachel Kushner’s book The Flamethrowers as a Christmas gift from my oldest son and, since it came highly recommended by him and the critics, I was looking forward to reading it. However, every time I saw it sitting there on my coffee table or my bedside table or just as I was about to pick it up and settle into my favorite reading chair, something inside me recoiled when I gazed at the orange and white book cover. First of all, orange is one of my least favorite colors for a book cover, unless it’s about Halloween or the psychedelic sixties. Secondly, I had an almost physical aversion to the picture of the woman (At least I think it’s a woman) on it. The way it’s shaded, she looks almost surreal and the “x” of tape across her mouth with the words “a novel” written on it, makes me envision the worst kind of censorship and all sorts of other unpleasant associations.  From this point on, the book shifts from one I’m eagerly looking forward to reading to one I feel “I should read” because it would be “good for me”. Kind of like the difference between eating cauliflower and ice cream if you know what I mean. 

 

So here it was March and I had still managed to avoid reading this book that I saw people devouring everywhere since you really can’t miss the cover (which may have been the intent, who knows). But this week, I saw in the paper that Rachel Kushner would be reading from The Flamethrowers at Ithaca College and I did not want to hear her without at least having some idea of what the book was about. So (true confession!) I took off the cover, put it face down on the floor, and began to read. And I loved it. Her use of language and her ability to capture, not only the meaning behind her character’s words but also the cadence of their speech was incredible. To think I almost passed on reading it, or attending her talk was unbearable. To me, the ugliness of the cover of the book was a total disconnect from the beauty of the content but nevertheless the outside appearance was the deciding factor in whether I picked it, or a different novel, up at the end of a long workday.

In the same vein, this week I also went to hear a panel of writing industry professionals speak at Cornell University’s Creative Writing Series and they unequivocally agreed that the hugest, most contentious issue they deal with on a regular basis is cover art. It’s rarely something all involved can agree on and the public may have a whole different reaction to it.

My feeling is that authors should be invested in the outside, as well as the inside of the books they put so much time into writing.  Your thoughts?

Five More March Mood Lifters

March 18, 2014

My new Lucky Bamboo office plant!

My new Lucky Bamboo office plant!

Well March is marching on but, quite frankly not fast enough for me. Between the seemingly endless snow storms, frigid temperatures, ice, and mud, I find getting out of bed in the morning progressively more difficult and, despite having to go out every day to walk Murphy the writing dog, I still have a wicked case of cabin fever. So I think it’s time to try out a second round of March Mood Lifters, starting this morning.

  • Buy some fresh unseasonal fruit as a treat. I am very sick of apples, bananas, and Clementine’s at this point in time. Some raspberries or strawberries (though they won’t be as succulent as summer ones) would definitely light up both my taste buds and my mood! If you don’t like fruit, you can buy some fresh flowers or a new plant for your office.
  • Go out at night to hear an author read and speak at one of the local colleges. Coincidentally I just saw that Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers, will be at Ithaca College on Thursday so that’s where you’ll find me. It will also be a good impetus to finish her novel.
  • Listen to summer music while typing. Or at least not Leonard Cohen or Jeff Buckley…Upbeat artists like the Beach Boys, Bob Marley, and the Grateful Dead always evoke memories of summers past. Obviously if you’re younger you can choose more contemporary bands!
  • Sign up for a spring reading class or writing conference. Hey you survived the winter; you deserve a reward!
  • Count your blessings. First of all I’ve stuck to my goal of trying new styles of writing to challenge myself. In the past two weeks I’ve written (and submitted) two short stories, a poem, and I entered a flash fiction story contest. Secondly, Sherman Alexie has been rescheduled (yes-a third time!) so hopefully I will see him in April. Third, with all of the bad weather, Greek Peak is still open so my husband and I can continue to ski off our winter angst for at least another few weeks.

Got any March Mood Lifters of your own to share?

Looking at the Flip Side

March 15, 2014

Writers are always talking about rejection; how it hurts, how you must persevere despite it, and how many rejections you should expect before a piece of your writing finally gets accepted. These are all valid and helpful things to think, and talk, about. However it seems like the other side of the coin doesn’t get nearly as much attention. 

