I don't actually wish anything explosive on you beyond a nice fireworks display this fourth of July, but lets remember Andrea Martin playing Patti Smith and getting blowed up real good on SCTV lo, these many years ago. No, I don't have a YouTube clip to put with this post. Just cleaning up the site today and wanted to offer proof of life. Hi! Have a good holiday. And for anyone wondering about my writing, I'm still doing it but looking for a day job for more stability. So if you need a writer I'm available, but if you have other work I may be MORE interested. Get in touch!
This post has been removed by your friendly site host. More to come soon, though!
The past year has seem me move twice, but I'm still in temporary housing. I nevertheless did some of my best and most far-reaching work during this time in the crucible, but the blog (both of them! I also kvetch over at donkeywork.wordpress.com) suffered, and for that I apologize. So here's what's new on the business front:
I am still writing and ready for you to hire me! Drop a line and we can work something out. I'm especially interested in going back to where I started as a writer; it wasn't called "branded content" then, but I'm willing to roll with the changes. My writing can help your business stay on message and reach new customers. From a simple shelf talker to generate buzz around a neglected product to ad copy, radio spots, brochures, I've got you covered. Get in touch if you're ready for a fresh voice your clients will respond to.
Did you see the post before this one? I still review self-published books, and while there has been a gentle uptick in quality overall, let's just say that if it was represented by the incline feature on your treadmill, your calves wouldn't feel it. To that end, I am also hiring out to any and all authors looking to self-publish for copy, content and developmental editing services!
I'll be writing more about this in the future, but here's the gist: By the time a book reaches me for review, the author has paid anywhere from $300 to $1000 for coverage. Many of them are unreadable disasters, and even those that have an organized story to tell often suffer because they're freighted with typos, misused words, and lengthy rants better suited to a journal that's eventually burned in a bonfire. It's my job in these reviews to advise booksellers and librarians on whether these books represent a good use of their dwindling funds and limited shelf space, and there's no way I can say "yes" honestly; they're just awful. But they don't have to be.
My editors, whose livelihood depends on these books being submitted with payment for review, don't want the easy money. They want to be recognized for bringing to light stories that wouldn't otherwise be told, stories that deserve a mass audience but are usually left on the margins. We've all heard about authors who throw together a paranormal romance that strikes a chord with readers and is suddenly being feted by the cream of the mainstream publishing crop. Many of the books I review are clearly written with starry-eyed visions of being the next E.L. James, J.K. Rowling, or H.L. Seggel (okay, not yet, but I have those dreams too!). There are no guarantees in life, but I can get you much closer to a favorable review, and also advise you on how to publicize your work since if you do it yourself you'll be promoting it yourself as well.
I've seen hundreds upon hundreds of books I couldn't recommend, and a handful or two that succeeded. To do my job well I have to articulate why this is so in each case. I can do the same for your work BEFORE you submit it for review, thus giving you the opportunity to smooth the rough edges, dot the i's and cross the t's. I've written professionally for over twenty years, and the only reason I've had the success I have is thanks to thoughtful and conscientious editors. I can't imagine publishing a book without getting as many eyes, hands and pencils on it as humanly possible in order to ensure readers will both understand and enjoy--OK, love--it.
If you care about your work, don't shortchange it. Hire an editor and submit the book you always meant to write. Drop a line and let's talk further.
See, everything I know I learned from my dad,
He learned it all from his/
And his dad just happened to be
Wrong about everything!
--Dan Bern, “Hannibal”
Not long ago I finished reading a memoir and had to restrain myself from throwing it across the room. Fortunately I was being paid to read it; part of my living comes from reviewing books, and a part of that part is dedicated to self-published work. This memoir was drawn from that pile, and had many strikes against it—an intolerably snotty narrator, numerous typos that made simply getting through it a slog, and an obscenely high page count. If I was going to complain about the quality, at least it wouldn't be followed with, “And the portions were so small!” This was a doorstop.
The central problem with this book was a trait that's sadly common to many self-published books: A simple lack of curiosity on the part of the author about her own life. Telling your own story isn't best achieved by knowing all the answers when you sit down to write; the most engaging work comes from authors who aren't afraid to wonder, even if the answers that come don't flatter them.
