Friday, May 30, 2008

Oh... dear... French Maids, UR Doin' It Wrong

I swear, I don't watch these kinds of videos all the time, or, ever actually. But I laughed and laughted and even LOL'd with How to Give CPR at

I totally blame Peter Shankman at for mentioning the how-to videos at this site. Baaad Peter, Baaad.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

And I thought a strong will was a good thing...

I’ve discovered my least favourite word is “will”.

As I edit, I’m finding it crossed off everywhere. It’s an indicator of a weakly phrased sentence.

“You will find that this gets easier.”


“This gets easier.”

Just remove the will!

Chicken Soup sold, new project on the go...

According to the recent Publishing Syndicates newsletter, the Chicken Soup anthologies have been sold to an East Coast publisher. Publishing Syndicate has always had a great reputation, they pay on time, they are good to their writers, they have been writers themselves.

Now they are getting set to announce a new anthology:

Publishing Syndicate is proud to announce a new anthology series. At this time, we
are discussing this series with several publishers and for this reason cannot release the name of the project just yet.

This book series is the brainchild of friend Kathleen Partak. With the changes in
Publishing Syndicate’s direction, Kathy’s idea for a book series is now becoming a
reality. Of course, Kathy will have top billing, followed by the two of us, and Publishing Syndicate will act as the managing entity.

Even though we can’t share the name of the series with you at this time, we can
give you a sneak peek at the structure: It will be an anthology series (with stories from you!) combined with interviews from experts, inspiration on par with that found in books such as The Secret, and how-to tips and advice, similar to the Dummies series. These books will allow our readers to “read, identify, and do” and become an active participant.

So make sure you have their web site bookmarked and stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I'd like some blood, please.

Via fellow PWACer, Marijke Durning.

Please take a moment to visit Heal Emru and consider getting tested as a bone marrow donor.

What The Heck Do You Want From Me???

I spoke with a few writers this past weekend about how to get into magazines. I spoke with one friend who has a great start on a writing career and just needs to up her game a bit, and another younger writer who is certain that This Is Her Career but needs to know how to get started.

I tried to give the best advice I could and thought I'd share some of it here, maybe a bit better written (I hope) than spoken.

You are a writer, but you are also a salesperson. You are selling a product that is part YOU and part WORDS. About 3/4 of your pitch is about the product. 1/4 is why you are the writer for the job. If you are less experienced, you may need a little less space for YOU, but don't discredit what you have to offer: personal experience, schooling, work history, awards, accreditation, letters behind your name...

When you pitch a query, think of it as, well, a pitch. You are getting ready to throw a ball to a batter and that batter can hit it or not. You want the batter to hit it, so get ready. Perfect it, make it a nice round package, then lob it carefully. It may fall flat, it may get knocked out of the park.

You cannot control what the editor accepts, you can only control what you put out into the world. So work hard on developing your queries first in your niche area (whatever you decide that is) and then broadening out.

What the editor wants, is a great writer who pitches a great story with a unique angle and written in a compelling voice (one that compels the reader to continue reading), even if the topic is somewhat dry.

Here's a great post (hat/tip WordCount/by Michelle Vranizan Rafter) on the topic of what editors want from freelancers. One of my favourite bits:

What’s The Value? Unfortunately, the law of supply and demand dictates the market for freelancers. There are tons of freelancers out there. (I didn’t say they were good, just that they’re out there.) Everyone wants to write and thinks they can write. So, how valuable are freelancers? Valuable if they deliver. That means they meet deadlines, the copy is tight and bright, they follow the assignment sheet, they keep you abreast of developments, especially problems, and they contact you early – not the day before – when a sticky point develops.

One of my freelancers should probably get more money from me. I don’t want to lose him, but there’s something called a budget. So I pay him within one week (or less) when he turns in the assignment. And I have only sent one assignment back for a minor touch-up in about five years. Any follow-up, I do. What I’m doing is keeping his workload to a minimum and paying faster than anyone in the freelance universe. He loves working with me, and I enjoy working with him. I’m also appalled that the freelance market doesn’t pay any better today (per word) than it did 25 years ago. Supply and demand. There will always be more supply than demand – and the wages reflect that reality.

Go and check it out and start pitching those editors!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dear Jerk Face

Dear Jerk Face:

I'm going to guess that when you sideswiped my car sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, you didn't know everything that we have been going through.

You didn't know how hard it's been, climbing slowly out from under debt accrued living in this expensive city.

You didn't know that this car represented something for me. It was just about to become 'my' car, as we sold my beloved truck to save money on fuel and car payments.

Last month we put over $1000 into it, getting the brakes done. We bought it last year from my former in-laws. It was my former father-in-law's car and he and I havent' always gotten along, but you know what? When I drove this car I thought nice thoughts about him because it had been maintained very well.

