Friday, November 30, 2007

Ah, Life in the Country

The day started swell yesterday. The sun was out and although it was cold, it was still a beautiful morning for a walk with the dogs.
I have the two smaller ones on a leash - Molly and Dakota are small enough that a large predator bird such as a turkey vulture or even a hawk could swoop them up before I could get to them, so they cannot run with the big dogs.
Now that the leaves have fallen and most of the foilage is gone, the big dogs have taken to separating from us. The road doesn't seem to offer the allure for Emma and Sadie that it did when we first arrived and they tear through the woods, usually catching up with us later.
Emma and Sadie had already disappeared when me, Molly and Dakota made our way up the winding driveway.
I whistled for the big dogs to come back and smiled at the realization that a bird was whistling to me in return. I stood and listened to him for a few minutes.
That's what I loved about the freelance life yesterday morning. I couldn't have experienced that having to time in on TACT at 7 a.m. in my corporate cube - I couldn't even have been living here then.
I wasn't as productive as I had hoped during the day, so as we embarked on our late afternoon 1 mile trek, I told Emma and Sadie to stay close so I could come home and work a little more.
Yeah, right.
We neared the area we call "the ruins," so called for the ruins of a house that sits on the property. Well, actually, its the concrete foundation with just a few char-scarred trees from the fire that claimed the house nearby. The only thing really still standing is a lonely chimney and a few small trees that are now growing from its center.
Emma and Sadie were gone.
The little dogs and I made our way along the leaf covered path - this is an area very deep in the woods now along the point, surrounded by Bull Shoals Lake on both sides.
It's a beautiful walk, perhaps the prettiest part of our afternoon hike, but I don't like being in there when it's getting dark. The cannopied trees remind me too much of scenes from Sleepy Hallow - I can imagine a headless horseman galloping toward us on his dark horse...
So we waited awhile for Emma and Sadie and my aunt's dog who always accompanies us on these late day walks.
But the sun was starting to set. I called to them a few more times as we made our way toward home.
Once there, I tured the Christmas lights on and waited. It grew darker and I grew more worried.
Bears, coyotes, bob cats, mountain lions and poachers - along with their steel jawed traps are along the rocky shorelines at night.
Sadie, the pitbull, could fight most of those attackers off, but Emma is growing long in the tooth and isn't as agile as she was when she first came to us.
I had planned on writing at least one article upon returning home, but I was too worried, so I distracted myself with computer pinball (more on that on Monday).
I heard a thud on the deck and I bounded for the door, hoping both of my dogs would be there, but Sadie was alone, her white face covered in something elses blood.
I wiped her off and recovered from the disgust just as my husband arrived home.
Still panicked by the blood, I grabbed my coat and told him we were driving toward the point to see if we could see Emma.
Just as we pulled the truck from the drive, here she came, trotting proudly with something in her mouth.
"Oh, gross. What is it, a squirrel?" I asked my husband.
"Looks like a skull," he said.
Yep. A deer head, minus the antlers someone had sawed off. The dogs probably found the remains and had a great time with the carcass.
Both walks reminded me that we're not in the Kansas suburbs anymore, Toto.
But I hope to have more experiences like the one yesterday morning as opposed to the one of last night.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Essays Wanted

Call for Stories"For Adams Media's new Hero series, we seek fifty 850-1200 word truestories no later than DECEMBER 15, 2007. We pay $100 per story (oneper volume), plus a copy of the book, and we will also award threeprizes $100, $75, and $50 for the top three stories—and a free copy ofthe published book. A summary of what we want, formattingrequirements, and story tips follows. Please follow them carefully.Also, please click on and carefully review allthe text under: "Hero Series Guidelines" where sample stories areavailable.My Mom Is My HeroBeing a mother often proves the most difficult, and the mostimportant, job in the world; one that includes conflict but alsobrings rich—albeit often unspoken—rewards. In this anthology, we seekto honor real-life mothers and, therefore, want inspiring, true,personal stories that speak to the challenges, ultimately positiveexperiences, and extraordinary relationships between mothers and theirchildren (mothers of all ages, i.e., grandmothers count). Also a womanwho served as a mother figure, who played a significant role, or whoperformed a heroic deed may also be honored. Heroic deeds range fromrescuing a child from physical peril to holding down a steady job andraising children with exceptional values or work ethics. As we willprint very few stories focused on illness or dying, we encourageauthors to choose another time that illustrates your mother's uniquecharacter, drive, strength, dedication, tenderness, generosity,intelligence, humor, etc. Bring your mother to life on the page andshow the world why she is worthy of accolades.SUBMISSION DEADLINE: DECEMBER 15, 2007Please e-mail entries to as a separateWord attachment. If you don't have Word available, embed the copy inyour e-mail message (Times New Roman, no special formatting, please).BASICS: 850-1200 WORDS, tightly written, focused, true, upliftingFormatting Requirements:Send all stories as a separate WORD document. If you don't have Word,embed the story into the body of the e-mail.Single-space all contact info (name, address, phone, e-mail) at thetop left of the document.No headers or footers; No page numbers.Use 12 pt. Times New Roman; single or 1.5 spacing.Make Paragraphs flush left with one extra space between them. No indentations.Only use ONE space after a period.Do not put titles in all CAPS; Do not include byline.Do not put "The End" or anything else at the end.At the bottom of your document, please provide a tightly focusedthree-sentence bio. Bios may include selected writing credits, butlimit self-promotion to mention of a website. Humor is good. Link itto the story if relevant.Story Tips:Story must be true and uplifting. We are honoring mothers.Tell a story—utilizing classic story structure, i.e., beginning/middle/endIf you write an essay or profile, they must include dynamic characterizationKeep the focus on your mother/mother-figure; she's the heroine of the story!Use description, characterization, action, and dialogue to bring yourmother to life on the pageFocus on a momentous event that illustrates your mother's heroic characterSHOW us why your mother is/was unique, exceptional, colorful, dramatic, heroicCut right to the chase, open with a scene; do not open with "My mom ismy hero because…."Come up with a snappy, evocative title; avoid "My Mom, My Hero," etc.Avoid death and illness stories (we'll get way too many)Strive for unique, fascinating, entertaining, distinctive talesMake all the characters in the story dimensional, memorablePlease use active voice and strong verbs. Avoid "It was" and "Therewas" sentences.Use potent, succinct modifiers.
Employ a strong voice
Humor is WELCOME

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New York Post Seeking Freelance Videographer

I'm posting this for my friends and readers in New York who might be interested, but I'm also posting this because I think more and more, freelancers will be asked to do these types of jobs. Last year, I was asked to record part of an event on a digital recorder so the publication could post it online. I went and bought the digital recorder, got one of my younger, and more hip journalist friends to give me instruction on how to download it. Turns out, my client decided only to use my digital photos. I still don't use my digital recorder that much and at this point, would probably need to find the manual again to refresh my memory. Have any of you been asked to use video or audio for an assignment?

