Monday, December 31, 2007

Fear and Doubt in Calgary

Recently I mailed off the contract, author's questionnaire and a headshot to my new publisher, Storey Books.

After the thrill of two weeks of back-and-forthing between publishers, I had the contract. It was in the mail. Then it was in my hands. Then there was signing and reading and a questionnaire to answer... a headshot to have printed. Then it was done.


Half due on Feb 29/08. The rest due in June.

And now is when the fear begins to take hold. Because Holy Crapola I'm Writing Another Book And Surely Now They Will Find Out I'm A Big Fake. Yes, I've ushered over 200 articles through to completion, yes I've written a 50K non fiction book already, yes I have good chunks of the book already written and researched....

But now it is all IN WRITING.

Now it is an expectation and (thank you, dad) what I fear most is not meeting someone's expectations.

Hello dear publisher/editor, if you are reading this, please ignore. This is normal. I used to do this with each article too but I got them done and done well thankyouverymuch.

I know that Shirley Jump has talked about being afraid during the book writing process. I Googled shirley jump fear (in case, dear Shirley, you wonder why that search string showed up in your stats) and I found this article:

Projecting Confidence When You're Terrified

My favorite is number five:

Believe in Yourself (Even if You're Pretending): "When I want to project confidence, I pretend that I am my worst competition. I envision myself as the most qualified, beautiful, and well-spoken candidate for the job," says writer Sheri Wallace. If necessary, talk to yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that you are a good writer.

That's what I do. Feel the fear, do it anyway, freak out on the inside. Really, whenever someone says I'm "accomplished" or that I've done a lot, I think "you really should see things from in hear because we're not sure what's going on and the hamster is about to run out of water".

But, again, I go back to Shirley, who is not old, but who is wise. She wrote Keep Doubt From Stealing Your Dreams.

In it she featured the quote:
"Doubt is a thief that often makes us fear to tread where we might have won."

I really think doubt is a thief. There's that evil, mean, nasty voice inside our heads that is constantly telling us that we aren't good enough. That we are just faking it, that we really have no business doing what we are doing. That voice? That voice really makes me angry.

If you ask my husband, he'll tell you that I do not like to be told what to do. He gets to sometimes because we're a team and that means sometimes you let someone tell you what to do. (I know, not the technical definition of team, which is somewhat more warm and fuzzy) But others? Oh no. You don't tell me what to do and more importantly, you sure don't get to tell me what NOT to do.

So now, instead of telling myself "Heather, you are a great writer!" My self-talk is more along the lines of "Look you evil, nasty little voice inside my head. You sit down. It's not your turn. It's my turn, I'm doing it. You can go pound sand because this book is being written and written well and you get no say in it. While you are sitting down there, you just worry about something else, like keeping your job. You know your cousin 'intuition'? She knows when to talk and when to shut the heck up. Read a page from her book, would ya?"

It's all peace and love in my head, can't you tell?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Kai's goals and 'headliner'

I don't - technically - do resolutions.
Partially because I'm not a particularly good goal setter - but I still try. I also do something 'special' - its called choosing a headliner.
Headliner goals are something that I like to consider as the 'must have' goal for the year. Y'know, the thing that would make the headlines in the newsreport on your life. I even go as far as to mock up a newspaper and print a poster for my 'office' wall. This year, I even produced limited edition 'reports' for freinds, completely tounge in cheek, but really appreciated - I've got a couple left if anyone wants to encourage my silliness, feel free to come on over to my site and request one.
Last year's 'headliner' was to do exactly what I did this year - take it easy. My yearly sum up headline was 'Kai takes a much needed break' - or was it?
I started University this year - so shock horror, taking it easy has been the last thing on my mind. One of my other goals though, and is a carry through goal - 'make better my craft'. (and the year I write that - improve my craft, I know I have it nailed ;)) so I achieved that.
This year's headliner is 'Kai finds an agent and finishes founding her own publishing company' - alongside 'Kai achieves amazing grades in her coursework'.
You should try the 'headliners' though. If anyone wants the newspaper template I use to make the mock up poster (with next year's date on it, of course) I'll be posting the new one on Language Dump before I return to the Uni on the 7th.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

My ONE Wish for 2008

Personally, I've sworn off wishing. But, okay...if we're wishing, here's mine: I wish for every word that shows up on my Word doc to be pure genius the first time out. What a beautiful wish. Sigh.

