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Stet Newsletter

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.

  • 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

  • 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

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    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

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    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

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    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!

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    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

  • 29 May 2016 7:46 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    June 2016

    Volume 35 | Number 6

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    First an announcement: Your IWOC Board Members interviewed several candidates for the positions of Stet Editor and Membership Manager and wanted to hire all of them! With some difficulty, they came to a decision. Pam Colovos is the new Membership Manager and Cynthia Tomusiak is the new Editor of Stet. (N.B. As a Board member and a candidate, I did not participate in the decision making process.)

    For myself, I want to say that I really appreciate the IWOC Board’s confidence in me!

    So, now I have a monthly column and need to continue to come up with new ideas for it's topics. So far it has been easy enough. The ideas just flow or wake me out of a deep sleep in the middle of the night. However, other times, ideas are few, fleeting and far between. Perhaps, this is familiar to you as well. So, I went to my old standby "Google." One of the ideas that I found was to use Google. That made me feel like I was on the right track, or something.

    If you do Google, remember not to get lost in the googling – often I find that discovering one article or item on Google leads to an hour of looking things up and reading them instead of writing. However, if you can avoid that, it’s a great place for ideas. Some of the ones I found were:

    Just in case you don’t already, keep a notebook (or several) handy to jot down ideas as they come to you.

    You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. – Jack London

    Take a different route while on errands and daily activities. Slow down, if you can, by walking or bicycling and notice new things. Use the stairs instead of the elevator and enter through the back or side door instead of the front.

    Talk to people that you might usually avoid and strike up conversations with strangers. Not good advice for children but great for writers. Or go to events that you might usually not, like the circus if it is in town or music event that is not your usual genre. Have fun with it! And as Jack London said: You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

    Talk to people that you might usually avoid and strike up conversations with strangers.

    I hope you find all of the articles in this month's issue of Stet helpful; I would like to thank all of the contributing writers. If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in the IWOC members article, contact me and please send in before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    June Meeting Preview

    Compatible Part-time Careers

    Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Personal development legend Jim Rohn once said, “Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking.” Rohn became wealthy producing self-help, leadership and motivational materials aimed at sales people and executives. His appreciation of writing skills leads us to the topic for the June 14, IWOC program—Part-time careers or opportunities that are compatible with an independent writing business.

    Being an independent writer is nice, but it doesn’t pay all the bills for most of us. However, as a writer you have talents and a knowledge base that are in demand elsewhere. You are intelligent, creative, a good communicator, detail-oriented and able to make a deadline.

    IWOC has assembled a panel of members for the June program to talk about jobs or opportunities they found that are a good fit for writers. By good fit, we mean work that is flexible enough to give you time to handle even last-minute writing assignments and big projects. Some of these opportunities lead to more work as a writer.

    The panel members for this program are Sally Chapralis, Pam Colovos, Marjorie Skelly and Stewart Truelsen.

    Personal development legend Jim Rohn once said, “Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking.”

    Chapralis has been able to balance a writing career with teaching positions at local universities. Her experience includes working with the construction and real estate industries and nonprofits in the health care field. As an adjunct professor she taught nonprofit management, business communications and public relations. Her love of libraries, something common to most of us, also led her to work with authors who seek help in promoting their books.

    In addition to being an IWOC member, Colovos is a member of the International Virtual Assistants Association. Colovos got started in professional organizing a dozen years ago and that led to requests for her to create documents, forms and write manuals for business operations. In those days, she usually had to work on-site, but technology changed that. Now she often works as a virtual assistant. Her company, BusinessEase Inc., provides management and accounting support. She has her own VA to help with social media.

    Skelly is a poet, short story writer and essayist. She teaches classes in poetry, fiction and choral music at libraries. Her book, The Unpublished Poet, On Not Giving Up on Your Dream, was published by In Extenso Press, and she was recently hired to do readings from her book via teleconference to residents of an assisted living facility. Besides reading from her own book, Skelly has found a niche in leading discussions of books by other authors.

    Being an independent writer is nice, but it doesn’t pay all the bills for most of us.

    Truelsen is a registered representative for a national financial services firm and a landlord with three rental townhouses. Both positions allow him time to be a writer and video producer specializing in agriculture, business and the environment. He has written one history of American agriculture and is working on another book.

    In addition to our panel, we want to open it up to the audience to share your thoughts and ideas on other ways to augment your writing income. So please join us on June 14th at the Gratz Center at 5:00pm for this program, for networking and for fun!

    - Stewart Truelsen

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    May Meeting Recap

    Compatible Part-time Careers

    Melissa Duff Brown

    “Understand your professional worth, clarify for your clients what you do best, conceive or revise a plausible business idea, know your market and competition, build customer ties and run effective operations.” said local U.S. SBA leader Melissa Duff Brown at an IWOC workshop on business planning, marketing and sales strategies for freelance writers last month.

    Brown urged IWOC members to “find your voice” and stay true to “your values” when launching or expanding their freelance writing enterprises. If freelance writers “find” themselves, they’ll be “ahead of the game,” she said.

    The components of her “overview of the business process” included “an attractive business concept, lasting customer relationships, a strong [business] organization and effective operational systems.”

    If freelance writers “find” themselves, they’ll be “ahead of the game,” she said.

    Brown should know. A sales and marketing expert, she is director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center branch at the Joseph Business School in west suburban Forest Park, Ill. There, she teaches business classes and makes similar presentations in three hours instead of one. She is also principal of her own marketing company MDB Solutions.

    She advised IWOC members planning or growing their businesses to define their line of work, examine the “feasibility of [their] business ideas” and ponder their niches or “unique selling propositions.” She identified the elements of “an attractive business concept” as a “full defined business idea, a product portfolio, revenue model, [type of] customers and market position.”

    When asked by an IWOC member in the audience how flexible a freelance business owner must be in setting goals, she acknowledged that change is inevitable. However, she answered that “a [business] plan is a living document” and that the ones freelancers create or revise “will determine all of [their] business decisions.” If freelance writers are not clear about financing and the direction their businesses must take, then they will invest time and money on the “wrong vision,” Brown concluded. She cautioned IWOC members to “get it [their business plan] out of your head and onto paper.”

    She pointed to SBA research finding that seven out of ten firms survive at least two years, half survive at least five years and only a third survive at least 10 years. Additionally, the agency’s reports reveal that, during the year, about 550,000 new firms opened in the United States while 660,000 businesses closed.

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    Why? Business owners “run out of money,” exercise poor financial management and don’t examine the time, energy and resources needed to “accomplish their goals,” Brown explained. She outlined “effective operational systems” of successful businesses to include “financials, funding, production and deliveries, information technology systems and facilities.” To build and maintain successful operating systems, Brown said freelance writers must decide how many projects they need to complete to reach a particular amount of profit, how many customers they must speak to or how many meetings they must attend for steady work. She advised them to become familiar with the buying cycle in their particular specialty. Particularly, she said companies offer a fre-mium. As an example, some apps provide free services or products. If customers need more products or services, the apps will begin to charge money. For pricing strategy, Brown said freelancers must consider such factors as the number of words used in their work products, the length of time taken to produce work, the amount devoted to meeting clients and whether a project will be accepted at the last minute. She told IWOC members that they can base their calculations on the federal government labor guidelines of 2,080 hours worked per fiscal year.

    As a result, Brown challenged IWOC members “to have a plan and a way to attract consumers” and “create a persona” of themselves using demographics and psychographics so prospective clients can view their work and testimonials.

    When prospecting for clients, Brown recommended ReferenceUSAGov, a research database for government agencies and one used religiously by Illinois SBDC in Forest Park, Ill. Providing more details about clients than a freelancer’s local library, she said that ReferenceUSAGov will yield the names of individuals, companies and their vital statistics.

    Freelance writers, she said, must not only set their objectives but should also envision themselves performing them. If, for example, a client asks an IWOC member to deliver a work product of 300 words, that freelancer must “write a contract,” making a proposed project “official.” Brown explained that clients will want to know the other employers a freelance writer worked with and the variety of contracts he or she accepted and completed. Potential customers will ask for proof of their past work, she said. Not all assignments will be given “on a handshake,” Brown said.

    Aside from “[running] out of money, poor pricing strategy [and] poor financial management,” she said that among the top reasons businesses fail is “an ineffective marketing strategy, failure to join the digital revolution [and, in some cases] underestimating the competition.” The ineffective marketing strategy correlates with a “failure to connect to the web.” Brown said about “50 percent” of business owners “have no online presence” because “they underestimate the power of the Internet.” Millions, she added, are connected to the web and about $300-plus billion has been spent online over the year.