The open floodgates in the world of self-published books mean a lot of people show up with manuscripts that aren't ready for prime time. It's a delightfully global village, but authors who write in English without basic fluency or a willingness to pay for translation and editing hurt their cause by publishing work that's simply impossible to understand, much less rank for consumers. This is slowly improving as authors who sell no copies begin the hard task of asking why and making the necessary adjustments. Many have good stories to tell and merely need technical assistance to ensure the reader can pick up what they're laying down, but the movement as a whole is still undermined by those who equate typing with authorship.
Rather than unfairly piling on any one author, here are a few broad examples drawn from recent reviews. Consider it a field guide to avoidable catastrophe.
We begin with The Axe-Grinder. Lots of people grow up hating their mothers. It's a very sad thing, and you're surely entitled to vent your spleen about it as an adult with a laptop. But! In self-published memoirs, the accusatory finger is often wielded with such overpowering force it sinks the story around it. A woman furious at her family claims (repeatedly, and in the middle of stories about other things) that her sister exacerbated their mother's dementia by cooking for her, since measuring and preparing food would have engaged the woman's mind. A man who wrote about the many cats he'd cared for takes time out to gripe about his mother for not giving him money for a vacation, when the comfortable living he brags about is spent on...well, not spaying and neutering, that's for sure (he had roughly a jillion cats). The biological daughter of parents who fostered several children was entirely right to call out both the parents and foster siblings for instances of abuse and neglect, but fails to notice that merely listing these sad occurrences does not offer the reader a story to engage with.
While it may seem impossible in the heat of a first draft to take time out and put yourself in your tyrannical mother's shoes, take heart! You're not supposed to! However, you are also not supposed to publish your first draft. And when it comes to going deeper, many authors succeed and still get their anger out. A recent self-pub memoir that crossed my desk focused on an abusive mother who, once her daughter had reached puberty, down-shifted from physical beatings to emotional torment so severe the girl wet the bed into adulthood. No doubt about it, she had a legitimate score to settle. But in so doing, she continued to speculate about why her mother turned out this way, and noted the close relationship she was able to maintain with her father and grandparents. The mere willingness to allow that her monstrous mother might be a human being shows a depth of consideration on the author's part that makes her easy to sympathize with, and the book was gripping as a result.
Setting down a weapon is never easy, especially when that weapon is a pen. It feels so powerful to be the one telling the story your way, without interruption from your stupid family who never thought you had it in you. I'd encourage anyone with that much energy to write their heart out as freely and often as possible; the catharsis can be therapeutic, and telling your truth is always, always a valid pursuit. It's just that this is the stuff of journals, not literature. If you want to publish your story, take all your notebooks and stash them in a drawer for five years, then come back to it. Still want to publish? OK, you are ready to begin what will probably be the most grueling series of revisions you ever undertake. And you owe it to the people you write about to talk to them and consider their perspective, too, even if you disagree with it. Your story is not your own at the end of the day. It happened in a world with the rest of us in it.
This is a rambling route to a point many would-be authors lose sight of, given the ease with which books can be published: Good writing takes time. It's not at all uncommon to find a first-person comment in a self-published memoir like, “Wow, I didn't know it would be so hard to write a book! I started on Monday and it's already Thursday!” Don't be one of these people. Care enough to put the time in, and you will naturally begin to incorporate the perspective of others while still having your say. It's just that now it will more likely be something we want to read.
Moving on, we find the Kitchen Sink-ers. It may not seem to reflect a lack of curiosity, but many self-publishers, both memoir and fiction writers, suffer a defect of perception that I occasionally fall victim to myself. It may be driven by a desire to maintain word count, or a simple unwillingness to take up the scalpel, but these scribes put every thought in their heads on the page and refuse to cut so much as a comma. The resulting prose is, at best, a slurry of verbal diarrhea that leads to mental constipation, an IBS of the mind.
