Archive for the 'The Parent Writer' Category

Joy to the world—and your writing colleagues

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success
By Sharon Miller Cindrich

‘Tis the season to give thanks for all your blessings – and this year that means those who support you, write along side you, edit you and publish you.

Editors. Interns. Fellow writers. Teachers. The holiday season gives you a unique opportunity to acknowledge your professional relationships and express your hopes for and interest in an even more productive new year.

Check out these ideas when sending holiday cheer:

Send an e-mail. A simple e-mail costs nothing, yet allows you to use your writing skills to extend best wishes for continued success in your working relationships. Do check out www.hallmark.com or www.cardfountain.com for some fun, festive–even talking–e-mail options. Don’t send a bulk e-mail.

Send a card. A hand written note of thanks is something to be treasured in today’s e-world. Find cards with a fun writing theme and handwrite a simple, yet personal message inside. Do send individual cards to different editors at the same address. Don’t forget to include your business card and contact information inside the card.

Send a small gift. Small trinkets of thanks can be inexpensive and memorable. Pencil-shaped chocolates, fancy paperclips or a donation to a charity in the name of your colleague can really make an impression. Do send something creative–a ball that reads “I had a ball working with you this year” from www.sendaball.com or coffee with an “Editor’s Brew” sticker on the package. Don’t send something too expensive–it sends the wrong message.

My favorite: Each year, I purchase several beehives through Heifer International in the names of my colleagues, and send cards thanking them for keeping me “busy as a bee” during the year. Check them out at www.heifer.org.

Giving gifts to your clients and colleagues can also give a gift to you when it’s time to report to the IRS. Don’t forget to keep track of expenses, as business gifts, cards, postage and charitable donations are tax deductible.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is now out from Random House. Read more about Sharon at http://www.pluggedinparent.com/.

Harvest Great Writing Ideas During Hectic Holiday Seasons

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success

By Sharon Miller Cindrich

Boo! No sooner have you nestled into a fall routine when the pressure of the holidays begin to creep closer––and the thought of juggling the responsibilities of seasonal family activities with your own writing deadlines can really give you the willies.

The real treat as this crescendo of activity begins to build is the season’s rich writing material that can be turned into lucrative story ideas and land you lots of juicy assignments. The trick? Be ready to harvest the ideas, experiences and tips you discover in the midst of the holiday chaos by following these simple steps.

Be ready. Carry extra pens and notebooks to the apple dunking, costume parade and pilgrim feast. Jot down your ideas or impressions before you forget them and store them in an easy-to-reference spot.

Take photos. Despite your incredible writing style, a picture is worth a thousand words and might get you some extra attention with an editor when coupled with a query. Use the snapshots of your family’s apple picking adventure or pumpkin patch visit as credentials for your pitch.

Have fun in the name of research. Use the season as an excuse to do something you’ve always wanted to in the name of researching a story, such as: “How to throw a not-so-scary Halloween party” or “Leaf–pile jumping and other free outdoor fun for kids” or “Planning a family feast for fifty dollars or less.” Save receipts to write off expenses if you land an assignment based on your activities.

Take time to reflect. If you’re a die-hard journal-keeper, you already know the cathartic benefits of scribbling down the day’s events. But as a writer, the exercise will serve not only as release of the day’s stress, but also as a reference tool for essays, ideas and anecdotes for future assignments.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is now out from Random House. Read more about Sharon at http://www.pluggedinparent.com/.

New Year’s Day…In September

sharonwotrhead.gif

The Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success

By Sharon Miller Cindrich

Most families realize that the New Year doesn’t start January 1st. It starts the first day of school each fall, when kids return to school. New teachers, new friends, new carpools, new schedules and new lunch boxes. It’s a time of change, growth and exciting anticipation of things to come.

As my children realize that they’ve outgrown soccer shoes and fall jackets, as they begin to explore new levels of independence and assume a confidence and pride that comes with reaching that next grade level, I’m reminded that I, too, have grown—as a writer and a parent. I’m ready to take things to the next level, too. Following are a few ideas for making the most of the back-to-school New Year:

Make some resolutions. As school and sports schedules begin to settle into place, take the time to list your writing goals for the fall. Try to frontload your work in September and October so you can find some flex time as fall and winter holidays approach.

Clean out the clutter. Reorganize your office, clean out your desk drawers and give yourself a fresh space to work in this fall.

Get outside. Weather will be getting cooler and you’ll be cooped up indoors soon enough. Bring the laptop to the park, spend time on your deck and schedule in a daily walk before the leaves fall.

