Last year’s gift idea post was a hit, so I thought I’d update the list for 2013! Here are 51 more holiday gift ideas for writers. Buy that special writer in your life something cool, or reward yourself for being awesome.
As something like a foreword, I’d like to say this took me months to write, and it still feels like it’s not enough. I’m hoping the writing and publishing of it all will help with the grief. I still feel it plenty.
Tuesday night I had a horrible dream. I dreamed that my dog Taubensee was alive, but still sick. I dreamed he had somehow come back to life after being put to sleep. And in the dream I was overcome with grief at the realization that I had tried to kill him when he wasn’t ready to die.
If you’re a pet lover, I don’t have to explain why Wednesday morning was a serious struggle for me.
Taubensee was my first pet. I adopted him in 2000, and the only things I really knew about pet ownership at the time were: 1) I wanted a dog, 2) it was absolutely essential the dog have floppy ears, and 3) I was going to name whichever dog I adopted after my favorite Cincinnati Reds catcher–no matter what.
After visiting a few shelters and not feeling that thing, I found Taubensee in the back room of the Warrick Humane Society. I was twenty; he was barely four weeks. He was so young and so new to the shelter that he was being held in the quarantine area until a vet could look him over and make sure everything checked out okay. He could be adopted, but he couldn’t be taken home just yet.
He was the tiniest, fluffiest, shivering-est, ball of fur I’d ever seen. He was curled up in a towel facing the corner, all alone.
All alone like me on my first day of kindergarten. I couldn’t even see his face, but I understood him immediately: It’s not shy or anti-social if you just prefer being alone. If Taubensee could have taken a Myers-Briggs assessment, he’d have been an INFJ like me. There’s no doubt in my mind.
In the early days, when Taub and I were trying to work out a schedule, I’d often have to let him outside in the wee hours. I’d crawl back in bed rather than wait for him to finish his business by the back door, because he was always pokey and I was always groggy. Besides, he’d let me know when he was ready to come back in by letting out a bark or two by the bedroom window.
Until he came up with a better idea.
One night I was startled by the sound of a great thud! against the house right outside my bedroom window. It was immediately followed by the sound of something screeching and slipping against the aluminum siding. I went to the back door and found Taubensee sopping wet on the back stoop, more than ready to come inside. I toweled him off. We went to bed.
The next morning when I went out back there were puppy paw prints and streaks of mud on the siding under the window. Apparently Taub had jumped at the bedroom window during the night to get my attention. Unable to grab a hold of anything, he slid down the wall, trails of mud marking his descent. By my estimation he’d thrown himself at the house at least a dozen times.
When Taubensee was three, I witnessed him having a seizure for the first time. Watching my precious Puppybutt on the kitchen floor convulsing was horrible. I didn’t know what to do, so I pretty much just resorted to hysterics.
The seizure eventually ended, I called the vet, and in relatively short order, Taubensee was diagnosed with canine epilepsy. He took phenobarbital morning and night for ten years. It always came wrapped in a tiny treat, accompanied by a head scratch and a “Goooooood puppy!” (said in that low, dumb voice that dog owners often use).
The medicine didn’t stop his seizures entirely, but when they did surface, they were shorter and milder. I was so relieved. When a seizure did break through, Taubensee’s ability to walk was usually the first thing to go. His joints wouldn’t bend, and his muscles just wouldn’t cooperate no matter how hard he tried. Still he’d paw and lean his way as close to me as he could get.
I’d meet him halfway–well, probably more–and I’d pet him and tell him I loved him until the shaking ended. When it was all over I’d say, “Want a treat?” and he’d run to Treat Station (the place where the puppy treats were stored in the kitchen, duh) like nothing had ever happened.
For thirteen years people told me I really had something special. And I knew it was true. Taub was the Best. Dog. Ever. He never drank from the toilet. He never sniffed a crotch. He only jumped up on family. He never ran away. He curled up in a ball and slept on car rides.
He climbed in the bathtub all by himself. All I had to do was run the water, call his name, and point to the tub. He’d reluctantly climb in and await further instruction.
Taubensee had been a snorer since he was about five, but it wasn’t the loud, disruptive snore of a 200-pound human. It was a soothing, sleep-inducing reminder that your best friend was close by and everything was right.
