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The IWOC newsletter, Stet, features news and helpful information for IWOC members and the entire freelance-writing community. Typical issues include previews of upcoming meetings and events, recaps of recent meetings and events, book and Web-service/software reviews, and tips not only for writing but for developing and sustaining business as an independent writer. And each issue features words of wisdom from our president.

Stet is published 11 or 12 times per year (we sometimes skip December to focus on enjoying the holidays). And our editors invite contributions from all interested parties both inside and outside of IWOC. Our only criteria are writing quality and the timeliness and usefulness of the information to independent writers.

For information regarding submissions, contact the Stet editor. And to view past issues of Stet (from 2002 to 2015), please visit our Stet Archive.

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  • 31 May 2017 12:38 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    June 2017

    Volume 36 | Number  5

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Searching for ideas on the internet is not new, I know. Finding something in the first attempt, that is a new record for me.

    I googled “writing ideas” and got a page full of various sites for writing prompts. I chose the Writer’s Digest site. I figured that I could flip through a bunch of articles and ideas and learn something new. (Read: waste time and procrastinate on my own writing!)

    The prompt to “The Letter All Writers Should Write” came up, I checked it out and that was it; I had my inspiration! The idea in the writing prompt was to write a letter to someone, anyone, of your choosing, who supported your writing career, and write to them, either thanking them or even blaming them for your career.

    Before the internet and email, I wrote real letters and many of them.

    That is not what got to me. Writing letters did.

    I have been writing letters to my nephew almost weekly. He decided to join the Air Force and made it through basic training last weekend. He has technical school next and I will keep writing to him. I have not written to him before this although I have fed him many meals, helped my sister when he sick or watched him when she had to work. He said it helped him through some of the rough spots that are a part of basic military training.

    I send articles to my friends that I think would interest them. I do not usually include a letter. One of my friends calls them “drive-through mailings” - not a real letter, a sit-down-and-read-it letter, but a quick, small snack of a letter.

    I used to write more letters. Before the internet and email, I wrote real letters and many of them. To my family when I was in college or traveling somewhere or to my friends that moved away. I wrote thank you letters and holiday letters.

    I also thought about letters that I have not written. Those letters you mean to send, and never do, and then something happens and you wish you had. I plan to go back to writing more letters.

    If you were to write a letter, to whom would you write?

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    June Meeting Preview

    Search Engine Optimization

    If you want to be at the top of the freelance writing game, attend the June 13, IWOC program. You’ll learn about using search engine optimization (SEO) to help get there. Our speaker should know, he’s at the top of the SEO game in Chicago. Jack Lombardi is a dynamic entrepreneur who is CEO of Chicago Website Design SEO Company.

    Lombardi will touch on how search engines work, keyword strategy, SEO web design, creating content, linking—the things freelance writers need to know about SEO to make themselves more valuable to clients and drive business to their writer websites.

    “No other marketing outside of word of mouth is going to beat search engine marketing. A person searching the internet for a writer is a warm to hot lead. They are actively looking and if a freelance writer has the right sales pitch the conversion is going to be a lot easier.” he says.

    By his mid-twenties, Lombardi was a self-made millionaire, but the Great Recession landed him back at square one. He then found peace of mind in mixed-martial arts, something he had been attracted to earlier in life. Lombardi’s coach was an internet guru who became his own Mr. Miyagi, the karate master. In this case, he also taught Lombardi about online marketing and continues to mentor him.

    No other marketing outside of word of mouth is going to beat search engine marketing.

    Lombardi’s first SEO experience was building an emergency plumbing website. He got it ranked and then sold it. Today, he continues with rental sites (websites that he builds, ranks and rents or sells as a lead generator). He also is launching his first app, building a social website and developing software.

    “If you do a Google search on SEO Chicago, SEO services, SEO agencies, whatever you want, my company is at the top in the Maps, and you go on Yelp we are at the top, Bing we’re at the top, go to Yahoo I’m at the top, so essentially, I beat everyone for the keywords SEO in Chicago.” says Lombardi, who hopes to expand to 24 other cities.

    He is eager to bring his expertise to IWOC and help freelance writers make SEO part of their offering to clients.

    He is eager to bring his expertise to IWOC and help freelance writers make SEO part of their offering to clients. Lombardi is not suggesting you write like a traditional SEO writer, or what he terms “keyword stuffers.” However, he says a content writer could say to a client, look I did all your keyword research after reviewing your site, and here are the keywords you want to rank for, here is the low-hanging fruit. We could formulate blog content to rank for those, and reword the content that is on your website to be more favorable for these keywords.

    The IWOC meeting will take place Tuesday, June 13, in Room 4F (4th fl.) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. / 115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking (after 5 pm, with validation) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered at http://www.iwoc.org/event-2383738). Following the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics or to continue networking. For more information, call 800-804-IWOC (800-804-4962) or visit www.iwoc.org.

    IWOC is a nonprofit professional association of freelance writers living in the Chicago metropolitan area whose clients range from local to global. Together, IWOC members represent a broad spectrum of writing talents, consultation services, and specialties serving large corporations, small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations.

    - Stewart Truelsen

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    May Meeting Recap

    How to Freelance in New and Different Markets

    Photo by Cynthia Tomusiak

    This week, after losing a long-standing client relationship, I was heartened by the May IWOC meeting topic, "How to Freelance in New and Different Markets." A panel of presenters with considerable experience in various areas, I thought, might provide some insights to help me move forward.

    OK, first up: Advertising Copywriting. Brent Brotine is a copywriter who has worked for major Chicago ad agencies and has been a freelance writer since 1995. He told us that agencies will often call in freelancers to help them with pitches for new business or for self-contained projects. Because content is such a big buzzword these days, Brent cautioned us to get to know what clients want in terms of content, including blogging and social media.

    When it comes to what you might be able to earn, the site managed by American Writers and Artists, gives a general idea of what the rates are for various project types. Brent cautions us to take the high side of the quoted rates with a grain of salt.

    Employment agencies like Creative Circle, direct hire, or crowdsourcing sites like upward.com, where writers compete with other writers for jobs can provide jobs. Be wary, Brent provided an example posted at craigslist for a writing job paying $18 per hour that included writing copy and serving as a security guard! 

    Diana Schneidman has made a successful career of Corporate writing, in fact, authoring a book that I had already in my personal library, Real Skills, Real Income. 

    Diana concludes that this is a good sign for freelancers, because it means that blog sites are looking for better quality. first.”

    Diana reported some results from a few surveys. The first, The Freelance Niche Report by Ed Gandia, revealed that the most popular niche is healthcare/pharma. More importantly, it revealed that writers with specific niches or those who limit their niches to one, two, or three are paid a higher rate, have been in the industry longer, and are more satisfied with their clients.

    Another survey published by Orbit Media provided some insights about blogs. The average time for writing a blog post, respondents reported, was 3 hours 15 minutes. Also, blog posts are getting longer, with the typical length in 2016 at 1,054 words! At the same time, blogging frequency is declining. Diana concludes that this is a good sign for freelancers, because it means that blog sites are looking for better quality. "That's good for us," she says. "It's an area in which we can compete effectively."

    Translation services  is a subject that's a little unusual for IWOC, said Scott Spires. He told us about how his career began as a translator for law firm Baker McKenzie in Moscow and his subsequent work with translation agencies. According to Scott, to succeed in this market, you must be a good writer in your own language and know the source language (the language you're translating from) well, although you don't have to be perfect. And you should have a good level of knowledge about the specific field you're translating for. Translators usually charge by the word (Scott's official rate is 12 cents per target word.)

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    Vladimire Herard covered Niche Writing. Vlad recommended that, in choosing a niche, that you ask yourself what you love to do, where you have the strongest connections, what types of clients you are drawn to, what websites you frequent and books and publications you read most often.

    She outlined the benefits--you can build your status as an expert and find opportunities to be a "big fish in a small pond," earn premium pricing for writing about esoteric topics, and enjoy relationships that are longer and more substantial. The downfalls include the potential for being typecast, depending on just one type of work product, and limiting your ability to move on to other markets.

    Vlad recommended that, in choosing a niche, that you ask yourself what you love to do, where you have the strongest connections, what types of clients you are drawn to, what websites you frequent and books and publications you read most often.

    Article writing is Jeff Steele's specialty. He's been doing it since the early 1990s, when the Sun-Times was paying just $140 for an article. He found, since this isn't the most lucrative form of freelance writing, he needed to work on multiple assignments at a time. Today, he often has as many as 14 assignments lined up, working on them in stages.

    Jeff shared some of the cons—the challenge of finding good sources and getting them to talk with you. And the pros—lots of opportunities, and learning about trends and becoming an expert on many different topics.

    Potential clients include consumer magazines and trade magazines, web publications, and PR agencies. Some of the characteristics that article writers should have are writing speed, industriousness, organization, and mastery of a system. The steps in Jeff's system include making calls, scheduling interviews, and using a headset while taking notes during interviews. When he has three to four sources of notes, he's ready to write. 

    Resources for finding work include Writer's Market and writing market websites. The May/June issue of Writer's Digest includes a feature listing the best websites for writers. I’m going to run out now to get my copy!

    - Julia Bailey

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    President's Column

    Are You Meant to Mentor?

    Laura Stigler

    A funny thing happened on the way to going through life. Unbeknownst to me, I’ve been accumulating experience. Sadly, I still feel that in the knowledge/experience department I’ve only scraped just a few pathetic shavings off the teeny tiny tip of the iceberg. As the saying goes, I don’t even know what I don’t know. All the classics I’ve yet to read. All the countries I’ve yet to visit. All the scientific formulae I’ve yet to devise. But until one incident in particular, one of the things I didn’t know...was what I did know. I’ll explain:

    Several years ago, a cousin of mine expressed interest in going into my vocation, that of an Advertising copywriter, and wanted me to critique her portfolio. Heading into our meeting, I was a bit apprehensive. Yeah I could spot a great headline. Big whoop. But if something didn’t quite work, would I be able to articulate why – beyond mumbling “I dunno. I just don’t like it.”?

    Mentor. What a proud badge to wear.

    As we sat in the coffee shop and I perused every page of her spec book, almost surprisingly out of my noggin poured collected knowledge and tricks of “the biz” that, while having put into practice, I never really codified. I found myself not only pointing out what ads were right on target and why, but I was also able to pinpoint what was missing, where things needed improvement – and why. I heard myself making rather excellent suggestions (if I do say so) and the best part was seeing that little light glimmer in my cousin’s eyes when she “got it.” She was actually benefitting from my experience, and learning from my trials and errors. Only then did it begin to dawn on me – as it relates to work, anyway – that my gosh, I actually do know a lot! I am experienced, doggone it!

    I was a mentor.

    Mentor. What a proud badge to wear. And the rewards go both ways. Not only is the mentee learning about and getting trained in a subject for which they already have great enthusiasm, but the mentor is also learning. About themselves. How much practical, sensible, valuable information they actually have stowed away, and how that information, when passed along, can ignite inspiration within those they’re teaching.

    There is an outcry for mentors.

    Being in IWOC, and starting to speak at various events, here’s what else I’m learning: that there is an outcry for mentors. In our Q&A sessions at the end of those events, I’ve been asked if IWOC has a mentor program – something that’s been on the Board’s agenda for awhile. Time to put it in place.

    So what do you think?

    As an IWOC member, would you like to mentor? Impart your long-earned knowledge and experience to other IWOC-ers in need? See that little light ignite? I will soon be e-blasting you with those questions and just a few more to get into specifics about your specialties. And then we can be on our way to making IWOC, in addition to all its other offerings for writers, Chicago’s go-to center for mentors. I mean it!

    - Laura Stigler

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    Printers Row Lit Fest


    The 33rd annual Printers Row Lit Fest is Saturday and Sunday, June 10th and 11th. The event runs from 10:00am to 6:00pm, each day and IWOC will have a table under the Illinois Woman's Press Association tent. Their tent will be located on Dearborn street just north of Polk street. IWOC members, here's your chance to take a turn at staffing the table to promote IWOC to potential members and potential employers or clients while having some fun meeting a bunch of interesting people. There will be four two-hour volunteer shifts each day. IWOC member-authors can also sell their books and are encouraged to staff the table for a shift. Contact George Becht for information and to sign up. You can also see the PrintersRowLitFest.org site for more information.

    - George Becht


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    IWOC Member Article

    I’m a freelance doer and it fits me just fine


    Diana Schneidman

    I’m neither a leader nor a follower. I am a doer and that’s why I prefer freelancing over corporate employment.

    You may have had trouble reading the title of this. It doesn’t look right to me either, but I verified in the dictionary that “doer” is the correct label for someone that “does,” and no, the word does not take a hyphen.

    I am a doer because my greatest strength is in implementing. My corporate jobs have been implementation roles in marketing research, marketing communications, and project management. I take great pleasure in getting work done and checking tasks off my to-do list.

    I don’t see other people labeling themselves as doers. Actually, most people call themselves leaders. A leader, of course, is someone who rules, guides or inspires others, and it seems like everyone nowadays considers himself a leader.

    “Leadership” has come to mean everything from “competence” to “industriousness” to “taking initiative.” The word has a much broader scope than its traditional meaning.

    I play well with others and work well with others, too.

    In my past work as a professional resume writer, a striking percentage of my clients positioned themselves as leaders. Take the administrative assistant who monitored sales data and worked with sales staff to improve their results, planned and implemented sales campaigns and awards, and coordinated responses to incoming customer calls.

    She called herself a leader—her resume was strong in terms of what she did—and she did get callbacks and even job offers within days of sending out her resume. Still, I question if she met my (secret) demanding requirements for a leader.

    The opposite of a leader is a follower. Common sense would tell us that a leader must have followers to be effective, and that we should expect there to be many more followers than leaders.

    But here in the U.S, “follower” has become synonymous with “lemming.” We think of the follower as personified by grade school children who try cigarette smoking and later become drug addicts by following the bad examples of others.

    The closest role to follower that is not a shameful role is “team player.” There are lots of those around. Often the very same people who are leaders are also team players.

    I guess I’m a team player. I play well with others and work well with others, too.

    Hurrah for us freelancers! We are getting the work done that enables business success.

    However, there’s always been something off-putting about the term, especially since I did not receive the respect I felt I deserved during corporate employment. As a non-ranking team member, my input was frequently ignored.

    Although I was a writer, higher-ranking individuals would “correct” my spelling and grammar for the worse, assuming that “its” without an apostrophe looks a little naked and needs correcting simply for appearance’s sake.

    Today I am a freelancer and it fits me much better. People hire me to implement, which I enjoy.

    Hurrah for us freelancers! We are getting the work done that enables business success.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome IWOC's newest members!

    Elin Jacobson - Senior Member

    Cyndee Shaffer - Senior Member

    - Roger Rueff

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian), George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman, Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 27 Apr 2017 11:40 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    May 2017

    Volume 36 | Number  5

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Spring is in full swing, tulips, daffodils and spring cleaning! What to do with all the paper left over from tax time, all those receipts from client meetings and the napkin drawings of your next greatest project? Reduce the clutter and scan them – of course!

    But what is the best way to do that? Warm up your desktop scanner, fire up the scanner software on your lap or desk top, place each sheet on the glass and wait for it to scan, upload and show up on your computer…or just take a picture with your smart phone?

    I have been using my smart phone and its pre-installed photo app to take pictures of stuff that I want to save or remember. It does not sort nor file well and while I can do some markup of the photos, it is cumbersome at best. I thought that someone may have already thought about that and decided to search the web and see what else is out there.

    All cost much, much less than a desktop scanner.

    I found many scanning apps are available but that's about where the similarities end. All of them use the camera function to capture the document but differ from there. Some are free and some are not. All cost much, much less than a desktop scanner. Some have better filing systems, edge detection, editing features, storage, etc. Dropbox has added the ability to scan documents directly. Paperbox is free for both android and i-Phone and has organizing abilities.

    When making your decision, it seems that what you need, are willing to spend and how often you need to scan documents are factors to take into consideration. I decided to go with Scanbot. The price was low ($5.99), the storage optimal (can use the my i-Cloud account) and editing features are decent. For more information, here are some links to the reviews:

    Do you use or recommend a different scanning app? Please let me know.

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    May Meeting Preview

    How to freelance in new and different markets

    IWOC’s upcoming program in May will offer an excellent bird’s-eye view, along with down-to-earth advice, on how to obtain freelance-writing success in new and different markets—something that’s relevant to both experienced and beginning writers alike.

    The program features a panel of five experienced IWOC writers, each discussing a different writing-market segment. Each will present a variety of “nuts-and-bolts” ideas on how to succeed in one specific writing market, in which he or she already specializes. The topical areas include advertising, article writing, company-business writing, niche-writing, and translation services.

    The panelists will thus offer practical advice based on real-world experience that works in getting results, including:

    • Advantages and pitfalls of the particular writing field
    • Types of clients to pursue and how to reach them
    • Profitability potentials
    • How to launch yourself into this area of writing specialization

    The panel includes: Brent Brotine, advertising; Vladimire Herard, niche-writing; Diana Schneidman, corporate writing; Jeff Steele, article writing; and Scott Spires, translation services. These topical areas clearly reflect each respective panelist’s specializations.

    The topical areas include advertising, article writing, company-business writing, niche-writing, and translation services.