These are stories where a protagonist wakes up, turns over, rolls to an upright position at the edge of the bed, leans forward, stands, then—lifting first his left foot and then his right—walks to the bathroom (in the LL Bean slippers with the blackwatch plaid lining he got on his fifth wedding anniversary) to pee. You can imagine how long it takes to get breakfast into a person so utterly fascinating, what with waiting for each egg to be laid and the wheat to grow into eventual toast. In fiction this is often comical in its sheer badness, but in nonfiction it becomes problematic in the extreme.
Think about a popular memoir you enjoyed. There's usually a flow to the story that draws you in, and whether the author talks to the reader like a friend or simply presents their tale with little preamble, they offer the details crucial to the story without a lot of clutter or equivocation. During those in-between moments, they are silently gliding toward the next plot point on moving walkways, buying groceries, showering, maybe paying bills, none of which we need to read about. Self-pubs often feel the need to include everything they did as if drawing the details from a journal (which many of them are openly doing), and when memory fails making up something like, “We probably had hash browns and eggs for breakfast, then went to the mall for a while since it was the weekend.” This happens so often it has become a trope of the field. I've begun to worry that one more speculative memory of an incident that nobody cares about will push me over the edge. Is it possible to give out negative stars? Can I give a book a black hole?
Again, the fix is not that difficult. Fiction writers: First of all, read better fiction, even if it's just for a little while, and read closely. Find a few passages where a character manages to move through her day organically without our having to count how many times she chews each bite of food. Copy those passages out. Literally copy them by hand. Now refer to them when you've got a character who's stuck. Don't steal, but pay attention to what we need to know and what we can live without, and err on the side of brevity. If you somehow use a Mrs. Field's cookie to intercept a terrorist threat, this is relevant and worthy of inclusion. If you are at the mall on a less eventful day, don't list all the stores you pass; the mere word “mall” is sufficient for us to visualize the scene. Take the escalator to the food court and order your hot dog on a stick, just before whatever is going to happen surprises us all. I'm rooting for you.
Nonfiction authors, you have it even easier. Here's your metric: If you don't remember what happened, it doesn't matter. Don't include it. I'm serious. “We probably had a roast chicken,” is not useful to a reader. It makes you sound like a ninny, as if you don't remember your own life and, even worse, don't seem to care about it. A memorable meal is worth recounting—the cut glass vase holding four peonies, votive candles in Mason jars on the sideboard casting a subtle glow, and you, across from the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with, tucking into a shared can of Heinz Vegetarian Beans on toast. The 29 other dinners that month can probably be left aside. This one has sufficient narrative power to carry the day.
This would not be a righteous roundup without including The Fridge Magneteers. Just as the Kitchen Sinkers bog down a story with a lot of pointless details, there are writers who junk up a book with a profusion of anecdotes, quotes, and other pithy irrelevancies. It's a bit like opening Facebook and finding the same photo or meme several times in your news feed—what might be amusing at first quickly becomes annoying, just more lard clogging up your day.
Inspirational AA quotes. Life lessons from amazing nonagenarians. Mnemonic devices for dieters. The endless hilarity that is enjoying coffee or wine, or deriding those who enjoy them. All these things, and more Wikipedia entries than you'd believe, end up boosting the page count of the books I'm asked to read. At this point even a well-chosen epigraph is irritating (though I'll always forgive those) because so many of these books reflect a lazy approach to language, story, and content. Books aren't merely a page count; they should exist for a reason, and spackling a holey story together with serenity prayers and random thoughts pulled from the public domain shows a striking lack of originality or interest.
While the Axe-Grinders are the hardest books for me to read (I so often want to throw the victim under the bus, then feel guilty about it), the Fridge Magneteers are the biggest affront to reading and writing, since in most cases a book filled up with quotes from others is a book that can't stand on its own. My advice to these folks is pick a lane: If you want to compile a gazetteer or miscellany, by all means proceed. Give it a theme, bring in a skilled designer so it's pleasing to browse through, and chances are I'd buy it and love it. But if your reliance on the anecdotes of others in any way points to your own story being incomplete, don't publish yet! Sit with your work and let it ferment a bit. Commit to revising and polishing, to the actual craft of writing, and trust your originality to come forth when called. We'll be here for your wild truths and wilder imaginings, just maybe spare us from hanging out all day while you do laundry on the page.
