13 Ways to Boost Your Freelance Career (Without the Internet)

By Terri Huggins

My name is Terri and I have a problem. I think most Americans can relate to it. (I can’t be the only crazy one.) I am addicted to the Internet. I always knew my excessive Internet use was a problem but I didn’t know how big an issue it was until October 2012. I, amongst thousands of other Central Jersey residents, found myself the main target of Superstorm Sandy. I was one of the fortunate people, though. I am alive, my home was intact, and we never lost power. Yet, I still found myself suffering when it came to work.

freelance writing careerObviously, never losing electricity wasn’t a problem. The problem was that everyone else did. That meant I wasn’t able to email editors, follow up on pitches, or schedule interviews and expect a response. When everyone lost all connectivity, I lost all connectivity. That loss made me feel like a fish out of water. (Of course, it wasn’t as extreme as those who actually lost electricity.) It turns out I didn’t know how to function without sending emails with instant gratification, calling people and sending tweets for sources. As a result, my productivity and business really began to suffer. It was then that I learned I rely on the Internet way too much.

Sure, having access to Gmail, HARO, and WordPress have boosted business and helped journalists stay organized, connected and on top of breaking news. However, when you lack the ability to operate without these tools your business may be in total jeopardy. It was a life lesson I learned the hard way. To spare others from learning that lesson the way I did, I’ve come up with a list of 13 Internet free tasks that can boost your freelance career.

1. Do some cold calling

Most people lost phone service during the storm. Truth be told, I got a lot of busy signals, error messages, and voice mail prompts during my cold call sessions. However, I did strike gold every once in a while. But when cold calling proved to be pointless, I decided to make a list of people I planned on contacting once business went back to normal. When it was time to return to my normal routine, having the list on hand made my work schedule easier and increased my productivity.

2. Assess your client list

It’s easy to take on clients blindly out of excitement. After all, it’s extra work and pays the bills. But they don’t always fulfill your mission or may not be worth the time. Revise, your list of clients and analyze which ones aren’t as profitable. Are you satisfied with your relationship with them? Do you have too many clients to handle right now? Do they assist in reaching a bigger goal? Can you afford to cut some loose? Do you need more clients? Now is the perfect time to reevaluate.

During the loss of connection, I found that many of the clients I took on don’t assist in fulfilling my reason for being a writer. By the time, everything was restored I was able to begin eliminating those who no longer fit my needs and work towards getting clients that do.

3. Revise your marketing strategy

It is always wise to have a marketing strategy. Otherwise, you will be moving blindly toward your goal. If you don’t have a strategy, take out a pad and scribble down your plan of attack. Should you already have a marketing strategy, decide whether or not it’s helping you reach your goal. Do you practice in-person networking? Are you writing guest posts? Do you send out email campaigns? Are they working? It’s normal for marketing strategies to not fit as businesses they grow. Take the time to analyze and see what needs to be amended.

4. Edit your resume and bio

The rumors are true. Even as a freelance writer, you need a resume. Occasionally, you still might run into the potential client who decides a resume, bio, and portfolio are necessary before hiring you. Make sure they paint an accurate picture of you. Update your resume to reflect your best and most recent gigs. Make sure your bio is still relevant. I had been putting of the update of my resume for a long time. Sandy provided me with the nudge I needed to get it done.

5. Write

As freelance writers, this one should be a given. But the truth is finding uninterrupted time in which you can draft that blog post, start that article, or complete that copywriting assignment is difficult. There’s always the distraction of an open email box, Twitter alerts, Facebook messages, and phone calls. Take the time to unplug and actually do what you’re paid to do for a living.

With no Internet and calls to follow up on, I was able to write more than I ever had in a long time. It was really rewarding being able to complete my blog posts for the month in one day!

6. Meet the neighbors

Unfortunately, constant access to Internet has made it unnecessary for people to actually see each other face to face. However, it’s good for business. Getting out of the home office for a while, mingling with others, and networking with neighborhood businesses is revitalizing.

7. Set and evaluate your goals

As time goes on, goals change. Unfortunately, we never take the time to stop and realize it. Think about goals you’ve already made. Are they still in progress? Have you reached them? Are the goals still relevant to your career path? Once you set and evaluate goals, you will be able to be more efficient as a freelance writer.

8. Assess your budget

I hate numbers. It was one of the reasons why I went into journalism. Journalism or not, numbers are important. It can’t be avoided for long. Tracking expenses, and income is necessary for running any business. Once you assess your budget you can determine if you need more income, slash your budget, or search for new clients.

