Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In Transition

Thanks for continuing to visit KC Writer Blog. Things have been pretty busy with this move and I just can't seem to get my head around anything but unpacking boxes. So far, the only casualty seems to have been my printer. I made the mistake of letting my husband take charge of packing my office equipment. Although I had some nice, sturdy electronics boxes, he assured me this huge Rubbermaid type box would be a good one - everything would fit and he would pack plenty of packing blankets around it. Well, everything didn't fit and my poor printer ended up in a box marked "dirty clothes." When it was handed to me from the moving truck, I didn't grab it by the bottom. What's the harm if the bottom drops out and a bunch of dirty clothes fall on the concrete floor of the garage, right? Just as I put my arms around it, my husband's friend said, "I know that says dirty clothes, but I think something else is in there. I just can't remember...." Crash!
"Oh, yeah, that was that gray and black thing, your printer, right?"
I just shut my eyes and came into the house. I had enough of the heat and of moving that day.
No one has yet to answer why my printer was placed in a flimsy box marked, "dirty clothes," but my husband has already accepted he will be buying me a new one!
One broken printer and one new family member - we picked up a dog we witnessed being dumped in KC the night before we moved. Although I found a rescue in Arkansas to take her, I grew attached to her and now Sadie calls the Ozark Mountains home too. She follows me everywhere.

Signing off until July 16, when I will return from our daughter's wedding in Germany with a few minor changes to KC blog to hopefully give you more information to make your freelance life more successful, as well as more harmonious with your home life. If you have any comments or suggestions for the blog, post them here or continuine to email me at

In the meantime, please keep visiting, going through the archives - there's plenty of great stuff just waiting to be read again!

Friday, June 22, 2007

And we Interrupt this program....

I'm more busy with this move than expected, so KC Write For You Blog will be taking a break until Tuesday. In the meantime, read this very funny spoof of job posters on Craig's List. If you've ever looked at Craig's List for a writing gig, you'll get it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Give Me a Holler

Well, I finally had the opportunity to give my new address to a business contact, Dr. Big Name, who is going to send me a copy of one of his books so I can use it for a project. Why is this unusual? Because my new address, as of Sunday will be in Yellville. Yep, now you know why I was a little nervous. Having already sent out my new address to many of the people in my email address book, I've already gotten the funny "Give me a Holler when you get to Yellville!" or "Is that anywhere near Mutton Holler?" and one comment, "The name of your town doesn't do much to turn around the backward reputation of the state, does it?"
Ok, so it isn't as cosmo as New York City (even pronounced in the southern accent on the salsa commercials), Chicago or Los Angeles. It isn't even as metro sounding as Kansas City.
But aren't writers known for living in small burgs surrounded by natural inspiration? Hasn't Stephen King immortalized the fantasy writer life by placing all of the scribes in his books and subsequent movies in the hills of whereever? Well, maybe that isn't such a good analogy since the writers in his stories are usually either homicidal maniacs or victims of lunatics probably driven crazy by the sounds of the country....which makes me wonder how long before the sounds of the whippoorwhill who sits on top of our cabin roof everynight changes from quaint to maddening.....
I gave Dr. Big Name my new address, and lowered my voice just a little when I said, "Yellville." I suddenly felt embarrassed. I really wished that the next town over was something other than "Flippin" so I could get a P.O. Box there, but reaction by my friends to that name has been worse. "Do you go to the Flippin' Wal-Mart?" Bahahahaha!
Would Dr. Big Name use a Big City stereotype - however wrongly - and think I'm an uneducated hick trying to make it as a writer because there's nothing else to do in Yellville? And then he said, "Arkansas. Is that AK?" I smiled and said, "No, it's AR." Dr. Big Name in the Big City didn't know his state abbreviations and for some reason, that gave me back my confidence. I thought about all the good friends we've already made in Yellville - Terry, the best builder we've ever encountered anywhere and his wife, Judy, who never fails to bring tasty homemade baked goods when we invite them over to our house; our neighors around the bend who told us we could use their trailer to move and the extra slip in their boat dock anytime; and Danny, who is driving up 300 miles with the moving truck he owns to help us move from Kansas City; my aunt, who will teach me how to can the produce we will bring in from the garden this summer so we can all enjoy the taste of summer even as the leaves fall. I realized then that no matter where my physcial address, I'm still the same writer I was in The Big City, only now I'll be richer in experience by calling Yellville home - and that's what being a writer is all about.

How about you? Do you live in a small town with a small town sounding name or do you know of one? Go to comments and tell us about it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What a Job

I like Elizabeth's take on why she loves being a freelancer. I wish I could have done that for myself this year, but it gives me some ideas about next summer:

"I like the fact that my boss isn't insane (unlike a previous full-time job). And she always approves my vacation requests! :)I also like the fact that I can have better control of my revenue stream.For example, this year I took on lots of extra work early in the year to bank enough money so I can actually take a couple of months off this summer to focus on personal writing projects."

Elizabeth Kricfalusi is a freelance writer in San Jose, California. Most of her experience is in corporate writing, but a couple of years ago she decided to dip a toe into the magazine world and has since been published in Real Simple, For Me, Backpacker, and Sunset.

Web site:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Skincare Writer Wanted

The editorial team is looking for college-graduated or those about to graduate English / Journalism or other-writing-oriented majors with an interest in cutting edge beauty and skincare products and services. We are currently seeking a "Freelance Writer" who demonstrates ability to assess content by topic and quality, as well as to use Web-based applications. Media savvy, Beauty, Cosmetics and Skincare industry savvy, interested in current events across broad range of beauty & health related topics. Requirements: • Writing is catchy, informative, and grammatically sound style • Sophisticated taste level • Finger is on the pulse of what’s happening.
See the full ad here:

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Piece of Normal for Summer Reading

Today, I interviewed Sandi Shelton, author of "A Piece of Normal." She talks about making the successful transition from non-fiction freelancer to fiction author and reveals it is just as exciting when your book gets re-released in paperback.

