Here I blog about writing, editing, reading, books, submissions, freelancing, getting published (and rejected), journalism, revisions, life after the MFA, teaching writing, and living the writer's life. Welcome. BUT -- if you are a writer: Write first, read blogs second.




Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Fridge Clean Out – Links for Writers, December 30, 2011 Edition



Riverteeth Journal has announced its first Nonfiction Conference, May 18-20, 2012. Robert Atwan and Hope Edelman are featured guest speakers. Check out the full schedule and other writers on the agenda (including many friends of this blog) here.

►Tips for writers on using LinkedIn (via Poets & Writers).

► Carol Tice has few – make that 113 -- tips for growing one's freelance writing income.

► Anna Quindlen has called World Book Night (a huge give-away event scheduled for April 23, 2012), "..like Halloween on an intellectual level."

► Speaking of giving away books, I was awed to learn about The Book Thing, a Baltimore book *store* which collects and then gives away books. Free. To Everyone. Really. (hat tip Jenny Rough)

► The January 2012 Mindful Writing/River of Stones challenge is to, quite simply: "1. Notice something properly every day during January. 2. Write it down." Get more info at the Writing Our Way Home blog or Facebook page.

►What do you think about the idea of "paying" for something (ebook, video) with a Twitter message or Facebook update announcing the "purchase"? (via GalleyCat)

►In a wonderful interview at Hippocampus, Beverly Donofrio talks writing process (and so much more): "I print out constantly and edit with a pencil. On the memoir I’m writing now, I rewrite and polish a chapter until I think it is good and it is finished. I pin it to the wall. Write the next chapter till I think it is good and finished, then go back to the previous chapter and sometimes the one or two before that one. Invariably I find that none are good enough or finished. But, by moving on to the next, I’ve gained enough distance to view it with a fresh eye. My first take on situations, my memories, the stories I want to tell is fairly superficial. I hate this about myself: I’m fairly superficial. Only through writing do I go deep, and each draft brings me deeper still. Perhaps if my default weren’t to be so shallow, it would take many less drafts to get to the good stuff: the truth."  Read the full interview here.

►Finally, did Santa strike out this year? Out of Print Clothing has a nifty selection of tees featuring classic book covers. And Rokki Handbags turns actual old books and vintage album covers into cool handbags and totes.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Writing the "I Did It List" Before the Next Year's To-Do List


I've talked here before about all the reasons, as a writer, that I love lists, of all kinds.  And last night I sat down to compile one of my favorites -- a special kind of list that, instead of looking ahead to what needs to be done or what I hope to do, looks backward at what I have done.  I call it the Did-It List (or the What I Accomplished List) and I tackle it every year at this time.

This ritual began about five years ago when I was feeling low about what I had NOT accomplished that year, and thought: well okay, so what HAVE  I done this year?  And so I listed it all, and felt better for all kinds of reasons.

I saw that I had been a lot busier than I had given myself credit for. I realized that even for goals not achieved, I had taken several steps in the right direction. I found that having accomplished something relatively minor but which represented a major stretch outside my writing comfort zone, was unexpectedly satisfying. I noticed that rather than the rut I had imagined I was in, there was actually a lot of variety on the list. I saw patterns I had not recognized before, related to when during the year I'm most productive.  I began to understand that the amount of time involved in completing a writing project is not always in direct proportion to its importance, either emotional, financial or career-wise.

I've encouraged other writers to do their own version of a Did-It List, as a reminder of all the ways one has grown as a writer from year to year. I won't clutter up this post with my actual list because hey, who needs another writer brag post, and anyway it's mostly in a shorthand only I would understand.  But it may be worth considering that last night's (that is, 2011's) list was different from many other years because in some ways it was less about what I DID because I wanted to, and more about what I had to do.  It's worth it, I've realized, to look not only at the things I did which I am happy about and planned for and want to brag about, but also at the things I did out of necessity or obligation or self-preservation.

For example, in 2011 I did: - Survive the loss of a client of 4-plus years, replacing that monthly retainer check with other income.  -Say goodbye to a 16-month gig as an essay contributor when a management shuffle triggered a payscale downsizing. –Refocus teaching energies when the continuing education classes had too few registrants. –Turn down a good offer to edit and write for a regional web venture, despite a true admiration for and instant camaraderie with the owner, because I knew in my bones I wasn't the right person for the job.