It's somewhere between funny and tragic that the writer's guidelines from one of my review jobs contain the following passage: “I find it such a wonderful facet of human nature that reviewers so often try to shield authors from hurt by avoiding being direct about the problems in a book. It speaks to the good in all of us.” While I generally have the opposite problem, beginning with the premise, “This sucks,” and trying to rephrase it kindly, I did just ask an editor to double-check my work for snark about a (terrible) book I suspected was written by someone with a serious learning disability.
It's a noteworthy accomplishment for anyone to set out to write a book and finish it, but if a review is supposed to advise both the general public and those in charge of library acquisitions, you still need to find a compassionate way to shut it down if the result is unreadable.
A side effect of reading so much genuinely undercooked writing is the gratitude I feel now for a well-told story. I've always loved reading, but good work makes me want to stand and cheer now that it's unavoidably clear how much effort goes into it, and how many people are willing to try and pass off sawdust for soul food. I trip over my feet in the rush to credit a well-turned phrase anymore. They're tiny miracles, shooting stars on the page.
Writing well is a little like the paradox of faith. To believe requires you to hold the thought that your belief might not be correct or reciprocated, but that's still the star you steer by, even knowing it may lead you into rough seas. It's unnerving and dynamic. Your life story is, and all your stories are, the same way. Knowing it all before you lift a pen effectively drains the life from your material. Let it roam a bit, maybe pull away from you, lead you somewhere unexpected.
If your dad was a rat bastard, show us a good day among the bad and the betrayal when he falls off the wagon again will be that much harder to take. You were a model student, a perfect child, employee of the month but nobody cared?, What lurked under all those perfectly smoothed surfaces? Give us a bad hair day, that one time you fought back, some contrast, some texture. You may think you have the full story, but you can never know how other people saw things; the confidence it takes to tell a story well is the same confidence that lets you face that doubt and continue writing.
All of these things boil down to remaining curious about your life and the ideas you have about it. Never underestimate the richness to be mined from the possibility that you might be wrong and simply following that discovery where it leads.
The internet where I'm currently staying is sketchy at best, so I've been an unfaithful poster here and at donkeywork.wordpress.com, my other blog. However, I do check email with regularity and respond as soon as possible, so if you've wandered here and are considering me for any sort of work, just know that I'm available, and ready to jump in. Just not blogging up a storm. I'm going to post a long piece today, though, so check it out.
Let's Review: How a Critic Can Support Your Copy Needs in Style
I've been updating my resume with an eye toward finding more copywriting work. It's primarily a form of entertainment to pass the time between Craigslist house-hunting and Santeria to hopefully make the Craigslist work more effective. When compiling my work history the fact that my primary occupation for the past several years has been as a book reviewer leaves me a bit conflicted. People see that and wonder, how does that skill set translate to composing my radio ad? My catalog copy? My fundraising letter? So let's look for a moment at what a reviewer's job entails.
Many critics watch lists of forthcoming titles, pitch a review based on one they really want to read and go from there--it's a good way to read the books you like and get paid for it and I'd love to do it that way myself someday, but for the past twenty years I've come at things differently. Some jobs propose a list of titles and I can suggest the top three I'd like, but more often than not I get something else (we all want the same top three, and I make a point of offering to take the books left unrequested after the stampede). Some editors just send me a grab bag at set intervals. What this means to me is every envelope I open for work contains a surprise and a new set of challenges. For you this means the bulk of my work experience has prepared me to tackle new subject matter with everything I've got.
Reading a book is straightforward. Reviewing it is another matter entirely. If you're trying to condense a year's worth of newsletter articles into a coherent video script, keynote address, or white paper, let someone who spends all day analyzing, summarizing, condensing and synthesizing content take a crack at that for you. In a perfect world, you'd give me the written material you have and contact information for anyone I might need to speak with plus a one sentence directive about what you'd like in return (e.g., a 750 word project summary, twelve 350 word blog posts to run over three months, a one-page press release highlighting a specified event date, etc.). Then stand back and let me tell your story in clean, direct prose that reaches out to readers and moves them to act.