Tell us about yourself.
Well, I’ve always wanted to be a writer from the time I was a little kid and everybody else in the neighborhood was out swinging by their knees on the swing set and throwing baseballs through windows. I was the kid sitting on the side, writing a novel on one of my father’s legal pads. The grownups were always saying, “For heaven’s sakes, go outside and play!”

When I grew up and it occurred to me that I wasn’t going to be able to make a living writing fiction, (this was a big shock, let me tell you), I went into journalism…except that I was missing one major ingredient: what used to be called “a nose for news.” I simply don’t get all squirmy and excited when the fire commission is going to meet. So I started writing a column at the paper—a humor column about being a single mom with two kids—and that led me to writing a column for Working Mother magazine, and then to free-lance magazine writing, and then to three nonfiction books about parenting…and…and…meanwhile, I was still working on a novel which I kept in a drawer and only brought out when everything else was all done. Seventeen years later, that novel got published.

Today, I’m still a feature reporter for the New Haven Register. My first novel, “What Comes After Crazy,” was published in 2005, and my second one, “A Piece of Normal,” came out the next year. These days I’m finishing up my third.

Tell us about your book, "A Piece of Normal."
"A Piece of Normal," is the story of two sisters who could not be more opposite. (Isn't that often the case?) Lily is settled and cozy in her life, could never admit she has any problems--in fact, she's an advice columnist, telling other people how to live their lives. But there's a heartache she's pushing away: her parents died 12 years ago in a car crash and she came home from college to finish raising her younger sister, Dana, who was 16 at the time--and she felt she did such a bad job of handling her little sister's grief that she really blew it. Dana ran away and has been gone for 10 years, off to join a punk rock band and to live the kind of spontaneous, crazy, dangerous life that Lily could never imagine. Now the two of them are reunited in a tense, wary relationship--and each realizes she has something the other wants. Through the discovery of some long-buried family secrets, they come to a halting understanding of each other, only to have to then face the most devastating betrayal they can imagine. I won't say more; I always tend to give the whole plot away! LOL

Your publisher released the book first in hardback and then in paperback in March. That's a feat in itself as many publishers are going straight to paperback these days. Is the second release just as exciting as the first?
Wow! There’s nothing like that sensation of holding the first copy of your book, hot off the press—and I think it’s true for the paperback version, too. The paperback kind of brings your book back to a new life! (And in my case, the paperback of “What Comes After Crazy” had a whole new cover design, so it was like getting a brand new book.

Before having your fiction published, you wrote books on parenting. Talk about the process of transitioning from non-fiction to fiction.
My books on parenting are all humor books, anecdotes about how to muddle through as a parent, so it’s not like I went from real informational tomes to fiction or anything. They tend to be stories about what happens when your kid gets gum and peanut butter in his hair at the same time, and your other kid needs to carve a Sphinx out of a bar of Ivory soap, and why nobody ever gets any sleep, ever.

You write magazine articles as well. How do you juggle the life of a freelance article writer to author?
I actually have been so busy writing novels in recent years that I haven’t had time for much magazine writing, although I used to enjoy doing it a lot. It gets hectic being on too many deadlines at once—and the one thing they managed to instill in me in journalism school was that DEADLINES MUST BE MET. Seriously. That’s all I remember.

What made you start writing fiction?
I am just always wanting things to be a little more colorful than they tend to be in real life. I think, honestly, that life could be so much more…fun…if it was fiction, say, half the time. And I just adore the process of getting to know a new character—the way a personality will show up in your head one morning and start talking to you. Anne Tyler once said that she became a fiction writer because she wanted more than one life—and I think that’s true for me, too. I just want to experience life in another person’s head, and when you’re writing a novel, there’s a little place you can always go and live there for a while. It’s like a little vacation.

Both of your novels have had to do with dysfunctional families. They say many fiction writers use a bit of their own experiences in their work. So, dish, is this art imitating life?
I’m from the South, and in my family, telling stories was almost the main thing we did. I remember sitting out on the porch at the old lake house and just listening to my aunts and uncles and grandparents making each other laugh so hard we all practically needed oxygen. If you couldn’t tell a story—well, then, you got put in charge of making drinks and had to go sit on the sidelines where people felt sorry for you. So I learned early on that to tell a story and make people laugh was pretty important. Yet at the same time, I knew that my family was damaged and broken in the ways that so many families are: there were untimely deaths, alcoholism, divorces, betrayals—and so what I also learned out there on that porch was that stories and laughter can transcend those ordinary dangers of being human and help us survive.

What is your perfect writing spot?
LOL—My husband calls me an itinerant fiction writer, because I’m always moving from place to place. Lately I write on my screened porch in my backyard, and I watch the cardinals making a nest, and smell the wild roses and listen to the peepers and crickets. It’s heaven. But I also do have a serious desk downstairs that I go to when I really can’t take in any other sensory stimulation because I have to really “hear” the book. I’m also known for going to Starbucks and other coffee shops when I need the discipline of needing to stay in my seat, and when home becomes the place I procrastinate. Today? It’s the porch. Definitely!

What's next for you?
Well, I’m on the third draft of my latest novel, which is a love story I’m calling “Kissing Games of the World.” And a new novel is starting to just poke through the surface of my thoughts…I’m looking forward to meeting those new characters.

