Thursday, November 29, 2007

A compromising position

I suppose it was bound to happen to someone close to me, but when I got the call, I was still pretty doggone shocked.

Someone "stole" my husband's identity and used it to open an account at a major retailer a state away. Fortunately, the financial services provider for the retailer smelled a stinkin' rat and called us immediately.

After many phone calls, he now has an "alert" on his social security number, et cetera. However, as a public service announcement (does this count as community service in case I do something illegal at some point in my life?), I want to remind all of you that filling out forms for new clients can be somewhat of a crap shoot. Even if your contact is completely legit him- or herself, someone else who works in his or her office might not be so squeaky-clean. It's fairly simple to "lift" an individual's info and use it to buy all sorts of crap.

Consequently, I'm hoisting my fat ass onto my dusty soapbox and urging you to exercise caution when giving out personal data. You don't have to get paranoid about it -- life's too short to turn our OCD tendencies into overdrive -- yet you shouldn't ignore the fact that there are assholes and cons out there.

Enough said. Be safe, boys and girls. This playground needs you healthy, wealthy and wise. Oh, and a little bit witty and weird, too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

From Sizzle... to FIZZLE

(FYI -- this post relates to the last one, so you might want to read that one first.)

So I drove to last night's social networking event with the excitement of a kid who sneaked a pregnant squirrel into his bedroom unbeknownst to his parents.

I had it all planned... I would try the following answers to the age-old "What do you do?" question:

- I work for the Centers for Disease Control and we're wrestling with a particularly tenacious, contagious airborne bacteria that has us stumped. (cough, hack)
- I hunt and eat moose. Zebras, too.
- I can't tell you that. (followed by a long, uncomfortable pause while staring innocently into the disbeliever's eyes)

I parked the car.

The building was lit up in a Christmasy theme. Garlands here, lights there. Oh, the anticipation!

I quickly glided to the door, not even feeling the chilly night air. Bliss, pure bliss!

I'd have the opportunity to use my 26+ years of theatre! And I couldn't wait!

I stepped into the lobby. I told them my name. I reached for my name tag...



That's what my name tag boldly declared.

Foiled. Spoiled. Roiled.

As my enthusiasm turned from a hot sizzle to a cold fizzle, I mentally switched the game plan. I decided that I'd tell other people that what they thought they did wasn't really what they DID do.

The results?

1. I told one gal she should be an exotic pole dancer because her name sounded... well... almost made up and a little too peppy. (She laughed, by the way -- it was at the end of the night and I think the wine that flowed at the event helped open the doors for me to make such a naughty statement to a stranger.)

2. I told another gal who sheepishly admitted that she had just been "let go" from a position and was looking for another that she was a "Reinventress", as in a gal who was reinventing her persona. She suspiciously eyed me for a second, then timidly smiled.

In the end, I had a good time, but was still ticked about the name tag fiasco. In retrospect, I should have just ripped it off and made people guess my moniker and job. Next time, I'll have a contingency plan in place.

(Oh, and as a quick FYI, when people asked, "What IS a freelance writer?", I responded, "I get paid to tell stories." Not exactly witty, but more interesting that going into detail about the nights spent drinking diet cola until 2:00 a.m. in order to meet a deadline.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Social networking

I know that we freelancers have a reputation for eschewing social events, preferring instead to sit alone in our dusty homes petting our kitties and munching ferociously on salty-sweet snacks. However, I've never been able to find solace in being a hermit 100% of the time.

Thus, I signed up for a local social networking event that takes place tonight. It's just one of those holiday shmooze and mingle things -- no biggie, right? Except for one thing... I want to have fun with it. I don't want to pretend to be the CEO of my own company whose feces has no odor. I want to make a positive impression as someone who is professional, yet a little offbeat, too.

Therefore, I'm planning to change up the way I usually present myself to others: "I'm a freelance writer and performer, yadda, yadda, yadda."

Why be boring when I could answer the old question, "What do you do?" with responses like:

#1. If I told you, I'd have to kill you. (Thanks, Tess, for this one!)
#2. I'm a janitor in the building. Please don't spill anything or I'll be here all night.
#3. I don't have a job. Does your company have any openings?
#4. I'm a stay-at-home mom. I just came here to drink.
#5. You tell me.

Okay, so I wouldn't seriously say numbers three through five to strangers (unless the party is totally dull), but numbers one and two I would try.

In the spirit of the blogosphere (and because I know you're all such creative, weird, wild and wonderful folks), I'm encouraging you to send me snappy, memorable answers to those ennui-inducing questions like "So... whaddya do?" and "Where do you work?"