9. Create templates

As great as personalized, unique documents are, they take a lot of time. They aren’t suggested for everything, but it can be very beneficial to have templates. If you happen to use the same format for email follow-ups, or some pitches, create a basic template for it to save some time.

10. Back up files

Technology is great, but sometimes we have to accept that it will fail. If you don’t have several copies of documents you are out of luck. Dedicate an afternoon to backing up all your documents. You’ll be happy you did should your computer crash.

11. Revisit your reading lists

Remember, all those magazine clippings, printed blogs, and downloaded e-books you saved? If you are anything like me, they are still sitting in your “rainy day” pile untouched. It’s about time you actually go through the pile. You may come across new ideas to pitch, potential sources, and inspiration for your blog post. Sandy gave me the opportunity to slash my “rainy day” reading file in half. I learned so much.

12. Organize your source list

There is nothing worse than scrambling to find sources for a story at the last minute. If you’ve been in the business for a while there is probably a collection of sources in disarray. Save yourself the time and stress by organizing your sources. When you need a source at a moments notice you’ll know exactly what to do.

13. Go to the library

The library is a foreign land to many people. After all, who needs the library when you’ve got Google, e-books, and I-tunes? The problem is many people forgot how to research without the use of Google. A visit to the library can help you relearn the basics of thorough research.

[box border=”full”]Terri HugginsTerri Huggins is a Freelance Writer/Journalist in NJ who specializes in bridal, beauty, relationships, education and business topics. She also writes marketing paraphernalia such as brochures, press releases, blogs and newsletters for local businesses. By night, Terri is a arts enthusiast, prima ballerina, education activist, and dedicated volunteer. Connect with Terri on Twitter: TERRIficWords or stop by her blog, www.terrificwords.wordpress.com. Professional Website: http://www.writingbyterri.com/%5B/box%5D

 

Image credit: svilen001

2012: A Year of Guest Posts

If you’re interested in pitching a guest post idea to me for 2013, contact me. Those who pitch articles related to writing, freelancing, and publishing have the best odds of being accepted.

creative writing quirks

The 100+ Project

Patrick writes about his experiences with asthma and how he is raising money and awareness for The Asthma and Allergy Foundation St. Louis Chapter.

Self-Publishing Fundamentals

Kim gives a great overview of the process of self-publishing and helps you understand what steps are involved in writing, formatting, and publishing a book without using a traditional publisher.

The Definition Of Freelance Writing

What does it mean to be a freelance writer anyway? Charlotte talks about the key characteristics of freelance writers and what makes them—and their work—unique.

Writing A Book? Set Goals And Stay Motivated.

Stacy challenges authors to finish their works by setting attainable goals. Don’t let your desire motivation fizzle.

5 Unavoidable Creative Writing Quirks

Creative writers are a quirky bunch. If you’re a writer, chances are you’ll identify with one or more of these common quirks. I admit I sometimes talk to myself.

Playing The Name Game

When is it okay to use an editor’s first name? Is a more or less formal approach appealing to editors? Terri talks about the challenges of choosing how to approach an editor for the first time.

How To Choose A Domain Name — An Author’s Guide

Part of building your author platform includes setting up a website. Learn a few tips and tricks for picking a memorable and effective domain name for your author site.

From First Draft To Finished Product: The Editorial Process

Editing is a long process that involves multiple steps. Kelly explains the difference in substantive or developmental editing and copy editing and why both are important.

Writing For A Micro-Press In The Age of Self-Publishing

As self-publishing continues rising in popularity, Jessie contemplates what this means for the micro-press and weighs some of the pros and cons of each.

The Cover’s The Thing

Great advice for writers who plan to self-publish. Claire explains what makes an excellent cover and shares a handful of resources to help you get started.

Attention Writers: 6 Ways To Spot a 5-Star Publisher

With all of the negative attention surrounding poor self-publishing companies, Sara offers tips to help you evaluate and find a 5-star publisher for your next book.

5 Things Publishers Care About More Than Good Writing

Brooke, writing coach and publisher at She Writes Press, explains how writers can make themselves more appealing to traditional publishers.

The 100+ Project

[box border=”full”]Last week my brother asked me if I had room for a guest post to help spread the word about his friend’s 100+ Project. So today, we’re shifting gears a little. Check out how Patrick Albert is raising money for The Asthma and Allergy Foundation St. Louis Chapter.[/box]
asthmaI couldn’t breathe!

Something most people take for granted I struggled with day in and day out. Every breath required a conscious effort. It went a little like this, breathe in, breathe out, repeat.

