Independent Writers
of Chicago

Login

Stet | July 2016

01 Jul 2016 4:37 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
Stet Newsletter
July 2016

Volume 35 | Number 7

Editor's Note

Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

Seven rules for writing: a compilation of thoughts and ideas by writers for writers on writing, adapted from the Guardian.com.

Margaret Atwood: Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can't sharpen it on the plane, because you can't take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.

Helen Dunmore: Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn't work, throw it away. It's a nice feeling, and you don't want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.

Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn't work, throw it away.

Geoff Dyer: Do it every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don't follow it.

Anne Enright: The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.

PD James: Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it.

This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don't follow it.

A.L. Kennedy: Read. As much as you can. As deeply and widely and nourishingly and irritatingly as you can. And the good things will make you remember them, so you won't need to take notes.

Esther Freud: Never forget, even your own rules are there to be broken.

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

July Meeting Preview

Literary Agents: Why You Need One and How To Work With Them

If you’re looking for ways to get a new book manuscript published, then, you might consider seeking out the services of a professional literary agent. One who can point you in the right direction-and help you get there.

If you’re looking for ways to get a new book manuscript published, then, you might consider seeking out the services of a professional literary agent.

Join IWOC-ers for the July 12, 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.

Literary agent Abby Saul joined Browne and Miller Literary Associates in 2013, after spending five years on the production and digital-publishing side of the industry, first at John Wiley and Sons, and later at Sourcebooks. She has worked with award-winning and bestselling authors and brands, including Mark Bittman, Edward Fiske, Better Homes and Gardens, Betty Crocker, and Nickelodeon. At both Wiley and Sourcebooks, she helped establish e-book standards and led company-wide forums to explore new digital possibilities for books.

Abby describes herself as a zealous reader who loves her iPad and recognizes that e-books are the future—but “still can’t resist the lure of a print book.” And perhaps most important for IWOC members and others passionate about authoring books, she’s currently looking for “great and engrossing writing, no matter what the genre.”

She will educate IWOC-ers and attendees about these key issues:

  • What literary agents do
  • Why book authors (including YOU) need an agent
  • How writers can get an agent to work with them

Browne and Miller’s large list of clients includes both New York Times and USA Today best-sellers.

And perhaps most important for IWOC members and others passionate about authoring books, she’s currently looking for “great and engrossing writing, no matter what the genre.

In addition to her literary-agent work, Abby manages Browne & Miller’s ever-expanding digital initiative, diving into the agency’s backlist to rediscover great reads

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

Importantly, you can also meet her in person at IWOC’s upcoming program, beginning at 5 p.m., where you will perhaps also want to tell her about any brilliant ideas you have for 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 a burning passion to be “heard” in print.

- Tom Lanning

Back to top...

June Meeting Recap

Compatible Part-time Careers

Photo by Richard Eastline

The June meeting panel presented ideas for part-time careers that are compatible with independent writing. Long-time IWOC member, Stewart Truelsen introduced the panel and acted as moderator. The purpose of the panel presentation and ensuing discussion was to showcase opportunities to earn monies in areas that have flexibility, can enhance your writing career or possibly lead to other opportunities. He also mentioned the book he is currently reading, “The Last Safe Investment” because it lists writing as a super skill. A super skill makes you valuable in areas outside of the writing business.

First up on the panel was Sally Chapralis. Sally told the group that she left a staff position in 1984 to become a writer. It happened to be a leap year and she leaped! Currently, she writes business communications and public relations pieces. Her compatible career is teaching at the college level. She found that it complimented her freelance life and was very enjoyable. She advised us to our interests and inclinations as some of her most rewarding professional responsibilities surfaced spontaneously.

The purpose of the panel presentation and ensuing discussion was to showcase opportunities to earn monies in areas that have flexibility, can enhance your writing career or possibly lead to other opportunities.

