Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Do You Ever Reconnect With Sources?

Forgive me for my erratic posting schedule this week—I’ve had a lot of non-writing related issues to tend to and the days have been getting away on me!

I just sent a link of a recent article to a gentleman who was a tremendously helpful and gracious source. The article was two-fold—the longer piece was about a farmer who grows some niche crops; the source in question was the main focus of the longer piece’s sidebar. But all the same, this gentleman sent me literally hundreds of photos (and I basically forwarded them all to the editor and said, “Here you go! Pick your favorites!”) and he and the farmer gave up an entire afternoon to speak with me and show me the farming operation.

So I figured the least I could do was send the finished piece.

I do try to send my finished articles to my sources as much as possible. Surprisingly, I haven’t spoken with too many folks who want to see the rough draft ahead of time, although I do get those requests from time to time and I respond by politely dodging the question. Sources are taking time out of their day to speak with us writers, so the least we can do is send them a link so they can use the article for their own publicity kits or what have you. I like to stay on my sources’ good side—after all, I never know when I may need to speak with them again, whether it’s to clarify a point they made over the course of our conversation, or for an entirely different article. It’s a quick but meaningful way to thank them for their time.

And—while this is never my intention—I’ve actually had a source for an article become a writing client. No harm in hoping lightning will strike twice, right?

What about you? Do you reconnect with your sources? Have you ever landed a source as a client?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How's Your Fall Calendar Shaping Up?

It’s August, but here in Pennsylvania, we’ve had temperatures in the low 70’s all week. After a few heat waves that overstayed their welcomes, I’ll take the cooler temps.

Of course, the cooler temps (and the leaves that I’ve noticed have started to change color already) is making me think back to school, fall, and a much busier schedule. My “busier schedule” will look considerably different than it did even 3 months ago, when I was squeezing grad school, freelancing, and teaching gigs around my full-time job. Despite my best efforts and a fair number of interviews, the job hunt continues, as well as sending out LOI’s and queries to editors. My calendar is lightening up considerably after next week, but I’m hoping to fill it with more deadlines before too long.

Let’s see. I’ve had more luck with sending LOI’s lately than I ever have before. Last week I contacted editors at 2 respective “niche” career trade publications, and I received encouraging responses. It sounded as though one of the editors was definitely interested in what I have to offer—the other one left the response a bit more “open”, so I sent a nice follow-up with the standard “Please keep me in mind for any future assignments” line. So, here’s hoping he will. I also made contact with 2 local colleges about their alumni magazines, so I’m hoping to land some work from them, too.

I’m doing a bit more querying and idea pitching, but nothing’s come through on those yet. Earlier this summer I got an email from an editor I’d contacted last year. She apologized for never getting back to me and asked if I had any other ideas for their publication. I was going through my rough patch and not in much condition to form a coherent thought, but I did send her a few ideas. This was at the beginning of July. Since then—nothing. No responses to my “friendly” (but increasingly persistent) follow-ups, either. Thinking I should cut bait on this one, but I hate doing that.

Anyway, at the moment my freelancing schedule has a lot of feelers out there, but the assignment calendar still has a lot of openings. In between writing projects, I’m teaching again, taking my LAST grad class and tackling my grad capstone project, and teaching 2 short-term writing workshops, so I’m thinking I’ll be busier than I anticipate!

What about you? How’s your fall schedule coming together?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ode to the Library Used Book Sale

If you’re like me, you love a good bargain. I love nothing more than finding a high-quality item at 40% off or more. I’m not such a fan of the cheaper stores because in most cases, you get what you pay for, as the old saying goes, but I love getting brand-name items at low, low prices (I figured I already sounded like a commercial, so I just went with it.)

One of my favorite places to shop for bargains is my local library. That’s right. Of course you know the library is an excellent community resource and a great place to check out the latest releases, hook up your wi-fi, or read periodicals without committing to a purchase, but most libraries also have ongoing book sales with titles at unbelievable prices.

I checked out 2 sales over the weekend, and I walked away with 6 new-to-me titles and spent less than $10. I got 5 hardcover books in excellent shape, and a paperback I’d had my eye on but was less than thrilled with the price on the bookshelf. But finding it for $1.00? I couldn’t resist! These sales are also a treasure trove of hard-to-find and unique books that can help you in your writing—one library had a nice selection of writing guides—or just look interesting. (Case in point—a few years ago I found a copy of Hope Edelman’s book Motherless Daughters, which I’d been shopping for online but debating about purchasing. But again, I couldn’t pass up the library’s $1.00 price sticker!) So check out your local library—chances are you can score some great bargains there, too. Also, with so many libraries feeling the pinch from budget cuts, most of them will happily accept any books you’re looking to part with. If they don’t put them right on their shelves, they’ll put them out for sale and make some money. These sales are a great way to help a worthy cause, check out those titles you’ve been hoping to read, and find some bargains along the way!