What I’m talking about is the sense of pure joy you feel when you write “The End”, dot the last “i” and cross the final “t”, or complete a final round of spell check. When you know that the story, poem, or article you just completed represents the very best work you could do. There’s also the rush of emotion you feel when you read it through for the last time before submitting it and it still makes you cry, scares you to death, or brings a smile to your face (even after spending long days or endless weeks in its company). That feeling is something that writers need to remember in their darker hours, it’s what makes all of the struggle, the editing, and the sleepless nights worth it. Whether someone buys your finished piece or not, it made you a better writer to see it through to the end and that should boost your mood significantly.  If you’re like me, when it comes time for the final goodbye between you and your piece of writing, at the exact moment you hit the send button on your computer or drop that envelope into the mailbox, you’ll experience the final flip side feelings, a heady combination of:

Elation: that you are done. For better or worse your writing is now out there in the world

Hope: that whoever reads it will find it compelling and feel its emotional impact

Anticipation: that it will be accepted and published and that you will receive a check at some point

Don’t dismiss these reactions as silly or childish. Being able to appreciate the positive feelings that accompany a job well done is just as important to the writing process (and your overall mental health!) as knowing how to cope with the negative emotions that accompany rejection.

What’s in my Buffalo Travel Journal?

March 11, 2014

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I can sense your look of disbelief. Who goes to Buffalo, New York in the winter? Well I did, along with my family, and it was definitely a different, but enjoyable, spring break trip! I’m a big advocate of exploring what’s in your own backyard and of being a guest in a neighboring community to see what tourists who visit actually experience. With three kids in college this year, a tropical or even a southern state vacation just wasn’t in the cards. So, once I came up with a list of five things that I wanted to try in Buffalo, four of us hopped in the car and headed west.

Once in Buffalo, we hit up the Botanical Gardens, always a treat in the cold-weather months, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (which gets my five-star rating of the day). Not only is the art a fantastic and eclectic collection, but there’s a lot of history linked to it in the adjacent signage, giving each piece a context that you might not have been aware of otherwise. For example I never knew that three of the WWII “Monuments Men” were from Buffalo. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and two of my two favorite exhibits were: “One Another: Spiderlike I Spin Mirrors” and “Anselm Kiefer: Beyond Landscape”.  Once our senses were saturated, we stopped at Spot Coffee (www.spotcoffee.com) for a freshly brewed cup. The place was packed with a young, lively crowd and they have live music some nights.

We had dinner at the iconic Anchor Bar because, though I grew in Rochester, I have never been there for wings. You may not know it, but this year marks the 50th anniversary of the chicken wing, so we just had to order the 50 wing bucket to commemorate it! Along with a bowl of chicken wing soup-once was probably enough for that…

Sunday we began the morning at Sweet_ness 7 on Grant Street, housed in a once-vacant building lovingly restored by owner Prish Moran. The restaurant is the best kind of atmosphere for a Sunday morning, crowded but not rushed, filled with laughter, conversation, and great smells. Prish herself works the counter and she’s a warm and friendly person who immediately makes you feel welcome. I tried my first sip of Turkish coffee (the setup is the best part) and my husband loved the generous Bloody Mary.  Sweet_ness 7’s motto is “Knowing where your food comes from matters” and brunch is served all day, every day, so people have a place to congregate and catch up with friends and family whenever they have a free minute. They even have games to play when you’re tired of talking!  From there we ventured out to Daemen College to catch MusicalFare’s production of “The Who’s Tommy”. The theatre, actors/actresses, costumes, and music were great but, sadly, the rock opera has a minimal plot and undeveloped characters so even their efforts weren’t enough to make it a success. But, seeing Tommy was an item on my bucket list that can now be crossed off…

Buffalo might not be everyone’s dream vacation but we had 24 hours of fun there at minimal expense and came home reenergized and ready to get back to work. See what type of mini-vacation you can plan within two hours of home and let me know how it goes. I’m always up for new adventures!

