Thursday, February 28, 2008

Green Tech Blogger Wanted

Talented Writer Needed Part Time for Green Technology Blog (Comp: Per post) (telecommute)
Are you interested in covering Earth-friendly products and advancements in computing, electronics, automobiles, and energy? Do you have enthusiasm, curiosity and an articulate, honed writing ability? GoodCleanTech is a growing blog covering the intersection of technology and environmentalism. We are looking to expand and need help keeping pace with the growing rate of change. GoodCleanTech aims to provide you with news, tips, advice, and ideas about how to do more with less. With the help of the editors and analysts at PC Magazine, we praise those companies that have committed to better ecotechnologies and hold to the fire the polluters and resource hogs. And we'll keep you informed about the latest environmentally friendly developments in the worlds of computers, automobiles, fuel, power, and more. In existence nearly one year, the blog has been nominated for several awards and garnered important industry recognition. To learn more about the blog, stop by GoodCleanTech. We are looking for a freelance blogger to contribute up to five posts per day, five days per week. Must have familiarity with technology and environmental issues, proficiency with Movable Type or similar blogging platform a plus.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An Uncertain Inheritance

Today, I interview Nell Casey, bestselling author, about her new book, "An Uncertain Inheritance: Writers on Caring for Family." Nell tells us how she found all those great writers for her anthologies and how hard it is to have to edit them.

Tell us about yourself.
I am a writer and editor living with my husband and son in Brooklyn, NY. I write for magazines—including a column for Cookie, a parenting magazine—and I have edited two anthologies, one called Unholy Ghost and one, recently published, called "An Uncertain Inheritance."

Tell us about your book, “An Uncertain Inheritance: Writers on Caring for Family."
This is a collection of essays about, as the title suggests, looking after family members who are sick. It includes a wide range of responses to this experience—from Helen Schulman’s poetic struggle to find the reward in it to Ann Harleman’s moving sense of fulfillment in learning how to care for husband after he is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Various relationships are represented—children looking after their aging parents, parents looking after sick children, siblings caring for each other, husbands and wives seeing each other through. I was very lucky also to work with an array of talented writers: Julia Glass, Andrew Solomon, Julia Alvarez, Sam Lipsyte and Frank McCourt, among many others.

Your book, "Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression," was a bestseller. How did you come up with the idea to have writers tell their stories on depression in an anthology?
The idea for Unholy Ghost actually came from my former editor at William Morrow, Taije Silverman. (She’s since left William Morrow.) She had the excellent idea of gathering varied stories and voices about the experience of depression. Not only was it a brilliant idea because depression itself has so many different meanings but also the book came out at a time when the culture was very interested in and open to really understanding the illness. So I was very grateful that Taije came to me to bring her idea to life.

Was "uncertain inheritance" an extension of that thought process?
In part, yes. When I started compiling Unholy Ghost, I decided I wanted to include companion pieces throughout the book. So I asked people who had cared for family members with depression to write essays that would run alongside essays by person they’d cared for. Rose Styron and William Styron, for example, both wrote about Mr. Styron’s struggle with depression. My sister and I also wrote about the experience of my sister’s depression. When I did readings for Unholy Ghost, people were very interested in the caregiver perspective. I realized that there was a real need for a very honest exploration of the caregiving experience. And having cared for my sister through her depression, I also knew how deep and complicated and meaningful the experience of looking after a family member is. I wanted to create a book that gave voice to this.

You've written for Slate, Salon, the New York Times, among others. How difficult is it to edit other writers?
I really, really enjoy editing. When it works well, it’s a very satisfying collaboration. I learn too: I learn about other people, other experience, about writing and other people’s creative processes. I especially enjoy the combination of writing and editing—one forces you to look inward and the other forces you to look outward.

