Saturday, November 29, 2008

Information, Links, and Personal Thoughts on freelance writing.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was, “Writers write. A lot. All the time. In their free time.” It seems pretty self-evident, but it was good for me to hear at that point in life.

So start a journal (I have 20+ spanning the last 10 years).
Or record your dreams (I have 15 little notebooks of nightmares… some day I’ll break into the horror genre).
Get a pen pal, or a couple.

People will talk:
Don’t underestimate the willingness of people to share information.

From the forensic artist I met when I accidentally interrupted a law-enforcement convention to the Klezmer-music-playing entomologist I bumped into in a junk shop while on vacation, I’m learning that people will really open themselves up when you’re interested.

I have found the same to be true when it comes to contacting authors. If you have a favorite author or writer, send them some fan mail. Seriously. I can’t believe these people even open their mail, let alone write back to lowly peons like myself. BUT THEY DO.

One guy was totally pumped about giving me advice on how to land a book contract. My favorite author/illustrator of all time (Lauren Child, UK), just wrote me back a year and a half after I sent her a letter. My letter got lost, she recently found it, and sent back a nice little reply with doodles and an offer to write again. That is commitment.

Seriously people, it doesn’t hurt to try!

Simultaneous Submissions:
There are convincing arguments for both sides of the simultaneous submissions debate. One of my successful articles was a simultaneous submission, so I know it can happen. However, it’s important to note that A) it wasn’t a big time magazine, B) it didn’t pay a whole heaping lot and C) they did a lot of pre-publication correspondence with me via e-mail, so I suspect that they aren’t as formal as some publishers.

Are like poop. They happen. It’s a normal part of life, not anything to dwell on. Don’t let the thought of rejections keep you from making submissions.

Besides, there is always that editor who balances out others’ rejections by sending Christmas cards.

Remember Anniversaries:
Paper's 1900th birthday was 2005. Big deal right? Well, an editor of a children’s magazine thought it was worth a look. I submitted a dense, plodding manuscript, and she edited it down to cute little statements that dotted the magazine pages in cheerful bubbles. Works for me.
Do a quick Internet search to see what anniversaries are coming up.

Staying creative:
I have a bunch of very creative and fascinating friends: writers, artists, military men, health care personnel, teachers, missionaries, outdoor enthusiasts, and musicians. They keep me on my toes with a constant flow of information and ideas from around the U.S. and around the world.

Freelancing is a tricky thing.
John Hewitt has some great advice if you’re trying to turn this into a career.

Just another little epiphany.

(I like the idea of Becky’s epiphany book. I’ve been having thousands of epiphanies recently.)

There is something behind that saying, “You don’t appreciate it until you lose it.”

This struck me in an especially violent way yesterday.
I should mention that yesterday was the worst day of my life. Physical pain, emotional unhinged-ness, intense sleep deprivation, and a slew of mental maladies graced my day.

That being said, I obviously didn’t get much accomplished. Oh, I tried, of course. But at some point my brain totally fizzled out… and letters and words ceased to make sense. I sat there a) not comprehending anything on the screen and b) realizing that that was a very, very bad thing. It was frustrating and scary.

So as slow as my brain is functioning this morning, I am extra thankful that these little pixilated letters mean something to me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Note to self:

For COMM 337 Still need to finish:

1) Feature analysis

2) Feature story :o)

3) Final: out of class. Get assignment on Mon. Due on the 3rd via e-mail. Probably better to come to class and hand in hard copy version, too--> Noon on the 3 (Wednesday) OR PRIOR. 1,000 words. May contain quotes. Would prefer to have both hard and electronic copy. Handing material out at Meuller Hall.

4) Add to blog thoughts/ideas/suggestions about freelance writing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

On Doc's IT article

A response to Doc's Illinois Times commentary piece:

I know you can't indefinitely subsidize the state of IL but thanks for donating your time, Doc. I'd be out there if I could; for a while my sister and I were volunteering at the Sam Hill House.
It’s disheartening to see closures and cutbacks of historical venues like Lincoln’s New Salem, the Dana-Thomas House and Fort Kaskaskia.
Thanks for reminding us of the seriousness of these decisions.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Are people allowed to pick their own nicknames?

I’d been reading through some of this material yesterday in a moment of functionality. There is some interesting stuff here, made possibly more interesting that I don’t agree with many of this guy’s political views.

But, that clip we just heard in class was incredibly refreshing. I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned in class discussion or posted to my blog (probably both) my loathing of the word “objective”. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s an audio clip where Terkel said everything I have been thinking, except he said it better. That’s a relief. I especially liked the part where he suggested that a person without an opinion has some kind of deficiency and is better compared to a robot than a flesh-and-blood person.

It’s neat to me that he was invested in learning about the “little people”. I love talking with so-called normal people, who rarely turn out to be normal after an hour’s discussion. It’s funny where you can end up after accidentally intruding on a law-enforcement convention or a find a silver clarinet grimy little junk shop on a Florida island. Those “little people” seriously have the best stories.

From what I’m reading about his personality, it seems a little odd that he died, “quickly and peacefully” as his son put it. But hey, that’s how I’d like to go.

I did a quick search through my public library database to find what kind of material there is out there related to him. Doc, you weren’t kidding when you said he was prolific. I think I found where to go with my old-timey music bent, and I want to pick up a copy of Working.

Good stuff.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Don't take ice cream from PETA

So one of my major weaknesses in life is ice cream. Love the stuff.
I'm a little bit of an ice cream snob, I'll admit it. But normally I'll even eat the refrozen-five-times generic brand if I'm desperate.