I just described my employment fantasy, but it's designed to make yours come true in the form of top quality work turned around at breakneck speed. Your product, project or cause is currently competing with an oversaturated media landscape for ever-shrinking attention. Insisting on quality begins with how you present yourself, and good writing lays a solid foundation upon which your response and revenue streams can be built. My purpose is to help ensure that you succeed.
In short: Don't be afraid to let a bookworm tackle your more varied assignments! It's a pleasure for me to take on work that's outside the norm, and the work I do regularly leaves me uniquely equipped to do an exceptional job for you. Drop a line if you need help putting the perfect spin on your story. I'm happy to help.
I submit this with a brief foreword: The situations described herein are common, and deeply frustrating to the workers faced with them. The individuals doing the hiring (and antagonizing, however unintentionally) are, however, generally fantastic people to work with, helpful, kind and supportive. And that's part of the point: In this case, it's not personal, it's business. So act like it, and we'll actually be better friends for the effort.
While last year was the first one where I worked solely as a freelance writer, I've been at this for roughly half my life now (and sadly I'm not two years old, because that would make a very pitchable story). From business coverage to breaking news, ad copy to forty squidillion book, CD and DVD reviews, the more things change for the better, the more the same old annoyances rankle those of us hustling just to have a little green with which to pay the rent. Editors who work with freelancers are awesome people, big-picture thinkers with an eye for small details as well; no wonder sometimes the flow of communication with them suffers, getting lost between those extremes. And writers who hire freelance editors can appear to think of us as pleasant people who don't really do anything, but if you really feel like it you could pay them, I guess. (Even if you really feel this way, don't tell anyone. It doesn't speak well of you.)
Consider these simple and actionable points of contention. Act on them. Your client relationships and the quality of the work you get in return will more than justify the minor effort required.
The problem here is simple: You (any of you who are hiring freelancers) are not paying enough for me to live on. That's why I have several jobs at any given time. Your time is valuable; that's why you contract work out to freelancers. SO IS MINE! Providing guidelines means we both get what we need AND what we want. It ensures you've actually given me information you only think you've shared, because it's standardized and everyone gets the same sheet to work from.
This has happened to me more than once and I've yet to blow my top with an editor, but it particularly rankles to ask for the information I need to do the job, be refused, then have criticisms leveled at me based on information someone claims to have “told” me. I've been chastised for failing to ask for an extension on a piece I turned in two weeks prior also. Hey, I'm a Virgo, so organization is hardwired into me by the cosmos. When you work with me I'll give you exactly what you ask for, but—wait for it—if you aren't specific and end up unhappy with the results, the petard you hoist may be your own.
Practical Postscript: Are you guidelines impaired? Here, you sweet foolish pain in the ass, is the bare minimum you can provide and still be golden in my eyes. Approximate word count. The information you need included with the piece (such as annotations), and whether or not you'd like it formatted a certain way (e.g. I need name and phone or email for all sources at the end of the piece; I need title, author, pub date, page count and metafilter tags for this book but I'll format them). If you don't have a font preference just say 12 point Times New Roman. Line spacing and paragraph preferences, or a note specifying that you'll deal with them in-house. Submissions: In body of email, a Word doc, or both? It sounds like a lot but it takes less than half a page to jot down this stuff and avoid having to send a mass email that makes your writers feel like crap for not anticipating your unarticulated needs. Save that behavior for your marriage.
2. There's really no hurry. In over twenty years of professional freelancing I have never missed a deadline. I have turned around a book review in 24 hours to placate an editor who demanded it; I've also been assigned a review several months out only to receive an email asking for a draft within three hours because someone dropped out. I delivered the work on time PLUS a complete rewrite because who uses writer's guidelines amirite? It's not like we're going to tell you up front the whole thing needed to be annotated! Ha ha! Ho ho! If there's a moth in the room with me I'll be unable to sleep, but when it comes to work you can't rattle me. I get stuff done on time.
