Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry and Happy

The past few weeks have been very busy with end of the year things -- not just work, but the typical holiday chores. And I'm not sure how much I'll be posting until the new year.

So to all my friends and readers, if you celebrate Christmas, have a blessed one. If you don't, enjoy some quiet time. And may your New Year's be safe.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

End of the Year Rush

Note: I will get around to writing a post on writing communities and all that, but probably after the holidays.

Right now, my life is centered around end of year clean up. The first two weeks of December were a little insane. Editors wanted assignments earlier than usual so I was writing my little fingers off. I have a few other things to finish up before the holidays set in. It is a fitting conclusion to what has been a very busy year.

When I was a college student, I switched my major from journalism to English on the last day of my junior year. That meant piling up on English classes my senior year. To make sure I got the classes I needed, I took nearly all my writing requirements in the fall, and the lit requirements in the spring. My option was writing, so those classes were more important and more structured. I had a lot more flexibility with the lit classes.

And that meant I had papers due constantly. Even the two non-writing courses I took required papers rather than exams. At the end of the semester, I totaled everything up and discovered I had written 54 papers in the span of 15 weeks. That was over 3 papers a week, on average.

So in retrospect, the most important take-away from my English degree is the ability to balance my schedule in order to carry a busy load.

Over the weekend, in response to reading a message board post about someone who got 50 assignments in one year (and the marvel of others about doing 50 assignments in one year), I decided to count up what I wrote over the year. Well, that was a little hard to do since my computer crash destroyed my tracking system, and I didn't rebuild the assignment tracking part for January through May. But June through December, there were 54 writing assignments. I didn't count the editing assignments. Would I have liked some of them to be higher paying? Sure, but every assignment had a good per hour rate and each one moved me toward more work.

I know people who would like to write less and earn more. I feel that way -- to a point. I'd like to earn more but work about the same. I like the busy writing load. I'm used to the busy writing load. Heck, this time of year, as my calendar has a lot of white space, rather than notes about deadlines, I feel kind of lost. For the first time in weeks, I have time on my hands.

Give me the end of year rush!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Frustrated beyond Belief

Email is my life-line. I depend on it for work. It's how my editors communicate with me. I sometimes conduct interviews this way. There is no more important tool for my job.

For various reasons, I like to download my email to a Eudora client. I've tried others. I don't like them so much. I have two subaccounts through my DSL carrier, one for work, one for personal use. Oh, I have other email accounts, set up for blogs and for ordering things online and such. I have a work account that my longest-term clients still use, set up before DSL days and when I wanted a writing-related account separate from my office-job email. I learned a long time ago that my DSL carrier likes to sort my "good" mail to my bulk folder and does so randomly. So I check my work email via Yahoo regularly throughout the day.

On Friday when the husband got home, he seemed annoyed about a question I asked. "Don't you read your email?" Yes, I do, but the email that related to the question wasn't in my in-box. (Still isn't.) Isn't in bulk mail, either. Over the weekend, I got almost no mail. Monday, more mail from the husband didn't arrive, although I did get some very important personal mail. A note from the daughter didn't arrive. This was all on my personal account, which has seemed to have trouble for some time.

Then I noticed the work mail was unusually quiet for a Monday. I sent myself some emails from other accounts. Nothing. I found out later that someone sent me 4 emails that day. Two got through.

I'm expecting emails with interviews, emails about possible jobs, and emails with assignments. Mail seems to be coming in a little better today; I'm assuming there was some glitch with the DSL carrier if this was happening to both accounts that I was checking via Yahoo. I tried the DSL help desk last night. I couldn't make the friendly Indian worker understand that my problem was not in sending mail, but in receiving mail from other Internet domains.

Today I'm trying to do a little damage control, following up on work emails that might have gotten lost in the pipeline (at least one did) and providing an alternate email, just in case.

Like I said, there are reasons I like downloading my mail to Eudora and keeping with the email account I have now. It was mentioned that I use gmail, but the most important feature of any email client doesn't seem to be available on gmail. I need to filter my mail to mailboxes to keep everything separate. If there is a secret to that on gmail, please let me know.

If I sound a little stressed, I am. When my email goes wonky, it affects my whole career.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

If You Need Another Benefit to Freelancing . . .

I saw an article on CNN today about people who go to work sick and spread their bug around to their officemates. Different people interviewed admitted that they felt they'd be "punished" if they took a sick day.

I know the feeling. When I worked at the university, my benefits included 12 sick days and 24 vacation days a year. Now, it was broken down that I accumulated 1 sick, 2 vacation days each month, so say I used everything up by the middle of October, I knew that come November, I'd have new days coming. The sick time could be accured forever, but you could only hold a balance of 30 vacation days. When I left that job, I had over 100 sick days in the bank, none of which would be reimbursed to me like vacation.

And still, I went to work when I had the sniffles or felt kind of crummy. Why? Because it was universally known within the system that if you looked for a new job internally, one of the first things they looked at if you made the initial interview cut was your sick time. They didn't care if you used vacation. They did care if you used your sick time. If you used too much -- and no one ever deemed what that was -- it was a strike against you. Even if you weren't looking for another job, it was brought up in performance reviews. There was one year I had a lot of dental work done, and to save me stress, the dentist did mini-marathon sessions on a Friday morning, and that was all she wrote for me for the rest of the weekend. Jammed in there was also some major dental surgery that took out a week of my life. I used all my sick days for that year. My direct supervisor knew why, of course, but hers did not. And when he wrote back with my raise, it came with a note "concerned about heavy amount of sick time used this year."

Nowadays, it's tough for me to be sick because I have no one to pick up my slack and it seems like every day comes with a new deadline. Of course, I don't get sick as often because it's just me and the dog in the office all day. At my evening activities, people are more likely to stay home if they feel yucky. But if I need to sleep in or take a nap or do a minimal amount of work while wrapped up in my pajamas and a warm blanket, who is going to know? And if I happen to sneeze while I'm writing, well, I'm pretty sure that kind of virus hasn't figured out how to spread through cyberspace.

Monday, December 3, 2007


One of the things I like best about freelancing is that I work at home alone. It only took 17 or so years in an office setting to realize that interaction with people from 8 to 5 M-F was way too stressful for me. Add to that weekends that were usually packed with social engagements and weekday evenings of bowling or choir or whatever . . . I didn't realize how stressed I was about all that people time until a week or so into freelancing and the kids mentioned how calm I seemed now.

Anyway, working alone doesn't mean working isolated. If you ask me what I think a writer's most valuable tool is, my answer is networking.

Networking, pure and simple, leads to job opportunities. There is no way I'd be where I am today without not only talking to other writers, but listening. The beauty of the internet and on-line groups is that you don't have to be actively involved in a "conversation" to come away with something. I found out about places to submit essays or the names of editors to pitch thanks to listening and paying attention.

And expand your networks past writers, too. You never know who might be of help down the road. A conversation with the mother of one of my son's friends led to one job. Spending time with my husband's co-workers gave me the skills and confidence to write for engineers. Even an old professor of mine remembered I was a writer and editor, and she called me to help her with her most recent book. With the holiday season and its multitude of parties, I plan to do some networking and see what happens.

But the bulk of my networking is done during the day when I'm sitting in my office. Here are some of the things I do regularly to help me network and keep me from feeling too isolated:

* Keep my IM open during the day. Doesn't mean I can always chat, but it sure is good to be able to talk to someone who understands the life of a writer. And sometimes my friends will see a job and send me a link. In fact, it was during an IM chat that a friend suggested I try writing for the construction trades, telling me to use my work background.

* Email my goal buddy every day. This keeps me on track, and she's sent me job ideas.

* Join a few writer's groups/lists and cultivate friendships there. This is a big one. I can't stress how helpful it is to be in contact with experienced writers. This is the equivalent of hanging around the coffee pot in the morning at an office job.

* Read blogs. I learn a lot from reading blogs. And don't forget to comment so you can start a nice dialogue with other writer/bloggers.

* Reach out to editors. I like to drop my editors a quick note periodically, if I haven't heard from them in a while or sometimes even to say hi.

Good things have happened to me because I've networked, and because I've been willing to share my own expertise and experiences. Back in my office days, I'd never want to network because I was too frazzled from other regular interaction. Now it's easy to smile and be friendly and reach out -- and people smile and are friendly and reach back to me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Music to Write By

There are two things I consider essential in my life: writing and music. Take either one away, and I'd probably curl up and rot away.

And to me, the two are intertwined. I can't write without music. I've tried. There is nothing more distracting to me than silence. I remember being a student and having to take tests with no other sound than the scratching of pens or pencils on paper. I think that's the reason I was never a good test taker -- the silence. In some of my earlier jobs, I had bosses who didn't believe in music, either, and let it be known radios were verboten. Looking back, I wonder if that's why I'd come home from those jobs so tense. Later, I had jobs where radios were given a thumbs up, if you could pull in a station.

For that reason, Internet radio wins my vote for best technology ever. I could listen to music I like, and because it was on my computer, I could set the speakers right next to me, turn them low, and never bother a soul in the office. Or, depending on the job, I could wear headphones.

But over the years I've learned that as much as I can't write without music, I can't write to music with words. Lyrics clutter my brain and distract me almost as much as silence. Instrumental is prefered; piano is best. I type along to the music as if my fingers are dancing across a piano keyboard -- oh if only they could dance across a piano keyboard and actually make music, but that's a different issue.