    As a result, Brown challenged IWOC members “to have a plan and a way to attract consumers” and “create a persona” of themselves using demographics and psychographics so prospective clients can view their work and testimonials. She recommended freelancers to look at Google standards, which she said accounts for 70 percent of all searches, Google Alert and Keywords.

    - Vladimire Herard

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    President's Column

    Refresh And Renew To Increase Productivity

    David Steinkraus

    I know summer hasn’t begun. I know the daffodils and bluebells are barely done blooming, yet I would ask you to briefly look ahead to fall and winter. Then you can return to enjoying summer. Promise.

    As you look at your calendar, give thought not to what jobs you may have in prospect but what mental repose you plan for yourself. I don't mean a vacation. Between planning, packing, and traveling, and then traveling, unpacking, and running to catch the daily routine, we often need a small vacation to recover from vacation. When I say repose, I mean something that stimulates your mind in a different way so the part that assembles words gets a rest. Winston Churchill famously found refuge in painting. His daughter Mary wrote, “Problems of perspective and colour, light and shade gave him respite from dark worries, heavy burdens, and the clatter of political strife.”

    How much have you invested in yourself lately by taking a class? It could be art, like Churchill, or photography. Is there a certification you want to earn? Or what about going to a conference? This is the time to plan for fall and winter conferences. Whether you write about finance or health care, there is a conference for you somewhere, often a warm somewhere that you will appreciate come January or February.

    If that isn’t enough motivation for you to begin perusing conferences and classes, consider this: As professional development, you can almost certainly expense it.

    Conferences give you a chance to get away, sometimes physically (because Chicago, being Chicago, attracts many) but always mentally. You spend days concentrating on improving yourself while someone else worries about food and such technicalities, and when you return to your everyday world you see it and your work with a fresh perspective.

    If that isn’t enough motivation for you to begin perusing conferences and classes, consider this: As professional development, you can almost certainly expense it.

    Returning for a moment to Chicago, some opportunities to learn here come almost free or with other opportunities. On June 11 and 12 the Printers Row Lit Fest returns. There are is a roster of substantial speakers: for the science-minded there is astronaut Buzz Aldrin, one of the few humans to walk on the moon, and on the lighter yet serious side there is former Chicago Tribune reporter Kim Barker whose book about covering the war in Afghanistan became the recently released movie "WTF."

    Pause to refresh yourself and gather strength, and when you return you will be much more productive and valuable to clients.

    OK, this isn't strictly a class, but there is much to be said for giving yourself time to be inspired by other writers. At the same time, you can help IWOC. Volunteer for a couple of hours at our table (talk to board member George Becht about that) and chat with some of the 70,000 people who come to the Lit Fest, take in some of the sessions (usually a few bucks), have lunch and supper, and — expense it all!

    Spring flowers do not appear by accident. They can push up through the earth only because they spend time gathering strength. The same is true for writers, more so because it takes a different kind of effort to be constantly creating. A long nap or a long weekend isn't enough when your brain is fried from constant creation. Pause to refresh yourself and gather strength, and when you return you will be much more productive and valuable to clients.

    OK, go back to enjoying the summer.

    - David Steinkraus

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    Featured Member

    Jeff Steele

    Jeff Steele

    What is your specialty? My specialty for years has been articles. I've written a lot of articles, many of them for the Col. McCormick’s World's Greatest Newspaper. I didn't start out to do it that way, but that's where the work was and I just went with it. No one, however, survives the freelance wars on articles alone. So in addition to articles, I've written a wide array of other pieces, including white papers, news items, news bulletins, press releases, pitch letters, case studies, field trends studies, sales sheets, brochures, print ads, radio copy, training film scripts, employee profiles, association member profiles, testimonials and a number of other types of writing assignments I've repressed over 26 years.

    What one line of advice would you give a writer working with a client? If I had to narrow it down to just one piece of advice, it is this: Look at the deadline you've been given, and then do all you can to beat it. One of my early clients had started editing a magazine, and was using a stable of freelance writers, many of whom apparently didn't take the assignments very seriously. The editor said to me, “Jeff, I can't get my other writers to turn in stories even a week late. Yours come in early.” Guess what writer got the lion's share of the subsequent assignments? I've used that same approach with other editors/clients, and invariably get a thumbs up. And I wrote for that magazine and its successor for more than 20 years.

    Look at the deadline you've been given, and then do all you can to beat it.

    How do you get inspired? Many ways. One is letting fitness guide and inspire other aspects of life. I'm a long-time fitness walker and well into the equivalent of my third walk coast to coast across the United States. That's at least 11 miles a week, times 52, equals 572 miles, times 13-14 years of consistent walking for something in excess of 7,000 miles. I believe New York to L.A. Is something like 2,860 miles. A few years ago, I decided I'd also start to walk at least a mile every day. So if I can walk a mile a day, I should be able to do writerly tasks like getting off a pitch to a new client or editor or turning in at least a small assignment every workday as well.

    What Chicago site do you suggest as a “must-see” to out-of-towners? The Museum of Science and Industry. An out-of-towner could spend weeks ambling around in there and still not do it justice. And its standing, as the survivor of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, just makes it that much more a crucial component of Chicago history.

    Favorite quote? Mark Twain: “I’ve never allowed my schooling to interfere with my education.”

    Online portfolio? Jeffreysteele.contently.com

    - 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 writer working with a client? 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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    Be Productive - Tap An App

    Productive App Recommendations

    Image by Richard Eastline

    Today’s world of technology is so fluid that it seems to present new products and new ways of doing things even before we have a chance to fully savor those that wowed us yesterday. The ubiquitous cell phone is a prime example. Within a single generation it has morphed from just a hand-held telephone to a personal “can’t-do-without” information device. The so-called smart phone is, in essence, a miniaturized, portable computer that also can make phone calls. And, in the spirit of innovation, basic functions like texting and accessing the Internet are augmented by a remarkable range of services—picture-taking, video gaming, office documents, and much more.

    Given the limitations of physical size, power consumption, and connectivity, it’s nothing short of amazing that so high a level of sophistication has been achieved so quickly. And what says it better than the immense library of programs (apps) that has become available. They number in the hundreds of thousands if you count the variety of languages offered. One of the professions blessed by sheer volume of useful downloads is that which involves writing and editing. While the advantages of using a full-size computer are acknowledged, the convenience, availability, and compatibility of smart phones readily make them ideal partners to their big brothers. Here, then, are some software additions to the collection of standard titles pre-installed on every phone.

    Recommended apps (free unless otherwise noted). They are for Android phones—Samsung, LG, Motorola—but identical or similar versions generally are available for Apple’s operating system All of the following were acquired by accessing the Internet website Google Play Store.

    The so-called smart phone is, in essence, a miniaturized, portable computer that also can make phone calls.

    WP Office + PDF (by Kingsoft Office Software): A mini office suite for producing documents spreadsheets, and presentations. Resulting files are compatible with MS Office so text content can be transferred to computers. One-click feature allows Dropbox save and share. Has some impressive text formatting features and capability to add or edit images and tables within documents.

    Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Lots of dictionaries are available but many use the content from obsolete editions or skimp on the number of entries. This one, based on the familiar Collegiate Webster, provides antonyms, synonyms, and sentence examples. All regular features available offline. In addition, there is voice search as well as audio pronunciations. Free version is ad-supported. For $2.99, the Premium version is ad-free and you get a 200,000-entry thesaurus.

    Wikipedia: The “underground” encyclopedia is as free for phones as it is for computers. Due to the size of its content (32 million entries), it’s not for offline use. There have been issues relating to using the search engine but generally not much more than some multiple refresh actions. As you might expect, the app is updated frequently.

    Translator (by Recommendado): While Google’s own Translate is considered the leader of the pack, this app seems easier to use and is nearly as well full-featured. Applications like this are not intended to serve as dictionaries. Rather, their usefulness is in translating a foreign word that comes up in reports, interviews, or even signage. Some 50+ languages are represented and the word in question can be typed as an entry or even spoken (don’t count on amazing accuracy). The on-screen response can be copied for insertion into a document. Internet connection required.

    Google Keyboard: There is almost a bewildering choice of on-screen keyboards these days. You get one as part of your smart phone’s installed applications and have the option of selecting one or more others to suit your taste. This one has the thankful benefit of adding voice-to-text when you work with documents and e-mail. It’s incredibly accurate even at first use (if you speak clearly and slowly), allowing you to make manual keyboard corrections afterward. All regular features are retained, such as switching from alphabetical characters to numerals or symbols. The newest version has “swipe” (gesture) typing capability which is partly useful, partly gimmicky.

