Archive for December, 2014

The Christmas Spirit All Year

Christmas JoyAs a writer it is easy to spend a great deal of time “in my head” and by myself.  There’s nothing like a flu-like bug to snap you back to reality.  Once I hit the tail end of the misfortune, my mind began to wander to the upcoming Christmas holiday.  I thought about three people I know that demonstrate the Christmas Spirit all year long.

The first is my friend and colleague, Bill Foussard.  Bill is one of the hardest working guys in the hotel industry.  But it is his unbelievable generosity and heart that amaze me.  He spends a good deal of time during the year organizing a Meals on Wheels event for Thanksgiving that feeds around 20,000 people.  Somehow he manages to get donations to cover it all.  Then the next month he hosts a party with Santa for seniors at his Best Western White Bear Country Inn in White Bear Lake, MN.  Please, Bill, keep up the good work.

The next person is also someone that I am lucky enough to consider a friend.  Chuck Horton, from a well-known boxing family in Duluth, MN, started a program of outreach through his gym and boxing instruction.  He never turned away a youth who came to him wanting to learn the sport.  Sometimes the local judges sent young men to Chuck instead of to a juvenile center for “rehabilitation.”  He took them into the gym and under the collective wing of the other boxers to help guide the youth to better choices.  Although he has handed his gym over to former professional boxer Zach “Jungle Boy” Walters, Chuck’s undying spirit still thrives at the gym and in Duluth boxing.

The last person is someone I got to meet and interview recently.  As a Vietnam Veteran, Brad Bennett spent decades fighting the memories and guilt of a soldier.  He was involved in the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) group in the Duluth area, and met a Vietnamese man who escaped the horrors of the Vietnam conflict by fishing boat.  The man was sponsored and raised by a family in Duluth.  Upon meeting Bennett, the two formed a bond and planned a trip back to Vietnam where Bennett would donate thousands of dollars he raised through his local radio show.  His kindness, donations, and return trips have helped to rebuild a village that he once helped decimate.  God bless your gentle soul, Brad.

I am proud to know these three men.  I am also proud to say I know others who do similar acts of kindness all year long.  That is the true embodiment of the Christmas Spirit, and may we all learn from these wonderful folks.  Merry Christmas!


Setting Goals, Because A Writer Writes

Square Winner 2014I read a blog post today about looking back at 2014 and seeing how many goals from your goal list you actually accomplished.  Oops, there’s another thing I forgot to do this year.  But I can still make a list for next year; and I really am going to do it this time.  Seriously.  I am.

Even though I didn’t have a tangible list this year, one goal I had was to compete and win the National Novel Writing Month challenge.  I’m proud to say I can cross that one off my list.  And, unlike the last time I finished, this book really is good.  I know it’s a “shitty first draft”, but the bones of the story are there amidst the typos and grammatical errors.  I had four first readers who all were surprised at the ending.  I call that success.

And my freelance writing is picking up nicely.  I took the plunge and purchased the 2015 Writer’s Market last month.  I cannot believe I haven’t bought this sooner!  What an awesome resource.  I will definitely be pursuing more work in 2015.

It’s been a crazy year for our family.  We closed a family business last November and moved to a rental in a strange city until we found jobs and a new house.  Now last month we moved again to another new city.  Yes, we moved our entire household (including a 120 year old piano) two times in one year.  Crazy?  Probably.  But through it all, no matter how out of control everything else around me felt, I wrote.  Maybe not a lot, maybe not anything that anyone else saw, but I wrote.

So as I look into my magical crystal ball for 2015, I am reminded of the famous quote from Billy Crystal’s character, Larry, in the movie Throw Momma from the Train, “Remember, a writer writes, always.”  It may not be for money, maybe not even for public consumption, but next year I will write.  And that shitty first draft I just finished?  Well, publication is definitely going on my goal list.


5 Tips for Working with Freelance Writers

Sometimes freelance work comes from the last place you would expect it.  And sometimes those who need it most are the least likely to seek help.  As a freelance writer, I often bang my head against the wall when someone doesn’t see the value of seeking outside help.  Maybe they think they can muddle along on their own.  Maybe they think someone on staff can do the job at a passable level.  Or maybe they think they can’t afford to hire a freelancer.  I’m here to tell you, we can help!

Having written for a few different types of publications, I thought I’d pass along some tips to help in your search.  Think of it as an early Christmas present.  You’re welcome.  When you are considering hiring a freelance writer:

  • Ask for samples.  This person should be able to provide you with several different pieces so that you can get a feeling of their style.  This will also tell you how good they are at editing, spelling, and grammar.  Make sure you know where the pieces were published.
  • Be clear about your audience.  Does the writer need to have knowledge about a certain topic or field?  Are you looking for someone with that experience, or can they learn as they go?
  • Be clear about the tone of voice.  Do your readers only want nuts and bolts, no nonsense factual articles?  Or are you addressing a more casual crowd who appreciates a little wit and a snarky tone over straight facts? This is a very important thing for a writer to know.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk money right away.  If you’re only looking for one or two pieces, you may have to spend a little more.  If you’re looking for someone to write for you on a regular basis, you may be able to work out a mutually agreeable pay scale.  I know I am more willing to make small concessions on a piece here or there if I know that client is planning on using my services again.  And, truth be told, the more you pay me, the shorter the turn-around time.  Yep, that’s a fact.
  • Be prepared to explain what you want.  There are many types of services that freelance writers offer; and many writers specialize in certain ones.  But you will pay more if you are looking for a big job (like white papers) and you will likely find smaller jobs (like blog posts) very economical.  You just need to look and know what you want.

Currently my biggest client is a boxing website.  I do enjoy the pugilistic arts, but I’ll readily admit that sometimes I need to do a fair amount of homework.  There’s a lot of prep work that goes into the interviews and the articles.  But it pays off, and hopefully for my client as much as me.  Happy reading, and as always, happy writing.