When I write essays, I close my eyes and let the music guide the words I type. Sometimes I don't know what I've written until I've opened my eyes and read, that's how much the music takes over. It's an amazing feeling. When I write long hand, I don't quite that same affect, but it still works pretty well.

The music also has to fit the mood I'm in. Sometimes I'll feel blocked, so I change the music and the words flow. Sometimes the weather will be gloomy and piano music is too bright. So I'll switch to guitar pieces or maybe violin. String instruments work well on rainy days. I don't know why.

I listen to Jim Brickman's piano music a lot. He's my favorite by far, and a few years ago when I went to see him, I took along a red notebook that I carried with me everywhere. It was my writing notebook. I asked him to autograph it. He looked at me oddly -- it was a strange request, especially when most people were handing him music books and cd covers. I said, "I'm a writer, and when I write, I always listen to your music. This is what I write in." He opened the notebook and saw the hand-written pages.

"Nobody's ever told me they use my music as writing background," he said. He was touched and excited enough to tell the other performers. And he signed the notebook cover. It sits on a shelf in my office.

I'm typing this now while I listen to Christmas music. Each letter in synch with Ave Maria. It's a very easy tune to write to.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Saying No

Today I got an email offering me an assignment, based on a letter of introduction I sent to the editor. I had heard good things about the publication and pay, etc., so I was pleased to get the response.

Until I saw the information enclosed regarding pay and amount of work expected. I wasn't expecting a mint, but I wasn't expecting to sell my soul to the devil, either. It was embarrassingly low.

Sad thing is, there was a time when I would have jumped at this job. My "yes, thanks!" email would have flown through cyberspace faster than Superman. I would have been excited for any work at all.

Now, it is still hard to say no to dollars. But I've learned that some dollars make sense and others might prohibit me from doing better. I don't mind writing for less, if the job is right, and there is writing I do for next to nothing because I love the topic and want to build the platform. Yet, I think successful writers learn what their bottom line has to be to become successful. To me, this job would have been a step back on my career path, rather than a step forward.

And since it is the season to be thankful, I am thankful that I've moved to a stage of my career where I have the luxury to say no.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Yes, it is true. We have a ghost in our house. He's a friendly ghost. The kids named him Fred. There are rumors that someone died in the house long before we moved in (it's an older house), and it is his ghost. No reports of the place being haunted before we moved in.

Ghosts don't spook me. I've been attracting them since I was a little girl and saw the ghost of my great-grandmother, a woman who died when my father was a young teen and whose name I didn't learn until I was in my 20s and pregnant with my son. (Turns out, had he been a girl, I would have given him my great-grandmother's name, which is kind of spooky in itself.) Seeing a ghost then probably should have scared the living daylights out of me, but I was a stupid kid. I thought Pop's wife, as we all called her, was locked up in the spare bedroom that we weren't allowed in and she somehow snuck out that day.

How did I know it was her? Besides the fact she told me? Well, in a very Victorian way, my great-grandfather essentially banished her from the house after her death. No one spoke of her in any depth (hence, her being known as Pop's wife). Her pictures were packed away. No one ever talked about the type of person she was or what she looked like, nothing. So after my grandmother died, my grandfather was looking at pictures. I picked up a stack, all photos of people I didn't know, and said, "Oh, there's Pop's wife!" My grandfather looked at the picture and got a sad look in his eyes. "Yes, it is my mother. How did you know?" Um, well, I saw her as a ghost. No really, I said that. And he nodded and said, "I wondered. She's come to me many times, always telling me she was watching over you especially."

She's never come back to see me. Fred though. Fred's always around. Everybody in the house has seen him. He's okay. Mostly he walks around the outside of the house. I see him go past the front window all the time. He used to sit on the edge of my bed while I slept, but he doesn't do that anymore. He's been known to open the bathroom door when we're gone so the dog can go in there and eat up toilet paper.

I've got tons of ghost stories, really. No hobo stories like Patti, though.

Monday, November 12, 2007

New Space -- Kinda

I wasn't quite bit by Patti's DIY bug, but I did decide the office needed a little revamping. This room isn't very big and I just couldn't imagine it actually being a bedroom (which is how it was advertised when we bought the house). And I pack a lot of stuff in here. But I was tired of the setup and the men complaining about how they always knocked things off the shelf when they came in here. (It kept them out, that's for sure.)

When we hooked up the new phone, which involved nice husband upgrading the phone line into the office, I had to move things. At that point, I decided to reconfigure my space. Instead of an L-shaped work space, my desks are parallel, and I moved my stereo so I could have that tiny table. I still have to set up the milkcrates that act as shelves and storage units. That will be where my stereo will go now, rather than the middle of the floor where it is now. I may even get the urge to finally head to Goodwill with the box of stuff that has been sitting here nearly forever. It still needs a lot of work. Or maybe I need less stuff. Lots to think about.

But coming to work today had that feeling of something new, and that was fun. It made work a little more enjoyable.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Nano Nano

Eight days into November and I'm over 5000 words (actually pretty close to 6K, I just haven't updated the numbers yet). Last year when I attempted this, I barely got to 8K, so I'm doing pretty good.

I didn't think I'd have much time, looking at my writing and editing schedules. I thought maybe I'd be burned out like I ended up last year from spending my days writing and my nights writing some more. (I've noticed that people I know in non-writing jobs seem to have higher word totals at this point than the full-time writers I know. I don't think that is coincidence.)

But this year, the Nano piece is fun. It is a step back in time for me and the words just flow. It's meditative in a way.

When I was in high school, I would take a notebook and sit in a corner somewhere while I had a few minutes to spare while waiting for a bus or for my activity to begin, and I would write. No Walkman or iPods back then, but I would be so engrossed in what I was doing that I could shut out the whole world. I'd come out a writing jag with glazed over eyes and had a little trouble reentering the real world but it was an exhilarating experience. I've tried yoga. I've had massages. To me writing for fun has the same healing and restful qualities. More so.

I asked a man who wrote for a living what he liked to write for fun. He looked at me as if I had grown two heads and said, "No one writes for fun. It's a job." Poor guy. He hadn't a clue. Sure, writing is a way to make money. A beautiful way to make money. But it can also be enjoyable, spirtually freeing, fun.

And if you want to keep up with my progress, cheer me on, or let me keep up with you, feel free to add me to your buddy list. My nickname is grumpifrog and just drop me a note to say hello.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What I Love about Freelancing, Part 724

I had an article due this morning. Yesterday afternoon got away from me for various reasons, and I don't write well (don't do anything well) in those first hours I'm awake. So I sat down at 2 am to write, crawling into bed at 4:30, sending the article before I did. I had nothing on my calendar and no boss to answer to, so I could get real sleep.

Editor emailed me at 8:30 to say she thought I did an excellent job and offered me another assignment. I really enjoy working for this magazine and editor, too.

I love being able to work when I'm most productive and not during an artificially set "work day" standard.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What Do You Think?

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to sit down with a couple of entrepreneurs (who are also lawyers) and discuss a website they are launching. This site is meant to get writers/authors in front of potential readers. For a $12 annual fee, you can post a couple of pieces of your work (and for more dollars, more work) so readers (and as the business owners said enthusiastically, editors and agents) will discover you.

I have a lot of issues with this venture. I can't get over the idea that the writers have to pay, but the readers can read for free. I don't mind the idea of free readers, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea of having to pay someone to read my work.

But an even bigger issue is the owners of the site duping writers into believing that posting there will get them discovered. That getting published is as simple as writing to an editor and saying, "See, 1000 people came to read my work and half of them liked it. You should publish me!" (Seriously, that's one the one guy said would happen.)

While I understand that writers get discovered in all sorts of ways and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if someone did get "found" there and I could see a website like this acting as a marketing tool for an already published piece, the men I spoke with had little understanding of the publishing business as a whole. The idea came to them because of complaints from people they know and/or work with about how their books weren't selling or getting noticed. A great idea doesn't necessarily translate into great writing. And great writing is subjective.

Most interestingly, the person doing most of the talking kept referring to publishing being an insider business, that publishing is all based on who you know, but his examples were scriptwriting. I'm not a scriptwriter, but from what I understand, that is a business where contacts can be very important. In regular publishing? Not so much so.

Writing is a lot of hard work. Just because one writes doesn't mean his/her work deserves to be published. The forementioned gentlemen disagreed with me.

What do you think? Would you pay to post your work just to get it out to the masses or in hopes of getting discovered?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Making the Giant Leap

On another blog I read, the poster asked what led to the decision to become a freelance writer full time. Any new job can be a little scary, as well as exciting, but becoming self-employed is filled with unknowns, uncertainties, and wonders if this month will bring enough to live on.

My friends were surprised I decided to make this leap from structured regular job to unstructured freelancing. I'm highlighting the word structure there because my personality insists on order. I'm a little OCD, actually (which works to my advantage as a freelancer, believe it or not), and I need to keep to a routine in order to avoid undue stress. And trust me, my open days are my most stressful, no matter how much I look forward to them.

But on January 3, 2005, my boss came into my office and said his money was running out and unless he got a grant, we had to look for new positions. I worked at a university at the time; it wasn't unusual to be on annual, soft-money contracts that were dependent on grants and funding. When I took the job, I was told that there was enough money to last at least 3 years, which sounded about right to me. In three years, my son would be in college, and I would be ready to either move on to a different job or begin my ease into freelancing by going part time. I wasn't looking forward to going through the job search again and returning to an office where I had to show up in dress clothes and work in an open environment.