    WriteNow (by AeroDroid): Much like a “stickey note,” this app provides the opportunity to place a note directly on an application currently on the screen, such as a document. Touching a certain point on the open display brings up any of several chosen templates for typing (rather than via stylus or finger touching). There’s a choice of widgets for the home screen to summon a note. You can even pin the note to the notification bar rather than attach it to the application.

    App or Program? What’s the difference? More than you might realize.

    App? or Program? What’s the difference? More than you might realize. “Programs” today usually refer to those that are installed on computers. You acquire one through a website download or from a disk (CD or DVD). It will include a number of files, such as a ReadMe document, an uninstaller, and—most important of all—an executable file (.exe) that does the installation. As long as you have that primary file available, you can re-install the program if it stops working due to a glitch or virus. In other words, you’ve acquired it and therefore essentially own a valid copy. But smart phone programs differ. The application, or “app,” is installed immediately on the phone from an authorized downloading site so that the program is ready to use. You have no .exe file to keep. If the application is compromised during use, the normal recourse is to attempt a re-installation from a back-up option (usually a “cloud” service) or else go back to website and download it again —if possible. The app may have been withdrawn by its creator (primarily the free ones) or updated so that it now performs differently or not at all if your operating system doesn’t meet the current requirements. Also, some sites don’t allow for a repeat download to the same device. Apps, though, do have the attractive feature of being free or available at astonishingly low cost; 99 cents is a common price and very few are more than three dollars.

    - Richard Eastline

    Lake FX 2016

    Effective Press Releases

    Photo by Richard Eastline
    Photo by David Steinkraus

    On Saturday, May 9th, David Steinkraus, Laura Stigler and Jeff Steele took to the dais at the Lake FX Summit at the Chicago Cultural Center. Their mission: presenting summit attendees with an informative hour-long PowerPoint program called “Press Release Basics.”

    The presentation marked the second time in three years IWOC has imparted its wisdom to audiences on creation and dissemination of effective press releases. It was the second consecutive year IWOC has taken the stage at Lake FX.

    IWOC is expected to again appear at Lake FX in 2017.

    Designed to help attendees ensure their events stand out in a crowded media field, the program aimed to convey lessons about the art and science of a press release, the tricks to employ and the pitfalls to avoid.

    While the fourth-floor conference room gradually filled with late-comers to the 10:30 a.m. seminar, Steinkraus, Stigler and Steele walked the audience through details ranging from today's media ecosystem to proper press release structure. Some 30 Lake FX attendees sat in on the program, which ended with a lively Q-and- A and garnered thumbs up from attendees exiting the conference room.

    Among highlights of the presentation was attendance by one-time IWOCan Adam Smit, who engaged his ex-colleagues in a spirited post-program discussion about the dynamics of press releases.

    IWOC is expected to again appear at Lake FX in 2017. The presentation topic is yet to be determined.

    - Jeff Steele

    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 May 2016 2:58 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    May 2016

    Volume 35 | Number 5

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Writing is a fairly solitary occupation. You can work on projects with other writers, you can go to your local coffee shop, park, or library and be around other people, but at the end of the day it is just you and the pen and paper or computer keyboard.

    Brainstorming is a group activity. It promotes creativity, creates new ideas, solves problems and is team building.

    Writing is a fairly solitary occupation

    So how do freelance or independent writing and brainstorming come together? Well, there’s an app for that! Okay, not exactly an app but there are several brainstorming tools available on the internet.

    • Wridea - A collection of brainstorming tools for writers. A free service that also lets you take and organize your notes online.
    • Bubbl.us - Create color-coded mind maps with this outstanding brainstorming tool.
    • FreeMind - A free mind mapping software, written in Java, also doubles as a productivity tool so you can get more writing done.

    If you want to work without the internet, the folks at the University of North Carolina Writing Center have a few ideas as well. Some of the ones they suggest trying are:

    • Freewriting.
    • Write out lists or bullet points.
    • Consider the audience and their point of view.
    • Create a graph or chart for a more visual perspective.
    • Break down the topic in levels such as: General, sub-topic, phrase or single term/word.
    • Break out the journalist side of you and ask: Who? What? When? Where? Why and how?

    For more ideas, click to check out the Writing Center.

    Brainstorming is a group activity. It promotes creativity, creates new ideas, solves problems and is team building.

    Brainstorming can help add depth and perspective to your writing and help overcome writers block. Good luck and happy writing.

    I hope you find all of the links in this month's issue of Stet helpful. If you would like to contribute an article to Stet contact me and please send in before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    May Meeting Preview

    Planning Your Business, Marketing, Sales Strategies

    Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Planning your own freelance business? Devising your marketing and sales strategies? Interested in improving your existing business? It can all be exciting but planning and strategizing are also enormous, multi-faceted responsibilities.

    For business planning, you must adopt a roadmap for success and take into account your company’s profile, marketing research and analysis, brand of writing and editing services, goals, structure, registration, location, equipment, licenses, permits, laws, financing and taxes. In the process, you are projecting activity and revenue three to five years in advance.

    It can all be exciting but planning and strategizing are also enormous, multi-faceted responsibilities.

    With the marketing section of your business plan, you are thinking about what makes your freelance business stand out, the direction and methods you intend to use to spur sales and retain clients, your business growth and your communications strategy.

    Then you organize the sales section of your plan into activities: you identify your clients or sales prospects; once you’ve made a list, you prioritize your contacts, choosing the leads most likely to use your freelance services, and; you calculate the number of sales calls -- or e-mails or social media appeals -- you will need to make to engage and maintain clients.

    Prepared to shed light on it all for IWOC members at our next workshop Tuesday, May 10 is Mark Ferguson, public information officer/economic development specialist/loan officer of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Illinois District.

    Ferguson is also one of us -- a freelance writer and businessman -- so he understands the steps we must all take before planning and the benefits, drawbacks and setbacks we must anticipate in launching and expanding our businesses. He says he is pleased to use the SBA “as a platform” with its “programs, services, resources and partner relationships” to “train and coach” business owners, including freelance writers.

    The online services that the SBA makes available to business owners -- and Ferguson is ready to expound upon -- include SBA’s Business Plan Tool, the market analysis Size Up Tool, the government contracts eligibility Size Standards Tool, the Events Calendar and 130 free online courses on a variety of topics.

    Offline, Ferguson points out, the SBA also offers business owners some 40 SBA resource partners who are willing to serve as their mentors or counselors from the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) and the Women's Business Centers (WBC) as well as relationships with affiliated banks, credit unions and community lenders.

    During his presentation, topics will include:

    • Business planning, marketing and sales specifically for freelance writing and editing.
    • The fundamentals of business planning, including for securing financing or technical or development support.
    • Marketing or branding freelance writing specialties and boosting sales or capturing clients, and,
    • Expanding or branching out with more than one specialty or accepting more clients.

    Just as he would any other class of business owners, Ferguson urges freelance writers to acquaint ourselves with our markets and to learn as much as possible about our clients, our own competition and the economic state of our trade. He says we must collect information on the competition, the industry and our type of clients.

    Ultimately, we freelance writers must be aware of the options we have for launching our enterprise.

    Ultimately, freelance writers must be aware of the options we have for launching our enterprise. What business model would you want to adopt? Only you can choose.

    To avoid making mistakes or repeating the mistakes of other businesses, Ferguson encourages freelance writers to cultivate mentors and counselors who can provide advice on any aspect of the launch and development of our enterprises. He says that he is among many on hand at the SBA to serve IWOC members in this capacity—beyond next month’s workshop.

    - Vladimire Herard

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    April Meeting Recap

    Technology for Freelance Writers - What Works Best

    Panel: Brent Brotine, Roger Rueff, David Steinkraus, Vladimire Herard

    In a lively panel discussion format, four IWOC members demonstrated favorite technology tools that help them stay productive. Common threads included easy ways to record interviews and lengthen battery life.

    Tom Lanning, Program Chair, introduced the panel with a quick demonstration of his most used “semi-digital” mobile device – a standard reporter notepad.

    First up was David Steinkraus, IWOC President, whose business focuses on environment, science and technology. His first recommendation – his MacBook and his iPhone. Richard Eastline offered some life-extending ideas for your phone battery: Reduce screen brightness. Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not needed. Switch to apps that have white type on a black background.

