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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.

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  • 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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  • 30 Jan 2016 1:22 PM | Roger Rueff (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    February 2016

    Volume 35 | Number 2

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    Getting to know you!

    Some notes on networking. IWOC meetings give members and non-members a chance to get together, catch up and interact. It is networking.

    Networking can occur during social events, meetings, and on social media. Networking can be fun, good for your business and good for you. Networking allows us to learn more about others, how we can help them and how they can help us. It can simply be about getting out and making friends. IWOC is a great group of friendly, caring and outgoing people, so it is easy to enjoy a meeting and meeting other IWOC and sometimes non-IWOC members.

    Networking is valuable in so many ways—it brings opportunities both for business and a chance to help others.

    Networking can be fun and good for your business and for you.

    It can lead to more connections and an increased profile. It can lead to confidence and bring positive influences in your life (when you surround yourself with positive, motivated, like-minded people you will be more positive and motivated yourself). I would like to create a section in the newsletter for an IWOC member profile of the month. I think we can get to know each other a little better through the newsletter. I would like to see members send in information about themselves and a photo.

    I would like to create an IWOC member profile section for Stet.

    There are many members that are not able to come to all of the meetings and even those that do, we could learn more about you or get a reminder of who you are and what you do. Since you are writing your own submission—it is an easy byline in Stet! I hope everyone likes the idea and starts sending in submissions.

    As a reminder, all submissions are due on the 15th of the month prior to publication on the first of the next month. So March submissions are due February 15th. Thanks for your assistance and looking forward to getting to know you better.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    February Meeting Preview

    Freelance Writing for Today’s Tough Media Markets

    Image courtesy Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Today, freelancing for media markets as an independent writer can be a rough-and-tumble experience—even for those with an iron will to succeed despite overwhelming odds and tough competition.

    That should be no surprise for those based in Chicago. Around the world, the image of Chicago usually reflects a tough, gritty town ready to edge out, or elbow, the competition.

    In the city’s breaking-news pages, on TV or radio, in print magazines, online, and in news-oriented cinema, the Chicago scene is riddled with tough, sweating strivers, hell-bent on winning out against any competition. Think of: John Dillinger with a Thompson machine gun; the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in the roaring 20s; or someone of lesser-importance today, squeezing the trigger rapidly on a 9-millimeter Glock.

    Freelancing for media markets can be a rough-and-tumble experience.

    It may also include determined IWOC writers, who insist on “shooting” for the media markets. So if you see yourself becoming the new “freelance gunslinger” in town, how can you further condition yourself and toughen up for greater freelance-media success? Indeed, if you “feel lucky,” then why not take a shot at gaining some invaluable insights on freelancing for print media, online media opportunities, and related media options.

    Come to IWOC’s next meeting on Feb. 9 to hear a presentation by experienced Chicago-based freelance writer and photojournalist Peter Bella, who will offer his first-hand advice based on years of street-wise savvy.

    Bella is the Unit Chair of Working Journalists, a freelancer’s union. He also writes blogs about the city and is also working on authoring his first cook book.

    Prior to launching a freelance writing career, Bella served as a police officer.

    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.

    To be sure, as some news reporters who have covered a night-side Chicago police beat are aware, such photos might include some rough, gory photographs. That has not effected his current position. Retired from police work, Bella says he has a passion for cooking and food—and some apparently even consider him to be the “Cooking Cop.”

    But also, Bella is the Unit Chair of Working Journalists and its part-time organizer/coordinator. This freelancers’ group, run by the Chicago News Guild, is aimed at strengthening freelance-based media professionals in the Chicago area, and is open to both union and non-union colleagues. Such “working journalists” include freelance writers, those who blog, those who do photography or videography/visual work, those who conduct public relations and other professionals focusing on other related media.

    At the upcoming February IWOC program, Bella will offer his insights on how freelancers can compete more effectively for media assignments, today’s media-writing opportunities, and what he sees as the biggest current challenges for independent writers. He will also discuss what Working Journalists does to help freelancers.

    So, if you see yourself wanting to become the new freelance-media gunslinger in town, be there!

    - Tom Lanning

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    January Meeting Recap

    Navigating the New World of Book Publishing

    Jim Kepler

    Once there were the Big 12 book publishers. Now there are only five, yet as traditional publishing has consolidated, other options have appeared or expanded. IWOC’s first meeting of 2016 was devoted to helping authors navigate this new and confusing publishing landscape.