If I like any of them, I will use them tonight as conversation starters (or enders, depending on whose listening) and report back to you with the findings.

Oh, and I'm not joking. I will absolutely do this. See, I have very little shame. I mean, what the hell? In 100 years, I'll be dead and no one will give a crap whether or not I bombed at a central Pennsylvania social networking event.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Not too proud to beg

(I feel a little like a smarmy politician campaigning for office, but here goes...)

My fellow blog buddies.

As you know, I enjoy being a part of the blogosphere for many reasons. First, it's informational. Secondly, it's social. Third, it's entertaining. And fourth, I can be naked while 'net surfing and no one will ever turn their heads in horror or call the local authorities.

Consequently, I am asking each and every one of you to vote for me as December's guest blogger at 7 Babes a Blogging:

Though I cannot promise to change your world (or, alas, even your toilet paper roll), I can assure you that, if elected, I will do my best to amuse you with pictures of me from my incredibly awkward teenage years. (I'm serious. I'll do it. They're worth seeing. Very, very disturbing.)

Thank you for your support. I bid you good night!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Screw Shopping... I'm Giving Up...

Five Things I’d Rather Do Than Go Shopping on Black Friday

5. Personally give my cat a tongue-bath.

4. Unclog a toilet in a public facility using my bare hands.

3. Clip, shape, and polish the toenails of a professional drifter.

2. Model a bikini under harsh florescent lighting for a crowd of angry teens.

1. Listen to an opera based on the life of Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

If you want to lose your appetite before your Thanksgiving pig out...

... I suggest you drop by my other blog, Quoibles (

The link on my current post is to a site that, though funny (in my sick opinion), will also help you stick to your holiday diet plan.

One warning: Guys should be very, very careful about clicking on the link. It's kind of a "female thing". Don't say I didn't warn you!

Saying "Thank You" to Clients

So... it's Thanksgiving morning (gobble, gobble!) here in the States, and I'm pondering just how I'll say "thank you" to my clients this year.

You see, ever since I began freelance writing in earnest, I have paid special attention to sending my customers (or at least the best ongoing ones) something special for the holidays.

The first year, it was rather easy because so many of my clients were local... my son and I baked, cooked and organized gift baskets, then sent or personally delivered them. But now, many of my regular clients are scattered around the globe -- which poses a bit of a conundrum.

In discussing this with a freelance friend of mine, Tess, she mentioned that last Christmas she sent relatives who live on the opposite coast gift baskets that were filled with unique-to-Pennsylvania products such as Middleswarth potato chips and Tastycakes. I love this idea... in theory.

The problem, as she pointed out, was the expense in mailing such items. Let's just say that she could have spent a lot less than she did if she had hired a hitchhiker to travel across the country and deliver them him- or herself. And add to the innate expense of mailing moderately heavy boxes anywhere the fact that some of my biggest clients live outside the United States.

Yikes. I could wind up spending tons of moolah just for postage, boxes and some of that damn bubble wrap.

Incidentally, I've checked out vendors for my clients who are local to them and am considering ordering specialty baskets through the Internet. That way, I can order stuff right from my home office.

But something about that doesn't feel personal enough for me. I like to be more hands-on. If I'm going to do this (and I am), I want it to be creative and memorable.

So I'm open to suggestions. (Please, please, please!)

As a quick side note, when I checked the United States Postal Service for restrictions on sending items across the Atlantic, I discovered that sending arms or parts of arms is strictly prohibited. Dang it. What am I going to do with all the disembodied limbs I have ready to go?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Big Old Juicy "Thank You"

I wanted to send out a huge note of THANKS to Jason Evans and the community over at his blog, The Clarity of Night.

I was quite taken by surprise when the story I wrote for his latest contest won the Readers' Choice Award as well as an honorable mention.

I'm trying to figure out a way to pay him back for his kindness... but until I think of something more creative, I'm simply going to urge all of you to visit him, comment on his poems, stories, photographs and musings, and definitely take part in his next contest (scheduled for mid-February.)

Congratulations to winners Raine Weaver (1st place), Beth, aka The Perfect Neurotic (2nd place), Leon Van Eck (3rd place), Dottie Camptown (4th place), Precie (5th place), John Weagly (Honorable Mention), Josh Vogt (honorable mention), and Szelsofa (honorable mention).

Come to think of it, I encourage you to stop by ALL of the winners' sites? (Links are available through The Clarity of Night.)

Just Because I Work from Home... (* Snarkiness Alert *)

... doesn't mean that I can be available at a moment's notice to do something that isn't on my agenda.

