Sunday, February 26, 2006

Very Busy Weekend

Have you ever heard of Melissa Borders Stevenson?

I met her on Saturday. She had the most amazing one-woman show I've ever seen.

I went to a really nice luncheon (perks of being a member of the press -- enjoyed chicken crepes and a spinach salad) and stayed for a presentation by Mrs. Stevenson.

She portrays women in history. The women selected for Saturday's performance were Eleanor Roosevelt, Julia Morgan, Charlie Parkhurst and Harriet Tubman.

I had heard of Roosevelt and Tubman - those were obvious. But shame on me for not knowing who Morgan and Parkhurst were. (I did look it up before I attended but prior to getting the assignment, I did not know who they were.)

I'd love to talk more about it but I will wait until my story runs (next Friday) and then I can come back and tell you more.

If you ever hear of Stevenson performing anywhere near your town -- by all means, do yourself a favor and attend. You won't regret it!

Finally catching up

I have a new freelance record this month -- I have had more stories than I could almost keep up with. Don't get me wrong, it was very exciting and I loved doing it, but there were times that I felt overwhelmed.

Besides my regular weekly story for the Fresno Bee, I took on a couple of extra stories for them. Add to that the stories from World Ag Expo (two to three a day for a week) and my agriculture stories -- 10 stories about the county's top 10 commodities, and some regular stories for the Porterville newspaper -- and we are talking more than 30 articles in one month's time.

But ask me if I love it?


If I didn't have four children and an elderly mother to look after, I'd jump at the chance of getting back on with my old hometown paper. My editor had stopped by a couple of weeks ago and told me that there was a Features Editor position open as well as a general assignment opening.

I keep telling myself that I am waiting for my magazine-writing career to take off. I'm getting close. I have not heard from Readers Digest about my two submissions, but I did get an interesting offer to write an article for a trade-journal magazine. That is just the beginning!

This will be another busy week for me. I will be covering the California Music Educators Association music festival for three of the four days. I love band and love to cover any band-related stories. Plus, it does not hurt that I will have two daughters performing there too.

I still need to complete three agriculture stories, and I have my first interview for the trade-journal story scheduled on Tuesday.

When it comes to my novel, I have not worked on it much. I'm too busy with everything else. I am going to concentrate on completing all of my current assignments first.

Then I can return to my happy midnight writing!

Oh - one more interesting bit of information. I have signed up for a writers' workshop in Southern California. I'll be gone from April 28th to the 30th. I'm very excited about it.
I thought of going to the Mad Anthony Writer's Conference in Ohio, also in April ( especially since I found a great deal on airflight) but I decided against it since I have several other short trips planned in the next couple of months.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger

I met my Governor today. In fact, he shook my hand. It was great.

The wait for him seemed to take forever - but it was worth it. I know many around here are constantly putting him down - but I believe in what he has been doing.

Today he was discussing his Strategic Growth Plan - a $35 billion investment to maintain and improve the state's levee and flood control system and to provide for safe and reliable water supplies for California's future.

I was at the World Ag Expo to cover his visit and to cover the expo. I ended up writing three stories today.

I have been covering the Expo in Tulare, CA every day this week. (two to three stories a day) I have loved it. It feels great being a member of the press and getting all the perks. Special VIP parking, private golf-cart escorts, etc.

We have been treated like royalty at the media trailer that they set up for us. We have comfortable chairs/couches, all the drinks, candy, meat and cheese cuts, yogurt, name it, they have it for us.

Yesterday I got to interview some members of a Nigerian delegation. I've spoken with people from Japan, Canada, Australia, Netherlands and Australia. Today I spoke with the California agriculture secretary and I got to follow Arnold around as he toured the grounds.

Today I ran into a former news editor I once worked with. He's with another paper now and when he heard I was freelancing, he invited me to come out and write for them too.

Today was fun. And, it's such a big high for me to open up the next morning's paper and see my stories on the front page.

I love my job!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Five Weird Habits

Five Weird Habits – tagged by Joanne

The Rules: The first player of this game starts with the topic “five weird habits” and people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose the next five people to be tagged and link to their web journals. Don’t forget to leave a comment in their blog or journal that says “You have been tagged” (assuming they take comments) and tell them to read yours.

Ok Joanne – these are things that my girls have told me are just plain weird!