    For example, Brotine’s IWOC listing says that he specializes in advertising, marketing and direct response, including areas such as finance and insurance, which entail writing brochures, collateral materials and web-site content. Likewise, Herard says she is a niche-oriented health freelance writer, focusing on topics related to health, and serving non-profits and small businesses, specifically in the coverage of senior long-term care, aging, the pharmaceutical industry, and related consumer issues.

    In contrast, Schneidman offers freelance writing and research related to general business, as well as for the insurance and asset-management industries. Also, she has authored a book, specifically for freelancers and consultants, which focuses on marketing strategies designed to get work in 30 days or less.

    If you want to learn how to launch your freelancing into new directions for more dollars, creativity and fun, then be sure to show up for this program.

    Offering yet another specialty, Steele specializes mostly in article writing, having published more than 3,000 articles in various newsletters and trade publications. He also offers corporate communications, finance, journalism, travel blogging, case histories, employee communications, fund-raising appeals, and company newsletters.

    Spires says that he is a linguist, published writer, and editor with experience in legal and general translation, print, and TV journalism. In offering his writing and editing skills for corporate clients, he also promises to provide “versatility and an international perspective.”

    So, if you want to learn how to launch your freelancing into new directions for more dollars, creativity and fun, then be sure to show up for this program. And be sure to jump into the discussion yourself-- audience interaction is strongly encouraged!

    The IWOC meeting will take place Tuesday, May 9th, in Room 4F (4th fl.) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. / 115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking (after 5 pm, with validation) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered at http://www.iwoc.org/event-2383738. Following the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics or to continue networking. For more information, call 800-804-IWOC (800-804-4962) or visit www.iwoc.org.

    IWOC is a nonprofit professional association of freelance writers living in the Chicago metropolitan area whose clients range from local to global. Together, IWOC members represent a broad spectrum of writing talents, consultation services, and specialties serving large corporations, small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations.

    - Tom Lanning

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    April Meeting Recap

    Public Relations

    Luke Cushman, Tim Frisbie, Betsy Storm

    Shortly before IWOC’s March meeting on public relations, United Airlines blundered into one of the worst PR nightmares in recent memory. To free up a seat for a late-arriving United crew member, security officers dragged a ticketed passenger down the aisle on his back while he screamed in pain. The removal was so violent the man ended up in the hospital. The cell phone video of the incident controlled the news for days.

    As public relations professionals, our panel speakers Tim Frisbie of the Shared-Use Mobility Center, Luke Cushman of the Wilks Communications Group and our own Betsy Storm reacted strongly to the way United Airlines handled the problem. The airline’s bumbling presented a textbook case of how not to do public relations. Ignoring the emotional impact of the video streaming into American homes, the airline issued a statement apologizing for the need to “re-accommodate the passenger.” This inauthentic statement, intended to sanitize the situation with emotionless language, backfired.

    We are the audience members for public relations practitioners. Unfortunately, we are mostly aware of PR work when a company fails to handle a crisis well. However, public relations practitioners also work the positive side of communications. “Seventy-five percent of news originates with a PR person,” Storm said. Cushman agreed, adding that among different sources of news the percentage probably falls between sixty-five and eighty-five percent. He advised writers of press releases to think more about writing news than just turning out a press release. If you want to sell it to the news providers, it should be news.

    However, public relations practitioners also work the positive side of communications.

    Journalists respond to a writer’s interest in their publications. It suggests a shared interest in the publication’s brand, which can make journalists more receptive to your story ideas. “There’s an eighty percent click rate by journalists on emails with a subject line like, ‘Hey, loved your article about X’,” said Frisbie. PR relationships should include communications that aren’t strictly pitches.

    Today’s PR professionals also create content for companies that communicate directly with the consumer. “In this case, the communication is more about content, frequently interactive content, than news.” Cushman said. For example, a consumer with a Chevrolet may receive a monthly email summarizing on-board diagnostics, like whether or not the tires need air. One consumer’s tires are hardly news to world, but the car owner cares what he rides on. This content creates a relationship between customers and brands.

    “Tell the truth, tell it yourself and tell it first.”

    Panelists also discussed new media, which give more and more people the chance to affect public perceptions. Twitter claims to add 135,000 new accounts every day, and our panelists report that internet estimates on new blog startups can be as high as 10,000 per day. Many people creating new content lack journalism training and respect for the fairness standards expected from traditional media. Panel members advised writers representing maligned companies to: “Tell the truth, tell it yourself and tell it first.”

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    The United airlines incident shows how communications lacking in genuineness and concern for the community can make a PR disaster worse. PR writers build a story about a company and open lines of conversation about the brand with the public. They need to think about the audience they want to reach and how that audience interacts with the brand they are promoting.

    - Korey Willoughby

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    President's Column

    Another Epic IWOC FX Success!

    Laura Stigler

    I have to say, I do like the sound of that headline. Especially because – ok, maybe with only slight exaggeration – it’s true! I’m referring to IWOC’s presence at the 2017 Lake FX Chicago on April 21. What the heck is Lake FX? In case you haven’t heard, it’s a free event that takes place annually at the Chicago Cultural Center, where everyone who “creates, produces or performs” comes to show their wares and share their expertise and knowledge. We’re talking writers, artists, musicians, actors, dancers, designers, photographers and more. A hulking creative schmoozapalooza, if you will.

    Where exactly does IWOC fit into this?

    As it turns out, people involved in every one of those fields have one thing in common: they want publicity. They want to know how to promote whatever it is they’re promoting. In sum, they want to know how to write an effective press release. Voilà! For the third-straight year, IWOC has come to the rescue with a one-hour crash course on “Press Release Basics,” given by vice-president Jeff Steele, former president David Steinkraus and yours truly. Not only has it been well attended each year, but it has been one of the most popular draws, so much in fact that the City invited us to participate in the ACCESS Labs, the new adjunct to the Lake FX event where we gave one-on-one press release critiques and consultations. It was quite an honor to be asked, and already we’ve received quite the fantastic feedback by attendees.

    That in itself was immensely rewarding. But what really made our day was the people we met. Their enthusiasm about their art, their craft – their life! was contagious, and no doubt the reason for the palpable buzz that permeated the atmosphere.

    But what really made our day was the people we met.

    There was Susy Lucero, the effervescent Mom and “marketer extraordinaire” of Cielito Lindo (cielitolindo.com), an Hispanic-American Partridge Family who has performed on Chicago Tonight and everywhere from Navy Pier to Allstate Arena. (Papa Juan Lucero will be featured as one of the “Cool Dads” in an upcoming Parent Magazine.)

    There was Full Armour’s Karen Stally (wearefullarmour.com) visiting from the UK, who has become smitten with Chicago and wants to make this her home. Her creativity and spirituality resonated and overwhelmed me.

    There was charming John Ludwig – a Process Control Engineer at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. But whose real love is songwriting (songsbyjohn.com). We had much in common.

    To hear, in turn, how we’ve inspired them to promote their creative endeavors was more than gratifying; it reaffirmed the importance and practicality of our organization.

    And there were so many more. It was a true privilege meeting everyone. From Janet Austin (janetaustinart.com), a sculptor who has recently been transforming dead trees into works of art, to Dru Phelps, who has turned the children’s ditty “Jack & Jill” into a just-published self-help book for grownups, the experience was eye-opening. To hear, in turn, how we’ve inspired them to promote their creative endeavors was more than gratifying; it reaffirmed the importance and practicality of our organization. To great “FX.”

    - Laura Stigler

    P.S. We’re considering scheduling “Press Release Basics” as a program for one of our monthly meetings. Please let me know if you’d like that!

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    IWOC Member Article

    Don’t let the competition get you down

    Diana Schneidman

    Understanding the competition is a very good thing . . . maybe.

    We can pick up product and marketing tips and use what we learn from others to develop our competitive edge. But we also risk using what we learn to chip away at our own self-confidence.

    It has happened to me.

    Too much competitor research is dangerous. You risk over-focusing on their strengths. And worse yet, you risk overlooking your own strengths.

    Believing in yourself is much more powerful than comparing yourself to others . . . especially if you are subject to twinges of intimidation.

    Believing in yourself is much more powerful than comparing yourself to others.

    You’ve got to remember when you are reading a competitor’s website and marketing copy or hearing about them from your network, that you and those who recommend them to you are only seeing the final product. You can’t see how many websites and other marketing efforts over the years have preceded the current version.

    It looks like these people really have it together because you are comparing your insides to their outsides. Not a fair comparison.

    The problem is more intense when you are bitten by the copy-envy bug. Everything you write about yourself, from tagline to contact info, feels inferior to what they have written. You keep rereading theirs and you lose sight of how to improve your own without simply stealing their stuff.

    It’s also a problem when you overly focus on only one or two competitors. Just because a few people cross your own radar more frequently—they may live near you or belong to IWOC—does not mean they have cornered the market.

    I’ll read listings of top international bloggers and top businesses and I’m always surprised by how many names near the top of the list I have never heard of. It’s because the internet covers the globe and the globe is a pretty big place. It’s got room for a lot of talented people and businesses.

    There’s another question you need to answer: Are they as good as they say they are? Lots of experts look wonderful in print but they are not as responsive as you would imagine in real life.

    The answer is to spend less time focusing on the competition and how you can differentiate yourself and to spend more time understanding your unique strengths..

    Some of them are so busy (that marketing stuff works!) that they are not keeping up with the work and staying in close contact with customers and prospects. Or they may not be so busy but they are still not strong on follow-up.

    The answer

    The answer is to spend less time focusing on the competition and how you can differentiate yourself and to spend more time understanding your unique strengths.

    Studying your own positives puts you in touch with the power of what you offer. It suggests more meaningful ways to improve your business and its marketing and inspires you to move forward.

    Plus, self-understanding builds your self-esteem, helping you sell your abilities and your services more easily and more effectively.

    Understanding the competition can be helpful, but understanding—and valuing—your own strengths is even more important.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome IWOC's newest members!

    Becky Maginn - Distance Member

    Pearce McCoy - Professional Member

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian), George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman, Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 01 Apr 2017 9:01 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    April 2017

    Volume 36 | Number 4

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Spring is here and with it comes renewal. The IWOC website underwent a renewal last month and this month, the newsletter Stet was updated. Many thanks to our webmaster, Roger, for all of his hard work. For more information, see the President's Column. Our Madame President did a bang-up job of explaining the updates and why they are important to YOU!

    In addition to our usual features:

    • Editor's Note
    • Meeting Preview
    • Meeting Recap
    • President's Column
    We have a book review and an article written by one of our members.

    We are still looking for more member contibutions and input. Write a letter to the editor, let us know about you in the member profile (contact the editor for the latest list of questions) or submit an article. All the submission details are below.

    For now, Happy Spring! Enjoy your newsletter!

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    April Meeting Preview

    The ABC's of PR: Independent Writers of Chicago (IWOC) Discuss Public Relations

    A company wants to generate some buzz about its newest product. A think tank would like people to know the findings of its latest study. A nonprofit is excited about winning a grant for a new community project. A celebrity just inked a deal to develop a fashion line. Newsworthy events all, but without a public relations professional’s guidance, the public might never know about them.

    Join us on April 11th as IWOC member and public relations specialist Betsy Storm leads a panel of speakers to provide an inside look at the ABCs of PR. Storm, principal of Top Drawer Communications, has been in the communications biz for over 20 years, and is an award-winning PR pro with expertise in healthcare, nonprofits, small business and business-to-business.

    Public relations is (rather formally) defined as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” But when it comes down to simple language, PR is all about relationship building, engagement, and persuasion— best achieved via a solid journalistic approach. Essentially, PR is a powerful way for companies, organizations or individuals to enhance their reputations. It usually involves the ability of a PR pro to communicate intelligently and creatively with members of the media (from CNN to a neighborhood blogger) to present one’s clients in the most favorable way possible.

    Storm and her panel will discuss how to break into PR, how to pitch to clients, how to develop strong media relationships, and much more. As Bill Gates famously said, “If I were down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”

    As Bill Gates famously said, “If I were down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”

    The IWOC meeting will take place Tuesday, April 11th in Room 4F (4th fl.) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. / 115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking (after 5 pm, with validation) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered at http://www.iwoc.org/event-2383738. Following the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics or to continue networking.  For more information, call 800-804-IWOC (800-804-4962) or visit www.iwoc.org.

    IWOC is a nonprofit professional association of freelance writers living in the Chicago metropolitan area whose clients range from local to global. Together, IWOC members represent a broad spectrum of writing talents, consultation services, and specialties serving large corporations, small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations.

    - Sally Chapralis

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    March Meeting Recap

    Abby Saul’s Advice on Queries

    Abby Saul of the Lark Group is a literary agent who helps writers take a finished book to market. At IWOC’s March meeting she presented guidelines for writing query letters to agents and publishing companies. As in most cases where writers reach out to people who publish, more success comes to those who meet the expectations of the initial contact.

    First realize that agents sell more books than authors. Publishing houses have more confidence in the professionals who have seen many, many book ideas. (Saul receives about two hundred queries a week.)

    What do agents do for authors?

    Agencies that sell literary fiction rarely respond to a vampire fiction query and vice versa.

    “An agent sells your book and becomes your editorial partner, brand manager and business partner,” Saul said. “They also sell subsidiary rights including film rights, audio books and foreign rights.”

    Secondly, writers need to research literary agencies to make sure they are pitching the kind of book an agency routinely handles. Agencies that sell literary fiction rarely respond to a vampire fiction query and vice versa.

    If you believe your book is destined for a small press, you may find that agents advise you to approach the publisher yourself. Agents usually work with large publishing companies.

    Much of Saul’s advice can also help writers who send queries to magazines. She offered five important suggestions for writing a query agents and publishers will see as professional.

    • Greeting. Address your letter to a specific person. Avoid “Dear Agent” and especially “Dear Sirs” because your query may go to a woman. If you have a personal connection—“I heard you speak at IWOC last year”—lead with the connection.
    • Introduction. Introduce your book succinctly with three critical facts: title, genre and word count; and state which readers might like it. For example: “In this 80,000 word classic mystery, Dead in Color, an art critic arrives at a painters’ retreat believing he will receive a life-time achievement award. This cozy mystery will appeal to fans of amateur sleuth fiction by authors like Susan Wittig Albert and Elizabeth Peters.” (Note: Choose someone other than Agatha Christie. If your examples are the most well-known people, you reveal a lack of depth in the field.)
    • Synopsis. In 100 to 200 words, introduce the main character and hint at the plot. Your style and tone in the synopsis should match the book you are pitching. Refrain from giving away too much, especially the ending. Never suggest something that does not actually appear in your book.
    • Biography. Provide your book-writing bio. Fiction writers should tell their background in fiction and mention memberships in writing groups. If your query is about a first novel, just say it. A nonfiction writer needs a more complete history of publications and information that tells the agent why he or she is the best person to write the book.
    • Closing. Close with Sincerely, Your Name. Contact information can follow the closing.

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    When you have written a good query, have other writers look at it before you send it out. You can submit to multiple agents or markets at the same time, but only pitch one project at a time. Do not pitch a potential series. This can make agents doubt the strength of the book you want to publish now.

    You can submit to multiple agents or markets at the same time, but only pitch one project at a time.

    Once your queries have flown through the mail, avoid harassing the recipients. If you have heard nothing after six months, check to make sure they received it. Rejection is a big part of the process, so take heart. If your query is rejected fifty times, retool your query letter. (Yes, fifty. It’s a mean world out there, people.)

    - Korey Willoughby

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    President's Column

    What a Friendly Site!

    Laura Stigler

    It’s been said – in fact, we often say it ourselves – that IWOC is one of the friendliest organizations you’ll ever hope to find. Friendly people. Friendly environment. Hey, some of our best friends are IWOC-ers! So it begs the question: Why has IWOC’s website been rather unfriendly when viewed on your mobile, for instance. Or tablet?

    Sure if you’ve been eyeing it only on your desk or laptop, there was no problem. Had all the info you needed, was easy to navigate. Life was good. But on other devices? Fuggetaboudit! All the content was ridiculously small. To click on any link or menu item, you had to have fingers like knitting needles. To read the content, you’d have to zoom in, causing the text to spill over, making it necessary to scroll to read just one line! And let’s not even get into registering for an event, reading the calendar – in short, the web design wasn’t “responsive.” Not a good thing. Especially for a group as professional as ours.

    It’s everything our former site was, only eons better.

    What to do? Consult our webmaster, Roger Rueff, of course! With some excellent suggestions from the Board and working his own digital wizardry, Roger came up with what will gloriously open before your eyes when you visit www.iwoc.org. It’s everything our former site was, only eons better. Here’s why:

    • Looks great on whatever device you’re using – mobile, notebook or desktop PC. The content conforms. The design is clean, contemporary.
    • The text, menu and links on all devices appear in normal size. You can read and click on them easily. Even if you have sausages for fingers.
    • Get a load of this new goody: Any time you click on the Home page, a different Featured Writer will pop up, along with their photo and links to their IWOC profile, website and social media profiles. Everyone gets their moment in the sun. Continuously.
    • The menu is now located across the top of the page, rather than off to the side, giving more real estate to content and photos.
    • All the Stet newsletters now load up quickly and are mobile / tablet compatible.
    • You’ll also love how iconic Chicago cityscapes and landmarks make their appearance in the Home page slideshow. Considering “Chicago” is part of our name, that makes us particularly proud.