The year was 1997, Bill Clinton was president, “MMMBop” by Hanson was rising up the pop charts, and I
was diagnosed with Asthma.

During my initial phase of suffering, asthma never crossed my mind. The only thing I “knew” about asthma was that the nerdiest kids in the schoolyard were the only ones afflicted. I was 26 years old. I did know that the source of my suffering was my roommate’s cat. I had been allergic to cats for a long time and quickly figured out what was stealing my breath. Still thinking I was dealing with a really bad allergic reaction I tried everything I could think of to get some relief (except go to the doctor). I popped antihistamines like Skittles, and inhaled steam from a boiling pot with a towel over my head, and many other useless attempts that all had one thing in common: they didn’t relieve asthma symptoms!

The straw that finally broke the wheezing camel’s back was when it got so bad I couldn’t sleep. After being in bed for hours I would eventually fall asleep. But remember, when I said every breath required a conscious effort, I wasn’t kidding. After I fell asleep I would stop breathing and wake up. It went a little something like this, fall asleep, stop breathing, wake up, repeat. Clearly not the recipe for feeling fresh in the morning.

When I finally went to the doctor, he listened to my lungs and I told him my story and he said, “Sgt. Albert, you have asthma.” Did I mention I was in the Army at the time? Well I was. Feel free to wish me a happy Veteran’s Day. What he said to me next was very sobering. He said, “You could die from this.”

Say what? How did all those nerdy kids in the schoolyard survive if asthma was such a serious condition? Apparently I was ignorant of all things asthma. Once it was spelled out to me in the simplest of manners it made pretty good sense. Not being able to breathe is a pretty good way to die. It was so simple I just couldn’t see it.

After my diagnosis my roommate got rid of the cat and eventually I got back to normal lung function. Things were going good until I came home one day and saw a litter box in the kitchen. Filled with a complex cocktail of emotions—chief of which were fear and anger—I immediately went to my room and put a towel at the bottom of the door to keep the dander out. The next morning I packed up all my things and left. There was no way I could go through that again, not even with a proper diagnosis and medication. Not then, not now, not ever. I suspect my roommate’s wife wanted me to move out and attempting to kill me in the most passive-aggressive way imaginable was way easier than confrontation. Mission
accomplished (the terrorists have won?).

Since those horrible horrible days in North Carolina, I have been relatively symptom free. I stay away from cats whenever possible which has been 99% of the time. I am careful to figure out which of friends own cats so I know not to go to their houses. It requires a bit of work but it beats looking forward to an evening with friends only to find out I have to leave before I have an attack. I have been symptom free enough that I enjoy endurance sports, running, cycling, paddling, adventure racing, you name it. All sports that require some serious lung function, the very thing that asthma takes from people.

Fast forward to a little over a year ago.

After a disappointing race, I was at a really low point thinking about giving up racing and finding something else to occupy my time. I was adrift at sea (or the in the river) with no direction. Somehow I found out about this guy from the UK who was stand up paddleboarding down the entire length of the Mississippi.

What a great adventure! I was intrigued. This wasn’t even his first adventure. He had skateboarded across Australia and ridden a tandem bike from Vancouver to Las Vegas. Since I live about 20 miles outside of St. Louis I decided I had to meet this guy as he paddled down the river. We exchanged emails and arranged a time and place to meet and I would join him for a day on the river. Waiting at the arranged location I had no idea what was in store for me. Eventually he paddled over to the river bank where I was waiting and offered me some crisps. That was how I met Dave Cornthwaite. The direction of my life was about to change. In a good way.

Dave seemed very happy and full of life and I wanted to feel the same way. I won’t go into his story, you can read that for yourself, but his solution wasn’t going to work for me. You see Mr. Cornthwaite raises money for charity while out on these adventures and I thought maybe , just maybe I could do something of the same sort, only on a smaller scale. There were quite a few adventures that I had been putting off because that is what I was conditioned to do, go to work and put off all the things I always said I wanted to do. Well no more! Adventure awaited and I was eager to get started. That’s the nutshell version of how I came up with the idea for the 100+Project. One hundred or more miles each time on a different
form of transport.

The decision of what organization to benefit was easy once I actually sat down and thought for a moment. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation St. Louis Chapter does really great work in the community to improve the lives of allergy and asthma sufferers. I was nervous that they would tell me to get lost, but the Foundation was very happy that I wanted to do something to help. While asthma and allergies don’t have the fundraising clout of cancer and wounded warriors, it is a cause that I can identify with because I know what the sufferers are going through first hand and believe me it is no picnic.