1. Every time (and I do mean EVERY time) I wash dishes, I sing Donny Osmond or Tom Jones songs. My earliest recollection of this strange habit -- I was 12 years old.

2. I can not throw out a newspaper unless I visually scan it first. There are times I am a week behind (subscribe to 3 papers) – and I wish I could pick them up and throw them out. But, I can’t. I will pick them all up, automatically throw out all the ad inserts, classifieds, comics, and usually sports (except for baseball season) and then I’ll set them aside until I have more time. It usually takes me a couple of hours to go through a week’s worth.

3. This is not really weird – ok, part of it is. I can not go to sleep unless I pray for my girls (small prayer- I touch their forehead and we close our eyes and I say a small prayer) That part is ok. But then, I sing my girls their “night-night” song. Mind you, my daughters are 22, 15, and 13. And they would be embarrassed to death if their friends knew. Odd thing, they are so used to the prayer and their song that when I am sleepy and forget, they’ll come looking for me to say goodnight and stand there, waiting for me to do the silly verse I invented when they were toddlers. When my daughter went to Hawaii with the school recently, I joked with her about recording the night-night song so that she could take it with her. A few months ago, my 13 year old called me from a sleep over and whispered, “I’m calling for the night-night song” – and of course, I sang it to her over the phone.

4. I love fresh figs. But, it is such a short season and they are so hard to find. Therefore, I have a notebook where I have jotted down the location of every single fig tree that I have ever run across. There are 8 in Porterville, 5 in Visalia, 1 on the side of the freeway on the way to Los Banos....etc. No, I never steal figs. In fact, I've never had a fig from any of those trees. (except for a former one in an empty lot by the baseball park, but it's gone now - removed to make a parking lot)

5. This one goes back to when my daughters were little. Every time they saw a cute animal on television, they'd say "OHHH" or "Ahhhhh" (but really loud and exagerated) and it was followed by "how cute" "how sweet" or "how adorable" -- somehow, I picked it up from them. It used to drive my husband crazy, we'd be watching television and a fuzzy animal would be shown and we'd all oohed and ahhed loudly. Well, we still do it. Doesn't matter when the animal pops up -- a monkey on Survivor or the little monkey on Friends -- "Ahhhh! How adorable!"

I did a quick search and at the time I checked, these people had not been tagged on this subject or they hadn't written on the subject yet, therefore, I choose to tag:
paint brush poet
(musings of a writing wife) Julia
ray wong


Thursday, February 09, 2006

American Idols and Writers

I love American Idol and I love Simon Cowell. But, I do not like it when he tears a person down about their singing. Still, as some of the aspiring singers auditioned, I found myself laughing and asking myself: “What is she thinking? He can’t be serious. She can’t sing. Are they deaf? Does he really believe he has talent? What was that?”

Some of them were so totally off key and -- with no melody whatsoever! How can they believe that they can sing?

Then it dawned on me. Many writers might be the same way.

Last month I read Jenna Glatzer’s “How to Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer” and then, right there on page four, there it was – a sort of disclaimer. A list of “I’m assuming that...”

Among the things listed: understanding command of language, discipline and desire to motivate self, willing to do research, ability to not being crushed by rejections…

“And finally, I will assume that you’re actually a good writer” -- Glatzer wrote.

I was excited. I was answering as I read: “Yes, yes, yes, yes...”

Back to American Idol – isn’t that how they all are? Many of them won’t believe the judges when they are told that they have no talent. They believe they can sing. And I have to laugh all over again. And this time, at myself.

Am I one of those contestants?

Being novice about breaking into the magazine market, I practically swallowed this book. I underlined, high-lighted and placed colored post-its all over it. I kept a writing pad with me and I would jot down questions, situations, things to look up, and things to come back to… until my daughter asked if I was taking a class or studying for a test. I had to smile – yes, I was. It was such a great feeling. I literally spent about six straight hours on it.

And I did my homework.

I subscribe to a lot of magazines – like 10 a month. My girl friend does too. Some are the same ones but some we trade every month, and I read about 15 magazines a month. I started studying them, just like Jenna instructed me.