    A friendly word of advice

    The IWOC website is a powerful promotional tool. For IWOC, yes. But especially for you. To that end, make sure your photo is uploaded on your profile. (Otherwise a generic silhouette appears, as if you’re in some witness protection program.) Also, add your website link to your profile, as well as links to your social media profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). Importantly, all of these will appear on the rotating Featured Writer section when you’re the one being featured. The better to engage potential clients, my friend!

    So enjoy the new site. And feel free to give us feedback. After all, that’s what friends are for!

    - Laura Stigler

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    Book Review

    Word by Word

    Richard Eastline

    Word by Word / Kory Stamper / 296 pp. (incl. bibliography, notes, and index) plus a preface / Pantheon Books ,2017 / $26.95 list (hard cover) / ISBN 9781101870945 / Also available as a Kindle ebook.

    Merriam Webster is a name more familiar to me than any female I’ve ever known. But with this one, I’ve enjoyed the longest and most reliable relationship one could hope for. Moreover, this Merriam is probably a good friend to just about every writer and crossword fanatic who has lived during the past 170+ years. 

    Kory Stamper is not nearly as well known to us but she may be one of Merriam’s best buddies in her role as lexicographer at the home of America’s pre-eminent publisher of dictionaries. (Lexicographer: a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge per description in 1755.) Few persons are likely to ever have as much contact with words as Ms. Stamper, so her insights and revelations provide us with a remarkable---and very readable---behind-the-scenes tour of what goes on at Merriam-Webster, a New England-based company. It was established in 1844 by the brothers Merriam after acquiring the rights to publish and update Noah Webster’s book of word definitions.

    Ms. Stamper not only serves an important role at the company but also publishes her own blog, Harmless Drudgery, whose very existence suggests that a talk session with her will stretch the bounds of a conventional interview. This new book provides that same purpose. Its subtitle, The Secret Life of Dictionaries, is a relatively tame description of its contents: fifteen chapters brimming with expositions, arguments, and opinions. Definition is the subject and it is explored via aspects of grammar, punctuation, origin—sometimes to elaborate length. Chapter subjects include “Wrong Words,” “Bad Words,” and “Small Words” plus elements like authority and disputes.

    Chapter subjects include “Wrong Words,” “Bad Words,” and “Small Words” plus elements like authority and disputes.

    The job of the lexicographer, she firmly states, is to tell the truth about how language is used—double negatives and “ain’t” are part of it, like it or not. For an indication of the depth of research the author offers in the study of certain troublesome words, check out her fourteen-page essay on “it’s” or sample her gnashing-of-the-teeth response to those who dismiss “irregardless” as a word strictly based on so-called rules. Every chapter holds incidental surprises that nonetheless adhere to Ms. Stamper’s persuasive doctrine. The thoroughness of her approach is apparent when you discover that her notes section, bibliography, and index add up to thirty-two pages. 

    The author has been with Merriam-Webster (now a division of Encyclopaedia Brittannica) twenty-five years, during which time she estimates she has been involved in establishing definitions for hundreds of thousands of words. To some, that kind of work would seem to border on science. In a philosophical statement in the final chapter, Ms. Stamper sees it as being a creative process as much as a scientific one and, likewise, more of a craft than an art.  In today’s world, though, dictionaries face change as online searches replace printed page listings. She acknowledges both the cost and convenience factors that will influence the future methodology of defining words. Yet, for those who truly identify themselves as lexicographers, “we don’t do the work for the money or prestige, we do it because English deserves careful attention and care.”  It certainly gets its due in the pages of “Word by Word.” 

    - Richard Eastline

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    IWOC Member Article

    Two types of freelance marcom writing: What’s the difference?

    Diana Schneidman

    Establishing an effective working relationship with corporate clients and pricing our work right make much more sense when we recognize that we provide two types of writing. One type is straight-forward and rather easy; the second type is much more demanding.

    If we can’t distinguish between these two types of marcom writing, we are likely to get indignant about certain clients who seem to be overly difficult and demanding. We may also fail to recognize which projects should pay better and price our work accordingly.

    The first type of marcom writing is what we commonly think of as “content.” This includes most blog posts, podcasts, and such that compile general knowledge in such areas as management, leadership, change and marketing.

    How to write general content

    We all know that plagiarism is when you steal from one, research is when you steal from many. So let’s steal from many. (Perfectly legit.)

    We all know that plagiarism is when you steal from one, research is when you steal from many.

    Print off lots of content found through Google, yellow highlight some good stuff, and mix it up till we meet word count. Fix grammar, spelling, punctuation. Then run it through Copyscape to assure originality.

    • These pieces average about 500 words. They may start with an overused quotation from Albert Einstein or Henry Ford. State the concept under discussion and define the term. Fluff it up a bit. Yada, yada, yada. Zappos and Southwest Airlines. Blah, blah, blah, Steve Jobs and Nordstrom’s. Call to action: Just do it.

    I write this content too. It’s easy to write. Clients are happy and never suggest major changes. It doesn’t pay all that much, but then, why should it?

    Then there’s the second type: copy that develops and supports the client’s corporate identity, branding, positioning, or whatever term they have chosen. This category obviously includes taglines, website homepages, and annual reports. However, it pulls in so much more: white papers, extended case studies, social media, etc. This stuff is challenging to write well, not simply because it requires knowledge and effort, but because it represents the client’s brand.

    Why it’s hard to write identity content that pleases the client

    Clients know their brand (or maybe not . . . or maybe there is a lack of consensus within their organization), but often they don’t know what they don’t like until they see it.

    One draft is hardly ever enough. And if it is enough, it’s because the client communicates their branding to us so effectively from the start, not because we are so brilliant.

    This means that identity content must meet a very high bar. The project timeline and pay schedule must support the back and forth this copy requires.

    The price is high because getting the messaging right is such hard work. Yes, this can cause sticker shock on the part of the client, but more important to us, we ourselves can experience sticker shock if we really work out a price that is fair to us.

    What do you think? Am I on to something? Or am I making excuses? Please share your ideas on my LinkedIn article.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome IWOC's newest member!

    Patricia Stratton - Senior Member 

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian), George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman, Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 28 Feb 2017 4:38 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    March 2017

    Volume 36 | Number 3

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Writing tends to be a solitary occupation – that is why IWOC is so important! See what another IWOC member has to say about IWOC (among other things) in the second member article this month – “Writing Tips”.

    In looking for something for this month’s note, I found some other (one hundred to be exact) websites that might useful to you. The Write Life proposes that writing “takes a village” and puts together an annual list of the 100 Best Websites for Writers. The topics they include are: Blogging, creativity and craft, editing, freelancing, marketing and platform building, podcasts, publishing and writing communities.

    This is their third list and the criteria they use are:

    • It was recommended by readers of The Write Life
    • It publishes content helpful to writers
    • It has been updated recently and regularly

    The list has some repeats from years’ past but has fifty new sites. I recognized some that I already read and many that are new to me. I did not click on all 100 sites (yet!) but a couple that really intrigued me were Lucy Flint and the Lionhearted Writing Life and Kathy Steinemann. Hope you find some that are beneficial!

    Changing gears slightly...

    90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal

    Have you checked out the new look for the IWOC website? Our webmaster has been hard at work creating a responsive website that will function correctly and look good on any electronic device. If you are wondering why this is important, consider a few statistics from Aspire Internet Design:

    • 56% of American adults have a smartphone (Pew Research Center)
    • 28% of cell owners own an Android; 25% own an iPhone; 4% own a Blackberry (Pew Research Center)
    • 34% of American adults own a tablet computer (Pew Research Center)
    • 34% of cell internet users go online mostly using their phones, and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer. (Pew Research Center)
    • Average smartphone usage grew 81 percent in 2012 (Cisco)
    • 90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal (Google)

    Thank you Roger!

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    March Meeting Preview

    Literary Agent to Offer Practical Tips on Writing Super Query Letter for Publishers

    If you’re looking for ways to get a new book manuscript published, you might consider seeking out a professional literary agent who can point you in the right direction—including tips on how to write a superior book-query letter for a publisher.

    Join IWOC-ers for the Tuesday, March 14 program, as a prominent literary agent from a Chicago-based agency offers practical advice for freelance writers on putting together a superior query letter as an essential first step in the publishing process.

    Literary agent Abby Saul founded The Lark Group literary agency, following a decade in publishing at John Wiley and Sons, Sourcebooks, and Browne and Miller Literary Associates. IWOC members also may recall that she was well received at IWOC’s program last July, when she presented tips on how to best utilize the services of a literary agent.

    Abby says she has worked with and edited bestselling and award-winning authors, as well as major brands. At each publishing group where she’s played a role, she also has helped establish e-book standards, lead company-wide forums to explore new digital possibilities for books, and create and manage numerous digital initiatives.

    Importantly, she also points out that she’s currently looking for “great and engrossing, adult commercial and literary fiction.”

    A zealous reader who loves her iPad and the e-books on it, she still can’t resist the lure of a print book. For example, Abby says her personal library of titles runs the gamut from literary newbies and classics to cozy mysteries, to sappy women’s fiction, and dark and twisted thrillers.

    A magna cum laude graduate of Wellesley College, Abby says she spends her weekends—when she’s not reading—cooking and hiking with her husband. You may find her @BookySaul on Twitter.

    Importantly, she also points out that she’s currently looking for “great and engrossing, adult commercial and literary fiction.”

    All are welcome to attend—past, current and future authors, as well as those with still festering dreams, or a burning passion, to be “heard” in print.

    You can meet her in person at IWOC’s upcoming March program, where you will have the chance to tell her about any brilliant ideas you have for writing another great—and both you and she hope—best-selling book.

    All are welcome to attend—past, current and future authors, as well as those with still festering dreams, or a burning passion, to be “heard” in print.

    Join us at 5:00pm for networking on Tuesday, March 14, program at 6:00pm and a 'pay on your own' dinner after the program at the Gratz Center, Room 4F, 126 East Chestnut, Chicago, IL.

    - Tom Lanning

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    February Meeting Recap

    Invest on a Freelance Income

    Thinking of investing part of your income as a freelance writer?

    Then, “you need to focus on your earnings and spending, maximize your income and invest with a plan,” said Danielle Schultz, the principal of Haven Financial Solutions, Inc. in Evanston, IL and presenter during the Valentine’s Day IWOC workshop. Schultz, a former IWOC member and author of Idiot’s Guide: Beginning Investing, summed up the essential strategy above that freelance writers ought to take to start and build their investments.

    JSchultz recommended that writers divide their earnings 50/50 between business and personal allocations. They should devote 60 percent of their personal income to paying their bills for housing, utilities, food, basic transportation, insurance and clothing. Ten percent should be saved for retirement, 10 percent for goal savings (including emergency fund or debt repayment) and 20 percent on discretionary spending.

    Schultz recommended that writers divide their earnings 50/50 between business and personal allocations.

    Writers should set aside part of their earnings as profit, which can function as a business emergency fund, she said. Schultz said that business expenses should comprise no more than 30 percent of total earnings. Additionally, writers should set aside at least 10 to 15 percent of their income for taxes. Schultz advised them to examine their records to determine what they’ve paid after deductions.

    Schultz said that they must build an emergency fund before they can afford to invest. Once an emergency fund is established, writers who need to pay off debt should use the "snowball method". They should continue to pay the minimum required payment on all debt. Then, they scour the budget to find a little more that can be put toward the lowest bill.

    While they are building their emergency funds, she added, freelance writers ought to begin to learn about investments by, for example, reading her book and The Little Book of Main Street Money: 21 Simple Truths That Help Real People Make Real Money by Wall Street Journal writer Jonathan Clements.

    Additionally, freelancers can consider giving to charity. Saying that she was shocked to learn on the job over time how few individuals donate to charity, she coaxed IWOC-ers to select their charities but to at least choose one. Freelancers need to build up retirement funds in the same way that employees do. They should contribute a regular percentage, at least 10 percent of earnings, to tax-sheltered retirement accounts.

    Schultz said that they must build an emergency fund before they can afford to invest.

    Most individuals want “safe investments” that avoid serious financial risk or losses. However, having a safe investment and making substantial returns are two “contradictory things,” she explained. The more that investors can tolerate risk in investments, the higher return they should get from those investments. If an investor needs or wants safety, the investments will produce lower returns.

    Writers can begin to build their wealth on such types of retirement accounts as the Roth IRA, Traditional IRA or SEP IRA. They “might consider a target date fund, a balanced fund or a combination of funds that match” their risk tolerance, she said.

    Schultz gave some pointers on choosing investments. She recommended “passively managed, no-load index mutual funds.” No-load funds are those in which a commission is not being paid.

    - Vladimire Herard

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    President's Column

    Attractin’ da Yutes

    Laura Stigler

    You know what “yutes” are, don’tcha? Like from dat movie, “My Cousin Vinny,” when Joe Pesci defended doze two yutes accused of a crime dey didn’t commit? Yeah, YUTES!

    Anyways, gettin back to da subject at hand, it’s always been IWOC’s intention to continue bringin’ more young people into da fold. So how do ya go about doin’ dat? Foist of all, take a look aroun’ IWOC. We got a buncha peeps wid lotsa experience. Success stories. Maybe even some wisdom. So why not share? Wid da yutes! Spread da mental wealth, as it were. Help out da younga generations as dey ventcha into da woikin’ woild. Show ‘em different ways dey can build dere careers. And maybe, just maybe, we can attract summa dem in owa organization. As membas. Which wouldn’t be a bad ting, am I right? Huh? Huh? ANSA ME!

    We got a buncha peeps wid lotsa experience. Success stories. Maybe even some wisdom.

    Alrighty den. So wid dat in mind, last munt, me (da Prez), along wid Veep Jeff Steele and Parliamentarian David Steinkraus, hightailed it on ova to Columbia College where we met wid Dr. Eric Freedman, Dean of da School of Media Arts. Imagine! Us meetin’ da Dean! (Don’t worry, we wiped owa feet befaw we went into his office.)

    Turned out to be a great meetin’. We tawked of how we can arrange some kinda relationship wid Columbia College, foist by presenting our Speaker’s Bureau tawk, “Life in da Freelance Lane” – to give deze kids an idea of awl da options dat await dem. I mean, dis ain’t ya fodda’s economy any maw. Nowadaze, ya don’t necessarily dream of gettin’ a job where ya punch a clock (and a few co-workers) for toity yeahs, only to be kicked to da curb wid a gold watch at da end.

    It’s a gig economy, baby. Da millennials, dey like da idea of bein’ (fancy word alert:) entrepreneurs. Woikin’ as contract playahs. Bein’ independent. So how do dey survoive in such a woild? Dat’s weah IWOC comes in. We can show ‘em how to build a freelance business – and give ‘em real woild advice, born outta real experiences. Which may even include some positive woids about foist woikin for corporate for a couple a yeahs – just to polish one’s chops and enforce some of da disciplines dat would do dem well as a freelanca.

    Dat’s weah IWOC comes in. We can show ‘em how to build a freelance business – and give ‘em real woild advice, born outta real experiences.

    Da Dean also mentioned da possibilities of IWOC havin’ a (fancy word alert:) symbiotic relationship wid such organizations as da McCormick Foundation, wheah businesses come to speak at IWOC events and den dey promote IWOC to udda businesses. How ‘bout dat! Nice, huh?

    So dat waz owa foist foray inta owa effort to attract da Yutes. Nobody’s made no promises yet, but we tink we opened a daw, and only good tings can come of it. Like helping doze who are about to graduate, figya out what to do in dat confusin’ toime of life. And if summa dem join IWOC? Dat wouldn’t just be a good ting. It would be a great ting. And dat’s da trute.

    - Laura Stigler

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    IWOC Member Article

    Doggone It! What We Can Learn About Marketing from a Canine

    Diana Schneidman

    Peter Bowerman in The Well-Fed Writer, his best seller about how to freelance, retells a story he learned from his sales manager during Bowerman’s early days as a door-to-door salesman.

    His mentor claimed that if you take an order book and a pencil, tie them to a dog’s tail and send the dog out to walk around town, eventually it will return to the sales office with an order written in the book and the pencil and book reattached.

    Hmmm, what does this teach those of us who would like to sell our services professionally?

    It may mean that instead of working, we should put our lazy, freeloading pets to work earning their kibbles.

    A second conclusion is that anything can work. Stick with what you are doing—or begin doing what some expert claims is the latest, greatest way—and your success is inevitable.

    But here is a third lesson and the one I favor. One success does not prove you have a method that merits the effort and time required to keep it going.

    While the dog story sounds a little far fetched, people we know or even we ourselves justify ineffective sales techniques with isolated stories of how they have worked for others.

    People love these stories and use them to prove any cockamamie marketing plan works. “See, lightning can strike,” they say.

    Yes, but the real question is: Will this lightning strike consistently in the same place so that we should add it to our sales arsenal?

    Many of these beloved sales stories involve the internet. Take blogs. The experts claim that blogging is easy.

    Well, technically speaking, blogs are easy to create, but getting them up and going is just the beginning. They require ongoing writing and management and they also demand substantial work to build traffic that may convert to business. Yes, they can be highly effective, but success demands commitment.