But one night in July I noticed Taubensee’s breathing at night was really loud and labored. I called the vet, Dan took him the next morning. They did X-rays, and his lungs looked cloudy. We tried a few things, but nothing really worked and so the vet didn’t delay in referring him to a specialist. Taubensee was admitted for some tests and kept overnight. He was clearly sick, dehydrated, and malnourished.
We left him in the care of the staff at the emergency vet, and spent the next couple of days in Milwaukee for a funeral. Dan’s father had passed away.
I called the vet to check on Taubensee while we were away. They’d put him on an IV, they were syringe feeding him. On our way back from Milwaukee, we stopped at the veterinary hospital to pick him up.
He wagged his tail at us, but his tail was heartbreakingly lower than usual. He was looking better because they’d been pumping him full of fluids, but he was still lethargic. Still struggling to breathe.
In the last few hours we had Taubensee at home, Dan and I carried him everywhere: outside, upstairs, downstairs, to his food bowl. We lifted him into his favorite chair. We tried forcing medicine and food down his throat, but he refused. His last night at home, I put an air mattress on the floor, and Taub and I slept side-by-side.
We took him back to the emergency vet the next day, where I explained we couldn’t get him to eat or take his medicine. When the vet tech interpreted what I was unable to say, I broke down in tears in the lobby.
Taubensee was 13, and to the best of our knowledge he died of cancer. They did a couple of different tests to try and verify what was wrong during the whole ordeal, but they were inconclusive. What we did know is there were lots of spots on his lungs, and he could hardly take in a breath. More tests weren’t going to make him feel better.
I know why they call it “putting to sleep.” Because he passed away peacefully, with his head in my lap. He looked me straight in the eye while I cooed at him, and then he became totally relaxed. His breathing eased, and Dan and I mooshed him and told him we loved him until the vet said, “He’s gone.”
January 8, 2000 — August 4, 2013
So, remember how in my last post I was all, “I’ve got ideas for this blog” and “contributors” and “news forthcoming.”
After further reflection, I’ve decided the last thing I want to do right now is give myself another writing project. The day job and my freelancing work provide the perfect number of deadlines for the time being.
Besides, I’m enjoying coming home from work with energy left to exercise my brain, so I’ve been letting myself indulge in books. Since moving to Champaign, I’ve read:
That might not seem like a lot for the hardcore book nerds out there, but eight books since September trumps my January through August average by, like, I dunno…a lot. I attribute my newfound energy and desire to read again to two things: going back to Central Time and having access to natural daylight at the new day job.
Anyway, of the eight titles listed, I’d have to say that In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin was my favorite. Despite the horrible title, it was a fascinating read. It’s by Erik Larson, the guy who wrote Devil in the White City, and it follows the lives of the reluctant American ambassador to Germany and his family at the time Hitler was coming to power
A fair number of people on Goodreads complained about how much attention Larson gave to the ambassador’s daughter’s scandalous love life. I think those people are idiots. First of all, her diary provided a first-person account of a historically significant period. Second of all, that a member of the Nazi party tried to set her up with Hitler, that she fell in love with a guy in the Russian military, that she slept with whomever she pleased in 19-freaking-33, that her escapades complicated life for her dad—those things are damn relevant to a story about the ambassador and his family.
My one caution: Because Larson quotes primary sources where he can, the prose can get a little clunky. This one reads closer to the non-fiction it is, where Devil in the White City reads a little more novel-like. Prepare yourself for grammatical structures that are a little more complicated than “See Dick run.”
In the last couple of months, I’ve received emails from a few readers feigning harassment over my lack of posts here at Suess’s Pieces. So maybe an explanation is in order. I mean, it’s certainly not my intention that this blog lie stagnant for much longer.
You see, since the end of July a lot’s happened here. I quit one job, started another, put my home up for sale, and moved out of state. (Still waiting on that house to sell, so mortgage and rent right now. Hooray!) And all of that came at me just a couple of weeks after my top-secret Vegas wedding and vacation were canceled due to the death of a dear family member and the hospitalization and death of my 13-year-old dog.
I say that not to get your sympathy—we’re doing okay now—but to remind everyone out there that a real person dedicated all that free time to yanking chains at Author Solutions. And since that was a time-sucking, money-burning endeavor, continuing with regular updates about a company I despised didn’t even rank on my list of priorities.