Then, after a week of devouring the book, I felt confident that a particular story idea was perfect for Readers Digest. I wrote the article proposal and forced myself to set it aside. I was feeling so confident, I polished up a filler I had been keeping around, and I mailed it in for fun. It was only 100 words and I would get $300. Wow. Then, I could say I got $3/word. LOL

I returned to my article proposal the next day, saw some little (but obvious) things to improve it, and I polished it up. I must have gone over it at least 20x.

Then I kissed it and sent it on its way.

I got busy with more research and writing and I forgot all about it –for about a week.

After three weeks, even though I tried not to think about it, I couldn’t help but get excited every time I opened up my email.

Then I started wondering if they would respond by email or (American-Idol thinking) –since my article was so wonderful – maybe they’ll just call me and talk to me. Or, will I get a “real” letter from them, complete with a contract.

Honestly, I wasn’t thinking the latter. It entered my mind and I smiled. I’m not totally clueless to how this works. More often than not, nothing will arrive. But, not in my case – I was so confident about the proposal, I knew I just had to continue the waiting game. Though, I did get concerned last week when I heard about a tragedy – but I won’t go into that today.

In the meantime, I asked a question on one of the AbsoluteWrite threads.

One person responded with:

“Not to burst any bubbles, but it's best to entertain a healthy pessimism regarding any specific submission. As a percentage, very little gets published compared to what gets submitted, and it's probably best to find yourself surprised on the upside later if they get back to you.”

Ok – that’s fine. I agree with that. But, then she went on to say:

As to the more general sense, best is to find a few people whose opinions you respect (a good writing group is helpful) and try to get an assessment of whether you're talented enough to pursue it further or whether you're being self-delusional. And remember not to shoot the messenger.”

There it was – a statement from one of the judges. At least it was a kind statement.

But, here I was – an American-Idol-type writer – reacting to the statement.

WHAT??? What do you mean, "am I talented enough to pursue it further?" And what is this about being Self-delusional? Phooey!

(Remember, don’t shoot the messenger)

I didn’t.

One of the things I am known for is that I am always telling everyone: “Don’t ever let go of your dream.” One of my dreams is to be published in magazines. I believe it will happen. And, if it doesn't happen this month, there's always next month.

Until then, I’ll be right here – writing. And watching American Idol.
And, for all of you new writers -- you have to get Jenna Glatzer's Freelance Writing book. You'll be glad you did and when it is your turn to perform before the judges -- you can smile and feel confident that you've been coached by a professional.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Rule of Four Meme

I was just thinking that if it weren't for meme's -- there would be little posted on my blog, at least lately. Then, I read a similar comment from Mac on Dawno's site.
I have been very busy with freelance writing assignments. I counted today and I have 22 for February and it's not even the middle of the month yet! That's fine. Baseball season is coming up and I need to buy a season pass.
So...for now, I'm going to post this last meme that I ran across on Musings of a Writing Wife

Four jobs you've had in your life:
1. Radio show host assistant (station identification voice; commercials, assisted dj, answered the request line) - KTIP Porterville, KCOK Tulare
2. Worked at my family's record shop on Main Street
3. Emergency Room Nurse - later, School Nurse
4.Newspaper Reporter / later Freelance Reporter

Four movies you could watch over and over:
1. The Rookie
2. The Man in the Iron Mask
3. Groundhog Day
4. Under the Tuscan Sun

Four Places you've lived:
1. Laredo, TX
2. San Antonio, TX
3. Porterville, CA
4. Visalia, CA

Four TV shows you love to watch: (I watch TV Monday-Thursday / some are recorded)
1. Monday: Medium & 24
2. Tuesday: American Idol & Commander and Chief
3. Wednesday: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (every night)
4. Thursday: Survivor / CSI / Without a Trace

Four Places you've been on vacation:
1. Tulum, Yucatan - (Caribbean)
2. Hawaii
3. Europe: Paris - Belgium - Netherlands
4. Victoria, British Columbia - Canada

Four websites you visit daily:
1. The Fresno Bee
2. The Porterville Recorder
3. several close friends' websites/blogs
4. (minus small breaks)

Four of your favorite foods:
1. chicken piccatta
2. steak
3. fresh fruit
4. sauteed mushrooms

Four places you'd rather be:
1. Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula - my favorite place to vacation
2. Xcaret - also in Caribbean - Paradise!
3. In a bookstore
4. Home. It's my favorite place to be.

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