I even harboured these secret feelings that in a way he'd passed it down to me. We were going to take care of it. The two car seats nestled in the back might have given you an idea that this is a family car. This is our family's car.

And yet, now we face the possibility that it gets written off. Because the damage is enough that we need to inform the insurance company and they get to decide what to do.

I can't very well drive around without a side mirror, can I? And the damage sticker is good for only so long.

Thankfully I did not find out about this yesterday when I was having A Day From Hell. It might have pushed me over the edge. But this morning when I drove the kids to school there was a wonderful song playing: "on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, I will not be moved."

And so I won't be moved. I won't give in to the anger that I feel right now. I won't Lose. My. Shit. I won't let this dissuade me. I know that people are fallible. I know that if you were in a good place, you would have left a note.

So I forgive you.



Friday, May 23, 2008

The G Word. Like the G Spot But Less Fun.

I’ve taken off about ten days of work (started yesterday) so I can get some writing done. I have much to do. One book to write, another to edit.

I feel a bit like I’m cheating because my daughter is at day care and my son is in school. Well, the school thing isn’t really cheating. But having my daughter in day care while I’m at home writing – that feels a lot like cheating. It’s not like I haven’t put in my time of writing during nap times and after the kids go to bed. But a big shadowy part of me sits inside my chest saying “you should have your kids with you, you’re a writing mother, not a single lady, your kids neeeeed you.”

When Joshilyn takes off for a week sans children to write. I wonder if she feels guilty. When Shirley has cleaners come in during the week I wonder if she feels guilty. I don’t think that they should at all. I think that they have made very smart decisions to do what works for them so they can get their writing done.

So what makes me so special that I should feel guilty about this?

Nothing really, in fact, just typing that out made that little shadowy part of me shrink just a smidge. I don’t feel guilty when I go off to work – it’s something that just needs to be done. So I’m going to excise the guilt right now. The best way to do it is to get to work. Because if I’m sitting here eating bon-bons, then guilt might be called for. But I’m not. I’m working.

And may I just say: this is my ideal working environment. At home, in the quiet. Do you hear that husband?

Major Man and I have an ongoing discussion about the eventuality of me staying at home to write. I’m sure it will happen one day. But I have a Day Job that is kind of satisfying, a nice place to work with opportunities for advancement. But I wonder if it’s as satisfying as the job I have at home, as a writing mother. My instincts tell me it’s not.

Every day I come across something else I could be doing if I were writing at home. There are courses I could be planning and teaching. There are other books to write. There are articles zinging around in my head that I have no time to query.

I mostly lurk at a web site called Freelance Success, or FLX for short. It’s full to the brim with writers who are making good money at their trade. Some are in the six figures. To read their posts is like sipping on a cappuccino of inspiration. I feel the jolt of “I can do that”. Sometimes I actually feel my heart rate increase, or I get goosebumps.

But then there’s the safety of my job. The security. There’s the rub. Security. Ensconced in my cubicle farm where I can make decisions; where my ego is massaged daily with “I know who will know: Heather will know” and the almost weekly pats on the back from my boss. These keep me there. Should they?

Wouldn’t it be better to taste the unsecure freedom? Up until recently, I’ve been the breadwinner. Major Man has had one setback after another when it came to employment. Up here in Canuckistan they just didn’t understand his military background and that it prepared him for more that shooting at things in a tank.

But now he’s in a training class that – if he passes – could transition into a great job. If it does, he’ll shoot past me in the earning department. And if we’ve been able to survive on one income for three years…

Decisions, decisions.

What Would You Do?

I have a question, I've posted it at my Canadian Parents blog, would you mind comin' over and answering it for me?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Have I said this before?

I know I recommended the book before, but really... now I really, really want to recommend it. Between Interruptions is a book edited by Cori Howard and it's the first book in a good long while that has had me crying in the bathtub.

Normally I don't do that. Normally I read a book in kind of a rushed, sneak it in while you can before the baby wakes, sort of way. But there are essays or "momoirs" in this book got to me.

Writing Mothers should read this book.

You'll find yourself in its pages.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wanna come to church?

My Pastor is now podcasting his sermons. And he's really funny....

Listen here.

I'm listening to the Mother's Day sermon right now and it's very good. Pastor Steve is very funny!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spark your creativity

I don't know about you, but sometimes my creative juices have done dried up. (No, I'm not Southern, I'm channelling... ) But between the early mornings and late evenings, it can be hard to get anything written. Even blog posts. (Um, did you notice?)

But here's a cool little site to get you writing:

One Word

You have 60 seconds to write about one word.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Here's a great talk from Jodi Picoult on how she did research for her latest book. Honestly I have always been a bit pro-capital punishment.... but I waffle. It's not really a subject that the affected can waffle about, is it? Jodi's experience is quite dramatic, and she's a good storyteller:

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Love Thursday for Mrs. L.