    The audience filled every seat at our Gratz Center meeting room on a frigid January night to hear two expert speakers. Jim Kepler is a longtime IWOC member who runs the production house Adams Press. Kim Bookless is a publishing consultant and book editor who is president of Chicago Women in Publishing.

    The days of traditional book publishing are gone.

    Traditionally, Kepler said, authors submitted a manuscript through an agent to a major publishing house, and if it was accepted there were book tours and royalties, and perhaps an advance. Those days are gone. Agents are picky, budgets have been slashed, advances are so low no one can live on them while writing, and royalties for a popular book—more than 10,000 copies—will be 15 percent. The publisher’s 85 percent pays for its services—editing, coaching, marketing, cover design, production design, and printing—and of course increasing profits.

    Consider instead a small publisher, Kepler said, because you can approach these firms by yourself, and editors answer their own phones.

    He had a few tips:

    • Find a book like yours and make it part of your pitch. It gives the editor a reference point when you say you’re writing a similar book with a different angle.
    • Even if your book isn’t finished, write the blurb now, and write it as a sales piece. It will change as production continues, but initially it will focus your theme and show the hook that will grab readers.
    • As part of your proposal, mention what you will write next. Editors are always interested in what else they may be able to sell.
    • Keep artwork to a minimum, especially color, because it pushes up costs.
    • Find someone to write a foreword. This may be a person you interviewed while researching. A foreword is a great marketing tool because it shows someone thought well of your book.
    • Identify your audience specifically, not just engineers but engineers of a particular industry.
    Kim Bookless

    In self-publishing, Bookless said, the author has a much greater profit but also assumes the financial risk. And producing a book the right way can be expensive. One theme ran through her talk: Don’t do it yourself. Unless you’re an experienced book cover designer, an experienced developmental editor, an experienced copy editor, and experienced in html formatting for e-books, you need to hire professionals. Skimp on these costs, and your book will look amateurish.

    Her tips were:

    • Self-published authors must be willing to promote, and although many writers are more comfortable with their computers, it is difficult to succeed in self-publishing if you aren’t willing to do promotions.
    • Accept the fact that some people will not like your book. The best book in the world will be trashed by some reviewer on Amazon.
    • Begin marketing well in advance of publication. You can blog about your upcoming book, and you set up a website even if it announces nothing more than a title and projected publication date.

    Using a developmental editor is crucial.

    A developmental editor is crucial. This person will review your manuscript, tell you where it is weak, where it is strong, and how it can be improved. Better than going to a developmental editor with a finished manuscript is working with an editor from the beginning of your project because it will save your time and effort.

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    Publishing your own book means thinking like an entrepreneur, Bookless said. If you can’t afford to pay for a good job this year, wait until next year when you have enough money. Don’t dip into your children’s college fund or a 401(k) because making a profit from books is difficult. Look at a book project like a trip to Las Vegas: You establish a gambling fund and hope you will end with more than you started with, but you won’t be financially harmed if luck ignores you.

    - David Steinkraus

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    President's Column

    2015’s Top Word Opens Their Ear

    David Steinkraus

    You may not know of the American Dialect Society, which is devoted to the study of the English language in North America, but every year it holds, what it asserts is, the longest-running vote to select a word of the year. For 2015, the top word is “they” used as a singular pronoun, especially to indicate people who reject the standard sex-dependent designations of “he” or “she.”

    It’s a notable choice because it illustrates how limited our memories are and how silly are the criticisms of people who write those cantankerous letters to the editor lamenting the decay of language standards. Unfortunately for the guardians of word purityy, this use of “they” stretches back for centuries, says the society’s explanation of its choice. Chaucer, Jane Austen, and Shakespeare all contain variations of this usage.

    The use of "they" as a singular pronoun stretches back for hundreds of years.

    Perhaps you notice a similar style in modern British idiom. Listen to a BBC broadcast and you will hear a sentence like this: “Petroleum producer BP today announced they will cease exploration in the Arctic….” The plural pronoun turns the corporation into a collective in contrast to the singular “it” common on this side of the Atlantic. Look at the worldviews encapsulated in these choices. You can hypothesize that our aversion to using the plural “they” for a collective entity reflects or reinforces a reluctance to assign blame. A collective is automatically accountable because we implicitly understand the corporate “they” refers to real people who made poor choices and must bear the consequences.

    In an "it" corporation, people are components instead of human beings.