On one hand, I could look at this part of the list and see that I only DID these things in response to loss, bad luck, and maybe even poor judgment on my part. Or I could look at it as the kind of rebalancing that occurs every couple of years in my crazy writing/freelancing life.

And on the plus side, I saw that the work slow-downs coincided, almost precisely, to the periods when I found myself in need of more personal time and more focused mental energies to help my son, a high school senior, navigate the college application / visits / testing / essay-writing labyrinth.

There were wonderful things on my Did-It List too, thankfully. In the final analysis, I think the most important aspect is that there IS a list, that it exists yet again, another year, that in the last 12 months there was, again, a creative writing life, and a freelance working life built on writing, editing, teaching, ghostwriting and research. Good or bad, I DID it for another year.

Maybe you will want to write your own Did-It List. Maybe not. Either way, I wish you all the best in your creative endeavors in 2012, whatever you DO. Thanks for reading the blog, and if you're so inclined, go ahead and tell me what you DID do in 2011.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Fridge Clean-Out: Links for Writers, Dec. 9, 2011 Edition


► Need to give a reading?  Learning to confidently read your work aloud is essential – some tips from a grab bag of writers, at Beyond the Margins.

► Especially for poets, five "quick and dirty" lit journal submission tips (a few unconventional), from a Gulf Coast journal editor. (Hat tip Erika Dreifus)

►Speaking of poetry, this new book looks interesting -- Poetry in Person: Twenty-five Years of Conversation with America's Poets.

► Writers who want to work on their fiction skills in an online class (somewhat similar to my nonfiction classes), might want to check out Jordan Rosenfield's current crop of offerings.

► I love how this former rock critic turned her literary efforts to something she'd been admiring for a long time – songwriting.

► Marketing your own self-published book?  Or promoting your traditionally published book?  Good tips and solid how-to advice is found in the newsletter from Author Marketing Experts.

►Mosey over to Flavorwire's "40 Inspiring Quotes About Reading From Writers."  Then, head out to (or over to the website of) your local independent bookstore and buy books as gifts!

►Finally, there's been a lot of web chatter lately about undisclosed sponsored (paid-for) tweets, links, blog posts, Facebook updates and the like, which are designed to appear as spontaneous, genuine testimonials. Just to let you know, I don't do that here. Nothing on my blog (or Twitter feed, or any online presence) appears because I was paid to post it, or because I received free products, services or special consideration. 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Freelance Worry Cycle




After decades as a freelancer you'd think I'd get used to the down periods, when work is scarce, clients and editors go missing, and I feel as if I'll never see another paycheck (or opportunity). You'd think I'd just chalk it up to business as usual and not worry so much. You would be wrong. 

I worry.  I kvetch. I agonize. I alternately obsess over the fallow state of affairs or busy myself for hours each day making lists of possible new sources of business, generating queries, submitting like crazy, contacting likely sources of business, asking too many people if they know anyone who needs a writer, editor…heck, sometimes even a gofer. 

I forget that at times, I've designed things just this way -- purposely creating a lull between teaching assignments, so that I can make substantial progress on a manuscript; declining certain writing assignments for reasons that make sense (at the time, anyway); allowing an eager but difficult editing client to drift away because the fit was not right, for either of us.

Even so, I worry, whine, and I wonder….what if I were to chuck this freelance status?

I don't.

Because then, the upswing begins. Slowly at first, and then it seems all at once. Contacts email me back, some with tantalizing prospects. Editors suddenly seem to remember who I am and what I can do, and get in touch, some with assignments. Writers in need of editing or writing coaching call and tell me about their interesting projects and how I can help. Organizations looking for a seminar leader or instructor want to talk.

You'd think, after so many years, I'd realize that the flurry of activity that accompanies the upswing also just means business as usual and that I wouldn't get overly excited. Wrong again. 

I do – get excited, that is.

When work picks up, I think I've won some sort of (okay, small scale) freelance lottery. I can't believe how lucky and fortunate I am. I even sometimes wonder if these folks have the right person.  Do they really want me to do that? Well, okay then.

Very quickly then, I get over it. I get busy. Get to work. Get going. And for a while, I forget that, inevitably, another slow period will come along. And I'll worry, naturally.