Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Capitalist Society

I don’t get it.

Please, someone explain this phenomenon to me.

OK, fine. I’ll give you the background, instead of forcing you to read my mind, which is clogged with ridiculous thoughts and Sudafed. (Thank you, grandson, for the recycled gift of what is no longer a common cold virus, but has mutated into Mighty Morphin Super Snot.)

I am writing an article for the real estate section of my newspaper.

Here is the copy written by the agent, which appears on the glossy ad sheet. Note: This is exactly as it appears. 

Incredibly peaceful and Quiet location. Fabulous Cape Cod mansion located on a huge 25,000 Sq. Ft. lot. Backs to the privacy of an Open Space. Tumbled Sandstone, new carpet, fresh paint. Large kitchen with Granite counters and Viking Appliances. Pool and large grassy area with play area for kids.


Before we go on:

a.  I know this person is not a professional writer.
b. Far be it for me to bite the hand that feeds my runny-nosed grandson.

I am simply using this paragraph as an example of rampant, widespread over-capitalization. Everywhere. In all forms of communication. Some of it by professionals—perhaps not writers, but people who are in business—that should know better. 

Have you noticed it? Or am I hallucinating? Really, I haven’t taken that much Sudafed.

Never mind. I just found this. There's even a name for it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ruler of My Domain Names

I give up.

Not entirely. Just a little.

That is, I gave up. Past tense. I gave up a couple of my domains.

Have you ever done a search for a domain name? It’s kind of fun to see what’s taken and what isn't. When I was researching suitable names for my online vintage purse museum, I chose extras. Among them: purseperson.com, thisoldpurse.com, madforpurses.com and a couple of others. I’ve got them for sale on GoDaddy right now because I’m not sure I’ll ever use them.

One of the names I vetoed was purseexpo.com. See, I was thinking of maybe some day organizing an event for those who love vintage and modern purses—with vendors and crafters and all that jazz. You know—a Purse Expo. And then my daughter pointed out that the name looked too much like it was some kind of sex expo. Because extra vowels create optical illusions. Or sooomeeethiiiing.

So, technically, for now, I've only given up discouragingwordbook.com, because that expired and I simply wasn’t going to renew it. That’s the one I was using to market my unpublished book of my experiences as a freelance writer. I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to do with the book, other than reread it occasionally and cry.

The other is advertorial75.com. I still own the name—until September, anyway—but I gave up the schmancy website. I had this brilliant idea (she said, sarcastically) to offer flat-fee advertorials of 300-400 words. Seventy-five bucks on any topic. Except sex expos. I have my standards, you know.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to surrender my writers’ resource domain name, writecave.com, when that comes due. It’s redirected from a (free) blog, so it doesn’t cost that much to renew just the domain name. But I haven’t been posting to it recently since I’ve been busy with freelance work, my museum internships (slowly going for that certificate in Art Museum and Gallery Studies from CSU, East Bay), and The Vintage Purse Gallery's website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Occasionally someone goes to The Write Cave and clicks the Google ads, which gives me a few pennies in income, which I appreciate (she said, surprisingly unsarcastically). Hey, man, I’ll take what I can get. Online college courses are pricey.

Anyway, if you’re bored and considering buying up some domain names, you should do it. Like I said, it's fun. Also, I hear PurSeEXpo is still available.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

All Things Being Equitable

Last year, my husband and I got an equity line on our house, because we never want to retire.

OK, just kidding. We’d love to retire. We just can’t afford to. The equity line was to do some renovations on the house that will never be paid for, because we are self-employed.

I’m not kidding about that.

Our actual house. We painted it this color because they were out of hot pink.

We went to the loan guy at our credit union and I immediately had him figured out. I know that’s not fair, but he was blow-hardy from the get go, and I hate blowhards, even though my husband has told me repeatedly not to hate. Apparently, hating is not good for your blood pressure or complexion or sitting quietly in a bank while some blowhard asks you many questions and makes you feel uncomfortable, even if you have really good credit and always pay your bills and have nothing to be ashamed of.

