Monday, May 31, 2010
1. Every post does not have to be award winning quality. They can be short, brief, witty, fun. No matter what, they shouldn't just fill space, but they should add information to the conversation.
2. Picking a theme for a week's worth of posts can be an easy way to write often and develop a theme. Plus it means shorter posts, so readers are hopefully more likely to read the entire message. (For me, the niche writing posts were great and I plan on doing more such posts.)
3. Commenting on other blogs, or sharing posts, is a great way to get your voice out there and to continue the conversation with readers and fellow writers/bloggers/journalists.
4. I also realized that I see blogging as a conversation between the writer and the readers. This is something I'd always known and felt but never fully articulated until this month. And it seems to be a belief that not everyone shares or fully understands. Now, I want to write more about this in the weeks ahead.
5. I need to spice things up with more entertaining content, something more than just text. Video, pictures, whatever...
6. Pre-posting is the way to get content up on the weekends, and not have to think about it when away from the computer and taking time to disconnect.
7. There is just not enough time in the day to do everything and write everything I'd like to. (Not that I just learned that this month, but I saw it more clearly this month as I tried to view the other blogs contributing in the Blogathon and failed miserably.)
8. I also acknowledge that I don't think it is necessary to post daily. Although, I do want to post more frequently than I did the months before this Blogathon.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
She told me, "I just don't understand, AT&T says it covers 97% of the country."
I thought about that and the commercials I have heard recently and realized that message was exactly what the phone company wants its customers to hear. But the truth of the matter is that the ads say they cover 97% of the population. So big cities, that are more population dense are covered while the sticks in rural IL or MO are not covered.
It got me thinking... for writing it is also about the little details and getting to the bottom of what someone is saying. Are we talking 97% of the country or 97% of the people here? It's the journalists job to ferret out the details on these vague and often purposely misleading statements.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
This morning I woke up at the God-awful hour of 3:30am to begin a road trip down to Nashville, TN. As I drove along, and my road trip buddy slept in the passenger seat, I was listening to the endless amounts of country music. The songs, which almost all tell an actual story from beginning to end, are the perfect example of what every good news story should be.
Who, what, where, when, why and how. Take Luke Bryan’s ‘Rain is the a Good Thing’ Who: the main character and his girl. What: thankful for rain that brings lots of good things. Where: The farm, the barn. Why: It makes his girl frisky. How: riding out a thunder storm in the barn… um, yeah…
Entertaining. Or at least interesting to read.Not every story are going to be as catchy as a Brad Paisely song. (Check you for Ticks, Water)
Short. There is the occasional need to tell a story that is equivalent to the length of American Pie, but usually stories can be told better and more clearly with less words and more direct writing.
Descriptive. It’s not enough to just tell the story. In these songs there are only a couple verses and a few rounds of the course. It all needs to fit, which means the words need to be specifically chosen. Old school Kenny Chesney, "big orange ball sinking in the water..."
Friday, May 28, 2010
All of this is to say, I was mega distracted. I allowed myself a 30 minute blog-reading distraction, filled up my cup with Dr. Pepper and then put my headphones on and told myself I wasn't allowed to get up for anything until everything was done. And... mission accomplished.
Sometimes, I think we need to work at psyching ourselves out. Give in a little and then buckle down. No distractions. Shut up twitter. Put your phone on silence in your bag. Pick music that is simple and non-singalongable. And then attack the words and thoughts ahead of you.
What do you do to concentrate and get that pending piece done? Any tricks?
In college I used to wear a study cap. Whenever it was on my head I knew that was the time to do nothing but study. Oddly enough it worked wonders.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I've found often times the sources tend to be the most frustrating thing. They want to review their quotes and have small changes they want to see fixed. They won't return phone calls, or don't like being put on speaker phone. Sometimes the men think that you must not know too much since you're a girl, which I find to be especially true in business writing. All of this can lead to a difficult interview, in-person or over-the-phone.
The best solution, is a two-fold approach. First, kill them with kindness. Make it apparent you are on their side. Just searching for the facts. Not out to malign them or their reputation. Second, help them see you are knowledgeable about the subject matter. You know what you are talking about. You are aware of the terms and players.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I, personally, have tried to keep my Facebook account secure and private. I don't usually accept friend requests from colleagues or clients and I make it so almost all my settings are for 'friends only.' However that doesn't prevent people from finding me and creeping on me a little. (Here's an article I wrote for another blog several weeks ago. It's all about how easy it is to start for FB information about a person and wind up with their children's names and a picture of their house, thanks to the internet.)
What do you think about privacy controls? Should they be strengthened? Loosened? Does it not matter?
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
With that in mind I have absolutely NO brain power left. But, since I want to keep up this winning streak of posting every day in May (it's the 25th for goodness sake) here is a list of some of my favorite songs to listen to as I try to get into the writing mode.
What songs help you concentrate?