... doesn't mean that I need another book for the holidays on how to work at home.

... doesn't mean that I have no professional workplace experience or abilities.

... doesn't mean that I don't shower... I definitely do, but not always in the morning! *wink*

... doesn't mean that it's easy to do all the housework and laundry. (In other words, yeah, my house is a mess. I'm working on it... I'm working on it!)

... doesn't mean that I'm an introvert who cannot look another human being in the eye.

... doesn't mean that I'm impractically "book smart" (i.e., devoid of common sense.)

... doesn't mean that I am a rebel. (Oh, wait. Maybe it does. Scratch that one...)

YOUR TURN! Finish the sentence...

Just because I work from home...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Seven Signs You’re probably a Freelance Writer

7. You know your laptop more intimately than you know your spouse.

6. The idea of working 9-5 puzzles you.

5. Your commute consists of walking into your dining room.

4. You’ve spoken with clients while partially or entirely nude (without them ever knowing.)

3. Vampires see the sun more often than you do.

2. “Schedule C” and “estimated taxes” are two terms with which you’re thoroughly familiar.

1. Every day is “casual Friday”.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

So... What Is It You Do, Exactly?

"So... what is it you do, exactly?"

I can't tell you the number of times I've been asked this question. From friends. And relatives. And people whom I assumed understood what I do.

Honestly and truly, I never thought what I did was very mysterious. I mean, I write. Sure, what I write is different from what other writers, journalists, reporters, poets, playwrights and authors write. But we're all basically doing the same thing.

I think.

Or I thought.

But at this point I'm starting to ask myself: What is it I do, exactly?

At social networking events, I automatically describe myself as a freelance writer who primarily writes and ghostwrites articles, website content, press releases, advertising/marketing copy, business reports and blogs.

The response to this incredibly dull description is usually a blank stare. Blinking ensues. Drinks are sipped. Awkward silence is followed by light coughing.

Then, the question. "Have you written any books?"

Well, no. Well, yes. I mean... I've been published in a book and I'm working on a nonfiction book.

(Does that count?)

In the end, I usually have to describe several articles I've written and the magazines/publications/websites where they've appeared. By then, the other person has a better grasp of my chosen line of work... and he or she is ready to vamoose because I've become tiresome.


I suppose I naively assumed that everyone would just understand (and perhaps even be interested in) what a professional freelance writer does because there seem to be so many of us out there right now.

I was wrong.

Therefore, I'm putting a call out to my fellow writers... How do you answer the age-old question, "What do you do?"

Is there any solid response? Or are you forced to try to explain how it is that you can make a paycheck at 1:00 a.m. while you're sitting in bed half-naked with your cat, your snoring husband, and your laptop?

(On a side note, the next time someone asks, I'm thinking of answering, "Well, aside from murdering drifters and prostitutes upon occasion, I like to write." Think that would get me attention? Or perhaps a stay in a penitentiary?)

Friday, November 16, 2007

What'$ it all about?

Freelancers, be advised: It's not about the money.

There, I said it.

Many freelance writers whom I respect will disagree with me.

They'll cite bidding wars where the lowest bidder gets the job (do you really want that assignment?); they'll tell me that when they raise their rates, they hear nary a word (then the clients were going to pains in the ass to work with); they'll tell me that they only get jobs when they work for a mere pittance (then it's time to raise your standards or seek out a mentor who can help you become a better writer.)

I still stand by what I've experienced over and over in every form of sales: It's not about the money.

It's long been known that humans buy emotionally 99.9% of the time. That's why all those damn candy bars, packets of gum, and magazines are at the register at the grocery. Their mere presence makes you WANT to buy them. You had no interest in them before you saw them. Then, suddenly, you NEEDED them.


They're powerful stuff.

And as a freelance writer, you can appeal to your clients and prospects on an emotional level, too. But you have to first remove the money bugaboo.

See, your client wants you to THINK that he or she is all about facts and figures because it's a handy excuse to create a barrier between the two of you based on dollars, Euros, or pounds. When you remove that barrier, he or she will be forced to deal with you on a deeper level.

For example, when sending out query letters, I never include per word or hourly rates unless an ad expressly states that they must be included. And even then, I tend to use ranges rather than saying, "I will definitely need xx cents per word." See, I don't know the client yet... I don't know the extent of the assignment... and I don't want to pigeonhole myself... so how in the world could I possibly give an exact rate?

Some clients don't have a problem with this -- for those that do... well... they weren't serious, in my opinion.