Oh, and world peace and all that too; but Heather only gave us ONE wish. (What's up with that, anyway? I thought all good genies give 3 minimum.)

Joking aside, there’s the ONE thing I’ll do in 2008 that will make all the difference in my professional and personal success.

I’m going to watch my language. (But I don’t mean cussing, because we all know what I’m going to say the next time I stub my toe.)

Have you ever noticed that when you say things over and over, those words start to define you? Become a part of you? What we say about ourselves directly influences who we become. And so I will watch what I say about myself, both internally and outwardly.

Here's a lovely quote that illustrates exactly what I mean. Like so many of the great ones, it's unclear to whom it should be attributed. And just because you first got this in some spam from your sweet Aunt Martha doesn’t mean it’s any less true. (And rest assured that nothing bad will happen to you if you don’t forward it to at least 10 of the editors in your address book!)

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

So, there you go. My ONE believing plan for 2008 is to use my words to communicate – to myself and to the world - the put-together, confident person I really am. :)


Friday, December 28, 2007

The Value of You

In random writing groups around the world, the same problem appears for writers of non-fiction, copywriting or business writing.

The writer posts that they are stuck in a bad situation because Something Has Gone Terribly Wrong. Sometimes it's a client that's not paying, sometimes there are problems with the acceptance of the work, sometimes a client is just a jerk.

But the common cause of these issues is a failure of clear communication.

We are writers, we are supposed to be good at clear communication. But for many, especially new writers, there's a sense that you have to pay your dues and scrape around at the bottom of the barrel for a little while before you earn your way into being a Real Writer.

This is not true. Here is my guide for writers new and old:

1) Get it in writing. Clearly. "OK, thank you for this acceptance! Just to clarify, I'm going to write a 1500 word article on TOPIC, this word count will include one side bar with facts about THIS. The deadline is THIS DAY and I will not be responsible for sourcing photographs, but I will provide contact information for your photographer. The fee we have agreed upon is $$$ upon acceptance of the article."

2) Have a minimum hourly rate. I suggest starting out at $25 an hour, and even that is low. This of it this way: Minimum Wage + Overhead costs (rent, equipment, insurance) + your taxes + the convenience of hiring a freelancer = your hourly rate. If someone suggests that they can have the work done cheaper, invite them to do so. You must have been under the false impression that they wanted the BEST person for the job. Oops, I guess they wanted the CHEAPEST.

3) Work Efficiently. You may not always negotiate based on your minimum hourly rate for things like article... but take it into consideration when you are accepting article work. Is this article worth your time?

4) There is only one type of compensation: money. There are other benefits you can receive: exposure, ad space, Seeing Your Name In Print... but there is only one type of compensation. If someone wants to give you "ad space" (a popular one for start ups) then you are (of course) free to accept if you have something to advertise. But you STILL invoice for the amount and you request an invoice for the ad space.

This is an important papertrail to a) prove that you did the work and b) prove to the government that you did the work and that the advertisement is a business expense. You can't prove that your advertising is a business expense unless you have an invoice for it.

5) Thank people for their referrals - it is ok to send a card or a little Starbucks gift card. But you do not owe them money for referrals. Make it clear with your NEW client that this is a deal between the two of you by establishing a contract right away. It can get complicated if the new person is expecting to invoice someone else and then has to invoice you, or thinks that you are negotiating on behalf of your previous contact. Or that you are somehow in business with that previous contact. Be clear about your independence.

6) Do not place yourself in an inferior position. Don't wait to invoice because someone is busy/sick. Did Visa wait to send you a bill when you were sick last month? Behave professionally. This does not mean you can't have a good, personal relationship with your contacts. Be yourself, but run your business. Conversely, do not use the busy/sick excuse to let any of YOUR committments go unmet. The editors that bought my first book don't even know I have children. And they certainly don't know that I was pregnant when I sold them the book nor that I was in labour the day that we accepted their offer.

7) Writing for Free is SOMETIMES OK. Bet ya didn't see that one coming. But here are my personal guidelines. If a publisher/editor accepts advertising - you should get paid. Full stop. I do not buy into any discussion about "start ups". What kind of start up forgets to take a huge expense like WRITERS when doing up their financial plan? They went to the bank to ask someone for money to invest... If they "forgot" to ask for money to pay people then that is their problem.