How did you get writers to participate in your anthologies?
I find that many writers are very willing to write for anthologies. I think, in large part, it offers an opportunity to write freely and in creative form. When you write for magazines and newspapers, you’re often beholden to the sensibility of the publication. With anthologies, writers can express themselves a little more uniquely. Also, with depression and caregiving, the writers I asked to participate felt very strongly about getting their stories out and possibly helping others by speaking up on these subjects. That said, I did have to recruit and recruit and recruit. People turned me down or dropped out of the project along the way. I just stuck with it until I had a group of writers I knew would make the book as lively and intelligent and compassionate as I felt the subject deserved. And they did just that.

Frank McCourt wrote the foreward, what's the story behind finding him for this?
I met Frank McCourt through a non-profit storytelling organization here in New York City, called Stories at the Moth. Needless to say, Frank is one of their star storytellers. Anyways, when I met him, he said he had read my first book, Unholy Ghost, and really enjoyed it. So when I needed someone to write the foreword—someone who had spent a good deal of time thinking and exploring and writing about family—Mr. McCourt immediately came to mind. I sent him a manuscript and he wrote back “That’s one hell of a book.” And he agreed to do the foreword. I was thrilled!

How does the writing process work for you - when is your best time to write, do you have to have a certain place, etc?
I actually wish I had more of a method. I have a 2 1/2 year old son so basically just finding the space and time to write is a challenge. When I have the time, I plunge right in. In that sense, it has helped to have my hands full with my son. I don’t procrastinate during my work hours.

How did you find your agent?
I met with her when I was starting the proposal for An Uncertain Inheritance. I was introduced to her through another writer I have edited in the past—and whose work I admire. My agent was interested in the subject, and she had very good, smart ideas. I liked her sensibility and her approach.

What's next for you?
I have a number of things I am working on at any given moment. I write a column for Cookie magazine. I just sold my first short story. I hope to have another book proposal done soon. It’s a bit disorienting to have so much going at once but so far it works for me. And it means I’ve always got something to work on!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Apply at Your Own Risk

People sometimes ask me how I know which job ads to bother with. These two, for example, look like they are from the same company.

The comp looks ok, and a first reaction might be to only look at that. Personally, I wouldn't work for someone who told me in advance to expect multiple revisions. If they are giving adequate instruction on what they're seeking and you're qualified to write the article, what's the problem?
Apply at your own risk.

National Magazine Seeks Healthcare Reporter for Consumer Article (Comp: $1/word)
National consumer magazine seeks an experienced healthcare reporter to write a 2,600-word article on how to shop for healthcare. Prospective writer MUST have solid reporting experience with a newspaper and/or magazine and MUST be able to provide lengthy sample articles. The first-draft deadline is April 21. Writer should expect multiple revisions and be available for questions and/or requests for additional content. Freelance project: Writer does not need to be from the Chicago area.

National Magazine Seeks Stereo Expert for Article/Product Review (Comp: $1/word)
National consumer magazine seeks stereo expert to write a 2,600-word article/product review on mini stereos and boomboxes. Prospective writer MUST know the latest products, trends, manufacturers, and industry. Experience with major newspapers or magazines a plus. The first-draft deadline is April 10. Writer should expect multiple revisions and be available for questions and requests for additional content. Freelance project: Writer does not need to be from the Chicago area.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hijas Americanas

Today, I interview Rosie Molinary, author of " Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina. Rosie tells us how she turned a graduate thesis into a book and how she landed an invitation to the Today Show.

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina with a love for reading, writing, and social justice issues. I, ultimately, received my teaching certification in Social Studies and taught and coached soccer at an under resourced high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. Those years were the time of my life—I was absolutely crazy about my students and about doing everything that I could to empower them. Many had backgrounds like mine—first generation Americans (I am Puerto Rican, and we moved to the States when I was 2; from a lower socioeconomic class who spoke a language other than English at home—and I was compelled to do whatever I could to help them discover their voice and take charge of their lives. Because writing had been my passion as a girl—and the tool that led me to my voice—I felt compelled to use a good bit of exploratory writing in my classroom. I understood that my mission was about helping others discover their voices while using my own voice to advocate for those who could not raise their own voices. Eventually, I felt as if I needed to pursue further education in the teaching of writing so that I could be a better teacher. While enrolled in an MFA program with a focus on nonfiction and poetic forms, I worked at my undergraduate alma mater as the Director of Community Service which allowed me to further explore the issues of social justice and activism. When I completed my MFA, I was too spoiled to go back to traditional teaching (I had become addicted to sleeping past 6 am—the time I used to report to work, going out to lunch, and using the bathroom whenever I wanted). I started doing workshops, teaching in continuing education programs and continued my work at the college until 2005 when I left and became a full-time freelancer.