    Or take Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking websites. Here, if you don’t know where you are headed strategically, no amount of irrelevant, silly postings will lead you to steady profitability.

    For any marketing technique to be worth undertaking, it must be strategically sound.

    Blogs? Social networking? Meaningless chitchat if not linked to a strategic goal.

    Let’s plan our marketing by thinking through our efforts and employing marketing techniques that are effective in gathering sufficient leads and ultimately, paying opportunities.

    Doggone it! Let’s not be like the canine with the order book.

    Instead, with clear-headed thought, we can develop successful marketing that reliably brings in excellent paying opportunities.

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC Member Article

    Writing Tips

    Karen Schwartz

    Throughout my freelance writing career of 25+ years, I’ve written about practically every subject under the sun. I figure, if I interview the right people, there’s practically no subject I can’t write about. I’ve pitched stories to – and gotten assignments for articles from - dozens of editors at mainstream and trade publications. I’ve also done many other types of writing as well, including website content, annual reports, speeches, fundraising letters, ghostwritten content, press releases, corporate histories, and much more. Another IWOC member once referred me for a six-month freelance job with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and IWOC Vice-President Jeff Steele and I for many years, have – and continue to - refer numerous jobs to one another.

    I figure, if I interview the right people, there’s practically no subject I can’t write about.

    In the past year or so, I decided to take my freelance writing career in a somewhat different direction. I needed to bring in more income, and so I decided to specialize in certain types of writing in terms of the subjects I write about.

    Several years ago, I attended an IWOC networking event, where I met the editor of a legal publication that’s published by a legal organization; this led to my writing for this specific publication. I no longer write for that publication (it no longer pays its writers!), but I thought, Hey, why not find out about other publications that this legal organization publishes? Now, I’m not only writing for another one of that legal organization’s publications, but at IWOC renewal time, I listed “Legal Writing” on my list of categories. And this past December, I edited a 200- page legal dissertation for a doctoral student in Italy who had viewed my IWOC profile.

    Real estate and construction is another area of writing in which I’m specializing. A construction company viewed my IWOC profile in November – “Real estate and Construction” is another one of my IWOC profile categories - and so far, I’ve worked with them on two projects.

    Carry your business cards everywhere you go, even if it’s just out for a walk.

    When it comes to my LinkedIn profile – you do have an updated LinkedIn profile, don’t you? – “Legal,” “Real Estate and Construction,” as well as “Healthcare” and some other categories, are listed in my main heading. Though I will of course, write material on any subject for a client, I’ve decided to turn myself into more of a specialist. I’ve also joined LinkedIn Premium, which allows me to send messages to more people and contact more individuals who have viewed my profile. I even call people who have viewed my profile; this sometimes results in actual assignments!

    I have some other tips for obtaining clients:

    • Carry your business cards everywhere you go, even if it’s just out for a walk.
    • Making cold calls is not that difficult! If you get someone’s voice mail, leave a message.
    • If you haven’t been to an IWOC meeting in a while (or ever), come to (at least) one this year. I’ve been a member for 30 years and am so glad I joined. The friendliest group of people you’ll ever meet…and you may even get a job lead!

    - Karen Schwartz

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome IWOC's newest member: Peter Ricci- Professional Member!

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian) George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 30 Jan 2017 4:53 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    February 2017

    Volume 36 | Number 2

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    You are a professional writer, words are your business. Can you use an app for that? I thought I would see what was available to writers to assist them in getting words on the page, quickly and efficiently. Not a word processing program but a text editing program.

    I quickly found an article on a Pro Writing App on The Sweet Setup. They recommended Ulysses, a powerful text editing tool for Mac and I-Pad/I-Phone. They said “The mission of a pro writing app should be to help you produce words that will eventually end up being posted, printed, or published. It should provide an environment that is aesthetically pleasing and makes it easy for you to focus and create, and then allow you to take your content and export it wherever you desire.” I was glad that I work on a Mac ,as the only apparent drawback of this app is that it is only for Apple products. Cost: $45.00.

    Their next suggestion was for Scrivener which has been recommended by several IWOC members at the monthly meetings. Also $45.00.

    You are a professional writer, words are your business. Can you use an app for that?

    A newer app is Typed. The favorite feature noted by the author was music! Some research has shown that certain types of music can help focus our attention. Typed has soundtracks embedded in the app that you can open and listen to without an internet connection. At $29.00 it is less expensive but does not offer writing assistance at the level of the others.

    For two decent, less expensive options, you could try Byword or Write. Neither lists for more than $12.00 and while they do not have all the bells and whistles of Ulysses, both would be an upgrade if you do not have any other writing app.

    Do you use or recommend a different writing app? Please let me know.

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    February Meeting Preview

    Post-Election Era Financial Planning for Freelance Writers

    Photo by Cynthia Tomusiak

    This article finds you two weeks into a new year, three months past an election cycle and three months away from the next tax deadline. 

    How will you greet the new fiscal season? 

    "Now is the time to seek out advice on how best to start or improve your spending, investment and retirement plans, methods of finding money for investing and management of unstable freelance writing revenues," says Danielle Schultz, author of Idiots Guide: Beginning Investing and financial planner/owner of Haven Financial Solutions, Inc. in Evanston, Illinois.

    To help IWOCers start off the new fiscal quarter on the right foot, Schultz will touch on these and other financial planning topics at the next IWOC meeting on Tuesday, February 14th., making her case for “Post-Election Era Financial Planning for Freelance Writers.”

    Now is the time to seek out advice on how best to start or improve your spending, investment and retirement plans, methods of finding money for investing and management of unstable freelance writing revenues, says Danielle Schultz.

    Schultz is a financial advisor (CFA) certified by Northwestern University since 2011 and registered with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, a certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and an Illinois-registered investment advisor.

    At the mid-February IWOC presentation, Schultz plans to walk freelance writers through the most prudent and relevant practices and trends in cash flow and spending, charitable giving and college, insurance, investment and retirement planning. Schultz will raise the most important questions freelance writers should ponder in building a comprehensive plan to examine all facets of their financial status: do you have a spending plan that reflects your goals and dreams? Do you have an investment portfolio tailored to meet your needs? Is your retirement secure? Do your estate plans match reality? Have you made the most of your employee or business benefits? How tax-savvy are you? What is your masterplan for college funding, buying another home or financing travel? 

    "The best preparation," Schultz says in her blogs, "is to further develop professional skills."

    "The best preparation," Schultz says in her blogs, "is to further develop professional skills. To endure an economic recession, freelance writers and all workers otherwise would do well to build skill sets that employers find irresistible such as those in computer science, health care, accounting and engineering. This also applies to adult children tempted to major in liberal arts or impractical fields or concentrations in college."

    - Vladimire Herard

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    January Meeting Recap

    Writing Superior White Papers and Case Studies

    Photo by Richard Eastline

    Starting in the late 1800s to early 1900s in Britain, members of Parliament would write parliamentary papers, known as “blue books” and “white books,” to propose future legislation or policy. The blue books were short policy documents prefaced by blue covers. The white books, or white papers, were longer and protected by white covers.

    "Such are the origins of the form of technical writing freelance writers know in the B2B market as the white paper," said George Becht, an IWOC board member at the IWOC January workshop. Becht is an engineer who has produced manuals, proposals, grants, training materials and workshops in the arenas of advertising/marketing, corporate communications, industrial/technical industries, photography and transportation.

    Joining Becht was Diana Schneidman, another IWOC board member. Schneidman specializes in producing marketing communications, marketing research, PowerPoints, speech writing and training materials in the subject areas of property-casualty insurance, asset management and business.

    He said freelance writers already know the rule for producing a truly refined product -- be prepared to write and re-write.

    To secure a white paper assignment, Schneidman told IWOC-ers that they should inform their clients that they have experience in other forms of business writing. “There are people who specialize in white papers in one or another industry,” she said. “It [may be] difficult for you to specialize in any company. If you’ve concentrated on certain companies or industries, you [can say that] you wrote blogs, speeches or press releases. This positions you for white papers. One [assignment] leads to the next.”

    Becht said freelance writers already know the rule for producing a truly refined product -- be prepared to write and re-write. “If you want sophisticated [clients] to read this, [be sure to] to review, revise and polish,” he said.

    Additionally, Schneidman cautioned writers to make arrangements early on to incorporate graphics or photography into the design and format of white paper assignments. “One of the things you have to clarify is what the document is going to look like,” she said. “A long document of solid text does not cut it these days. They [the clients] expect visuals and images to break up the text.”

    Becht recommended that IWOC-ers search online. An independent Internet search for this business need may reveal as many as 300 million potential clients or consumers. Because of the growing demand for white papers, IWOC-ers can expand their freelance-writing businesses with these work products, he said. When asked about case studies, Becht compared this particular class of writing products to “feature magazine articles” that are “one to two pages” long. Written for promotional purposes, a case study is a short documented profile, usually favorable, of a particular product, service, concept or solution. Case studies may average 400 to 800 words in length and may take less than a day to produce.

    “One of the things you have to clarify is what the document is going to look like,” she said. “A long document of solid text does not cut it these days.

    Becht recommended that IWOC-cers consult these experts, including Michael Stelzner, founder of the Social Media Examiner and author of the book, Launch and Writing White Papers; Gordon Graham, author of White Papers for Dummies and creator of the website ThatWhitePaperGuy.com. He recommended the websites: BitPipe, TechRepublic.com, Google.com, Content Resources, Quora.com, and Revionix. For commercial or technical writing assignments in general, Schneidman pointed to Peter Bowerman’s book The Well-Fed Writer. In a handout titled “Jazz up your long-copy project,” she recommended books about using imagery with business writing assignments by Nancy Duarte, especially one titled Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences.

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    Freelancers can command high prices for writing white papers and case studies, she told IWOC-cers. White papers can fetch writers $1,000 to $4,000 per assignment, and some businesses can spend as much as $30,000 to have a white paper prepared for its clients. Additionally, freelance writers have been known to make $100 per hour writing case studies. Schneidman advised writers to consult the Writers Market and Graham’s books on pricing white papers.

    Becht also instructed IWOC-ers to attempt to secure one client as long as possible to minimize the costs of writing assignments.

    “The ones you retain are more cost-effective than the ones you have to go out and get,” he said.

    Get the podcast of the full presentation (members only) at IWOC.org!

    - Vladimire Herard

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    President's Column

    My Dad, the Writer

    Laura Stigler

    I was planning on writing a different article for this month’s Stet issue, but as we can all attest, life doesn’t always go as planned. On New Year’s Eve, my dear Dad, Eric Stigler, passed away. He was 99. Forgive me for sounding like the proud daughter, but he was also one of the most brilliant writers I have ever known, and has remained so up until his mid-nineties. I laugh at the incredulity of that last sentence, but it’s true. Whether it was prose or poetry, limericks or letters, comedy scripts, songs, ad campaigns (he coined “Fly the Friendly Skies of United”) – whatever words flowed from his fountain pen, I was always in awe. His was the standard I aspired to.

    His was the standard I aspired to.

    In his tribute, I would like to share with my fellow IWOC-ers a poem he wrote that was one of my favorites. It is a testament to his love of words and the English language – something we all, as writers, can appreciate. Written 40 years ago (with minor updates), the tonality is of its time. But the subject, ahead of it, as it was right at the onset of the Women’s Liberation Movement. And although it gently pokes fun at the concept of “having it all,” it also hits upon a truth with which many of us would secretly agree to this day. Enjoy!

    Love you, Dad & Mom.

    - Laura Stigler

    After All, I’m Only Superhuman

    by Eric Stigler


    “ A HEARTY ACCOLADE, A ROUSING TIGER AND A CHEER, 

    FOR NEVA NEWCOMBE NYPE, ACCLAIMED ‘AD-WOMAN OF THE YEAR!’”


    I’m from The Bugle, Mrs. Nype: I hate to interlope,

    But would you tell our readers of The Day with which you cope;

    Where do you find the time to do the many things you do?


    “My eager, unspoiled child...the same things could be done by you!

    You’ve simply got to budget all the time you have on hand, 

    Don’t let a moment trickle through, a wasted grain of sand. 

    I run a mammoth Agency; two Columns I compose; 

    I Lecture almost endlessly, and Guest on TV Shows. 

    Three Textbooks on The Art of Advertising I am writing, 

    While students to my Forums I am constantly inviting. 

    Two Personal Computers fast respond to my commands.” 


    You operate two laptops, ma’am? 


    “Why not? I’ve got two hands! 

    I manage the ménage about a 28-room house 

    With scarce a helping hand from 30 servants and a spouse; 

    Singlehandedly I raise eleven offspring...mostly males... 

    (Which leaves my 14 nurses naught to handle but details). 

    I grow Tibetan orchids, and accumulate antiques; 

    With mushrooms that I cultivate, my basement fairly reeks; 

    I paint in oils on china, and when program will permit 

    The Rosetta Stone I translate into jargonal Sanskrit; 

    Rare Gobelin-like tapestries I fashion with my toes, 

    In the meanwhile, since it’s idle, judging perfumes with my nose. 

    Yes, my day is overflowing, and my schedule’s pretty steep, 

    Why, I’ve no room to indulge such whimsicalities as sleep. 

    But now our chat is through, my dear; I think you’d better go, 

    It’s time for my shock treatment, and I set up quite a glow.”


    - Laura Stigler

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    IWOC Member Article

    Phoning for Freelance Work: How to Conquer Damaging Self-talk

    Diana Schneidman

    What does your brain whisper to you (or even scream!) when you try to start phoning for freelance writing assignments? 

    Is it: I’m not ready? With the assumption: I must be perfectly prepared before I call any prospective buyer. 

    In their book, Earning What You’re Worth: The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance (1992), George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson identify this as the career-damaging quest for over-preparation. 

    This self-talk message can totally talk us out of reaching out to possible clients, according to the authors. We convince ourselves that we aren’t sufficiently prepared and that the person we reach on the phone will ask us a tough question that will reveal our incompetence. 

    The solution appears to be more study. Read more books and take additional courses on what to say on calls. Study article after article and scan the websites of multitudes of experts to learn the secret sales phrase that assures success.

    We don’t have to know everything. We only need to know the answer—or an initial, temporary answer—to whichever question we most fear will be asked of us.

    We may delay by becoming an expert on the person and the company we are calling. Study the website, page by page. Throw in some Google research and examine tweets. Scroll through every line of the individual’s LinkedIn profile. 

    However, this is overkill since the person may not answer the call. Furthermore, detailed critiques of what’s wrong with a prospect’s marketing are more likely to repel than to initiate a buy. 

    Or we decide that we can’t make calls until we have established our expertise by completing more assignments. But how can we complete more assignments until we obtain more clients? 

    Alas, this thinking leads us right to the very lowest-paying assignments that reside on freelance job sites. When we don’t have the confidence to go after the clients we want and to say our price without choking, it’s easiest to prospect online and take what we can get without risking interaction with others. 

    If we don’t say anything, we can’t say anything wrong. Right? 

    The solution is to understand that we can never be perfectly prepared because we can never know everything a prospect may say to us. Therefore, we must push on and get started all the same. 

    We must allow ourselves simply to be adequately prepared. And if we build on past full-time jobs or freelance experience to develop our business, we are adequately prepared.

    Therefore, let’s determine what we absolutely must know or do in order to be minimally qualified to make a phone call. Be honest here. We don’t have to know everything. We only need to know the answer—or an initial, temporary answer—to whichever question we most fear will be asked of us. 

    Also, let’s not start with the most likely prospects. Start with those who are a little removed from our specialty. This reduces our stress, and if we come off a little unpolished, c’est la vie.

    We must allow ourselves simply to be adequately prepared. And if we build on past full-time jobs or freelance experience to develop our business, we are adequately prepared. 

    Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

    - Diana Schneidman

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    IWOC's New Members

    Please welcome IWOC's newest members!

    Val Gee - Senior Member 

    Michele Begovich - Associate Member 

    Marcus Emanual - Associate Member 

    Carla M. Shaffer - Associate Member 

    Peter Stephen Strandquist - Professional Member

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian) George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 31 Dec 2016 11:22 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    January 2017

    Volume 36 | Number 1

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Happy New Year! As your editor, I am resolved to do the best job I can for you. Last year, I rolled out “IWOC Member Profiles” and enjoy getting to know our members better, one at a time, once a month. I also requested letters to the editor and am looking forward to your letters. 

    One of the ideas that came up at a recent board meeting was to add another IWOC member column, this time asking members to share their IWOC stories on “How IWOC has benefited you?"  We are jumping right in with that! It is the next article.

    Finally, as the newsletter is now in a digital, email and blog post (on the website) format, I am working to keep the word count of all articles right around 500 words. This did not just come from me; the board also weighed in. We want Stet to be readable, helpful and relevant in this new format and all of us believe that the word count will contribute to that. 

    Share your IWOC Stories about "How IWOC has benefited you?"

    Our program committee is working hard on the programs for 2017. They have most of the year mapped out and are finalizing the January meeting - look for an email blast following up on that program. In any event, please plan to join us on January 10th, 2017 at 5:00pm for networking and at 6:00pm for the meeting at the Gratz Center (Room 4F), 126 E. Chestnut Street, Chicago.