Job Listing:
Description:A major online news organization is searching for a talented video journalist who can produce, shoot and edit video packages.
Applicants must have good story sensibility. Candidates must also have strong proficiency with Final Cut Pro, HD/DV video cameras, standard subject lighting and use of audio kits.
Video journalists will cover given assignments that include features, hard news, sports, business, entertainment and real-estate reports. Some assignments will require fast turnaround and availability at a whim’s notice. Candidate may also work as a team with print reporter to produce packages. Videographers will be responsible for shooting onsite interviews, b-roll footage and editing material into a story package. Occasional interviews and field producing will also be required. Some qualified video journalists will have the opportunity to write scripts and conduct Voiceovers. The video journalists will work closely with and report to the Online Video Editors throughout the duration of the project.
To be considered for this position, applicants must submit video reels or samples of their work. Shooting and editing skills are crucial. A minimum of 3-5 years of related television experience is a must. Ownership of HD/miniDV camera, editing equipment and on air experience is also a plus, but not required.
To apply for the freelance position, please email resume and links to clips to

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

So Long, Bob

Although I no longer reside in Kansas City, I still consider it my home town. Today, I'm sad to report that the writing community has lost one of its own.
Robert "Bob" Iles was a talented writer and will be missed. For those of you interested, his obit:

Oscar's Diaries

Today, I interview Marijke Durning about her new book, "Oscar's Diaries," written by her late rescue greyhound, Oscar - at least in his voice. Marijke talks about how this book came about - and how to pronounce her name!

Tell us about yourself.
I'm 46 years old and Montreal born and bred. I do speak French, but I don't write in it as that is really not a strong point. I would pity any editor who would have to try to figure out what I was trying to say. I still live here with my husband and three kids (16, 18, and 20). I always loved to write; when I was in high school, I prayed for essay exams instead of multiple choice. If I didn't really know the answer, I could often craft a response that was good enough to get me partial marks at least. I never had enough confidence to go into writing as a profession though. I studied nursing and worked as an RN for many years before I started writing. I began writing again because I enjoyed it and then realized that I could earn a living by combining my RN experience and my writing ability.

Tell us how to pronounce your name!
Ah, the question many want to ask but don't. I ended up putting the pronunciation on my website because I was afraid that some potential clients may be concerned about pronouncing my name. It turned out to be a good call; I was hired by a client who called because I did that. Marijke is a Dutch name. Phonetically, my name is said muh-rye´-kah/keh. If you can roll the "r", all the better. I often tell people to think about Mariah Carey and put a K in Mariah.

Tell us about your book, Oscar's Diaries.
Oscar's Diaries is the first in a series of books about a retired racing greyhound, Oscar. He raced as Answer to Chevy but only ran four races before his owner realized that he wasn't going to be a champion and was made available for adoption when he was younger than two years old.
Before we adopted Oscar, I researched the breed as thoroughly as possible. Greyhounds make amazing pets but they can have a few issues, as most breeds do. To do this research, I participated on a greyhound forum ( and read as much as I could. The posters are very passionate about the greyhounds finding their forever homes after racing and they love to hear all about how they come home and adapt. They also love photos.
So, when we brought Oscar home, I began writing a daily diary – only intending it to be a short-term thing. I took many photos and wrote up his daily activities, posting them on the site. I never imagined they would become as popular as they did. The response blew me away, to tell you the truth.
If I missed doing a few days, I would get emails asking if Oscar was ok. Not asking if I was ok, but if Oscar was! The entries did eventually slow down and they were being done every week or two after a while. This first volume is about 100 pages and covers Oscar's first month of discovering the world beyond the kennel.
Another interesting outcome of the diary was the introduction of Oscar's pal, the Incredible Hulk. A couple of weeks after Oscar came to us, I bought a 3 ft tall Incredible Hulk from a garage sale. Oscar and the Hulk developed quite the relationship. There are many story lines with Oscar and his buddy. The Hulk is something many of his readers refer to often.

What gave you the idea to write a book in Oscar's voice?
This is going to sound odd, but it just seemed like the right thing to do. Since it began as a daily journal type of thing, it didn't seem as if it would be as much fun if I reported Oscar's progress from my point of view. I think this blends a bit into the next question too.

You're a medical writer, explain the challenges about switching from that specialty to doing a book such as Oscar's Diaries.
Being a medical writer, my writing is very specific. I was afraid that if I wrote in my voice, I could become to formulaic, too "this is the story as Marijke tells it," keeping in mind grade level, grammar, etc.
I wanted Oscar's Diaries to be fun, something that people could read and chuckle, and I imagined how it would be said by someone who was experiencing all these things in life for the first time.
Ultimately, it has come to full circle though and my medical side had to kick in. Oscar died of cancer on August 13th, one week after the book was published and 10 days before his fifth birthday. For this reason, I have promised a minimum of 10% of the book's profits to be donated to osteosarcoma research that is taking place at the University of Ohio.
There's another interesting part to the circle. Two people I know have bought the book for an elderly relative with dementia. One has reported back that her grandmother adores the book and laughs at Oscar every time she goes through the book. It's easy to read and needs no ability to follow a story. Who would have thought that one day, the very type of person I often looked after as a nurse would enjoy my writing?