Besides, with the announcement of the lawsuit against Author Solutions, it seemed like a good time to leave the rest of the investigating and exposing to the pros. The work to warn writers about predatory self-publishing companies continues on sites like Writer Beware and Let’s Get Digital, and the archive of anti-Author Solutions posts remains for anyone with an itch to do consumer research before they hand over their credit card info.
I’ll certainly continue to post juicy updates here and link you to relevant industry info, but it will no longer be the sole focus of this blog.
So, here’s what’s up. I am going to get back to discussing more enjoyable things on Suess’s Pieces. Things like books and writing and libraries and reading and education. I’ll also be welcoming content from others. And I don’t mean guest posts, per se. I mean adding contributors (though those contributors may write for Suess’s Pieces once or a hundred times, depending).
Submission details will be coming soon, but I can say this right now: there’s no money to be had writing here…for you or me! Ha!
By Katie Sluiter
So you’ve decided you want your writing to earn you some money. But where do you start? How do you find something that will pay? A good rule of thumb is to start with what you already read and branch out from there.
Poke around your local paper’s website for the name of the submission editor. Years ago I submitted a piece on celebrity baby names to my local paper and was unexpectedly hired as a freelancer for their print paper. But local publications aren’t limited to newspapers. There are probably many local publications—newletters, magazines, blogs, etc.—that you don’t know about yet because you haven’t looked. You may have the edge over another writer, because you are familiar with the local beat.
These are generally bigger and get many submissions, but they are worth a shot. Babble, Curvy Girl Guide, AllParenting.com, etc. are some that usually offer open submissions. Places like BlogHer takes submissions for syndication (which pays) and will often highlight work (which sends your site pageviews) Somewhere on the site you want to work with will be a “careers” or “submissions” link/button. There you will find guidelines and pay information. Watch social media as well, Babble, for instance, will tweet when they are looking for new writers for a specific section or column on their site.
Some Large scale print magazines will run essay contests and hold open submissions for articles. Watch for reputable, well-advertised contests, not the hidden ones in the backs of the magazines. Real Simple holds an annual essay contest that is legitimate, for instance, and gets the writer published in the magazine and a cash prize. Trade and scholarly journals will also have a section in the front of the magazine for calls for articles. The English Journal, for instance, has a space devoted to what themes and subjects it is looking for to publish in future editions.
It probably sounds obvious, but searching Google for writing opportunities will bring up various communities/groups you can join. Some come with a membership fee, some are private and you need to apply, but some are open to anyone. For example, Linkedin has a group you can apply to be in that posts paid writing opportunities and lists companies looking for freelance writers.
Corporations like Best Buy have programs where they hire bloggers to do their product reviews FOR them. You join their network and receive the latest products and gadgets to use and review. The catch is that you need to have your own blog to work with some companies as they do not have a review site.
It is undoubtedly overwhelming for the beginning freelancer to know where to look, but remember: The opportunities are out there. You just have to go find them.
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Katie Sluiter is a freelance writer and teacher who should probably be grading papers or changing diapers but is more likely blogging, tweeting, or just overusing social media in general. She chronicles all this on her blog, Sluiter Nation.
Image credit: ba1969
Joan Moran is a speaker and author of Sixty, Sex & Tango. After self-publishing with iUniverse, Moran ran into problems with the company. She’s agreed to share her story with the readers of Suess’s Pieces. You can learn more about Moran on her blog.
For more information on this series, please read “iUniverse Rants: Coming Clean.” Have a similar story to share? Contact Emily.
ES: Can you tell us about how you ended up working with iUniverse?
Moran: I looked at several publishing companies. Lulu was recommended to me and I randomly found iUniverse. I had already experienced xLibris and Harvest Moon, and neither one of them impressed me. I decided on iUniverse because of the sales person whom I encountered when I called. I called back several times over a two month period, and he asked me if I wanted to talk to someone in the company. I did and spoke to a very professional woman who had come to work at iUniverse from a publishing company. (There are many people like her working at these companies because they were laid off by the largest publishing companies in the recession.) I chose iUniverse because [the employees] are well-spoken and had a package that I thought was affordable. As Mr. Fisher did, I selected the Premiere package.