Tell us about your book, Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina.

Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image and Growing Up Latina reveals how hundreds of Latinas reconciled their body image, beauty perception, and ethnic identity as they came of age in a mainstream culture whose standards differ from those expressed in the homes where these women were raised. The book is part autobiography, part ethnography, and part call to action. The stories shared show the significance of each individual’s unique coming-of-age experience, but they also examine the universal truths that are part of all our experiences. These aren’t questions that are only Latino or female in nature. We all must face our personal challenges—and sometimes our impenetrable insecurities—with an individual honor and dignity that allows us to define who we are in the context of so many things: family, community, ethnicity, race, religion, culture, and more.

Your book was inspired by graduate essays you did for your master's degree. When did you realize you might have a book and start trying to market the proposal?
I initially saw the themes of body image, beauty perception, and ethnic identity emerge in my work while I was in graduate school for an MFA in creative writing. I was surprised by their prevalence and the impact these concepts clearly had on my own development. When I became a freelancer in the summer of 2005, I began to think about doing something with the book from graduate school that was on my shelf. In conceptualizing Hijas Americanas, I wanted to look at how Latinas who grew up in a culture that had one idea of beauty, femininity, and gender roles reconciled those expectations with both what they heard from mainstream America and with what they wanted for themselves.

How did you find your participants for the book?
I knew that I wanted women to share their coming of age experiences and so I decided to get women who were either in the midst of those experiences or were past them and were ready to look back. The criteria for the participants was that the women needed to be between the ages of 18-40, needed to self-identify as Latina, and needed to have been in the States since they were, at least, ten years old. Some of the women had immigrated here and some of them were fifth or sixth generation Tejanos. I interviewed about 100 women and then did a web-based survey that 521 women completed. Once I wrote up the Call for Participants, I sent it out to many of my contacts and then posted it on various networking boards and emailed Latina sororities, professional organizations, multi-cultural groups, etc. The internet is an amazing thing, I had well-over 400 volunteers in less than 2 weeks.

How did you find your agent/publisher?
I had no interest in publishing as a graduate student. In fact, I never attended any of the optional publishing workshops in graduate school. I had gone there to be a better teacher and that was my focus. At graduation, my final advisor really pushed me to reconsider, ultimately asking me if I would have felt better at 17 if I had read anything that I had just spent the last two years writing. He encouraged me to think about my classroom not as just one spot in a high school but as the world and pushed me to get the voice that I had shared in my graduate school thesis with the world. Ultimately, we made a deal that I would spend a year sending out my poems and essays to literary journal markets. One of those essays, The Latina in Me, was picked up for an anthology by Seal Press. That was the fourth piece to be picked up for a book anthology, but it was the first time that I had really been impressed with a publisher. Working with Seal Press stuck with me, and when I decided to pursue a book project, after I had become a freelancer, I decided to try them first since they worked with non-agented writers. Brooke Warner responded to by query letter really quickly, and we worked together to craft a book proposal that would work. She also served as my editor for the book.

What types of marketing have you and the publisher done on the book?
Seal helped me plan a few bookstore readings and signings and also helped me get on the docket for a couple book festivals. They provided me with pre-publication postcards, and I sent them to everyone I knew: former students, former teachers, friends, and even magazine editors that I had freelanced for or even pitched. That ended up scoring me some expert interviews with a few publications and an invitation to The Today Show. I created a blog, bookmark, reading guide, and tshirt that I used in different ways for promotion and discussion of these critical issues, and I also designed about ten workshops and launched a high school, college, and community tour which has taken me from Los Angeles to Chicago to do workshops. I did six months of active promotion this past fall and have several events lined up this spring and summer.