Dear Mrs L,

When my son was in Kindergarten it was your first year as principal at our school. I was a little weirded out by you because you were simply too sweet. You seemed to be patting me on my head and smiling just past me all the time. I was never really sure that you knew what was going on in the trenches.

But M had a great and wonderful teacher who had been teaching for three decades. I didn't really have to worry about anything because Mrs S had things covered.

And then this year things with M really seemed to take a bit of turn for the worse.

But, Mrs L, you've been a surprising new discovery. You love children. When I had to come in to the office and talk to you and I got all weepy because if M's difficulties, you saw right through me like my skin was made of glass. You started telling me about how it was when your kids went to school and you were so busy working full time and trying to manage kids and how now you just hired a wonderful teacher and you didn't even know until she brought it up that she taught your kids grade one during that first difficult year of being a working mom.

The compassion you've shown for my son is simply unmatched. You're so concerned about his self-esteem and you see this amazing brightness in him that I thought perhaps I was the only one to see for a while. You see his compassionate side and his desire to be liked and you are the first to stop me in the hall and tell me that he's had exactly 3 wonderful days in a row at school. When he has bad days you make sure you note down the time and what was happening, not just to tell me, but to try and determine what exactly is causing it. Could it be food related? Transitions? Just being tired?

And knowing that you raised five children (one that just graduated from Harvard) is just another reason that I know you get it. Having five kids turn out well isn't a fluke. You did something right. At the literacy night this week, your stories of the way you read with your kids was inspiring and made me want to scoop up an armful of new books and sit down with my son and read until we fell asleep.

Yes, this year I've gotten to know you and I'm so very thankful that you're in M's life.

So you can understand why I'm taking your retirement so very hard. I can't even talk to you about it without getting big fat stupid tears in my eyes. I hate that. But I hate that you are leaving even more. I don't want you to go. Don't go, ok? Please? Yes, you have more than earned your retirement, but in just two and a half more years we'll be moving up to the next school and you can leave then, ok? Because we need you here.

We need your passion. We need to hear how excited you get when you are telling the kids about the play coming up and when you are extolling the virtues of newspapers and their role in literacy to a handful of parents and when you are congratulating a child on just getting through a week without a major incident.

Just please don't go, we still need you.

Strangely enough, I'd probably NOT take the cash and run.

BOSTON - If a stay-at-home mom could be compensated in dollars rather than personal satisfaction and unconditional love, she'd rake in a nifty sum of nearly US$117,000 a year.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Somedays it's intimidating out there...

I find it staggering ... simply staggering... the number of wonderful women writers on the web. (I was going to say 'female' but my favourite feminist on the planet says that We Are Women! not 'females')

The writing is there to be discovered on the web. So many wonderful writers that I might never have heard of if it weren't for the interwebs.

First, there's Dooce. Heather Armstrong. First woman blogger I know whose blog became a verb. If you got fired for blogging about work... you were dooced. She does this thing where she blogs each month of her daughter's life. She's up to 51 months and this last month was one of the best posts ever because it wasn't just to her daughter today... it was to her daughter in 12 years or so when she's on the internet, reading what her mom wrote about her.

Then there's Kira at Kiwords. I can honestly tell you that Kira has made me a better mom. I've never read anyone who could write so beautifully about the simplist things... soon I was looking at things differently. Small things became magnified. Raising my kids because more of an adventure than a task. Sometimes she comes up with lines like "Raphael is completely enthralled with his cup, and wore it most of the day on Saturday. It protected his young squishy boyness during a particularly brutal game of Wii baseball, and also kept him safe during multiple thunks with his own delighted knuckles." That made me smile so hard my son saw me and said "mommy, what is that face you are making!?" I do smile, really, just not normally that crazily.

And Mir, who is, like, the bloggy queen in my books. So many times I've laughed out loud at something she's said, even when it's as short as "I. Lost. My. Shit." which caused me to make another laughy face ... except I was at work and someone passed by and said "UH, what are you laughing at?" and I couldn't really tell them because, um, hello web surfer at work....

No list would be complete without Joshilyn who - I think - invented The Mental Illness Number along with the term Best Beloveds (which is how I sometimes want to address my team at work, 'cept it's not really appropriate for the work setting!) But I love how she makes me feel ... the same, and yet, sane.

And there are new ones that I'm finding all the time. Motherhood Uncensored, Edgy Mama, Mommy Needs Coffee and Attack of the Redneck Mommy. And so many more ... I mean, just look at my links over there on the right ------------>

So who is your favourite female woman blogger and why?

RIP Eight Belles

This past weekend saw the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby. This is one third of the famed "Triple Crown" and very few fillies have run the race, it's a boy's club.

