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Ask Wendy: How Can I Partner Wisely With Others?

wendywotr.gifBy Wendy Burt

How do you partner with others to sustain your careers?

Believe it or not, some of my best clients have come from referrals from other writers. I have a close group of friends (and email buddies I’ve never met!) with whom I share leads. If I get offered a gig I can’t take, or if an editor writes to me to ask if I have reprints available on a certain topic, I’ll pass the lead along to my fellow writers.

Sometimes I see projects that I know would be perfect for a friend––like tech writing or editing, neither of which I’m qualified to do. I also pass along events––like group book signing events looking for fellow authors or local groups looking for speakers––and my friends do the same.

Graphic designers are also great partners because often writing and design go hand in hand when it comes to magazine layout or advertising. I’ve also had designers offer me writing and editing work on websites they’ve been hired to create.

Small newspaper and magazine publishers make for good partners because they’re often running a publication alone or with a bare-bones staff. This means that: 1) They often need articles to fill their pages, and 2) They can make executive decisions on the spot to trade advertising for, say, a regular column. Use the advertising to promote your services!

Remember, there is PLENTY of work to go around. Don’t worry that you’re sharing too much with your writing community. Think of it as paying it forward––kindness and generosity usually come back to benefit you, too.
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Wendy Burt is a successful full-time freelance writer and editor who has more than doubled her income since leaving her job as a newspaper editor just four years ago. With two women’s humor books for McGraw-Hill and more than 1,000 published pieces, Wendy’s work has appeared in such varied publications as Family Circle, The Writer, MSNBC.com, NewYorkTimes.com, Home Cooking Magazine and American Fitness. Wendy teaches “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” and still finds ample time to spend with her beautiful children, Gracie and Ben. Visit www.BurtCreations.com to see books by Wendy and her award-winning dad.

Beyond What You Know: Cultivate Your Community and Your Platform

sage.gifBy Sage Cohen

When I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2003, I didn’t know a single poet or writer in town. I decided I’d build my own writing community––from the ground up––and started a reading series from scratch in the basement of a friend’s restaurant. Inspired to create a line-up of poets I admired, I attended readings, workshops, conferences and lectures in search of talent. I even advertised for readers on craigslist.org.

Within a few months, I had met enough like-minded literary types to establish a line-up of poets, essayists and fiction writers whom I was proud to present. In a little more than two years, the series developed a loyal audience; readings were drawing audiences of 50-60 people. When my friend’s restaurant closed, I was eventually invited to relocate the series at Barnes & Noble. Today, I have three readers per month scheduled a year in advance.

The truth is, I started the reading series to prevent me from being lazy, and it worked! Knowing I am in charge of creating a great event has kept me inspired over the years to actively seek out, listen to and support great poets in my community. But the rewards of running the series have exceeded my wildest expectations. Not only have I discovered that I am providing a valuable community service by aligning writers with audiences, but my own platform has taken flight in surprising ways. I’ll name just a few:

• Invigorated sense of expertise. I’ve been interviewed about the local poetry scene, invited to teach and lecture, and have consulted with other writers about how to establish their own series. This has helped me take my expertise more seriously––and push it further.

• New publishing opportunities. At one reading a few years back, I met the editor of a publication I admired, sent him a few of my fledgling essays for his review and was invited to become a monthly columnist for his journal.

• Community support for my own poetry. When I published my poetry collection Like the Heart, the World last year and announced this to my sizeable list of literary friends, I was invited to read in eight different venues, including on a local radio show, and had friends reviewing and promoting the book on their websites and blogs.

Through hosting the reading series, I’ve learned that cultivating a literary community can be a fun and rewarding way to grow one’s own platform.

Your turn! Why not organize a one-time event featuring a writer you admire? Not sure how to get started? Consider what types of events you like to attend: readings? lectures? workshops? Is there something you’d like to learn? Someone you’d like to hear? Chances are good that if you create an experience that inspires or informs you, it will attract others who feel the same. From there, you can grow a series––and a literary community––at whatever pace you have time and energy for.
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Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic, forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. In 2006, she won first prize in the Ghost Road Press annual poetry contest. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University where she was awarded a New York Times Foundation fellowship. Sage teaches Poetry for the People and Personal Essays That Get Published.