Make contact. September is a great month for phone calls and e-mails. Editors have returned from their summer vacations, are gearing up or wrapping up holiday season stories and are ripe for a phone call or query from you.

It’s a new year, parents, so break out the sparkling grape juice and do it right by toasting your growth, preparing for things to come and making a fresh start to forward your writing endeavors.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is now out from Random House. Read more about Sharon at http://www.pluggedinparent.com/.

Back to School Supplies for the Parent Writer

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success
By Sharon Miller Cindrich

School supplies. There’s a reason that schools hand out a list of essential supplies well before the school year starts, instead of requiring a protractor by February, a highlighter mid-March and a new sharpened pencil on the first of each month. Armed with every tool they need for the year zipped neatly into their required pencil case, kids can maximize their productivity week by week, instead of wasting an entire day scrounging for a glue stick or writing implement. Like I do.

Once I drop my kids at the school door loaded down with enough number 2 pencils to build a fire tower, I often find myself scrambling for a sharp writing utensil at my own desk, sometimes settling for half a periwinkle crayon.

No more, I say! This year, as you prepare your kids for school, take some tips from their supply lists and pick up a few of these extra supplies to maximize your writing productivity week after week.

Pencil sharpeners. We seem to have pencils coming out of our ears at home, but not one has a sharpened tip. Grab a few of those primitive, manual pencil sharpeners and hide them in your desk drawer, your kitchen junk spot and tuck one in your purse.

Spiral notebooks. Paper is another hot commodity in our home––and I’ve recorded many an interview on the back of an electric bill’s envelope. Pick up a few extra spiral notebooks for your office and keep one in the car to jot down sudden inspirations.

Highlighters. Whether you’re editing, researching or trying to stay organized, these can do wonders. Grab a variety of colors.

Scissors.
For snipping your published clips out of a magazine or cutting out inspirational sayings to decorate your workstation, a few pair of kiddy-scissors make the cut on my list of must-haves.

With the right tools on hand, the right words can be liberated to appear when you need them most! Have fun stocking your tool kit.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is now out from Random House. Read more about Sharon at http://www.pluggedinparent.com/.

Parenting – Planning Your Summer

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success
By Sharon Miller Cindrich

It’s time to start figuring out how you’re going to handle your kids, your schedule and your blossoming writing career this summer. Between trips to the pool, backyard barbecues, little league practices and camping retreats, you may be wondering how you’ll balance a house full of kids buzzed on s’mores with your deadlines and inspirations. With a little forethought, it can be done by keeping these ideas in mind.

Check with your rec
In our area, the local recreation department offers tons of summer programs FREE of charge – from supervised playground hours for little ones to extra math and reading practice. These workshops and classes are worth their weight in a little free time for mom and dad to get that writing done. Look to your community center or school district for fun, educational and FREE activities that help give your summer structure, help you map out work time and are kind to your writing budget.

Consider a writing vacation
Forget the dude ranch and the Alaskan cruise; build a writing getaway into your summer plans to help your progress. Seminars and conferences on writing are offered at universities each summer, and the cost of instruction can be written off as a business expense. Even a weekend retreat at a friend’s cabin or an overnight at a cheap hotel without the kids can act as your “Spa Scribble.” Pack your writing gear, some comfy clothes, candles or music to set the mood and bubbles for a deep soak to soothe your writing spirit.

Stay portable
Don’t go anywhere this summer without something to record your thoughts – be it pen and paper, a tape recorder or your laptop. Summer adventures offer fodder for seasons to come, and you never know when inspiration will strike.

Use the light of night
Take advantage of long daylight hours, and plan an evening period of writing each week in the solitude of your garden or on your deck with a glass of lemonade. Make sure to string some cool summer lighting nearby in case you get carried away in the flow as the sun sets.

Summer camps, beach vacations and home improvements can be that much more satisfying when you’ve balanced your home and family needs with the demands of your writing life.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is due out from Random House at the end of the year. Read more about Sharon at http://www.pluggedinparent.com/.

Keep an Eye Out for Writing-related Tax Deductions

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success
By Sharon Miller Cindrich

When I think of spring, I think of two things: jelly beans and taxes. Whether you make $400 or $40,000 writing, you’ll most likely be filing taxes to document your income and earnings.

Keeping receipts is key for the parent writer – you never know when you may find yourself writing about a fun picnic at your local state park (write off the picnic, mileage and parking) or review a local performance of “A Christmas Carol” (write off tickets, mileage and parking) or sell a story on how to make the most of a road trip (write off food, lodging, videos, crafts and, of course, mileage.) If you’ve held on to your receipts, you can deduct these costs from your annual earnings.