If you are a volunteer for a worthy organization (a non profit) and you consider writing your volunteer work, that's ok. But be careful that you are not being taken advantage of because you are the only writer. Don't write the association president's speech... edit it for him. Don't write all the web copy, delegate it and edit. If it gets too much, consider writing up a proposal for contract services. Show them how much they are getting for free and tell them that it is too much. Show how much you are willing to do but show them what the rest will cost them.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Goals for 2008

I usually don't wait till the new year to begin my goals, but I do plan ahead. It is common to see me work on my future goals daily. People call me an "overachiever" or "ambitious", something like that. I believe in hard work and spirituality.

I figure if you don't help yourself, who will or why should they?

I do have lots of goals, but I will share just four in random order:

1. Continue to balance motherhood with being a writer. I think that is a rewarding challenge because I love the titles of both.

2. Officially graduate with my master's degree in August 2008. I will have a degree in Foundations of Education. Unofficially, I am already a graduate--I just need to hand in my thesis and walk in the ceremony. Pray and think positive thoughts for me to succeed.

3. Prepare my son for kindergarten when he goes to "big kids school." I plan on being involved in his school, but not to the extent of being like those annoying parents. Being a college instructor allows me to feel with other school educators, so I let them do their job within legal standards.

4. I want to continue to remain an open-minded person with what's best for humanity. I don't discriminate with ethnicity, race, or religion. I believe that this world needs some humanitarian touch. Many still have prejudices that prevent them from being friends with each other. I plan on doing random acts of kindness.

You can call me ideal or dreamer, but hey that is what I strongly believe in. We all can make a difference. People do listen when we speak. People do watch when we move. People do talk when something is done.

Linda's ONE wish for 2008

In 2008, my wish would be that I am THERE for my family without distractions.

In 2006,I went back to grad school. For most of 2006, I worked full-time as a reporter, part-time teaching at a college, and I was a grad student with very demanding courses with a high work load. It meant that everything I did infringed on everything else. My free time was in short supply, and I rarely spent time with my extended family, and my time with my immediate family was often shared.

I finished grad school in 2007, I am still teaching at a college, and I have almost totally eliminated my work at the newspaper. My free time is much more abundant than it was, but I have developed a horrible habit during the last two years. I talk to my children while writing and/or typing. I grade papers when I should be spending time with family.

In 2008, I want my family to have my full attention. I will continue to work, but I will work during work hours/times. When I am with my family, I want to be WITH my family. I don't want to be grading papers (or homework) while camping (something I did quite a bit during 2006/2007).

In other words, I want to quit answering my children's questions when I am only half-way attentive because I am also staring at my computer, which leads to me agreeing to things that I didn't realize I agreed to.

I think in order to do this, I will have to also be more attentive to work. I want my schedule to be more decisive. When I am working, I am working. When I am with my family, I am with my family. It is so easy for work to intrude into your personal life, and I want to make sure I don't let it. I feel like I've been very selfish for the last two years doing what I need to do for me (and I don't regret it). I feel blessed because my family supported me and let me be selfish. But I find myself coming back to my real life and realizing my children have grown up. They have more responsibilities and are more opinionated.

There was even a moment last month when I went to pick up my son from his school. A teacher I knew through his older sisters saw me and asked, "You have a child in this building?" She hadn't seen me although this was my son's second year. Granted, it is easier to miss seeing her in the larger school than it was in the past, but I also realized I hadn't been there for many things I had done in the past.

I don't need to do it all, but when I make time for my family, I need to make sure my family is my top priority. My new schedule will allow me to do this, but I also need to make sure I change my own ways. I don't need to multi-task every moment of the day.

Practical Things I Want in 2008...

The last week of the year is when most writers start thinking about yearly goals. The first step, I think, beyond saying, "gee, I should really think of some goals for the coming year," is to think about what you want. Once you know what you want, you can evaluate what you're going to actually work towards and how much time and energy you are willing to put into getting those things. At least, that's how I think of goals.