This is your first book. Was there anything about the process of writing a book vs. a shorter article that surprised you?
I really loved book writing because it allowed me to spend such time with the subject and the interviewees. I love learning, and I love engaging with people and providing them a venue to share their experiences and so the book was a great indulgence to me. I still appreciate writing articles, though, for many reasons including the fact that your sense of satisfaction as something comes to fruition is much more immediate.

Was there anything about selling your first book that surprised you?
The whole thing was such a surprise, but also a delight and a real privilege.

Who is your favorite author and do you feel your writing is like theirs? If so, how?
For nonfiction writers, I really love Anne Lamott and Alice Walker. Lamott has an earnestness and irreverence that I appreciate and sometimes see if my own writing, and Walker has such a sense of purpose and clarity. I do have a sense of purpose with my writing—a purpose that my high school students instilled in me—and I work everyday to have greater clarity in my writing. Finally, I really admire how Eve Ensler has allowed her writing to also be an instigator for activism. I am working on a social justice project right now that was inspired by Hijas, and that synergy between sensibilities, art, and motion are very important to me.

What is next for you?
I just submitted a book proposal to Seal for their consideration and am working on creating a scholarship giving circle inspired from what I learned while writing Hijas and the conversations I had while promoting it. I am still freelancing and teaching and loving the range of work that I am able to do in those areas.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Picture Perfect Today

Attention Photographers and Outdoor Adventurers!
If you've ever dreamed about seeing your photos in the pages of a glossy magazine at newsstands nationwide, you'll want to join us this April 11-13, 2008 in Boulder, Colorado. And, if you register before March 1, you'll save money with an early bird rate!
Don't miss this opportunity to meet one-on-one with the photo editors from National Geographic, Climbing, Freeskier, Ski, Backpacker, Women's Adventure, and others interested in seeing your best work and answering your questions about breaking into this industry.
Early bird and student discounts apply. GO TO: today for more information and to register!
Our speakers and panelists include award-winning photographers, stock agencies, and magazine executives. Plus, there's no better location to practice your technique than spring in the Rockies.
Get the inside information to help you realize the dream of seeing your work in print. Register today to get the early bird rate and pass this email on to all your friends, colleagues, and family members who are aspiring photographers. Space is limited. CLICK HERE and register today!
When: April 11th – 13th Where: Boulder Marriott – Boulder, Colorado
Why: Because this conference could change your life and your career path
Also, check out the photography sessions at our Travel Writing and Photography Conference September 12-14 in Boulder.
Sponsored by: Women's Adventure magazine

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Race to Write a Book About a Race

Today, I interview Geoff Williams, author of, "C.C. Pyle’s Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America." Geoff tells us about writing a book on an historical event when all of the characters are dead, researching, finding an agent and marketing.

Tell us about yourself.
Well, I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was nine, when my fourth-grade teacher started assigning us bonus essays. We could write stories, fiction or nonfiction, and receive extra credit, and when I started writing every night, I started to think, “Hey, I’m not doing this for the extra credit—I’m doing this because I enjoy it.” So I thought I’d wind up writing my first book before I was out of elementary school, and that I’d spend the rest of my life churning out a few books a year. Of course, it didn’t exactly work out that way, but I have been a writer for most of my professional life, save a few odd jobs right out of college. Not that it was easy. I started out writing for really obscure magazines in the beginning. They paid all right, but they aren’t national names. Anyway, primarily I’m a magazine writer. I’ve written for newspapers—I was a part-time features reporter at the Cincinnati Post, and I’ve done some corporate writing, but most of my income has come from writing for various consumer, business and trade magazines. I’ve been writing for Entrepreneur for 10 years and BabyTalk for five, and both of those have been a wonderful experience, but I’m also proud that I’ve managed to get into LIFE, Ladies’ Home Journal, National Geographic Kids and various other publications. And I’m extremely gratified that last year, when I was 36, “only” 27 years after I decided I wanted to be an author, I finally achieved my goal of writing a book and having it published. Or I should say, writing a book that is sold in bookstores across the country. I had written two books before this, but they were works for hire—like a corporate history of a hospital—and they were never meant to be sold in bookstores.