Writing and Selling the Personal Essay: Finding Your Material in the “Ah, ha!” Moments

Kristin Bair O’KeeffeBecause I’m a nut for the personal essay, I’ve decided that for me (and for this column), 2008 is The Year of the Personal Essay.

The personal essay is about life your life. Those moments of self-discovery that make you laugh or cry or shake your head or hop up and down on one foot. The ones in which you feel completely alone. The ones that remind you how connected we all are. The ones that make you say, “Ah, ha!”

You know, THOSE moments.

Like the one I experienced this summer when I walked into a coffee shop in Shanghai, organized my writing gear on the table in front of me, folded my feet cross-legged on the chair and immediately found myself under attack by a very angry German woman.

Why?

Because I put my feet on the chair.

For nearly an hour, this woman ate, ranted at me (in English and German), complained about me to her partner (in English and German) and stared viciously at my feet (which I refused, out of principle and a bit of Croatian stubbornness, to remove from the chair).

As a human being, I was hurt and bewildered by the attack, but as a writer of personal essays, I said, “Ah, ha!” By the time the woman stuffed the last bit of salad into her mouth, I was already writing a blog entry about the encounter. And because many of my blog entries turn into longer pieces, by the time I finished typing, it was a full-blown essay called “The Rabid German” (due out in the Winter 2007 issue of The Baltimore Review.

If I wasn’t such a nut for the personal essay, this incident with the German might have simply passed into history (or even worse, developed into fisticuffs); but I am, and as I move through life, I’m constantly aware of “personal essay moments” as they happen. This is a skill you develop over time. The more personal essays you write (and sell), the more tuned in you are to potential subjects.

So, readers, get your radar up and running! For the next month I want you to move through life being aware of the moments that will make lively personal essays-the ah, ha moments! Write them down as they happen. Make a list.

And oh, yeah, have a very Happy New Year!

Personal Essay Marketplace: The Christian Science Monitor is a great market for personal essays. Check out the guidelines for “The Home Forum.”
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Kristin Bair O’Keeffe moved to Shanghai, China, in April 2006 and has been writing about this incredible country ever since. Her blog, “Shanghai Adventures of a Trailing Spouse,” chronicles her adventures (and misadventures) in Shanghai and garners the attention of readers all around the world. Her essays about the China experience can be found in The Baltimore Review and To Shanghai With Love (forthcoming). As a respected writing instructor, she has taught hundreds of writers over the past fourteen years and is currently teaching both fiction and nonfiction writing in Shanghai. 

Fund Your Writing Projects: Show Me the Money

Gigi RosenbergBy Gigi Rosenberg 

How do writers earn money? Usually from pay they receive by the hour, by the word or by the book. Are there other ways for writers to earn money to support their writing endeavors? That’s the question this column will answer over the next months.

To get started, make a list of all your writing projects, large and small. Include every project, especially the ones in that folder marked “too weird to consider” or “save for when I win the lottery.”

Next, add to your list the ways you want to “upgrade” your professional writing life. Do you need to attend a spendy writing conference to meet agents and mingle with the literati? Does your website need an overhaul?

To realize all these possibly outrageous projects, what are the actions you need to take? Make a list. To write the historical novel about 19th-century Russian royalty, you may need a research trip to St. Petersburg. Or to finish the memoir, you want a month at a writing retreat. Or to bring the first draft of your play to its final form, you need to hire a writing coach and stage a public reading.

On your list can be things like: to launch my career at a national level, I need a professional website; to get more gigs on radio, I need a voice coach; to attend the writing conference, I need $1,000 bucks.

Write down the dreams and write down the steps you need to take to achieve them.

Do you hear a mean voice in your head that sounds like a stingy 2nd-grade teacher? “Voice lessons?! Who do you think you are?” “A research trip to where?! You’ve got to be kidding!” Thank Ms. Parsimonious for sharing and let her know that her tightfisted ways will be welcome when you prepare your budget on the grant application.