What were the similarities in the process?
I can't think of any similarities other than the need for being creative and getting your information across in a manner that makes someone want to continue reading what you wrote.
I found writing Oscar's Diaries a great break from my every day writing. In some ways, I had to think harder while writing about Oscar than I do about other kinds of writing. Medical writing is based in research, so what I write, I back up and find sources. When writing about Oscar, I had to decide if what I was writing about was entertaining or interesting enough for the audience.
I was afraid of bombing and that the whole idea was silly. That rarely happens when I write something fact-based and educational.

How did the writing process for this book work for you? How did you split your time between the medical writing and book writing?

The book is very photo intensive and, for the most part, it was the photos that sparked the stories. My kids like to say that we have more pictures of Oscar than we do of the three of them all together. They're likely quite right!
The digital camera was always available and the kids did get into it too. They would see Oscar doing something or lying in a strange pose, and they would snap photos. I would upload the photos and then craft a story around them. Sometimes the story would be obvious, such as going for a ride in the van, other times they just happened.
Writing the book was something that I would just do when I felt like it or I felt it had been too long since I'd written last. It was mostly first thing in the morning or late at night. There were, though, many times when I would just want a break from writing something technical and I'd pull up the file and write an Oscar story.

What types of books do you like to read?
It really varies, depending on the mood I'm in. The most recent book I read that I really enjoyed was the Birth House by Ami MacKay, a Canadian author. I read a lot of books on my Palm Pilot. Since I got that a few years ago, I read many more books than I had in the previous years because I always have my Palm in my purse so I always have a book with me. Right now, I'm reading one of James Patterson's Murder Club books. Last year, I read books from the life of Harriet Tubman (Catherine Clinton) to October Sky (Homer H. Hickam).

What is one quirky writing habit that no one knows about you (yet?)
I rarely work on something for more than 15 minutes at a time. I have to have a computer game on that I can go back an forth (like scrabble), and multiple windows are open for reading various forums. I have the attention span of a gnat. I get up and down from my chair so often that it's a blessing that I work at home and can't drive my coworkers bananas.

Where can people find your book? And, what's next for you?
Oscar's Diaries, Life as a Retired Greyhound is available at I give a discount to Greyhound adoption groups so they can raise some money as well, but they need to contact me directly to arrange that.
I do plan on putting together more versions of Oscar's Diaries but there's no rush. In my professional writing, I'm trying to expand a bit beyond the health writing. I have an article appearing in a quilting magazine in the early new year; it's a profile on an award-winning Mohawk quilter. I'm very excited about that one.
I'm also very passionate about the need for palliative care so I've started a website; I'm dedicating a lot of time to that. I may be able to take that in some direction with writing. I have a lot of ideas; I just have to put them into action.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm Thankful...

that I made it through the first major holiday without my mother.

Seriously, that was a tough one.

I do a gratitude list every morning, coming up with 10 things I am thankful for in my life. They could be major things, like being thankful for good results on a test at the doctors; routine things such as a safe journey for my husband to get to work or small things such as a warm cup of coffee. Some days are more challenging than others and ironically, Thanksgiving was one of those days. Anyone who has lost a close family member or friend knows what I mean. It's hard to be thankful when you only think of what you've lost.
I laid awake Wednesday night thinking of all the things my mom would be doing if she were preparing the meal - and I awoke to the same thoughts the next morning. I thought of all of her recipes - her special cranberry salad (the only way I'll eat them), and her homemade pumpkin pie.
I wished I had her cranberry salad recipe at the ready, but if it exists anywhere but in my memories now, it is still in storage somewhere. I never learned to make her special pie crust. Too busy forging my way in my 20's and most of my 30's, Mom was too weak and frail to even roll it out by the time I showed an interest in learning.
I got my crying done early on Thursday and then I made my mom's lovely whippend sweet potato recipe - the one that turned my husband from a hater of the orange spud to a lover of it.
We then went on to our new tradition of having dinner with my aunt and uncle and some of our neighbors here on the lake.
Perhaps I had a little too much wine, but I realized mid-way through dinner that most of us here were trying to get away from something - the traffic and noise of the city; or the hub-bub and expectations of being with blood relatives.
I realized we were here too, trying to escape the loss we suffered this year, trying to create new memories with refugees who are similar to us. To be with kindred spirits of sorts is something in itself to be thankful for.
And as the dinner went on, and my aunt toasted her "sis," my mom, I realized the old memories aren't bad either. As my writing buddy said, my memories of my mom's heritage recipes will make a great essay to write and sell for next year - and having ideas is always something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More to be Thankful For....

That we're not working for either one of these jokers:

Can You Write Bios for My Company? looking for 1-2 writers to write Bio's for entertainment clients press/media kits and myspace pages! You will be paid $50.00 and given credit anywhere bio is reporoduced, and asked to help out with more projects including Press release and more !

So, wow! If I work for peanuts producing bios for your clients, I can actually move up to press releases and "more.!?" Do these jokers not realize that corporate writing starts at a minimum of $50 PER HOUR and many freelancers command $100 an hour and "more?!"

And this person has to be joking, there's many funny people out there.

Freelance Researcher/Writer - Contract (Comp: $400/manuscript (around 2500 words), the more manuscripts the more compensation) I am a clinical researcher at a local academic institute. I plan to carry out several clinical researches and write up manuscripts for publication in journals, more than my own capacity. Hence, I am looking for someone who writes, edits, and compiles clinical research protocols, study reports under my direction. Requirements: Minimum 3 clinical or health related research papers published, in which the applicant wrote part of the study protocols, clinical study reports, informed consents. Also requires a Bachelor's degree in English (or related discipline) or Physical/ biological/ health science.

Why in the world with someone with these qualifications and education even consider working for a little over .15 cents a word - while not even getting their own byline?

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. I truly feel I have much to be thankful for. I will be taking the rest of the week off, so I hope to have you back next Monday!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Today, I interview Lawrence and Suella Walsh about their new book, "The Last O'Neil," a break away adult novel from their usual Young Adult format.
If you're part of the writing scene in Kansas City, you know this couple as they've helped many newbie writers get their start. About 2 years into my career, I felt I needed a boost to help inspire me to break out of my writing rut. I took the their beginning writing course through the Kansas City Writers Group and as a result, I came up with my only published poem, "The Dead of Winter." They are good writers, teachers and good people. If you have someone on your holiday list who is a mystery fanatic, buy this book - or buy it for yourself!