Tell us about your book, "C.C. Pyle’s Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America"
It’s the story of an actual foot race that happened in 1928, where 199 men attempted to run from Los Angeles to New York City, in pursuit of a $25,000 prize. That was the money allotted for the first place winner, although C.C. Pyle, the sports agent who organized the race, was also offering $10,000 to the second place winner, $5,000 to the third and downward to the tenth place winner who received $1,000 for his efforts. Not a bad piece of change, back then. And so the book is about all of the experiences these guys go through, running this race, which was even more difficult than it sounds. They ran from one town to another designated community, bedding down for the night, and then they’d get up and run again. They averaged around 35 miles a day, every day, for 84 days, so imagine running a Boston Marathon, back-to-back, daily for almost three months. I can’t imagine that. I can’t even imagine running one marathon successfully.

How did you go from writing business articles for Entrepreneur to writing this book (did you approach an agent/publisher or did they approach you)?
I thought it made sense to try and write a business book, and that’s what I thought I would do. But when I wound up learning about the Bunion Derby in a reference book, I was just floored. I kept thinking, “Why hasn’t anyone written about this yet?” As it turned out, someone had, but back in 1980, and the book hadn’t made a huge splash. So I thought I’d try doing it. But it took several years to actually go ahead and do it. At the time when I learned about the Bunion Derby, I didn’t have an agent, and so I just started researching about the race, and then several months into that—it’s hard to remember exactly when—I read something on the Internet about a PBS documentary coming out about the Bunion Derby. And then I thought, “Well, that’s that. This film is going to come out and steal all the oxygen, and I won’t be able to write the book.” It turned out to be a small, though very well done, film, however, and so at some point, I started to realize that the Bunion Derby wasn’t exactly a household name. As for securing an agent, here’s how it happened: I was mowing my lawn one late afternoon on a Friday, thinking about the Bunion Derby book that I wanted to write, and suddenly I had this epiphany. The book would never get published if I didn’t actively seek out an agent. Daydreaming about writing a book wasn’t cutting it. And so that night, I looked for an agent, wrote a terrific one, and had a reply the following Monday, and a few days later, I had a contract.
I love telling the story that way, because it suddenly sounds so easy, but 1) I had been writing professionally for over 10 years, and I know that gave me some credibility. 2) I didn’t just write an agent blindly. I pored through business books that PR agents had sent me over the years, and I looked in the acknowledgements pages where authors would thank their agents. Then I googled the names of those agents and read up on them and finally found one who seemed to have a lot of the same interests as me. And she seemed like someone who was successful and could help my career, because I figured I had gone down enough dead ends, and I really wanted to find an agent who was experienced, and yet I didn’t want to find an agent who was too successful, where their career was about over, and he or she wouldn’t have time for me and who might see me as this little bothersome gnat. (Like all writers, my self-confidence is a bit shaky at times.)

Marketing is such a huge factor for book authors these days, publishers seem to want you to do all the leg work for them. Who is your target market for the book and how did you determine that?
Well, you’re right for sure, that authors have to do most, if not all, of the leg work. I wish I had known that from the beginning. I might have saved some time. I did know that authors needed to be involved, and I was happy to be—but I quickly learned that the author pretty much does it all, unless, I imagine, they’re big leaguers like Stephen King or John Grisham. Fortunately, I canvassed a lot of book critics and sports columnists at newspapers and managed to get some really nice write-ups and reviews in various papers like The Washington Post, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Oklahoman. And, of course, plenty of book editors ignored me, and I had no luck pitching the few TV shows that I tried. For instance, my email, in which I suggested I challenge Stephen Colbert to a foot race, went unanswered.
But in my mind, my target audience is simply anyone who likes history. I’m not a runner myself, but I loved the story of this race, and all of the history of the 1920s endurance competitions that swirled around it. And I always figured, I’m a fan of the movie “Rocky” but have never watched a full boxing match in my life. I love the movie “Breaking Away,” but have never participated in an organized bicycle race. Why shouldn’t non-running readers enjoy a story about a bunch of guys who enter a contest, hoping to win a fortune and change their lives forever? That said, a lot of people in the running community have embraced the book, and I’m so grateful for that. But then it was obvious from the beginning that marathon runners would probably be interested in this book.