I've often wondered where I would draw the line with my love of ice cream. I'm not into the double-churned, light, super-creamy stuff because it relies very heavily on corn syrup and soy protein--ingredients I'm allergic to.

I'm searching for a good feature story on which to do my analysis, and I came across this little gem. It brings up some decent points. The last couple sentences would have been especially appropriate for discussion in the law and ethics class.

AND, I totally know where I draw my ice cream-addiction line, now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Calculated Pi

First, I am here in class, participating. Gold star.

Okay, I don't like this article.
It tastes bad.

Bleh. There was an extended characterization of Obama; it was well-done... nice imagery, color, all that. Since it was so well done, it probably made me like the article less.

I guess the part that's getting to me is what Obama said to the business owner. I'm not saying it wasn't a good point, I'm not saying it wasn't a perfectly framed media moment. He just sounds like a snot, and that makes me bristle.

Normally, when I'm reading political material, I try to keep an open mind and give the benefit of the doubt. Since the author certainly wasn't aiming for objectivity, I'm not going to bother to stifle my irritation.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Potential Markets Chef Mom magazine Relish magazine

I didn’t see anything right away (on the freelance writing site) that looks like it would want a version of my “bucket list” article.
But, I’m working on a cookbook, so I could probably whip up a foodie piece. And I have some great quality photos that could go with it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Many Travels of the Swastika

We were talking about swastikas in class thanks to Claire's discussion of reading her girl-power Grandmother's diary (yay for swastika club?!).

Some people mentioned how swastikas were a symbol of peace and power. Here's another weird way a swastika came up in another culture.

This is a Roman encaustic (painted with wax) funerary mask. Some Romans down near Alexandria practiced mummification for a period. There are tons of these nice paintings, so one day I was scrolling through and spotted a swastika on the sleeve of the guy on the left.

Creepy? Kind of.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

An explanation of how to walk and breathe at the same time (for humans):

Walking: to move along on foot: advance by steps

Allow yourself to fall forward without smashing your face into the sidewalk. Gravity will help you. It’s a piece of cake.

This is as far as I have progressed, so it is important to know that practice doesn’t necessarily make things better.

Some people actually make walking look good. This may be a result of genetic mutation, and is most often found in individuals in the entertainment industry and foreign militaries.

There are lots of exciting variations on walking: tiptoeing, marching, skipping, running, and breakdancing. Become comfortable with walking before trying any of the more advanced forms of locomotion.

Breathing: to take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide through natural processes

If you are alive, chances are good that your brainstem is already taking care of this one. I wouldn’t worry about it. You’ll know when something goes wrong if you pass out.

So you see, it’s really quite simple. Just follow these suggestions, and soon you’ll be walking and breathing all day long.


About my writing style: I can't live up to word counts. I say what I mean and tend to be concise. The rest is fluff and filler.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Times v Sullivan

1. What is the significance of Times v. Sullivan:
· In American history? Opening up civil rights reporting, due process, actual malice.
· To lawyers? Get to argue more; but some more restrictions
· To working journalists? Get to say some negative things (as facts) without fearing as many lawsuits
· To you? Not much.
2. What were the rules of libel law for working journalists before Times v. Sullivan?
Restricted reporting of civil rights cases in southern U.S. And it was easier to claim defamation or libel for whatever reason.

3. What is "actual malice," and how did it change the rules?
During time of trial, didn’t have to prove actual malice to collect damages… so made it feel like publishers had to check all the facts in everything they published.
4. How could you cover Illinois statehouse politics if Times v. Sullivan hadn't been decided the way it was?
Wouldn’t be any reporting about politics in IL… since you pretty much couldn’t say anything bad.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tradition, tradition. (Did I just plagiarize "Fiddler on the Roof"?)

I definitely don't spend a lot of time listening to political speeches, but since when do people expect speakers to cite sources? Informative academic lectures are clunky because it's all "according to", "Dr. Famous So-and-so says", blah, blah, blah. Academic writing and lecturing is drastically different than political speaking (or motivational speaking).
Political speeches are supposed to be persuasive. Regardless of your views on Obama, you have to acknowledge what an engaging speaker he is. He has an oratory style similar to black southern preachers. One common trait in that tradition is to weave quotes and phrases of popular culture into the speech.
I guess I don't get what the issue is here. This has decades of historical precedent. This is tradition.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Legal, Ethical, and Two Good Books

Does this 5150 statute bother anyone else? It sounds like a creepy ghost from the turn of the century “medical” practitioners or something from Gulliver’s Travels.
I think Robert Whitaker’s Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and The Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill should be required reading for anyone who is even remotely connected to modern medical or legal issues. This stuff is wild, but it has influenced a lot of the laws and views that are on the books today.
It bothers me that even a “friend” can commit a person to a mental institution. Keith Valone (the clinical psychologist in the story) said, "Getting a 5150 isn't a very hard [process] to do." So the next time you’re ticked at your mother or boyfriend, pull some strings with your closest psychologist friend and get a write up for a 5150.
Due process: basic fairness in regard to legislation and law enforcement. I think that the 5150 statute doesn’t provide much legal protection for Brittany or anyone else. Sure, the authorities have to follow the paperwork procedures that they’ve set up, but it seems like there are some holes in this set-up.
One of the SPJ’s ethical goals is to “Minimize Harm”. I don’t think much of the reporting surrounding the whole Brittany saga intends to minimize harm. “Show good taste, show compassion; Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.” Would you have known that was part of the SPJ Code of Ethics just by watching how reporters get the story about Brittany?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Here it is. Yet another blog for Lauren.