So this week, Heather asked us to think about what we want in the coming year and try to post about it. Since I've been so terribly deficient in posting lately due to a huge contract I got in October, I'm going to try to post a couple of times about what I want. Some of this will be personal. Some will be silly. Some will be political--Heather, you DID say we could be political. Some, as with this post, will be practical. So, here are the practical things I want in 2008:

1) Get a deep well drilled: not sure how much I've talked here about our recent move, but back in June we bought a 170 year old farm house on roughly 3 acres. It has a shallow well with about 20 feet of usable water. Last summer, we had one of the worst droughts in a hundred years. I had to put the family on severe water restrictions to keep from literally running out of water. I'm not talking about not watering the lawn or washing the car. I mean that I have to wait 2 hours between loads of wash, even though I have a low-water-use front loader. I mean that not everyone can bathe at the same time of day because we can run at most two tubs before we run the well out. It also means sharing bath water. I can't do wash and do dishes and shower in the same morning. The only solution is to dig a deep well--400 feet or so--to the tune of $6000.

2) Get the city house finished and on the market: We still own a house in the city. it's been empty these last 6 months while we work on it. With all the work at the farm, my poor health, and this big contract I got in October work has been terribly slow. We desperately need to get this house on the market and sold or we are going to go under. And of COURSE, the bottom has dropped out of the housing market... again. If we have to rent the house out, we will, but I spent $15K on a new kitchen and I will be pissed to have a tenant take the shine off it. It will never be "NEW" again, ya know?

3) Set plans in motion for the addition to the farm house. The house we bought is pretty big, but it only has one bathroom and a beyond horrible kitchen. The kitchen floor is like the ocean. one of the major joists broke and is on a jack. The subfloor is rotten. The tile and grout were so filthy when we bought it that we tore it out and just live with the subfloor. Yes, it's uncivilized, I agree, but it seems pointless to fix it if we're only going to tear the whole room off the house, yah? The idea is to push the back of the house out about 16 feet, put modern kitchen, baths and systems (we have NO central heat or air) and do some major work to the electrical system (which is in nightmarish shape).

Thinking about how I am going to get those things and which of them is most important, I think that #2 must come at the top of the list. The main obstacles to getting #1 and #3 done is money. Selling the city house, with it's mortgage payment and equity will make #1 happen and #3 possible. So, I should put #2 at the top of my "willing to expend energy" list. Unfortunately, #2 directly conflicts with my #1 career goal (discussed in a later post) which is to keep this big contract I just got and with my abilities to expend energy based on my health problems.

Doesn't mean I can't have these things, just means that I need to figure out how to work it out. I need to go make my kids clean now, because their goal is supposed to be "having a big party on Saturday" and that means "must clean the house," and no one's doing squat unless Mama howls.

Back to howling.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My ONE Wish for 2008

I'm challenging all the other MNABC writers to answer this question:

What is your ONE wish for 2008? It can be personal, political, practical or pure silliness... here's mine:

For 2008, I wish and pray that I find my joy in life again. Sometimes we can be so focused on what we are doing that we forget to be present in the moment and enjoy all the little things. Am I finding joy in parenting, writing, working? I hope to root out the causes WHY I'm not finding joy and poke at them until they go away.

For this reason I've decided to change my goal setting for 2008. I reached maximum capacity this year - too much to do, too little time. It made me an unhappy mommy, wife and writer many times. So now I'm going change my focus from the usual "10% increase in income" for 2008 to a focus on one thing: books.

In January I'll be getting edits for book #1 and in February half of book #2 is due. When these are complete, I will focus on more book proposals. I have more in me, I know it. My income may not increase, but I think that my time will be freed up a little bit from what it has been. Multiple deadlines a month is tough on me.

So I'm going to find my joy in 2008. I'm going to remember why I love writing and being a mom and wife!

What about you?

Christmas Challenge 2007

I did it. I really did it. I didn't think I could, but I did, and I survived. I am not even twitching very much. I barely even thought about it yesterday. It was at least 4 p.m. before I considered it seriously but that had more to do with the fact I was busy opening presents, napping and cooking Christmas dinner.

That's right, I managed to not log onto my computer for a full 24 hours without suffering (much) withdrawal.

This is a major achievement. No computer for a day? A real holiday without any work or e-mail? It can be done. I'm living proof, and today? I logged in within minutes of waking up. I never promised I'd do 48 hours.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays.

I hear that Santa can't land on rooftops anymore because of OSHA regulations. That is just so wrong. He's been doing this job for hundreds of years without a single accident.

And one other thing: who says he's a bad role model? How old is the guy? And yet he's as healthy and active as he was when our grandparents were children!

I think we should let the fat guy have all the ho-hos he wants. He brings us presents.