3am (acoustic) - Matchbox20
Everybody Knows - Dixie Chicks
Better That We Break - Maroon 5
Breathe - David Gray
I Don't Trust Myself - John Mayer
Marry Me - Train
The House That Built Me - Miranda Lambert
Cry On Command - Gloriana
Syrup & Honey - Duffy
The Best of My Love - The Eagles
Closer To Love - Mat Kearney
Rainy Night in Georgia - Chris Young
Spies - Coldplay
Falling Apart - Matt Nathanson
Autumn in New York - Ella Fitzgerald
Cry on Demand - Ryan Adams
Talkin' Bout a Revolution - Tracy Chapman
Time and Time Again - Counting Crows
I'm About to Come Alive - David Nail or Train
Man to Man - Gary Allen
My Life Story - Gladys Knight
Simple Man - Shinedown
Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone - Al Green
Stupid Boy - Keith Urban
Hallelujah - Rufus Wainwright
Blue Eyes Blue - Eric Clapton
Monday, May 24, 2010
Click, clack of the keys
Typing my words into thought
Short, brief, to the point.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
"Journalism can never be silent: That is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air." - Henry Anatole Grunwald
"Generally speaking, the best people nowadays go into journalism, the second best into business, the rubbish into politics and the shits into law." - Auberon Waugh
"The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug." - Mark Twain
"In journalism, there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right." - Ellen Goodman
"I became a journalist to come as close as possible to the heart of the world." - Henry R. Luce
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Shattered Glass: PG-13, 94 minutes - Perfect proof of how one lie, becomes a second, which becomes a third and soon you don't even realize where the truth ends and the lies begin.
The Devil Wears Prada: PG-13, 109 minutes - A surprisingly accurate portrayal of the fashion magazine industry. And of course Ann Hathway is her usual cute, sometimes a little annoying, self.
Confessions of a Shopaholic: PG, 104 minutes - A fashionista in a business writing environment, trying desperately to break into the fashion industry and wracking up the credit card bills to prove it. Isla Fischer is great.
Let's go old-school for a second...
His Girl Friday: 92 minutes - Does it get any better than Cary Grant trying to win his reporter ex-wife back?
Foreign Correspondent: 120 minutes - Um, directed by Hitchcock... need I say more?
Roman Holiday: 118 minutes - A princess and a reporter, set in Rome, starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn... this was is truly a classic.
Friday, May 21, 2010
I'm in the midst of drastically altering my writing focus, which is a difficult and challenging venture. Anyone who has found their interests and passions moving from one spectrum of the writing planet to the other understands what a huge endeavor this is. Moving from commercial real estate to fashion.. um, yeah. I suppose it could be said I'm creating a second niche.
Here's how I'm doing it: (To be honest, since I've never switched my niche before I can't vouch for the fool-proofness of this plan. It just makes logical sense to me.)
- Identify the new niche you'd like to pursue. This needs to be specific, as specific as possible.
- Look for opportunities to be published in this area. This will at times mean writing for free, starting a blog, or going out on a limb to pitch a publication.
- Find the ways your current niche and the one you'd like to have intersect. (For instance, I've written about new malls opening and the retailers looking to locate in the facility.)
- Don't neglect your niche area. By falling out of practice in your actual area of expertise you are closing the door to other opportunities that could be coming your way. And let's be honest, as a freelancer you can't shut the door on anything. Stay current. Read up. Take assignments.
- Read, read, and read some more on the area you want to focus on.
- Seek out the online community for that field. Interact with the key players - network. Learn the big facts, the interesting points, the must-know tidbits.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I didn't like writing about commercial real estate. It was boring. What could I do? I spent a couple weeks miserable about the spot I found myself in. Then I spent a couple weeks trying to get out of it. I interviewed for a position as the assistant to an editor at a now defunct home-fashion magazine. When I finished the interview, the editor told me she loved my personality, drive and enthusiasm and unfortunately I was too overqualified for the position. I would be bored, she explained. I was distraught. (Although now I am grateful.)
After that I decided to man-up and give 110% to the job at hand. I poured myself into the niche. I researched the major players, the key words. I learned about cap rates and intermodal yards. I studied the supply-chain and REITs. And through all of this I discovered the areas that I actually love to write about.
I think in every niche, even the ones we aren't completely sold on, there are areas of interest, stories that will grip us and beg to be written. For instance, I love writing about new construction projects, mixed-use facilities and anything that is sustainable. True, there are still the stories that I have to make an effort to care about. But overall, the change in mindset has really helped me make this niche my own.
To make a niche your own you've got to become fully immersed in the topic. You've got to know the players, the events, the background. You've got to have the hunger to know more and the desire to research until you find the answers. You've got to rise above the initial dullness and find the interesting sidenotes or fun facts; besides it is usually this info that makes a story more exciting to read and write.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Still, I think it is important to have a niche. A niche gives you a shoe-in for projects. As I mentioned in the post defining a niche, mine is business writing, specifically commercial real estate. Is it the most thrilling topic all the time? No, not at all. Are there amazing aspects to it? Yes! Having this niche was something that happened to me, without any real foresight on my part. I took a number of jobs early on that focused in this area and suddenly it's my field of expertise.
This subject matter has helped me land countless freelance jobs. I've worked on and off for a number of years for several national commercial real estate publications. I wrote a freelance piece for the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune special sections, and have now landed additional assignments from construction and building publications.
The ability to tell a potential client about your deep knowledge on the subject matter, gives you one-up over the competition. The fact that you know the key players and all ready have contacts in your niche area, further solidifies your worthiness for the job.
One the other hand, being a generalist means you have lots of basic knowledge and contacts. But it means you don't have the full pulse of the subject matter.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
When I saw Katie’s tweet (@hinder) last week about needing a Blogathon guest poster, I jumped on it, admittedly because I wanted to snap up anyone as quickly as I could regardless of whether it would be a good fit.