Tell us about yourselves.
We are freelance writer, writing teachers, consulting editors and publishers. We are frequent contributors to Writers' Journal Magazine. Lawrence is a former chemist who wrote technical procedures for Bayer Corporation, and Suella is a former elementary school teacher. We are both full-time writers now. We have ten published books and more than 70 articles and short stories published in national magazines. We teach writing classes at Johnson County Community College, Maple Woods College, the New Writers Class for the Kansas City Writers Group, and writing workshops for Mid-Continent Libraries. This year we presented at the Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference (our 13th conference as presenters) in Oklahoma City, and we were nominated for the Pinnacle Award for Excellence in the Arts. We are the founding editors of Kansas City Voices Magazine. We are life-long Missourians. Suella's family has lived in Excelsior Springs since before it was a town—1819. Lawrence grew up in Kansas City. We raised our two daughters in Excelsior Springs, and now live with our two dogs, Molly and Cassie. We have four grandchildren.

Tell us about your new book, The Last O'Neil.
The Last O'Neil is the first in a series of mystery novels. Our amateur sleuth, Shannon O'Neil, at age twenty-three returns to Green Valley in wine country, Missouri, for the funeral of her Aunt Agatha. Shannon is Agatha's only heir, which makes her also the heir to the evil that surrounds the ancestral home. The roots of this evil are hidden in the family genealogy, but another mystery also lies within the family lineage. One leads to Agatha's murderer; the other will change Shannon's life forever.
In the second book in the series, Shannon will be solving crimes in Kansas City.
Our publisher has done a print run, not print-on-demand, and the book is available from bookstores through the distributor, Baker and Taylor, and from

Many of your previous books have been young adult mystery, did you know when you began the writing process for this one that you had an adult novel?
Our previous novels have been for children, ages 8-12. With The Last O'Neil, we started with the idea that it would be an adult novel, that we would be going a new direction.

How is writing an adult novel different from Y.A?
Writing an adult novel is quite different from writing a novel for children. The voice must be that of an adult. The plots and characters are much more complicated. The plot problem must be important to the character, so of course the plot problem will be vastly different in the two genres. Even the length of the sentences and paragraphs change.

Tell us how the collaborative process works for you. Not many people could work day in, day out, with their spouses.
In our collaborative process, we start by brainstorming plot ideas with the idea of coming up with the whole concept of the plot. Then we narrow it down. What is in chapter 1, chapter 2. etc.? Then what is in each scene—what moves the story in each scene? Once we have the gem in each scene, we start writing. It doesn't matter who writes what part, because after we have passed it back and forth for revisions, it all starts to blend to one voice. Often, the creative process will take us off track from the original idea. We willingly let that happen, because we know that will make a better novel.

How did you two meet? Did you realize then that you were both destined for the same career?
We met in college. At that time we each pursued different careers—Suella as school teacher, Lawrence as chemist. When our children were in high school, we both decided to return to our first love, which was writing.

You've been on both the traditional and self publishing route, explain to our readers how the process differs and which one you prefer.
Our children's publisher, Royal Fireworks, just expects us to write the novels, and they have bought five novels from us. They do everything else, including sending sales reps to school districts to sell the books. We don't have to promote the books in any way.
The publisher of The Last O'Neil, Goldminds Publishing, does want us to do some readings and signings to promote the books, but the majority of the work is done by the publisher, and they have the contacts to get it into bookstore though a distributor. We do not.
We have sold more than 30 articles on how to write to national magazines. For our classes, it became necessary for us to put them together in a textbook for our classes, but for that we already have our buyers—our students.
All of these experiences have gone well for us.

What happens if one of you is really into a story and the other seems to be off the mark - or has this happened?
We don't start a novel unless both of us are excited about writing it. A novel is a lot of work, so writers need a passion for the idea to see it through.

What is a quirky writing habit that you each have that no one knows about you (yet?)
Suella writes with pencil on paper. That's how the creativity came when she was ten and that's how it comes now. She keeps note pads beside her bed for any quality ideas that come during the night.
Lawrence gets his ideas while sitting on the patio. The great outdoors inspires him. He writes on note cards, then transfers it to the computer.

Where can people find your book and what's next for you?
The Last O'Neil can be ordered from bookstores or through ISBN: 978-1-930584-06-8. Price: $15.95. Distributor: Baker and Taylor. Our website is

Monday, November 19, 2007

Working Ahead

A couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of why I should always be working ahead - because you don't know what the next day will bring. That was a costly lesson. I had to turn down a potentially $1,000 assignment because I was so behind.
On Saturday, I took advantage of the hubby putting in some overtime and put in some of my own, getting me at least within 1 article of being caught up.
Good thing. Some neighbors are coming by this evening to help us crunch numbers on the new garage construction.
I really need to clean my house and now I won't feel frantic taking a half day off from writing and doing it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Plans are Meant to be Broken

Last year, I waited until January to start doing my 2007 business plan - and just as I got back from our winter holiday, all hell broke loose in my life. By the time I sat back down to my desk full time in March, my whole life had changed and I didn't feel like making any plans.
This year, I resolved to get my business plan done early. So, although I had deadlines looming this week, I went to work on it the day before yesterday. I outlined a new focus, something that will once again spark my writing passion and outlined a rough draft of my marketing plan.
That gave me enough energy to sit down yesterday morning, resolving to finish my current projects so I could get back to planning my future ones.
But what have I said many times here?
Best laid plans.
My last return call of the afternoon was to someone who I might work with on a long term project for at least the first half of 2008. I then spent the evening doing an outline of the project for him and his employers.
And no, that wasn't in my business plan.
Love it or leave it, that's the writing business. One day you're in a drought; the next your flooded with work. And one day you're planning your future and the next, something better happens along.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Everyday is a Learning Experience