Now look at your list. Many writers have found grants to pay for endeavors similar to the ones on your list. Some skeptics might ask: “Wouldn’t it be easier to work a few extra gigs and pay for this myself?” Sometimes yes. Grant researching and writing takes time-a limited resource. In future columns, we explore how to decide whether writing a grant is the best use of your time.

For now, revel in the adventures on your list and start your research. Check your local, state and national arts association websites and click “Grants.” Find out who provides cash (or time in the case of residencies) to support your writing. For a list of websites I recommend, visit my list at www.gigirosenberg.com.

Money experiment this month: Notice the ways you spend money, from the necessary to the frivolous. How do you decide what to buy? When you donate to a charity, how do you decide which worthy cause gets your bucks? Make some notes. This study of your own spending will help you later on when we explore how grantors decide who gets support for that outrageous writing project.
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Gigi Rosenberg is a writer, teacher and occasional performer of edgy, comic monologues on motherhood, relationships and the existential nature of being. Her essays and how-to articles have been published in Writer’s Digest, The Oregonian, The Jewish Review, Cycle California! Magazine and Parenting (forthcoming).  “The Hanukkah Bush,” her radio commentary, was featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting. She coaches writers on how to read in public and teaches regional and national workshops on “Grant Writing for Success.”

Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Write a Review

Sue Fagalde LickBy Sue Fagalde Lick

Welcome to the new Freelancing for Newspapers challenge. Each month, I will suggest a task that should be fun and may even lead to publication. You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

Reviews are written and published on almost everything a person can experience or buy, including books, concerts, trips, restaurants, CDs, art exhibits, movies, cameras, computer software, cruises, cars, even the latest hybrid roses. Look at the feature section of your newspaper for examples, especially in the Friday and Sunday editions. Freelancers write many of these reviews. Although they don’t pay a fortune, they do pay something and earn you clips that may lead to other work.

A review is more than just a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, four stars or no stars. It’s a blend of explanation and evaluation. In an average of two double-spaced pages, sometimes less, you need to pack a lot of information. At minimum, the successful review must contain:

  • An engaging first line that makes the reader read on
  • A theme or idea that ties the review together
  • Basic information, such as title, author, publisher, what type of product it is and a summary of what it contains
  • Background on what has preceded it, such as other books the author has published or previous CDs by the same artist
  • Evaluation, looking in particular at the purpose of the thing being reviewed and how well it achieves that purpose, with examples to back up your opinion

Your challenge this month is to write a practice review. Keep it under 500 words. The shorter the better, as long as it contains all the necessary elements. Look at published reviews to see how the writers do it. In addition to your local paper, try The New York Times Book Review or the Rotten Tomatoes movie reviews. A search for “[name of type] reviews” will yield more examples.
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Sue Fagalde Lick, author of Freelancing for Newspapers, worked as a staff writer, photographer and editor for newspapers in California and Oregon for many years before moving into full-time freelancing. In addition to countless newspaper and magazine articles, she has published three books on Portuguese Americans. She has taught workshops at Oregon Coast Community College, online for Writing-world.com and for Willamette Writers and California Writers Club. She offers an online course on reviews as well as individual coaching. See her website and visit her blog.

Writerpreneur: Flip Your Cube for Success

gregorywotr_002.gifBy Gregory A. Kompes 

Living a Writerpreneur life can be overwhelming. Self-employed writers need to wear many hats and yet, there’s still the writing. That’s the core of our career. Other facets of our business that require our attention are marketing, banking, goal setting, correspondence, reading, learning and research. And all of this must be negotiated with the demands of family, recreation and home life.

I used to stress “balance” in life, and I’d strive to give each facet of life and work a little bit of time each day. Ultimately, I realized that’s not realistic. When a writing deadline looms, that takes precedence; when a family member needs attention, they take the lead. Instead of balance, I now strive for harmony. I think of life like a piece of music, where each part is one of the instrumental lines. Sometimes one instrument takes the solo, and at other times it’s just part of the symphony. I have found that this approach is both realistic and sustainable.