Still, I had a responsibility. I started sending off my resume and applying for jobs around campus. I got interviews and I put on my best smilie face.

In the meantime, my 20th wedding anniversary came along. I was making some freelance money on a fairly regular basis, maybe $300 a month on average. It allowed me to do some fun things and treat myself to "toys" like my first laptop. We used some of that money to help pay for our anniversary trip to Aruba. I thought it was an extravagant trip for someone in the midst of a job search, but my husband was confident things would work out. Maybe not the way we planned, he said, but the way God wanted them to work out.

Shortly after we came home, I had a job interview for what would have been a great job as an associate editor for an academic journal. At the same time, a friend sent me information about a freelance job opportunity. I applied for that. I told the husband that this might be what determines the direction I go in. I got the freelance job. I didn't get the editor job.

The husband and I had another talk. I was oddly at peace with the whole situation. "You've wanted to do this for a long time," he said. "You supported me when I wanted to go to college. This is your dream, and I support you."

It was a dream, yes, but too early for my plans. At least four years too early. I didn't know what to do. I was scared to just make a leap without knowing if I could really do this. So I arranged to go on an unpaid sabbatical until my contract with the university was officially over. Money for my job ran out on April 30th, so I through most of March and April, I took vacation time, working only a day or two a week to finish up loose ends. On April 30th, my final regular paycheck was deposited in the bank. On May 1, my freelance career started for real, and I counted on my regular freelancing gig plus this new one I had picked up.

I still bid on university jobs and still went on interviews. Then a friend told me about a book opportunity, and I pursued that. By the end of May, I had a book deal and was making money freelancing. I also had a phone interview for a campus job. I thought it went miserably and was shocked when they brought me in for a face-to-face interview. Right before I left, the contract for the book arrived, as did two article assignments. I walked into the interview, started through the same old questions, had people staring at me and writing notes. The woman in charge of the interview was a cranky old thing, and after 20 minutes I said, "You know, I think this interview was a bad idea on my part. I don't really want this job, and we're all wasting time." The cranky lady said, "You aren't working now, so it seems like you need to worry about this job." I told her I didn't think that was her business, and I said goodbye and walked out of the building feeling free as a bird.

Truth is, there were a lot of ups and downs that first year. There are ups and downs every month. But my husband says I should have done this years ago. The money is better. I'm less stressed.

Still, I never would have attempted this full time if it weren't for a boss who couldn't manage his budget and a few little successes under my belt. I figured out to structure my days, too. After all, if I don't make this work, it's off to a regular job again. And that's a leap I never want to have to make!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Holy Cow

I noticed my Sporting News blog's latest post had gotten over 350 hits in less than 12 hours. I thought, cool, people are noticing my blog. Then, as I was reading the front page of the site, I saw I was a featured link again. Two weeks in a row. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of blogs out there to choose from, and they picked mine again.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Personal Day

Back when I worked an office job, I had one personal day each year as part of my benefits package (I also had 12 sick days and 24 vacation days per year -- I really miss those!). I always took my personal day on my birthday. What better personal holiday than your own birthday?

Some habits die hard, and frankly, I needed a day off from work. So once again, I cleared my calendar and took my personal day. My husband took the day off with me. We drank champagne at midnight and slept in late the next morning. I checked my email, but that was the only work I did all day. Otherwise I went shopping and checked out the new Staples, went out with friends, talked to my kids, and just had an enjoyable day. I felt refreshed.

Of course, it meant that all the work on my desk didn't get done. At midnight this morning, I was back on my computer, working on an editing project. I've been working since I got up this morning, and in a few minutes I'll go back to editing so I can finish that by 4:30. I'll probably have to do some work on Sunday during the football game. Days off aren't always luxuries -- the work has to get done sometimes.

But every so often, it is nice to have a day where you can be completely selfish.

Monday, October 22, 2007

One Step to That Dream

I think I mentioned my blog on the Sporting News site. (Used to do one on, but I didn't feel the sense of community there. I love TSN's interactive community.) I posted a blog yesterday on college football. I noticed this morning that I had a lot of hits. An unusual number of hits for someone who is really just hitting a stride at the site.

A few minutes ago, I went over to TSN and there was a link to my latest blog post, right there on the front page. That's my second appearance in two months. It doesn't mean anything. It's not like anyone has offered me a job. But people are reading my sports thoughts -- people like my sports thoughts -- and the TSN folks are reading and noticing too.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My Dream Job . . . and Why It Is an Uphill Battle

I have a ton of magazine subscriptions, but there are three I read religiously, cover to cover: Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and The Sporting News.

There are three websites I visit every time I log on to the computer:,, and

Sensing a theme?

My whole life, my dream has been to be a writer for one of those magazines. They are also about the toughest markets to break into. These days, what I'd like more than anything is to be a columnist for one of those magazines, but based on the many columns I read now, I would have to change one fundamental thing about myself and I couldn't do it.

There is no way in hell I'm becoming a Boston or New York sports fan. Sorry, ain't happening.

Okay, not everybody is from those two Northeast areas, but it sure seems like it sometimes. And I know that columns allow the writer to be subjective. But I don't get why readers or editors put up with some of the non-stop Boston/New York chatter. No wonder sports fans across the country complain about an eastern bias. Who would know in baseball season there are teams outside the Red Sox or Yankees? There's a guy who writes for ESPN. He's known as the Sports Guy. Except every column ends up being a love fest with the Sox/Pats/Celtics. His name is a misnomer. He's really the New England Guy.

Now see, I believe there should be some balance. First, the magazines need more female voices. Second, Pennsylvania sports need a fair representation in those magazines. Third, the National League and the NFC needs a fair representation in those magazines.

I mean really, wouldn't every sports fan want to know what it is like to experience Penn State football home games the way I do?

Monday, October 15, 2007

I've Been Interviewed

Check out Jen's Down the Shore blog. She's an expert on the Jersey Shore -- site of many of my happy memories -- and a fellow Phillies fan.

Why, I don't know, but I've decided to take the plunge into the November and NaNoWriMo. Yes, I should probably have my head examined. I have two ideas for books, actually. One is what I mentioned in my interview with Jen, how sports have shaped so many important relationships in my life. The other would be a novel that takes some of the conspiracy ideas I have about some real-life situations and let my evil brain work them out.

I should probably stick with the sports book. If I can't write for the sports mags, I could write sports books. Right? Although, shhh, don't tell anyone, but a couple of people over at my TSN sports blog have posted that I should be one of the mags paid writer/bloggers. Not that anything will come of it, but it is nice having someone say it -- and that someone isn't me!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Everything Is Research

My husband will tease me sometimes about wasting time when I should be working. What he doesn't know is that everything I do ends up helping me with my job. Even that game of spider solitaire that helps me clear my head from Project A to move on to Project B.

Or like yesterday. Frustrated over a search for sources, I decided to take a break and read Because lately I've been working on a lot of energy and green-related articles, a news item about clean power caught my attention. As I read it, I found it was in line with this article I'm working on -- cool! I wasn't wasting time any more. This was research! But even better, hidden deep in the article was a quote by a man who was touching on the exact thing I needed to know for my article.

A little copy and past into the Google search bar, and in a minute, I had his contact info. An hour later, I had an interview scheduled for this afternoon.

An article I'm working on now, coupled with the CNN article and another article I did last week, have given me an idea for a whole different article.

Heck, even writing this blog today has given me an idea to pitch to some of the writing magazines. Everything really is research for a writer.

P.S. The talk went okay. People showed up. I rambled a bit, even though I had notes. But the questions went on for a half hour. People were really interested -- but they also asked a lot of questions about general freelancing, as well. This was a crowd who want to be serious about writing but aren't sure how. I hope I was able to help them a little.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Last week was one of those times when personal outranked professional and fun. So I had to take care of the personal.

Now I have to go back to taking care of the professional, and ouch, my slate is full this week.

One of the items on my plate is giving a presentation for our local writer's group on writing for trade magazines. Thanks to the forementioned personal stuff and this week's full slate, I've had no time to even think about this. One of the reasons I'm blogging now is to help me think a little about what I'm going to say.

What am I going to say?

Speaking in front of people doesn't bother me in the least. I'm used to it. I've given one talk about writing -- I was asked to speak about writing essays to a women's group. One woman fell asleep (and I was told not to worry about it because she always fell asleep during the speaker).

I'm more worried that no one will show up. I mean, really, how much boring a topic can you get? Trade magazines? Lots of people don't even know what they are! I'll probably have a half hour to speak, then open it up for questions, and then move on to networking afterwards.

I guess I'll talk about the things people ask me about most: how I got started (boring), how I find the publications I write for (Google mostly), and how they find me (letters of introduction). I can talk about why I like writing for trades, what to expect, and what to do about that little thing called experience.

I've been doing this for a year and a half. I'm hardly an expert. But it is what I do.

If you came to hear me talk, what would you want to know about writing?

Monday, October 1, 2007

We Interrupt Writing for Baseball

I love baseball. I especially love Phillies baseball (so much so, I wrote a book). Anyone who knows me knows how much I love sports, but Phillies baseball is far and away my favorite, even more than my beloved Nittany Lions football.

The Phils are a tough team to follow. They break your heart (if it is still beating after all that down to the wire stuff) some years. Other years, they are so bad, they just pull your heart out and stomp on it and kick it around a little bit and have lesser fans pining for football season in May, hockey season by All-Star break. But I stuck by this team since 1974, when I first started watching baseball and decided to pick this team over my parents' favorite Yankees.