    • Record interviews and meetings. David recommends HDR Pro, an iPhone app. His key advice: whichever app you use, make sure it prevents the phone from sleep mode while you’re recording. In fact, David recorded the podcast for this presentation using HDR Pro on his iPhone.
    • Make and record calls. If you have not used Skype for outgoing calls recently, David recommends giving it another try: the call quality has greatly improved. If you want to record your calls, he recommends the Call Recorder plugin by ECAM software. It even records video for Skype-to- Skype calls.
    • Energize your devices. David uses a portable phone battery charger for an extra 10,000 hours of phone life, which means you don’t have to stop to recharge in the middle of the day. Before you buy, make sure the ports are compatible with your products. If in doubt, get a charger with both fast and slow ports. Other brands: Brent likes the Jackery Giant + 12,000.
    • Save your wrist. Mousing all day can be hard on the body: moving the mouse means moving your whole arm, which can be lead to neck and shoulder pain; griping a mouse can irritate the wrist and lead to carpel tunnel. David recommends a trackball pointing device, specifically the Kensington Slim Blade Wireless Trackball Mouse. In addition to saving your body, the trackball gives you greater accuracy for detailed photo and audio editing.
    • Focus on writing, not file finding. For most documents David relies on Scrivener software which combines word processing and project management. Because you can import all your research – Word files, PDFs, photos, web pages, sticky notes – to one tab, you save time looking for files scattered among several apps. Plus, it offers a dual pane view, one for writing, one for the research. Jennifer Lyng Rueff added that she loves the sidebar view, which makes it easy for her to find scenes, and drag-and-drop them to other places in her book manuscript. It exports to Word, ePub, rtf, and more.

    Next was Roger Rueff, who has a business focused on software documentation and training manuals, plus a side job as a scriptwriter. Currently, Roger writes “old school” using Vista and Microsoft Office 2003 on a 2006 PC, but he is updating to a new Samsung KO2US laptop, which brings up migration issues.

    A word about wiretap laws If you’re curious, the Digital Media Law Project describes state and federal laws. But the easiest thing to do – just record your subject giving consent to being recorded when you start your interview .
    • Streamline email storage. Roger needed an improvement over the notoriously bloated Outlook. He found cloud-based FastMail, which frees up PC space, is accessible from all his devices, has advanced filtering, prevents advertising, and offers unlimited email addresses. Because Gmail limits user email addresses to just five, it was a no-go for Roger, who has multiple email addresses just for his work as IWOC web guru.
    • Grab better screen shots. Roger relies on the advanced features of Snagit for the shots in his documentation. Snagit offers drag-and-drop screen grabs – even capturing long, scrolling webpages – a timer to get shots that include the pointer, stamps, text boxes, highlights and other special effects. PC and Mac
    • Create software demo videos. For his training videos, Roger uses Camtasia, a Snagit companion, with advanced video editing for demos, training videos and PowerPoint slide shows. PC and Mac
    • Measure your angst. Lastly, Roger recommends the iPhone app, Seismometer, which measures impact when you bang your head on the table after a frustrating call.

    Vladimire Herard, who reports on health care, pharmaceutical and senior living industries, focused on tools for interviews.

    • Interview online. Vladimire meets her subjects in Phone.com conference rooms, which automatically records her sessions.
    • Record in-person interviews. Vladimire’s recommendation: the Olympus WE-802 voice recorder, which holds 1000 hours. Recordings are scene indexed to save time finding the exact quote she wants.
    • Read textbooks. She finds the Kobo reader especially helpful for reading books related to her specialty.

    Brent Brotine, advertising, marketing and direct response expert, handles a lot of detailed financial information. To make sure he captures the details, he has several ways to record calls.

    • Record VOIP calls. Google Voice offers free VOIP phone numbers that forward calls to your cell phone. Google Voice calls are recorded automatically.
    • Record cellular calls. Brent uses an Olympus TP-7 Telephone Pick Up cord that connects to both his iPhone and his Olympus VN-702PC voice recorder, which is similar to Vladimire’s.
    • Record landline calls. His Radio Shack Digital Voice Telephone Recorder 43-01237 plugs into his landline phone and its headset.
    • Transcribe calls. When he needs a written script, Brent looks for transcribers on Fiverr.com.
    • Amplify your headphones. Brent uses his Boostaroo Audio Amplifier and Splitter to share movies and music with his spouse on long plane rides.
    • Amplify yourself. Brent carries packs of Starbucks Via to give himself a boost anytime.There’s always hot water somewhere!

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    Lastly, Stewart Truelsen, who produces high-quality interviews for broadcast, recommended pro gear.

    • Record podcast quality. Stu uses a Marantz PMD660 recorder and a Shure microphone.

    Where to find all these gadgets? IWOC has no affiliation or recommendation for retailers: the links in this article go to Amazon, simply for all-in-one place convenience. Other hardware retailers include Best Buy and B&H Photo, a New York store that carries pro gear, often at better prices. Apple software is available through iTunes or the App Store. PC software can be downloaded.

    - Laurel Johnson

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    President's Column

    Tools for Membership

    David Steinkraus

    I have a bandage on my left middle finger, the result of not paying attention while cleaning a kitchen knife. It’s one of those deep, narrow cuts that ache and produce enough continuous pain to make you think. In this case, it made me think it would have been smarter to pick up a dish cloth instead of trying to quickly rub off cheese crumbs with my bare and vulnerable finger. The proper tool would have done wonders.

    That brings us to Twitter, another tool. Twitter is on a downward slide, you know. This former darling of the technology cognoscenti is showing no user growth and has come under fire. Longtime technology writer, Walt Mossberg faults the service for not giving users enough control over what they see. He complains he cannot keep up on posts he misses. A New York magazine column compared Twitter to a formerly nice neighborhood park now filled with bats and perverts. This writer was driven away by a swelling proportion of abusive comments.

    The proper tool would have done wonders.

    I am proud to say I am ahead of the curve because I have done nothing with the Twitter account I set up a couple of years ago when everyone was telling everyone else they had to be on Twitter. I abandoned the platform before it was trendy to abandon the platform. More to the point, I don’t find it a useful tool. Trying to assemble a coherent thought from a series of disconnected 140-character references and links takes too much of my valuable time. I believe you have to choose your tools carefully lest the time you invest is more than the value they return.

    A few days ago I listened to a webinar on how to turn members of the millennial generation into members of an organization. One point the presenter made is that millennials are very careful about spending their time. Even though time is the only thing they can control because of a weak economy and student debt loads, spending time carefully is a good strategy because time is a fixed resource.

    And a good way for people to spend their time is with IWOC. Unlike Twitter, IWOC delivers continued value: ideas about new markets to probe, ideas about running your business better and smarter, job leads, and a network of skilled professionals who can help you solve your particular problem or find work. For millennials, we offer the chance to learn how to be self-sufficient and develop a set of skills that will supplement an entry-level job.

    And a good way for people to spend their time is with IWOC.

    I bring this up because growing IWOC has been a continuing topic of conversation for the board of directors. It was the reason behind the book publishing workshop we unsuccessfully tried to organize. It is the reason behind the successful community presentations by Jeff Steele and Sally Chapralis about freelance writing. If you know some millennial writers, invite them to come and visit us. And if you are one, please come. The first meeting is free. In the meantime, one of the ideas the board has been debating is whether to create a student membership. At the moment we’re thinking low-price but with limits on professional activities through our website as we now limit associate members. Like this idea? Hate it? Have your own suggestion for recruiting new members? Please tell us.

    Our satellite groups are another way to forge a network of writers. Scott Spires, who lives in Lake Bluff, thought there must be people in the northern suburbs who want to meet, so he organized the first meeting of IWOLF in April. IWOLF is the Independent Writers of Lake Forest, and it joins groups in Rogers Park (IWORP) and Oak Park (IWOOP), and you must admit that it has the catchiest acronym. It’s close enough that I come for lunch, and I would love to meet and talk with those of you who live in northern Chicagoland and find it difficult to make the monthly meetings downtown. If Lake Forest is inconvenient, consider starting your own group. (If you’re seeing this for the first time and need more information, look at the calendar on our website.)

    As I said, growing the organization is a continuing topic and task, and the board would love to hear your thoughts. Email any of us (we’re all listed on the website), or click here: president@iwoc.org.

    I have one last, quick note. You may be wondering whom we picked as Stet editor and membership manager. Well, we haven’t done that yet. Five very strong candidates applied for the jobs, and the board couldn’t arrange interviews with all of them in time to make a decision at the April meeting. We will have news for you following the May meeting.

    - David Steinkraus

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    Featured Member

    Laura Stigler

    Laura Stigler

    What is your specialty? Advertising and Marketing. I started out at J. Walter Thompson Co. writing the Big Three: TV, Radio and Print. Since then, Advertising has changed tremendously in how it reaches out to target audiences. Which meant I had to change as well. So I’ve expanded my portfolio to include everything from web content and blogs, to social media. I also write direct mail, newsletters, brochures – you know, the kinds of things that never go out of style and have time-proven success rates in their reach and results.