Not everyone who suffers from asthma and allergies is fortunate enough to be able to stay away from their triggers like I am. Imagine what it must be like for a kid in the lunchroom not knowing if today would be the day that he accidentally came into contact with some peanut dust. Anaphylactic shock can be hard on your social status, not to mention life threatening (the double whammy for any school-aged kid). AAFASTL helps children and young adults (up to the age of 22) who are uninsured or underinsured receive medication, treatment and supplies to manage their conditions. They also provide training for school nurses so they will know how to handle an allergic reaction or asthma attack. Those are just two examples of the great things they are doing in the community to make people’s lives better.

So far the 100+Project has raised close to one thousand dollars over three different journeys. I have skateboarded 107 miles, cycled 241 miles, and kayaked 340 miles. Not being a natural fundraiser or self promoter, I am always looking to learn more ways to achieve these goals. Always coming up with ideas for adventures, it is hard not to keep one upping myself. Next year I have a really long run on the schedule, a long trip down the Illinois river by canoe, and a long walk on the Ozark trail. During all these adventures I try to keep focused on one thing, all the people that the Foundation helps.

Asthma and allergy sufferers want the same thing everyone wants, to live a life without limits, and that is what the Asthma and Allergy Foundation strives to help them achieve.

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patrick albertPatrick Albert is a part time adventurer and sometime fundraiser and founder of the 100+Project. His blog Trail and Error chronicles all of the adventures not related to his fundraising efforts. When Patrick is not behind the keyboard he can be found out on the trail, or the river gearing up for the next big adventure.

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Writing for a Micro-Press in the Age of Self-Publishing

By Jessie Powell

self-publishingEmily is gearing up for Writers’ Week here on Suess’s Pieces. As an author whose book was published by micro-press Throwaway Lines, I’m fascinated by her topic, the self-publishing process. It isn’t all that different from working with a micro-press.

Let me start with the obvious differences between the two.  The good part for me is that I didn’t pay anything to publish Divorce: A Love Story. I didn’t buy my ISBN, I didn’t hire a private editor, and I didn’t work with Amazon and Barnes and Noble to get the book listed. All of those things were taken care of by my publisher. Right now, the novel is still only available in e-book format, but we’re hoping for a fall release of the paperback edition.

Of course by that same token, I miss out on potential advantages to self publishing, like increased control and possibly greater royalties. I’m also not in control of the timeline. At a traditional publisher, this would be because the book had to be worked into the schedule. But Throwaway Lines has a staff of exactly two, and my editor has a day job. That means that things can move slowly. Obviously, a self-published author is much more in control of the speed of publication.

But then again, maybe not. Depending on how much the author farms out, self-publication can also come with a set of built-in delays. For instance, a wise author will hire an editor. Nobody wants to be the next Shades of Grey in the grammar and continuity department.  And cover art is often hired out as well.

In fact, the same agencies a self-published author will use in the manuscript finishing process are all available to micro-presses. For example, my editor, Jason Horger says:

We had a basic design for the front that we liked okay, and then putting together the rest of it (spine, back cover) fell apart like a paper goblet. Oh, and then we farmed out the cover to a designer and…sweet Jesus, it just wasn’t right at all.

For the paperback edition, Jason plans to trust his own design skills a little more. (I certainly do; I liked the prototypes he initially created, and the basic premise for one of those wound up in the final concept.)  He also plans to work with a print-on-demand group because it’s not financially sound for presses of this size to have stock on hand.

In the end, it’s been wonderful for me to work with a micro- press. I’m not willing to pay to go to work every day. Indeed, I can’t afford to. So I need to find someone to publish my writing. I hope to someday work with a larger press, and I’m completely open with Throwaway Lines about that plan. But I’m not saying that as a dig against self-published authors. There are situations in which self-publication is exactly the route to go, and I can’t wait to learn more about the process when Writers’ Week kicks into gear here on Suess’s Pieces.

[box border=”full”]Jessie Bishop Powell is a freelance writer who blogs as the Jester Queen. Her articles and stories have appeared in encyclopedias and blogs, as well as a nationally syndicated magazine. You can buy her novel Divorce: A Love Story at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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Trademarks 101

A guest post by Anthony Verna

Trademark questions come up frequently among small business owners and freelancers. It’s an issue that I’ve see coming up often in the past couple of years as trademarks are being filed by trademark owners that don’t properly reflect the goods and services that trademark owner actually sells.