Have a wonderful day!

Deadlines at Christmas

How NOT to celebrate Christmas:

Still be on deadline for articles that were due on the 20th of the month because:

a) family became violently ill for the past three weeks (except for you, the caretaker)

b) have people leave on vacation way earlier than you, and therefore be unresponsive to emails and phone calls

c) have people Who Have The Info You Need also be on vacation, but reply past the actual deadline, but not late enough that you can say "I'll get to it after Christmas"

d) factor in a procrastination moment or two (I justified it by calling it The Sleep After Everyone Was Sick)

e) all of the above

So I will be handing in FOUR articles today. I shall not be writing on Christmas God willing and the creek don't flood.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Diets* for Busy Mamas?

This morning in my regular blog-read-a-thon that occurs when I'm supposed to be working... I came across Mir's post which included a list of things she is doing or needs to do.... I found these gems:

17) Realize I have nothing to wear.
17a) Stomp around the house complaining about my big ass.
17b) Eat some cookies while wallowing.
17c) Completely fail to see the relationship between 17a and 17b.

I laughed out loud (not a great thing when you are actually supposed to be analyzing sales numbers for Q4) because it is so, so me and so, so true to life.

What is it about this time of year? I have always felt all high-and-mighty and eschewed those silly January diets... oh-Ho, not I, says I... I shall not be like the masses and I shall not commit myself to a futile diet that will end before Jan 15th with me buying a larger size pant and justifying that I've just put on a little "winter weight".

But now I'm slowly and constantly expanding and I find myself wanting to do SOMETHING. But at the same time I want to emphatically state "But it's not because it's that time of YEAR or anythying... no, no, this is just the right time for ME!"

Yeah, me and the rest of the world. I am, of course, TOTALLY AN ISLAND.

Really now, I'm stuck. Yesterday I went to meet with this personal trainer at a gym that's near to work and to which I happen to be a member.

The deal? $2000 for three months of training, three times a week.

I totally wanted to do it. Room on credit card = money, right? right?

Not so, says my husband. (Dammit!)

He asks why... I say I need a) accountability and b) a concrete plan.

He says a) we can make a plan.

I say a) how do we know it's the RIGHT PLAN? (Have you seen how many possible diet/eating plans/exercise plans/programs/lifestyle changes etc... there are??)

Him: Just eat better.

Me: Eat better? I don't eat, that's the problem. I hardly eat, it will be 2 pm and I've had coffee and more coffee. By the time I put food in my face in the afternoon my body is all "calories! food! energy! Quick! Store that in her ass because she may not feed us again for a long while!"

Him: Well you have these cookbooks here...

Me: Do they make the food too?

Him: No, but they have good recipies.

Me: Read one out and tell me if we have ANY of those in the house. Can you make a low cal dinner out of a box of hamburger stroganof helper with cheese and some limp celery?

Him: Well look, chicken fajitas, you could have that but just without the cheese and sour cream.

Me: ?? (I might as well chew carpet)

It all boils down to this. I'm trying to explain that I am STINKING BUSY and that cooking healthy food and finding time to shop for snooty ingredients to make food taste good is A LOT OF WORK.

I've tried scheduling work outs but (again with the abc's) a) working out early does not work when you've been up on deadline until 11 pm, b) when no one is holding me accountable, I don't go, c) there is simply NO TIME to work out between when I get home to pick up E from the babysitters to when I pick up M. from school to when I get home again to when I start on dinner to when I put the kids to bed... because between all those tasks I'm also trying to write. (8 articles this month plus a 75K book, half of which is due Feb 29th).

I've concluded that lunch hour at work is what works best. I've tried to find a work out buddy, no dice. I've tried to ask around about HOW to work out (do I eat before? how about after? how much cardio? how often? .... the list goes on) and if I ask three people I get four opinions.

It boils down to this. I have to PAY SOMEONE TO CARE ABOUT HOW FAT I GET.

Husband says he cares.

But he says I'm making excuses.

I explain that these are not excuses... that I am laying my concerns out because he said that a) I couldn't hire a personal trainer and b) he said "we" could do it so he needs to know what I'm up against.

I end up in tears at the end of this every single time. I'm lost. I don't know how much faster I can paddle here ... heck, at least if I were actually paddling then I'd actually be exercising.

*please do not correct me .... I know diet is a four-letter word and I'm supposed to focus on "lifestyle changes"....