But a little filly named Eight Belles was going to give it a go. The reporters called her a "pro" and "unflappable". Some horses just have a workmanlike attitude. They know their job, they want to do their job, they want a purpose. You know when you ride these horses that they like their job. Some might disagree, they might say we force them to work. To those people I say that you've never seen two horses race each other by themselves. You've never seen a cutting horse cut plastic bag blowing in the wind, just because. You've never seen a horse nudge his handler to get into the ring or rub its head on its owner's arm and nudge for treats.

Eight Belles was one of those horses. You can see in her warm-ups that she's running free from pain. A horse in pain does not keep her ears forward and her eyes so alert.

She fell, breaking both ankles. Or perhaps breaking her ankles caused the fall. There is no way to know. But I've been on horses when they fall down. In fact, my first horse, a standardbred ex-racehorse had stopped racing due to an ankle injury. He was put down after I was riding him (years after his original injury) and he tripped, re-fracturing his ankle. And that was at a slow pace. I have no doubts that going as fast as Eight Belles was going, that she tripped and broke both ankles.

Think of it as you rollerblading, tripping and trying to brace yourself with both hands. It's so very sad.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Saturday, May 03, 2008

When you see a copyright violation....

So you're on a group, a Yahoo group or some kind of listserv. Consistently you see articles being posted - full text, copy and pasted. What do you do?

First, there's the chance that the offender has actually asked permission to post those articles. So you can't go in guns a blazin' and yelling fire. But you can ask if permission has been granted.

I belong to a Yahoo group used for Crockpot recipes... and I've been turning a blind eye to the posting of entire articles to the list. But a few weeks ago the list mom posted something about how she knows all about copyright and nothing she's been doing has been violating copyright because of the rules of copyright regarding recipes. (Ingredients can't be copyrighted, some descriptions can, but with crockpot recipes the descriptions are very often "put it all in, turn it on")

I emailed her off list and politely informed her that while the recipes might be ok, the posting of the full text of articles was actually not. She seemed irritated. An excert from her missive:

"But as I know that Wednesday's food section becomes Friday's fish wrap...I don't see any harm in posting articles from newspapers. In case you don't get the metaphor...newspaper articles are ephemeral...they exist for a day and are gone. I just don't believe anyone is harmed with me or anyone else sharing them. If you disagree with my policy, you are welcome to leave the list. Just because you are a writer, doesn't mean you should *get your undies in a bunch* over copyright. Some people take themselves WAAAY too seriously."

I tried not to get offended. I was really only trying to mention that she might be better served posting links rather than full text, since technically posting the full article was a copyright violation.

She followed it up with "Cooking is NOT an artform that is protected under copyright. Recipes and cooking information are shared quite freely on the Internet. You may not agree...and again, you are welcome to NOT be a part of the list. I'm a writer myself, and believe that bigger works (magazines, books, etc.) deserve full protection. But a couple of articles from newspapers....really, you find this bothersome? Seriously, Heather, get a life!"

Oops, there I go again, me and my no life and taking things too seriously, almost like it were my job! Oh, wait, it is.

It can be really easy to respond in a snappy manner when someone is so ignorant of the laws and how they apply. It's very black and white. If it's yours, do what you want with it. If it's not yours, you have to get permission. We don't get to choose where copyright should be enforced and where it shouldn't - it's a simple matter of ownership. I responded in a polite manner, I didn't tell her she's an idiot (because she's not, she's just ignorant of the rules).

"I apologize for offending you. I simply wanted to ensure that you were aware of the copyright violations. As a writer, I do make my money from selling the "right to copy" my articles. My "undies" were not in a bunch, I was simply engaging in a little exercise of education in case it was required. Writing is writing and copyright is in place as soon as words are in a fixed format. I'm sincerely sorry that you do not understand that and I hope that as a writer you do not ever have your work used without permission. I am a professional and do tend to take writing seriously as it's how I feed my children. I'm sorry that offends you."

I guess I just struggle with what to do as a writer when you see something "wrong". I'm going with "point it out politely, let go, move on". Or as my husband says "Acknowledge and move on". I actually would feel very bad if this individual had her work used without permission, but I think that would probably be the only way she'd learn that her writing is hers and hers alone. and she deserves to be paid for it.

And I believe she's a writer, whether she's published or not. But I want to tell her, "how do you think your future publisher will view your lack of respect for copyright?" I know that my publishers would drop me quicker than I could say 'intellectual property rights'.

The correct way to point someone to an article is:
Copyright on the Web seems to be a difficult concept for people to understand. If you did not write or create the article, graphic, or data that you found, then you need permission from the owner before you can copy it. Remember, when you use someone's graphic, HTML, or text without permission, you are stealing, and they can take action against you.
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