But it’s imperative that the goods/services description in the trademark application or registration match the goods and services that the trademark owner actually sells. Why?  Because the penalties are harsh and can include cancellation of the trademark, meaning the loss of the right to use it.

trademark

The Trademark Process

When an applicant files a trademark application before the USPTO, the applicant signs an affidavit that the uses listed in the application are truthful and accurate.  Because an affidavit is a sworn statement, given under oath that everything that has been represented in the application is, in fact, truthful, if any aspect of the application turns out to be false or inaccurate, the entire application is considered a “fraud on the USPTO.”  The result of such “fraud” is the automatic cancellation of the registration that had been granted.

Avoiding Trademark Fraud

The USPTO has no way to investigate how trademarks are used in the marketplace. Instead, it is forced to rely on the claims made by trademark owners in their applications and other filings. To motivate trademark owners to supply accurate descriptions of their goods and services, the USPTO has, since 2003, treated any error in those descriptions — intentional or not — as a “fraud” as to the entire application, because trademark registrations and applications are considered as a whole and cannot be split or separated.  The price of such fraud is draconian: the USPTO or its associated court, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, will cancel an entire registration if it learns of any absence of use of a mark as represented by an applicant.

The TTAB has concluded that a trademark owner should always know whether or not it has used the mark with each good or service it claims. As the TTAB’s logic goes, an applicant’s false statement about facts that are uniquely within its control, knowing that the Trademark Office will rely on that statement in acting on the application, is a fraudulent attempt to secure the benefits of a trademark registration. To avoid committing “fraud” in this way, a trademark owner must verify its claim to each item included in a description of goods and services.

This situation continues to grow in trademarks that are challenged for cancellation.  It is important to review trademark applications before they are finished for the proper description of goods and services.  It is important to review trademark registrations when your business plans change, also.

[box border=”full”]anthony vernaAnthony Verna is a partner at Kravitz & Verna LLC, a law firm in New York, NY that focuses on trademark, copyright, advertising, promotion, and general business law.  He helps business owners protect intellectual property, follow established regulations and ensure smooth business operations. You can follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.[/box]

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The Definition of Freelance Writing

A guest post by Charlotte Bumstead

“Freelance writing isn’t for everyone.” These wise words were offered to me from my university professor after graduation. And it’s something I have struggled with ever since. I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. Sure, I had my moments as a child when I would dream of being a veterinarian or wonder what it would be like to be CEO of a large company. But I would always return to the freelance writerwords. They’re my safety net; my umbrella on a rainy day. To me, everything in life is made clearer and more manageable once it is written down. Little did I know, making a living out of the words would be much more complicated. And such survival tips weren’t exactly part of the required curriculum for earning my degree.

Many of the professors of my program were freelance writers who taught on the side. Perhaps for some, this is a planned career path, but I was aware the possibility of needing a double income was a risk I was taking in entering this field. Still, it did not deter me. The reward in following my passion and fulfilling a creative lifestyle has always been beyond dollar signs, in my eyes.

I decided to take the freelancing route because I really liked the idea of being my own boss and working my own hours; from wherever in the world I happened to be. I was aware this meant climbing a different type of ladder—one that could quite possibly collapse when I reached the fifth (or twenty-fifth) rung. But then I would find a new ladder, and apply my climbing experience as developed from the previous one. So eventually, with a little skill and a lot of determination, I would reach the top.

When people ask me what I do and I tell them I am a freelance writer, I tend to get a mix of reactions. Often I can hear the sympathy in their replies as they say, “oh, good for you,” or “wow, that’s got to be tough.” It’s true—the field is super competitive, and no, I don’t have a guaranteed paycheque that gets automatically deposited into my account every two weeks. Of course, all jobs have their pluses and minuses. And as I make my way along, carving my own path, I am constantly redefining what it takes to be a freelance writer. I thought I’d share some of the descriptions I’ve learned so far:

A Freelance Writer Is Ready For Anything

It’s important to be open to new opportunities and unpredictable possibilities. Today you might be writing about the top ten dog parks in Tennessee; but tomorrow your writing could change the world. You never know who will be reading your work, or who you might end up meeting for coffee the next day.

A Freelance Writer Controls His Own Results

Whether you’re a procrastinator or a go-getter—you decide—it is you who will see the effects of your choices firsthand. Work hard and put your greatest effort into every assignment to find the best results.

A Freelance Writer Does Whatever It Takes to Get By

This might mean taking on a second job when struggling to find new clients, or it could mean waking up two hours earlier to find time to write before heading to your 9 to 5. No one is going to hand over work to make life easier for you. If you want to be a writer and you have bills to pay or a family to feed, you might need to pick up a part-time gig on the side here and there, or give up the reality TV and spend the free time at your computer instead.