(Call it Needy Freelancer Syndrome: the tendency to grab anything that comes your way and treat it as if it’s the key to your salvation, even after you realize that a 400-words-for-$15 article on joint mobilization won’t buy you happiness, fame or fortune…or even pay your water bill.)
Once I took a closer look, though, I realized that Katie’s blog Write Beyond the Cubicle was the ideal place for me to guest post, particularly during her “know your niche” week. You see, I am the consummate generalist. Homelessness? I write about that. Faith communities? Heck yes! Social entrepreneurs, cops, performance artists, sex workers? Lemme at ‘em!
What I love most about journalism is being able to tell so many different stories, to immerse myself in so many different realities and do my best to portray those realities to readers, finding the common thread that ties their life experience to that of someone whose world may be completely different than their own. It makes my life richer, and pushes me far beyond my comfort zone, whether I’m digesting wonky data or reporting in the field, into places that are unfamiliar, surprising, and sometimes downright scary.
I like to think I’ve had modest success in my three-plus years of journalism (a little under a year as a staff writer at a Vermont daily newspaper, a little over two as a freelance writer and editor in Portland, Oregon). But every day I hear that I would do better if I picked a niche and stuck with it. It’s key to building a coherent brand! It’s the only way you’ll ever make money!
These are valid arguments that are impossible to ignore, given their ubiquity on blogs and on the “future of news” lecture circuit. But for someone who’s not only interested in damn near everything but also relishes the challenge of absorbing new knowledge and communicating it coherently to the public, niche-ifying seems limiting.
I fully accept that this view may spring from my complete inability (or unwillingness?) to choose a path and stick to it, or a stubborn refusal to accept that my chosen profession is changing in ways that don’t necessarily align with my particular passions. But part of me genuinely believes that a journalist can build a brand through producing a body of high-quality but varied work instead of becoming the go-to authority on all things X.
But enough about me…what do you think? Comment away; I eagerly await your wisdom. (Or your rants. Those are fun too.)
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Also, check out my post on Rebecca's blog. It's all about being aware of the niche you are creating with internships and early career jobs.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Most journalists have a niche; an area they tend to focus on and land jobs related to. For me it's real estate.
The niche is not always something you knowingly pick. Sometimes it lands at your feet and you go with the flow. For instance, in college I worked for the student newspaper and preferred human interest stories, higher education and religion. The summer before Junior year my dad got me an internship with Realtor Magazine. Like most internships, I didn't do too much but I read a lot on the subject matter as I sat in my little out-of-the-way cubicle.
Then as a Junior I hoped to land an internship to count as college credit during the year. My friend, Jen, recommended me for a job at the Business Journal and I landed there for a semester. I actually loved this internship. I wrote company profiles and features on local businesses and leaders.
After college I moved to New York, got a job in the editorial department at the Times and actually landed a freelance gig for the Real Estate section. I think that tiny article sealed my fate. From there I went on to work at Commercial Property News and GlobeSt.com.
Real Estate and Business wasn't something I was actively looking for. But it was something that I fell into through the jobs I landed and the freelance pieces I was assigned.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
To celebrate, and really to learn more about this American literary icon my friends and I are headed to Hannibal today. It's the birth place of the famed writer and of course they have a whole museum tour set-up for tourists. Not totally my kind of thing, but I've got a couple friends who are big-time into it.
Never read a Mark Twain piece? Try this free short story on Bartleby. Jim Smily and His Jumping Frog
I've read both the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But I have to admit, ashamedly, that I did not know he wrote the Prince and the Pauper until I checked it out of the library last week. Read his bio here and see the complete list of works.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
To me, it is crucial that you give people a way to contact you on the blog. And, more importantly, it needs to be easy for them to find that contact information. If it is buried on the bottom sidebar under all your key words, previous blog posts, and blog roll readers/advertisers/fellow bloggers will likely give up before getting that far.
If possible, the contact information should be at the top of the homepage. Maybe make a "Contact Me' gadget or blog page. Maybe put your e-mail address and Twitter handle as the first two things on the sidebar. But however you do it, you need to make it nearly impossible for someone to miss it.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
But this isn't a post about burning bridges... I've written that one before.
Instead this is about lending a hand to a fellow writer. I've found that in this field people are often unwilling to go out of their way to help a fellow professional. I don't know if it is the competitive nature of the field, or the often insane schedules we keep. But whatever it is I've run up against my fair share of brick walls.
When I was a recent graduate I moved to New York in the hopes of landing the job of a lifetime. No one tells you the job of a lifetime is NEVER going to be your first job. Anyway, I went with a list of former Marquette students who now worked in the journalism or PR fields. One by one I contacted these alumni and asked for a 10 minute informational interview. I assured them all I really wanted to do was pick their brains about the field and the NYC market. Of all the people I contacted only two responded and agreed to offer me a meeting. A couple told me they were much too busy to see me but wished me luck. Others outright ignored my request.
As I've moved on in my career, (Sidenote: I can't complain too much since one of these contacts turned into my first job) I began to realize this is not just something a new professional runs up against. Many fellow journalists are unwilling to offer advice or support to those trying to make it.
When I moved to St. Louis, with a number of reputable jobs under my belt and a fairly good looking portfolio, I reached out to a fellow alum who also happened to have a mutual friend of mine. Two emails and one un-returned phone call I realized this local writer wasn't going to offer any support or thoughts on landing a job here. I let it go and moved on to other resources.