    In an “it” corporation people are components—detached, fungible parts just following orders, no one doing anything meaningful—instead of human beings with intelligence, freewill, and moral responsibility. This choice ferments passive constructions that diffuse responsibility in clouds of abstraction: Mistakes were made.

    The Washington Post has accepted this new or old use of “they,” but the Associated Press has not. Its—I should say “their”—current stylebook says “their” is a plural possessive and must agree in number with the antecedent.

    The problem is the lack of a generic third-person pronoun in American English.

    In other words, “Everyone raised their hands” is bad, bad, bad. And the Chicago Manual of Style (section 5.46 in the current 3-pound edition) declares that while common in casual usage, the use of “they” as a singular pronoun is simply not done. Of course, the manual admits, the problem is the lack of a generic third-person pronoun in American English, yet its answer to this insufficiency is section 5.225 that lists nine possible methods for writing around the problem. They are nine solutions in search of a problem because there isn’t one if the writer opens their mind a crack.

    The dialect society’s 2015 list includes other words, among them the word most likely to succeed in becoming part of the language, the one least likely to succeed, and best emoji. My favorite was the most creative word: “ammosexual,” meaning a person who fetishizes firearms.

    The vote is just for fun, says the society. It (or they) are not trying to impose its (or s/his, or their) imprimatur on the language, and that’s good because no one can, not even the Chicago Manual.

    The last quality we need in our language is rigidity.

    The last quality we need in our language is rigidity because it nurtures an accompanying rigidity of thought, which brings restriction of freedom. Orwell understood that. In “1984” his fictional dictatorship exerted social control and restricted thought by trying to remove words from the public vocabulary.

    Fortunately, and in defiance of attempts at control or blandness, language refuses to stop evolving, which is to say the public, they, are always creating something new, or at least finding something old to supplant what doesn’t work. And for writers that is an encouraging thought.

    - David Steinkraus

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  • 30 Dec 2015 5:30 AM | Roger Rueff (Administrator)
    Stet Newsletter
    January 2016

    Volume 35 | Number 1

    Editor's Note

    Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

    We have a new format for the newsletter! The board and I are very excited to present a newsletter that will be available in multiple formats for your viewing and reading pleasure—online, mobile, email. Wherever you are and whatever device you are using to read the newsletter—you will be able to do so.

    The new Stet format is completely searchable on the website.

    The new version of the newsletter will be searchable by topics, authors, subjects, and keywords. So when you contribute an article, it can be found. If you want to go back to it or the newsletter, you can. All newsletters will continue to be archived on the IWOC website.

    The deadline for submission of articles, columns or features is the 15th of month prior to publication. We will publish the newsletter on the first of the month. This publication date should give readers enough time to see it before the monthly meeting. It should also give writers enough time for submission.

    If you want to see something in Stet, just let us know.

    We plan to keep all of these previous features: the monthly meeting recap, the president’s column, information for the next meeting. If there are other items you would like to see in the newsletter, please let us know.

    We also plan to publish every month of the year... starting in 2016 of course. I think the previous meeting recaps and the announcement of the speaker or events for the next meeting are an important part the information the newsletter offers. I want to make that available to you every month of the year. Of course, the board will be opening up both the Stet editor and membership manager positions for people who want to fill them long-term so watch for the announcement in early spring. (For more information, please see the President’s Column, below.) But I am looking forward to the next few months as the editor of Stet.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    January Meeting Preview

    How to Write, Publish, and Market Your Book!

    Image courtesy adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    So you want to write a book?! On January 12th, two experienced book-publishing experts will discuss the specific steps that new (or old) authors must take to succeed. They will be offering a “one-two-three” type approach with practical advice that works! They will cover the entire process, beginning with the initial creative idea for your book and working all the way to its eventual sale. In today’s competitive marketplace, the experience and advice that will be offered will be priceless.

    In today's marketplace, the advice of experienced professionals is priceless.

    Based on their real-world publishing experience, two seasoned and professional IWOC veterans—James Kepler and Kim Bookless—will address the two major publishing strategies to consider today, including traditional royalty publishing and self-publishing. In their co-presentation, Kepler will discuss the pros and cons of traditional royalty publishing, while Bookless will delve into the advantages and weakness of self-publishing. There also will be an interactive Q&A session, discussing the respective benefits and challenges of each strategy.