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Contract Gripes

Ok. First, a warning: I'm a little hot under the collar. Second, this has nothing to do with my current contract. Third, this has to do with Canadian freelancers in particular.

There are some crappy contracts floating around in some of the media organizations in Canada. They suck. There's no way around that. They are "rights grabbing"... asking for everything they can get including all rights, moral rights and no extra pay just to pour some salt in that wound.

(You know, the one you have from opening up a vein on the page."All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." Red Smith)

But here's the thing. Or, rather, here are the things that are in my craw:

a) It's business. No business in their right mind seeks to pay more if they don't have to.

b) It's up to you as an individual to not sign it and not sell your work to that publication if you want to erradicate the contract.

c) No one is forcing you to sign. Nope, no gun to your head.

So what's a writer to do?

One word: DIVERSIFY.

Write for other markets, do different types of writing (ghostwriting, corporate, magazine, book), learn a supplemental trade (editing, desktop publishing), be smart with your money (plan for feast/famine) and stop whining.

Yes, you heard me. And don't go making that face because one day the wind will change and your face will stay that way!

These contracts are out there because there are writers who will sign them. Become a writer who will not sign them. Be smart about being a business, because as a writer, you are a business. You can't wait for the environment to get any friendlier for you because it won't. The strong survive here, baby. Deal with it.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Clean Idea

I was just reading an article by Jodi Webb (over at Kristen King's "Notes in the Margin" newsletter) about where she finds ideas for her articles.

She makes some great points, but I had to quit reading the article because I suddenly got the idea for this post.

My ideas come to me in the shower.

It may be the result of being quietly, blissfully alone (finally!), or it could just be the inevitable consequence of being somewhere without a pen handy, but I know for certain I'm not the only Mama who has solved a problem, found a great title, come up with one more bullet-point or decided how to organize globs of information so it flows coherently while the lather streams down.

(And that was a very LONG sentence! :D)

Here's what I want to know, specifically: Do YOU get ideas in the shower? Think of it as an informal poll. Even if you're not a writer, I would like to know just how many of us find the process of lather, rinse, repeat so inspiring, and WHY?

One thing is certain. Whenever I'm working on a particularly difficult assignment, I get sqeaky clean!

What about you?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is your productivity linked to your tools?

I used to think, and still, kinda do, that my laptop was the ultimate in productivity. The only thing I couldn't do was work whilst at the school, waiting for the kids.
That was, until I started university. And the laptop died. And the DESKTOP exploded. No joke, my desktop went *BANG* about a month ago. So we bought a new, vista installed desktop. And at the same time, I went for my disability assessment, cause the University referred me (my university ROCKS!), and eventually discovered I was getting a whole RAFT of tools that will tighten up my study skills.
So it all arrived this morning.

I didn't open my laptop first - I opened my dictaphone.
Y'see, I'm firmly of the belief that if something is working for you, augment it. I work well as a multi tasker. I can write and talk at the same time - I don't THINK I can write one story, and dictate another story, but I think I can write, pause when something else occurs to me and then go back to writing what I was working on.
Whether this rather wacky plan increases my productivity, or leaves me with more ideas than I know what to do with, which actually, is an improvement on coming up with snippets then losing them in the avalanche of the rest of the day, or whether I just run round in circles.
I am curious however, have you done anything recently to increase your productivity? Has changing the machine you work on increased your productivity, or has it left you the same, or worse off?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tagged for Random Weirdness

Amy from Mind Over Mullis has tagged me. And of course, that means I have to tag others...

The rules are as follows:

Link to the person who tagged you, post the rules and five facts (some random, some wierd) on your blog. Tag five people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Okay, here goes. What's random and what's weird is up to you to decide.

1. I went to Paris with my brother's Cub Scout troop when I was a kid. I saw famous places, but what I remember most was going to the McDonalds in the Red Light district. Oh, and using the restroom at the um... Moulin Rouge? They had a lady in there and you were supposed to give her Francs. I don't think we did.

2. In my senior year of high school, I got the top score on my AP English exam... and I didn't even finish the last essay. I could tell you all the deep and personal reasons why I am still so proud of that, but I'd have to break out the Kleenex and you didn't come here for that.

