Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review: Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara

I have to admit, when I first saw the title of this book on Susan Johnston's Urban Muse blog (and later on Steph Auteri's Freelancedom), it certainly grabbed my attention.

So I was excited to pick up my very own copy at a writers' conference I attended in March. And I was even more excited when I realized that I'm teaching a memoir writing workshop and a college writing class (focusing largely on personal essays) this fall and hey, maybe I should read it and get a few pointers!

"Read" is a bit too gentle of a word. I've basically inhaled this book and can't wait to share the tips I've picked up with my students!

In this fun, easy-to-digest book, essayist, columnist, and author Adair Lara offers scads of helpful tips on getting your personal work published. She says that writing about your own life and putting yourself out there is definitely not easy, but it's sometimes necessary in order to be truthful. And, as I tell my own writing students, only you can talk about your own experience. The three other people that were in the room with you will all have their own take on the evening, but you need to write about what you remember.

Lara breaks down the pieces of an essay, discusses the importance of writing compelling scenes and bringing the reader right into the action, and expands on these tips to fit a personal memoir. She explains that a memoir is simply talking about something that happened to you and how you overcame it. And as you write, you need to ask yourself questions--What did I want?, How did I get around that obstacle?, and to keep asking those questions as you go along to keep yourself honest.

This is one of the few books I've read "for fun" and tabbed, underlined, and made notations in the margin so I remember what I want to include in my writing classes this fall. Don't let the somewhat suggestive title put you off--in the book she explains that the title refers to the feeling you get of exposing your innermost thoughts and feelings (a bit like being naked on the school bus) and the woozy, drunk feeling you get when you say the first thing that comes to mind.

What books on the craft of writing have impressed you lately?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"What Are You Writing?"

I'm piggybacking off of a recent post from Linda Formichelli's fabulous Renegade Writer blog that talks about how writers can find paying gigs. I love her blog and highly recommend it to any new (and established!) freelancer out there--I never fail to find some useful tips!

As I read the post (and others like it that I've seen on various blogs lately), it got me thinking. Most freelancers I know aren't super picky when it comes to accepting work--if it pays a semi-decent wage (that's comparable to the time we'll have to invest), we're almost always up for it. That seems to be the key to surviving as a freelancer. As more and more magazines and newspapers are folding, writers have had to get creative with the types of projects we're willing to take on.

So I thought about my own projects. I tend to go in spurts--first, I targeted the traditional consumer markets for years. Then I moved on to blogs. Then online magazines. Then copywriting. I certainly wouldn't turn down any of these clients if they came calling, and I have had some luck finding projects for all of the above, but I don't consider myself to be just a magazine writer, or just a blogger, or just a copywriter.

Lately, most of the work I've been lining up has been for trade publications, our local business journal (newspaper), one local market whose editor has been gracious enough to offer me at least one assignment for every issue within the past year, a custom publication (I did one article for them which recently ran, and I touched base with the editor last week and I expect to be getting another assignment), an ongoing content-writing project, and, my most recent serendipitous path--college alumni magazines. I connected with one college in a very roundabout way (I think they misunderstood my LOI, but the editor liked my clips so it turned out to be a positive...), so it hit me--Duh! You're in grad school...why don't you ask the editor of that school's mag if he needs writers? So I contacted him yesterday and sure enough, he was receptive. Just goes to show that sometimes the obvious isn't so obvious! I haven't given up on the consumer markets altogether, but unless I get that aha! brilliant idea, I'm happy to take on the assignments that I know editors will definitely run. I think it goes back to my appreciation for stability and security!

How about you? What kinds of projects make up your workload these days?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

I know, I know--I've been woefully absent from the blogosphere again. My apologies. These last few weeks have been very eye-opening and a little scary, but luckily, I think my worst days are behind me.

I am happy to report that I've gotten a bit of my writing mojo back. I've landed a few more assignments and am reaching out to editors (both those I've worked with in the past and a few new markets) with gusto. See what happens when you finally get out of your own way and just decide to push forward?

I've also been scarce because it's simply been too hot to sit in front of the PC longer than necessary! (And no, I'm probably one of the few people on this planet who does not have a laptop. Yet.) Like most of the country, we here in the Northeast have been at the mercy of temps that have pushed 100 degrees for the past few days. (Last Wednesday and Thursday it was over 100 here, which is highly unusual). On Friday I wrapped up a short little project, sent it off, and skedaddled for the comforting chill of the A/C in various places (had a lot of errands to run). Let me tell you, being able to take the afternoon for myself really does not suck! However, it left a nice long "to do" list for me to tackle this week. Luckily, the temps are supposed to be a little more tolerable this week, so I have no doubt that I'll get my various items crossed off in no time.

How about you? Have the steamy temperatures affected your productivity at all lately?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How to Psych Yourself Out in 30 Days or Less

I've been really quiet on this blog lately, but life has taken a lot of ups, downs, and twists in the last few weeks.

To put it simply, I've spent most of the last month freaking myself out about life. Based on the advice from other freelancers that I've read (on blogs and elsewhere), I've already fallen into every freelancer pitfall there is. And I'm barely a month into it!

And as an added curveball, last week I started with full-blown anxiety attacks, so that's been zapping a lot of my energy. I pulled myself together long enough to complete the articles I had to do, but there has been a lot, LOT of downtime just to get myself together.

I'm psyching myself out over everything. Luckily (and don't think I don't count my lucky stars EVERY SINGLE DAY these days) my boyfriend has been absolutely wonderful, and has been helping me to see things a little more clearly. I'm doing my best to both focus and not put so much pressure on myself, because that's when the chest tightens and all hell breaks loose.

Basically, I'm just trying to get out of my own way with this, and see where it takes me. I realize I might be at this for awhile, so I have to cut the nonsense and commit to it. But still, this is a lot harder than I ever imagined.

I'll try to be better with the blogging, even if only to post progress reports on here for awhile.