Please list your websites/blogs and any where else your book can be found.
I have a website at and a blog at And my books can be found at all the usual places—Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, and in bookstores.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Blown Away by This Author

Today, I interviewed Caitlin Kelly, author of "Blown Away, American Women and Guns. She describes writing a book on a highly controversial topic and how she has maintained sales for nearly 3 years:

Tell us a little about yourself.
I've been writing professionally for national magazines and newspapers since my sophomore year of college at the University of Toronto. I wanted to be a foreign correspondent so I speak French and Spanish and have always been a generalist, although I've written a lot on sports, design and business. I've been a reporter for three major dailies, most recently the New York Daily News, the country's 6th-largest paper, and it's made a real differerence in how I approach my work. There's no such thing as "writers'block" when they expect your copy by 6:00 p.m.! I love writing features for a daily paper as it's the best of both worlds, a huge audience and quick publication with enough time and space to tell a good story. You also learn to produce the best you can on deadline -- and move on. Personally, I loveto travel internationally (37 countries so far), cook, go antiquing, cycle, ski and play softball.
Tell us about your book, "Blown Away, American Women and Guns."
It's the first and only book of its kind in its impartial exploration of how women and guns intersect in American life, past and present. With 11 to18 million female gun owners, 50 percent of whom have bought a gun (or several) for self-defense, I wanted to know why guns were so important to them. I also wanted to include the stories of the many women whose lives have been destroyed emotionally and/or physically by gun violence, like two women shot point-blank by criminals and a woman who shot and killed her husband in self-defense. A woman who loses her child or husband to a massacre like that at Virginia Tech is affected by guns as well as those injured or killed in domestic violence or other crimes. I interviewed women and teens of all races and income levels from 29 states, who have felt the presence, wanted or unwanted, of a gun in their lives, from convicted murderers to politicians to Olympic shooters and FBI agents. I wanted thebook to be both authoritative enough to be useful to academics and students, while readable and lively for non-students.
How did you chose this topic - especially since you are Canadian?
I moved to the U.S. when I was 30. I grew up in a country dominated by the U.S. and was intrigued by this most American of obsessions, one that receives little serious and thoughtful coverage, here or elsewhere. Guns play a major role in the political, economic, social and criminal fabric of this culture. Yet gun use is almost never discussed rationally and thoughtfully, which left the field fairly open for me, as an ambitious author, to attempt this myself. As an outsider, albeit one who has lived in the U.S. since 1988, I felt comfortable raising a variety of tough questions on an unpopular topic that many American writers just won't touch.
You said you interviewed people on all sides of the issue, do you takea side and if so, was it your concern to remain objective? Why or why not?
When three women a day are killed in this country by their domestic partners, something is very wrong with women's choices, law enforcement, prosecution and sentencing and support for fleeing abuse. I am, and make clear in my book, horrified by the persistent violence against women and so I raise the difficult question of when, where, how and why a woman might choose to arm herself -- and shoot in self-defense. I felt it essential, as did my publisher, to represent the concerns and issues raised by both sides of the gun debate as neither is going away and both are determined to prevail. It's difficult, since many academics shy away from this topic, to find basic factual data without a lot of political topspin, which, to me, is the definition of classic journalism. I want readers, who are also voters with the power to influence their elected officials, to really understand the complexity of gun ownership and use. Suicide, for example, consistently represents 55 percent of gun deaths, yet we focus enormous attention on "gun control" and very little on the mental health of those who own or have access to guns.
What were some of the challenges of researching the book?
The greatest reporting challenge was gaining the trust of civilian and professional gun-owners, many of whom feel tremendous mistrust, even outright hostility, toward journalists who consistently mis-represent and demonize them. I was often asked: "Are you pro Second Amendment?" before many people would agree to an interview. Since I had taken a three-day shooting class and had since trained with a variety of handguns and longguns, I could tell people truthfully that I had enjoyed shooting and completely understood why they did as well. It was not my place to judge them but to present their views. Another challenge was framing the story, as there is so much to say. I attended the world's largest shooting event, 3,200 skeet shooters who meet each summer in Ohio, and found many interview subjects there.Deciding where to do on-the-ground reporting and interviewing presented another challenge as this story is so broad. I flew twice to Texas, once to New Orleans and Ohio and drove to Manhattan, NY and Massachusetts. I found four researchers, all female, willing to donate time to help me. Icould not have done it without them.The single toughest issue was focusing on violence against women. It gave me "secondary trauma", common for those who delve deeply into such disturbing material. I had nightmares, insomnia and anxiety for a few weeks and still have a limited appetite for dark stories. It was personallydeeply upsetting -- even while I felt it essential for readers to recognizeand address these issues.
How did you find your agent/publisher?
I found my agent through a personal contact, a fiction agent and former journalism student of mine at New York University who knew someone at the William Morris agency. He suggested another agent who immediately liked the proposal and agreed to take it on. It took us more than a year and 25 rejections to find a publisher as most were too scared of the subjectand/or dismissive of its potential appeal.
Your book was released in 2004, yet it is still selling. How does an author help a book with a longer "shelf life."
I think you can't ever stop promoting your book if you want it to stay inprint and keep selling. I'm always looking for ways to remind potential readers of its value; word of mouth is what sells books. There are so manyways to promote your book if you think broadly, and consistently committime and money to it.In the past few months, for example, I did a live television talk show inNew York City to discuss gun issues; took a table at a gun show to sell books; participated in an authors' event at my local library; arranged a speaking event at another local library for September; got a copy to Hillary Clinton through a contact; advertised my book in a criminology journal read by academics who might use it for their classes; sent it forreview/blurbs to several prominent professors of law and women's studies and spoke on a media panel in which I brought the book and discussed it. I've also written letters to the editor of publications whose readers mightfind the book of interest, identifying myself as the author. It's verydifficult to get op-eds or essays published on this subject, so I have to focus on other forms of promotion.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?
Having the nerve to do it! It takes guts to wade into one of the nation's most bitterly divisive subjects. Now I'm seen as an expert on the subject, which is a large responsibility, although a privilege as well. Some peoplewho hate and fear guns refuse to even consider the issues, and that sort ofdeliberate ignorance is really frustrating. Ignoring or simply hating gun violence does nothing to stem or reduce it.
What is a quirky writing habit you have that no one knows about?
I don't think I do anything quirky, although writing more than six bookproposals that did not sell might strike people as both exhausting andquixotic. (I figure it's all practice for the books that will sell.)
Where can our readers find your book.
Amazon and some bookstores. They can read the first two chapters and click to amazon directly from there.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cast Your Net