I told him I’m a freelance writer because that’s what it says on my tax return. He told me he was a writer, too, and that he’d had an “editorial” in People Magazine.

Well, you know what a big, fat Googlestalker I am. After we finished our business with Mr. Blowhard, I went home, Googled his name and People Magazine, and found that he’d written a…

letter to the editor…

in 1995.

So, I don’t make very much money. That is, I could never get an equity line based on my income alone and our family relies on my wonderful, non-hating husband to keep us in groceries and vintage purses and house payments and such.

Last extended vacation we had, nine years ago, Grand Canyon, Arizona. I am clinging tightly to him should he suddenly decide I buy too many vintage purses.

Even though he is by far the breadwinner, the loan underwriter (who received the paperwork from Mr. Blowhard) asked some questionable questions about my insignificant income, like “Why did Wendy make more money in 2011 than in 2012?” My answer was that I was the sole writer for a newspaper special section, which was eventually discontinued, which meant I no longer had that regular income. Which, again, was not a make-or-break amount of money in terms of us, as a couple, securing an equity line.

While this seems to be a non sequitur after my having groused about the blowhard and his “editorial,” it is quite linear. 

See, I have no idea why someone would brag/lie to me about something he wrote when the reality of being the average freelancer is definitely not glamorous and certainly not financially rewarding.

I am impressed by anyone who can sell a story or article or whatever and get his or her name in print, even when it is a one-time deal. Because I know how hard it is.

I am not impressed by a letter to the editor, even if it is in a national publication, and especially when the person who wrote it is trying to pass it off as a writing coup of sorts and calling it something it is not. This is unfair to anyone who has legitimately sold work or won a writing contest.

That statement, said firmly but without hate, and the $75 I get for an advertorial will buy you three Starbucks' lattes and a month’s worth of interest on an equity line.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Getting Sunburned

When I used to teach greeting card writing classes, the most common question asked by my students was “What do you do if someone steals your work?”

I would tell them it’s generally not going to happen because most companies are ethical. And, if it does seem as if someone has absconded with your brilliance, then you need to keep in mind “There is nothing new under the sun,” a biblical phrase I would write on the whiteboard before the class started.

From wordincarnate.wordpress.com.

So, what if someone does steal your idea? Well, people, I can tell you it’s happened to me—not in greeting card writing, but in nonfiction—and it sucked the big one.

From markevanstech.com.

Here’s another excerpt from my nonfiction book about what it’s like to be a professional freelance writer.

I collect vintage purses. I mean, not just collect them. I freakin’ live and breathe them. So much so that I even submitted a query to one of those collecting-obsession television shows, but I don’t think I came across as loony enough. You know, borderline hoarder, except without the geologically correct layers of dead cats, newspapers, and human feces.

Holy crap, there really is a purse hoarder. From shine.yahoo.com. (Note for legal purposes: No evidence of cats or poop, just lots of high-end clothing.)

Anyway, I had this idea for a book. We’ll call it “Whimsical Vintage Purses,” since that’s what it was called. Not to be confused with an article with a similar title that I eventually sold to a magazine. Nope, this was going to be a full-size book, with lots of color photos from my collection; descriptions; prices; all that jazz.

I queried a very well known collectibles book publisher and they basically said, sure, show us what you got. They wanted color slides, which are hard to take and expensive to process. I have no idea why they didn’t go digital like the rest of the universe, but, hey, I wanted to sell a book.

I sent them a complete book proposal and the slides. I got back a letter that said the contract would be forthcoming. Cool, right? Nope. Instead, a few weeks later, I got back my proposal, the slides, and a rejection letter, with no explanation other than the standard thanks but no thanks.

I figured they’d simply changed their collectively collectible mind.

A couple years after that, my friend Tina, a photojournalist, and I were researching a project that involved my vintage purses. She looked up some books online and asked me if I’d seen the one called “(Synonym for whimsical) Handbags.” It was published by the collectibles publisher about a year after my rejection letter from them, and written by someone they’d used for other books. It even featured a cover that had a purse similar to a bunch that I have in my personal collection. So, yeah, I was rather upset.