    To wrap up, I would like to share  my column and a seasonal contribution from one of our members: Richard Eastline.

    The Theater of Winter

    Something approaches and the skies begin to tremble. 

    Chilled winds rush ahead freely dispersing shivering pronouncements as they seek out unexpected targets. 

    They are the advance bearers of bitter change. 

    A city not yet prepared to acknowledge the intruder is caught up in its seasonally crafted routines, deluded by a late receipt of the sun's weakened rays, bestowing counterfeit warmth and brightness on those below.

    Scurrying figures are mouthing holiday greetings from faces momentarily wearing mandatory smiles. 

    Is there foreboding in the air? 

    In these times, it's ever-present, an urgent nagging embedded in some recess of memory. 

    An instant or two passes and the scene is transformed by Nature's invisible stage hands. 

    The sky now darkens for the theater of life's next act. 

    An orchestra of winds plays fortissimo... 

    Sound begets fury. 

    Winter has come.

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    How IWOC Benefits Members

    Sweating Out a New Business Meeting

    Jeff Steele

    JFK once famously exhorted Americans to ask not what their country could do for them. I took his advice and applied it not to my country but to IWOC. I joined not expecting much, just trying to cover my half moons in case anyone was to crack, “Well, you’ve failed at freelance writing. What’d ya expect? You never joined a writers’ group!”

    I was into my third year of expectations lower than a snail’s ankles when one July day, the phone rang. On the other end, a voice was announcing my IWOC directory listing had been perused. And could I visit his suburban office to discuss some projects? I said yes and instantly began questioning how I’d get there. I didn’t have a car.

    Eyeing a map and a Metra timetable, I learned I could train out from downtown, then hoof a mile and a half to the office in time for the confab. Piece of cake, I thought, and I might get a gig. There were just two as-yet-unseen problems with this assumption.

    Piece of cake, I thought, and I might get a gig.

    The first? It was summer of 1995, better known as the three months so hot the Chicago streets were paved with dead bodies, to hear the national media tell it. The second? The suburb to which I was headed was just slightly less hilly than the Alps.

    The day of the interview dawned a scorcher. By the time I’d marched in suit and tie a mile and a half over hill and dale on a 95-degree afternoon, I looked like I’d been doused in a dunk tank. Luckily, I arrived a half hour ahead of schedule, and was able to cool and dry off enough to appear a bit less clown-like when ushered in for the meeting.

    Well, I got the gig, and kept the client. In fact, I’m entering my 22nd year of working for that firm, which in 2016 was one of my two highest-volume, best-paying customers, and is still headed by the same IWOC directory reader who was at the helm 21 years ago.

    When it comes to work, I’m still partaking like it’s 1995. And IWOC’s to thank.

    - Jeff Steele

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    Holiday Party Recap

    Good Time Had By All

    Passing presents

    It was time once again for the ever-popular Holiday Party. The party moved this year to Marcello's at 645 W. North Avenue, this year. 

    IWOC members met, in a party room in the back that we had all to ourselves. Those in attendance socialized; spending time discussing all sorts of enjoyable topics and getting to know one another a bit better.

    A delicious and plentiful dinner was served family style. Some of the items passed around were chicken piccata, veggie lasagna, grilled vegetables and several desserts. Books were exchanged and Santa's helper passed out presents.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

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    President's Column

    Survey Says!

    Laura Stigler

    In the enthusiastic spirit of the classic game show, Family Feud, I’m here to announce that the results of the 3-Question survey are in!

    As you may recall, about a month ago we sent out the 3-Q survey to all IWOC members and friends of IWOC, asking their opinions about this very organization. I want to share them with you, not only because they were well thought-out, caring and expressed a genuine interest in the well-being of IWOC, but this ultimately concerns how IWOC can affect your business. Besides, IWOC is family, right? We share.

    So thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in the survey, and thank you, dear readers, who are taking the time to peruse the outcomes below.

    Q #1: “What do you like about IWOC?” Survey says...

    What respondents loved most about IWOC was the people themselves. The camaraderie. The networking. The fact that we’re all such a helpful and friendly bunch. Some couldn’t believe their luck that such a vibrant organization existed where professional writers can get together to share accomplishments, advice, war stories. And laughs. What also got thumbs up: The newsletter, job line, website, the online directory, monthly meetings, mixers, IWOC’s event participation, referrals gotten from fellow IWOC-ers, committee work, and the credibility factor IWOC lends to professional writers.

    Q #2: “What can IWOC improve?” Survey says...

    No itching for a family feud here. The suggestions were quite friendly in fact, falling into three buckets: 

    1) new ideas the Board will act upon – or at the very least, discuss their feasibility: 

    2) ideas already in the works; and 

    3) ideas that have been considered at one point, but for various and practical reasons, were dismissed.

    Let’s unpack each, beginning with bucket #3:

    • It was suggested IWOC hold some meetings in the suburbs – an issue that’s periodically raised. But it always comes down to the challenge of finding an affordable, consistently available meeting space in a locale most accessible transportation-wise for most members. Downtown Chicago seems to best fit that bill. Still, the good news is, podcasts of our monthly meetings are available online to members. Granted, attending meetings have extra benefits (networking, getting your questions answered by guest speakers, etc.), but for those who can’t always be present, the podcasts are an ideal solution.
    • All that said, what will be considered is suburban locales for any upcoming workshops or seminars. So stay tuned for that.

    Bucket #2 (ideas in the works): This was a juicy one, because it means that our members and the Board are on the same wavelength. For instance:

    • Simplifying the membership sign-up and renewal process. We plan to have it in place by the next Membership Drive in September 2017.
    • A mentor program. Exactly what we’re planning to implement so as to expand IWOC’s mission and value to the writing community at large.

    Bucket #1 (ideas we’ll be acting on):

    • More guest speakers who hire writers. Yes!
    • Striking up a relationship with the Small Business Development Center at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Yes! This would help achieve another suggestion:
    • Increase awareness of IWOC as a central repository for employers to link up with writers
    • A table provided at meetings for those who wish to take notes on their laptop. Consider it done.

    What respondents loved most about IWOC was the people themselves.

    Q #3: “What’s the one thing you’d like IWOC to provide?” Survey says...

    Actually, the responses dovetailed with a number of suggestions on how to improve IWOC. Here are the ideas that made the respondents’ wish lists. We will be looking into ways of granting them:

    • Workshops on: Editing. Writing effective press releases. Professional level seminars covering such topics as uncommon research sources, international marketing and becoming an authoritative voice in the marketplace. And more.
    • More job opportunities, including in the healthcare, education and non-profits fields
    • IWOC and outside author readings with Q&A’s and an opportunity to sell their books
    • Selling IWOC authors online
    • An advisory board to take on issues the Board doesn’t have time to address
    • Resurrect the print directory – get it into the hands of prospective employers
    • Forums for agents and publishers actively looking for writers

    Game on!

    All the above were discussed at the December Board Meeting, and a most satisfying discussion it was. Beyond confirming we’re on the right track, we are excited to use the survey results as a reference tool – a source of inspiration to keep us moving in the New Year towards where we want to be as an organization. And as a family.

    Here’s to a happy, healthy, successful 2017!

    - Laura Stigler

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    Featured Member

    Brent Brotine

    Brent Brotine

    How would you describe yourself? While I've been, at times, a general advertising writer, a broadcast writer-producer, a creative director and a retail advertising specialist, today I'm primarily a "classic" direct response copywriter. It's a skill that's often outsourced because many of today's millennials are not taught how to write long copy. And it's immensely satisfying to write a multi-page letter or scrolling website that sells a big-ticket purchase at first read, be it a financial product, membership organization or lifestyle gadget. Too, direct response is the one form of advertising copy that's data-driven: you can test what works and make decisions based on performance, not client guesswork or preconception.

    What advice would you give on working for agency clients? There's more competition than ever if you're looking to be hired by advertising/marketing agencies or design firms. HR in larger firms often mandates that outsourcing be done through the third-party firms such as Artisan or Creative Circle as a safeguard from someone claiming formal employment status. And because there are often contracted low rates, you're limited in what you can charge. Being able to target and approach the creative director in charge of an account for which you have special expertise is your most likely avenue.

    I see a lot more of my future writing being done from a Starbucks in St. Petersburg or a McDonald's in Madrid.

    What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? When I began freelancing twenty-plus years ago after the Chicago office of my then-agency employer was closed, I was advised not to work from my kitchen table, but to have a formal out-of-home office. And until just a few months ago, when family matters required I be at home more, that's what I've done. It helped me focus on freelancing as a career rather than just a temporary stop until I found another full-time gig. And I believe it has made me more productive over the years — the interwebz are distracting enough without adding a big-screen TV, two cats and an overflowing refrigerator into the mix.

    What are you doing these days? My better half intends to work for at least five more years, maybe more, before taking down her own shingle — so I'm in no hurry to reduce my hours. But, I'm actively adding more "fun" and volunteer jobs to the mix, with the intention of spending less overall time sitting behind the laptop. So, while I still have a roster of direct marketing clients, I'm also working part-time for WTTW-Channel 11 as an on-set pledge drive coordinator … driving for Uber … and serving as webmaster/board member/occasional cook-and-bottle-washer for my synagogue. All of which leads to:

    What would you like to be doing differently in five years? Traveling more, not less. For years, I've toted my laptop on cruises and other excursions to keep up with work assignments, and as more people work virtually I don't stand out as much as I used to. So, I see a lot more of my future writing being done from a Starbucks in St. Petersburg or a McDonald's in Madrid.

    Is there a website or other contact information? Absolutely. You can see some of my current projects at www.brotine.com, and I'm reachable at brent@brotine.com or 530-BROTINE.

    - Brent Brotine

    Some questions for next month: 1) How would you describe yourself? 2) What is your specialty? 3) What one line of advice would you give a writer working with a client? 4) What would you like to be doing differently in five years? 5) What do you love most about what you do? If you have questions of your own you would like to answer, that is fine as well. Stay tuned!

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    IWOC's New Members

    IWOC would like to extend a warm welcome to our renewing member: James Hodl.

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian) George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 01 Nov 2016 6:13 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    November 2016

    Volume 35 | Number 11

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    As the board and I continually work to improve Stet, we are adding and asking for “Letters to the editor”.

    Letters to the editor, sometimes abbreviated LTE or LTTE, usually address reader’s concerns.So as an IWOC member or friend of IWOC, we’d like to ask you: What are your concerns? Opinions?

    Have any advice to give on freelancing in general? Writing tips? Want to comment on any articles in previous Stet issues? The subjects are wide open and we’d like to give you an opportunity to express yourself, as long as it pertains to either IWOC, the freelance business, writing — or all of the above.

    Reminder: Due to the Presidential Election, there will be no November meeting.

    LTE’s have always been a feature of America’s newspapers, and in fact many of the early news reports and commentaries were published in the form of letters. In the mid-18th century, LTE’s were the main venue of political and social discourse.Why not continue that fine American tradition!

    So please submit your thoughts, concerns or ideas to me, your Stet editor.

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    December Meeting Preview

    The IWOC Holiday Party

    It’s time once again for the IWOC Holiday Party! 

    This is an opportunity for all members and friends of IWOC to get together for the festivities, fellowship, and fabulous food.

    I am certain there will be a visit from Santa. And, I am also certain that all IWOC members are on his "nice" list!

    Please join us for dinner on December 13th at Marcello's, located at 645 W. North Ave, Chicago.  More details and information to follow!

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

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    October Meeting Recap

    Ask the Experts

    Jim Kepler

    It was time once again for the ever-popular IWOC Roundtables, when members and guests get together to exchange advice and ask questions concerning their freelance writing business. Past IWOC president Jim Kepler moderated the event.

    All of the tables were dynamic and vibrant!

    Several roundtable participants stated that they find out what the going rates are by consulting Writer’s Market.

    Some highlights:

    While discussing how to capture new clients, the participants weighed in on the merits of such marketing tools and techniques as websites and cold calling.

    A dialogue on rate setting had one of our fellow IWOC-ers relaying a memorable anecdote: When asked by a prospective client to give an estimate of her charges, she provided the client with a range of $400 to $525. The client lamented,“Oh gosh, I don’t think so. I'd hoped to pay around $500.” The client had to be reminded that $500 actually fell within the $400 to $525 range. The writer landed the assignment.

    Cold calling is an excellent way to reach people who might need your writing services.

    Negotiating rates brought varied responses: One roundtable participant stated that most of his clients he’d had for a while, so he didn’t have to negotiate rates. Another person said that she really pushes clients to give her a figure, and that she tends to undercharge them. She added that some rates are not negotiable, especially for editors. Another participant noted that a lot of her clients are non-profit and tell her that they have limited budgets. She added that she brings up the subject of money “sooner rather than later.” Several roundtable participants stated that they find out what the going rates are by consulting Writer’s Market, as well as IWOC’s Rate Survey (available online to IWOC members.)

    On the subject of self-promotion, one participant said he needs to re-do his website and would use Go-Daddy. Another writer said she has gotten work from going to a Christian Writer’s Conference. A writer who writes about senior care noted that she goes to trade shows focusing on this particular area and then writes articles.

    Among the conclusions reached were: Cold calling is an excellent way to reach people who might need your writing services. When negotiating with a client, allow him or her to make the first move.

    For all of these tips and more, be sure to attend the next IWOC Roundtable Event!

    - Karen Schwartz, Jeff Steele

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    President's Column

    Planning the Plans

    Laura Stigler

    I hate meetings. Perhaps it stems from harboring deep-seated painful memories of a past life experience – the one spent in Corporate, when we’d be hauled into meetings to plan meetings to plan planning meetings. My feeling is, once you cut away all the chaff (the babbling blowhards, the irrelevant tangents, the superfluous information (TMI!), the boss’s story of how he broke his foot in a skiing accident when in actuality, according to his secretary, he slipped and fell into the toilet) – just get rid of all of that, and most meetings could probably accomplish their goals in 15 minutes. And that includes a 10-minute coffee break! But I’m off on a tangent. Sorry.

    So no, not a big fan of meetings. But now that I am IWOC’s newly elected President, I find myself in charge of the blasted things. No longer can I let my mind wander, pipe up with an idea here and there and then resume daydreaming. I have to set the agenda, guide the direction and stay awake throughout. And you know what? I’m actually liking this! Certainly if subsequent meetings are anything like the one that served as my initiation into the Presidency, this should be a blast. (As opposed to blasted.) I’m referring to the 2016 Planning Meeting we held on October 8th. I’d like to tell you about it. Because I do believe what was discussed might be of great interest to you, whether you’re an IWOC member, former member or wish to one day join.

    Allow me take you behind the curtain...(watch your step please, some of our snacks have left the floor kind of sticky)...

    One of the greatest challenges that IWOC faces is coming up with programs that will woo writers out of their cozy lairs and attend.

    The purpose of the planning meeting was (ta-da!) to plan for the upcoming IWOC year, reviewing what, as an organization, we do well, not do well and then brainstorming on how can we improve – all with the ultimate goal of attracting new members, keeping our current members happy and helping them all achieve greater success in the freelance writing life. There were nine in attendance. And all participated fully and enthusiastically. They were: Board members George Becht, Brent Brotine, Tom Lanning, Claire Nicolay, Jeff Steele, David Steinkraus and myself. Also: past IWOC President Jim Kepler and current PR Committee member, Karen Schwartz.

    Some highlights:

    Signing up made simple

    When several of us openly confessed to the fact that after years of being IWOC members, we were still somewhat confused whenever we had to renew our membership, we knew something was amiss. I mean, IWOC is a welcoming organization. We should be making it as easy as possible for writers to become a part of it! Seems obvious, but sometimes you have to go the long way around to arrive there.

    So our first order of the day is to simplify. Streamline. From the several membership levels to the pricings of the profile listings. It should be an A-to-B process where everything is transparent – before you actually sign up. Don’t want to get too much into the weeds here, because there are still details to work out. But our goal is to have it in place when the next Membership Drive rolls around come September 2017.

    Wooing writers to programs, events, workshops

    One of the greatest challenges that IWOC faces is coming up with programs that will woo writers out of their cozy lairs and attend. Programming is a monster that constantly has to be fed. I always stand in awe of IWOC’s Program Committees – past and present – in how they manage to come through every time. We want to continue and build upon their gold-star record. Revive what’s been known to draw crowds in the past. And create new, innovative programs that will enhance your business, sharpen your skills, and even just plain entertain.

    Maybe it’s conducting specialty workshops, such as How to Write an Effective Press Release. Or one on grant writing. Or creating an ad for your business. Maybe it’s having more journalists, book authors and bloggers speak. Oh! and people who actually hire writers! We’re also thinking of the infinite possibilities of reaching out cross country and bringing in guest speakers via the magic of Skype. These are just some of the ideas we’re exploring and are bent on realizing.

    For that, we are asking, no, BEGGING for your feedback.

    There were several other issues and great concepts discussed in our meeting, but what it all comes down to is:

    How can we woo you? Yes, YOU!

    For that, we are asking, no, BEGGING for your feedback. So here’s our first “to-do”, which will take priority over all other actions that came out of our Planning Meeting: You will shortly be receiving a survey. A very short survey. Three short questions only. It should take you a very short time to complete. But if you do, it will go a long way in helping make IWOC reach its greatest potential as a significant tool that can help you reach your greatest potential as a successful independent writer.