I had a pleasant surprise yesterday. I did an interview I had already decided was going to be dry and boring, but it turned out to be a real educational experience - and a fun interview.
That's what I love about the freelance life today - if you keep your options open, you learn something new everyday.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pass This Along to Your Mechanic

When we tell people we're writers, everyone from our hairdressers to the plumbers and mechanics have said, "Oh, I've always thought about writing a book." Well, today, your mechanic can become a writer. If he has knowledge in BMW repair, pass this along:

BMW Auto Repair and Technology Ghostwriter (Comp: $300-$500/story, upon publication, net 30, via 1099) (telecommute) : current or former BMW technicians / devotees / experts to DRAFT technical stories for national BMW service publication. You don't have to be a great writer, just a Bimmer know-it-all. Topics will be provided. You will DRAFT 1200-1500 word stories on topics such as Diagnosing CAN bus problems BMW clutch repair Resolving shifting issues w SMG BMW Audio System overview This is ghostwriting, your name will not appear in print. You will work with an experienced automotive editor who can correct grammar / punctuation /continuity issues. What you bring to the table is BMW specific technical knowledge, experience, contacts, access to BMW information systems, knowledge of pattern failures & cures, etc. The ability to shoot MAGAZINE quality pictures using a tripod and digital camera to accompany articles can boost your paycheck considerably. Send writing samples and contact information, and a paragraph or two about why you're qualified to do this work. Unpublished writers with BMW knowledge or experience are urged to apply. Payment is upon publication, net 30, via 1099. Potential for 8-12 stories per year. Potential for "going direct" with the magazine in 6-12 months if you've got the write stuff. Telecommuters (anywhere) are welcome.

And, for someone with technical knowledge in ADHD:

Health-Related Writing for ADHD Web Site (Comp: Send rate) (Newton, MA) : are looking for health writers to develop content for an educational site for parents of children with ADHD. We estimate that we'll need 10 lessons at approximately 1,500 words per lesson, and 10 500-word articles, starting Jan’08 to be completed by March ’08. The audience is parents of children with ADHD and there is a robust list of consultants available to help. For more information about our health + science + technology company, please go to Please send your rate and a writing sample via email.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Indoor Gardening

Today, I interview Julie Bawden Davis about her book, "Indoor Gardening the Organic Way: How to Create a Natural & Sustaining Environment for Your Houseplants." Julie tells us about developing a specialty niche, building a platform and the publishing process.

Tell us about yourself.
I am a full-time garden writer and a University of California Cooperative Extension certified master gardener. I write books, magazine, newspaperand online articles, speak regularly on gardening, and I am founder of the website At times I think I'm actually certifiable,but overall I love what I do. How often do you get asked to repot a 30-year-old fern named Matilda, or ride through a nursery in a rickety golfcart for 2 miles so that you can see and smell thousands of plumeria in bloom? And then live to write about it. I also do a more limited amount of writing in the areas of parenting, relationships and small business, and I write profiles of people who have overcome challenging life circumstances for Toastmaster Magazine.

Tell us about your new book, "Indoor Gardening the Organic Way: How to Create a Natural & Sustaining Environment for Your Houseplants."
Indoor Gardening the Organic Way explains in a simple, easy-to-read format how and why to grow your houseplants organically. Many gardeners still unnecessarily use harsh synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides when growing plants indoors--despite the fact that they eat organic foods and buy natural personal care products. The book is chock full of up-to-date information on all-natural growing principles so that you can grow houseplants as nature intended. It is 206 pages and illustrated by my daughter (which makes it even more exciting for me). I include informationon acclimating plants and weaning them from chemical growth hormones andsynthetic fertilizers; creating healthy, nutrient-rich soil; feeding plantsan organic, sustaining diet, and how to fight pests and diseases with earth-friendly methods. There are even recipes for specialty soil mixesand a full-color encyclopedia which shares critical information about each plant, including lighting and humidity needs.

You say on your website that you have always wanted to be a writer. How did you know it was journalism/non-fiction you wanted to do and not creative writing?
I started out creative writing as a very young child. According to my grandmother, I used to write stories when I was just five or six, and I've seen old movie footage of me writing some sort of a little book when I was just three years old. I still am a closet fiction writer, but I'm alsovery pragmatic. When I got older--about 5th grade--I decided that journalism and non-fiction would probably be my main focus, with fiction on the side as a "someday" thing. I have written one novel, which I tried to sell for a short time and then put down, and have since picked back up again and am actively trying to sell. I have also written half of another novel, which contains a character from the first book. I really like both forms of writing, because they are so different and satisfying in their own ways.

With a degree in journalism, did you start off in newspapers, on staff or as a freelancer?
I started off as a free-lancer right out of college. While in college at California State University, Long Beach, I had the good fortune to take an Introduction to Free-lancing class with a teacher who also free-lanced. He is a member of ASJA (Mike Stein). I knew from the first class period that I had found what I wanted to do. He also encouraged me. I remember him writing on my final, which was a feature article: "You have the makings of a fine free-lancer." Stein was the only one who was encouraging, however, in terms of teachers. Other teachers were very pessimistic about free-lancing--I suspect because they didn't have luck with it themselves. One teacher asked the class what each of us were planning on doing once we graduated, and when I said free-lancing, he discouraged me in front of everyone and told me it was impossible to make a living at free-lancing. That just motivated me more, though.

How did you develop your niche in gardening?
During the last 2 years I was in college and once I got out, I free-lanced about anything I could get an assignment for. In that respect, I paid my dues for about 5 years. At the back of my mind, however, I yearned to write about gardening. An editor who I had written for at a metrolifestyle publication moved to the former Home Design section of the LATimes in 1990 and encouraged me to give her some ideas. I eventually wrote a story every week for the section, and I absolutely loved it. During that time period I also took a 6-month intensive Master Gardener course offered through the University of California Cooperative Extension and became aMaster Gardener in 1998. Master Gardeners volunteer in the community and spread the word about gardening. I also wrote my first gardening book in1994 and self-published it. It's a regional book on growing strawberries in Southern California. I've sold close to 5,000 copies and am still selling it 14 years later. In 1997 I began writing the houseplant column,The Gardener Within for the San Francisco Chronicle, and I published my second book through a publisher, which is on houseplants, in 2002.