While tax laws vary from state to state, consider the following when filing your taxes–and more importantly, when planning this year’s expenses.

Gas it up. Trips to the beach, a forest preserve or even an amusement park can be deducted for mileage – this year 48.4 cents a mile – if you can connect them to your writing job.

Toys, snacks and bicycles, oh my. Toys, recreational equipment or even snacks that you’re using as a component of a story can be deducted as an expense.

Bucks for babysitters. Check your state requirements to see if you can deduct childcare expenses based on your writing projects.

Renew your subscription to Parents. Subscriptions to magazines, newsletters or newspapers that you use for research or write for can also be deducted.

Do you do the zoo?
If you write about local attractions in your area, you can deduct memberships and admission to organizations like the zoo, the conservatory or a community pool. Consider pitching stories about local theater, museums or family-friendly sports events.

Understanding deductions can help you make the most of your family activities, ignite ideas for fun pitches and manage your bottom line.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is now out from Random House. Read more about Sharon at http://www.pluggedinparent.com/.

How to Work a Writing Practice into Family Life

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success
By Sharon Miller Cindrich

The first thing students of my Parent Writers class want to know is the magic trick. How do you squeeze writing into a day filled with toddlers and carpools and piano lessons and groceries and all the other exhausting demands that come with being a parent? They are never satisfied when I take away the smoke and mirrors to reveal that there is no trick,––just lots and lots of hard work.

Working a successful writing practice into your life means you need to recognize your writing endeavors as one more job. And taking that job seriously means committing time to work at it, instead of adding it to the end of your to-do list. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No. Trust me, I’ve done it.

Okay, there aren’t tricks, but I do have a few tips…ones that will help you recognize your writing as a priority, shuffle it into the mix with the other demands in your life, and boost your productivity. Read ‘em and write!

Get it on the calendar. Right next to the appointments for the orthodontist, the piano lessons and your child’s soccer game, put your writing time down in ink on the family calendar so that everyone knows it is a priority.

Build in a reminder. Set an alarm on your watch or on the stove to remind yourself to stop what you’re doing and write.

Prepare the family. Remind your partner that you plan to write after dinner. Have jammies laid out for bed. Give the baby a bath early. Reserve the home computer with a sticky note. Encourage the whole family to support you.

Give yourself a carrot. Decide on a reward for getting that essay finished or logging in 3 hours of work. Think low budget–a fancy cup of coffee, ice cream, a TV program–you’re a writer, after all.

Make it a pill you can swallow. Start by finding small pockets of time, such as 15 minutes a day OR 3 half-hours a week OR one paragraph before bed. Make each step a regular commitment, then build on them each week.

Like any good habit, developing a writing practice takes some focused discipline to get started. Once you get a regular rhythm going and have set clear expectations and boundaries with your family, your writing rituals may start to feel like magic.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is now out from Random House. Read more about Sharon at http://www.pluggedinparent.com/.

 

Work and Play Groups

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent Writer: Strategies for Success

By Sharon Miller Cindrich

Play groups. When my kids were little, our weeks revolved around these glorious, once-a-week get-togethers at a friend’s house for a donut, some play time and a little socialization. And it wasn’t just for the kids. In fact, most of the time, it was for my own sanity.

Writing, like parenting, can be frustrating, confusing and extremely isolating. And going it alone is never easy. Playgroups, like writing groups, can be a great resource for confidence boosting, problem solving and overall support. Whether you’re stuck at home with a nasty deadline or a child with a nasty case of croup, looking forward to connecting with fellow comrades can get you through the tough times and make you a better parent and writer.

 

Can you find both a writing group and a playgroup in one? All of your parent friends may not be writers and vice versa. However, finding even just one other writer mama (or papa) to connect with on everything from deadlines to diapers, writing schedules to feeding schedules and word-counts to time-outs can not only boost your attitude and your energy level, but also help you establish your network, increase your productivity and keep you focused.

Where can you find this other crazy individual or individuals, folding laundry with one hand and typing on the laptop with another? They are out there, trust me, and they need you, so don’t be shy. Try these ideas to get connected with another writer mama or papa.

Spread the word

Make an announcement at the places you hang with other parents–playgroups, church groups, carpools and school hallways. It may be hard to spot a writer who is also parenting a gaggle of kids, but don’t assume you’re the only one.