I'm sure many of the key players in your story are deceased. How did you conduct your research for the book?
Everyone, sadly, is deceased. There was one runner alive when I began the book in earnest, after Rodale gave me the go-ahead to write the book, but I didn’t know that and learned about his death one month after the fact. He was in his late 90s, though, and from what I understand, probably not in the position to talk much about the race. The widow of one of the runners was also alive when I was researching the book, and I did have a short phone conversation with her, and that was personally exciting for me. But as far as the research, I just decided that I would do everything I could that was feasibly possible. Since I’m not a millionaire as Harry Gunn, one of the participants of the race, I couldn’t retrace the steps of the race and go to every library along the Bunion Derby route, but believe me, it crossed my mind a few hundred times. Still, I contracted every descendant of every writer I could find. I searched for friends and family of all four of C.C. Pyle’s wives and was pretty successful there. I combed through what I’m sure was over a thousand newspaper articles. Maybe it was 10,000. Probably not, but it sure felt like it. Since the race went for 84 days across the country, virtually every community that the race went through covered it. I even checked with college newspapers, which yielded a few anecdotes. I went through court records, tracking down information on the various lawsuits that Pyle was embroiled in, and going through his marriage and divorce records. I traveled to Champaign, Illinois, about half a day’s drive, which is where Pyle lived at one time. I drove out to Delaware, Ohio, where Pyle grew up, and I flew to Oklahoma where one of the main runners was from and spent a few days there. I just tried to play detective and use every journalist’s trick in the book to learn everything I could about the race—or everything that I could in the time frame that I had to write the book, which was about two years.

Did you learn anything new or revealing?
I wanted to write the book simply because I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea what running across the country would have been like. Now would be difficult enough, but in 1928, 80 years ago, sneakers were in their infancy. Even roads were primitive compared to now. Many roads were dirt or gravel, and there was no interstate. Route 66 was just a couple years old, and that the race followed that famous trail just added to the mystique of the story for me. And I just kept picturing what it must have been like to run day after day, hoping to win this money, and seeing the countryside slowly change from the California deserts to the lush greenery of New York state. I was lucky, I realize now, because I really fell in love with this story, and that’s useful when you wind up spending years working on a project like this. I really didn’t want it to end, and I still don’t. I’d love to write a sequel, and believe me, the material is there for one, but unless this book really, really, really takes off, I doubt that’s going to happen. As for learning anything new or revealing, I think so. Everything was new to me. Everything will be new to anyone who knows nothing about the Bunion Derby, but this story was out there. It was kind of like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, but all the pieces were scattered across the country, and so I had to go out and find them. That’s the analogy I usually go with. I hope that makes sense.

Indexing is a challenge for me. How did you keep track of the characters in your book for indexing later?
You know, I was really lucky, in that way, because Rodale did the indexing, or maybe they hired someone to do it, although I think there’s actually software out there, that will index books. Don’t quote me on that. So I didn’t have to worry about that. But I did do two works-for-hire books, a biography of a local businessman and the corporate history of a hospital, and I had to do the indexes for those. Not fun. But I don’t recommend keeping track of the characters for an index. It spoils the enjoyment of writing the book, and you’ll never know what pages the characters will be on until the book is formatted.

Dividing time between magazine - or immediate paying clients - and book projects is a challenge for a lot of authors. How did you accomplish this?
Um, I didn’t. I’m continually broke and am carrying a lot of debt. I manage to pay my bills, usually, and get by, but it’s extremely hard to support a family by being a freelance writer and author. But that said, I was broke and in debt before I wrote this book, and it’s extremely hard to juggle multiple magazine articles, so I’m not sure it’s any harder to add a book to the mix, and at one point, I was working on “C.C. Pyle” and the hospital corporate history that I mentioned, which was an extremely complicated book to write. Still, I tried to compartmentalize things as much as I could by writing “C.C. Pyle” in the evenings and weekends, although I would often try to spend 1-2 work days a week on the book, and sometimes more than that.