When meeting a client or potential client in person or speaking with him or her via telephone, I simply say in response to inquiries about my rate, "Well, we can talk about remuneration later. What I'd really like to know about is your vision for this project." Once we've devoted several minutes to building an understanding between us, I can give him or her a much better indication of a price tag. And by this point, the client sees me as more than a money symbol; he/she sees me as an expert in whom he/she has invested time and energy. A bond has been formed.

Always, always, always, my personal goal is to remove the money wall and appeal to the needs, wants, emotions of my clients.

Sure, we discuss money... eventually. But I'd like to know first of all what he or she really wants of me as a freelancer. Sometimes, they want a monkey. (While I enjoy bananas, I don't enjoy being paraded around while wearing a diaper.) Other times, they want a writer who can also be a top-notch editor. (This can be a sticky situation.)

Most times, they aren't sure what they want.

But I'll never find out anything if I allow myself to be defined by a dollar $ign.

If you think I'm full of shit, I don't mind hearing it. Maybe I am. But my approach to freelancing based on selling principles has worked thus far. Perhaps I've just been fortunate... I invite you to decide.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My One and Only

When I sold services in a business-to-business environment, I adopted the philosophy that I would treat each client as if he or she were my one and only customer. That didn't mean I was available for conference calls at 2:00 a.m., nor did I do any illegal favors... but I did make sure that when I spoke with someone, I was truly focused on what his or her company needed.

By being attentive, I found that it was easier in the long run to iron out any rough patches. (And believe me -- even in the best of partnerships there are stumbling blocks.) You see, the clients really felt that we had a rapport. And we generally did.

Of course, I didn't enjoy working with all my clients. In fact, there were a handful who drove me to the brink of wanting to become a hermit on some remote island. But they never knew.

Today, I employ that same "you're my only client" philosophy when dealing with freelance writing customers.

It's not easy.

There are times when I'm tempted to say to a particularly demanding individual, "Hey, listen... I have other clients, you know!" But as long as my customers treat me with an element of respect and professionalism, I never mention the other projects on my plate in direct terms. Occasionally I'll refer to my "workload", but that's all.

Now, I realize that there are times when it makes sense to break this rule. If a client acts as though I'm lower than the dirt under his or her fingernails, I'm certainly not going to bend over backwards. I'm not a doormat and I don't suggest anyone take on that identity.

That being said, the next time you speak to a client or prospect, I encourage you to focus all your attention on his or her needs. Be incredibly and genuinely attentive and get to know him or her just a tad bit better. Even if you're only corresponding with your customers via email you can still develop a strong relationship by asking relevant questions and answering your mail within a few hours (if possible.)

In the end, your client will feel like your "one and only". And you'll both reap the benefits.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Just Ditch "Just"

This is the first installment of a series tentatively entitled "Pain Free (almost!) Sales Techniques for Writers Who Hate Selling". I'm open to new titles, by the way. The wackier, the better!

If you had an appointment with a doctor and he or she told you, "I'm just a physician and I'm not really sure of what I'm doing... I guess I should start by having you undress...", would you feel comfortable having him or her check you out?

If you went to an auto mechanic and were told, "I'm just starting out... I'm not really sure what I should charge to change your oil... what do you think it's worth?", would you readily give him or her the keys to your car?

In 99.9% of all cases, customers want to feel comfortable hiring professionals, whether those pros are lawyers, accountants or writers. Clients don't want to take a chance -- they want to feel their money will be well-spent and their projects will be in capable hands.

Yet I hear the same phrases from freelancers again and again:

"I'm just a writer."
"I'm only writing part of the time and I'm really not very good..."
"I'm just trying this freelancing thing..."

Many writers in the freelance field add "just" or "only" as a descriptor... why in the world would you want to define yourself in this way?

Though I understand the desire not to sound too pompous, I implore all my fellow writers to ditch the "just".

Consider the difference between the sentences "I'm just a writer" and "I'm a writer". Isn't the latter much stronger? With which person would you want to work?

As a writer, you are the sales person for your work, whether or not you realize it (or like it).

Even if you aren't 100% certain you're the next Hemingway or Updike, it's up to you to put a positive face on your chosen profession. And don't assume that your portfolio will speak for itself; it needs you to sell it.

The next time someone asks you what you do, I urge you to avoid defining yourself using words which have negative or "wishy-washy" connotations. They make the listener feel uncomfortable and/or force him or her to placate you by saying something like, "Oh, don't put yourself down that way! I'm sure you're good."

Instead of appearing ashamed of your field, be bold and declare, "I am a writer." (If you have to, practice the line a few times in the comfort and seclusion of your bedroom.)