Pam Colovos, spoke next. She was an operations and administration management specialist, with emphasis on bookkeeping, prior to her freelance career. She discovered she was writing more than she realized and in 2001 left the corporate world. She wanted to branch out on her own for more flexibility. This led to her discovery, that she could do a lot of work remotely completing a mix of writing and administrative office tasks. Pam believes that if you think outside the box you can find a lot of ways to write. She advised everyone to network, network, network. Many of her opportunities have come up spontaneously during networking events.

Marjorie Skelly gave us an overview of her comparison of writing as life and writing as a business. Most of her writing is her life and she has many sources of flexible income. Some of those are:

  • Proofreading
  • Adjunct teaching
  • Teaching poetry and fiction writing at libraries
  • Job sharing
  • Tutoring

She has found that it is important to think outside of the box, be flexible, open and organized. She cautioned the group to be sure you do not spread yourself too thin.

We broke from the panel presentations for some discussion on library presentations. Stewart has found that they often pay in the area of $150-$300/1 or 2 hours. Presentations focusing on travel and job skills are in demand. Jeff mentioned that he has seen several really well done travel presentations in libraries. Pam mentioned that once you get on the library circuit it is a good place to be. Sally engaged us with her own library story and revealed that people do not appreciate the opportunities in libraries. She told us there are many opportunities; libraries are very interested in diversity of education and an assortment of presentations.

It is important to think outside of the box, be flexible, open and organized.

Stewart’s background is in journalism. He had the opportunity to interview Muhammad Ali and many others. He has worked in writing, radio and TV. He was employed in a company that worked in agriculture. When the company moved to DC, he decided to stay here. One of his other sources came from the crash in the real estate market. He could invest in the purchase of some town houses. He rents them out and while it may not use many writing skills, it is very flexible. He offered up some rules and personal insights about real estate and rentals.

  • You can make a profit if you can get 10% of price that you paid
  • Get tenants through a realtor and get background and credit checks
  • No basements and no isolated properties.
  • Find a location near to you so you do not need it run by a management agency.
  • Find a good handyman.
  • If an opportunity comes along – jump on it as it may not come along again.

IWOC Members:
Click here to access the meeting podcast!

Stewart is also a financial services representative. He was interested in the topic and could get really great training. It is a part-time job that offers commissions. He has found himself to be a better writer with the diverse knowledge his other “jobs” afford him. He is better able to jump on the hot topics in, and work seasonally in a pattern that works for him.

- Cynthia Tomusiak

Back to top...

President's Column

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

David Steinkraus

In May, I was invited to a lunch at Public Narrative. It used to be known as the Community Media Workshop and began about 25 years ago as a place where people from nonprofit organizations could learn to tell their stories better. Later, the organization branched out to help journalists do the same.

The point of the lunch, one of several the organization is hosting, was to talk about the problems of local news media and how they might be alleviated. One was brought up by a young woman working for an online-only news service, and the problem is not limited to her. She has no support. She works from her home or more likely a coffee shop. It sounds like freedom, but she has no one to talk to, no one to double check her judgment, and no one to learn from. Sound familiar?

It sounds like freedom, but she has no one to talk to, no one to double check her judgment, and no one to learn from.

She needs a writing buddy. It’s what we all need even though we may not think so. This is not a new idea — not that much is. Even black holes and epigenetics aren’t new. Nature has been rambling along this way for years. The difference is that humans are paying attention. It’s the same with writing and other endeavors; sometimes it takes a while before we pay attention. A few years ago, I was at a weekend tai chi chuan retreat with a master teacher from San Francisco. Somewhere around day three we were standing in a bent-knee posture, thigh muscles burning, while the teacher walked around the room and once again said, “Relax. Sit into the posture.” I realized — and had a difficult time not laughing — that I had spent hundreds of dollars to hear the same man say the same words day in and day out at similar retreats for years. And why hadn’t I listened? The answer is that I listened only to the words. I did not hear the message and put it into practice.