I've been contacted by a number of journalism majors asking my thoughts on a specific matter or internship. When I respond, at least half the people thank me and admit I am the only one who offered support and encouragement. No, I didn't get them a job, but at least I helped direct the search or their craft.
Why is it so impossible for journalists to remember the people who helped them get to where they are today and offer that same support to another?
Is this something that is unique to journalism or is this a global phenomenon?
PS The idea for this post came after a fellow alum helped me land a new freelancing gig today. I've ever so grateful to him, especially since he breaks the mold and is willing to lend a hand.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
But... life as a freelancer is pretty solitary. For instance I've lived in St. Louis three years now. I've made friends through a couple of the different activities I attend, and keeping a part time retail job for a while. But recently I started to realize I don't know anyone here in the Lou in the media world. And that's a bummer, since the average person doesn't understand social media or blogging and so having a conversation about those topics is impossible.
I finally took matters into my own hands and have signed up to attend the STL Social Media Club's May event. I'll be honest, networking events are not exactly my strong point. (actually they tend to petrify me.) But I firmly believe people need to have in-person contacts especially in their field of professional work. So, I'm going to give it a go. Fingers crossed it goes well.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Google News - True it is full of a lot of random articles and stuff that is pointless. But I love that it highlights the top stories all on one page so I can see what's what in a minute's scrolling time.
Yahoo - Ok, only for email do I venture here. I think the stories featured on the site are usually superfluous fluff and a waste of time. (Although I do like the games on yahoo.)
Independent Fashion Bloggers (IFB) - This is the go-to place for fashion bloggers to get tips on their skills, the latest news and experience community.
MapMyRun - The best site I've found to track my daily runs around town. It's great to both plot a run and track where you've gone.
Mashable - The most current and interesting Social Media guide with frequent updates and a wide variety of content.
Facebook - True life, I've been a member since its first year. Do I get a reward for that? I also keep this to friends and family members and steer the business connections elsewhere.
LinkedIn - Professional facebook. I find the groups to be the most fruitful and interesting aspect of the site. My profile.
Blogger - Obviously between Write Beyond and ModlyChic I'm on blogger a good portion of the day. Plus I follow a number of blogs this way.
Media outlets I read/skim daily: NYTimes, BBC, St. Louis Post Dispatch, CNN, Crain's Chicago Business
Monday, May 10, 2010
My list of blogs is a strange one. Since I keep both this blog about freelancing and a personal fashion diary blog; and since I write about lifestyle trends and commercial real estate; and since I am working on penning a young adult novel. So the blogs I read daily are as diverse as my areas of interest. Here's what I've got bookmarked....
This Is Glamorous. Honestly one of the most beautiful blogs I have ever stumbled across. The pictures are visually stunning. It's totally eye candy.
Book Ends. An honest and often in-your-face approach to getting published written by a literary agent. The blog offers helpful advice on query letters, manuscripts, e-mail communications, plots, characters, hooks... pretty much everything needed for writing a killer story and getting it published.
Tatertots and Jello. True, I am not a mother. But this mom's blog is the practical woman's guide to stylish motherhood and DIY projects. I've gotten a number of great craft ideas from skimming her posts.
Keiko Lynn. Maybe it's her clothing designs or maybe it's just the pretty backdrops she catches in her photos. Whatever it is I love looking at this blog. For me visually pleasing blogs are the key to attracting and keeping readers.
Nathan Bransford. The guy I'd like to be my literary agent. He's professional, thoughtful and funny on his blog. Plus he's all about helping aspiring authors to get published.
What I Wore. I stumbled upon this blog about 16 months ago. After looking at her daily posts for more than three months I started thinking I could do something similar. So, she's the inspiration for my own fashion blog, ModlyChic.
Kendi Everyday. Yes, another fashion blog. But Kendi just completed a personal challenge to remix the same clothing outfits into 30 different outfits to be worn for 30 days. I watched the daily posts and was uber-inspired by her combinations and creativity.
Nicholas Kristof. Can I count his NYT column as a blog? Not really, but I am going to anyway. When I worked at the NYT after college I had the opportunity to interact with Kristof a number of times. He struck me as a down-to-earth reporter who honestly cared deeply about the subjects he wrote about. If only every columnist was concerned with things that really matter in this world.
FishbowlNY. When I worked in New York I honestly read this MediaBistro blog first thing every morning. You want to know about the journalism scene in the Big Apple? Here's where you get the skinny on everyone. Now I skim it occasionally just for fun.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
When I was in grade school I began to love the concept of putting pen to paper to come up with something unique and interesting to read by another person. I don't have any of my early writings, but I believe it is safe to say... they were horrible. At some point, I don't remember what year, I had to take one of those standardized tests. You know, the kind that mean nothing but are required and the results arrive in the mail. When the kids in my class started talking about their test results I was surprised that I'd yet to see mine. When I asked my mom where the scores were she told me it wasn't important as long as I was doing my best in school.
Fast forward a year or two. I took the same test and when I asked about the results I got the same response. It doesn't matter because my parents knew I was trying. It wasn't until I was in high school, excelling at the English writing courses and starting the school paper that my mom told me the ulterior motive behind not showing me the scores.