How did you come up with the idea for your latest book? Do you think the current green movement had anything to do with helping it sell?
I came up with the idea for my latest book when I was writing The Gardener Within for the San Francisco Chronicle. When I initially began writing the column, I was required to interview area "experts" on houseplants. (I eventually became more of an expert than anyone I talked to, but at first the columns were interview-based). At the time, organic gardening outdoors was in full-swing, and it occured to me that gardening organically indoors would be a good idea as well. When I asked my "expert" sources about this,however, they all said, "Definitely not! You wouldn't want to do that sort of thing indoors." The way they said it, it sounded like they thought Iwanted to shovel horse manure in my living room, or squirt fish emulsion all over my furniture. Their answer didn't ring true to me, though. How is it, I thought, that we are eating organic produce, using natural beauty care products, and cleaning our indoor air, yet using toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides on the houseplants in our home? For health reasons I began to garden indoors organically, and I was astounded with the results. My houseplants began to grow bigger and more beautiful than I'dever seen them. Plants that previously hadn't flowered or fruited did so. I knew I was onto something important. I actually sold the book right before the green movement hit it big. It took about 3 years to sell, which was discouraging during the process, but turned out to be a better thing in the end, because it was released at thebeginning of this year when the green movement really hit it big.

How did you find your agent/publisher? Tell us about your relationship with them.
My agent actually found me through ASJA. She was looking for a garden writer for a potential garden book for a publisher and looked me up on theASJA site. We got to talking and really hit it off. The potential book didn't end up going through, but I told her about my idea for IndoorGardening the Organic Way, and she liked it, so I wrote up the proposal and she began to shop it around. It almost sold a couple of times, but fell through. She didn't give up on it, however, which I'm really grateful for, and she finally sold it. Once the book sold, she decided to go back to editing, which she'd done before she was an agent. She's still agenting me on the book, but I'm now in the market for a new agent for future works.

What do you find the most challenging about the book publishing process?
It is such a long, long process. With Indoor Gardening the Organic Way, there was a 5 or 6 year span between coming up with the idea and itactually becoming a reality as a book. You get an advance on your royalties, which also takes time to get, and then it takes time to earn out the advance so that you can eventually--hopefully--get some royalties out of all your hard work. Patience is key, but feeling impatient is so common when all you want to do is write, be read and get paid.

What do you think is the most important thing for a writer trying to develop a niche to do?
Write for any publication you can (as long as you get paid) about your particular niche. And get training in the area if possible--even if it's a few classes. If you can work in the area, or have worked in the area, even better.

What's next for you?
My goal is to be known as the houseplant expert. Besides writing about gardening in general, I will continue to write books and articles on houseplants, as well as speak on the topic, and I am working on writing a syndicated column on the subject. My next book will deal with houseplants.You can learn all about houseplants and buy autographed copies of my books at

Monday, November 12, 2007

In Nature

When I lived in the suburbs, I took my dogs for walks. I was aware of the weather, of course, and the changing seasons. I was aware when the dogs tugged on me to go after a squirrel or rabbit. I often went on walks there in a park. I did it to get exercise, but to also help heighten my awareness of my surroundings, which helps me, as a writer, focus.
I thought I had heightened my sensese there, but nothing beats doing that when you live in the country.
I take the dogs on 2 walks a day, at least a mile each.
When I went out in the city with or without the dogs - as any woman should be, I tried to be aware of who was near me, for humans pose the most danger to others there.
At night or early in the morning in the country, we do not leave the house without a gun, not for fear of muggers, but for wild animals. It isn't unusual to go to sleep at night by the hoot of an owl or the call of the whippoorwill, but it isn't unusual either to be awakened in the early morning hours by the baying of coyotes or the growl of a bob cat on a chase for food through our front yard.
In the city, on our daily walks, the biggest fear I had was tripping over one of the many uneven patches or cracks in the sidewalk. Now if I don't look where I'm going, I might happen upon a poisonous copperhead, trip over a large turtle or even squash a tarantula or toad in the middle of the road. And God forbid we come upon a skunk.
And here in the boonies, where we have to wait 5 minutes to get a satellite feed for our local weather, we usually measure it now by stepping outside. How many times, as city dwellers, do we say, "Oh, it was raining this morning, but turned nice this afternoon." We knew it was nice because we looked out of our windows and saw the sun come out. But rarley do we actually go out and experience it.
Living in the country has forced me out into the world. I might be 12 miles from civilization, but I'm more keenly aware of the world in which we live.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Trip Back to 1977

I wish I could write humor as good as this. This is an example of how writing can enhance simple photos from a catalogue destined for the dump.

And, once you get a laugh over that, look at these actual job postings I saw this morning. It's pretty scary that people who don't even know how to spell common words fancy themselves writers and publishers. We all make mistakes, but just FYI, when the mistakes are in the job posting, it is a big red flag.
And people don't think the jobs on Craig's List are worth anything. Hopefully, they're worth a laugh to you today:

Journalist/Writer (Comp: based on skill) (Baltimore)
For New Magazine the Magazine will focus on corrent event and people.

This one is not only funny, the pay is laughable too. For $10 an hour, maybe he can find someone who can spell computer, but I doubt it.

I Need a Ghost Writer to Help Me Finish My Book (Comp: $10/hour)
I need help finishing my book a true life story the book is titled From Modern Day Bank Robber to Modern day Mystic. I will pay an hourly rate I have the speaking dragon program that writes what one says in the computor. I need someone with exp I am from NY and would prefer a person who has lived in NY.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Dog Days

When I told one of my supervisors in the corporate world that my dog had died the previous night and I would like to take some of my time and leave a half day, she looked at me as if I were nuts.
Needless to say, my request wasn't granted.
Sadie, the newest member of our pack, hasn't been able to hold anything down all week. So, today, I'm taking off early to make a drive to the vet.
And I don't need anyone's permission to do it.
That's what I love about the freelance life today.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Another Best Seller

Here's another best seller, because as we all know, everyone's story is a book and every book hits the best seller lists (see my rant last Friday):

Need Help with Memoir Bestseller (Comp: negotiable) I have a deep desire to write a book to share my story. Abuse, betrayl, abandonment, drugs, dysfunctional home, rape, discrimination you name and I have been through it. My family is filled with all kinds of characters from preachers to crack heads. I want someone to partner with me because I know there was a purpose for my pain and a destination for all of it. I don't have much money but I can make payments if someone who is an excellent writer will help me with writing and getting this published. Please only respond if you are serious.