    Kim Bookless

    Kim Bookless is a publishing consultant and editor. She helps authors bring their books to life by guiding them through the self-publishing process, serving as their advisor, advocate, and project manager. She is President of Chicago Women in Publishing (CWIP) and Founder of the Chicago Self-Publishing Group. Connect with Kim at www.kimbookless.com or kim@kimbookless.com.

    Jim Kepler

    Jim Kepler is the principal of Adams Press. The company's current web site says: "For more than half a century Adams Press has helped authors self-publish their books. Founded in 1942, Adams Press produces professionally printed books at a reasonable cost for authors, poets, educators, professionals, clergy, and others who choose to publish their own work." The author of several books himself, Kepler has also been a professional writer for many years, based in the Chicago area. He has been active in various writers' organizations, including IWOC, where he has served in several key capacities including as that organization's President.

    - Tom Lanning

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    November Meeting Recap

    Videographer Tom McCosky Shares Insights

    Tom McCosky

    Stewart Truelsen introduced our November speaker stating that we should all think about becoming writer-producers. In his experience, he has found that it usually involves more travel and more pay. The tools we need, we already have—the ability to interview and to tell stories. Then, hire someone like Tom McCosky (the speaker) to shoot the video.

    Tom has shot videos on just about everything, from farms to Broadway plays. His work has taken him around the world to interview celebrities and CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies. Tom has seen many changes in video production over the years, but understanding the client’s needs, expectations and budget have not changed! You have to spend some time with the client to understand what they want from the production. They may start with a script idea, get or have a written script and have the video shot and then edited.

    Tom has shot videos on just about everything, from farms to Broadway plays.

    More often than not, Tom has found that the clients have him shoot video based on an idea and then have the script written to fit the idea and the captured images. This may lead to “happy accidents” of have shots that you might not have gotten sticking to a pre-written script but overall Tom finds this method can cause consistency problems with the video.

    Tom usually comes in after pre-production has been done. He goes on location and may hire extra crew but brings his equipment. The minimum crew needed to shoot a video is a producer, cameraman (Tom) and sound person. A lighting person would be nice as well.

    If he does not have the right or enough equipment, he will rent it. In 2015, he used 32 different cameras ranging from highly professional all the way down to a windows phone. In fact, the images do not have to be top quality.

    Understanding the client’s needs, expectations, and budget is paramount.

    Sometimes a client wants a video that looks homemade. However, sound quality is key. No matter the picture quality, the sound has to be excellent. The equipment helps link the visuals with the sound. There is a time code generated by camera and the audio. It gives you the hour/minute/second and a frame number. You can link multiple cameras and to one code for easy of post production work including editing.

    When asked what costs and fees are, he responded that it really depends on the project and size of the crew. He usually gets paid for the day and it is a 10-hour day. The day rates can range from $500–$10,000/day for the crew and equipment.

    IWOC Members:
    Click here to access the meeting podcast!

    His work can be found in many places, multi channel and outlet, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, YouTube, Vimeo and web-site pages. Video tends to work across all types of media so there are not many changes needed for different outlets.

    If you want to do it yourself, he said there are many cameras available that are both good and reasonably priced. He gave some tips on how to to shoot your own video: Do not shoot into a window or against a white wall. Look for a neutral color, gray is best. Get the camera as close as possible to the subject without distortion. Get good clean audio (if you cannot hear what they are saying it does not matter what they look like). Do not shoot outdoors (if possible) with live audio–you cannot control sound and other things such as sirens, birds or honking horns. The subject or interviewee can look directly at the camera or, if it is more of a “60 minutes” style, not.

    The podcast of Tom's presentation is available to IWOC members on this website. His Web presence is here: www.vimeo.com/mfv. And he can be reached via email at tom@mccoskymedia.com.

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

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    President's Column

    The New-and-Improved Stet Format

    David Steinkraus

    As you know, Joen Kinnan recently decided to resign as Stet’s editor and membership manager, and to leave IWOC. She gave our organization many years of outstanding service in a variety of jobs, and we know you will join us in thanking her for all that hard work.

    After a discussion, the Board of Directors appointed Cynthia Tomusiak as interim editor of Stet and Roger Rueff as interim membership manager. Both appointments will last for five months. This period will allow time to establish procedures so Stet can be assembled on time and without strain.

    What you see before you is the new Stet, a publication that provides more flexibility and ease of use, requires less time and effort for production, and perhaps will give a little boost to your business profile.

    The new format is flexible, easier to produce, mobile-ready, and Web-searchable.