How do we find this harmony? I believe in a slow-play approach to marketing and career building. I’m going to be a writer for a long time so I don’t have to do everything all at once. There’s time to build my career a little at a time, by doing one thing a day. During my live Writerpreneur events, I give participants a small wood cube. When you look at a cube, there’s no way to see all its sides at once. We need to turn the cube over again and again to see all its facets. Our careers are the same. We can’t see all of the aspects of them at the same time. While I look at the big picture now and again, each day I focus on a single goal, and take one step toward a positive outcome.

How do I decide what takes the solo? I turn the cube each day on my desk to remind myself that I have this choice. I prioritize my to-do list and break up my day into chunks. Today may be writing 1,000 good words for a deadline. If it’s a marketing day, I may do a little thing (like changing my email signature or adding material to my website) or something big (like developing a piece of a book release media campaign). I’ve also learned to turn off my computer at a reasonable hour each day so I can enjoy my family, pets and social pursuits. By not trying to do everything at once and giving one thing at a time priority and focus I have established harmony in my Writerpreneur life.

Have you flipped your cube today?
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Gregory A. Kompes, author of the bestseller 50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places to Live and the Writer’s Series, speaks at conferences and teaches Internet self-promotion courses online. Gregory is editor of Queer Collection: Prose & Poetry, Patchwork Path, The Fabulist Flash, and Eighteen Questions, a Q&A series that collects published authors experiences (chosen a “101 Best Websiteby Writer’s Digest ). In Las Vegas, he hosts the Writerpreneur Workshops and co-host’s the Writer’s Pen & Grill. Gregory holds a BA in English Literature from Columbia University, New York, and a certificate in Online Teaching and Learning and an MS Ed. from California State University, East Bay.

Time Management Mastery: Benchmarks Measure Your Path to Publicaiton

October 2007 Family Fun MagazineNew Year’s resolutions ooze out of every publication on the planet in December and January. Still, I’m a fanatic about having a writing resolution each year. So far, knock on my wooden desk, I’ve successfully achieved nearly every resolution I’ve ever made. The secret is in setting and achieving clear goals along the way.

Making resolutions is easy: eat less, exercise more, write a novel, write everyday and so on. It’s establishing benchmarks, however, that make your resolutions meaningful-and achievable. Once you’ve set your New Year’s goals, hold them at arms’ length, pick up a calendar and decide how you will track and measure your performance along the way.

Three years in a row, I vowed to double my writing income. I succeeded. Sound easy? That resolution wouldn’t have been so simple to achieve if I hadn’t established measurements along the way. I set up a spreadsheet to track submissions, follow-up dates and my income.

At the end of each month, I calculated my average monthly income and an end-of-year income projection. If I’d waited until August to tally the numbers, I might have discovered I was way behind. The monthly benchmark kept me on target. If income was lagging behind my projections, I could quickly maneuver to pick up the slack before it was too late.

To keep on top of your self-imposed deadlines, purchase a week-at-a-glance calendar. My favorite is Bylines (www.bylinescalendar.com). Editor Sylvia Forbes devotes a writer’s picture and his or her 300 words of wisdom to each week of the year. I was lucky enough to be selected for a page in February 2007 and will be in 2008 as well. Bylines motivates me to keep up with my benchmarks, reminds me there are other ambitious writers like me and helps me maintain records for income tax time by offering a place to record mileage, meetings, chats and deadlines.

Making resolutions is a grand start. Defining clear performance, publication and income benchmarks along the way is better. Recording your progress is best. Add a dose of diligence to these efforts and you’ll have it made for 2008.
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C. Hope Clark is founder and editor of FundsforWriters.com, annually recognized by Writer’s Digest in its poll of 101 Best Web Sites for Writers. She delivers four newsletters each week to thousands with her specialty being grants and income opportunities for writers of all sizes. She’s published over 200 articles on paper and online. Those reluctant to promote their writing cherish her trade paperback The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success. Find more hope for your writing career at www.fundsforwriters.com & www.theshywriter.com.


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