    What advice would you give a client working with a writer? Communicate. The more you can tell a writer about your business, your mission, your philosophy – the better the writer can translate it all into salable, appealing content. In advertising terms, think as well of your “USP” – your Unique Selling Proposition. Every company/client has one. It’s what will set you apart from your competition.

    What is one of your favorite books that you recommend to everyone? Erik Larson’s “The Devil in the White City.” It reads like a page-turning thriller. Yet it’s all true. It juxtaposes the soaring, inspirational heights as well as the horrific depths of which human beings are capable. It also fired up my imagination and interest in the 1893 Columbian Exposition (the White City). I could not believe such a magical place existed in this city – a part of history that makes me very proud of the good Chicago can accomplish, and how it had such a positive influence in the development of this country.

    Communicate. The more you can tell a writer about your business, your mission, your philosophy – the better the writer can translate it all into salable, appealing content.

    For a dream vacation, where would you insist someone visit? Snowvillage Inn near North Conway, New Hampshire, overlooking Mount Washington. You must go in autumn. I felt like Heidi prancing around the Swiss Alps. When arriving, you travel up this long, winding, mountainous road. On approaching the Inn, you’ll swear you landed in a fairy tale.

    What food would you recommend to Julia Child, were she alive today? The Chicago Hot Dog. Julia would have appreciated it. The salty Vienna all-beef Kosher dog, the soft poppy seed bun, the celery salt, the pungent onions, ripe tomatoes, atomic relish, crunchy dill pickle and hot sport peppers – a perfect melding of flavors that sends you straight to pig heaven on that very first bite. No bouillabaisse could compete. (Although I do make a kick-a** bouillabaisse, if I do say so.).In advertising terms, think as well of your “USP” – your Unique Selling Proposition.

    Website? www.laurastiglerwriter.com Thank you for visiting!

    - Laura Stigler

    The questions for next month are: 1) What is your specialty? 2) What one line of advice would you give a writer working with a client? 3) How do you get inspired? 4) What Chicago site do you suggest as a “must-see” to out of towners? 5) Favorite quote?

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    IWOC Events

    Give a Little Time, Reap Great Rewards

    In the next two months IWOC will be involved in two events for which we need a bit of your help, and where you can do some good networking and learning.

    On May 13 and 14, a Friday and Saturday, we will have a table a the city’s Lake FX Summit + Expo. This is for creative people from all the arts, and those of you who write scripts or do marketing and public relations will especially find people to talk to because of the involvement of the film and music industries. Many come through the exhibition hall during breaks between the free workshops. Give us an hour or a couple of hours of your time at the IWOC table, and then take in a workshop or two and network.

    On June 11 and 12 we will have a table at the Printers Row Lit Fest. If you want to meet people this is the place; the festival typically attracts 70,000 to 80,000. Again we ask that you give us an hour or two of your time, and as at Lake FX you can then peruse exhibits or take in one of the author sessions. We’ll also sell your book for you if you’re an IWOC member. You pay $10, and your only responsibility is to drop off books at the IWOC table when the festival opens and pick them up when it’s done. We’ll handle the sales and taxes, and pass the proceeds to you.

    To help at either event or both, or to arrange a book sale, contact board member George Becht (gbecht@sbcglobal.net) who is coordinating our participation.

    - David Steinkraus

    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

  • 31 Mar 2016 10:10 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    April 2016

    Volume 35 | Number 4

    Catherine Rategan

    Catherine Rategan
    12/16/1932 – 3/23/2016

    You wouldn’t be reading this issue of Stet – in fact, there wouldn’t even be a Stet, were it not for Catherine Rategan and Beth Bradfish. Because without them, there wouldn’t be an Independent Writers of Chicago. By having co-founded IWOC in 1980, Catherine and Beth provided us all with a place to meet other writers, learn from each other, laugh with each other, share war stories and successes, hear industry experts that would help us be better at our business, and just give us a chance to get out of our sweats, escape our cloistered, freelance lives and get our bad selves down at a mixer or holiday party. Many even say their careers wouldn’t have been as successful, let alone exist, without IWOC. So it was with great shock and sadness when we all learned of Catherine’s recent passing after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage, due to a fall. We owe much to her.

    A good word from Catherine was as good as it gets.

    Knowing Catherine, she would like hearing that. Then again, Catherine liked hearing a lot of things; she was a great listener, always fascinated in what others had to say. She had a compassionate ear, and an astute one, and when she did speak up – which, by the way, she was never hesitant to do, she was always so worth listening to. Sometimes she could be blunt. But that was ok, because you knew you were getting her honest opinion. So when she did dole out compliments – which she gave most generously, you knew she wasn’t being patronizing. A good word from Catherine was as good as it gets.

    Catherine started her career right out of Trinity High School, serving as a clerk and working her way up to secretary. She soon found her calling as a copywriter and creative director at DDB Needham Advertising in Chicago – smack in the middle of the “Mad Men” era. But if anyone could stand toe-to-toe with those ad guys, it was Ms. Rategan. People of a certain age still can’t get the catchy copy out of their head that sprung from Catherine’s playful imagination. Remember the Dippity-Do spots? How could you not!

    “Click here: to listen to WGN’s Rick Kogan interview Catherine telling her story about Memoirs & More."

    After Needham, Catherine went independent and never looked back. While making a success of her own freelance career, she helped others do the same through the co-founding of IWOC and later on, served as president of ITVA, an association of video professionals. Most recently, she came full circle to what was one of her greatest loves: telling stories. At an age when most people have long been retired, Catherine started Memoirs & More that coalesced all she seemed to be put on Earth to do: She loved life. Especially hearing about the lives of others, and it was her greatest pleasure to listen to their stories and help weave them into a beautifully written keepsake to be handed down for generations. In putting her clients at ease, she would say in that gentle manner of hers that would draw people out, “It’s your memory. It belongs to you. And it is to be cherished.”

    Catherine, we will cherish the memory of you, always.

    Thank you.

    Editor's note will return next month.

    - Laura Stigler

    April Meeting Preview

    Technology for Freelance Writers - What Actually Works Best

    Image courtesy mapichai via freedigitalimages.net

    Freelance writers who want to thrive must ensure they can effectively utilize essential tools in their business practices, despite the impact of continuing changes in digital technology on computers, communications, and practically all other aspects of contemporary life.

    In short, writers need to use the right kinds of up-to-date technology tools. Join IWOC-ers for our regular monthly evening of networking and learning as a “show-and-tell” panel of four experienced freelance writers discusses which proven tech-based gadgets, gizmos, and related technology items have actually worked best for them “in the field” over time, enabling their writing businesses to generate bottom-line profits on a consistent basis.

    In short, writers need to use the right kinds of up-to-date technology tools.

    The panelists will display some of their most important writer’s tech tools, then offer a critique with pros and cons of each. Since each panelist tends to target different sectors of the overall writing market, their tech-based recommendations may differ.

    Panelists include four veteran writers--Brent Brotine, Roger Rueff, Jeff Steele, and David Steinkraus. Based on current IWOC listings, it seems that they are engaged in different types of writing. For example, Brotine’s IWOC listing says 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.

    Rueff, in contrast, positions himself as a “rare combination of technical, communication and creative skills,” which, he says, includes writing documentation, “help” systems, computer manuals, scriptwriting, training, web-site content, and web design and development. 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.

    Finally, Steinkraus, IWOC’s current President, says in his listing that he has a “particular facility with scientific and technical topics,” and thus offers specialized work in the areas of environmental issues, government and politics, business-to-business journalism, photography, and science and technology.

    A major goal of the program involves audience interaction!

    A major goal of the program involves audience interaction. You are strongly invited to bring along your own tech tools that you can show and tell us about. A bit of playful interaction is especially encouraged here, in order to stimulate creative thinking. So bring some of your gizmos, stand up, show and tell us what you like--or hate--the most, get involved, and have some fun! The gadgets you show should be those that you depend upon heavily. And related to this, please explain the type of writing you do, along with your target market and why this particular technology is essential.

    In addition, be sure to bring along some tough questions for the panelists. For example, items may include (but are not limited to):

    • Handheld communication devices, such as phones, cellular devices and tablets
    • Laptop computers and related
    • Interview tools, including tape recorders, headsets, transcription aids, and earphones for typing during interviews
    • Printers, fax machines, photocopiers, scanners, typewriters, postage machines (or expensive Mount Blanc fountain pens for that matter)
    • Any software-based physical gadget that generates transcribed copy when you talk into it
    • Payment-system technologies used for banking and cash management • Windows 10 or any one other software that’s critical for your business

    The panelists will “front-load” the evening’s program with their review of this basic list, grounding us all in which tools, or techniques, they think work best. So, here’s what to do. First, think about your own writing business and the most important tech tools you’ve been using. Then, make a list of questions for the panel, and grab some of your favorite gadgets to bring along to the meeting. When you get to the program, feel free to interact, telling the panel and others in the audience which tech tools you like (or don’t) and get your questions answered. So join us Tuesday, April 12th at 5:00pm for more information, networking and fellowship!