    Sound like a plan?

    - Laura Stigler

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    Featured Member

    Marjorie Skelly

    Marjorie Skelly

    How would you describe yourself? I have had a long-term interest in the arts—in particular, writing poetry, short stories, and essays; teaching poetry and short story writing in libraries and other venues; choral singing with North Shore Choral Society of Evanston, IL, Edgewater Singers of the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago, and most recently the up-and-coming performance in January, 2017, of "Too Hot to Handel" in Chicago’s Auditorium. I found my niche a long time ago due to my unquestioned and full embrace of writing and singing. In this sense, I am truly filled with enthusiasm, gratitude, and love--and as I said in a recent IWOC presentation, I am most thankful for being married to my husband, Jim, as almost all of my financial support comes from him.

    That said, my Achilles’ heel is that so much of what I love produces little income. I want to make more money, but not just for myself, as that extra money would be my own personal thank-you note to my husband. So, to all reading this profile, if you hear of paid work that would suit me, please do get in touch with me. Furthermore, I would consider business writing, writing of a religious/spiritual nature, and writing related to the arts. Also, given the bizarre nature of the current Presidential election as of this writing, I would welcome the opportunity to try some political writing. I have been paid for articles published by National Safety Council, Dartnell Corporation, the former Lerner Newspapers, and for one piece that can best be described as a hybrid consisting of creative non-fiction, essay, and memoir.

    What advice would you give a client working with a writer? Stay in contact with the writer as frequently as possible. Writing is such a lonely business that we can feel as though we live in a black hole resulting from lack of correspondence!

    Take the long shot.

    What is your motto and why? My motto is to aim very high because the higher you aim, the more room you have to both fall and fail. Take the long shot. That said, I sometimes wish I had stayed more in my comfort zone than getting out of it as much as I do.

    What accomplishment are you proud of? Finally, I am proud of my most recent significant writing accomplishment--getting my first book, The Unpublished Poet, published with In Extenso Press in December, 2015, a book that was endorsed by a former Poet Laureate of Indiana and consists of essays, short stories, and poetry. You can buy the book on Amazon or through the publisher at 800-397-2282 or on the website at www.actapublications.com as ACTA is the sole distributor of the book. Or you can buy the book directly from me.

    Is there a website or other contact information? I very much welcome contact at Marjorie Skelly, margeskelly@sbcglobal.net, 773-450-5419. Thank you!

    - Marjorie Skelly

    Some questions for next month: 1) How would you describe yourself? 2) What is your specialty? 3) What one line of advice would you give a writer working with a client? 4) What would you like to be doing differently in five years? 5) What do you love most about what you do? If you have questions of your own you would like to answer, that is fine as well. Stay tuned!

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    IWOC's New Members

    IWOC would like to extend a warm welcome to our newest members: Sara Carminati and Sue Rosenfeld.

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian) George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 01 Oct 2016 5:10 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    October 2016

    Volume 35 | Number 10

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    New members and other odds and ends.

    I have been wanting to include our newest members in Stet to welcome them and let the rest of the group know their names. Our annual membership drive ends October 2nd and Stet will be published (just) before that. There will be some new members that joined after I wrote this, but have no fear, we will annouce you in the November issue! The most recent new members are: Adela Durkee, Rachel Henry, Janice Snider, Korey Willoughby.

    Speaking of November, I would like to remind everyone that there will be no meeting on November 8th due to Presidential elections.

    I would like to remind everyone that there is no meeting in November.

    Finally, I read a (rather long) quote the other day and it really resonated with me so I decided to share it:

    "When we are upset, it’s easy to blame others. However, the true cause of our feelings is within us. For example, imagine yourself as a glass of water. Now, imagine past negative experiences as sediment at the bottom of your glass. Next, think of others as spoons. When one stirs, the sediment clouds your water. It may appear that the spoon caused the water to cloud - but if there were no sediment, the water would remain clear no matter what. The key, then, is to identify our own sediment and actively work to remove it." -Josei Toda

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    October Meeting Preview

    Ask The Experts

    It’s time once again for the IWOC Roundtables. This is the opportunity for all members to become speakers at the October program. We’ve done this sort of thing before, and so many members will be familiar with the format. For newcomers, it’s a time to get to know folks, pick their brains and pick up some tips.

    This is the opportunity for all members to become speakers at the October program.

    Join IWOC-ers for the October 11, Tuesday night program, as a prominent literary agent from a Chicago-based agency offers practical advice for freelance writers on how to benefit by using the services of such industry professionals.

    Here’s how it works. We’ll divide up into small groups, each with a leader. The leaders will talk a bit about how the program will progress and then moderate group discussions. Each group leader will have several conversation starters at hand, but the overriding point of the evening is to ensure that there will be ample time for everyone to talk about his or her own particular questions or topics.

    Think about an issue that’s been puzzling you: collecting on aging invoices, assignments that seem to grow and change beyond what your quoted price included, marketing your talents into a new field, practice management, making more money. Write it down now so that you won’t forget it and bring it along to the meeting. Any topic that applies to writing, editing, freelancing—any communications art and skill or small business management hurdle—is fair game. The only proviso is that it be something that can be explained and discussed in a few minutes.

    To get you started, here are a few broad topics we’ll try to cover:

    Shameless Self-promotion. How can you get your name out to potential clients? Learn how to promote yourself and your business through strategic networking, press releases, advertising, public relations, and especially social media.

    Any topic that applies to writing, editing, freelancing—any communications art and skill or small business management hurdle—is fair game.

    Market Building. Got a hobby, talent, or special interest in which you’ve become something of an expert? Learn how to develop a niche market that will allow you to command higher earnings while increasing your expertise in the field you love.

    Collections? Getting Paid in Full and on Time. Having trouble setting rates that enable you to put food on the table and order dessert? Maybe you have a client or two who consistently hold your invoices for 60—or more—days. Learn how to spot and overcome low- and slow-pay problems.

    Designers vs. Writers—Who Wins? Do you find your work being compromised by graphic designers who view the written word as just another design element? Learn how to stand your ground with art departments.

    Plugged-in Writing. Want to write for the web but don’t know where or how to start? Learn how to find assignments, how web writing differs from other kinds of work that you may have done in the past and how much to charge.

    Virtual Full-service Firm. Learn how to partner with other independent communications providers (photographers, marketers, designers, etc.) to form a soup-to-nuts production company.

    The Entrepreneurial Opportunist. Wondering where the jobs will be in an increasingly multicultural, multilingual, technical economy? Learn how to recognize trends and position yourself for newly developing writing assignments.

    We’ll wrap up the evening with recaps from the groups that will ensure all voices are heard and all issues addressed. That will make for lively mealtime conversation, so plan to stick around for the after-program dinner.

    None of us is “just a writer.” We do far more than simply write for your clients. We help them solve problems; improve the service or product they sell to their customers; talk to different audiences; and improve their market position, strengthen their brand and build their revenues.

    What happens, though, when we find ourselves up against a problem and need advice from an expert? Easy answer: we turn to our colleagues. Who has a better understanding of the challenges, professional situations and working conditions we face? Most important, who is most apt to examine different facets of a problem that’s been driving us nuts and be able to provide us with a perspective we haven’t yet considered? Other IWOCers, of course. What a great chance to call upon the talents of a roomful of experts who can give us specific pointers to help get us past a rough spot in our communications practice.

    In addition to the question(s) you want answered, bring a giant appetite for lots of high energy, low calorie advice. We’ll meet on Tuesday, October 11, in Room 4F (4th floor) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. / 115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking ($6.00: park after 5 p.m. and pick up a validation card at the Gratz reception window) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered at the IWOC website. Click on “October 11 IWOC Meeting.”) Following the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics and to continue networking. For more information, visit the IWOC website.

    - Jim Kepler

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    September Meeting Recap

    Niche Selection and Development for Freelance Writers

    Florence Hardy

    To successfully select and develop our freelance writing niches, we must grasp and engage in niche marketing and nontraditional marketing, distinguish between the benefits and downfalls of niche marketing, understand our target markets, identify and cultivate our sales strategy and gather online and offline resources to assist us throughout the process, Florence Hardy, MBA manager of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce downtown, said during the organization’s mid-September workshop on the topic. Hardy, a private-practice transactional and intellectual property lawyer, has imparted similar wisdom to small business owners as a business consultant for over eight years. Hardy informed IWOCers that the center’s main goal is to help individuals start and grow their businesses for free. She stressed that the SBDC serves a wide “range of industries,” including that of freelance writing and editing.

    Through her presentation, she defined niche marketing as a “specialized market in which a limited and clearly defined range of products or services are sold to a specific group of customers,” equating one’s niche with one’s expertise. Hardy described marketing as a process not to be confused with advertising. She drew the analogy between marketing and advertising as being that “thumbs are fingers but not all fingers are thumbs.” Marketing, she explained, is “any promotional activity that is not traditional advertising.” Presentation examples, she said, include promotional events, business intelligence reporting, obtaining and recording instances of recognition and product packaging. “If you have to pay for it, it’s advertising,” Hardy said. “If you don’t, it’s marketing.”

    “If you have to pay for it, it’s advertising,” Hardy said. “If you don’t, it’s marketing.”

    For freelance writers, marketing involves how we package our services, including our websites and our e-mail accounts. “All that you put out is the marketing,” she said, referring to freelance writers’ work products as well as their websites and use of other media platforms.

    Outside of the realm of freelance writing, Hardy used a retail store with a dirty floor and dark, dingy windows as an example of bad product packaging. “It tells you about the store,” she said. “Think about the impression [the store owner creates on customers].” Besides a business site’s lack of cleanliness, Hardy pointed to miscommunication by business signage as another example of bad marketing. In one instance, the front-door electronic signage display for Kids’ Exchange, a business catering to children’s needs, is made to read “Kid Sexchange” because of the misplacement of letters in the words. Obviously, she said, a customer’s initial reaction is “Let me go to the next door!” In a second case, the business signage for a private practice dental service office should read “Clinical Dental” but instead says “Clinica Dental” because of the omission of the letter “L.” Such bad examples, Hardy concluded, illustrate the importance of marketing. Why should freelance writers -- as well as all small business owners -- practice sound marketing? She responded that freelance writers, as well as all small business owners, need marketing to generate more sales; increase customer awareness of our products and services; learn the marketplace, our efforts and the metrics of both; foster consumer trust; build social assets; discover what works best; develop an ideal customer profile; test and optimize our offerings and build powerful brands.

    Business owners tend to use one of two categories of marketing, traditional and nontraditional, Hardy said. Traditional marketing is one-way marketing that tells customers what to do and encompasses mass marketing. By contrast, non-traditional marketing involves two-way marketing, which entails conversations and forming relationships. A prime example is the social media platform Twitter, she said, where customers expect a two-way conversation. [Traditional marketing and] mass marketing are not the best ways to market your services,” Hardy told freelance writers at the workshop. “Unless you are selling a necessity, no mass marketing [should be used].” Non-traditional marketing is the mode that is most suitable for freelance writers, she said, because of its two-way communicative nature and our need to make and build connections and rapport with our clients to generate more work and more income.

    What do you like to do? What would you do if money was not an issue?

    To determine our ideal niche or niches, she said, we must prepare to focus on one or more areas of freelance writing or editing. We must determine our areas of expertise and the variety of freelance writing or editing we would like to take part in. Hardy said that we freelance writers must ask ourselves: “What do you like to do? What would you do if money was not an issue? Where do you already have strong connections? ... Our services and products can be sold to specific groups of customers.” She said our selection and development of niches depends on the need of our clients or customers. For instance, in the case of a medical facility or hospital, if a freelance writer making an offer of services and products is a medical writer, then he or she can be used. However, if a writer concentrates on fictional work and blogs, the hospital or facility can’t use him or her. In some circumstances, a writer can be a “jack of all trades, master of none,” she said. However, with more niches, freelance writers may face more obstacles tantamount to that of large businesses and will have more individuals to compete with for work and income, she added. Additionally, freelance writers have limited time to produce work based on a small number of niches so we must build our statuses as expert, she said. As a result of narrowing our activity, writers will have little direct competition.

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    “You can become a big fish in a small pond,” Hardy told writers at the workshop. “[For example], not so many [writers] can do blogs for stay-at-home mothers or stay-at-home fathers. ... You can carve out a niche that is in demand and you are the only expert. Your customers are going to someone. [For example], home coffee machines compete with Starbucks.”

    In her presentation, she outlined the benefits of niche marketing as “focused effort; efficient use of resources; build[ing] status as expert; opportunity to become a big fish; [ability to] charge premium pricing; ability to grow into mass market; little or no competition; building better, longer lasting relationships with vendors, suppliers and customers; higher profit margins and [ability to] repurpose content easily.” “One of the benefits of a niche [is that] you don’t have to stay in a niche,” Hardy said. “ ... You can have higher profit margins. You can always repurpose your material. You can choose what you want to do.”

    Hardy named the downfalls of niche marketing as “[ability to] typecast; little flexibility once persona is built; [difficulty] to build a niche; limited marketability outside of chosen niche; dependence on one product, and; being too successful [to the point of] attracting larger firms interested market share (or being open to copycats).” “Pitfalls include limited marketability outside of your niche,” she said. “You could depend on one or more people [for more of your work opportunities and income]. You could also be too successful. You get too much attention and a business can take what you’ve done.”

    As freelance writers, we must also understand our target markets before we can create and execute a sales strategy, Hardy said. In her presentation, she advised IWOCers to start by compiling basic demographics such as census data; conducting personal surveying and internet research; digging deeper [into research about personal] likes/dislikes; buying habits and tendencies; understanding [customer] needs and current solutions, and; building full customer profiles to understand [the number of distinct customers] and ensure that there is enough market/demand for services and products.”

    “You start with common demographics,” she said. You understand your target based on past experience. You test it and sees who buys and continue [to offer your products and services]. “Demographics can be individual [or groups] ... Who are they? How do they find you? What do they offer? How big are they? How much are they spending with you? What are their buying habits? What do they buy? You can ask. They will be [responsive to your questions]. [However, ask] in a way that will make them [customers] comfortable enough.”

    Before we make cold calls, write letters or send e-mails to their clients, Hardy urged freelance writers to “understand the buying process” of customers and to be there when needed. She also encouraged IWOCers to “understand the person who has the authority to make decisions. [That is not the CEO. That is the director of marketing.]” Freelance writers, Hardy said, must market to our customer expectations: “What do your customers care about? What problem are you solving? What are your customers thought processes? What are the key terms and geographic limitations [to take into consideration]? How do they expect to find you or where do they think you will be [when they need you]?” Once the answers to the aforementioned questions are established, writers can begin to explore content ideas. In her presentation, Hardy enumerates these ideas as “[written material about customer of the week/month; guest bloggers; product reviews; lists/checklists/tips; special offers/promotions; compiling FAQs to build posts; repurposed content; e-mail interviews with relevant sources; educating customers with how-tos, and consideration of [a freelance writer’s] business expertise.”

    However, with so much to consider, freelance writers must not go the marketing and sales process alone, she said. Hardy recommended that we reach out to online and offline resources to assist with our freelance decision making and problem solving such as fiverr.com for branding assistance; werkflow.com for technology management; helpareporterout.com for media guidance; Periscope software for recording (including the recording of Hardy’s presentation), and 1871.com for boosting technology, entrepreneurship and planning events.

    - Vladimire Herard

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    President's Column

    Call Me Madame... President

    Laura Stigler

    My teleprompter just went on the fritz, so you’ll have to excuse me if I start tossing out insults like hand grenades or sounding disoriented, as if I just woke up from a deep nap. I’ll try and continue...

    After being a member of IWOC for over two decades, serving on the PR Committee since 2004 and on the Board of Directors since 2012, I’ve finally clinched the brass ring: the IWOC Presidency. And for that, I’d like to thank the Nominating Committee who, in addition to my husband (First Dude), had the confidence that I can do this. “You can do this, Laura,” they urged on. Ok. Duty called. And I accepted the crown. Oh gosh. I mean mantle. (WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE FIX THE TELEPROMPTER!)

    But honestly? I would not be here were it not for those who elected me – a full 15% of our membership! This is akin to most dictatorships – or better, yet, to the Chicago Way! Whether I prove to act presidential or as a dictator has yet to be seen. But I will say this: at least for now, I intend not to rule unilaterally, but by the consensus of your representatives (our stellar Board), and input from all of IWOC’s members and member wannabes, which I will be soliciting often.

    You see, we love members. We need members.

    On Day One...

    On Tuesday, October 11th, I will officially be kicking off my term as President, and oy vay. Already I’m finding myself in the midst of an angst-ridden decision. This happens to fall on the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish Holidays. Presiding over our Board meeting shouldn’t be a problem, as it’s well before sundown. But taking place afterwards will be one of my favorite recurring IWOC programs: the Roundtable discussions where attendees freely exchange ideas and advice on the freelance writing biz. Do I stay or do I go? Which is the greater sin? Forgoing my newfound responsibilities of the Office? Or honoring this holy day later than the appointed hour of its commencement? Solomon, please help.

