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Stet Newsletter | November 2017

31 Oct 2017 10:20 AM | Anonymous
Stet Newsletter
November 2017

Volume 36 | Number 11

Editor's Note

Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

Thanksgiving – as my birthday falls on or near turkey day every year, this is my favorite holiday. (Christmas is second…are you seeing a theme here?) As school children, we are all told the history of the American tradition of the November holiday and some even dress up for school plays as pilgrims and other characters.

The American tradition as annual celebration of the harvest has roots in America as well as Europe, Egypt, Ancient Greece and Rome. According to, “Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores.”

However, the food is still as delicious and made even more so as we realize that, for us, it is the gathering of family that is the main event.

My family celebrates by getting together for a meal, a feast even, but the table has changed over time. We were very traditional for a long time with turkey and all the fixins. But, changes in the family in both diet and size have led to changes on our table. The whole turkey has been reduced to a turkey breast and a vegetarian option, the sides are lighter and more waistline friendly. Dessert is still present but also reduced in size and calories. However, the food is still as delicious and made even more so as we realize that, for us, it is the gathering of family that is the main event.

Has your Thanksgiving changed over the years? Let us know about some of your treasured or new traditions.

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

- Cynthia Tomusiak

November Meeting Preview

Master WordPress, Enhance Your Site, Reap Greater Profits

Want a better website or blog site that can help fatten your bottom line? Join IWOCans at our November meeting as we tap the expertise of the Wizard of WordPress, Scott Winterroth. Scott will help us master the potential of WordPress to create great websites, blog sites and more.

Think you don’t need to learn WordPress? Think again. WordPress offers myriad benefits. With WordPress, you can easily alter your website or blog site. Its plug-ins allow you to readily add functionality. You can also update your WordPress site with little effort. WordPress is highly esteemed by Google, which actually urges businesses use WordPress to create sites. WordPress is embraced by an avid community of users who are ready to assist when you need help. Best of all, WordPress is cost effective.

Best of all, WordPress is cost effective.

Scott, the founder of Content Academy, will tell you all you need to know about building, growing and managing your WordPress website or blog site. A lively question-and-answer session will follow Scott's presentation, giving you the chance to absorb even more of the Wizard's wisdom.

The IWOC meeting will take place Tuesday, November 14th in Room 4G (4th fl.) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. /115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking (after 5 pm, with validation) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered). Free for first-time attendees, but on-line registration is still required. After the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby Italian bistro for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics or to continue networking.

For more information, call 800-804-IWOC (800-804-4962) or visit

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

- Melanie Hirsch

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October Meeting Recap

Roundtable discussion: Your Queries, Your Advice

At the October 10 meeting, participants divided into three groups (led by Brent Brotine, Diana Schneidman and Karen Schwartz) to discuss numerous freelance-writing issues that plague us and the solutions that have been most successful in addressing those issues.

Participants’ advice includes:

  • Never say “no” to revenue. Keeping busy helps us work more quickly and cultivate long-term clients.
  • Let the prospect name the price first. A tactful way to ask for more money: “Can you sharpen your pencil a bit?”
  • Conduct a post-project evaluation with the client. Ask what went well and what could be different. Ask if the client knows anyone else who can use your services. Ask for testimonials and attribute them on your website by client initials only. Then identify them as an “executive in [name of industry] industry.”
  • Create an itemized proposal listing each step in the project. Explain that for each step, either you can do it or the client can do it. If the client wants to cut costs, he can take on more of these steps. (In practice, clients are hesitant to take on more work—that’s why they are hiring a freelancer in the first place.) Sometimes clients are unhappy to pay the full invoice because their objectives have not been achieved, for instance, when sales copy generates fewer sales than anticipated. An itemized proposal and invoice remind the client that all promised steps have been carried out and therefore full payment is due.
  • Networking among friends provides unexpected opportunities. Anyone can be a surprising lead to new business.
  • Sources of new business include IWOC (assignment postings, searchable IWOC directory, portfolio on IWOC website), other IWOC members,, LinkedIn, trade journals, Chambers of Commerce, the Illinois Department of Employment Security, direct mail, and cold calling.
  • Other useful resources include (identify designers and other creatives), (freelance talent network), (listings of creative assignments), IWOC podcasts (available to members from the website for listening at home) and Diana Schneidman's book Real Skills, Real Income, available on Amazon.