    - Tom Lanning

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    March Meeting Recap

    Accounting for Freelance Writers

    Mary Lynch

    Mary Lynch of Mary Lynch and Associates talked to the group about taxes, tax issues and how freelancers should deal with tax issues. Mary brought handouts which are available on the IWOC website. She specializes in small businesses.

    Mary began the evening talking about bookkeeping systems and the fact that your receipts should match your tax returns. She recommended you use products that keep you organized and works with the way you do. There are electronic systems such as QuickBooks – both online and desk top. Mary likes the online version because it will go to your phone and when you are out and about you can snap a photo of your receipt, upload and you are done other than filing the receipt.

    When you file receipts, you should file them based on type of expense, not by month.

    She does not recommend the other end of the spectrum – throwing all of your receipts in to a box and trying to organize them at the end of the year. When you file receipts, you should file them based on type of expense, not by month. Being organized will really help with an audit. While the IRS is very understaffed and audits are less likely than in the past, you never know when you may win the audit lottery. There are some red flags. The IRS uses percentages to alert them. For example, if your percentage of meals and entertainment expense is higher than most others in the same line of work, that is a red flag. Anything over $250 should be depreciated and should have paper receipt for those items.

    Mary told us, you must have a paper receipt to match the credit card bill. If you order online, print out the receipt. The IRS is supposed to accept scanned receipts but depending on the agent you may not get the deduction without paper to match. It is probably fine for most things that match up to others, like a credit card bill but if you pay cash KEEP the paper receipt. This goes for phone photos as well. She asked: when would you rather prepare for an audit – when it fresh in your mind? Get and be organized. Mary gave the example of two audits she handled for clients in one year. The first client was organized and the audit was done in a half day. The client, was not ready. Mary spent two days getting the client organized and still did not have all receipts. The resulting audit was a full day audit.

    If you donate your services, you can deduct mileage and any out-of-pocket supplies but not your time.</>

    When choosing an accountant, check references, how long they have been in business, look for a small business accountant, and look for someone who can talk to you in a way you understand as you are still responsible for what is on your taxes. You want an accountant that is like minded to you. If you walk on the straight and narrow, pick an accountant that is on strait and narrow. Realize that if your accountant is audited regularly that does not mean you will be. Ask them: How have your audits turned out? They should say “no change” or it was a minor problem. An enrolled agent is not a CPA but is enrolled to practice before IRS. Any CPA is authorized to practice before IRS.

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    As a freelancer you will have to file an annual return either March or April 15. Estimated payments are due quarterly and if you are having a good year let your accountant know and s/he can adjust the quarterly payment so you are not hit at the end of the tax year. There is no penalty for overpayment, the numbers are 90% of current year tax or 100% of last year’s tax. The threshold for quarterly taxes is $1,000 in taxes due. $600 is the threshold for generating a 1099. 

    Mary gave some tips as well. If you donate your services, you can deduct mileage and any out-of-pocket supplies but not your time. You should know your tax rate and how much to set aside to pay your tax bill. Mileage is worth tracking. Mary uses Milebug, an app, to track her mileage. There is a small fee and there are others but she likes it because it will export to an excel spreadsheet. You can use a paper-based method as well. The IRS does not care how you track but you need to do it as it happens. Not all at once at the end of the year. You can also deduct transportation costs such as the train or cabs.

    Mary gave a great presentation and there is more information in the handouts and on the podcast, both of which can be found on the member’s section of the website.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

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    President's Column

    Spring Outside and Be Inspired

    David Steinkraus

    During one of my infrequent visits to LinkedIn, I stumbled across an amusing discussion thread in a journalism group. A young and inexperienced journalist in need of people to interview asked about online resources to locate those who are still smoking despite public health campaigns. A more experienced person wrote a reply that essentially said: Get out of your chair, go to a business area, walk around until you find the spots where smokers congregate outside smoke-free buildings.

    It was a refreshing post to read because — stop me if you’ve heard this before — people are too enamored of glowing screens and assign too much weight to these seemingly oracular devices. As writers we must fight this even though our livelihoods entice us to make the same choice.

    As writers we must fight this even though our livelihoods entice us to make the same choice.

    You see, no matter what type of writing we do, we deal with reality in some way, and a significant chunk of reality is not to be found inside a computer server. I do not suggest abandoning digital tools. Email is essential for work, Google for research, and Facebook keeps me in touch with my far-flung family. Yet I am not in touch with all of my relatives to the same degree even though I read their Facebook posts regularly. I feel more connected to those I see every year because visits add a texture perceptible only when you spend time in someone’s presence.

    There is a limit to how much you can do from a desk, and the LinkedIn conversation illustrates the danger of basking for too long in the glow of a screen or even hunching for too long over the pile of unread magazines that never shrinks no matter how much effort you apply, like the doom of some hero in Greek mythology. By all means get up and get out. It's spring, time to socialize, to come out of your burrow and see what the other denizens are up to. It’s time to spend more time watching people on Michigan Avenue or eavesdropping in your favorite outdoor restaurant or coffee shop.

    What, are you surprised that I advocate surreptitious observation of other humans?

    It’s time to spend more time watching people on Michigan Avenue or eavesdropping in your favorite outdoor restaurant or coffee shop.

    How else will you learn to practice your craft better? How else will you learn what people really think about a product or an issue or life unless they believe they are unobserved? Some years ago I was taking Metra home from an assignment in Chicago, and a guy sat down next to me. He pulled out his mobile phone and made three calls, in the process informing me that he felt harried and overworked, spent too little time with his family, had a wife taking afternoon Hebrew lessons and a daughter taking piano lessons, and had an upcoming business appointment in Cleveland to consult on a public utility issue. OK, I glanced at the report open on his lap for that last bit, but even public transit glimpses into other people’s lives give you more insight than a week’s worth of social media because they lack texture. If you believe you understand people well enough to skip this step, let me give you another anecdote. A year ago Taylor Swift gave an acceptance speech at the Billboard Music Awards in which she thanked her young fans for keeping her current on teen slang and teen angst. That’s right: Taylor Swift, in her mid 20s, is in danger of being out of touch with the young.

    More than the details of your craft will grow from going out. So will your perceptions. Escaping routine will free your mind to follow what turns it will, and ideas will flow. As a journalist I know the advantage of eavesdropping, but any writer can and should. You find thoughts and comments that will not occur to you while you sit in a silent room waiting for your muse to return from an extended coffee break. It’s spring, time to play crocus and poke our heads out of the earth.

    - David Steinkraus

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    IWOC Members

    Karen Schwartz

    Karen Schwartz

    How long have you been a member of IWOC? I think since 1987; it’s been a long time! During that time, I’ve been on a number of committees, served as program chair twice, once as seminar chair, and am now serving a third time on the IWOC Board of Directors.

    What is your specialty? I consider myself more of a generalist. I’ve written about every subject under the sun, and for practically every type of client, from entrepreneurs to large companies. I’ve also written for numerous newspapers and magazines. The past few years, I’ve been writing a lot more legal, healthcare and financial materials. I also took a grantwriting course, so I hope to do that type of writing.

    I also took a grantwriting course, so I hope to do that type of writing.

    What piece of advice would you give a client working with a writer? Know what you want before you start working with a writer! Give the writer clear guidelines: What is your deadline, who is the audience, and if possible, before you begin a project, provide a writer with a similar type of type of writing – say a press release – that’s like the type of writing that you’re asking the freelance writer to do. A freelance writer is not a mind reader!!

    Who’s your favorite superstar? I wouldn’t call him a “superstar,” but I love singer James Taylor. Meryl Streep is probably my favorite actress; she can take any character and perform the role well.

    What’s your favorite food? Well, I love chocolate, and pizza – either deep dish or thin crust - is a favorite food of mine.

    What advice would you give to new IWOC members? Over the years, some new IWOC members have dropped out of IWOC when they’ve been disappointed that they haven’t (quickly )gotten jobs through IWOC. And I would say to new IWOC members who are expecting that to happen: Don’t expect IWOC to be an automatic source of jobs.

    That being said, it IS possible to get job referrals from other IWOC members. Sometimes other members might hear about an editor or client who’s looking for writers, and they will gladly give you this information.