    This email newsletter format can be read as it is on your computer screen, no waiting for a web page to load, no need to download a separate file. Or you can print out Stet, or you can read it on a smartphone or tablet as many people already read other publications.

    Each issue of Stet will also be available on our website and searchable from the search box on the left side of the IWOC web pages, so if you can’t remember when something was in Stet, just type a keyword or two into the search box. And because Stet will be archived in a blog format, it will also be open to search engines such as Google, so anything in Stet that mentions you—a presentation you give, a column you write, a meeting recap you write, or your bit of member news—will be found by people outside IWOC. The blog format also allows IWOC members to post comments on any issue.

    IWOC members can now post comments on any issue of Stet.

    On the production end we now have a publication that can be created without the need for expertise in pagination software such as InDesign or in Web-design software. Because these skills are not common, relying on them to produce Stet means the newsletter can be sidelined by someone’s illness or personal disaster. The email format, combined with the procedures that will be established, will allow anyone in exigency to keep the newsletter in production.

    In a few months we will open the Stet editor and membership manager positions for people who want to fill them long-term. The editor will be responsible for gathering content and assembling each issue. The membership manager takes care of our member database: watches renewals and payments, edits records as needed, approves new members, maintains the list of contacts, answers questions, and so on. Because these duties require consistent blocks of time there is compensation: $250 per month for the Stet editor and $150 per month for the membership manager. Keep this in mind, and if you’re interested in doing either of these jobs, watch for the announcement of openings in early spring.

    IWOC and Stet will be stronger with contributions from everyone.

    Please bear with us during the transition. Everyone hopes for an uneventful shift to a new production process, but experience shows there may be rough spots. As we go through this, please do not hesitate to offer your suggestions and contributions. If there is something you would like to see in Stet, tell us. And if you have always cherished a secret desire to write a column, let that desire flower in Stet. Both IWOC and Stet will be stronger with contributions from everyone.

    That point about contributions and group effort brings me to my last point. You may know that we have a separate Program Committee responsible for arranging the informative meetings available to you every month. For this year, instead of filling the calendar a few months at a time, the committee brainstormed all the topics. I won’t say the focus for each month is firm—especially since I don’t have anything to do with it—but here is a taste of what to expect: February, freelance writing for the media; March, taxes, accounting, and making a profit; May, marketing and business strategies; June, how freelancing can help you in other careers; September, niche-based strategies. Compliments go to Sally Chapralis, Vladimire Herard, Tom Lanning, and Stu Truelson for taking this task and, as they say, crushing it.

    - David Steinkraus

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    IWOC Holiday Party 2015

    Fun, Food, and Fellowship at Star of Siam

    Betsy and Roger yodeling or surprised?

    The IWOC Holiday Party was held at Star of Siam on December 8th, 2015. Everyone in attendance had a great time! The food was very good and so was the service! Many thanks to Laura Stigler for taking the time to set up the party and ensuring that a good meal and a good time was had by all.

    The evening began with some beverages and conversation. Catching up with old friends, making new ones and mugging for random photos. Dinner was served family style with plenty of good food. Santa’s elves brought presents for everyone, and the annual book exchange provided new reads to everyone, as well.

    If you were unable to attend this year, make plans now to join us next year!

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

    Karleen, Brent, Roger, and George hold a serious holiday confab
    Karen and Vladimire evoke an Ingmar Bergman film
    Sally and Karen mug shamelessly for the camera
    Joyous holiday trouble a-brewin'
    Betsy, Laura, and Jeff beam with the glow of holiday IWOC-ness

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    Game Night and Pizza Party!

    What's the Word, Hummingbird?

    More than good friends and good food came out of this year’s IWOC holiday party! While people were toasting and chatting an idea was formed: Why not get together after the holidays? And why not have a little competition, with words?

    And voila! Here it comes—a post-holiday season word-game and social for IWOC members courtesy of Betsy Storm.

    The games will take place on Friday, January 15th, starting at 6:00 p.m. at Betsy's condo in Chicago. Betsy will have  salad and pizza ready, but you're on your own for drinks of any kind (B.Y.O.B.).

    Join us for some after-holiday fun!

    The cost is a mere $10, to cover the food, and we'll need an accurate head count, so if you're planning on coming, make sure to register online (no walk-ins, please).

    And be prepared for revelry and rivalry on a battlefield strewn with words!

    - Cynthia Tomusiak

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