Remember -- if freelance writing (even on a part-time basis) is what you've chosen to do, be proud of yourself. When you exhibit confidence, your customers and clients will feel more comfortable in giving you projects, even those with whom you only connect via email or telephone.

Monday, November 12, 2007

First, I implore every visitor to head to Jason Evans' site, The Clarity of Night (

There, you'll find one of his super-duper-pooper-scooper contests in full swing.

Don't read the rest of my post. It'll be here later when you're finished. Scram. Vamoose. Out. Now. Git.


I held a sales position for a number of years and, though I sound like an uber-geek when I say these words, I truly enjoyed it.

Somehow, selling and I got along famously. That fact surprised me, but didn't shock those who know me well.

Of course, I disliked some aspects of sales -- but no profession is 100% wonderful, is it? Cold calls sucked. So I didn't do them. Instead, I found ways around having to telemarket and wound up doing well.

Fast forward a few years and I'm a freelance writer, performer and teacher.

However, I still use my sales experience every day.

Consequently, I'm starting a Recess for Writers series on "Pain Free (almost) Selling Techniques for Writers Who Hate Sales".

(Maybe I'll think of a snappier title. Maybe not.)

In any case, I wanted you to know that I'll be handing out advice (good? bad? boring? crazy? other?) over the next week or so. If you find it helpful, let me know! If not, don't comment. (just kidding)

Seriously, I look forward to hearing your thoughts (even the critical ones) and learning from your feedback.

Series starts tomorrow.

See you in the blogosphere!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Death to Viruses!


The virus, germ, bacteria, bug, whatever that's been attacking my family is officially in "retreat" mode. Hurrah for the good guys! We have withstood the assault and are now truly on the mend.

[insert patriotic song of your choice]

Unfortunately, the battle has left Mama Writer with piles of work that require immediate action. Consequently, blog postings might be sporadic for the next few days.

I leave you today with the body of a recently posted "men seeking women" advertisement on our local page. Please feel free to rip it apart... I find it most disturbing as well as more than a little bit pathetic.

Subject Line: I watched you excersize - Fairfield Inn - m4w - 40


Hi, I was in the pool, I watched you work out around 9:30 pm, I am staying in the same place, if you would like to share a cup of tea and some company ring my room #216, we are on briarsdale road, I was the only one there, 5 11 190 short hair, 40.

If you were that woman, would you feel comfy-cozy contacting this stranger who "watched you" "excersize"?


Friday, November 2, 2007

Rust, Orange, Brown, Gold

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. The changing colors of the leaves, that crisp, sweet-smelling breeze, the evenings curled up with plenty of blankets and a hot drink... ahhhhh.

In the spirit of this delicious season, my son and I decided to make a side trip yesterday while driving back home from my mother's house (where he was spoiled for two days and I got some time to work and rest.) Our adventure took us to my alma mater, Bucknell University.

Let me first say that when I went to college (dinosaurs roamed the earth at the time, by the way), the campus was a little smaller. As always seems to happen, the university has grown by a few buildings in the past decade-and-a-half (as have my hips since graduation.) But it's still much as I remembered.

However, the one difference was that I no longer felt "out of place" as I did when I attended classes there.

At the time, I was "finding myself" in a typical late-teen way. I just couldn't quite get a toe-hold in the social life at Bucknell, though, so I ended up only living there for two semesters and then commuting from my family's home for my last three years, a decision I now somewhat regret but which seemed appropriate at the time.

In any case, although Bucknell and I didn't bond emotionally, I received an excellent liberal arts education there. A few teachers really "stood out", one of whom I had the privilege to see yesterday during our impromptu "college tour '07".

Dr. Jean Peterson.

Just writing her name makes me grin.

Jean was one of the most outstanding instructors I have had (or ever will have, I imagine.) Her love for teaching English literature (especially Shakespeare) was evident, and the energy she brought to the classroom was palpable. I can actually remember thinking, "If I ever have the opportunity to instruct, I want to be this dynamic!" And now that I teach acting and modeling, I try to "channel" her spirit on those days when I feel less-than-peppy.

When I all-too-briefly spoke with Jean yesterday, it seemed as if no time had passed, though it absolutely has. (Could it really be thirteen years?) She's still very young in appearance, always smiling and extremely sincere. It was the highlight of our Bucknell trip to have the chance to tell her how much she meant (and means) to me. Ironically, it was her birthday, so we were able to offer cheery wishes to her.

Driving home amidst the falling foliage, my soul was filled with joy. My son and I talked non-stop (despite the laryngitis that's been coming and going for me) and it was evident we both were moved in some way by our experience.


You never know what magical moments will occur before those first snow flurries begin...