Now, for the serious job postings:

Freelance Calendar Editor - Contract (Comp: $750-$1,000/month) (Boston) : Boston Parents’ Paper, an award-winning magazine for more than 23 years, seeks a freelance Calendar Editor to compile, write and package our monthly calendar of family events for print and web. This freelancer works with staff editors to create the most useful and engaging calendar of family events and destinations in Massachusetts. The work can be done primarily from home, although occasional visits to family attractions and events are required, as are meetings with staff in office. Duties include: Research; development of PR contacts; writing and editing listings, hot tips, highlights, roundups and parenting education and support listings; and collecting appropriate artwork from sources. Must meet a monthly deadline for submitting all calendar files to the associate editor. Contracted monthly payment of $750 - $1,000. Qualifications: Publication experience and familiarity with parenting topics; strong writing, editing and oral communication skills; strong attention to detail and editorial style; proactive and team-oriented attitude; and knowledge of Microsoft Word and Web. Send a cover letter, résumé and work samples to: Deirdre Wilson, Senior Editor, The Boston Parents’ Paper, 670 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; Fax: 617-522-1694; email: (No phone calls, please.) is also looking for guides. There's always considerable discussion pro and con for doing these types of jobs when it is brought up on discussion boards. Some people have put a lot of time and effort trying out, only to be turned down. Others swear by it. If you do make the cut, there is a guaranteed monthly income as long as you maintain your site. is seeking guides in the following areas:
Auto Jouranlists
Tech Journalists
Business/Money Writers
Travel Writers
Food Writers

Go to to learn more

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Today, I interview Diane Benson Harrington, who wrote activities for "Gymboree A to Z Activities" a deck of activity cards for little ones. Among other things, Diane also leads a very successful and worthwhile querying class on

Tell us about yourself.
When I was 12 years old, my parents were terribly concerned that I didn't yet know what I wanted to major in in college. So I took an Interest Inventory Test. It revealed that I wanted to be either a parole officer or a reporter. Through a shadowing program at school, I spent a day with a parole officer and decided it was way too much paperwork and not nearly enough interaction with people. The next week, I headed for the Boca Raton (Florida) News, which had a Youth Today page (written and edited for and by teens). I've been at it ever since.
Since then, I've worked for two medium-size daily newspapers and four national magazines. I left the world of weekly paychecks in 1989, starting as a local/regional freelance writer/editor. I've been writing for national magazines for about the past 10 years. I'm a former columnist for Coastal Home (sold and later resurrected as Coastal Living),, and, and am the managing editor for My writing credits include publications such as Woman's Day, Family Circle, Parents, Parenting, Health, American Baby, (which repurposes material for AOL and many other sites), and more.

Tell us about your new project, "Gymboree A to Z Activities."
Those of you who've had children may remember those early days, when you honestly had no clue what you're supposed to do with your child all day long. Sitting and staring just doesn't cut it! But most new parents don't have the time - or energy - to scour magazines and books to figure out how best to entertain and teach their babies and toddlers. That's where these activity decks come in. I've written the text for two decks of activity cards - one for babies and one for toddlers. The oversize card decks (about the size of a Reader's Digest magazine) are printed on super-thick, extra sturdy cardboard and have adorable illustrations on one side, paired with an age-appropriate and developmentally oriented activity on the other. (I just received my author's copies, and they're far larger and more substantial than I'd imagined they'd be!) So, for instance, the D card in the toddler deck has a picture of a drum (along with upper- and lowercase D's) on one side. On the other, I've created an activity to match that word. With D, I explain how to create drums with items around the house and how parents can play with their child for the ideal interactive experience (rather than just letting the child play by himself, which doesn't provide the same learning experience). I also created the parent card for each deck, which explains the types of activities we're offering and the reason these are important.

How did you get this project? Did you have an agent represent you?
A while back, I'd answered a notice from a publishing company (Weldon-Owen) seeking writers to produce interior-design-related books for their corporate clients. Because I didn't have any book experience, I didn't get the advertised job, but they tried me out (and paid me a nominal fee) for a kid-oriented project. They ended up doing that in house. But I kept in touch, and they kept my name on file. When one of their clients, Gymboree, was ready to do these fascinating activity card decks, they called me. I again did a sample for them, after which we finalized a contract and moved forward. They had a pretty tight deadline - it was around the holidays last year.

How as it different from writing magazine articles or books?
Because of the nature of this project - a deck of "cards" rather than an actual, bound book - it was probably much closer to writing a magazine article than writing a book. It was the type of tight writing - condensing creative, interesting, developmentally appropriate information - I've typically done for parenting magazines. But the format was different, obviously. And I didn't have to interview experts. The publishing company had the highly respected Zero to Three company review the cards after I'd written them to ensure they were ideal for the age ranges. The editors were wonderful to work with - extremely helpful, offering terrific guidance and great feedback.

What was the most interesting aspect of the project?
The publisher told me what illustration they had for each card, and typically what the word was going to be. It was fun coming up with activities - . I even included my own boys (ages 8 and 10 at the time), asking them for any activity ideas they might have that itty bitty kids would enjoy. I especially liked being able to use my background (reporting on and writing parenting articles for the past decade) to suggest that they switch some cards/words they'd planned for the toddler deck to the baby deck and vice versa. I also remember trying to bring a few things more up to date - like suggesting they use "jelly" instead of "jam" on the J card, since most kids I know like "peanut butter and JELLY sandwiches," not "peanut butter and jam sandwiches."

What was the most challenging aspect of the project?
Making sure we didn't have too many of one type (music-oriented, dress-up, etc.) of activity in each deck. I couldn't duplicate activities between the Baby and Toddler decks, so that meant coming up with 52 distinct activities - and making sure each was as interactive as possible. Gymboree really wanted these decks to help build parent-child relationships - not provide a way for parents to just set kids aside by themselves.