So, if you don’t have one, find a writing buddy.

I hope you don’t have to hear lessons as often as I did, but we all need to some repetition before we say, oh, that’s right. So, if you don’t have one, find a writing buddy. You can bounce ideas off your buddy or ask for a quick edit on something before you send it off to a client. Or you may need a nudge to get going, or several nudges. I do this for a friend working on a book. Mostly, my buddy work consists of saying: Don’t fret about the day job, work on the book; don’t look for another job because you’re unhappy, work on the book because that’s your true goal. I’ve been saying this for only about three years on and off, and one day not too long ago my friend said during a phone conversation, “I ignored such and such because I need to focus on the book.”

You have friends, some of whom are probably writers, and you’re connected to IWOC. Either of these connections can help you find a buddy. And do not underestimate the benefit of getting a mid-day email, text, or phone call from your buddy. We spend enough time alone in front of our screens, tapping on keyboards, and fretting about getting an assignment or finishing an assignment. A few words from a friend can go a long way toward assuaging the inconstancies of writing.

- David Steinkraus

Back to top...

Featured Member

Pam Colovos

Pam Colovos

What is your specialty? My specialty is educational, informational and training documents, including computer software instructions. Early on in my career in Operations and Office Administration, I was asked to write processes and procedures as well as instructions for training personnel. Since I was writing about work I was actually doing and saw the difference it made in employee training, I found out how much really enjoyed this type of writing.

What one line of advice would you give a writer working with a client? Communicate, communicate and communicate more. Make sure both you and your client are clear on your expectations. All my clients are provided with my Business Services document, which outlines how I work, response time to various communications (email and phone), billing policies and payment structures, timelines and timeline changes, edits and change orders. Guidelines and boundaries provide great structure in a business relationship.

Communicate, communicate and communicate more. Make sure both you and your client are clear on your expectations.

What motivates you? Creativity. Writing offers such a range of options when creating the documents I specialize in. Technology has also made a significant difference with the use of icons. When you can offer a visual of something, rather than just text or descriptions it makes a huge difference. Screen shots or “snipping” visuals really clarify informational documents. The use of color is also another significant advantage. Color make information 85% more effective. A good example is when the CTA added color to the local public transportation network. Much simpler to know that you need to catch the red line rather than the purple line when moving about the city.

What would you say to someone who was considering relocating to Chicago? Clearly, the weather is a challenge, but Chicago is one of those cities that has an abundance of cultural venues and events, great architecture, parks and diversity in its neighborhoods that far outweighs the climate issues. Having lived and worked in several cities across the country, Chicago is the city I consider my home. Being able to find cuisine from almost any country as well as a selection of museums and theater, one could take a location vacation and still not see everything the city has to offer.

Pam's website: www.businessease.biz

- Jeff Steele

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!

Back to top...

Fourth of July Fun Facts

A Little Trivia To Brighten Your Day

Photo by John Tomusiak

Do you know how many people signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 on July 4th? According to most of my research: none. Some sources say there were two that did, but not who they were. Most signed in August of 1776. 

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president, was the only president born on the 4th in 1872. The Fourth of July become a legal federal holiday in 1870. Then, in 1938, Congress reaffirmed the holiday to make sure all workers received full pay.

In 1777, Congress chose fireworks as a way to celebrate the first anniversary. They were ignited over Philadelphia. But America isn’t the only nation that celebrates the Fourth of July. In Denmark, England, Norway, Portugal and Sweden there are 4th of July celebrations. Thousands of people emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s and those countries celebrate with the U.S.

The Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence.

The Philippines gained independence from the United States on July Fourth, 1946.

Have a safe and Happy Holiday!

- Cynthia Tomusiak

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

Copyright 2011–2017, Independent Writers of Chicago
332 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1032 #W686
Chicago, IL 60604-4434
800-804-IWOC (4962)

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software