A Freelance Writer is Constantly Learning

As you continue to grow and improve, there will always be new challenges and fresh experiences. Take advantage of the wealth of information offered to you from everyone you meet and everything you read.

A Freelance Writer Lets Her Creativity Shine

Personally, I am happiest when in an artistic and inspired state of mind. It is a writer’s job to soak up every experience and share it with the world. Those amazing moments (both big and small) that really struck you as something special—chances are someone else will think they’re special too.

So yes, it’s true, freelance writing isn’t for everyone. But if you decide it is right for you, then you’re definitely in for a thrilling ride.

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Charlotte Bumstead Charlotte Bumstead is a freelance writer and blogger, covering a wide-range of topics, including: environmental, health, entertainment, technology and finance.

You can find her blog and portfolio on her website, or follow her on Twitter @c_bumstead.

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Playing the Name Game

Life Lessons for Writers Contacting Editors

A guest post by Terri Huggins

The name game. It’s a game that I’ve gotten way to familiar with over the years. The rules are simple. After mulling over every aspect of a pitch and practically driving a hole into the delete button, you proceed to rack your brain over the correct way to address a new editor. The hard part is realizing that you never know how to win the game; especially when there are so many options.

writer contacting an editorIf you are anything like me, you play this game on almost a daily basis and you still haven’t mastered the concept. Whose genius idea was it to have so many ways to address a person anyway? I think having the option to call someone by Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, or by first name is over-kill.

In all honesty, the decision on addressing an editor wasn’t always so difficult for me. My parents’ tough love and strong feelings about respect and formality were instilled in me at a young age. And it’s still very much a part of me. Because of that upbringing everyone who I perceived to be my elder or superior was always addressed as Mr. or Ms. in person and in writing.  I even did the extra legwork for unisex names to make sure I addressed people properly. (Having a unisex name myself, I understand how annoying it can get to be wrongly called Mr. Terri Huggins so frequently.)

It wasn’t until I read a few advice columns geared towards writers that suggested pitches be written in a relaxed and conversational tone to show personality. Some even went as far as saying that addressing editors in a formal way was too rigid and showed no personality. Of course, I then went into panic mode. Was my attempt at being respectful, coming off as rigid and resulting in my pitches getting ignored? Nonetheless, I continued to address editors I hadn’t worked with formally unless told otherwise. Even after I got the ok to call them by their first name, I still found it difficult to break the habit.

However, getting permission to address editors informally when working with them got me thinking. Does that mean I was originally supposed to address them by their first name in the pitch? Did I do it wrong completely? Or was I just extended that courtesy having worked with the editor already?

I decided to do a little investigation by asking a few editors what they preferred to be called.  Unfortunately, I received a bunch of mixed responses that didn’t exactly help in the decision process.  The responses ranged from preferring a first-name basis initially to those who thought being addressed formally made the editor feel old and mean or that the writer was out of touch with the times. A few said that in this increasingly informal society, it is pretty much expected to use first names. Of course, a handful of editors suggested staying on the safe side by addressing editors formally for initial communication and then using first name for future correspondence. However, most editors said as long as their name was spelt correctly, it wouldn’t lead to automatic pitch deletion. (Definitely, helps put me at ease!)

While I’m still not convinced about the right way to reference an editor, I guess the moral of the story is to do what feels right considering there will always be many different opinions of the matter.

[box border=”full”]Terri HugginsTerri Huggins is a Freelance Writer/Journalist in NJ who specializes in bridal, beauty, relationships, education and business topics. She also writes marketing paraphernalia such as brochures, press releases, blogs and newsletters for local businesses. By night, Terri is a arts enthusiast, prima ballerina, education activist, and dedicated volunteer. Connect with Terri on Twitter: TERRIficWords or stop by her blog, www.terrificwords.wordpress.com. Professional Website: http://www.writingbyterri.com/%5B/box%5D

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The Paper Chase

A guest post by Jeff Gregory

I guess I see my writing as a beautiful woman that I am trying to figure out how to court.  But like anything worthwhile, she isn’t making it easy on me.  No, writing is evasive.  She wants me to earn her affection.

journalI first caught a glimpse of her when I was in the third grade.  She came out in a writing assignment.  The teacher, I think, was merely interested in my knowledge of subjects, predicates, and verb conjugations.  Little did either of us know that she ignited a spark in me – a literary puberty, one might say.  And as puberty would have it, I was confused about what it was that I wanted.  I wasn’t prepared for the wiles of Writing.  There she was, but not with blonde curls and blue eyes summoning the wild oats of a young buck, my seducer was the thrill of a boy’s adventure in a cave in the forest – flowing from my own hand with a life all its own.   Then she was gone.