    Compared to the above, all subsequent decisions should be a piece of cake. Which brings me to the issues at hand and where I stand:

    Immigration. If you write for a living, or dream of writing for a living; if you’ve spent your life in Corporate and want to make the leap to an independent career; if you’re seeking a welcoming home-away-from-home-office to share successes or commiserate; if you want to improve your craft, learn new business and/or writing skills – in other words, if you love words, IWOC welcomes you. Doesn’t even matter where you live, either. Because we’ve recently added the “Distance” membership level, so if you live 65 miles beyond Chicago’s borders, you can live in, say, Bangladesh and receive the full benefits of all of IWOC’s resources!

    You see, we love members. We need members. More members mean more money. More money means more exciting and useful programs, workshops, and networking events to help your business succeed. More exciting and useful programs, workshops, and networking events to help your business succeed mean even more members. It’s a win-win, win-win, win-win, win-win, win-win...

    My priority as President is membership, membership, membership. We must continue to bring in more members and keep current members happy by continuing to provide programs and events geared towards helping them achieve greater success as independent writers.

    Climate Change. The science is settled: In the last decade, the economic climate has changed rather dramatically. But for us independent writers, not necessarily for the worse! The fact that many full-time jobs have gone by the wayside has actually opened up doors for freelancers. As President, my goal is to ensure IWOC keeps providing those freelancers with the kind of resources and information that will prepare them to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there. And buh-lieve me, they are out there.

    Energy for Independents. Independent Writers, that is. It takes energy to succeed at what we do. Energy to write. Energy to promote our business. Energy do deal with clients. It also takes a great deal of energy to keep IWOC a vital and relevant organization to all its members. Energy to serve on the board, to volunteer on committees and help out at events. It even takes energy to come to our monthly meetings! But let me be perfectly clear: the results are always worth it. I love energy! Bring it on!

    And finally,

    Health care. As your President, I care deeply about the health of our organization. To keep it not just alive, but vibrant, takes – ok, I’ll say it. A village. At the risk of repeating myself (remember, I’m working without a teleprompter here), we need members. Lots o’ members. Of every stripe. Members are the lifeblood of IWOC. The more we have, the more alive the organism/organization. And most of all, we need involved members. Members to lend their expertise, skills, enthusiasm and fresh ideas to our various committees, events and programs. Even if it’s simply dropping us a note and communicating their ideas, thoughts – and yes, critiques.

    And God bless this country, where we can use our writing skills to express ourselves this freely.

    I will do everything in my power (which, I have to admit, is pretty awesome!) to reach out to our members and friends-of-IWOC to gather where you stand on our many issues. And hopefully, to inspire you enough to want to get involved. Through personal experience and that of others, I can tell you in full voice that a successful IWOC can translate into your success as an independent writer.

    Make no mistake, IWOC’s always been great. But I am asking you to please join me in my efforts. Because if I may be honest for a moment, we will be STRONGER TOGETHER. Together, we can...we WILL continue to MAKE IWOC GREAT AGAIN!

    God bless you. God bless IWOC. And God bless this country, where we can use our writing skills to express ourselves this freely.

    - Laura Stigler

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    Featured Member

    Richard Eastline

    Richard Eastline

    How would you describe yourself? “Hybrid” is a word in common use these days and it fits my career quite well. From the start, (some college newspaper involvement), I’ve never settled for being strictly a writer. Over the years, either in combination or separately, I’ve also been an editor, a graphics designer, a marketing-advertising consultant, and a print production worker. Having multiple identities never bothered me—in fact, I believe that each of those facets of communication contributed to better word content. Over the years, that’s been the case whether writing magazine articles about language and usage, technology, performing arts and history, or in producing product brochures, print ads and sales letters.

    What advice would you give a writer working with a client? As in other situations, the key word is “listen". Listen carefully to what the client says and try to establish what the client actually means or wants. You have to understand the issues attached to most assignments before you can effectively offer and then produce satisfying results. Don’t be reluctant to re-state the objective based on your comprehension so as to assure agreement. Your interpretation may be better suited to a solution (much to the client’s delight) or it may be somewhat in error, which can then be rectified before providing a bid or starting the job.

    Simply, it’s “learn at least one thing new every year that has practical value.”

    What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? Rather than the “best of the best,” I’d rather pass along a practical admonition for not only enhancing your overall skill level but also for helping to improve one’s lifestyle. Simply, it’s “learn at least one thing new every year that has practical value.” Whether it be tackling the basics of a foreign language (not just for travel but for better understanding our English vocabulary), or learning the inside workings of a computer, or getting more acquainted with the Great Books you passed up in favor of TV—any or all of these and others will in time add up to a gainful, painless supplement to your formal education.

    Who is the most famous person you have ever met? She wasn’t as famous as her sister but she managed to change my intended career aspirations. Her name---Florence I. Otis, a high-school teacher in a Chicago suburb many decades ago. Her sibling was Cornelia Otis Skinner, one of the legends of American theater. In a time when some schools were involved in a more progressive trend, she taught a class in creative writing. She had the gift of drawing out capabilities in expressing actions and feelings, making personalized written communication feel as natural as everyday conversation. Although I entered college with the intent to have a career in astrophysics, after the first year my reports and term papers activated the urge to write. I’ve never regretted it Were some of those early college classes a waste of time? Almost every thing you study will prove to have some value at some point in life whether in your writing or in making everyday decisions.

    What are you doing these days? The proverbial “rat race” is over for me. I closed the books on Richline Wordshop just about five years ago. It was a long trek through the decades, first with a lengthy corporate career mingling writing and graphic services and then operating a small-scale partnership version of a full-service marketing agency, followed by a decade of strictly writing and editing from a home office. These days I offer marketing assistance to organizations to which I belong and contribute occasional articles to various house organs. I maintain my connection with IWOC because I crave to stay informed about communicating, satisfying my conscience by attending meetings, acting as the staff photographer and every now and then producing some experience-laden prose.

    Is there a website or other contact information? The business website still exists even after five years of being dormant. Think of it as one writer’s personal museum. Will likely turn it into a social site filled with memorabilia. Then, again, I may just wait for it to disintegrate on its own. If curious, its URL is www.richline.net

    - Richard Eastline

    The questions for next month are: 1) How would you describe yourself? 2) What is your specialty? 3) What one line of advice would you give a writer working with a client? 4) What would you like to be doing differently in five years? 5) What do you love most about what you do? If you have questions of your own you would like to answer, that is fine as well. Stay tuned!

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    IWOC'S Oak Park Public Library Program

    One For the Books

    Plied with cookies, cranberry juice and informative insights about freelance writing, Oak Park Public Library patrons responded enthusiastically to a recent IWOC presentation about “Life in the Freelance Lane,” as well as the countless benefits of IWOC membership.

    Part of IWOC's ongoing outreach program to Chicago-area libraries, the talk was presented by long-time IWOCans Sally Chapralis and Jeff Steele on Monday, September 19th. The hour-long PowerPoint program drew approximately two dozen attendees, who upon arriving were presented with keepsake IWOC bookmarks, and before departing were bestowed with IWOC business cards detailing the 10 reasons to strongly consider joining IWOC.

    Chapralis and Steele focused on reasons to become a freelance writer, tools of the trade, landing clients, running a business and the advantages of networking with other writers. A lively question-and-answer session followed the program, eliciting a wide array of inquiries on subjects ranging from book promotion to the many areas of writing open to freelancers.

    The next IWOC library presentation will take place from 7 to 8 p.m. in Meeting Room A at Naperville Public Library's 95th Street branch on Wednesday, November 9th.

    Current and present IWOCans as well as interested members of the public are encouraged to attend the free presentation. IWOC is scheduled to present at Evanston Public Library in March 2017, with additional details to follow.

    - Jeff Steele

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian) George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman Cynthia Tomusiak

  • 02 Sep 2016 11:42 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    September 2016

    Volume 35 | Number 9

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Autumn.

    A time for the leaves to show their true colors. Teachers and students, alike, return to school. Shorter days and longer sleeves are on the horizon. Crisp and crunchy apples and apple cider are in season. The air is crisp as well as the humidity of summer leaves us.

    It is also time for renewal - your IWOC membership that is. Our membership chair tells us how in the last article in this month's newsletter.

    A time for the leaves to show their true colors.

    Your IWOC board changes its slightly as well. Come to our September meeting to meet your board. Stay for the networking and the program: "Niche Selection and Development".

    Along those lines, the IWOC program committee has been hard at work planning for the 2017 line-up of programs. More to come on that, so stay tuned!

    For these reasons and so many more, fall is my favorite season of the year.

    It is also time for renewal - your IWOC membership that is.

    So, I welcome the change of seasons and look forward to whatever comes with it!

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    September Meeting Preview

    Niche Selection and Development

    What are your professional specialties? Which ones have you performed best in or are most knowledgeable about? Is there a field you always wanted to explore? Which websites and publications do you read most often and why? Which fields pay writers the best rates? When should you start writing and offering work? When should you begin or retire a specialty?

    Such are the questions we freelance writers ask ourselves when selecting and developing a niche or a group of niches to produce and deliver written work for clients.

    This is at the discovery stage when a writer is reviewing his career and experiences to identify the specialties or fields he or she worked in and then to prune the list for the ones he or she knows about most, likes and can write about best.

    Which fields pay writers the best rates?

    In fact, freelancing experts urge us to narrow the list of a dozen or so down to three niches to position ourselves to create and offer quality work products – the most favored specialty and two fallback specialties if the first one lacks market demand or loses profits.

    Ready to share her insights with IWOC members at our September 13 workshop about how to choose and branch out from a niche or set of niches is Florence E. Hardy, director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce; principal of her own private law practice in transactional and intellectual property, and; adjunct professor of her course “Foundations in Entrepreneurship: New Ventures” at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

    As a lawyer and SBDC leader, Hardy guides and instructs freelance writers and other entrepreneurs about how to adopt and build their niches and -- thus, in turn, create a platform for producing work for clients -- with her own experience of serving small to medium-sized businesses.

    She uses her combined business and legal skills of management consulting, business planning, market research, intellectual property law, business law, business brokerage, franchise development and corporate development to analyze the business circumstances of writers and other entrepreneurs, make recommendations and educate us about our options.

    Hardy promises no less for our upcoming workshop. During her one-hour presentation, she will show us how identifying a niche or set of niches forms a critical part of our success as writers, saves us time in contacting potential clients and establishes our authority in a particular field or group of fields.

    With at least 70 to choose from, our niches tend to fall in the industry-oriented and format-oriented categories.

    Among the most common industry-oriented ones are advertising, business to business (B2B), business to customer/client (B2C), entertainment, finance, health and wellness, law, non-profits, publishing (online/offline), recreation, science, research/marketing, real estate, technology and travel.

    The format-oriented categories include abstracts, annual reports, articles, awards/certificates, biographies, brochures and pamphlets, case studies, catalogs, direct mail, directories, employer handbooks, event programs, executive summaries, flyers and circulars, government technical and management proposal and business plan writing, greeting cards, instruction manuals, interpretive panels, lesson plans, menus, obituaries, public relations writing, resume and cover letters, speeches, technical writing, templates, tests/quizzes, textbooks, translation services, web content writing and workbooks.

    With at least 70 to choose from, our niches tend to fall in the industry-oriented and format-oriented categories.

    Writers can even command a higher price for our specialties, Hardy will advise us. Both during and after the hour, she will attempt to connect the dots for writers with specific questions or need for clarification about their own niches.

    Hardy will walk us through the steps of discovering ourselves as freelance writers in searching for the niches that best suit us, including exploring our general likes and dislikes, hobbies, curiosities, particularly favored past jobs and skill sets, websites, books and other resources; listing and rating these niches; and then trimming the list down to the requisite three or so.

    On the most pragmatic side, she will urge writers to balance our selection and development of niches between actually liking our choices and having them pay us acceptable rates.

    For example, while penning articles about widget making may pay the bills for some writers, others may consider this topic to be a complete turnoff. At the same time, however, as Hardy will point out, if our strongest likes cannot generate an income because of a lack of market demand, it is time to pick a new niche or set of niches.

    She will recommend writers, for instance, to size up potential magazine, newsletter or blogging clients for profitability by researching their websites, jobs and surveys and examining the number of readers they have, whether their blogs are general or specialized, the use of Google Ads, the products they sell, the use of rate charts, targeted advertisements or affiliate marketing and the presence of guest posts or paid contributions.

    Once the best writers among us have selected and possibly developed our niches, we will take the next set of action steps: we will read about our chosen specialties every day to maintain our expertise, comment on relevant blogs we view online, write guest posts to those websites, judge the fruits of our labors and acquaint ourselves with the readers of these sites by answering posted questions, asking for feedback or creating polls.

    The best of us will also reflect on whether we enjoyed exploring these particular niches and decide to focus on them to advance our businesses or to divorce them completely.

    Then it is time to start -- or, in some cases, continue -- freelancing!

    - Vladimire Herard

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    August Meeting Recap

    IWOCFest 2016!

    Photo by David Steinkraus

    The July meeting was filled with good conversations, food and fun! IWOCers gathered back at our regular summertime haunt, the rooftop of Pegasus. The food was plentiful and delicious. Conversation flowed (and perhaps some wine as well).

    The weather cooperated and was beautiful.

    All is all it was a great evening!

    IWOCFest - always a crowdpleaser!

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

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    President's Column

    President's Annual Report

    David Steinkraus

    As I did last year, I am making this column an annual report to members about how IWOC is doing. The short answer is well.

    Our member numbers are steady, and we even picked up a student member without saying anything about our new membership options. Unless you read the IWOC website very, very carefully you won’t know about these, but the board approved them in June with the intention of launching them now during the fall membership drive. None of our member levels have gone away. Instead the board added to them with the rationale that more options will make IWOC attractive to a greater variety of people.

    Memberships

    There is a dual goal for the student membership: Help young people who want to be freelance writers, or at least give them knowledge useful later in life, and introduce them to IWOC. We’re charging only $25 for access to all of our meetings and our online resources. All they need full- or part-time status at a post-secondary institution. What they will not have is access to the jobs line because this membership is for learning. If you know students who would be interested, or if you have links to local colleges or universities, please mention this and help everyone involved.

    If you know writers living beyond the 65-mile radius, please mention IWOC and what it offers.

    The other new membership level is for people living at a distance of more than 65 miles from Chicago. Only about half of our membership lives within Chicago’s city limits. Beyond that is a large territory containing the other half of our membership, and beyond that are more people who would find it beneficial to be linked to IWOC. Even if people cannot travel downtown for every meeting, they can still listen to meeting podcasts, receive job listings, access member resources, and communicate with other writers. For this they’ll pay $90 annually. If you know writers living beyond the 65-mile radius, please mention IWOC and what it offers.

    Having more members will help all of us, and it will help IWOC’s bottom line. We are not in dire financial trouble, but more money flowing in would help. And a look around at any meeting will show you that our membership is aging. That’s why the board established those new member levels and why we have undertaken other actions that are bearing fruit.

    Raising Awareness

    Jeff Steele, nominee for vice president, and Sally Chapralis, a longtime member, have done a terrific job in expanding awareness of IWOC. During the past several months they have spoken at libraries around the area about how people can develop freelance writing careers, and we have attracted new people as a result. In the fall we’ll present these programs in Oak Park and Naperville. And let us be clear that when we say freelance writers we do not mean people for whom writing is the only source of income. Our goal is to help people who write.

    Having more members will help all of us, and it will help IWOC’s bottom line.

    Scott Spires, who joined IWOC a few years ago, took action on his own. He decided there must be other freelance writers along the North Shore who would like to meet and talk, so he started the Independent Writers of Lake Forest. It meets for lunch on the first Friday of the month and joins our other satellite groups, the Independent Writers of Rogers Park and the Independent Writers of Oak Park. And from one of the IWOLF meetings came the suggestion for our October mixer with the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing — people who hire writers. If you want to form your own satellite group — the Independent Writers of South Bend or the Independent Writers of Lake Zurich — please let us know. We’ll be happy to help.

    And if you have a suggestion for a program, please don’t keep it to yourself. Any member of the board or the Program Committee would be happy to hear your idea. You can thank the Program Committee — Tom Lanning, Stu Truelson, Vladimire Herard, and Sally Chapralis — for all the informative meetings this year.

    Strategy

    In October the board will hold a half-day planning session to talk about the coming year and review the strategic vision it spent a day formulating a couple of years ago. If you have an opinion or a suggestion about the direction of the organization, contact any of the board members. We’re all listed on the website (in the navigation menu on the left side of the page choose, Contact Us/Board and Officers), and we want to hear what you have to say.

    IWOC is an association built to benefit its members, but like any collection of people formed for a common goal, it won’t work without the attention of the people it represents. Please give us your ideas and your attendance, and help make IWOC better.

    Thank you

    The last thing I want to say is what a pleasure it has been to work with such a dedicated and creative board of directors during the last two years. What IWOC is and is becoming is due to them, and the good news is most of them are staying on the board. Karen Schwartz and Vladimire Herard are stepping down although Vladimire will remain on the Program Committee. Please thank them for their hard work, and please thank the other members of the board as well.

    - David Steinkraus

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    Featured Member

    Betsy Storm

    Betsy Storm

    How would you describe yourself? I’m a versatile writer and PR professional with a wide scope of interests, abilities and experiences. My portfolio includes everything from magazine feature stories on family issues (step parenting, family estrangements) to media relations, to the nitty-gritty work of communications planning. In 2014, I published Bright Lights of the Second City: 50 Prominent Chicagoans on Living with Passion and Purpose.

