Saturday, March 26, 2011

Interesting week

It's been a cool week in some ways, and weird in others. First off, I got over being sick only to have hubby and kiddo get sick. We went from balmy springlike temperatures to a second winter. The USA invaded Libya. And just when I thought I had finished my freelance assignments for the month (all 18 of them) I got offered my 19th assignment----a chance to write a piece for the Washington Post.

Before you start picturing me as a future Pulitzer winner in All the President's Men, take heart---it was basically a puff piece for the Washington edition's (not the venerable national edition, alas) real estate section. The content aggregator that is providing me with most of my work these days actually sells content to the Post (among other respectable outlets) and offered me the job. After taking over multiple last-minute assignments for other freelancers who couldn't meet their deadlines, I guess this content aggregator now views me as the go-to person to save their ass and deliver good content on short notice. Since I've never once had to revise a single story that I've delivered to these folks (for multiple clients), I figured I had this one in the bag.

The story was basically a profile of how various Washington-area property-management companies are contributing to Japan disaster relief efforts. Pulitzer Prize material it definitely was not, but at least I was writing about charity work instead of say, Brangelina. The Post editors even gave me all my sources, so I didn't have to do any legwork or digging to find my own sources like I usually do for my other clients.

However, this assignment wasn't without a learning curve. All the sources were basically PR people, which meant they had canned responses and didn't respond well to probing questions. I had to conduct a second interview of one of them----which I never do, and journalists always say is a sign of a bad interviewer----in order to get the angle my editor was looking for. I also had to go through several drafts on the deadline wire until my editor was satisfied. Which was definitely new territory for me. But then again, this type of article was a bit outside my usual subject area, and as I told her, sometimes it's good to stretch your chops a bit. Multiple rewrites and a hat-in-hand second interview can be a good way to do that.

Besides, it's the Washington Post. I'd walk backwards naked through a receiving line of blowtorches to get a Post assignment. What journalist wouldn't? Sure, my piece will be running in a tabloid Sunday-only print insert that is mostly full of apartment advertising, but hey, it's a start.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Busy Bee, and Thoughts On Japan

My son has been in child care full time for about 3 weeks now, and I've been more productive in those three weeks than I have in three years. I've picked up another freelance journalism client, and when combined with my main client, I will have filed 18 different feature stories for the two of them in the month of March alone. I'll be filing the last two stories on Monday morning, which means I'll have completed all 18 March article assignments with a week to spare!

I'll be dedicating that week to catching up on some other things I've been neglecting, like some website development and fiction writing, and some other miscellanous administrative tasks (like preparing and filing my quarterly taxes, a must now that I'm a full-time freelancer). I've been working on my current novel for about a year now, and I'm really hoping it will be my "breakout" book that launches me mainstream into a wider audience. Of course, I've been hoping for a breakout novel for a while now, but I've really been working on this one with that explicit goal in mind. If I can finally finish the draft by early April and get it off to my agent, I'll feel really good about my fiction-writing career this year. I have another completed manuscript that's been percolating at my agent's office for a while now (she's finally going to pitch it to editors at a conference next week; the main editor my agent thinks will be interested has been on maternity leave, and she wanted to wait until that editor returned to work before shopping the book.) Plus I've got another book sitting in front of an editor at a major NYC publisher that's been there a while now, and I'm hoping they'll make a decision soon.

I've decided once I'm done with my "breakout" manuscript that will be the end of my fiction writing for the year. I'll need to focus more on being a journalist for a while, since that's by far the most stable income-producing line of writing in my life right now. I've put playwriting on the back burner entirely (no money, total pain in the ass, though I do still get productions of my published plays).

I also have decided I want to dedicate some time to looking for a "real" journalism staff job, instead of just being a freelancer. I'd like a salary and benefits, and everyone knows the staff writers get the best assignments, anyway. The recent events in Japan have really reminded me of just how important journalism and journalists are, and having traveled to Japan myself (it's a beautiful country and an ancient culture, and I follow Zen Buddhism, which is part of that culture), I am very saddened by the state of things there. Journalists can and do make a difference in the world, and I'd like to be part of that----at least more so than I already am.


Monday, March 7, 2011


My 3-year-old son has been in preschool for one week now. It's been a difficult transition for both of us, especially since he has never spent any time in daycare until now and I've been his full-time caregiver (often while also working from home) that whole time. But it's been good for him----I am already seeing him grow by leaps and bounds learning-wise in just a few days, and his behavior is much, much better---and good for me.

Good for me in that I'm so much more productive now. My work output has gone up by a factor of about 400%. Plus I'm getting to do things I haven't been able to do in a long time, like listen to whatever music I want while I'm working (instead of, say, The Wiggles), take long walks at noon, have CNN or NPR on while I'm having lunch, et cetera.

I have always been a high-productivity person, even when I was in high school (in fact, I even managed to stay productive when I was depressed.) And yet I continue to run into people who don't have even one-tenth of the amount of responsibility as I do----people who are single, childless, working part-time if working at all, etc.----who just can't seem to do even the bare minimum. I don't understand that at all. Lying around the house doing nothing is not a good way to pay your bills, for one thing. And productivity breeds productivity, for another. I've found that the more I keep myself busy, the more I get done overall---even if I'm just keeping busy with housework or childcare. Plus keeping busy is good for your health, mentally and physically.

Somebody told me the other week that I'm the strongest woman she knows. Which was a nice complement to get, but I didn't really feel like I deserved it. I know plenty of women who are much stronger and more productive than I am (Hillary Clinton, anyone? Michelle Obama? Nora Roberts? Jodi Picoult? Jacqueline Mitchard? Sara Gruen? I could go on.) I view myself as just an ordinary middle-class working stiff who does the best she can, which often still isn't good enough. But you'll never see me hibernating in my house doing nothing. (At least, not for more than an hour or two). I've got bills to pay, and a child to raise. Slacking is not a verb in my vocabulary.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Author Chat at the Romance Studio tonight

I'll be participating in an author chat at The Romance Studio this evening starting at 8 pm Eastern, as part of a cadre of Decadent Publishing authors. Hope you can stop by.