Someone who I interviewed as an editor once for this blog contacted me the other day. She is now freelancing and just sent me a letter to say "hello." As well, she asked if I could direct her to other sites where one might find work.
Recently, a writer friend of mine commented on a writer's board about how often freelancers these days rely on the web to do their reporting. I think sometimes new freelancers also rely on the web too much to find work.
I told my editor friend the truth - while some of my work comes from finding ads on the web, most of my work comes from good old fashioned networking. She probably knew this from sending me the note, but she was already doing better than contacting 10 job posters on Craig's List - she sent someone in the industry she knew a letter to let them know she was out there. I'm not an editor or publisher, but if I see an ad posted that matches her qualifications, I just might remember her and let her know. As the chair of SPJ's freelance committee, I get a lot of notes every week about the organization's new freelance directory. Some people have joined just because of it, but if they think that alone will bring them work, they have a lot to learn about running a business. Placing our names in directories is the same as a contractor placing his business name in the Yellow Pages. It's great, it gets our name out there, but without referrals or testimonials to back up our claims of what great writers we are, it probably won't get us far.
I thought about the three gigs I've landed this year off of "blind" ads or through a directory listings. Out of those, only one came from an editor with whom I had no previous contact. The directory listing job came to me through a referral of a person with whom I knew on a professional list. The last one is an ongoing gig with a newswire service. The ad generated the service a ton of resumes, but my name stuck out at the editor because our paths had crossed through a professional organization.
So, when people ask me where they can find work, I always tell them to do what reporters do - hit the pavement and make contacts.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Does Chopping Carrots and Freelancing Have in Common?

Lori Hall Steele explains:

"When I'm inside an long piece or an essay, I often end up doing these mindless meditative tasks, automatically, as I think and write and put it all together -- I'll go back and forth between the computer and whatever: chopping vegetables for soup, folding towels, wandering around aimlessly pulling weeds, roaming the house with the feather duster. It works beautifully. It's kind of like how thoughts come to you while driving, in that trance-like state.This is a huge perk of freelancing.
You just don't get to chop carrots at an office."

-Lori Hall Steele's recent work has appeared in Woman's Day, Plenty, Creative Home and the Chicago Tribune. Links:,, and soon,, a single parent blog-mag

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Health Blogger in Genetics Wanted

Genetics and Health Blogger (Comp: Paid position) (telecommute) : is looking for a blogger to write on a well-established blog about genetics and health, ( The ideal blogger will have strong knowledge of and interest in genetics, research, and current studies that relate. Requirements are to provide new and upcoming information on genetics in today's world. You will also be expected to develop and maintain a sense of community through social networking sites, related participation in forums and blogs, etc. Knowledge of Wordpress and image editing software is a plus. Passion for genetics and blogging about this topic is a must! This is a paid position. How to Apply If you are interested, please fill out the application at and be sure to include the URLs of any blogs you currently write.

Monday, June 11, 2007

This Author Talks Straight about Sex

Today, I interviewed Joan Price, author of "Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty." She talks about writing a ground-breaking book on an undercovered subject, building her platform on the web and how she sold a book targeting women over 60 when the market place seems almost to ignore anyone over 40!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm a lively woman of 63, enthusiastically in love with my husband. I'm the author of six books and hundreds of magazine articles, a fitness professional, public speaker, and contemporary line-dance instructor. Since my book, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, came out and got widespread attention, I've become a spokesperson for senior sex, or, as I call myself, an advocate for ageless sexuality. (I've also been called a "wrinkly sex kitten" by one newspaper – I have to say I love that!)

Tell us about your book.
Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty is mainly my intensely up-front-and-personal story of hot sex with my 68-year old lover (who is now my 70-year-old husband), along with snippets of interviews with other sexually seasoned women about their experiences, and a hefty dose of tips from the experts. It's warm, sexy, candid, often funny, and very informative!

How did you come up with the topic/why did you feel there was a need for it?
At age 59, when I first envisioned the book, I was in a relationship with this amazing man of 66, and it was hot, really hot. We were like a couple of teenagers, yet with the wisdom of decades of relationship experience. Despite the sexual exhilaration, we were making love in older bodies, with new challenges. For example, I didn't lubricate enough for sexual comfort, and my arousal time took much longer. I went looking for books on the subject – and I didn't find any that reflected what I wanted: sexy, fun to read, and informative. They were either academic, or doom-and-gloom, or too young. See, there were tons of books for and about Boomers, but they addressed readers as if they just turned fifty—when actually, for many of us, fifty was a decade ago! There are books about sex after forty, after menopause, after fifty—but after sixty? It's as if "sixty" is the new dirty word.

Was it difficult finding an agent/publisher for what some might consider a controversial topic?
Actually, Seal Press was wildly enthusiastic about my topic! It was time!

Everyone seems to be geared toward the younger set - was it difficult to sell a book targeted at women over 60?
Seal Press realized that women over 60 were largely ignored by publishing (that's starting to change) and by the media (that's NOT changing yet). They were excited by my book and were behind me all the way.

