Friday, January 22, 2010

Borders vs Barnes and Noble Membership

As a freelancer, I find that over the past year I ended up buying a number of new books and CD to review for various publications. I haven't looked over the receipts from this year yet, but suffice it to say it was a lot of books and music over the past 12 months. (The lady who does my taxes might have a panic attack at all the computing for writeoffs.)

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

A Day in the Life of a Freelancer

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…

The Journalist Can't Set Aside His Humanity in the Face of Tragedy, Nor Should He

Yesterday I read Show Tracker, a entertainment blog on the Los Angeles Times. The writer was saying CNN's Sanjay Gupta over stepped his bounds as a journalist by helping those in need in Haiti. By using his skills as a doctor and then filming the interaction, the author argues, Dr. Gupta was blurring the line of impartial reporter of the news. Wow. Really?

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

Evernote: A Freelancer's Salvation

As part of the streamlining process of 2010 I signed up for Evernote. Although only a couple weeks into the use of this memo keeping software, I have to say I love it.

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

Novel Update II

The plan is to submit query letters to several agents every Monday during the month of January. This gives me time to research each agent to find out the best ones to query. I started a list of agents queried so that I don't accidentally pitch two people in the same agency or the same person twice. The list is all kinds of helpful!

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

Split Personality and Writing ADD

Several weeks ago I wrote about my split writing personality and diverse list of interests. What's a girl to do when she has so many interests and wants to do so many things? It was tearing me apart to try and do so many things and to find a way to make every interest, hobby, aspiration and goal fit into a normal 24-hour day, a normal 7-day week.

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

My Resolution to Write Daily

In keeping with New Years resolutions and the like... I'm making two slight resolutions for my non-journalism writing. As I spend A LOT of time reading literary agent's blogs and scanning through the submission guidelines of agencies this got me thinking.

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.