Since 1974, the Phils went to the playoffs in 76, 77, 78, and 81, won the World Series in 1980 -- their only WS win ever -- and lost WS in 1983 and 1993. (They were in the WS in 1915 and 1950, as well, in their only other playoff appearances. And yes, I really did know that off the top of my head . . . scary the weird things I remember.) All that for a team founded in 1883, has been in one city with one name since 1883 (no other professional team can say that), and was the first team to lose 10,000 games in its history. October baseball doesn't come our way very often.

The past few years have been especially tough, as the team lost out on the wild card on the last weekend of the season. Or mid-season meltdowns lost them first place. I sometimes don't know what is harder -- a bad season where you know it is over in June or one that takes you right to the brink.

But yesterday, thanks to the Mets doing their best Philadelphia choke imitation (obviously learned by Mr. September Choke himself, Billy Wagner, who pulled that stick in a Phillies uniform a few times), and thanks to a team that played like little kids who love the game and refuse to quit, the Phils are going to play another game. In October.

Game 2 of the World Series is on my birthday. This team, with no pitching and its 48 comeback wins, has a shot to be playing baseball on my birthday. But the real gift wouldn't just be playing on that day. It's that on October 1, I can still dream about it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pay Rates

I know a lot of writers who are stuck on the rate per word form of payment. They refuse to work for less than $X.XX. They scoff at editors who dare to offer less than $X.XX.

And there isn't a problem with that, if that's where you are in your career.

In my case, I came from a job that used to pay once a month. Last day, that's when your check was deposited, everything on a salary, every month exactly the same. So my perspective is slightly skewed. I have an idea of what I want to make in an 8-hour day, or what my monthly income will be.

So, rather than get worked up about the per word rate, I look at the per day rate. How much time will I spend on an article from start to finish. That includes sending out the pitch, setting up the interviews and doing them, then writing the piece. I am blessed because I write fast, so that helps.

A lot of my work is repeat business from editors, so right off I get to eliminate the search part. Many of the articles I write are one-source pieces who are familiar with the magazine. Interviews usually take less than an hour. And so on. It's rare when an article requires more than 8 hours of work, so my "per day" rate is usually very good. Much higher than anything I made per day at the old job. Granted, I don't make money every day, but I look at what I bring in at the end of the month. I have a monthly goal and that's my real target.

The majority of my writing friends, particularly the trade writers, think in per hour rates. When they are offered new assignments, they calculate how much time they think it will take and decide what their minimum per hour rate will be. That's how they decide on what jobs to take.

There is no one right way to determine what is a good pay for you. But it is important to make sure you are being paid what you think you are worth. And that can be a post for another day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Finding Your Niche

I was doing a quick interview last night. The guy I was talking to was driving, and I think he was bored, so he was asking me questions about my writing life. This was an interview for a technology magazine, so he asked me if I wrote a lot about technology. Then we got talking about how I ended up writing on the various topics I cover.

I write for trade publications almost exclusively these days. I started out writing for construction magazines, and that grew to other occupations over the past year or two. I stumbled into it, really. I had a job where I worked with construction people, and I wrote articles for the department newsletter. When I began freelancing, someone suggested I introduce myself to construction magazines. I did. I got some positive responses. And it went from there. Construction led to engineering. Engineering led to technology. And so on down the line. I'm happy as a clam writing on these topics.

Over the years, I've discovered niches can change. When I first started freelancing, I wrote parenting articles. I had teenagers then, and there were so many issues about teens that I felt weren't discussed. That led to more parenting articles, topics like pregnancy and babyhood. I am a mom, so like so many moms, parenting articles interested me. But then the kids grew up, and the topics lost their appeal.

I think there is a lot of truth to the idea of writing what you know or write what you care about. But I'll take it a step farther to say, write what interests you and write on things that can expand your life. Believe it or not, construction writing made a lot of sense for me, and not because I had those couple of years of job experience. My best friends are in the construction business. Family and friends worked construction at some point. I learned a lot by talking to them over the years, but by writing about construction, I learned how to hold up my own end of the conversation. Same thing with engineering -- I spend a lot of time with engineers. I know how to speak their language and I carried that over to writing on the topic. On the other hand, I probably won't ever write about cooking because I get lost in my own kitchen and have no desire to learn how to find my way.

There are a few topics I'd like to tackle as time goes on (or I've touched on them but would like to expand my horizon): music litergy in the Catholic church, sports, presidential politics, issues in higher education. I'd like to build on some of the topics I write about now, and am expanding into green and sustainable topics, which really feeds off of the work I've done in the past.

Your niche is out there.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

When a Door Shuts . . .

Earlier this summer I was at a party, talking to perhaps the only other non-science person there. He was a freelance graphic artist, someone I worked with many years ago. One of the things we talked about was how tough freelancing can be. He said that others don't realize that you have to take what you can get, that this isn't a career where you have the luxury to say no to assignments.

I used to agree with that. Then I began to pay attention to what my more experienced (and sometimes wiser) co-horts say: The time you spend on jobs that suck up a lot of time for little pay is time you lose to pursue better paying jobs.

At first I thought, well, at least I'm still earning money. That's better than not earning money. And I took everything that came my way.

Last fall, I had an assignment that I knew could be a long-term steady assignment. The first piece I did was quick and easy and an incredible per hour rate. The second piece was ridiculous in both the amount of work required and the way they tried to change the payment offer. When they asked me about doing an assignment for the next issue, I looked at my calendar and saw all the empty spaces. I remembered my frustration and how much I bitched to my friends and family. I took a deep breath and said, "No thanks."

And started to worry about what I did.

Except, a few days later, I stumbled across an email from a friend who said an editor was looking for writers. I originally ignored the note because I was in the midst of this hellish piece and didn' t have time to pursue this one. This day, though, I sent a letter of introduction. He said to call him. I did so. He said I'd have an assignment right after the new year. Sure enough, I got the assignment, and have been getting assignments ever since. The per hour rate is phenomenal.

I shut a door on one low-paying assignment. And it gave me time to pursue a higher paying assignment.

I got a little bolder. When one of my editors began changing the deadline dates and the article lengths of a monthly feature, without adjusting the pay, I said, no, this is eating up my time. I can do better. I dropped the column. A week or two later, I found a nice replacement -- less work, fewer words, triple the income. The time I would have spent researching and writing that column I spent marketing.

Now I am a little pickier about my client list. But it isn't always easy. September has been a very slow month. I was offered a low-paying, quick-turnaround assignment the other day, one I know I wouldn't have enjoyed, and I almost accepted it. But then I thought no, I'd rather spend that time on other things, like working on my website and marketing. Two days later, I got an email from another editor with a fantastic, quick-turnaround assignment offer, and I snapped it up.

So I disagree with my freelance artist friend. Saying no is a luxury we do have, and sometimes it is the best thing we can do for our career.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Don't Steal My Idea!

I'm the critique group coordinator for the local writer's group. Last week was the first general meeting of the school year (we meet September through May -- are other towns like this, where the bulk of activities fall during the academic year or is this a college town thing?). I was late, but at the end of the meeting, I got to announce a little about the critique groups and said I had handouts. I got mobbed with people who wanted a handout. But once the crowd calmed down, an older man came over to me.

"I have a question for you," he said. Okay, shoot. "How can I be sure no one in the critique group will steal my ideas?"

Someone else overheard and said, "Oh, copyright everything."

Except you can't copyright an idea. And I knew what this man was getting at. He was afraid he'd take an unpublished essay or article to be critiqued by the members of his group and someone would like the idea so much he or she would rush home and write an essay or article on that very topic.

I thought it was interesting that he was more concerned about someone stealing his ideas rather than his actual words.

But he isn't alone, of course. I know many writers who worry that by sending a kick-ass idea to an editor will result on not getting the assignment because the editor "stole" the idea. It's even harder to dispell that fear when a month or two after you sent the query, the magazine had an article on that exact same topic. Heck, I had that same feeling myself when I had an editor love one of my ideas, and she sounded like she was going to give me the assignment only to disappear off the map. When I finally reached her again, she apologized to say the EIC had a similar article in the works already. I felt used. But then I saw the article -- it was a 100-word blurb the following month. Sure, maybe there was a longer one in a future issue, but that blurb told me everything I needed to know -- my idea, while great, wasn't all that original. Obviously, someone else thought of it too.

We like to think that our ideas are always fresh and new and exciting and editors will love them. But because our ideas have to come from somewhere, it means the heart of the story is already out there for someone else to pick up. I've lost track of the number of times I had a query making the rounds on a topic only to find another magazine that I hadn't pitched was publishing that very same article idea. It's frustrating, but it's not uncommon.

There are certain topics called evergreens. Parenting magazines, for example, use lots of evergreen topics. After all, new parents have essentially the same questions and issues, so these topics need to be addressed regularly. But magazines want fresh approaches to those topics. And that's what individual writers bring to the table -- a unique take on the idea at hand.

This particular writers group meeting was an open-mike forum. Anyone who wanted was invited to read a published or in-progress work. I came in just as this gentleman was reading his essay, which I gathered was about the lack of respect night owls get from an early morning world. As we spoke later, he said to me he read a published work because he didn't want anyone stealing his idea.

I politely nodded and said I understood. I didn't say that I have written about this same topic a number of times, in essays that I've never quite finished and at least once in another blog.