What is one of the challenges for women who want to be sexually active after 60?
Just one challenge? Can I give you a list instead?
· Seeing our bodies as sexy despite wrinkles and sags and a youth-centered society
· Slower arousal
· More difficulty lubricating
· More difficulty reaching orgasm
· If single, attracting a partner
· If in long-term relationship, keeping sex spicy
· Health challenges: ours and our partners'

You created a blog based on the same topic. How do you decide what to blog about without giving away the contents of the book for free?
I wonder about that myself! I wonder if I should give more of the content of the book, or less. Do people read the blog and say, "I don't have to read the book now" when that's far from true! The blog is really a continuing discussion of topics raised by the book or topics that have come up since publication, and not a repetition of the book at all. The book has a glorious love story and tons of great information for women over 60 and those who love them.

Did you find it hard to draw readers to the blog, given that the Internet is considered a medium targeting the younger generations. How did you advertise it?
I put a lot of effort into letting people know about it by visiting other websites and blogs and offering comments, sometimes excerpts. Every email that goes out has a link to my blog. I contact other people working in the field and let them know what I'm doing. I don't find it difficult to attract readers, but they're shy about commenting. I'm not sure what to do about that.

I read on a writer's forum you had problems with some comments on the blog and had to start moderating them. Does this take a considerable amount of time from other writing?
Yccch. A couple of shock jocks decided to ridicule my blog, which they called "the old lady's sex blog," and they invited readers to trash my blog with vile comments. I should have been wise enough to moderate comments from the beginning. No, it doesn't take time from writing – I love it when people comment on my blog (please visit!) or email me directly with their views and stories.

I like comments on this blog as well. Remember - if you have a comment or a question for the author, please hit "comments" and I'll do my best to get them answered for you!

Friday, June 08, 2007

No Passport Required to Read the Book

Today, I interviewed Terese Loeb Kreuzer, author of "How to Move to Canada: A Primer for Americans." Terese tells us how she successfully blends two genres - travel and how to.....

Tell us about yourself.
Six years ago, I founded the Travel Arts Syndicate and am the editor-in-chief. I sell travel-related articles and photographs on behalf of myself and a group of other experienced travel writers to newspapers and magazines in the United States and Canada.
I’ve been writing about travel since 1994 and have visited and written about Canada, England, Scotland, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Guatemala, China, Dubai, Bermuda, Mexico, Chile, Austria and the Caribbean as well as many places in the United States. My articles and photographs have appeared in leading newspapers and magazines including Islands, Country Living, Caribbean Travel & Life, The New York Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, St. Petersburg Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Denver Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Oregonian, San Jose Mercury News, Vancouver Sun and Toronto Star. In an earlier part of my career, I founded the video production department at Citicorp and ran it for 10 years, so I am now putting my production experience to use making multimedia programs for newspaper Web sites. I formerly edited Michelin on Travel and Way to Go for The New York Times Syndicate. I’m an honors graduate of Swarthmore College and live in New York City.

Tell us about your book, "How to Move to Canada: A Primer for Americans."
“How to Move to Canada” is for Americans who are thinking of moving to Canada as permanent residents. It tells where to start and what to expect each step of the way.

It includes:
• Snapshots of Canada’s provinces and territories and their major cities to help make an informed choice about where to move.
• Interviews with immigration lawyers and Americans who have emigrated to Canada to provide real-life, hands-on perspective.
• A timeline showing what to do, in what sequence — and how long each part of the process is likely to take.
• An appendix with specific information about health care in each province and territory and how to apply for coverage.

How did you learn there was a need for your book?
After George W. Bush won the presidential election in 2004, news reports stated that American visitors to Canada’s immigration Web site set a new daily record. There were reportedly 115,000 hits a day — 600 percent more than usual!
But actually, Americans have a variety of reasons for moving to Canada — marriage, employment, family unification and for gays, a desire to live in a place where same-sex couples are recognized by federal law. At the moment, Canada is generally more tolerant and liberal than much of the United States.

Was it difficult selling it to an agent/publisher?
Actually, my agent came to me with the idea. He knew that I had traveled in Canada and had a “platform” as a travel writer. He said that if I wrote a proposal, he thought he could sell it — and he did.

How did you find your agent/publisher?
I was introduced to him through a friend who is a widely published writer.

Was it difficult doing the research, for example, did you have problems with obtaining information from the governments, etc.
The research wasn’t difficult, but it was time-consuming.
I wrote this book with Carol Bennett, a friend of more than 40 years, who is a former Capitol Hill reporter and has a masters degree in library science. Carol is very familiar with Canada because her father was born there, she has many relatives there, and she got her B.A. from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and her library degree from Magill in Montreal. She travels to Canada often for one reason or other. I, too, have seen a good bit of Canada.
Canada has an excellent and comprehensive immigration Web site, which was very helpful in our research, but not sufficient. We spent hundreds and hundreds of hours talking to immigration lawyers, accountants, pension experts and other professionals with immigration-related specialties. We talked to Americans who had actually emigrated to Canada about their experiences both in emigrating and in settling in. We consulted books and Internet sites such as Statistics Canada, which profiles the provinces, territories and major cities. And we traveled to Canada several times while researching the book to look around and ask questions.

This is sort of a combination of travel/how to genre, how did you successfully blend the two?
I don’t think there’s a conflict except from the point of view of bookstores that don’t know where to put the book. Travel? Reference? They can’t figure it out.
From the point of view of people who are thinking of moving to Canada, there’s no conflict at all. They would need to know how to go about it and where they might like to settle. While there are some elements of the book that would be helpful to a traveler, a lot of the content in the provinces/territories/major cities section was designed to assist a would-be settler. For instance, we describe climate (something that a settler should carefully consider), predominant ethnicity (which affects the cultural life of a region or city, including its music, food and religious practices), the economy, the public transportation system, the school system at both the K-12 and university levels, the average housing prices, the crime rate and so on. Some parts of Canada are more socially liberal than others, and we attempted to assess that by using attitudes toward gays and toward same-sex marriage as a litmus test. Of course we also talked about health care using life expectancy and infant mortality as a gauge. (Not all parts of Canada are equal in that regard.)
So there were many issues touched on in the “Where to Move in Canada” section that far transcend the needs of a traveler.