Check out the library

Many writers like to read, so check out places like your local bookstore or library where many writing parents can indulge their interests and keep their kids occupied as well. Ask about established writing groups, and scope out members that might be mommies or daddies, too.

Connect online

This is one of my personal favorites. It doesn’t require you to even leave your house. Find a fellow writer mama or papa online like at sites like http://www.thewritermama.com, where you can (soon) click “WM Unite” and connect with comrades and expand your writer mama community. Plan on a once a week IM session or iChat with a fellow writer mama to check in and exchange ideas and resources.

Take a class together

Why not take a class with another writer mama with the intention of continuing on after the class is over? This is a terrific way to launch a writer’s group. Chose a writer-mama-only group or open your writer’s group up to non-moms according to the number of participants you’d like to have. If you need more “mompower” you can always pick up the slack online.

 

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is due out from Random House at the end of the year. Read more about Sharon at http://www.pluggedinparent.com/.

How To Generate Quotes from Real, Live Sources in No Time

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success
By Sharon Miller Cindrich

Moms—we cook, we clean, we carpool. We are parenting experts—and often good ones—on everything from potty training to puberty, and we love to share our experiences with fellow comrades.

When I first started writing, I looked to my fellow parental comrades as just that—a juicy pool of parenting experts. Many of my article ideas were sparked by conversations with other parents about how much TV was too much or how to handle bedwetting on vacation. Not only would these conversations trigger a great story idea, but they came complete with juicy quotes and enthusiastic experts.

Using real, live parents in your writing adds credibility. Your connections with parents who are willing to share their stories with the world may be very appealing to an editor. When plunking in real moms (and dads), follow these guidelines:

Mother, may I…
Make sure you ask permission before adding another parent’s quote or experience to your article—even if you are keeping her name anonymous.

Don’t forget Grandma
Parents, grandparents, care givers, aunts, uncles and even teachers—whether they are parents at the moment, for the day or were parents years ago, may have valuable insights that you can share. Don’t forget to draw on those less obvious resources that work with children regularly or deal with parents on a daily basis.

They’ve got e-mail
E-mail is easy, convenient and offers interviewees some time to compose an answer they are comfortable with. Send out a call for interviewees through e-mail, and always state the publication that you’re writing for, the subject of the article and the policy on using real names in the piece.

Privacy, please
The mom who told the whole playgroup about her great new birth control method may be happy to share her insights with friends, but reluctant to put it in print. When writing articles with sensitive topics, it is sometimes best to search for sources outside your immediate circle. Post a call for interviews on your blog or the “Magazine Rack” here at www.mommasaid.net/magazinerack.aspx.

As your reputation as a “parenting reporter” grows, your network of experts may even start coming to you with new ideas that could trigger great articles.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is now out from Random House. Read more about Sharon at http://www.pluggedinparent.com/.

Use Your Parenting Experience to Generate National Pitches

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success
By Sharon Miller Cindrich

As a writer and a parent, there’s no question that your experiences with your children will inspire your writing. But before you try peddling that essay on your amazing labor or pitching an anecdote about how incredible it is to be a parent, think again. While your twist on parenthood and child rearing may be unique, a more practical approach to the parenting market will get you those first assignments.

Consider this: There are 8-10 feature stories in a national parenting publication, dozens of shorts and tips and often only one personal essay per issue, frequently written by a regular columnist. The chance of your personal reflection on the meaning of parenthood making it to publication is slim…

Boost your odds of landing an article by using your own experience as a springboard for a service-oriented approach. Instead of spending loads of time crafting an essay about your partner’s fear of cutting the cord, try a generalized pitch entitled “How to squelch labor room fears”. Instead of a cute personal account of your child’s first potty chair success, broaden the appeal of your query with an article like “Taking a leak: A practical guide to potty training.” Use your own experience briefly as an intro to your query to establish yourself as an experienced parent, but expand the pitch to include other experts – doctors, psychologists or teachers – who will add additional credibility and make your article well rounded.

As for all those great stories and anecdotes…write them down. Essays are great for local publications, contests and your own memory books. Plus, once you’ve established yourself with a national publication, you can submit an essay or two.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is now out from Random House. Read more about Sharon at http://www.pluggedinparent.com/.


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  • This Blog Moving to ChristinaKatz.com as of December 30, 2009… December 27, 2009
    We’re moving! Writers on the Rise archives have been here for years. I hope that WordPress will let the archive live on for a good long time. However, it’s time to move on, bittersweet as change may be. Please come and find me at my new digs: http://christinakatz.com. And while we’re both thinking of it, […]
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