Yes, idea theft does happen sometimes, but mostly it's just two people happened on a similar idea at the same time. Rather than worry that someone is going to steal your idea, kick it up a notch and prove why you, above anyone else with the same concept, are the person who should actually get the assignment. In the end, that's what it is all about. The writing, not the thought.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Do You Have What It Takes?

Many moons ago, I worked in an academic publications office with three full-time people and a new intern every semester. I was the low person in the office and most of my job was grunt work. I didn't mind. I actually enjoyed that job more than any other I've ever had (and then it evolved in a new direction that didn't suit me and, well, that's another story). But what bothered me was the attitude of the person in charge. She often made it clear, without ever coming out and saying the words, that she didn't think I had what it took to be a "professional" writer.

Looking back, at that time I probably didn't. There were too many other things happening in my life that took my attention from pursuing a writing career, not the least of which was a misguided focus on fiction.

But now I must have what it takes because, while I might not be in the 6-figure income category yet, I have fairly steady work and am making more than I ever did in that office job.

So what is that magic formula? Everybody is different, but this is what worked for me:

Discipline That's it in a nutshell, really. There's a great phrase from Everybody Loves Raymond: AIS. Ass in Seat. On the show, that was the rule Frank had for his boys when it was time to go somewhere. AIS or get left behind. It's a good rule for writers. AIS or get nothing done. That often means the laundry, Oprah, grocery shopping and other activities need to be left for later.

Independence I work best when I can create my own work, my own schedule, my own routine. Some people work best when they have someone else giving them the work, the schedule, the routine. This isn't a job for those who need someone else to provide direction.

Loner When I left office life, I thought I'd miss being around people all day. Boy, was I wrong. Even though freelancing can be a stressful job, wondering when the next assignment or paycheck will come, my stress level dropped a million points. I never realized how stressed out I got by being with co-workers 8 hours a day. I like working alone. It has made me a better worker.

Driven I'm a goal-oriented person, and that's what drives me to get myself going each work day. I changed my philosophies on how to approach my career. I network. I listen to the advice of others. I've learned to quit under-estimating my worth, but I've also learned to quit comparing myself and my career to others.

The hard truth is not everyone is cut out to be a freelancer. Or they might not be ready today but could be next year. You have to know yourself and what you are capable of before you make that plunge.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Downside to Freelancing

Beautiful as freelancing is, it's not a perfect job. Actually, my dog has the only perfect job -- she can sleep whenever she pleases, gets a free lunch every day, and can go on squirrel chasing breaks at any time of the day.

Here are the (few) things I don't like about freelancing.

1. Lack of a regular paycheck. I have an editing job that pays me two weeks after I submit the invoice, and I usually have at least one project per week. That's about as regular as the paychecks get, though. After that, it is a crap shoot. My husband greets me each day with "Get any checks today?" A funny story about me and paychecks: the checks tend to arrive when I'm out of town. When we were on spring break in March, there were $4,000 in checks that were delivered the day we returned. When I was in Seattle in June, another $4,000 arrived. A weekend trip to Baltimore, came home to 3 checks. I'm waiting for a ton of money. I should get out of town.

2. The see-saw income. I'm beginning to build up a regular client list, but it doesn't mean all months are created equal. Not every publication is monthly. Not every article will pay the same. Sometimes I get a surprise one-time assignment. Some months are very good. Some are not so good. I'm in a down month right now (although my calendar is slowly filling), immediately following my best month ever. It's one reason so many writers diversify their work.

3. No paid days off. Bottom line, if I don't work, I don't get paid. And the truth is, there are a lot of days where I might be working and I don't get paid. Like today. I'm marketing. I'm setting up interviews. I'm working on queries. The interviews might be the only thing I'm doing that will bring in an income, but that income won't actually "happen" until I write and send the article.

4. No back up. One day this winter, I woke up and felt miserable. I wanted to sleep, but there were things on my schedule that absolutely needed to be done. I couldn't depend on a co-worker to back me up. It's just me. While I like that independence, there are days when I'd like to be able to say, "Hey, I need to juggle these four things, can you help me out?"

5. Lack of respect. I don't usually give a flying fig what people think, but a lot of people who don't understand freelancing think that I a) don't have a real job and b) don't do anything all day and c) jobs just fall into my lap. And then of course, the words just magically appear on the page. When those people are your friends and family, it's hard to shrug off the comments. That's why it is so important to connect with people who understand, which I'll touch on next time.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Why I Love Being a Freelance Writer

When I moved to freelance full time two years ago, my friends thought I'd have a schedule where I could drop everything at the drop of a hat and my family thought that because I didn't have a "real job," I was available to chat on the phone whenever they pleased.

While I do have flexibility with my work day (no crawling out of bed to be in an office at 8 am, which is bliss to this night owl), I do put in a full day almost every day. Sure, I can play with my scheduling a little bit and on days when I'm not swamped with work, I can sneak away to meet a friend for lunch or get in some much-needed bowling practice with my new ball. Like anyone in an office job, I have busy days/weeks, and I have slow days/weeks. What it doesn't mean is that I'm parked in front of my tv watching the soaps and eating chocolate all afternoon. Heck, I don't even take naps.

But freelancing is my dream job, and these are the reasons I like it so much.

1. I can set my own hours. My natural body rhythm is to sleep until 10 am and stay up until 2 am. I can also write late at night when the phone isn't ringing and the house is quiet.

2. I can come to work in my jammies if I want. Thank goodness I don't do morning interviews on a web cam. It would scare people away.

3. No boss staring over my shoulder. I don't know how other people feel about that, but to me, it was a breath of fresh air. I worked with plenty of people who needed hand-holding from supervisors, but I am -- and always have been -- an independent worker. Give me a job and I can do it in my own fashion most efficiently. That's excellent for freelancing. Not so excellent for a micro-manager boss. I had plenty of clashes with bosses over the years because it always looked like I was goofing off when in fact I had the work well under control. I had one boss tell me I could never work for myself because I'd get nothing done. That boss lost his job after I left. As for me, with no boss, I can accomplish 3 times as much as I ever did before in a typical week.

4. I get to choose. A freelance artist said to me once that as freelancers, we can't be picky about the work that falls in our laps. I beg to differ. First, nothing falls in my lap. I work hard to get my assignments. Second, I can choose the type of writing I want to do, the subjects I work in, the editors I work with. When one assignment turned into a nightmare and less pay than I was told, I said thanks but no thanks when asked if I wanted another assignment.

5. I can work from anywhere. This summer, me and my trusty laptop went to the Pacific Northwest to help my daughter move. Last fall it was a trip to the Chicago area. Spring break was in Florida. Unless I told my editors, they didn't know I was gone. I answered my emails and was able to answer phone calls and hit my deadlines. Because we're empty nesting now, when the husband goes on business trips, I can go along. And as my friend said last night, if we hit the Power Ball, I can write from beaches around the world. It also can be as simple as working from my living room couch on a summer afternoon so I can watch a baseball game while I hit my deadlines.

Bonus plus: no air conditioning. To me, there is little worse than having a beautiful summer day only to be shivering in air conditioning. My house doesn't have A/C, and I can sit in my office with the windows open, wearing summer appropriate clothes, and enjoy the weather. Or if I don't need to be attached to a phone, I can head outside to work. Which is what I think I'll do now.

Next up: the downsides of freelancing and what I think it takes to be a successful freelancer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Breather

I came downstairs today and found nothing on my calendar. Well, I knew there was nothing on my calendar. It was quite a relief after the past week and month. I've spent a good chunk of today doing some marketing but also some relaxing.

Not that I want every day to be like this. Tomorrow won't, nor will Thursday, and probably not Friday. But for today, it is good.

Traditionally, I've always taken off the Tuesday after Labor Day as a vacation. It was so I could be home for the first day of school for my kids. Then I would bask in the quietness of the neighborhood for some hours, ending the day by filling out all those school forms and catching up with the first day news. Now I have no kids in K-12, and only one in college, which was started a week ago. But in its auto-pilot, my brain shut down and with nothing on the calendar, I'm taking advantage of the quiet neighborhood and the quiet schedule.

Carp diem.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Charming Billy

I just finished reading Charming Billy by Alice McDermott. It is the next selection in my book discussion group.

The story starts at Billy's funeral and works its way backwards, telling the life of this man who charmed everyone he met, wrote notes and short letters to people addictively, who lost the love of his life, and was an alcoholic. The narrator of the story is an unnamed woman (or if she had a name, I certainly don't remember it), the adult daughter of Billy's cousin and close friend. The story is never really in her eyes, though. Often, she is relating the stories that she heard through her life. The story she is telling appears to be told to her husband. I thought the narrator set up was clever but often confusing.

I read it at an interesting time in my life. I tend to do that with books, read ones that touch my life at just the right moment. Like this one did. Alcoholism is a thread in many of my conversations lately. This story shows you the pain the family of the alcoholic endures. I had to concentrate at times because it was easy to slip in the names of the people in my life in place of the characters. There was one passage that stuck out at me. The wife of Billy had Hummel figures in a location where they were knocked over all the time when Billy was being carried upstairs. His friend Dennis complained that the figurines be moved, but the wife never did it. It was if she couldn't bear that little change, that concession to her husband's disease. And it struck me because I could see the exact same parallel with others who are living with alcoholics.