Do you have an assistant? If so, what functions do they do for you? If not, would you like to have one and what would they do?
Boy, I’d love to have an assistant, but I never have had one, and I’m envious of the freelance writers who do. I’d have my mythical assistant do just about everything but the writing and the research. I do enjoy interviewing, once I’m doing it, but taking notes, scheduling the interview, transcribing, that’s not a lot of fun, and so I’d have an assistant do that. There are a lot of little tasks like that, that aren’t fun about my job, but really I love everything about being an author, even the arduous task of marketing the book, and everything about freelance writing, except waiting for that paycheck to arrive.

What's next for you?
I have a book proposal out there, which has been rejected by quite a few publishing houses, though one or two editors are considering it. But I’m hearing the same thing about this book topic that I did with the Bunion Derby. Editors are saying that it’s a fascinating story, but nobody’s ever heard of this. I kind of thought that was the point of so many nonfiction narratives, you know? To write a compelling tale of some slice of history that was deeply relevant to an era but that we’ve all forgotten about now. So if I keep getting feedback like that, I’m starting to think that my next book is going to have to be about something or someone everyone’s heard of, like Abraham Lincoln, the Titanic or the Beatles.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

More Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Resolution Stories
Release Date: December 2008
Chicken Soup for the Soul is looking for stories from people about their past New Year’s resolutions and how they worked out – their failures and successes, what they learned. Tentative chapter topics include:• Trying to lose weight• Getting fit (The weight loss and getting fit stories could tie into our self-esteem, accept-who-you-are theme for girls and women)• Getting more organized• Making more money• Giving away money• Restoring a relationship with someone• Changing one’s behavior• Stopping bad habits such as smoking, biting fingernails• Going green• Eating healthy• Serious stuff such as substance abuse withdrawal, seeking treatment for mental health issues• Self acceptance – realizing the resolution wasn’t necessary and you are great the way you areStories must be true (non-fiction), written in first person, and 1,000 words or less. Stories should make readers laugh, cry or sigh, and be positive, universal and non-controversial. Also, the "point" or "message" should be evident without preaching. No essays, commentaries, tributes, philosophical or biographical pieces will be accepted. Please refer to other Chicken Soup books to better understand our story-telling style.You may submit more than one story. For each story selected, a 50-word biography will be included about the contributor and a permission fee of $200 per story will be paid within 30 days upon publicationPlease submit stories through our website at The tentative submission deadline is August 30, 2008, please note that this deadline may adjust, so the sooner, the better!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Go, Girlfriend

Today, I interview Julia Rosien, managing editor at Julia tells us about getting a paid blog gig, what she knows about blogging and how to build a successful site.

Tell us about yourself.
I've been a freelance writer, freelance editor, staff editor, writing instructor and writing coach – not in that order. I've taught writing and self improvement online, at a college and in a prison. I've written service articles for national parenting, women's and travel magazines. I've freelanced for papers like the Boston Globe and the Christian Science Monitor.
It might look like a bit like career ADD, but I like experiencing new things and being a writer/editor and teacher has afforded me some pretty unique experiences.
My personal passion is travel though. There's very little I won't do to get a good story.

Tell us about your blog,
GG is a travel blog geared to women 35-55 years old. From my research, this is the largest (and most underserviced) demographic online currently. What's interesting about this demographic is that they are making the travel decisions for themselves, their families and their business – and they're very comfortable shopping online.
Considering I'm part of that demographic, I understand what we do and don't want (hopefully) and can serve that up in a blog format.
A corporate blog obviously has to earn money, which we do through advertising. But the underpinning of success comes from a strong brand, trustworthy and engaging content and a growing community.