I had scored the lowest on the writing portion of the test, lower even than science - the class I despised. My mom (and dad) knew how much writing meant to me and they didn't want me to become discouraged by the score. They knew me so well! So, they kept the results a secret from me and were justly rewarded when I took the test again a few years later and received my highest score on the writing portion.
Thank God my mom kept the results from me. Who knows where I would be today if I had become disheartened with writing all the way back in grade school.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
I'm a firm believer in getting your priorities straight.
Friday, May 7, 2010
I've had a blackberry for two years and have been a big proponent of the blackberry. But the problem with it is that the internet does not display as I would like it to. Plus the cameras on most of the blackberry devices are inferior to almost every other kind of smartphone out today. For email, twitter, and basic note taking (plus phone calls of course) the Blackberry Curve was a perfect phone.
Long video, but this walks you through most of the basics of the Droid Incredible:
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
For us freelancers, it's crucial to know the work flow pattern for the publication you hope to pitch. An outdated pitch will get sent directly to the trash bin by the editor you are pitching. They don't have the time not the patience to deal with writers who are unable to think ahead.
Your best bet is to find a publications editorial calendar and then create one of your own. Count back the days to when the publication will begin working on a specific topic. Then count back the amount of time it will take you to write the piece and add a couple extra days to send the pitch and get it accepted or tweaked by the writer.
With this mantra you're likely to be working on Back to School and Halloween pieces now. But that's ok. It'll stretch your creativity and help you hone the art of the pitch.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
For a freelancer, and let's face it for pretty much anyone on the planet, time is money. Unlike those who work a 9-to-5 job we don't necessarily know where out next pay check is coming from. We need to cultivate clients, network and pitch like crazy. And then when we finally do get a client or a gig we need to dive right into the project, usually there is no time to waste.
As a result it's important to take advantage of the little spots of time that are otherwise vacant in our day and fill those with mini brain storming sessions, outline creation or basic note taking. I've written whole posts while driving around from place to place and waiting in lines on a normal Tuesday. Plus taking advantage to take notes when inspiration hits will allow you an easier time when it comes to pitching and writing. I mean honestly, how many times have you had an AMAZING idea, forgot to jot it down and subsequently couldn't remember the previous stellar idea? Too often to count no doubt. (For instance the idea for this post came to me yesterday as I was sitting at a red light responding to an e-mail. I immediately made a note. )
If you think about it I'm sure your day is full of little periods of time you've previously considered wasted. The wait at the red light or train crossing. The 10 minutes before an event starts. The cool down at the gym. The line at Starbucks or the wait to get your drink. There are little lost moments littered throughout our day. Taking advantage of them will mean increased productivity and likely better long term results.
Monday, May 3, 2010
A Blogger is someone who writes targeted content for a specific audience. They may have experience in the industry or just an opinion on the matter. Blogs are free range for opinions to run rampant. When penning a blog there is no necessary writing style or formulas to follow. The facts mentioned don't have to be backed up by reliable sources (although I think they should be.) A blog is a place for conversation and debate. The blogger is the mastermind behind this forum.
A Journalist is someone who usually writes on a specific topic they have a specialty in. They know the facts, the sources, the key players. The articles should be laced with provable facts and written with the hope of conveying truth to the readers. A journalists own personal opinion should not be apparent in the article; it's all about the facts.
The line between these two types of writers are often blurred, which confuses the non-media savy public. When I write for businesses publications I call myself a journalist. I am delivering the facts to a specific market of readers that want to know what is going on. When I publish blog posts I'm a blogger. I fill my paragraphs with my own thoughts and opinions on a certain topic and pose questions for discussion. Bloggers get paid to offer their opinions. Writers get paid to check their opinions at the door.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
"What do you do for a living?"
"I write for several different blogs."
"Uh, huh. And what do you really do?"
"Um... I blog, you know about fashion, technology, pop culture, freelance writing, whatever."
"So you write? You're a journalist?"
"Yeah, I supposed you could say that since I went to school for journalism. And I write actual news pieces from time to time but I mostly blog now."
"I can't believe people pay you to do that. It takes no brains or effort to just write out your opinion."
Excuse me?! While everyone can physically write, it takes talent to craft words. And to make a blog successful it is not just a matter of putting your opinion down for others to potentially maybe read. A blogger needs to create conversation. She needs to entice readers back. She needs to draw new eyes to the site. It is not just as simple as filling a page in an 8th-grade diary. This is actual work.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Now that it's May again, I'm ready to re-start my frequent posts and do so with the encouragement and help of roughly 100 other bloggers. (Learn more here.) So in the weeks ahead I'll be attempting to write a daily post on the freelance and journalism industries. I'm geared up, I'm making a calendar of posts, and I plan to pre-write posts for the weekends so I don't skip days.
Good luck to all the other bloggers! I can't wait to read what you all have to say. (And although I am not entering my fashion blog in the Blogathon list, I'll also attempt to post daily to ModlyChic as well.)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
With my freelance career I've slowly been trying to make the transition from a strict business writer to a fashion and lifestyle writer. It's no easy task since journalism is usually a niche profession (more on that later this week). But I've been working on my own fashion blog, started blogging for a lifestyle/fashion blog out of Australia, and been doing several one-time articles for various pubs/blogs/sites. So, obviously my initial reaction was 'Finally someone recognizes my writing talent in this area.' Well... that was until I read the next line...