But mostly, the book didn't impress me. The plot twist was given away in the first chapter. It was hard to care about any of the characters. It was especially hard to find Billy charming. There is much in the book that is food for thought, especially if you dealing with alcoholism in your life. But not much if you want an engaging book. One of the women in my group who devours books said it was taking her forever to read this one. Luckily, it is under 300 pages.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Time on My Hands

This week I have 5 articles to write, 4 of them due on Friday. Surprisingly enough, my head isn't spinning out of control. Most of the interviews are done -- although I've been struggling to get the 6 sources I need for an article on college bookstores (couldn't be the timing or anything). But that will fall into place; I have no doubt on it.

Then, my next deadline is October 3.

I should be in a panic, but I'm not. August was very very good to me, and things tend to fall into place as the month wears on. I'm looking forward to catching up on some things that have gotten pushed aside the past 6 months. I plan to write some essays and goof around with fiction (and I need to make a decision here -- do I pull out novel 1 that needs to be typed up, continue to work on novel 2, which I'm not sure I like, or start on something fresh and new). I also plan to create a website, something that needs to be done.

I've read plenty of writer blogs, but now I'm looking to scope out professional sites to get an idea of what I want to add and what I don't. I'm not totally sold on the idea of putting my picture up. Does the "face to go along with the writer" really work? Do I include a list of my current clients or just a random sample of my articles? I've seen lots of "about me" links on websites. As a writer, do I add some the, um, more interesting stuff about me (would an editor want to know about the frog collection?) or do I keep it more professional?

Obviously, only I can answer these questions, but it sure would be good to have input or to see what others are doing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Baby Steps

From about high school, when my interest in sports caught fire, until forever, my dream has been to be on the staff of Sports Illustrated. Or any of the sports magazine I read. Or I'd take a freelance article getting placed there. Just once. I'd be happy.

Lately, one of my favorite ways to waste time is to hang out at the Sporting News community. I set up an account and I comment and blog away. It's a nice stress reliever for me, and the husband doesn't need to listen to me spout off on sports.

I was surprised at the reaction. Surely there are other women on the boards, but I get a lot of "wow, a woman who knows her stuff about sports" comments. But I'm happy people read me and I plug away.

Saturday, I logged on and discovered that I had an award in my profile. Showcase blog of the day, it said. I went to the front page, saw the link to the showcase blogs, and there I was. My little blog about my favorite baseball player for all the world to see.

I was so excited, I told the husband. I rarely tell him about my writing stuff, but you know, this is as close as I've been to being published in one of the sports mags.

Most of the other "awards" given have to do with fantasy leagues. I'll take this showcase blog over any fantasy league win any day.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I See Daylight

Today is Friday. Over the course of this week, I finished up a 3500-word article on Monday, gathered 6 sources/interviews and wrote a 1000 word article on Tuesday and also wrote up a 600 word article on Tuesday, searched down final interviews and wrote a 600 word article on Wednesday, and took care of a source search and then wrote a 2000 word article yesterday. Now, I will write the final article due this week, a 700 word round up, and then I'll settle into some editing for the rest of the day. I could use happy hours this week, but I don't know if that will happen.

Next week will be slightly better. Only 2 articles due, but lots of interviews to get done.

I'm thrilled with the way August has worked out. I'm slightly concerned about September. There is nothing on the calendar -- yet. You'd think I'd be thrilled with the opportunity to breathe. Instead, I'm antsy to get more work.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Full Steam Ahead

This is a crazy week. No other way to describe it. Articles due every day. Interviews. The search for sources. Me pulling out all the hair in my head. Supposedly it will calm down after this week. I'll believe it when I see it.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Mad Dash to the End

I am surprisingly low tech. Except for my internet searches and email, I prefer using paper and pen whenever possible (my computer crash showed me how important that was, too). Rather than using the Outlook calendar, I have an Eagles football calendar hanging on the wall next to my desk with all my deadlines written down. August is a good month so far. There are many squares filled on the calendar.

That means, of course, I need to research and write those articles. That gets a little hairier. Through the 17th of August, I've got something going on nearly every day. It will be, to say the least, a little crazy around here.

What I like about my paper calendar is how it hangs there on the wall, in plain view, so I know every time I turn my head what's coming.

And I didn't lose any of my deadline information in the great computer crash.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Yoo Hoo! Anybody Home?

When I talk to folks about my job, which isn't very often, they assume the hardest part of the work is the writing. That's because writing is hard for a lot of people. To me, that's the easy part.

The hardest part of being a professional freelance writer? Gathering my sources.

Oh, lots of people want to be interviewed and feel they have a cause to promote. I send out a request to a place like Profnet, and in the 50 or so responses I get, maybe 2 or 3 are worthwhile. And then, once I begin interviewing, it is apparent that at least 1 person will have a totally different agenda than my article, or maybe all of them will. (And that I will then spend the next year being hounded by PR people is a whole other issue I could write a book about.)

Sometimes my editors will make it simple. They will provide the sources for me. But that's only half the battle. I get promises of interviews, but as the deadline rapidly approaches, the interviews are still being promised but not materializing. That's what I'm dealing with now. It's why my hair is turning gray.

My friends wonder why I spend so much time writing at night. It's because my days are spent tracking down sources.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Numbers Game

Numbers aren't my forte. Oh, I did okay in math in high school because the math program was strong and as a competitive person, I wanted to do as well or better than my classmates. But I've always been a word person. Numbers now give me a headache. I can't even do simple math without messing it up.

So becoming a freelance writer is the logical step for a non-numbers person. Oh how wrong that is. I fuss with numbers more than I have since my last math class in college. Why? Because, it turns out, writing is a numbers game.

To get noticed, to get assignments, you have to send a lot of queries and letters. Once upon a time I wrote an article on the Rule of 13 (published in Writing for Dollars -- I should search for it, as it was sage advice). The idea is for every 13 pieces of work you have in circulation, you should get at least one assignment. Thirteen isn't some magic number. It means that you have a healthy amount of bait out there and eventually luck will fall in your favor and the fishies, er editors, will take a nibble or a big bite. Why 13? Because 13 is better than 5 or 10 but not intimidating like 20 or 25. Thirteen means you are really putting your work out there.

Since I've been doing the query challenge with my writers' organization, I've been sending lots of letters. This past week alone I sent 55. From that I've gotten about 10 responses, all positive nibbles but no assignments yet. One is very likely. Yes, the numbers I produce are high, but to get the type of work I want, I have to make sure my output is great.

Another numbers thing I have to do is be my own bookkeeper. That's tough. I can't balance a checkbook (no, I don't need anyone telling me how easy it is to balance a checkbook because it is not). Thank goodness for Excel spreadsheets. Otherwise, I'd be screwed. But I've learned to look at my business professionally, with a ton of information recorded so I can keep track of where the work is coming from, as well as my income and outgoing. It's tough, but I learned at tax time exactly how important it is to keep the numbers straight.

The biggest number thing? Hours in a day. There just aren't enough.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Come Talk to Me

Today is an interview day. It's one of the weird cycles I've discovered in my writing life. There are days or entire weeks where it seems I do nothing but interviews, to be followed by an entire week where I do nothing but write. In the winter, I had a week where I did nothing but interviews, sometimes 5 a day, and the following week, I had 8 or 9 articles due. I really don't mind having an article due per day. It puts the day into a nice rhythm -- do interviews and other work in the morning, sit down to write in the afternoon.

When I was a kid, I used to love to talk on the phone. But only when I had complete privacy. I wouldn't call my friends if someone was home, as we only had one phone and it was in the kitchen. But the moment I had the house to myself, I was dialing away.

I'm still like that about the privacy. When I worked in an office, I tried to make my phone calls when no one else was around. I like working at home alone because of all the calls I make now. The husband was home sick earlier this week, and I waited until he fell asleep until I made any calls. How weird is that?

One thing that has changed though is I've come to loathe the phone. I make my work calls, do my interviews, but once 5:30 comes and my cell phone shuts off signalling the end of my work day, the last thing I want to do is make or take phone calls. I especially don't want to talk on the phone right after my work day ends. I need the downtime. I've trained my family not to call during the day unless it is an emergency, but a few of my extended family members think calling me at 5 is just fine and dandy because my work day is over.

One of the (few) things I miss about working in an outside job is the commute home. Now, living where I do, it isn't much of a commute. Most of the time, I rode my bike, which would take 10-15 minutes, depending on traffic and my energy. That was still a nice break where I could take a few deep breaths and separate myself. Now what I like to do at the end of my day is watch Pardon the Interruption on ESPN. I get very cranky when the phone rings during that half hour. It's my commute home, if not physically, at least mentally.

Now I'll have a little more coffee, have lunch, and prepare myself for an afternoon of phone calls.

Monday, July 23, 2007

No Motivation

You know what I wanted to do today? Sit on the couch and finish reading Pigs in Heaven for my book group.

What I did do today -- not much. Stared at my computer. Answered a couple emails. Searched for sources. Stuff I needed to do, but it didn't make a dent.

It was one of those days. I'm tired because I think I'm coming down with the husband's cold. Or at least his sore throat. I'm cranky because I got some emails I didn't want to deal with. I'm staring at writing but my brain isn't functioning. I don't like days like this.

But going to read a book when I should be working? I don't know if I could do that. I took a nap once because I was up 3 hours earlier than usual and wiped out. I'll take a few hours in an afternoon to go downtown, but I'm usually on a mission to meet up with other writers or write. I know the beauty of freelancing is the ability to say, okay, it isn't working for me today, and I don't have deadlines, so I'm going to take some me time. And I need me time. But it's still hard to do it during the day.