Something like this on their cover. Not this one. This one is mine.

As I said, we didn’t have a contract. There was only a promise of one on its way. Not exactly binding, but this entire experience was pretty uncool, if not a teensy unethical. And it definitely made me change the way I interpret those biblical phrases.

You know it, baby. From someecards.com.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Since you all just loved that last very intimate story about the real life of a freelance writer, I thought I'd share this one. It's actually an excerpt from my nonfiction book, which was originally titled "365 Days of Rejection," then "A Discouraging Word," then "My Bloody Typewriter."

I spent every day of 2009 sending out something writing-related, whether it was a query, short story, article, greeting card copy, my regular freelance or whatever. It was fun. And awful.

So, yeah, inspired by this fun/awful year, I turned my freelance writing experiences into a book, which included not just 2009, but years prior. The book didn't get published, even with all those snazzy title changes (the last one homage to a quote by Hemingway, which he may have really said). I've kind of given up on it (unless you are an agent or publisher who loves the idea—in which case, email me), but I thought I'd share one of the stories here. I copied and pasted it from my manuscript, with some small changes.

Eighteen years ago, my friend Tracie and I were part of an informal local writers’ group that met periodically at a coffee house, which is now a nail salon or maybe an insurance office. A lot can happen in nearly two decades.

Someone from a production company called the group’s organizer, John, a writer, teacher, all-around great guy and as nice as I am cynical, and asked if he knew any writers who’d be interested in doing a script for a children’s video series.

Tracie and I met with the producer and, somehow, we got the job. We thought we landed a primo gig and had visions of buying new cars and remodeling our bathrooms and sending our kids to college. But after we wrote the script, which was about lumberjacks—and which involved extensive research, since it’s not exactly our area of expertise—we received precisely $1,500, which we had to split. Then, when the video was produced, they seemed very reluctant to give us each a copy. I’m not sure how we would have split a video cassette, but we convinced (begged) them to give us two, which are now rotting somewhere in our houses along with 8-track tapes and transistor radios.

After that, the video allegedly won a Telly Award, which Tracie found out about by doing a random Google search. I somehow managed to Google-stalk the phone number of the company’s owner at his home in the state of Washington. He’s a nice enough dude, but he told me he didn't know anything about the Telly win. Tracie’s theory was that it was on his desk and he was stroking it the entire time he was on the phone with me. We had a pretty good laugh over that. Note for legal purposes: I HAVE NO PROOF OF ACTUAL TELLY-STROKING. But it’s lots of fun to visualize.

After we found out the video allegedly won a Telly Award, I called the processing center at the Telly Awards (part of my 2009 goal to do something writing-related every day) and spoke to a woman named Mary. I told her about never receiving official notice that Tracie and I had supposedly won a Telly for **** Lumberjack ****. Being that I am a professional writer, I really didn’t want this appearing on my resume if it weren’t true, so I felt compelled to verify it. She told me to send her as much info as possible about the video and she’d look into it. Here's a copy of the email.

Hi Mary:
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me this morning. I was inquiring about receiving a confirmation that a video that I co-wrote had actually won a Telly Award back in 1996. I truly appreciate your looking into this for me and do understand that it will take some time to check it out.
I’ve written up the details below.
Thank you again for your assistance.
Wendy Dager

***** Lumberjack *****
1996, VHS
Written by Tracie ***** and Wendy Dager
Produced by *****, Inc.
Children’s video; part of the video series *****

I never heard back from Mary. And I almost forgot that there’s a part two to the video backstory. After writing the lumberjack thing, Tracie and I were called in by one of the producers to work on another video, Post Office, which eventually went to another writer. There was also a supposedly new series they were developing, which I think involved puppets. While we discussed our ideas in his office, the producer was on the phone with the owner of the production company. Obviously, we could only hear his side of the conversation, when suddenly, he said, very cryptically, “So, we should go with Plan B, then?” Tracie and I simultaneously looked at the floor to see if there was a trap door under our chairs, because we were pretty sure Plan B involved us being dropped into a pit of alligators. Lucky for us, that didn’t happen, but we also never got any more work from them.