- Diana Schneidman

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President's Column

A Museum Worth 1000 Words

Laura Stigler

Normally, when visiting museums the world over, we rightfully expect them to be filled with illustrious objects. Paintings. Photographs. Scientific inventions. Memorabilia of an era. All kinds of stuff, usually accompanied with a side note the size of a postcard defining or interpreting what we are viewing. But in the case of the recently opened American Writers Museum, where a group of IWOC’ers were privileged to tour for free, it was the very words themselves that were the objects of our attention.

It wasn’t a bucolic landscape that sent us into reverie. But a snippet of transcendental poetry. It wasn’t a cubist painting that purposefully amused and confused. It was an excerpt of seemingly nonsensical prose. And it wasn’t a black and white photograph that jarred us into reality, but the stark, eloquently written reportage of a renowned journalist.

Words. The beauty of them. Their ability to transform, inspire, shake and awaken. All originated by and in celebration of the American writer. These are the treasures that are on display at this most unique of world-class museums.

Words. The beauty of them. Their ability to transform, inspire, shake and awaken.

Such were my first impressions, but I don’t want to take up any more room. I’d rather cede this space to my fellow IWOC travelers whose own impressions of the AWM are inspirations in themselves. Here they are, in the order of their appearance in my Inbox...

– “The museum highlight for me was seeing the actual roll on which Kerouac typed out his original draft of On the Road. Instead of dealing with individual pages, he simply rolled the end of a roll of paper into his typewriter and started typing out in single space his recollection of four trips across the U.S. in the late 1940s. Not having to even take the time to roll another sheet of paper into the carriage allowed him to keep going in stream-of-consciousness mode. On the Road is almost a religious experience, and anyone who hasn't read the book must.
My second favorite part of the museum was the Chicago section, where writers who lived in Chicago like Dreiser, Anderson, Ferber, Algren and Royko are celebrated. I came away with renewed plans to read Ferber's A Peculiar Treasure (1939), about her early days in Chicago, and Algren's Man with the Golden Arm, the 1950 National Book Award winner, described today as ‘one of the seminal works of post-World War II American letters.’” – Jeff Steele
– “There was so much about the museum that was mind blowing. But I do have to say that I am part of the people signing a petition to have Viola Spolin included in the Chicago people (she was a more important writer in the theater/improv movement than Del Close) but that did not diminish the overwhelming power of the museum.
At one point there was just so much to see and read that I realized that I need to become a member and possibly even a volunteer so that I can take it in over time.
I did love the wall at the end of the room with all of the words that would light up with various quotes and sound effects and visuals. Also loved hearing the typewriter sounds.
A thrilling and humbling experience.” – Francesca Peppiatt
– “Think ‘interactive’ and you'll find rooms filled with creative displays that almost beg you to participate in pushing buttons, flipping swivel panels, and listening to authors' recorded readings. Printed quotations surround you and you're even given the opportunity to create a story via crowd-sourcing participation. Yes, there are actual books there (with some forming a ceiling grid) but it's the hands-on attractions that both captivate and teach.” – Richard Eastline
– “It is a strange thing to tour a museum dedicated to your own craft. It is like looking in a mirror and seeing your best self reflected back at you, only more brilliantly than you could ever imagine yourself being. The exhibit that tickled me silly was the ‘Mind of a Writer’ exhibit, especially since my own experience with words and inspiration is a bit different than the options displayed. I could not take it all in. I will have to go back.” – Julie Polanco
– “My favorite part of the tour was having the opportunity to hear the individual voices (as in spoken out loud) of so many writers. Although I likely paid closer attention to the fiction writers and poets, I was glad that others were well-represented--for example, many former Presidents of the United States. Finally, though it was not part of the tour, I loved buying future Christmas and birthday presents for people that are related to the written word, as it is far more fun to buy these kinds of gifts than the often lackluster ones I've seen in the mall.” – Marjorie Skelly
– “It would have taken many more hours to check out everything, so I spent a lot of time in the narrow first room, going down both walls and checking out the writers and the short but really informative bios. So many names rang a bell but I had not read them, so I loved flipping the photos around to read what they'd done. And I was impressed with the number of women and blacks included—many of whom I'd not heard.” – Pat Terry
– “I had a wonderful time! I enjoyed most the interactivity of the museum. Too often, museum displays are either canned lectures or “no touching” displays. AWM is a welcomed change. I will be returning often.” – Jo McEntee
– “After spontaneously stumbling upon IWOC and quickly embracing membership, the last minute invite to the American Writers Museum (AWM), continues to demonstrate I have found a welcoming, thoughtful and productive group in the IWOC family of writers. AWM was on my list to visit, the invitation came quickly and I grabbed it. I was struck by so many things at AWM: its creation took 8 years from concept to execution; many forms of writing are showcased (media, plays, advertising, cinema); and I was exposed to new writers, again reminding me that writing is necessary and important. I left AWM, knowing while my writing is undiscovered by many, it will reach those that need to find it when they need to find it. I'll visit AWM often for ideas, inspiration and courage.” – Alicia Dale

