Monday, May 31, 2010

Final Day of Blogathon 2010

Wow. I can't believe I have successfully posted every day during May for the Blogathon 2010. To be honest, I didn't think I was going to be able to do this. But I pushed forward and learned a lot as a result. The lessons I've learned in the last 31 days....

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

The story is in the details

As we were driving down to Nashville yesterday, my travel buddy turned to me in shock that her AT&T network wasn't strong in the boonies of IL. I laughed since my Verizon signal was as strong as usual.

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

Article Writing is like Country Music

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

Buckle down

Today I had to revise a short piece I wrote and then write a long profile article on a very interesting company. I love this kind of writing. Honestly, I do. But sometimes it's impossible to concentrate. I mean it's beautifully sunny and warm out today. I sat in one Panera and was so cold from the blasting AC that I needed to leave before I lost my finger tips. I moved to another Panera and had two tables that seemed to be in a 'who can talk louder' competition.

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

Kill them with Kindness

Sometimes there are days in a freelancer's life when everything seems to be going wrong. Sources flake out of you. Editors are breathing down your neck. The words aren't flowing. It's rough. (Thankfully for me today is not one of those days, which is why I opted to write about it now.)

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

Facebook Changes Privacy Settings... Again

If you've been following this debate about Facebook and are aware of the uproar some are making and the completely lackadaisical approach others have to it all, I'm sure you have an opinion. Here's the latest from the Washington Post.

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

Music to Write to

So, as most good journalists I tend to be a procrastinator and a perfection-seeker. Two problems when on deadline. I wrote, re-wrote and perfected a piece last night, which became early this morning, which lead to little sleep but a killer piece.

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

Haiku the day

I don't think I've written a Haiku since grade school. But for the May blogathoners, we are being challenged to write a Haiku today. Trying to get the syllables just write was a bigger challenge than I would have thought. You try it!

Click, clack of the keys
Typing my words into thought
Short, brief, to the point.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Quotes to live by...

In keeping with the more relaxed weekend themes, here are a couple of m favorite journalism/writing quotes.

"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

Journalism Movies

For this sunny and bright Saturday (in which I am spending as much time out of doors and away from my computer as possible) I thought I'd leave you all with a few of my favorite journalism movies.

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

Changing your Niche

Here I have spent the week lauding the praises of the niche, something I don't think I truly even understood two years ago. So... now let's talk about changing yours.

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.)
  1. Identify the new niche you'd like to pursue. This needs to be specific, as specific as possible.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. Read, read, and read some more on the area you want to focus on.
  6. 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.
What else would you add to the list? Has anyone successfully switched niches? What worked for you?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Learning to Love a Niche

When I first started writing about commercial real estate and other business-related topics I was excited just to have a job in the journalism field. I could have been happy writing weather reports or obits. But as the time went on and I realized I had thoroughly entrenched myself in this niche, I had a momentary panic attack.

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

Why a Niche is Important

After yesterday's guest post, it seems a number of people agree with Rebecca - being a generalist is a good thing. I'll agree, to an extent. It certainly is nice not to be boxed into writing about only one topic. It is important to stretch outside of your writer's comfort zone and challenge yourself personally and professionally with new topics and sources.

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

Guest Blogger: Steering Clear of the Niche

Today's post is part of the May Blogathon, in which bloggers trade posts write for another person's blog for the day. Rebecca Robinson is the guest blogger for Write Beyond today! As a fellow freelancer, she offers some pretty valid points about not wanting to box herself into a single niche, which is a pretty timely post considering this week I'm blogging about a journalist's niche.

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.)
- - - - - - - - -
Rebecca Robinson is a freelance writer and editor driven by insatiable curiosity and a passion for storytelling. (She’s also a fan of muckraking, wonkery, and keeping ‘em honest.) Her work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including the Oregonian, Street Roots, Willamette Week, and Got a story? Get in touch:

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

What's a Niche?

This week I'm going to be blogging about a writer's niche. How to create one, how to change one, how to love yours, etc...

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

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

Mark Twain

Did you know 2010 marks the 175th anniversary of Mark Twain's birth and the 100th anniversary of his death. True story.

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

Where's your email at?

For my fashion blog I've been working at contacting a number of fashion and beauty bloggers to start this weekly networking post series. The concept is fairly easy to understand and operate and it is a great way to both network and drive traffic to our blogs. I've got a whole bunch of bloggers that I would LOVE to be involved in the movement but the trouble is I can't find their e-mail addresses anywhere! (Ok it's not really a movement but I can't think of a better name for it.)

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.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lend a Hand

If I learned one thing from a certain professor at Marquette it was that the journalism field is VERY small. Everyone knows everyone else. One mess up and you could ensure your jobless state for years to come. And when you work in a certain niche that field becomes even smaller. (For instance one of my last freelancing gigs came from a former co-worker and required speaking with a former boss - SMALL World!)

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

The solitary life of a freelancer

I was doing an interview a couple months ago, talking to a painter, and she was telling me how easy it is to become a hermit in her profession. I assured her I could relate. As a freelance write, editor and social media coordinator I spend most of the day in front of my computer interacting with people I've never met. Sure, I feel like I know several of them because of the relationships we have struck up and I'd love to meet up with them for coffee or a beer if I was ever in their part of the world.

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

Sites I Visit Daily

In keeping with yesterday's blogs I love post... I thought I'd highlight the sites I visit daily for work and for fun.

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

Blogs I Love

As a May Blogathon 2010 participant, today I'm writing about my five favorite blogs. We're all trying to blog about this topic for the day. (More details and the blogs involved can be found here.)

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

My mother made me a better writer by doing nothing

My mom is an amazing individual (even if most people can say that about their own mothers.) Honestly my mom is Martha Stewart and June Cleaver and Oprah all rolled into one. And it is to her, on this Mother's Day, that I owe a good portion of my love for and ability to write.

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

Stepping Away

This probably does not count as a May Blogathon post but... today I am moving a friend of mine out of her college dorm and back home. And I'm taking advantage of the day to literally disconnect from technology to just help her and be a good friend.

I'm a firm believer in getting your priorities straight.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I'm spending nearly the entire day playing around with my new HTC Droid Incredible. I'll have a review of it up here in about a week after I learn all the fun parts of the phone. But for now... I have to say it's great.

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

Planning ahead - editorial calendars

Happy Cinco De Mayo! The pseudo-holiday got me thinking about the need freelancers have to plan ahead. Publications work off editorial calendars, which often run months in advance. Content to go live this week about Margaritas and Coronas and good guacamole (YUM) has been planned well in advance.

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

Making Use of Lost Moments

I'm typing this post out on my blackberry as I ride a stationary bike at my gym. Yes, I am getting some odd looks from my fellow gym buddies, but inspiration struck and I needed to take advantage.

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

How is a blogger not like a journalist?

Everybody and their mother has a blog these days; and most of these people call themselves journalists. But let's get one thing straight - bloggers and journalists are not the same.

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

Yes, I'm a blogger

Hi. I'm KT and I'm a blogger. Ok, I'm more than a passive blogger (even if it's hard to tell from the sporadic Write Beyond posts). I actually make money from blogging. Try explaining that to someone who isn't up on new media and it's like talking a foreign language.

"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

May Blogathon 2010

Last year I participated in the May Blogathon coordinated by Michelle Rafter. The experience was great and taught me a number of positive things about the art of blogging. I managed to write 27 posts during May 2009. But things got crazy, I took on some new freelancing jobs and I started a fashion blog, so Write Beyond often fell to the side.

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.)