Is doing activity cards or other projects for kids profitable?
Not especially. (At least this project wasn't.) It paid about the same as a magazine article. But I hadn't written any books before, and I like this publishing company and am hoping to work on more projects with them in the future (parenting and other subjects). I looked at this as a foot in the door.

What's next for you?
I'm working on a new book - Freelance Success: Moving Your Magazine Writing Business to the Next Level - with Jennie Phipps; it'll be authored by the two of us as "the editors of" I've talked with a former Woman's Day editor about co-authoring a book with her, and I hope to get my own query-writing book out there some day soon.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sleepless in the Ozarks

It's that time of year - when you never know if it will be warm or cold. That, combined with the time change, threw our body clocks off as well this weekend.
"I can't believe we're going to bed at 10:30 on a Saturday night," my husband said. I reasoned we could go to bed early and sleep as long as we wanted, and with the time change, it would still be early no matter what time we got up.
While I appreciate getting that extra hour back in the fall that we lose in the spring, it plays hell with our schedules.
It seems we might have gotten too much sleep this weekend, as my husband couldn't get to sleep after we went to bed last night.
And, it was 60 degrees, which is warm when you've just gotten used to turning on the small oil furnace we have for the cabin.
And, the dogs barked and went into a frenzy when they heard a noise on the deck at 3:15.
When I got up at 4, I stepped in water they overturned racing to the door to bark at what turned out to be a box that the wind had knocked off the deck.
But the day is already starting to look up. My husband made it to town in time to drop a few letters at the post office. And, I'm well on my way to getting some things done before I start a marathon interviewing day at 9 a.m.
But whatever type of writing day I have today, I know I'll be ready to go to bed tonight - and I'll rely on my internal clock to tell me what time I should go to bed.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Fact vs. Fiction

My Friday rant is an old one, but one worth repeating: Why does everyone in the world think they can write a book? Or, if they realize that writing is an actual profession that requires an actual professional, why do they then think they know the business so well that just because they have a "unique" story, it will be "easy to write" and end up on the bestsellers list with the right ghostwriter?
I have a business degree, but I still I know nothing about the stockmarket. I don't pretend to. That's why I'm not calling my financial advisor saying, "Oh, XYZ stock has a unique name, I think that's going to soar, let's put our entire retirement in it today." He's the professional. He knows where to invest our money based on our level of risk tolerance. That's why I haven't even talked to him since opening the account - and our financial statements each quarter reflect a professional is handling our business.
Or, how about calling my doctor and saying, "Wow. That advertisement I saw on that new drug last night was really unique...let me try it." He's the doctor trained and skilled in his profession. I might ask him about a drug and do my own research, but I'm not going to tell him how to do his business.
Don't get me wrong, I don't take exception to people who feel the burning desire to write- we all started somewhere.
I take exception to the people who think that writing a book is a quick and easy process - people who don't take it seriously as a craft. People who think that with a few coaching sessions, the words will magically flow and the next thing you know, you're sitting at a book signing, paid for by a high-powered, well-known and well-financed publishing giant.
That's like believing you can earn a doctorate in surgery through an online correspondence course.
As with most writers I know, a majority of my life was spent writing - from the time I first picked up that #2 pencil. Most writers who are writers, have known this was our destiny since we were tots. We spent years getting an education either in school or in the school of life - or both - writing all the while. We spent months or years in writers conferences, classes and writers groups, getting to know the business and honing our skill. We learned the time and commitment it took. We learned most of us wouldn't be bestselling authors and, as my mother told me when I embarked on this journey - "It's a hard way to make a living."
This is not something that can be taught, it is who we are.
A unique story does not a writer make.

Here's the two ads I saw this week that illustrates my point. And, hey, James-Frey-Wanna-Be with the "Fictional Memoir Based on a True Story," I have a newsflash for you - your book is called a novel.

Ghost Writer for Fictional Memoir Based on True Story

I'm looking for a ghost writer to work with me on a Fictional Memoir manuscript that is based on a true story. The story will deal with time I spent living/traveling in South America, so familiarity with the culture and setting is preferred. I'm still in the conceptual stages of this project.

At least this person seems to know what a memoir is, but he just has no idea how to write it. But hey, once he finds his magical structure, the major agency that's "interested" will get him a sequel and movie deal:

I'm a writer but have never written a book before. I have a very passionate, creative, disorganized mind when it comes to writing. This works for some things, but not for this daunting task. I need to complete a book proposal and am using a book as a guide, but feel I could benefit from talking it out with a professional. I'd like a private coach (available on weekday evenings or weekend afternoons) to help me finish this book proposal. I have a very concrete understanding of my idea and a major agency interested. Now all I need to do is get this done. The book is a memoir of a very unique life experience. It will be easy to sell and easy to write once I have some structure. Help give me structure! Help me write this book proposal. Please get back to me with your qualifications/background and your rate. --- also need help with making characters and events anonymous to avoid legal trouble, let me know if you can help with this as well ---- Thanks.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

More Jobs

A job listing today:

Show Us the Money!
Know what short-selling is? Do you read Barron’s to relax? Find Wall Street and the gurus fascinating? Read on!, the financial publishing arm of Newsmax Media, seeks financially savvy freelance distance journalists who can turn flawless, punchy, read-me-now Web copy on a dime. If you have covered the markets anywhere in the world, blogged for financial sites before or just plain understand what Warren Buffett is talking about, we want you.
We need regular, fast, easy-reading copy for the influential, clued-in reader. Decipher the market moves and tell us what it means, who is talking about it and why investors need to pay attention.
Newsmax Media, Inc., is a fast-growing online and media publishing company headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida. Newsmax Media publishes, one of the nation’s largest Internet news sites, as well as a monthly magazine. The company has been rapidly growing its online newsletter division focusing on the areas of health and finance.
Send a resume, no more than two representative (short!) clips and contact data to:
Greg Brown
Editorial Director, Financial Publishing Group
Please put in subject line: Street Talk
No calls, please.