This potential client went on to say that because it was a start-up company they would be unable to compensate me in anyway for my work. Once the business was financially viable they might be able to pay me for future work. *bubble BURST* At this point my sunny, excited disposition swiftly turned into annoyance and anger.
What is it about freelance that makes people think you have the opportunity and desire to work for free? I'm no longer at the start of my career, when I might have tripped over myself to get an opportunity like this, regardless of compensation. I don't need a couple great clips to pad my portfolio. And I'm not naive enough to believe the experience from this writing gig will be more valuable than any monetary compensation.
I'm a professional. I work hard. I write well. And I rely completely on the money I make from writing to pay the bills. You wouldn't walk into the Gap and say to the manager 'give me these Long and Lean jeans for free. It'll be great exposure for your brand and really worth it in the long run.' The manager would kick you out of the store and not entertain your request for even a split second. (incidentally Long and Lean jeans from Gap are some of my all-time fav denim styles)
In this man's defense, I don't think he wrote me with any ill will. He probably honestly thought this would be a great opportunity and something a writing professional would jump at. So, instead of delete his e-mail without a response I wrote him back and kindly explained that I am unable to take non-paying gigs at this point in time. I offered to write if he could come up with some kind of payment in exchange.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
To be fair she was a great editor but it always bugged me that she never wanted to talk socially or even eat lunch together. Not that I was looking for a BFF, but some kind of interaction with the person next to you at work would have been nice. At the time, I thought she was driven and passionate about her job, leading her to shun others and focus on the words in front of her.
Now, I think she did herself a HUGE disservice.
If I've learned anything in the last couple weeks as I look around for additional freelance gigs to fill my time, it's to never burn bridges. The majority of people I have reached out to and had a real conversation with have been friends and acquaintances from previous jobs or social environments. I've talked with a few former co-workers, as well as a high school classmate and a couple people who went to Marquette with me.
If I had gone into each job and social setting with a mind to just get the job done I would never have been able to talk with these people today. So, my advice to the college students reading this and others trying to make it in the freelancing world: Make connections, create links, build contacts. Don't burn bridges. Journalism is a small, small world. If you make enemies or neglect to make friends you are pretty likely to run into those same people at another point down the road.
Not to mention, since we are social beings it is healthy and right to build relationships with those around us... but that's a whole other topic.
Monday, March 15, 2010
This weekend I had a long conversation with my dad, during which he told me that unfortunately I picked the wrong career. Journalism is dying. He’d been reading a couple business blogs lately that mentioned the changing face of journalism and the dire situation we are facing.
He told me, “Kate, I see journalism like the blacksmith profession. Sure there are still horse in need of shoes, but they are few and far between.” To him journalists are a diminishing breed, set to be nearly distinct except in some choice parts of the country.
I’ve given this analogy a lot of thought over the last three days and I’ve reached two conclusions. He’s right and he’s dead wrong. (At this point he’ll grin and shake his head at me.)
He’s right: Old-school journalists, the ones who pounded the pavement and worked for weeks to get a big juicy story, are shrinking in numbers. Thanks to the internet, the immediacy of news, free sites, blogs and citizen journalism there isn’t a large demand for strong, in-depth, well-written analysis pieces. These old-school journalists are the blacksmiths of today – few and far between.
He’s dead wrong: New media is unchartered territory. It’s the wild-west of today. And when the Wild West was first being tamed blacksmiths were in high demand, after all those cowboys needed their horses. New journalists, the ones who can adjust to the changing media models and write fast solid copy, are in high demand. Yes, citizen journalism and the idea that anybody and everybody has writing talent is polluting the waters. But those of us traditionally trained bring a concept of ethics, an appreciation for well-written copy and our love for the written world to the world of new media.
So, to his suggestion I become a nurse… I’m thinking more along the lines of pursuing new media more doggedly. Darwin had one solid idea… survival of the fittest is based on those that are best able to adapt to their surroundings. I’m adapting. Journalism is evolving. Blacksmith or not… I’m in it for the long haul because even after 10 years of seeing clips published I still love seeing my name in the byline slot. And for some reason I can write.
Friday, March 12, 2010
I'd be lying if I didn't admit when I found out I spent the entire day in a state of dazed panic. So many thoughts ran through my head... wait a second they liked my work, it seemed so secure the week before, shit I need to pay my taxes, my dad's going to flip, another job come and gone, oh no I've got two student loan bills and my phone bill sitting on my desk, thank God I still have a couple smaller gigs.
After the first day of confusion, I decided two things. One: Things happen for a reason. Two: I'm not going to sit back and hope good things just role my way.
The things happen for a reason was proved utterly true when I headed home that weekend to visit with my family. The trip had been planned well in advance and while it had nothing to do with my nearly jobless state it was a welcome break. The day I arrived home, my grandmother was put on hospice care. Five days later she passed away. If I hadn't lost my main freelancing gig I would not have been able to stay in Chicago to help my mom drive my siblings to soccer practice, make their packed lunches, do laundry, clean the house, take out the dogs, etc... So things happen for a reason.
I'm jumping to it again... I've reached out to fellow writers, former colleagues and college alums, as well as former clients. Just getting my name out there is going to help. Plus, I just got some great advice on how to better my MS, so I'll be taking advantage of this downtime to re-order, re-write and then re-submit by book.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Anyway, since I was doing all this purchasing I signed up for a Barnes and Noble membership. I'm sure you know the general idea... pay $25 and you get 10% all your purchases for the year. While part of me rebels from the idea of paying money for a discount, I did it because I knew the money would pay for itself in the end. And it did. (Plus the B&N near me has a Starbucks where the discount also applies - score!)