Having said that, please be clear on your end about how genuinely urgent this work is before you make your crisis my problem. In neither of the above cases did the work actually need to be turned in that quickly. I received no extra pay or consideration for future work, and while I felt like a rock star for delivering, I also ultimately realized I was being toyed with needlessly.
This just came up again within the past week. I wrote a story and had a projected run date, then was asked twice to find more sources and add more interviews. THEN I was told it was going to run in two days instead of three weeks, and I needed to add this, flip that, and turn it in immediately. I did all this at the cost of a day spent hustling like the chump I turned out to be. The piece didn't run, the final edits I was promised have yet to appear, and it's now unclear if my original run date is even going to stand. Payday for this if it happens? $70. You don't have to tell me; I know it's not worth it, but the story was important to me. Considering the pressure I was under to write, rewrite and turn it in stat, I thought it was important to the publication, too.
I think editors just like to have their bases covered. I am a person who can always help you out in that regard. It's not braggadocio, just the truth. But if you don't respect the effort I put forth and honor your end of the bargain, it's unlikely I'll stick my neck out for you ever again.
3. If you're hiring an editor, of course you need to know what you want and make that clear to them before commencing. A contract in the form of a letter works nicely. But you also need to understand that editing is itself the job. When you contract with someone to do the work, you are obligated to pay them whether or not you use it or take any of their suggestions. You can revert the whole thing back to Spell-Check's worst nightmare, not publish it, or throw it in the trash. You have still hired someone to do a job which they completed, and therefore you must pay.
I rarely edit, but did once have the experience of someone hiring me for a job then saying, well, I'm not going to use this piece of copy after all but I'd still like to give you something for your effort. I can recall this and laugh in part because some people are just so darling in their utter obliviousness to the labor of others you have to love them. But with editing and housework it's easy to see how the disconnect happens. Oh, you cleaned my house beautifully, but now that I'm home it's already getting dirty again so I kind of don't want to pay you. Would you accept a cookie and eat it outside, please? With editing, a piece that needs a lot of reworking (and gets it per our agreement) may point up the fact that it's not particularly well thought out or organized. This is never what we want to hear, but it tends to result in much better, meaning clearer and more understandable, work.
The edits may even lead you to a totally new story. This happened to me: I wrote something I was wildly proud of, contracted with an editor to rework it (and paid in full beforehand because I value her time and attention), and was shocked to read suggestions that indicated half the piece really, REALLY had to go. I was upset and sad, but she was completely right. And the finished draft sold and was published to a response that still humbles me. The piece is part of a manuscript under consideration by a publisher now; I can promise you the original piece could not have dreamed of such an outcome. Editors earn it. If you ask for their help, thank them and pay them. They deserve it.
4. Pay on time. Pay on time. Pay on time. If you can't, take the initiative and tell the writer or editor what's going on well before they have to come after you for it. I have an outstanding invoice from over a year ago that is gathering moss; the editor was kind enough to put me on the magazine's masthead as a contributing writer, but he sends emails saying, “Off to write checks now!” and they never appear. Take me off the masthead and let me pay rent on time. Another editor bought a piece from me then seemingly vaporized; I have actually given up hope that the story or my check will ever appear and reworked it into a new piece to pitch to a better market, but yikes. If I see this woman's name at any point in my future I will run screaming in the opposite direction. The magazine may well be responsible for the decision, but as my editor and point of contact with them her job is to communicate with me about these things. Silent treatment = unacceptable. P.S. Pay on time. And if you pay horribly, be as kind as you can to your writers. I'm generally blessed and cursed in this regard, making next to nothing but getting to work with the kindest, smartest, most inspiring and wise people around. 2015 will be the year I make it all pay well, but for now I'm honored by the company I keep at work, these egregious breaches of etiquette notwithstanding.