3. I sometimes email my husband when he's sitting right next to me.

4. What most of my friends think is weird is that I get on this Internet-thingy and write to people I've never met.

5. I study and teach the Bible and have twice-a-week fellowship meetings at my house. (Hi Corinna!)

Okay, now for the tags: I tag Faten, Kai over at Language Dump, Linda at Girl with a Curl, Mary over at Figure Skating Blog, Heather, The Writing Mother, and oh, what the heck, lets tag Tiff, The Neurotic Fitch Mom. That's 6, and I'm totally breaking the rules, but what the hay? It's a blog thingy - not dosage instructions on a prescription bottle.

Have fun!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Could this mean the end to my ever-widening rear?

One of the problems about being a writing mom with children in school is that I spend too much of my time curled up with my laptop and not enough time moving around. This results in some undesirable side-effects like weight gain and rear-end spread.

Like most writing moms I know, I'm a busy writing mom with a number of projects going at one time. I do a lot of writing, editing, grading, designing and more every day. All of this involves spending quality time with my computer instead of my treadmill.

In 2005, I decided I needed to do something to give my writing a boost, so I went back to grad school. It is no coincidence that in 2006 I completed 24 credits for my degree and gained approximately 60 pounds. For most of that year, while attending grad school, I also worked full-time as a newspaper reporter and taught three classes at a college. Factor in a long commute, and it comes down to a choice between family, sleep and exercise, and I had to sacrifice all three in order to get everything done.

If you were family and didn't live in my house in 2006, you didn't hear from me very much. If you did live in my home, you spent a lot of time with me while I was doing something else too. My family went camping, and I brought along my homework, laptop and papers to grade, not to mention my camera and reporter's notebook.

I sacrificed sleep. I had to in order to get everything done. There were several times where I would wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. in order to finish my own homework or to grade my students homework. I tried to leave my evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. free to spend time with the kids and from 8 to 10 p.m. to spend time with my husband. Exercise wasn't always a possibility, but I tried to work it in too. Several mornings my husband and I would wake up at 6 and walk a couple miles.

Since I graduated last August, my schedule has slowed down quite a bit. I am working on exercising more and getting enough sleep as well as eating right. I see my immediate family more often, and I have been able to reconnect with extended family too. Yet, I still spend a lot of time sitting on my butt working on my computer.

In case you didn't know, typing, even typing at over 130 words a minute, doesn't tend to burn very many calories. I have long dreamed of a way that would make it easier to incorporate exercise into my life. I already use my iPod to listen to the writing-related podcast Will Write for Wine while on the tread mill.

This week I saw a possible solution on the news: the Walkstation

It's a combination of a treadmill (3 mph max) and a desktop that is perfect for a laptop and other work-related items. It's billed as the "first truly mobile office." A walking worker can burn up to 100 calories an hour.

My butt is ready, my legs are questioning their stamina, and after a glance at the $4,000 price tag, my wallet has left the building, but it is good to know someone is doing something to help me fit exercise into my busy work day.

It could mean the end to one of the most serious epidemics facing writing mothers today -- putting on pounds when pounding the keys.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bob's Your Uncle

You know how you agonize over every word in an article, writing your transitions then moving a paragraph and having to rewrite your transition? Transcribing every word of an interview to get the perfect quote, and squeezing in a few extras for good measure? Googling every tidbit of information and every fact to get a good background knowledge of the topic so you don’t write something foolish?

No? You don’t? Hmm. Maybe I’ve been doing this wrong all along. I just got the most wonderful note from an editor about my latest article. She loved my article about modern homemaking. I did check a few pages Google brought me, read over a few notes from some previous essays I’d written for a college class, and tried two different POVs for the article, but overall I’d say it was one of the easier ones to write. After all, I do live this, so I pretty much know what I’m talking about.

But the interesting thing to me was that she said I had really found my “voice.”

Really? That old thing? I knew where it was all along, I was just trying to keep it out of sight, like you might hide your embarrassing Uncle Bob from your friends.

Come to find out, people really like ol’ Bob.

Well, shoot. It’d be easier to let him out when company comes over than to hide him in the back room with a bag of pork rinds and a videotape of the “wardrobe malfunction” Superbowl.

Does this mean my informative, research-intensive article writing days are over? I imagine not. But I sure hope people (editor-type people) still like my “voice” in the days ahead. It would make this writing business a lot easier!