When is your favorite writing time?
I don’t know. I get up in the morning and get to work. At night, when I’m too tired to work, I go to sleep. I think I’m a little fresher in the morning.

What's next for you?
I continue to edit and market the Travel Arts Syndicate and to do my own writing and photography for newspapers and magazines. I travel a good deal. In the past few months, I’ve been to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Los Angeles, Georgia, Munich and Portugal and I’m about to go to Maine for a few days and then to Spitsbergen, Norway, which is way, way above the Arctic Circle. I have started writing about my travels in an informal way on a blog:

Where can people find your book?
It’s available on and at Barnes and Noble ( as well as through other Internet sources. Google “How to Move to Canada: A Primer for Americans” and a number of these will turn up.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

How to Spot a Scam Website

I got a question from one of my readers regarding a website advertising jobs for freelance writers.

While I can't say for certain this is a scam(thus, I'm not naming the site), there were several dozen red flags that raised my hackles (as a good friend of mine says) when I went to the site.

  • The first red flag was that I had never heard of this site. I admit, I probably don't know every place in the world to secure freelance work, but I have many contacts through organizations and writing boards that make a good living at freelancing - when there is a good site to get great information, network and talk about good gigs, it usually isn't a secret among the top freelancers for very long.
  • The second big red flag is that this isn't a job list board. Freelancers have to pay to be "members" to get all of these great opportunities dropped right into their "in" box. There's a $295 free trial, but you have to scroll down quite a ways to find out if you don't cancel, your automatically renewed at just $29.95 a month!
  • When you hit the "join now" button, it takes you to a page that promises you access to a database and freebies so that you can earn $100,000 a year! Scroll further down and the owner of the site promises you tools that could net you up to $1 million a year!
  • Littered throughout the site are "work at home" and "home based business opportunities." Craig's List doesn't even allow these types of listings on their site for heaven sakes.
  • Once a member, this appears to be one of those bidding sites, which force writers to bid ridiculously low on press releases, etc. to earn the job.

Freelancing isn't a get rich quick scheme. I know some very reputable writers that make 6 figures and none of them belong to this site. It's like any profession. They got where they are from hard work, talent and business skills. Sure, you can go to work for term paper mill companies or join a bidding site and get work for $25 a project, but that doesn't make you rich and does nothing to pad your writing resume.

If you want to become a freelance writer, invest the time and money it takes to attend conferences, take classes, join networking organizations and learn how to set up a business that will stand the test of time.

A couple of great resources are the ASJA Guide to Freelancing, The Renegade Writer and Query Letters That Rock! For new freelancers, the Writer's Market has some great tips and market guides. Look for classes through your community college or online (although beware of classes that promise you a $100,000 salary!) and start reading writing magazines such as The Writer, Writer's Digest and others. Find a writers group, either in person or online, preferably one facilitated by a professional writer who can give knowledgable critique. And start hanging out with writers at conferences and in writing communities. Join organizations that specialize in your genre - there's the Society of Professional Journalists for non-fiction writers and there's organizations for environmental writers, science writers, and organizations for genres in fiction.

Learn the art, learn the ethics of the profession and work hard.

Most importantly, don't ever think you can get rich quick doing this. Write everyday and one day, you might wake up and find that you can actually make a living at this.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It's My Own Star

Here's what Judith Stock loves about being a freelance writer:

"I don't have to hitch my star to someone else's dream. If I'm successful it's because of my hard work and its my dream. I spent most of my career trying to fit into someone else's ideas of how the world worked. Until I finally allowed myself to be who I am and be the writer I was meant to be. I really disliked attending time-wasting meetings and doing the rah, rah team bit, with all the time wasting features that most jobs have attached to them. It just wasn't comfortable.For me, the freelance writer life is perfect, its how my mind works. Lots of ideas floating around, juggling several balls in the air, many different projects in a day. It keeps me interested, I'm always learning something new and interviewing people who also love their career. Who wouldn't want to be a freelance writer."

Judith Stock writes on green living, design and the environment.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Be a Guide wouldn't work for every writer. But those I've heard from that write for them really enjoy it. The gig would be especially helpful if you are trying to build a platform in a narrow subject. Warning though, the application process is very long and takes quite a bit of time. Here's one ad, but they routinely have a number of guide jobs available. Seeks Part-Time Health Writers - Contract (Comp: $725/month to start, additional payments based on page views) (telecommute): Our Guides are doctors or nurses with direct clinical experience in their topic, and we encourage people with direct clinical or research experience to apply. To submit an application, learn more about or see our full list of available topics, please visit

Monday, June 04, 2007

This Author Hits Curveball Out of the Park

Today, I interviewed Liz Holzemer, author of "Curveball: When Life Throws You a Brain Tumor." Liz's humorous and thoughtful account of surviving a brain tumor is a lesson in life for all of us. As writers, she shows us how to write about a personal challenge with wit and wisdom and in this interview, tells how she built a platform and whether her husband's 'celebrity' as a former major league baseball player has helped her book:

Tell us about yourself.
I’m a freelance writer, mother of two miracle children, former baseball wife, and Southern California transplant who has called Colorado home for 14 years now. After surgery I let go of my Type-A personality. I love spontaneity and my favorite possessions are my Passport and well worn digital camera. Did I mention I also have a wacky sense of humor to boot?!

Tell us about your book.
Curveball: When Life Throws You a Brain Tumor is a candid account of my brain tumor journey. It’s a screwball mix of everything—humor, agony, triumph as well as a one-stop shopping resource guide.