I never totally forgot about her. Years later, she spied me from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.  In eighth grade, I dreamed up a Star Trek novel.  I made it through about seven chapters before my young mind was distracted by something else.  Yet, I was enthralled by bringing life to people and adventures.

My crush could not stay away. In high school, I wrote a poem.  It was similar to Poe’s The Raven.  It was a dark story using rhyme.  For the first time, writing batted her lovely eyes at me.  A friend of mine insisted on keeping the poem.  That was the first time I knew the romance was on – that this could be the love that I waited for.  However, waiting wasn’t enough.  I had to win her over.  The chase was on.

In college, my flame had transformed into somewhat of an intellectual.  An associate professor sat down and taught me to write essays in my freshman year.  I loved the structure, the rules.  My romance could actually have a formula – something that wouldn’t fail me, like math.  Two plus two is always four, right? On that stage it never did fail me, but I realized a romance is not really a romance if I only get to see her at work.  She wasn’t mine yet, so I continued the pursuit.

Since then, I have always tried to keep an eye on her and figure some way to finally make her mine. I have written a few blogs, worked as a columnist, and have done some freelance work. I have also started several versions of the “great American novel.”  Part of me thinks that is the real wedding – the successful, thought-provoking novel.  Another fragment of my mind believes that my love will always be elusive and unattainable because mystery is the biggest part of the romance.  Some day, I may let you know.  I plan to write my own epitaph.

[box border=”full”]jeff gregoryJeff Gregory does freelance writing and was formerly a weekly sports columnist for The National Indoor Football League.  He is currently the executive director of the Henderson-Henderson County, KY Human Rights Commission.  You can read his Psychosomatic Wit at http://psychosomaticwit.blogspot.com.[/box]

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Our Bouts of Writing…Around the Holidays

A guest post by Cristina Dimen

typewriterIf you’re like my muse and me, writing consumes you. Unless you write, your day is incomplete—as if your purpose is on hold. And during those moments when an overly busy day takes a toll and you’re too exhausted to craft your story—you’re saddened that you’re unable to paint your screen with vibrant prose.

If you’re like us, you find that life often gets in the way of your desire to just plop yourself in a comfy chair and start typing that article. You’ve become adept at juggling—family life, work, volunteering, Tweeting, etc.

Yet, writing around the holiday season requires skill at executing a more complicated juggling routine. After all, you have to shop and wrap gifts, plan a menu or bake something scrumptious for your hosts, prepare your home for guests and deck your halls with more than just boughs of holly. Don’t forget…write. Squeeze it in.

My muse and I reveled in our first-ever visit to Camp NaNoWriMo last month. Like every year, prior commitments occupied our list, but we took the plunge, anyway. Yes, 30 days/nights of writing!

On our fourth day at camp, we realized that our moments there would be fleeting—cut short by parenting duties, volunteering, freelance work and Thanksgiving holiday preparations. Nonetheless, we joined our peers in virtual fashion—capturing thousands of words that’d been swirling around our heads, begging to be immortalized on screen.

With cups of freshly brewed Hazelnut an arm’s reach away, we glued ourselves to our keyboard, tapping away in “literary abandon” NaNoWriMo style. However, tasks began to pile up. My creative partner and I resorted to sneaking off in the middle of the night, and awakening during predawn hours—eagerly tapping at the keyboard.

We bid camp adieu right before Thanksgiving. Like little kids who longed to stay, play and collaborate with the other campers committed for the duration—my fingers defiantly lingered on the keyboard, wanting more time. Reluctantly, we put the makings of our debut novel to sleep—moving on to planning December’s activities. Bye, NaNoWriMo.

We continued to write…submitting articles to print and online venues and blogged, Tweeted and shared. We received a delightful mid-November email: “Cristina, would you like to attend a press event?” After perusing the details and checking the family calendar thrice to confirm nothing conflicted with the event, my RSVP floated through Cyberspace. Yes—my +1 and I are attending a culinary tasting event. Hmmm…what to wear? Add “check closet” to list. 

Canopies of reds and yellows lined our urban streets, as crisp, cool December air greeted Manhattan. Holiday shopping ensued. During one such trip, I heard, “Mom, when can we get our tree?” And, “Please don’t tell, but I’m Secret Santa to ___. Can you go with me to get her gift?” More shopping? Must write. When?

