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.