Nor did we discover the whereabouts of the alleged Telly.

Update: The video was rereleased in 2007. No royalties. No DVD to share. Still no Telly.

(***** I blanked out some names, but if you're that interested in knowing who's who, you can always Google it.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

About a House

I was once assigned to write a story about a house. A very nice house in a very exclusive area composed of other nice homes and a huge, dry, weedy fire zone. I know. I don’t get it either. Why rich people want to live in fire zones or on cliffs or next to an active volcano is just part of the rich person mystique.

Crap! There really is one. From Takesunset.com.

This wasn’t the usual advertorial/feature assignment. The house was not for sale. It had already been sold to a guy who made his fortune in something so unusual that I can’t even hint as to what it is here, because then you might Google it and find out who the guy is.
Nooooo. He did not invent the donut sandwich. Guess again. From Washingtonpost.com

The article was mostly supposed to focus on the builders, an incredibly down-to-earth family of regular dudes. I liked them. I also liked the homeowner. We kind of bonded. He was pleasant enough. Asked me if I wanted to go smoke with him on the balcony after his wife and the builders left.

Note: Even though he waited for the wife to leave, he was not hitting on me. Not a bit. Firstly, I am not one to flatter myself by thinking I am all that, secondly, as a broad who's been hit upon once or twice—mostly in my younger, blonder days—I knew this wasn’t one of those times.

That hair single-handedly destroyed the ozone.

I don’t smoke, but I went out on the balcony with him anyway. We talked about the house and I took notes. We talked about family stuff and I didn’t take notes. He showed me around the property. He had some fancy automobiles, which were cool in a fancy-automobile way. Overall, it was a painless experience and I left there thinking I would write a good article, get paid and move on to the next one. Which happened. Essentially. Except for the in-between part.

The article appeared as a full spread in the Sunday paper with color pictures and everything. Yeah, no, I’m not excessively impressed with myself in that area, either. These articles are generally formulaic, even though they do require a lot of attention to detail, excellent use of adjectives, and when anyone (not me) writes, “nestled in the rolling hills,” I tend to throw up in my mouth a little.

So, yeah, good times, good article, good money. Then the homeowner calls me. I think it was a few days after it appeared. I was sure I was done with him and ready to move on to my next multimillion-dollar home—preferably not on a major floodplain or nestled in a rolling earthquake fault* or carved into a glacier.

*This really happened: I was on an assignment in a home on a hill and a decent-sized earthquake hit. The real estate agent I was with bolted out the front door, leaving me inside where the house and/or the hill could've ended up nestling on top of me.

Anyway, yeah, so, the homeowner called me. Now, don’t think what everyone else is thinking. "He was hitting on you, Wendy." Nope. Not even close.

The homeowner was upset because he didn’t get a copy of the newspaper in which his lovely home was featured.

There’s a liquor store about three blocks from his mansion and I’m pretty sure they carry newspapers there. Or, hey, what about subscribing?

But no, he had to call the home-based freelancer who has no extra copies of the newspaper lying around her house and ask for one in a not particularly nice way.

I refrained from saying "I saw online that you sold your business for X-million dollars (I can’t remember the exact figure), so go take a buck-and-a-quarter and get yourself your own copy of the Sunday paper." Instead I assured him I’d have one mailed to him. I called my newspaper and asked an office assistant to send him one. She told me he could’ve called her directly. Except I’m the one whose phone number he had handy. I’m not even sure how he got it.

This is not an anomaly. People occasionally ask me for copies of an article or if I can write a story about their business or get an editor/reporter/photographer to do something for them. The difference was that he did it rudely. Sheesh. And I thought we were buddies. Maybe I should take up smoking.

Candy cigarettes. That's what I'm talkin' 'bout. From Sogoodblog.com.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Call Me

The wait wouldn't be so long if someone would pass the Dos Equis.

Debbie Harry agrees.