Okay. Basking in the love right now. Bring it on –

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Great Big List of Resources

Paul Lima with the Professional Writers Association of Canada has given us permission to post a compendeum of writer resources that he's blogged about. It's a big list, so big in fact That It Requires Capital Letters To Show You Just How Big It Is.

Here ya go:


Job description for newspaper and magazine freelancers

10-steps to writing for newspapers and magazines

Ideas, Inspiration and Dogs

21 Rules for Writing Stellar Query Letters

How to Structure a Query Letter; Sample Query Letter

The Query Letter - How to pitch editors

The art of the query - how to sell article to magazines and newspapers

The art of the query letter

Keep your e-query letters out of the trash folder

Pre-query Query Letter can work wonders

When to follow-up with editors

You've sold the article idea, now what.?

Deflation & Freelance Writers


Establish Your Business Vision

Want to boost your business? Start with your business vision

Can a freelancer earn six figures?

How to become a six-figure freelancer in five easy steps

Writing Services You Can Offer Corporate Clients

Place Five Arrows in Your Marketing Quiver

Place Five Arrows in Your Marketing Quiver

Simple marketing task that generates repeat business

How to estimate corporate writing assignments

How much to charge for work

Freelance Writing: Do the Math

How Much Did You Earn Today? - Guest Blog

Questions you can ask a client before writing


Using the Web to sell books and special reports

Self-publishing & print on demand with Lulu


Do you have what it takes to become a freelance writer?

C-student does OK, but it took a while

Just an English major from York.

Temporary reprieve from insanity proves to be permanent, or how I became a
freelance writer

My father was a janitor; my mother a housewife and I am...

Send in the Writers: How to / Why to. Hire a Freelance Writer


If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've
always got

The business universe is truly mysterious

Is the Internet Stealing Your Precious Time?

The only thing writers have to fear is fear itself

Dark Dingy Basements of the Mind...
...and other reasons why writers can't write

Job was a freelance writer: New Research reveals Biblical scholar was
talking to an Editor, not to God!

Speech: (Almost) Everything you need to know about freelance writing


Send clients and editors your Holiday schedule

Using the Web to boost your freelance business

How to get Google to rank your website high

PR Primer for Small Businesses

Media Training & PR create a best seller


A creative but useful writing exercise

Creativity and Brainstorming

Know Your Target Market


Writers often do more than write

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Blogging tips and tricks

Blogging is one of those things that everyone that's been doing it for a while claims they are good at, and its really easy, after about three months to believe that those claiming they know it all, actually do, especially if they teach you a couple of neat tricks.

I've been blogging since 2002 - since before it was 'cool' and part of the mainstream internet, and I teach blogging on a regular basis, so I thought I'd share some of THE most important tips I've picked up along the way.

(xposted at Publishhacks) - I cover authenticism, content, moneymaking and more, so come on over!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Teaching to Give

A lot of the times, you can find me reading a parenting magazine or surfing the Internet reading the latest parenting trends. I have been known to implement some of those trends.

As I read about parenting experiences, I am usually impressed by some of the parents' views and ideas. However, when I saw this one idea (unfortunately I forgot where I read it--maybe from reading too many material?), it is as if I had seen the light!

The tip that I had read was about how to teach your child not to say, "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!" It was about how teach your child to be appreciative and think more about others. This parent said that she makes her child donate gently used toys when he received new ones. For example, if her child received three new toys today, then he is required to donate three gently used toys to less fortunate children.

I thought, what a great idea! So, I tried that on my son explaining to him that when he gets a new toy, he will donate the same amount of toys. (Remember he is four.) I sat him down and I explained to him that there are some children who can't buy toys, what does he think about giving them some of his toys, so they could be happy. He honestly said, "Ok, I will be a good helper."

So about two days ago, I wanted to see how serious my son was about our new rule. I bought him a set of cars which had 12 (like he doesn't have enough as is), and then we went to his toy box. I reminded him to put donated toys in the bag. After he was finished, he told me that he felt good helping other children smile. Of course, I hugged and kissed him for his actions. (Too cuddly not to).

Today when I saw some of my friends, I explained to them my new theory that I had adapted from a magazine. One friend said to me, "You are such an awesome mother!" I told her that was not the point. Then the same friend said to other friends, "Isn't *boy child* going to grow up to be the neatest person because of his mom?" I just smiled and giggled in a humble manner.

My awesome dh supports this idea, and he has thanked child for doing this.

I just love reading. Can you tell?