Five March Mood Lifters

March 5, 2014

I don’t know about the rest of you but to me March is the new February. Remember the month we become desperately sick of winter; the icy cold wind, piles of dirty snow, and road salt eating away at our favorite footwear? This March is definitely coming in as more of a lion than a lamb so I am not thinking that spring is right around the corner. In fact my best prediction these days is the end of April… Added to this, yesterday was one of those days where everything went wrong, and I mean everything! Big things (Sherman Alexie canceled due to illness) little things (forgetting to put the coffee in my Keurig so, when I took the first sip from my travel mug, I was horrified to only taste hot water!) nothing went the way it was supposed to. My mood was ruined by 10:00 a.m. and the day did not improve in the least! I am sure you all know exactly what I mean. So I woke up determined to start fresh today and so far things are going much better. A few of my March mood lifters include:

  • Wearing the brightest, most tropical clothes I own. Think green pants, a blue sweater, and yellow socks. I actually resemble a parrot! But it makes me feel better.

 

  • Doing my February mileage and going through the bank’s drive-thru so Murphy the writing dog can get his dog biscuit. I’m happy to have money again and the dog loves a treat. It’s a win-win situation!

 

  • Trying out some new techniques to improve my writing. This month’s goal is to become more descriptive and create better characters. For the description exercise, I took an old short story and cut it into paragraphs. My assignment is to add three to five pages more to each of these snippets. It’s actually not that hard and I’m excited to see if the story becomes good enough to submit somewhere. For better characters, I’m experimenting with character interviews for some of the short stories that I currently have “in process”. This exercise is the one that I find harder to do but it seems worthwhile so I’m persevering.

 

  • Instead of feeling sorry for myself because the person I gave my latest short story to for review felt it needed some work, sitting down and thinking about which parts of their comments I want to work on and which I don’t agree with. After all, why ask for feedback if I’m not going to listen to the answer?

 

  • Using my journal to write about what makes me happy and grateful rather than the same old song and dance about the things that aren’t going as well.

How do you survive the winter months?

Where Do Ideas Come From?

February 27, 2014

When people ask me how I get my ideas I always get a kick out of it because to me the issue is never about having too few ideas, it’s about having too many ideas. In fact, even if I live to be 100, I still won’t have time to write everything I want to! This becomes even more apparent to me as I continue to reorganize my office. At this point I’ve unearthed at least six folders, labeled either “article ideas” or “story ideas” and the problem is that as soon as I begin to thumb through them, some of the clippings or scraps of paper with a few words jotted on them, incite my imagination all over again, making it impossible to toss them in the trash. For example the description of the “humungous fungus” somewhere in Michigan continues to tempt me to write a short science fiction story, though it’s never been one of my favorite genres! Where did all these ideas come from? Let me tell you!

Listening to the news or public radio while driving in the car

Reading press releases in the newspaper that are just crying to be fleshed out in more interesting ways

Advice columnists, especially when you disagree with the “good sense” they’re dispensing!

Browsing through magazines; surprisingly even the advertising in them can be thought-provoking

Eavesdropping on conversations that have lots of dramatic potential

Googling random topics that lead you to other, even more random topic

Greeting cards (yes-some of us still send these via snail mail!)

Lyrics of songs

Social events like plays, movies, concerts, or parties

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Your turn! Where do you get your best ideas from?

Are you Recycling?

February 19, 2014

The shortest month can be a long, cold, and unimaginative time of year. Sometimes it’s hard to find the energy to query editors, let alone come up with something new and interesting to write about. For those days when you just can’t find inspiration, no matter how hard you look, there is a simple solution. Go back to your old files and see what articles you can recycle “as is” or refresh and update slightly to make them relevant for today’s readers. Sure, you won’t make as much money on a reprint, but you also won’t have to do nearly as much work as you do with an original piece and reprints will keep your name out there until you regain your motivation or until a bright idea descends on you in the middle of the night. Some examples of articles I’ve recycled in the dead of winter include “Cabin Fever or Winter Harmony?”, “Winter Recess for Teachers,” and “Winter Birthday Parties”, all things that you can pretty much count on happening every year.

Another way to use recycling to jump-start yourself is to drag some of your old short stories or contest entries out of hiding and take another stab at them. Not only will you be impressed with how much your writing has improved in a few years, but you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by some of the good ideas and amazingly well-written sections you can salvage from these beginner efforts. By adjusting your word counts, you can often submit these to several journals (who don’t mind simultaneous submissions) or enter them in different contests throughout the year-unless you win of course! I just finished revising a short story from 2009 that I was always fond of and I’m even happier with the 2014 version.

So-don’t let February grind you to an unproductive halt. Keep moving, even if it’s only at half-speed and remember that spring will come eventually and with it a surge of new energy!


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