I moved through the initial editorial sessions easily, received their feedback in a timely fashion and thought all was smooth. The cover copy came, and I was pleased with it. This took about 4 or 5 weeks to accomplish. But as I was working my way through the process, I noticed that the woman I had so loved working with in editorial was no longer there, as were several other people with whom I had contact. I was passed from person to person regularly, and it became impossible to actually contact someone at the company for support.
By the time the book was completed and the sales team made their assault, I was worried. I had a similar experience as Mr. Fisher did with the email blast—submitting my own copy and working with a group of people who, in the end, had no accountability for anything. No check list in place. I called and asked for a list of those cities and places that my blurb was supposed to have appeared, and there was no record of it actually hitting those people and places. I never availed myself of their marketing services again.
ES: What problems did you have with iUniverse, and how did they attempt to resolve your complaints? Were you happy with the result?
Moran: The first time I contacted iUniverse with a complaint (before I pulled the book from iUniverse), it concerned the email blast to 6 cities, including my own. It was a fiasco trying to get anyone to be accountable for that marketing ploy.
iUniverse sales people call all the time to sell authors marketing programs, which are simply cons to get money.
The second time I called, it was about the way their bookkeeping is set up. The accounting is very poor and inaccurate. The $11 [royalties] I received quarterly clued me into the fact that they were ripping me off. Mr. Fisher had the same awakening. The actual number of books sold is hard to come by. Their so-called spread sheet is non-existent.
ES: How was your book publicized? Did you do it all yourself? Pay for them to help you market the finished product?
Moran: The book was never publicized. I only asked them to send the email blast to those six cities. I stopped giving them money after that for anything.
ES: Is there anything else you want to add? Do you have advice for writers looking into iUniverse?
Moran: I’m an the author that Penny wrote about [see the comments on this post for clarification] who was caught in the web of iUniverse. Penny got it right. What was so egregious was that when I wanted to leave iUniverse and get my files, it took me weeks of calling and emailing to get any action. And I talked to so many people, it was ridiculous. It was a maze of passing the buck with alternate players at any given time.
Then when I got the PDF file, it was useless. They don’t tell you that you cannot correct a PDF file. I already had paid them to make the file, and then they charged me again to get it back. A wasted $150. I just used my Word file that I originally submitted to iUniverse and paid to have it reformatted in a new version of my book.
I tried to get my $150 back. I called so many people that I was just plain worn out. My experience was that after publication, iUniverse is simply a boiler room to sell ineffective programs. Customers think they are professional, and they are absolutely not. iUniverse employees read from a script.
iUniverse and similar companies are middle men who take a hefty percentage of royalties before the book is sold, and then more royalties are taken out by Amazon, B & N, and others.
iUniverse is owned by Author Solutions.
That’s a screen capture of the comment Keith Ogorek (Global Marketing Director at Author Solutions, the company that owns iUniverse and several other self-publishing companies) left over the weekend on iUniverse Complaints: Interview with Lawrence Fisher. Isn’t that cute. He wants me to be “fair” and toss some interview questions his way.
I’ll give him this: it takes gall to pretend that interviewing him will benefit my readers or resemble anything even remotely close to fairness.
My purpose is to showcase real customers’ stories about iUniverse, not give the company free publicity and a chance to keep spinning tales. Their employee’s deceitful attempts to get free book reviews from me is what prompted me to fight on behalf of indie authors in the first place. And they’ve already sucked the Suess’s Pieces free publicity bottle dry.
If they want to keep lying, they can do it on their own websites and blogs. I’ll be damned if I invite them to do it here.
Fair is refunding the people you’ve hosed, iUniverse.
Fair is delivering the products and services you promise to writers without half-assing, shortcutting, and bullshitting people out of their money.
My campaign against iUniverse has garnered some attention from the iUniverse people, but so far they have failed to deliver the refund they promised to Lawrence Fisher. Instead Keith Ogorek continues to post comments on this blog and on Lawrence Fisher’s blog.
That’s not going to cut it.
Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing another interview with a writer and former iUniverse customer, Joan Moran.
In the meantime, I’d like to thank those of you who are supporting these indie authors, especially the writers at SheWrites.com who have shared these posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.