    Other ways to get work through IWOC? Of course, having your member profile on the IWOC website can yield phone calls and emails from potential clients. Another way is to attend IWOC meetings where you can network with other writers and let them know the type of writing that you do. You do financial writing and they don’t? Who knows? The next time they hear of a financial services firm that needs a top-notch financial writer, they might just email you or pick up the phone and call you. Haven’t attended an IWOC meeting in a long time..or ever? Come to just one – or many more – of our meetings that are planned for the rest of the year (We’ve got a great lineup of programs.) It’s a terrific opportunity to pick up some very useful information, network, and build relationships with other talented freelance writers.

    I’d also like to tell other IWOC members to carry their business cards, and I recommend having them wherever they go.

    I’d also like to tell other (new) IWOC members to carry their business cards – and yes, I recommend having them - wherever they go. I once had a conversation at my nephew’s bar mitzvah with my sister’s college roommate that resulted in a long-lasting writing job, and it was a good thing I had my business cards with me. So it’s a good idea to get those cards printed and carry them with you wherever you go.

    The questions for next month are: 1) How long have you been a member of IWOC? 2) What is your specialty? 3) What one line of advice would you give a client working with a writer? 4) What book(s) is/are on your nightstand? 5)For a dream vacation, where would you insist someone visit? If you have questions of your own you would like to answer, that is fine as well. Stay tuned!

    - Karen Schwartz

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    IWOC Workshop

    How To Publish And Market Your Book

    Image courtesy adamr via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Maybe you’re in the process of writing it. Maybe it’s already written. But whatever stage you’re at of authoring your book, once it’s finished...then what?

    Get book smart. Learn from four industry experts all the answers on how to publish it and get the word out to the world once you do. Come to: What: “How to Publish and Market Your Book” Workshop sponsored by Independent Writers of Chicago

    Date: Saturday, April 9, 2016

    Time: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lunch will be served (yay!)

    Where: Fourth Presbyterian Church Annex (Gratz Center) in the Bumpus Room (2nd fl.)

    126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, across from the Hancock Center. Convenient to public transit and many parking structures. Helpful hint: Check out Spot Hero and BestParking apps.

    Fee: $75 (non-members); $65 (IWOC members)

    RSVP by Tuesday, April 5

    Seating is limited, so sign up TODAY at IWOC.ORG Audio of the workshop will be available online later for attendees.

    THE PRESENTERS: Kim Bookless: Publishing consultant, editor and founder of the Chicago Self-Publishing Group, Kim gently but expertly guides indie and self-publishing authors along the path from concept and development to finished books. 

    Jim Kepler: Jim is the hands-on owner of Adams Press, a specialty book production company that for 75 years, has been helping authors "turn their work into quality bound books at economical prices." 

    Lissy Peace: President/Founder of public relations company Lissy Peace & Associates, Lissy has “developed a powerful niche in the book publishing industry...developing innovative marketing strategies to add to the success of each project.” 

    Betsy Storm: Principal of Top Drawer Communications, Betsy is the author of Bright Lights of the Second City: 50 Prominent Chicagoans on Living with Passion and Purpose. Hear her reallife experiences in writing, publishing and marketing her labor of love.


    - Laura Stigler

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    Announcements

    Openings at IWOC

    In November, IWOC’s Board of Directors appointed an interim Editor for Stet and an interim Membership Manager. We’re nearing the end of those appointment periods, so we are opening those positions to members interested in permanently filling them.

    As editor you will assign or solicit articles as needed, gather art, and give IWOC a great public face.

    Stet Editor

    If you find yourself listing ways to improve Stet as you read it each month, or just have a knack for newsletters, the editor’s job should be right in your wheelhouse. Because we’re entering a new era with Stet as an e-newsletter, there’s even more opportunity to create something fresh, memorable, and that will look great on your resume. As editor you will assign or solicit articles as needed, gather art, and give IWOC a great public face. You’ll have the creative freedom to write your own articles if you wish, as well as come up with ideas about how Stet could be even more engaging, entertaining and informative. Although it’s published electronically, you don’t need technical skills to do this; we use a template from our membership management system so preparing the newsletter mostly means pasting text in the right places. And there’s plenty of help if you get stuck.

    If you’re interested in these jobs, please tell us why and what ideas and skills you would bring to them.

    Membership Manager

    Our Membership Manager looks after IWOC’s people. That involves answering questions from members and people thinking of becoming members, reminders about renewal periods, and ensuring information in our member database stays current. Sounds computer-ish, but it isn’t, and there’s plenty of free support and advice. In the future the duties of the job may also include more involvement in member outreach and engagement. 

    You get paid! Money comes with these positions in acknowledgement of the time involved. Stet pays $250 per month, and the membership manager position pays $150 per month. All we ask in return is that you commit to doing these jobs consistently. Which means as editor, putting out a monthly publication of Stet and as Membership Manager, taking care of member matters and initiatives as they come up. 

    If you’re interested in these jobs, please tell us why and what ideas and skills you would bring to them. Put all of that in an email and send it to me at president@iwoc.org no later than April 8th. Send questions to me, too, at the same address. 


    - David Steinkraus

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  • 01 Mar 2016 10:23 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    March 2016

    Volume 35 | Number 3

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    March is upon us. Is it winter or is it spring, in the Chicagoland area? Our changing weather makes it hard to tell. March also makes this my third issue of Stet as your editor.

    I would like to thank everyone who has weighed in and given advice or comments. Roger has done most of the heavy lifting – thank you Roger!! I have done most of the requesting and reading of articles.

    I would like to thank everyone who has weighed in and given advice or comments.

    I am really enjoying being the editor! However, when we transitioned to the new format, I took over as the interim editor. Interim because the board, myself included, decided that this position should be opened to all IWOC members and formally assigned. Please see the request for submissions for more information. 

    In this issue, you will also find the first member profile of the month (me) as requested in last month’s issue. With the board’s help, I decided to change it up a little and create a list questions to be answered. This way, the profile is not just what we might find on your resume nor something you will have to come up with on your own. Although, I will be happy to print what you want to send me if it is different from the question list. I am still refining the process, but I will have some to help IWOC-ers can get to know each other a little better. Networking in the newsletter! 

    As always, suggestions are welcome!

    I am happy to accept other submissions, book reviews, short articles of interest or current events. I am planning to add some writing or tech tips. As always, suggestions are welcome! Finally, Karen Schwartz asked me to pass along that the ASJA's (American Society of Journalists and Authors) 45th Annual Writers Conference this May 21st and 22nd in New York City.

    As a reminder, all submissions are due on the 15th of the month prior to publication on the first of the next month. So April submissions are due March 15th. Thanks for your assistance.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    March Meeting Preview

    Accounting Can Work for You

    Photo by Cynthia Tomusiak

    As a writer, do numbers make you cringe? Would you rather go to the dentist than balance your business check book?

    As a writer, do numbers make you cringe?

    When you hear the term ‘bookkeeping’ do you think that you forgot to return your library books? Do you think that depreciation is someone not appreciating you? 

    To get the answers to these questions, and more, join your fellow IWOC-ers for our regular monthly evening of networking and learning as Mary A. Lynch, CPA, Mary Lynch & Associates, Inc. helps you select accounting approaches that work for you. She has been a CPA since 1985 and will clarify options that fit you and your goals. Her firm specializes in small-business owners, working with you to make the numbers speak your language. 

    Confidently select accounting approaches that work for you!

    Mary will cover: 

    • A variety of systems that can be used to do your bookkeeping, both paper and computer 
    • Best practices for bookkeeping 
    • Identify theft issues
    • How to choose an accountant 
    • Buying equipment and depreciation of the equipment
    • When taxs are due and what should be filed. 
    • Tax laws that freelance writers need to be aware of 
    • What business structure is right for a freelance writer

    When it comes to money, Mary wants you to spend less than you make, diversify your savings and/or investments and, finally, don't panic! So join us Tuesday, March 8th at 5:00pm for more information, networking and fellowship! 

    - Sally Chapralis

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    February Meeting Recap

    Freelance Photojournalism

    Peter Bella

    Chicago-based freelance writer and photojournalist Peter Bella, offered his first-hand advice to IWOC-ers at the February meeting. Bella is a photo-journalist, blogger and is working on authoring his first cookbook.

    Prior to launching a freelance-writing career, Bella gained much of his street-wise expertise in a different arena, as a Chicago police officer assigned to take professional-style photos of what had occurred at violent crime scenes. 