This is a paying blog gig. How did you get it? Had you been blogging previously?
I've been a freelance writer, a senior editor at a pregnancy magazine and an editor for an outdoor adventure travel site. My last gig included blogging, but it also included project management, staff management, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and business plan writing. This job feels like the perfect fit for me, but I have to admit that every day I learn something new.

How does this fit into your overall business plan?
After freelancing, I moved to a staff editorial position but what I'm doing now involves all of my skills. New Media is an exciting place to be right now. And since I manage the blog I'm accountable for the successes and/or failures that come my way.

Blogging takes quite a bit of time, how do you manage this extra responsibility?
Maintaining a successful blog in the current climate means I have to be able to wear a bunch of different hats simultaneously. Writing the blog is only a small part of the whole project. I can write the most inspired, brilliant posts for a blog but if I ignore SEO, no one will ever read them. And if I don't employ appropriate monetization, I may as well donate my time to charity.
Corporate blogging is really about knowing how to manage my own time, which is something freelancers are generally very good at. I generally hit the major newsfeeds first thing in the morning to see what's happening in the world. Do I need to get a news article out or can I focus on a destination article? I spend much of my morning writing, contacting PR reps for images and (hopefully) publishing at least one post before noon.
My afternoons are generally divided between community building, SEO and commenting and writing anything newsy that needs to be published quickly.
I publish 2-4 posts each day. Aside the actually writing, each post requires images, formatting, and finally some publicity.

What mistakes do you think bloggers make in setting up their forums?
Blogs and forums don't go hand in hand and thinking they do can set a new blogger up for a slow start at best, failure at worst. Consider each potential reader. You have one opportunity to wow them and then give them a reason to come back – you are offering a service that they can get pretty much anywhere.
If you have a forum that's not busy, it can be like pulling up to a restaurant with no cars in the parking lot. Will potential customers venture past the door to see if the food's any good? Or will they pull out and find a busier restaurant?
Forums don't populate themselves and unless you're going to seed yours with fake posts, that can take more energy than maintaining a blog.
Wet up a blog that allowed anonymous commenting, but leave the forum until you have enough regular readers to populate it. By regular I mean more than 10,000 per day.

What is an important thing to remember when you're blogging?
Blogging is more like chatting with a friend than it is journalism – though journalism plays a key role. Blogs are popular because people enjoy the informal, opinionated articles and stories. And they enjoy being able to talk back.
Rather than top down story telling (like you get in newspapers and magazines) blogging is across the board. The blogger may be the authority, but everyone who visits has an opinion and most exercise it liberally.
Which leads me to another point. If you think you needed a thick skin to survive the querying process, get ready to develop skin the thickness of a rhinoceros. Readers are merciless. If you write something that rankles, you'll hear about it.

How are blog entries different from writing articles for print publications?
Like I said above, they're informal and chattier. Instead of handing just the information over, you're including your opinion and inviting readers to talk back with theirs.
Blog posts are also short and more tightly focused. Think of them as a series of FOBs.

SEO is a scary term to most writers. Can you explain how it works?
Nope, this is a huge area and the more I learn, the more I realized I do not know.
Start with the Wikipedia description:
Move onto Google's SEO chat:
And then just read everything you can get your hands on. It's a skill, but it's constantly evolving. What worked for SEO a year ago isn't necessarily correct now.
Even if you know nothing about SEO and less about html, get a blog started now. As a blog ages it gains credibility and worth, simply by being online and slowly growing. Add relevant content to it on a regular basis and teach yourself a little bit each day, week or month. You'll be surprised how much you absorb just by being online and interacting with other bloggers.

What do you think the future is for blogging in the overall world of writing?
think blogging is the future. Every newspaper and magazine trying to survive online right now is racing to catch up to the blogging bus that I'm on. It's moving fast and those outlets who aren't on are giving their spot to bloggers around the world who may or may not have a journalism background.
And the way the world responds to those blogs – by reading them or ignoring them – will shape how news is served up 10 years from now.
We'll probably never see an end to print media, but I do believe online media is being created much like Wikipedia was first created – by users.