I guess the trade off is, I knock off early this afternoon and then maybe I'll have the energy to write tonight. Play time, the way I see it, needs to be made up somewhere.

I'm a workaholic, is the bottom line.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thinking about Books

I always think about books. What I plan to read next, mostly. I started a book group among my friends so we can talk about books. Sometimes I actually think about books I'd like to write.

I tend to read a lot of biographies, although in the past year, most everything I've read is fiction. My dream book to write is a biography. I know who I want to write about and what the focus of the book is. I've done some research. It will take a lot more research. In depth with serious travel involved. I always put it off because of working a full time job. Now I realize that I would have been better off taking two weeks of paid vacation to do the research. It's hard now to do it and still have an income. Unless I apply for a grant or something. Or write it in a different way than planned. I've become someone who jumps on doing, but this is still my great hurdle.

I dabble with fiction, but I suck at it. It's fun writing, relaxing writing, but it isn't good writing. I have a novel that is nearly finished, a clever premise, I think. It would have promise, if I had any fiction talent.

Last night as I was falling asleep, I got thinking about my cousin's wedding and that led from one thing to another, and ended up as the plot to a book. Will I do anything with it? Maybe. Who knows. I suck at fiction. No one would speak to me again if I did it as a memoir. Probably good I suck at fiction because no one would speak to me if they read that book, either.

But mostly I was thinking about The Three Musketeers and how much I loved that book when I read it. Sometimes a book surprises me. I'm not adventurous with my reading -- or anything in my life for that matter. I like what I like and I really don't want to stray. I don't read books about murder or made up worlds. I don't like mystery or fantasy or horror. But I like books that are well written, and I'll put up with a lot in a book that is well written. Like The Three Musketeers.

If I want to read bad fiction, I'll pull out my own stuff.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Extra Effort Pays Off

I don't know if I'm a perfectionist, but I am the kind of person who hates leaving an answer unsolved. Supposedly, that's the Scorpio in me -- part detective, part passionate sex-crazed fiend.

The detective part comes in handy when I need to track down sources or information or figure out the solution to a problem. It came in handy last week when I was having trouble lining up an interview for a quick-turnaround article, just like it has come in handy countless of other times when I've got to find out some details for an article.

I kept my editor informed. I told her that I was having some trouble reaching the initial source but I found his co-researchers. I found their contact info, and I was in touch. Hopefully, I wrote, all will fall into place before my deadline.

The editor was grateful. I got my interviews done and my article written and sent off by deadline. Editor was happy.

Next day, my email brought me another assignment from the editor. Bigger and better. I can't say for sure, but I'd like to think it had to do with my sleuthing.

To be honest, I don't pull out all the stops for the reward. I do it because it's my job and because I don't rest until I have an answer. But it is nice to see how my editors appreciate the effort.

Now, off to track down some more sources who are in hiding.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Summer Heats Up

It's gotten warm here. That makes me happy.

Work has also begun to heat up. I look at my calendar and see all those days that are blue-inked. Blue ink means I've got a deadline on that day. Deadlines are good things. They mean I have work. Work means an income. All very good.

What a difference between this summer and last summer. Or the summer before for that matter. I had work, but it was sporadic. This summer, the work is steadier, the number of clients increasing. Even better, the income from the clients is increasing.

I feel like this is a summer of change. In every facet of my life there has been change. A grandchild. My baby off to college. The Phillies on local tv (yeah, that's a big change for here). My business growing.

These are happy times.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


There's an old Cosby show where Cliff takes Rudy for tap dancing lessons, and while Cliff is waiting, the old dance teacher challenges Cliff to a dance-off. The dance teacher, whose real name I don't remember, would dance a few steps, and then yell, "Challenge!" And Cliff would do some goofball moves, Cosby style.

I'm doing a challenge right now. A query challenge. It's through one of my writers groups. I'm the type of person who likes -- who needs -- a challenge. I like competition. You get points for sending out queries and the like and more points for assignments. I found a lot of my work this way last year. I found a great network this way, too. It helped, too, that last year my team won, and I have a lovely sweatshirt as a prize.

I feel like I'm slacking so far this year, though. Unlike last year, there is a lot more work on my plate that needs my attention NOW. I'm working hard to build up chatter and commoraderie among my teammates, as that was so important last year. I have gotten some positive responses so far, which is good, which is what I want. But I need more.

I need someone to do a few dance steps and then yell, "Challenge!"

Monday, July 9, 2007

Blissfully Hot

I like the heat. No, strike that. I love the heat. I live for the days when it is hot and humid.

When I first started freelancing, I was so excited for the opportunity to work outside on the hot and humid days. Me, my lap top, sunshine on my shoulders . . . I could make phone calls outside. I could write outside. I could live outside. Anything was better than being stuck inside in air conditioning, the bane of society.

Except, I don't get many days outside in the sunshine. My laptop doesn't like it. It's impossible to read the screen if I'm out in the yard, very difficult to do it while sitting on the back porch under the roof (although I will manage that). I learned quickly that it is very difficult to do interviews outside. The wind whistles through the phone. Kids are noiser outside. So are birds and bees and trucks going down the street.

Today was one of those days I wanted to be outside, but I had to spend most of my time inside with phone calls. I have a small break here where I need to do a little research for an interview and could do some marketing, but it isn't worth the hassle to move the laptop outside to bring it back in again 30 minutes later.

Tomorrow, however, my phone calls are early in the day. I have a big editing project to do. The weather is supposed to be even warmer. I'll be able to move the office to the porch.

At least we don't have A/C in the house. There's a nice breeze coming in my office window. The water is cold and refreshing. I can wear weather-appropriate clothes and know I won't freeze when I go inside. It might not be the great outdoors, but it is a hell of a lot better than being in an office controlled by someone else.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


I don't do it enough. Relax, that is. That's the biggest problem of working at home. The commute is great, the boss is great, the hours are ideal, the coffee is always the way I like it. But I never leave work behind. When I worked in an office, I could shut my office door, hop on my bike and (usually) leave everything for the next day. Now, if I go to the bathroom, there is my office door, and I'm reminded of more work I could be doing. I could get ahead. I could market. I could answer some email I forgot to answer.

My work never goes away. Shutting the door to my office doesn't help because I can see the door. Sometimes I need to come in here for something. Sometimes I want to listen to the baseball game that isn't on TV and my work email will tempt me.

But in moments, as soon as I hit the publish button on this, I'm going to have a late lunch and then I'm going to head out to the lawn chair my husband kindly got out for me. I'm going to read the next book for my book discussion group. I am going to relax in the sunshine.

Monday, July 2, 2007


Life is full of changes here.

The daughter is moved into her new place across the country, and it will be months until we see her or the baby in person again. Thank goodness for web cams.

The son is moved into his college dorm. We'll see him frequently, I'm sure. We moved him in yesterday, and he's already called home a bunch of times (to tell me that our Flyers picked up an important free agent, of all things) and came home this morning to pick up the things he forgot to pack.

And then there is my work. I don't want to get cocky and think it is all wonderful. It is good, and I appreciate how good it is. I know it can change at a moment's notice.

But with that in mind, I wonder if it is time to end a contract with my oldest client. Once upon I loved writing for them. Now it takes every ounce of energy I have to pull together an assignment. Where they were once my major source of income, they are now usually the one assignment that pushes me over my goal -- although last month, I made the most money ever and never sent an article to them.

There are clients I work with that pay less money, but for a per hour rate, that less money is more (if that makes sense). My other clients require fewer interviews and fewer headaches for the same number of words. What takes me two hours for my other clients takes 3 or 4 or more with this client because of the interviews.

A side issue to working with this client is the people I deal with while doing those interviews. It isn't uncommon for me to do an interview and get 10 follow up emails or phone calls starting the next day about whether or not the article was printed. As if I have nothing else to do than surf the web to see if articles have been published (if they had even been written yet).

I like the client. I like the editors I work with. I will miss the money and the safety net. But I keep getting this nudging feeling that it is time to move on.

Monday, June 25, 2007


This weekend, I helped my daughter and grandson move across the country. That's where I am for the rest of the week. As soon as I get home, I help my son move to college. It is a rather busy, trying time in my life.

I do have a number of writing things I want to discuss in the upcoming days. I'm involved with a query challenge that is to encourage marketing and generating new work. I need it. A thought that has been on my mind a lot lately is when to cut ties with a long-time client. And so on.

Right now, my internal work clock is really messed up. My computer tells me it is 5:30 pm. But my watch says 2:30. I know I have plenty of work time left in this day -- not much else to do here but work right now -- but I'm having trouble concentrating. Right now, I'm alone in the apartment, listening to the planes overhead, so loud you can barely hear yourself think, rocking the baby in his car seat with my foot. I want to nap because I'm tired. Maybe I'll make more coffee.

I plan to get caught up with my blog reading soon. I miss you all.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


My lap top died on Monday. It was a very sad day. We'd been through so much over the past 4 years, lap top and me. I bought it with the money I made freelancing, and I was so proud that I was making enough money with my side work to splurge on my own computer. When I moved to freelancing full time, lap top was right there with me, separating my work from my family computer. I had the freedom to work on the back porch, to sit on the couch, or to work from anywhere. When I got my office situated, it sat proudly on my desk.

We were comfortable together. I knew its quirks. I knew how to coax it into doing things it didn't want to do.