    What is your specialty? I’m most drawn to nonprofit communications. I love to help build interest in and support for worthy organizations like Cure Violence, Heifer International, and Anixter Center.

    “There are no small stories.”

    What is the best advice anyone has given you? My father, Bill Storm, was an award-winning police and crime reporter for the Philadelphia Bulletin. When I became interested in journalism as a career, he often reminded me that, “There are no small stories.” I’ve never forgotten those wise words. There’s much to be said for crafting a set of strong, interesting captions, for example.

    Where will you be in five years?In five years I hope to be semi-retired (find me on the beach in Topsail Beach, NC if you need me) but always, always, always writing, especially personal histories. I began my career as a feature writer, and I am ceaselessly curious about the back-stories of “everyday” people. It’s essential (and so much fun) to share our life stories, lessons, and heritages with younger family members and our ancestors still to come. My autobiography is illustrated with photos, documents, copies of news clippings, passport stamps, etc. I can’t wait to pass it on to my grandchildren (now ages 3 and 5), so they will always know who their “Nanny” really is and was.

    Who is the most famous person you have met? President Barack picked me up off the floor when my chair crashed to the floor during a fundraiser at which he was speaking. Embarrassing, yes, but what a colorful anecdote.

    What are your media consumption habits? I read the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, selected articles from the New Yorker online, Psychology Today, Writer’s Digest, and Vanity Fair. NPR is often my soundtrack at home and in the car; I am a huge fan of Terry Gross and Ira Glass. “Chicago Tonight” and “The PBS News Hour” provide the most in-depth, unbiased and broad-based TV news coverage, in my opinion.

    Websites: Top Drawer Communications, The Story of You, and Betsy Storm, Author

    - Betsy Storm

    The questions for next month are: 1) How would you describe yourself? 2) What is your specialty? 3) What one line of advice would you give a client working with a writer? 4) What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? 5)What do you love most about what you do? If you have questions of your own you would like to answer, that is fine as well. Stay tuned!

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    IWOC Membership

    Join or Renew Today

    Stop what you’re doing and listen to this fabulous exclusive offer for IWOC members! You all know that IWOC’s yearly membership renewal drive runs from September 1 to October 1. But wait! Renew by September 15 and lock in early-bird savings! Pay just

    • $125 (regular $140) for professional members
    • $80 (regular $90) for seniors aged 62 and older
    • $80 (regular $90) for the distance membership (if you live more than 65 miles from Chicago)
    • $60 (regular $70) for associates and
    • $20 (regular $25) for the new student membership!

    What a deal! Read on to find out how to take advantage of these one-time savings! This opportunity won’t be offered again this year! And it’s only available to you savvy early birds, so don’t delay! Renewal is so simple, you’ll be itching to get to your computer! Just follow these easy steps: starting on September 1, log into the website, view your profile, and click “Renew until 1 Oct 2017.” Check out your profile and edit anything you want! And, listen to this! You get six free areas of expertise/specialties, but you can boost this to nine if you’re on a committee. What a fantastic opportunity!

    But wait! There’s even more: Bring in a new member any time during the entire membership drive (September 1 to October 1) and get three more free listings! (New members pay either the early-bird rate or the regular rate, depending on whether they join before or after September 15.)

    - Pam Colovos

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    David Steinkraus (President), Laura Stigler (Vice-president), Cynthia Tomusiak (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), George Becht, Vladimire Herard, Tom Lanning, Jeff Steele, Karen Schwartz

  • 01 Aug 2016 7:56 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    August 2016

    Volume 35 | Number 8

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    When is a library not a library? When it is a presidential library! I had the opportunity to visit the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum during my recent visit to College Station, Texas. I was looking forward to seeing what kind of books would be ‘Presidential’. I did see some books that were part of the exhibits in the museum, but the library was off limits. At least for me. At least this visit.

    Presidential Libraries are not libraries in the usual sense. They are archives and museums, bringing together in one place the documents and artifacts of a President and his administration and presenting them to the public for study and discussion. So, if I had been doing research and submitted a request, I might have gotten into the limited access, climate-controlled area that is the library.

    The first presidential library originated in 1939.

    The first presidential library originated in 1939. Franklin Roosevelt donated his personal papers, Presidential papers and land to the government for a library. In the past, President’s or their heirs, disposed of any documents from their term(s) in office. In 1955, an Act of Congress made Presidential Library’s official. The Act established a system of privately erected and federally maintained libraries. The documents are available to the public, they just have to be requested through official channels.

    College Station is also home to Texas A and M University. The docent I talked to mentioned that some of the college students have a similar impression of the library as I did. They get quickly corrected as well.

    G.H.W. Bush library by C. Tomusiak

    The museum was very biographical, not only about the president but his family. It had a replica of the oval office, a restored 1944 TBM Avenger that was like the one Navy pilot Bush flew, his actual boat (Fidelity), many of the gifts of state the Bush’s received while in office and others. There was a traveling exhibit “Driven to Drive: Defining our Identity” that was interesting as well.

    So, even without the library, it was not a wasted trip. I enjoy going to museums and learning from the exhibits. I enjoy learning more when I can see history come alive through displays, artifacts and presentations. And I learned the exact meaning of a presidential library.

    If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    August Meeting Preview

    IWOCFest 2016!

    Image courtesy of tiramisustudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    It's IWOCFest at Pegasus!

    Come for the Saganaki ... stay for the baklava!

    No meeting. No note-taking. No learning allowed. Just a lot of laughing and enjoying summer up on the roof with a bunch of IWOC-ers (and you know how wild they can be!) - or friends of IWOC-ers. Whichever group you belong to, we'd love to have you.

    So come for fun, fantastic food and a rooftop view that's almost as good as Greece itself. Almost. 

    Here is all you need to know to get your Greek on:

    • Date:  Tuesday, August 9th
    • Time:  5:30pm start time
    • Where: Rooftop of Pegasus Restaurant in Greektown
    • 130 South Halsted, Chicago
    • Admission: $30 with online registration and payment with PayPal or credit card or...
    • $40 at the door, paid by cash or check. 

    Either way you choose to pay, all must first register online.

    (FYI: Cash bar)

    Parking: Free valet. There's also a parking lot across the street. Public trans: Blue Line or #8 Halsted bus

    RSVP: Register HERE by Tuesday, August 2nd, as Pegasus needs a week's notice for a head count. Looking forward to seeing you there!

    (Okay, one more time:  Opaaaaaaa!!!!)

    - Laura Stigler

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    July Meeting Recap

    Why Writers Need Literary Agents

    Photo courtesy Abby Saul

    Abby Saul, Associate Agent from Browne and Miller Literary Associates was the speaker. She has worked in publishing for over 10 years and she began the meeting with a run down of her typical day which included: contract negotiations for writer’s work; spoke with an editor at Simon and Schuster to check that a client’s manuscript was on the right path; read three manuscripts through the day; spoke with numerous foreign offices on rights to a client’s work; spoke with a client to talk them off the ledge of feeling that she couldn’t write; spoke with interns, who man the query inbox to see what new works have been submitted; drafted a sales pitch for a new book; resolved a contract with Showtime for another client and all of this was most likely before lunch.

    She proposed three questions:

    • Why do writers need a literary agent?
    • What can an agent do for you?
    • How to get and work with a literary agent.

    Why you need one? Literary agents are not publishers but they are the author’s representation in the publishing world. The agent receives 15% of the fees and handles chasing down the money for the authors while the author continues to write. They also work with contracts for book sales, international rights, audio books and any other pieces that will get the best deal possible for the author and their work. The writer can concentrate on their writing.

    Another reason that an author needs a literary agent is because most publishers, especially the Big Five, will not look at un-solicited material. When it became viable to publish your own work that was a boon for writers but once a book is self-published it no longer becomes attractive for a literary agent.

    How do you get an agent? For fiction pieces just go ahead and write the book. Once you’ve gotten your manuscript to where you would like it, be sure to have some trusted people read it over. Consider asking some people from this group (IWOC) as it’s best to have more eyes on the project than just yours before you send it out. Abby said that her agency is looking for works that aren’t perfect but are pretty close to perfect. So after you find a literary agent, they may want you to re-work your manuscript to make it even more perfect and ready to sell.

    Another reason that an author needs a literary agent is because most publishers, especially the Big Five, will not look at un-solicited material.

    For non-fiction work, the author does not have to have a full manuscript, as the agent would like to work with the writer along the way. The writer does have to have a full and complete proposal that includes a table of contents and all-encompassing description of each chapter. Also, why you are the perfect person to write this book.

    How to approach an agent: The Query. This is the first step in presenting your work. But before you send your query be sure that the agency you are approaching handles the genre that you’re writing. This is most likely an email. Abby said that in the time she has been with Brown and Miller, they have rarely if ever moved forward on a project that came in a hard copy.

    Compile a list of agents to see what styles the agents are seeking. There is a literary agent web site that will let you know who is looking for what type of work and what to send them - ManuscriptWishList.com or twitter #mswl. There are names and contact information, plus the types of work they would love to receive.

    Once you find the correct fit for your genre, Abby recommended going to the bookstore to see where your book would be located in the shelves. What two well-known books would you fit in-between? This extra step shows the literary agent that you understand the market.

    Put as much effort into the query as you would in the manuscript. This is your sales tool to get the literary agent interested in your work. Don’t sell yourself short with a lame query. So take the time to write a good one. The first portion of the query is about the book and the second part is about the writer. For a work of fiction about 75% of the query is about the work and 25% about the writer.

    What two well-known books would you fit in-between?

    What if you don’t have a lot of credits as a writer? Abby said that was fine and you could just state that, “I’m a first time writer.” But be sure the portion about your work makes the agent want to read it. One of her suggestions was to write out your query and offer it up to someone who has not read your manuscript. After they’ve read the query ask them to tell you what your book is about. If they can do that from the query that’s great but if not you may want to re-write the query so that it’s the best advertisement for your work. There are a lot of on-line samples of a good query and a bad one.

    A query for a non-fiction work should be half about the work and half about the writer. The literary agent wants to know what makes you an expert in this field and why you are the best person to talk about the subject. There are many examples on-line of good and not so good queries, so use those resources.

    In this electronic age it is much easier to send out queries. So once you’ve done your research on who is looking for the work that you’re writing and your query is the best it can be then send out as many queries as you can. Rejection is one thing that will likely happen. But if you’ve been sending out queries for a good long time and all of the responses have been “no thank you”, you may want to check your list of literary agents, or maybe re-work the query, and possibly take a look at the book only as a last resort.

    Also consider it might not be the work, it could just be timing. Abby suggested that if you’ve written a post apocalyptic teen hero, this might not be the time since there are a number of super successful books out on that topic. The cycle will come around again so you might have to wait for that.

    When you do get a positive response from a literary agent the next step would be that the literary agent will ask for what they want. So if they ask for five chapters, send them five chapters. If you are the author of a fiction book and you are asked for the first five chapters and an outline of the rest of the book be sure that you in fact have the rest of the book. You are not doing yourself any favors faking on that one. Ms. Saul said that had happened to her when she got a query for a book then requested the chapters and outline but when she went back to the writer for the rest of the manuscript she was told the book was not complete. She then said that dreadful phrase, “I will never work with that writer.”

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    Now you’re nervous that you’ve sent out ‘a ton’ of queries and a literary agent says ‘I would like exclusive rights at this point’ what do you do? You can tell them ‘of course you can have exclusive rights’ so when another agent calls the next day about the work and wants the same thing what do you do? Well you need to be honest. “Someone has this manuscript exclusively and I will be in touch if that changes.” The answer could be “that’s fine but I want to see it anyway.” Agencies will be very clear what they want but you have to understand that as the writer you do hold a lot of the cards. This is a wonderful problem to have but all you need to do is be honest in what you’ve offered people.

    A literary agent will also assist with your “Author’s brand” and what are the right next steps are for your career.

    A question was asked about ‘breaking up with the agent’. Once you sign with an agent there is an agency agreement and typically the agent has two years to sell your book. If the agency hasn’t done so or you don’t feel connected with the agent you can move on to someone else. But once your book sells with an agent they are connected with the book for all time.

    There was so much wonderful information given by Abby Saul, that you might want to take a listen to the entire pod cast.

    - Francesca Peppiatt

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    President's Column

    The Real Work of Writers

    David Steinkraus

    Because it is the sweltering height of summer, I will not trouble you with a column that heats your brain on the inside. Likely the outside is hot enough. And with the quadrennial political conventions out of the way, I won't even talk about politics.

    OK, OK, I cannot resist mentioning Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) because what he said impinges on our work as writers. On the first day of the GOP convention in Cleveland, during an MSNBC panel, he questioned the contributions of nonwhite people to human civilization. The predictable internet firestorm followed, but it started me thinking about language.

    We are extremely fortunate to be English speakers because our language has spent centuries freely borrowing from other cultures. Were we not English speakers, we would have to resort to kludgy solutions.

    We are extremely fortunate to be English speakers because our language has spent centuries freely borrowing from other cultures.

    Germans sometimes stick a few known words together to create a different concept, so you spend half a minute parsing one 40-character word into its constituent words, and even then you may not understand what the writer is saying.

    Instead, we are fortunate to have at our disposal terms borrowed from people around the world. Consider tsunami, sushi, yoga, khaki, jungle, karma, and bangle, all from Asia, or harem, bazaar, and chess from the Arabic world, or zebra, jazz, and yam from Africa, or avocado, tomato, canoe, and woodchuck from Native Americans. Without borrowing, you’re left with a German-like solution of combining a slew of inexact words into an inexact description. Describe woodchuck: brown furry rodent bigger than a squirrel that burrows. Now use that in a sentence.

    “Abel, go out and shoot us one of them brown-furry-rodents-bigger-than-a-squirrel-that-burrows for supper.”

    “Aw, Pa, ya know Ma don’t like the taste of brown-furry-rodent-bigger-than-a-squirrel-that-burrows if it ain’t soaked in vinegar for a day first.”

    I have a problem with narrow views of culture, especially ours because it so clearly borrows from every part of the globe.

    Although we manipulate words on the surface, as writers our real work is manipulating ideas, and we should be concerned about throttling the development of them.

    The logical endpoint of a narrow mindset is English-language-only rules or the less belligerent Académie française, a committee of 40 writers and artists charged with protecting the purity of the French language from contamination by foreign influences. It can be bad enough to have other people deciding somewhat capriciously (that word comes from French capricieux, which took it from Italian, by the way) how everyone should speak, but the worse consequence is that dictating speech dictates thought because ideas are wrapped up in the words that describe them. George Orwell was not wrong when he had his fictional dictatorship edit the language in his novel 1984.

    Although we manipulate words on the surface, as writers our real work is manipulating ideas, and we should be concerned about throttling the development of them. A broad choice of words means better ideas, and better words and ideas lead to better thinking. Without better words our world is narrowed and our thinking is weak, and ultimately the most extraordinary efforts produce nothing more penetrating than a brown-furry-rodent-bigger-than-a-squirrel.

    - David Steinkraus

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    FEATURED Member

    Stewart Truelsen

    Stewart Truelsen

    How would you describe yourself? I like to think of myself as a versatile, creative independent writer and video producer. The creative part is especially important to my video work because no one has time to watch boring corporate videos any more. The script and the video content have to be interesting and very relevant to an audience. I have experience in radio, television, print and web content.

    What is your specialty? I write mostly about food and agriculture and related public policy issues. I also like anything of a historical nature. I have a journalism degree and news background, so I like to think I can write about anything, but I have kind of fallen into a niche with agriculture, the environment and economy. I also produce videos for conventions and websites. In the past, I produced short documentaries including one that won a gold award from an international film festival.

    What line of advice would you give a client working with a writer? Try to limit the number of layers of approval. I wrote textbook material for a client who moved the goal posts as we went along and had to get approval of my drafts from industry experts and a panel of teachers. Needless to say not everyone was on the same page with what they wanted.

    I like being a writer because it fits well with my addiction to coffee and love of libraries and reading.

    What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? The best advice I ever got about writing was based on observation. For six years, I worked for ABC Radio and was Paul Harvey’s news editor. Harvey had the largest national radio audience, and I marveled at his writing. He wrote sparingly and his style and delivery made a big impact on listeners. I learned to be a lot more concise.

    What do you like most about what you do? What I like most is when a client is really happy with what I produce and gets a lot of positive feedback. I like being a writer because it fits well with my addiction to coffee and love of libraries and reading. I also like being part of a team. Oftentimes I work with a photographer, sound man and video editor. I’d like to collaborate with others in IWOC as well.

    - Stewart Truelsen

    Stewart can be reached on the IWOC website.

    The questions for next month are: 1) How would you describe yourself? 2)What is your specialty? 3)What is the best advice anyone has given you? 4)In five years you hope to be….? 5)Who is the most famous person you have met? 6)What are your media consumption habits? If you have questions of your own you would like to answer, that is fine as well. Stay tuned!

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    IWOC Board of Directors

    David Steinkraus (President), Laura Stigler (Vice-president), Cynthia Tomusiak (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), George Becht, Vladimire Herard, Tom Lanning, Jeff Steele, Karen Schwartz

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