How difficult was it to make the decision to write about such a personal experience?
It was a no brainer! I’d always written about other people’s stories, especially those with health challenges or illnesses so I felt I knew the right questions to ask of myself. A year after my surgery I wrote the Cliff Notes version of my story, entitled Second Chance I was shocked when it was turned down by every major women’s magazine considering the type of tumor I had—meningioma—predominantly affects women. I finally convinced one of the local papers in Denver to publish it. I promised myself if I emerged from those double OR doors alive, I would share my story in an effort to raise awareness of this under funded and neglected devastating disease.

You were told at one point that you may never write again. Did this negative comment make you more resolved and did it factor into your decision to write the book?
Writing is who I am and to struggle the way I did with words after surgery truly frightened me. I liken it to telling an artist he or she could never create another drawing or painting. Nearly 15 years ago I made a New Year’s resolution that I would write a book before my 40th birthday. I feel fortunate that not only did I finally fulfill this resolution, but saw it in print before my self-imposed deadline. I always knew I wanted to write a book, I just never thought it would be a brain tumor that would lead to my first book.

You also have a website dedicated to supporting people diagnosed with brain tumors. Did this come before the book idea and if so, did it help you establish your expertise in the eyes of your publisher?
It wasn’t until after my daughter’s 1st birthday that I realized I had yet to process and digest the emotional impact of my brain tumor diagnosis, surgeries and recoveries. That’s when I knew I truly needed support and decided to establish my non-profit, Meningioma Mommas ( with its unique 24/7 online support group.
Of course having my foundation certainly played a role in convincing my publishers to take me on, but I was also fortunate to score quite a few major publicity appearances including the Today Show, Discovery Health Channel, not to mention being honored for my work by Woman’s Day and the Tim Gullikson Foundation. All this most definitely helped in regards to building that authors’ platform publishers are after.

How did you find your agent/publisher?
I queried agent after agent until I had several bites and was asked to send my proposal. From that the field of competition became increasingly narrowed. I signed with an agent who was initially very enthusiastic, but after a year’s time we amicably split after she said she couldn’t find a house with enough interest in my book. I knew the odds were stacked against me and I was about to go down the self-publishing route when a close friend encouraged me to query publishers directly. Thankfully I did and found one in my own backyard. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Your husband is a professional baseball player. Do you feel that being connected to a "celebrity" assisted you in getting your message out?
Actually my husband had retired years before I began writing Curveball. I certainly think the irony of being diagnosed with a baseball-sized meningioma brain tumor has helped to some degree. I have yet to come across another pitcher’s wife with a baseball sized tumor. However, in the grand scheme of professional athlete celebrity status, I have no doubt if I was married to a Derek Jeter or a Barry Bonds, I would have landed on Oprah by now.

How did humor play a role in your recovery and eventually find its way into your book?
Humor plays an integral role of my genetic makeup. There’s no way around it! I’ve always prided myself on having a great sense of humor and there’s no denying it became even more evident when my team of neurosurgeons tightened up the quirky bolts.
Making yourself the object of a joke or a good rib definitely opens up the door. It’s why I’ve included a Tumor Humor section on Meningioma Mommas. Upon first hearing I’m a brain tumor survivor, a typical reaction is one of seriousness and unease. As soon as I crack the first joke, the guard is instantly let down and that’s when the real dialogue begins. Humor is not only an ice breaker, but a reminder that sometimes you have no choice but to laugh. Judging by the feedback I’ve received so far, I think I’ve achieved that fine balance between a serious subject and using humor as a coping tool.

Tell us what is the most challenging aspect of writing about such a serious illness. It’s also a fine balance between sharing my story without scaring the living daylights out of someone at the same time. However, I knew I had to tell my story. Not only was it cathartic to put those feelings on paper, I feel it’s my responsibility to touch at least one life in a hopefully positive manner

What do you want your readers to take away from your book?
To soften the shock for anyone diagnosed with any type of brain tumor and to provide hope and practical advice. Curveball also delivers the message that you have to be your own advocate because no one else will go to bat for you. We have to trust that inner voice each of us possesses. It’s a lesson anyone can grasp and apply to his or her life regardless of the situation.

What's next for you?
I hope to celebrate my “second chance” anniversary for a long, long time. I’m a seven year survivor and I hope I never fall into that high meningioma reoccurrence rate of 15-20 percent. I have a yearly MRI to monitor a suspicious area that is either residual tumor or scar tissue. I also battle with epilepsy and constant fatigue, which isn’t always easy to manage with two young energetic children.
Launching my one-woman brain tumor shtick. I’m still on a mission to become the face of meningioma. My ultimate goal is to bring meningioma awareness to the forefront in the same vein that Michael J. Fox has done for Parkinson’s and Christopher Reeves did for spinal cord research. I’ve also made a life time commitment to raise funding for meningioma specific research. So far my organization has raised $25,000 toward my $1 milion goal. I’m donating a percentage of every sale of my book to research as well.
Writing wise, I’d like to publish my collection of life essays deeply embedded with my trademark sense of humor. And then of course, I’m still waiting for Oprah or Ellen to call!

Editor's Note: Liz's website is at:

Friday, June 01, 2007

There's no Mold Growing on This Book

Today, I interviewed Lucy Kavaler, author of “Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles, The Strange Realm of Fungi,” a book recently re-released. Lucy tells us how she was almost turned on by those other kinds of mushrooms and then turned the subjects of mold and fungi into a book so popular that publishers keep reprinting it.