On behalf of IWOC, I want to extend a special thanks to AWM Supporter Shanti Nagarkatti and Assistant Program Director Sonal Shukla for their generosity and help in arranging the tour.

Because the AWM staff were so pleased with IWOC's tremendous feedback of the tour, IWOC members were invited to a V.I.P. reception for legendary photographer Art Shay on October 26. We were extremely honored to accept the invitation from the Museum. To paraphrase the last line of one of the all time classics of American cinema, may this be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

- Laura Stigler

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IWOC Member Article

Creativity is way overrated in freelancing

Diana Schneidman

Creativity is fine if that is what the assignment calls for, but it is easy for a solopro to miss the mark by being too creative.

This is especially true for projects that are well-defined by the client. I’m thinking of content writing, because that’s the kind of work I often do, but this can apply to other fields as well.

I discovered this the hard way when employed full-time in corporate jobs. The boss would explain what she wanted. She would say, “Start the executive’s quotation in the press release with, ‘We are excited to announce.’”

Later we would discuss it again and she would remind me, “Start the quotation with, ‘We are excited to announce.’”

In my early days, I would intentionally begin with something else, possibly, “We are pleased to announce.” But other times I would go off in a totally different direction.

Eventually I learned that it is not laziness to follow directions.

I realize that you are not dumbstruck by the significance of these changes. Seems like pretty much the same thing either way.

But at the time I believed it was important to demonstrate creativity, that they were paying me to come up with something new and different.

It took work to develop these variations, and furthermore, the copy was often amended after it left my desk to something closer to what my supervisor recommended in the first place.

Eventually I learned that it is not laziness to follow directions. It saves time and gets the job done more effectively.

Following directions is not the drone way out of bringing more to the job. It’s simple common sense unless there is something clearly wrong with the original directions.

In many tasks, there is no single right way. So why not do the job as directed?

This is even truer in self-employment. Let’s make life easier for both ourselves and our clients by following the most direct route from Point A (data that has been provided to us) to Point B (what we submit to the client).

As we bring our creativity to bear on the work, we must always consider if our unique approach is really more effective or if we are on an ego trip to convince ourselves we are so utterly creative even though the work we submit receives substantial reworking by the client.

The client decides what they want and what they don’t want. Some assignments are done right when the client decides they are done right. So, let’s not kill ourselves creating what they don’t want.

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

- Diana Schneidman

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IWOC's New Members

Please welcome:

Sheryl Steines - Professional Member

Jim Ardito - Professional Member

Camille Severino - Associate Member

- Roger Rueff

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IWOC Board of Directors

Laura Stigler (President), George Becht (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay and Jeff Steele (co-Secretaries), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), Tom Lanning (Parliamentarian), Richard Eastline, Marjorie Skelly (Directors)

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