But since I am no longer writing as many CD and book reviews I've stopped needing the discount. My membership is up at the end of the month. So when I went into Barnes and Noble the other day the woman behind the counter asked if I wanted to renew. I told her no, I didn't need it this year. She told me it expired the end of January and if I changed my mind I could renew at any time. Great.
Then I looked at my credit card bill and my account was automatically charged the $25 membership fee for another year. Hmmm... after a little digging, I found out the fee is automatically applied to your credit card every year unless you cancel within 30 days of the renewal. I'm sure this was on some paper work when I signed up, but what I find interesting about the entire deal is that the company renewed my membership a month before it expired. This basically makes me lose out on an entire month, which I already paid for. Not Cool.
On the other hand, I also signed up for a Borders membership. This one is free. Now, I don't like Borders as much as Barnes & Noble. To me the stores aren't as aesthetically pleasing, so I'm less likely to go there. But I'm beginning to rethink this for a number of reasons.
First: The membership is free. So I am not forced to pay $25 to land 10% off. I get it automatically once they have my name and I get a Borders card. Second: Instead of sending additional discounts to me on books I'm not interested in reading, like B&N does,the company just sent me a $5 voucher due to recent spending. $5 to spend on whatever I want in the store in addition to my normal 10% discount. Score. (That's good marketing.)
Borders is becoming my bookstore of choice.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Just before the new year I was talking to a friend who knows I’m a freelance writer. She asked me why I couldn’t hang out with her for 4 hours in the middle of a Thursday. When I told her I had too much work to do, she looked at me blankly and then said, “wait, you work? Where do you work now?”
I almost died! It’s not like I just started freelancing a couple weeks ago. I’ve been doing it since before I knew her. But it got me thinking… nobody really knows what I do. And since I can be at the gym at 2pm on any random afternoon, they assume I don’t work.
Then yesterday was AgentsDay on Twitter. All day various literary agents tweeted what they were doing to prove their job is so much more than reading query letters and manuscripts. While I’m not going to tweet my day I’m going to outline my Thursday here:
6:00am – alarm sounds. Immediately check my e-mails, read the top stories from the New York Times, then start getting ready to face the day.
7:30am – fire up my computer. Check one of the work account email addresses Post new am stories to a website and prepare a morning alert set to go live in an hour.
8:00am – eat breakfast while reading the local newspaper (including the comics, just for kicks)
8:15am – back at my computer. Tweet. Read through the e-mails from the 4 other accounts I have to manage for various freelancing gigs. Respond to the public relations execs about upcoming stories.
9:00am – take pictures for the ModlyChic fashion blog, load them to the computer, push them through photoshop, write a blog post for the pics and then tweet the blog entry.
9:20am - log onto facebook. Read wall posts, messages, and others status. Comment accordingly. Tweet.
9:30am – check work e-mails again. Respond to emails. Skim though a dozen publications for news items. Tweet. Check PR Newswire for releases I didn’t receive. Make notes about the articles I’ll need to write up. Begin penning some. Tweet.
10:15am – read through bookmarked blogs, leave comments when necessary. Tweet. Begin penning blog entries for Tiger Print. Tweet. Change mind and pen Write Beyond Cubicle entry instead.
10:30am – skim through Google alerts. Note/bookmark relevant stories. Tweet the interesting pieces. Delete from inbox.
10:45am - check work e-mail again. Send out e-mail questions to sources for various articles. Tweet. Delete old e-mails from my work account, as it is already overcapacity for the day. Return PR rep phone call.
11:00am – begin writing stories that must go live at noon. Tweet. Research companies for background, crop photos, load to the system. Respond to e-mails
12:00pm – Push stories live on the site. Tweet. Take a deep breath.
12:05pm – read through emails from all accounts again, respond as needed. Check facebook. Read through others tweets. Check the statistics on my tweets.
12:20pm - return phone calls to sources.
12:40pm – stretch legs. Grab something for lunch, bring it back to desk.
12:50pm – look at the top stories on Google News and the New York Times.
1:00pm – research for fashion blogs. Skimming retailers websites, fashion blogs, fashion publications. Tweet. Take notes via Evernote. E-mail fellow bloggers about coordinating efforts. Tweet.
1:30pm – log onto YouTube to see what’s new. Tweet. (waste some time creepin.) Refill empty water bottle.
2:00pm – conference call with one gig. Tweet.
2:30pm – check work e-mails again, while on conference call still. Send reminder e-mails to PR reps who are due to send me important information by the end of the day. Tweet.
2:45pm – continue working on Tiger Print posts. Send e-mails to fellow contributors to hash-out ideas. Tweet. Look though Google alerts again. Read. Post. Save. Delete. Tweet.
3:00pm – finish Tiger Print posts. Send to editor. Tweet.
3:30pm – check all email accounts again. Respond when needed.
4:00pm – ready to pull out my eyes. Head to the gym. Call sister from the car. Talk to her in the parking lot. Tweet. Foursquare my location. Run. Sweat – a lot. Lift weights. Stretch. Bike.
6:00pm – home. Check e-mails. Shower. Prep dinner.
6:30pm – dinner, dishes.