Tell us about yourself
I have been a professional writer since the age of 6 when my mother sent a poem I had composed to a children’s magazine; it was published and I received $1. I’ve been writing ever since. In school, I was often in conflict with English teachers who insisted that I write what I know about. I objected. What I knew was so much less interesting than what I imagined. And that has guided my writing ever since. I have two children, and when the first was born, started free-lancing from home. I was able to use my imagination (and sometimes experience) in creating dramatic stories for true confessions and true romances magazines. However, you write in the first person and get no by-lines, so I realized I must move on.
I met the editor of the Sunday magazine section of a newspaper at a party and began writing non-fiction articles for him. That’s how I was “discovered” by a book publisher who read a series of articles on high society and asked me to expand them into a book. That was the start, and I’ve had 17 books published, among them the biography, “TheAstors, A Family Chronicle of Pomp and Power.” After writing 15 non-fiction books, I turned to fiction with “The Secret Lives of the Edmonts” about the lives of the fabulously wealthy in 1895 New York, and “Heroes and Lovers, An Antarctic Obsession,.” about an all-women’s expedition racing for the South Pole in the golden age of exploration.These three books are also in print and available on, and other on-line booksellers. I’m currently working on my third novel, “In the Company of Evil,” set in the turbulent, corrupt mid-19th century.
I enjoy writing my books, but sometimes the solitary nature of the work gets me down, and I’ve taken part-time jobs as a writer/ editor for magazines in the health field and a non-profit organization. I’m also a human rights activist and try to get writers who have been imprisoned for dissident views released or provided with medical care. I’m currently working on behalf of two writers in China and two in Uzbekistan.

Tell us about your book
The book reveals the little-known kingdom of fungi in all its wonder. It demonstrates this kingdom’s tremendous range from the beginnings of life on earth to the 8,000-year history of beer to the mold that changed medical history to pigs trained to find the prized truffle. The book is not merely about fungi but tells the stories of the unusual people who made the discoveries that changed our world. Everyone of us is affected by fungi, sometimes for good, sometimes for ill.

This book is a back in print book. Tell us when it was first published.
“Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles, The Strange Realm of Fungi,” was first published by John Day, a small publisher known for its unusual list of book. It no longer exists by that name, having been bought up by a series of publishers, most recently Harper Collins. (I went from one publisher to the next.) The book was also published as a Signet (New American Library) mass market paperback. It was published in England, with “Molds” spelled “Moulds.” The book was in print for many years, and even afterwards, people kept discovering it in libraries and getting in touch with me. A Cornell professor based an entire course on the book. Amazon was still getting 5-star ratings for orders. And so I turned to the Authors Guild which has created a Backinprint series.

How did you come to be so engaged by fungi?
My fascination with fungi began when I was invited to join a group of writers going to Mexico to partake of the hallucinogenic mushroom and write while under the influence.
I didn’t go – fortunately, because the Mexican authorities threw everyone in jail. Soon I began to find fungi in whatever I read or heard. I saw the vastness of the topic, the wonder of it all and how fungi affected all humans, plants, animals and microbes. No one else had seen fungi in this way, and I felt compelled to present my vision.

How did you convince a publisher that a book on what could be dry material could be successful? Was it the book proposal or the entire manuscript that sold it?
I wasn’t able to convince a publisher that a book on fungi could be successful, but it did sell on the proposal. John Day offered a minimal advance and there was to be a small print order and no publicity. I felt the book had to be written, and went forward. When the bound galleys went to the book reviewers, everything changed. John Day was inundated with phone calls. “Time” magazine sent a photographer to the house and gave it a lead review. The print order was increased, a publicist put on it, a book party and tour scheduled. So you can see why “Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles” has always been close to my heart.

What is the most fascinating fact you have in the book?
I find everything about fungi fascinating, but if I must choose, it is the part fungi played in the origin of life. Were it not for fungi, life on earth would have died out billions of years ago. The process of decay allowed new forms of life to develop and by providing carbon dioxide, made it possible for plant life and ultimately humans to emerge.

How did you turn dry research and interviews with scientists who can be dry and use complex terms into a readable manuscript?
The research was never dry. I did as much first-hand research in person or by phone as possible. I toured a brewery and a winery, spoke with mushroom hunters, interviewed the Harvard professor who encouraged use of LSD, originally fungal. The book gave me the opportunity to speak with Nobel Prize winners and scientists of stature whom I could never otherwise have met. And I have found that people love to be interviewed, to have someone listening to them with rapt attention, and that something interesting can be learned from the person who seems dull at first. I also believe that no topic is dry if you know enough about it so as to be able to find the human element. For instance, my book, “A Matter of Degree” is about the effects of high temperatures on living things. That might seem dull, but I opened with a chapter entitled “Of Murder, Riot and the Heat of Passion.” “Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles” begins with a wheat rust that contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire.

Do you think publishers still take chances on manuscripts they think might have little commercial success? In other words, do you think your book would still be published today?
Of course, no one wants to publish a book that is expected to fail. But I think that publishers today would be less likely to think a book with a highly original concept
would be unsuccessful. I am told that publishers are now looking for books with an “edge,” something different that can be promoted. And so, I think it would be easier to sell my book on fungi today.

What advice would you give writers who’ve been rejected because publishers don’t think the subject will sell?
I suggest “repackaging.” By this I mean, give it a new title that sounds enticing, stress the groups of readers who would be likely to buy the book. Open the proposal with an anecdote or quote. And above all, don’t get discouraged too soon. A manuscript may be rejected time and again, and then one publisher buys it and the rest is history. I’ve been told by best-selling authors that they had 25 or more turndowns before success.

Tell us about your best writing time or tell us about some quirky writing habit you’ve developed and how you came about doing it?
When I was first married, we lived pretty far uptown in New York and on summer days, I would take a sandwich, a drink and a notebook and pen and walk across the George Washington Bridge. Then I would walk along the Palisades until I found a place with a particularly beautiful view. That’s where I would stay, writing whatever book was in the works until late afternoon when I would walk back across the Bridge and home to greet my husband. As I remember those days, the sun was always shining, the trees green, the flowers in bloom and the river gleaming in the reflected light. I’ve written in whatever place I’ve found myself – at a desk in the corner of the bedroom with my children vieing for my attention – and it’s been good. But I most like to remember those days on the Palisades when everything seemed possible.