    At the meeting, he discussed some of the changes in the photo-journalism business. He emphasized that the changes are so recent and plentiful, it is hard to say where the industry is going. As a photo-journalist, you usually work with, join or get accepted to an agency. From there, you go shoot photographs, and they sell the rights to the photo for you. The average is $6.00-$12.00/photograph. He did sell a two-year-old photograph, three times, for a total of $1500. He also said that was lucky. He pointed out that micro-stock agencies are buying up the bigger agencies. These micro-stock agencies are only offering 20% as compared to the 80% that large agencies used to pay. This has created a turmoil in the business. 

    The photography world has gone from snap shots and quality photos to I-phone photos that can be used all over the Internet.

    The photography world has gone from snap shots and quality photos to I-phone photos that can be used all over the Internet. However, I-phone photographs will not make the cover of quality magazines, so there is still a place for quality photographs. He cautioned that most work is on speculation, and it takes a long time to get paid. 

    As a freelance photographer, rates vary with geography. He can make $175/day in this area, but the same work in New York pays $200-$250/day. He turned down the chance to go to Ferguson and photograph the protests, that would have paid $180/day. He was glad he did because he knew someone who went. He was told that there was no where to eat and almost nowhere to sleep. 

    Peter’s business advice to freelancers:

    • Look to where you can cut costs, especially in memberships – only keep those that have a real benefit.
    • Network – get out and meet people - everywhere and often.
    • Think outside the box.
    • Find your niche – but beware that it can be too narrow and confining – and expensive for photographers.
    • Work on understanding millennials and what they want – for him, it is movies rather than photos.
    • Understand “the uniform” some places and events require a style of dress to get people to talk to you. 

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    Finally, he gave some tips for freelance writers who are looking for a photographer to work with. It is very helpful to learn if you get along with them, you have to work together so it is easier if you get along with each other. Take the time to find out what they do; a photographer will not buy a brand-new lens just for one shoot with you. So look at their website and see if they take photos of what you write about. There are times when it might be cheaper to buy the rights to a stock photo.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

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    President's Column

    Let's Combat "Good Enough"

    David Steinkraus

    For a little while a magazine-editor friend sent me head shots. Whenever his frustration overflowed I’d get a couple with sarcastic comments, so we could marvel over the lack of quality in the images. These photos were for a professional magazine, and you would think professional people would take care with the image they present to the world. You would think. 

    They didn’t. There was the woman wrapped in a heavy winter coat and scarf so little more than her eyes was visible. There was the guy against a brick wall and looking either still drunk or hung over. And almost all of these pictures were taken with cell phone or computer cameras whose wide-angle lenses create a funhouse distortion of reality. Separate from these was a photo I saw by following a link from some story to the author’s profile. Her face was greatly overexposed, her eyes retouched to be slightly underexposed. The effect was of a big-eyed alien recently escaped from the X-Files. 

    Last month’s meeting put this in my mind when our speaker talked about the culture of “good enough.”

    Last month’s meeting put this in my mind when our speaker talked about the culture of “good enough.” You don’t need to hire a professional photographer; everybody’s a photographer now, and a cell phone camera is good enough. The problem is we usually hear from only one end of the communication chain: The people who sell good-enough services and assert that good enough is good enough. We don’t hear directly from the other end of the communication chain, except I believe we do. I think one reason people endlessly surf and click from one website to another, and one reason companies complain about their inability to engage an audience, is precisely because so much “content” is created to be good enough. People aren’t engaged because good enough is not compelling. Make something good — like a Ken Burns documentary or a 700-page Harry Potter or Game of Thrones novel — and people stay. 

    In writing and web content, the same principle applies as in those photos my friend sent: People do not take seriously those who do not take themselves or their work seriously. This, too, is another point in favor of IWOC’s members because how many of us walked away from the corporate world in part because large organizations limit how much good work people can do? 

    Meantime, have you considered the photo that is your first introduction to strangers? Do you have a professionally done photograph of yourself or a cell phone good-enough? If the latter, perhaps you want to call on another independent Chicago professional — perhaps one of the photographers in the Chicago Creative Coalition — to create a first-rate image. One session, and you will have a photograph that you can use and reuse for years on your website, LinkedIn, and elsewhere. 

    The more public spaces IWOC appears in, the greater the chance we will be noticed by a potential member.

    There is another way we can support each other and combat the culture of good enough, and all it requires is a break at your favorite coffee shop. On the IWOC website, you will find a PDF copy of a flyer telling people about our organization, and another flyer advertising IWOC as the solution for people who need writers. Print off a copy of each, stop by your favorite coffee shop, and tack the flyers up on whatever public surface the shop designates for postings about lost animals and available services. You never know who will walk by, and the more public spaces IWOC appears in, the greater the chance we will be noticed by a potential member or a potential client.

    - David Steinkraus

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    IWOC Members

    Survey Says: Networking!

    Cynthia Tomusiak

    In the newsletter, I discussed my desire to help other IWOC members get to know each other better. The board came up with an idea that might help get members to talk about themselves: a fun survey! Since it was my idea, originally, I thought I would start: 

    What is playing in your car right now? The first channel on my radio is classical music, WFMT-Chicago, I like calm, relaxing music in the car to help keep me calm and relaxed while driving. I am a rock and roll fan, so sometimes I turn the volume up so I can sing along at the top of my lungs and annoy the other drivers. Lastly, I recently discovered “books on tape”. I know; they are actually on compact disks and have been around for a long time. I never thought I would like them. I do. And the library has lots; for free! 

    What is the craziest thing you have ever done? The craziest thing I have ever done is join the volunteer fire department when I was in college – right after my parents told me “NO more extracurricular activities until your grades improve!”. Did I mention I did not tell them? For a year?

    Right after my parents told me “NO more extracurricular activities until your grades improve!”.

    That also makes it my best-kept secret.) However, it was also one of the best things I have ever done as it led to an amazing career. I have been in the fire service for almost 30 years. I have decided to ease up on the more physical aspects of the career to write about it and teach fire service related classes. Thus being a member of IWOC, which is another of the best things I’ve done! 

    Where did you go to school? I went to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana for my bachelor’s degree, in psychology. After that, I started taking classes at College of Lake County and after many, many years got my Associates degree in Fire Science. I also went to work there a few years ago. Finally, I obtained a Master’s of Science in Threat and Response Management (or as l like to explain, “Emergency Management on steroids”) from the University of Chicago. 

    Well, those are a few things about me that you might not know. Hopefully, the questionnaire approach will make it easier for you to submit information and the column more fun yet still useful. I hope to continue this section of the newsletter and get to know more IWOC-ers! 

    The questions for next month are: 1) How long have you been a member of IWOC? 2) What is your specialty? 3) What one line of advice would you give a client working with a writer? 4) Who’s your favorite superstar? 5) What is your favorite food? Stay tuned!

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

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    Announcements

    Openings at IWOC

    In November, IWOC’s Board of Directors appointed an interim Editor for Stet and an interim Membership Manager. We’re nearing the end of those appointment periods, so we are opening those positions to members interested in permanently filling them.

    Stet Editor

    As editor you will assign or solicit articles as needed, gather art, and give IWOC a great public face.

    If you find yourself listing ways to improve Stet as you read it each month, or just have a knack for newsletters, the editor’s job should be right in your wheelhouse. Because we’re entering a new era with Stet as an e-newsletter, there’s even more opportunity to create something fresh, memorable, and that will look great on your resume. As editor you will assign or solicit articles as needed, gather art, and give IWOC a great public face. You’ll have the creative freedom to write your own articles if you wish, as well as come up with ideas about how Stet could be even more engaging, entertaining and informative. Although it’s published electronically, you don’t need technical skills to do this; we use a template from our membership management system so preparing the newsletter mostly means pasting text in the right places. And there’s plenty of help if you get stuck.

    Membership Manager

    If you’re interested in these jobs, please tell us why and what ideas and skills you would bring to them.

    Our Membership Manager looks after IWOC’s people. That involves answering questions from members and people thinking of becoming members, reminders about renewal periods, and ensuring information in our member database stays current. Sounds computer-ish, but it isn’t, and there’s plenty of free support and advice. In the future the duties of the job may also include more involvement in member outreach and engagement.

    You get paid! Money comes with these positions in acknowledgement of the time involved. Stet pays $250 per month, and the membership manager position pays $150 per month. All we ask in return is that you commit to doing these jobs consistently. Which means as editor, putting out a monthly publication of Stet and as Membership Manager, taking care of member matters and initiatives as they come up.

    If you’re interested in these jobs, please tell us why and what ideas and skills you would bring to them. Put all of that in an email and send it to me at president@iwoc.org no later than the last day of March. Send questions to me, too, at the same address.


    - David Steinkraus

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