But it was getting slower. I didn't have the patience to wait for it at times and I'd get frustrated. Then the new desk top came to live in my office. It was shiny and new and fast and fun. It got the prime spot in my work space. Lap top was pushed to the side, still used every day, but it became secondary to my work life. We'd still have our evening rendevous but that was short and sweet, an hour maybe, until the battery gave out.

On Sunday I got a web cam. I wanted the lap top to handle it, but it refused. Said I didn't have the right stuff. I put it on the desk top. Worked perfectly. On Monday, I tried to make the lap top compatible with the camera. But I pushed too hard. The hard drive began to sputter and a few minutes later, it was dead.

I rushed it to the Geek ER, but the Geek Squad said, no it was dead. It would cost hundreds of dollars to revive it long enough to restore its brain function. Was the life support worth it for personal email addresses and my accounting spread sheet? Everything else of major importance had been saved recently.

The husband has a computer guy who said he'll give it a shot at one last gasp of revival. A chance for me to say good bye. But I know the time has come to move on. A new lap top arrived yesterday to take its place. Faster than the desk top. Newest software. I fell in love. But I learned. I'm not making it my true love. I'm not risking making the desk top cranky. Hell, desk top has already sputtered at me this morning, something it has never done before. Like I said, I learned. I know how fickle the hard drives of computers are, especially when competition arrives.

I backed up everything on the desk top.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Jump Start

Where has the morning gone? I actually was up a half hour earlier than usual, but it seems like nothing has been done today. Oh wait, I have done nothing today, except send an invoice and send a panic email to an editor of mine. This article I'm working on has turned into the article from hell. I wonder if I'll ever get another assignment. Sigh.

Freelance writers are nothing if not paranoid about every little wrong thing that happens.

I really expected to have reached today with nothing on my calendar for the next two weeks. That sure as hell hasn't happened. But everything has to be cleared off by Thursday. Which means I need to get to work.

I plan to have one article written by 5:30 today. Anyone want to keep me accountable?

Friday, June 15, 2007

All By Myself

I wanna be . . . all by myself . . .

Okay a little variation on the song, but I'm thrilled because I finally have a day with an empty house. Since the daughter moved home, my alone time has been an odd hour or so here and there. After the baby was born and the daughter was forbidden to drive for a week, she went nowhere. Then school ended for the son, and he's been home a lot. And of course, the husband took a week off. If I wanted any breathing room or working room, I had to lock myself in my office. That gets a little claustrophobic.

But today. Oh blessed today! The daughter, the husband, and the baby are out of town, cleaning the daughter's apartment and taking care of final business at her old place. I was supposed to go along but was asked to stay here because there was a possibilty the transport people would arrive to get the daughter's car. (They called to say they would be arriving today, too, so good thing I'm here) The son is working 11-4.

So it's me and the dog. She's returned to her familiar spot next to my desk chair. I'm enjoying the quiet outside my office door. No tv blaring. No cell phone ringing or text message alerts buzzing. No one popping in my office to say "Sorry for interrupting, but . . ." I love my family but I'm the type of person who needs alone time. I think that's why I was always stressed working in an office. After a couple of hours, being around people all day made me uncomfortable. I can't even begin to describe the way I feel right now, but it's like I'm bathing in emptiness. It's wonderful.

Of course, I've done little work. I don't usually start writing until 2 or so. I don't write well early in the day, especially after being up all night with the baby. But I did send out a letter of introduction and did a few writing related things. Working was another reason I was left behind today. They all figured I had work to do. And I do. And I will. I just want to bask in the aloneness for a bit longer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

This and That

Yesterday I turned down an assignment from one of my regular editors. It was a rush assignment -- she wanted it today -- and I had another project on my desk that had to be finished yesterday. It killed me to do it because the money is always good and in general the work is easy. But realistically, I didn't have the time. It's the first I've turned down an assignment like this. Turning down money is painful.

On Monday while I was trying to concentrate, the house phone rang. It was for me. A voice began speaking to me. It took a moment, but just a moment, to realize it was a person from my past. She never said who it was; she just assumed I knew. I did. Part of me wanted to ask her a million questions and part of me wanted her to go away. I was rattled for the rest of the day. Actually, I'm still a little rattled.

I finished a big assignment yesterday. There is still work on my plate but not nearly as stressful or time consuming.

This afternoon I'm going to watch baseball while I work. It's a wonderful benefit of freelancing. Only bad thing is I'll be working in my living room, not at the ball park.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

No Talent? No Problem.

On one of my email lists, someone mentioned not having enough talent to pursue larger markets. Talent is one of those words that sets me on edge because too many people look at it as the be all end all. Talent is nice to have because it allows to do things that normal people can't do. But talent only takes you so far in life. More important is drive, ambition, practice, hard work -- you get the picture.

People say I have writing talent. I don't know if that's true or not. What I do know is the writing part comes very easy to me and I can punch out a pretty good first draft on the first go round. Editors seem to like the work I produce. But I know a lot of successful article writers -- and even some fiction writers -- who have minimal writing talent but are high on the qualities that make a good writer.

To those thinking about writing as a business venture, rather than worry on whether or not you are a good enough writer, I have a few hints on how to make yourself a better writing businessperson.

-- improve your interview skills
-- learn to organize your notes
-- focus your marketing to one or two specific genres (for the record:
parenting and women's topics are the most popular writing genres and hence have the most competition)
-- there thousands of publications out there so look beyond the 10 magazines at the grocers check out rack
-- if you want to be a professional, approach the business professionally.
-- don't take rejections personally
-- ask for help. I have goal buddies and I used to have critique buddies. When I first started out, I worried that everything I wrote was awful and would get rejected. I think that happened once, and it wasn't bad writing (I later sold the article elsewhere) but mixed signals between me and the editor.
-- don't be afraid to fail. We all make mistakes and we all worry about offending editors or doing something stupid. It's rarely as bad as it seems.
-- talent is nice but will only take you so far. To paraphrase Ben Franklin (I think): Good writing is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Manic Monday

I've been up for an hour and everything is out of whack. It doesn't bode well for the day or week.

-- One of my work email accounts is down (yes, I have two -- long story).
-- There are no messages anywhere from someone in regards to an interview I need to set up.
-- Our last guest from the weekend festivities is still here. My son won't get out of bed and the other members of the family aren't home at the moment. I'm the only one who has to work today and yet I'm supposed to be entertaining her, too. (But I'm in here writing because I'm not a morning person, and entertaining people before I have coffee is too much for me.)
-- Friday's power outage messed up a few of the electronic gizmos in my office. Not my computers thankfully.
-- And my email is still down.

It seems like there is so much swirling about right now. There are days when I feel nervous about my career. This is one of them. I'm having trouble finding interview subjects for a big article that was due today, but I was given an extension, in part because of the trouble finding sources. It's an elite group I'm looking for: Hispanics who graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering since 2004. I need 8. I have 6.

My editing project due last Wednesday is still on my desk, only 1/3 done, largely because of all the work that got shuffled from Friday the 1st to the week of the 4th. Friday evening we had a major storm and a huge power outage. Our guests who were staying in hotels had power so didn't come to visit, which meant that maybe I could have done a bunch of editing except we had no power (luckily it all came on before our festivities the next day). And now I have another.

I have 3 articles without deadlines that I hoped to have done in April still sitting on my desk to write, interviews done, and 2 without deadlines waiting to be researched. This is the problem of not giving me deadlines. Deadline material comes first.

Ah, but may it is looking up. The family has come home. I got an email on that cranky account. And the coffee is starting to kick in.

Friday, June 8, 2007


One thing I miss about having a "real" job is vacation time. The other thing I miss is the ability to leave work behind and possibly have someone else help me out if I need to finish something.

I have a home office. It sits in the far corner of my house, usually away from any action. But yesterday was nuts. My son graduates high school tomorrow, so we're expecting a house full of company starting later today. So my husband took off work to help prepare for that, since he has to be out of town today. Every five minutes he was popping his head in my office, to tell me this, that or the other thing, or bring me the baby.

My daughter is here, with that precious baby. How can I refuse saying yes to holding him or watching him when I'll have him for only a few more weeks before he moves 3000 miles away.

The son had friends spend the night and more showed up during the day. My office is next to his bedroom, so there was a parade of teenage boys going in and out of that room.

And all the while, I had a backlog of work, trying to get caught up from everything I missed on Friday and over the weekend, doing that on top of what I already had scheduled for this week. Yesterday was packed full of work and I got little done. I ended up writing an article due today at 1 am. I planned to write it yesterday afternoon. The editing project I wanted done on Wednesday -- not even close. Every time I got settled, someone in this very full house decided I was needed.

I planned to take a vacation day today. The work due today was meant to be done by the time I went to bed yesterday. Yet here I am, at my computer.

The bottom line, if I don't do the work, I don't get paid. There's no back up to support me. There is no money coming from a bank of vacation days. If I have something else planned on the day of a deadline, I have to get it done early. I guess that would be my vacation pay, huh?

I'm not complaining about it. It is one of the trade offs for all the other wonderful things about writing life. The trick is figuring out how to make my family understand that when my office door is shut, I'm working. And when I get behind, it makes my life a little more stressful.

When my coffee cup is empty, I'll be off to "enjoy" my vacation day of housecleaning and preparing for tomorrow's party. If I can finish cleaning by 2 or 3, I'll sneak into my office for a bit to work on my vacation day. It's the only way I get paid for today.