What about you? Have you discovered the joy that is a library used book sale? Tell us about it!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Favorite Reads of the Summer--So Far

I know, there are still a few precious weeks of summer left, but I'm starting to see school supplies displayed front and center in the stores, and for most of us, that's a telltale sign that fall is just around the corner.

So I wanted to post a list of my favorite reads from the summer up to this point. I admit, I haven't read as much as I normally do this time of year--I'm blaming that on several weeks' worth of anxiety and not being able to do much of anything. But once I got myself more on track and picked up a book, I could feel my version of "normal" quickly return. I still got horribly behind on the reading list I'd put together for myself, though.

Anyway, out of what I did manage to get through, here's a list of the titles I particularly enjoyed:
House Rules by Jodi Picoult. I admit, I'm biased--there aren't too many of Picoult's novels that I haven't liked. This book focuses on a teenager living with Asperger's syndrome who is accused of murder. I learned a lot about Asperger's syndrome--I think she could have included a bit less about this condition and focused a little more on the crime, personally. But part of what I love about her books is her attention to detail and compelling, "what happens next?" pacing. The story kept me interested, even if some of the detail did get a little long-winded (and repetitive) in places.

Ladies of the Lake by Haywood Smith. Sibling rivalry never truly goes away--even when the siblings in question hit middle age. That's the crux of this funny and heart-warming novel by Haywood Smith. Four middle-aged sisters are forced to spend the summer in their grandmother's rundown lake house in order to receive their inheritance. Along the way, they reconnect and work out some old hard feelings--grudgingly. (After all, there's no TV in the cabin--what else is there to do? :) )

Queen of Broken Hearts by Cassandra King. I loved her earlier novel The Same Sweet Girls, and this novel didn't disappoint, either. Clare Ballenger is a divorce therapist healing some pretty serious heartache of her own (though she's the first to downplay this fact, of course). Thanks to some wise, if quirky, friends and family, Clare owns up to her pain and begins to let go of the past in order to move on.

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani. Like Picoult, Adriana Trigiani is one of my favorite authors, so I expected to love this book as much as I've loved her Big Stone Gap trilogy and Very Valentine. (I have 2 other books on my pile to get to, as well!) Lucia, Lucia includes all of my favorite elements--an independent, beautiful (yet still flawed) title character and a plot set in Greenwich Village in the 1950's. What's not to like? The title character, Lucia Sartori, is a seamstress in one of New York's high-end department stores, and Trigiani goes to great length to describe many of the clothes Lucia makes. I enjoy her books because she does a great job of transporting the reader to a completely different place. I can't wait to read her other books, including the second in her newest trilogy, Brava Valentine.

What about you? What summer reads would you recommend?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What's the Worst Writing Advice You've Ever Received?

Just a short and sweet post today.

Based on some of the buzz I'm reading on a few colleagues' blogs, it sounds like there will be a few new folks joining the ranks of the full-time freelancers within a few weeks. So this got me thinking.

Luckily, freelancers are among some of the nicest folks I've ever had the pleasure to know. I can't tell you how many useful tips I've picked up, between websites, blogs, resources, or just emailing folks directly. But for all of the great and helpful tips that are out there, writers can dish out some pretty crummy advice, too. Unfortunately, freelancing is a lot of trial and error, but that doesn't mean you can't protect yourself from the outset as much as possible.

So, fellow writers, I ask you--"What's the worst writing advice you've ever received?"

I guess my response is pretty standard--"write what you know". I hear that and I roll my eyes. I'm a pretty voracious reader and I like to think that I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I also like learning for learning's sake, so if I find something that piques my interest, you'd better believe I want to learn all I can about it, and then share some of that knowledge with others. If I only wrote what I knew, I'd have to take down my writer's shingle already, because my well of knowledge has been exhausted several times over.

This advice would be closely followed by writing in one genre, or for one type of client. In today's business world particularly, businesses of all stripes are finding that diversifying might prove to be their saving grace. And anyway, if you stick to one type of writing project, wouldn't that get boring pretty quickly? Part of the beauty of freelancing is that we have the freedom to pick and choose, and dabble in different types of projects. We won't like everything that comes across our desks, of course, but I personally like the variety and diversity of the projects I take on.

What about you? What advice should "newbie" freelancers take with a grain of salt?