5. This is essentially a summarization of the above points, but lead with kindness. The blurred perception that flows between editors (the ones who employ freelancers) and writers makes it hard for us to empathize with one another. An editor has a stable job, yes, but it involves cat-herding most people can't even imagine. If you have questions or concerns, certainly ask them, but don't put the pest in persistence when it comes to getting a reply. Be consistent and keep it light. Editors, know that the freelancers you're working with are a mixed bag. Some are highly selective about the prices they'll accept and company they'll keep. The rest of us would probably work for food, such is our anxiety about money. We need reassurance and to be placated, to know that wheels are in motion and they will eventually print, sign and mail a check to us. If you can't check in about that personally, I've received mass e-mails roughing out publication and payment dates that were informative and helpful, and I sure didn't hold it against the magazine that they took the initiative to head off a bunch of questions before they could be asked. Take care of yourself, of course, but take care of us, too. We're all part of the same mission, right? To produce the best damn issue of Maxim ever!
(Your mission may vary)
Heather Seggel is trying to be a good sport about the fact that she is without a home at present but her sense of humor is failing, failing utterly. The falcon cannot hear the falconer. Follow her on Twitter @HeatherSeggel and be amazed by the depth of her silence.
Here's a link to an interview with artist, author and all-around genius Ariel Schrag, which originally appeared on the Lambda Literary Review's website. Now it's running on Slate:
I include it here because the job was a pleasure and I loved Schrag's novel, but also, mainly, to remind writers of the value of good editing. When an interview is conducted via email and through publicists, there's no opportunity to feel your way into a "conversation" with the subject. Thus, my strategy is to throw an entire colander of spaghetti at the wall, asking every single thing I can possibly think of, while making it clear that they can pick and choose or simply dive in at will. The upside of this approach is that it's freeing for me; the downside is that it can be annoying for the subject, and that comes through in the answers they submit.
That happened somewhat with this interview. I asked too much and with lengthy preambles, and the answers that came back occasionally sounded frustrated with what must have appeared to be obtuseness on my part. When I first put the whole thing together it read as if we were having a very elliptical argument. I organized things as best I could, added paragraph breaks and tried to cut anything repetitive, but when I submitted my draft, it still read as a pretty constipated glut of material, so I asked (begged might be more accurate) for a stringent once-over from my editor.
The changes he made were not voluminous or earth-shattering, but gave contours to the cinderblock I submitted. It reads well. The book is well represented, and Schrag's intelligence, humor, and thoughtful replies are better captured. Just saying: It's lovely to have my byline on this, but it's not about me, and most of what's great about it came through hands other than my own.
Well, it's nearly August, and I have been grievously out of touch. I moved, but this was to be a short-term thing designed to help me find a permanent home. It has not come together as expected. Were you aware that it's really expensive to rent even the grimiest of hovels these days? I was hoping to get to a safer place than the one I was holed up in, where the fact that I worked from home was routinely disregarded by my landlord and his various handy/henchmen, who nevertheless expected the rent they prevented me from earning to appear on time each month. Now I wish I could go back! Ugh.
In news pertaining to writing, I am currently available and firing on all cylinders for any copy needs you may have. Book reviews are much harder from this location, and I don't have an office or the most stable internet, so I can do minimal reporting, but not with the quick turnaround I'd like. Get in touch if you need anything at all and I'll see what I can do and get back to you shortly. Oh, and if you've got an in-law unit just going to waste in the backyard? REACH OUT! I'm right here.
It's funny to look back at my last post and note that my donut shop dreams may be coming to pass. I'm moving in the coming weeks, a temporary change of scenery en route to hopefully finding a permanent home. This means I don't get to plant a garden, but also that I have no plant care responsibilities, so it's a vacation from duty and aesthetic pleasure both. I will find other ways to cake my fingernails with dirt, to be sure.
Once I've settled in and relocated all my existing work to the new address, I will be knuckling down in an effort to find copywriting assignments. I miss talking up the farmers market, our Historic Downtown, and all the other random gig-lets I've taken on while living in Ukiah, so I hope my energy and love of that kind of work will translate into a new environment. Failing that, you'll know it's me if you wander into a donut shop and discover the Pershings have shelf talkers attached.
Heather L. Seggel
imagines a world where blog posts are short enough to fit inside of cookies.