With so much going on, how’s a writer mom supposed to…well…write? This question plagues my muse and me incessantly. And, when we find ourselves short on actual writing time, we watch our surroundings more intently—observing scenes unfold before us. We’re “partially” content—knowing this action is part of the creative process.

While waiting for our bus, flocks of pigeons engage in their synchronized dance—flying to one patch of the sky, stopping, then circling off to another. We look for the man with salt-pepper locks peeking from under his brown woolen hat, and wonder which coat the brunette with her Gucci satchel will be sporting as she boards ahead of us, her face half-buried in another novel.

On our ride home, my muse is anxious to start weaving the morning’s scenes, which I’ve typed onto my phone notepad—into an article. So am I. With the kids in school and my husband at work, we itch to begin another literary adventure—until duties call, of course.

[box border=”full”]Cristina DimenCristina Dimen and her muse blog and write about travel, lifestyle and parenting. They are currently crafting their debut novel. As founder of Editorial Creatives, a Manhattan-based editorial services company, she works with various online and traditional print publications, such as New York Family magazine. Check out her blog, Creative Musings  and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.[/box]

Photo credit: cancsajn

 

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A Big, German Christmas Eve

A guest post by Amy Robinson

christmas eve candleChristmas Eve meant a magical evening spent at Grandma and Grandpa Berg’s house.

Getting ready created a buzz of activity. The two boys were clean-shaven, while Dad splashed on his Old Spice and put on his best sweater. In the bathroom, we only had one, was crowded with Mom and three, teen to pre-teen girls, sharing a turn at ironing our hair into heated curls; all of us zipping each other into festive dresses and squeezing into pantyhose that could instantly tan a leg. When all 5 children were ready, seven souls were stuffed into the station wagon and hit the road to Grandmother’s house.

Grandma’s Christmas buffet was abundant and love was expressed with sugar. Homemade, nutmeg-flecked Christmas cookies, almond cakes, glossy peanut brittle, sticky fudge, rich peanut-butter balls, white clouds of divinity, chocolate covered peanuts graced every flat surface. It was a potluck that would make the tooth fairy cringe and the local dentist wealthy.

After the sweets, presents were the main attraction. Everyone got a present at Grandma and Grandpa’s house thanks to a family-wide name swap. But before the gifts were distributed, out of that colorful pile under the tree, the enormous family sang carols.

With a flair for German Drama, the lights were dimmed, candles were lit and the house packed full of aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings would chime. What was lacking in talent was made up for in exuberance. Winter’s frostiness melted in the warmth of kin and the waxy scent of flickering candles. The caroling would always end with Silent Night. The room would hush as Grandpa would sing the tune by himself, in German, “Stille Nacht”.

And then there were presents! It was the duty of the children to deliver gifts and we would run around the room, feeling like elves granting Christmas wishes. After the chaos of torn wrapping paper and squeals over new toys, the house settled around chatting grown ups and energized kids playing.

To mark the end of the night, Grandpa would pass around a shot of Peppermint Schnapps. Each man would take a sip, bound in a tradition of camaraderie. At the age of 12, I bravely tried to sneak a little bit as the glass came into my hand. There was the sweet hint of mint, the disgusting sting of alcohol and the laughter of my family as I grimaced from the flavor combination.

Too soon, it was time to go home. Dad would lift me, his baby girl, in one arm, my head resting on his shoulder. We walked to the car, the Old Spice cologne mixing with the nylon scent of his coat. Here I felt safe and drowsy. The sky above glowed with stars shining from one edge of the prairie to the other. On the drive home, we sang more carols to keep Dad awake while he drove and because we were absolutely infused with Christmas joy.

At dawn the next morning, the living room would transform into destroyed wrapping paper and boxes. Mom put the record player on so The Chipmunks could sing us through our Christmas morning joy. What followed was hot cocoa, cookies for breakfast and a house that smelled of baking turkey and was brimming over with the noise of kids, family and love.

Now that those childhood days are over, I see how lucky I was to have that magic. Not everyone has that story. Christmas was a time of absolute happiness and safety. This is the gift my parents gave me that I can keep for the rest of my life.

[box border=”full”]Amy RobinsonAmy is currently the column editor and writes a bi-weekly blog for FierceAndNerdy.com. You can find all of her other work on her website Looking at the Moon. When she’s not writing, Amy  her husband, watches too much TV and volunteers with homeless cats and dogs.
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Photo credit: Krisph