7:30pm - Check e-mails. Tweet. Clean office, a little.
8:00pm – begin compiling notes for article that needs to be written before bed tonight.
8:30pm – visit with the roommates. Laugh, lots.
9:30pm – back to computer. Check e-mails again. Skim google alerts. Check facebook. Tweet.
9:45pm – Begin writing article(s) that must be live by 5am.
10:15pm – put article on the site, set to go live at 5am. Check e-mails one last time. Creep on twitter.
10:30pm – if still awake, try penning a few words on my next young adult novel attempt.
11:00pm – hopefully dead asleep, usually still creepin on the internet, writing, tweeting, etc…
As a tried and true journalist, I have to say I do agree with the idea that journalists should remain as partial as possible in most situations. If they are a political journalist they shouldn't participate in rallies, I even have extra respect for those who opt not to vote in order to be more fair to both sides.
But the situation in Haiti is no political convention. The journalists there are face-to-face with raw humanity. Yes, they are there to cover the news. But they are also looking into the eyes of death and grief. No matter how solid of a reporter you are, how can you overlook a fellow human being in need? How can you tell them 'I'm sorry, I have the means to help you but I need to be impartial and cover this for my news organization'?
This way of thinking, reminded me of the famous picture of a child about to be eaten by a vulture taken by photojournalist Kevin Carter. We've all seen the haunting photo, which originally appeared in the New York Times in 1993. Carter received a lot of grief for not helping the little girl get to a nearby feeding center. The photo is still amazing, but wouldn't it have been worthwhile to pick the little one up and take her to get food instead of chasing the culture away and then leaving the scene?
Dr. Gupta is trying to use his talents as a doctor and a journalist to help and tell the story of the Haiti disaster. I as a CNN viewer and journalist do not feel jipped that he is filling both roles there.
The only thing I did agree with in the blog post was that CNN should not have featured the video of Dr. Gupta helping the baby so prominently on its site. It's not pressing news and should not be treated as such.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
As a freelancer, you know the best ideas for an article often come at the most random times, like right as you get on the tread mill or as you are standing in line at the grocery store or just before falling asleep. Some of those ideas you remember. Others slip away. Maybe you note them in a memo on your blackberry or scribble on a post-it note. But those notes often don't get transposed elsewhere and you're scrounging around to find that amazing idea you had days ago. Here's where Evernote comes in.
Evernote basically allows you to save text, audio, pics, files in one convenient location that is accessible from any computer and blackberry/i-phone-type device. You can add new items to a note, delete things, bold a certain entry, change the colors of the text... whatever.
If you are at the gym and inspiration suddenly hits regarding a handful of posts for your blog, just pull out your blackberry or i-phone and start a new text memo. (the application is a free download, as is basic membership to the site) You can later go back to the memo from your home computer and tweak the ideas.
I've got memos for each of the different blogs I write. I've got a memo full of ideas for the next novel I'm going to try and pen. I've even got to-do lists sitting on there.
I haven't fully tested out the audio note capabilities yet... but for a journalist, I can see where this can come in handy, especially if you are penning an article on the road. The audio files can sit there until you are ready to play them over to grab useful quotes.
Evernote works on both a Mac and PC. It also is compatible with Blackberry, iPhone, Palm Pre and Palm Pixi, and Windows Mobile.
Monday, January 11, 2010
The coolest part about the process is I now know the agents of some of my favorite YA books of 2009. (Eventually, hopefully, the best part will be actually landing an agent.)
So... the count stands at: 28 agents pitched so far.
A number of agencies and individual agents are out of the office during the beginning of January, so I am making a list of who I can query later in the month.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Through the New Year, and all the crazy resolutions I've been reading about, I gave it some thought. Who do I want to become in my writing career? A good and important question for all of us, especially recent grads and freelancers.
My conclusions: I'm going to stay the course, but keep it focused, narrow.
Forget going back to school to try out something else. Forget possibly getting a 'real' job as my friends call someone who sits in a tiny cubicle in stuffy clothes and miserable for 9 hours a day. Forget these crazy clients who didn't pay me during 2009 and whom I am still furious with. Forget the criticism that I don't do anything with my life, or how easy it is to sit at home in front of a computer on Twitter all day. (LOL - if only.) Forget starting a retail company at the moment or opening an Etsy store.
I'm going to keep up this blog. Keep writing my commercial real estate and business pieces. Keep working the social media aspect of my career. Keep expanding my base of fashion/beauty writing. Keep the photography blog as a hobby and nothing more. Keep working on the novel writing. Keep with reputable clients and publications.
Monday, January 4, 2010
So, maybe my first novel attempt isn't good enough to be published. Maybe it is. We'll see what the agents think/say when I start sending the manuscript to more of them. But one thing I do know.. I can write. So whether this book gets picked up or not, doesn't mean I won't be/can't be published some day. So in the meantime... I have two resolutions to keep my chin up and to hone my skills.
One: I will write at least one page of a fictional piece each day. I write thousands of words a day between all the blogs and publications I write for, but that isn't the same as creative writing.
Two: I'm going to read more books that contain good writing. New publications, old classics. No more of this fluffy stuff. Good writing and only good writing. (If you want a book to read try the Hunger Games - I just stumbled across it and I can't stop thinking about it. WOW)
Manuscript update: So far I've sent it to 11 agents, and got three prompt rejections. I feel great about that fact. No, seriously, I do.