Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Summer hiatus

Summer's almost here, and my posts at the Creative Writer US site will be less frequent.

I have some freelance assigments to finish and two books to whip into shape. I also plan to take some time off.

I'll be posting every week day at the 451press.com site, where I write a column about Jacksonville, Florida.I'll also continue to post regularly at my personal blog Covering Florida.

Please visit me there, and if you have story tips, as always, mail them in.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

New freelance gig

I inked the contract yesterday, so it’s too early to tell how things will go. But I signed on to write the Jacksonville, Fla. blog for 451press.com.

I’d been searching for a good blogging gig for several weeks, simply because (and obviously to readers) I like to blog. This type endeavor will fit well with the other work I do, for clients like the Florida Times Union, The Writer, UPI, and Coastal Homes. And I can still pitch the one-ups to publications I love, like Christian Science Monitor. The poetry manuscript is 90% complete, and the nonfiction book is rocking along.

If you’re looking for a paid blogging position, '451press' is still looking for writers. I chose a city site because I like writing about Jacksonville—I am sure I’ll never run out of material. It appears to be a fairly painless risk for me.

I like the contract '451press' offered—good terms on rights and a compensation deal that will grow as I grow the traffic. I’ll post five days a week. I looked at many other sites, but most want either exclusive or long-term rights and there’s no means of growing the compensation.

I’ll be building the site soon, and will keep you informed about the progress. I’ll announce the launch at this site.

And if you’re a writer looking for a pretty non-stressful blog deal, you might take a look at the topics and cities open to writers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Thinking of freelancing? Tips for the trade.

This morning, on the Blog Catalog discussion board, someone asked a question about resources for freelancers. I get similar questions by email.

Frankly, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be a writer. Consider all the content we take in each day, via the Web, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and products. If you’ve ever read a cereal box, you know what I mean by “products.” Somebody produces all that content. It might as well be you or me.

The Web has more resources than you are likely to use. A good starting place is Writers Weekly. Markets, a forum, writer-bewares, and a variety of articles can be found there; you may opt for a free newsletter.

The Writer is also very useful, both in print and on the Web. I write for the magazine and the Web site, but long before I did, I read every issue. I’ve sold work and won contests based on listings there. My Web column there, Poetry Beat, has covered everything from self-publishing to sites that help you promote and publish.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors has info available in the public section of the Web site. This organization hosts an annual meeting each April. Non-members may attend. The speakers are always top-notch, and there are opportunities to meet editors and agents in person.

The site that grew this blog, Creative Writer US, has archives with many articles about freelancing.

Another site I highly recommend is The Renegade Writer, a site based on the popular book by the same name.

For physical resources, study your favorite magazines at the library. Study the ads and copy content to learn what readers enjoy. Your daily newspaper may also have a local or metro section in need of freelance content. You can usually get contact info for editors from the ‘about us’ or ‘contact’ links usually at the bottom of the site cover page. This is true for magazines too.

Not-for-profit organizations and government agencies often purchase content; I’ve sold to both many times.

Above all, realize that content providing is a business. Providers (formally known as writers) aim at selling information and services. Don’t do it for free.

Read the latest Poetry Beat at The Writer and catch the latest scoop about Foetry.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Blog Catalog Mass Buzz: cyber-experiment for bloggers

Conceived by “Monawea,” founder of iwebis.com, the Blog Catalog Mass Buzz experiment gets underway today.

Basically, participating bloggers post a story about our experience with Blog Catalog.

I listed Creative Writer US and my other two blogs at BC a few weeks ago. Since then I’ve met a number of bloggers and visited their sites. The “Recent Viewers” box in my sidebar on this page shows members who’ve dropped by this blog. Members have also visited Covering Florida and Media Fizz.

Anyone can submit a blog to the BC network, with approval usually coming 24-48 hours for blogs that fit the guidelines. There’s an extremely useful discussion group at the site, with lots of information about blogging in general, including ways to promote and/or make money with your site. There’s a definite camaraderie at BC, the personable sort that you don’t find at most directories.

Once accepted, you have a page of your own where you can track your blog’s ranking, see who’s listed you as a friend, and decide which neighborhoods you’d like to join. You may list your profile with a photo, and tinker with other options.

It’s too early for me to tell if listing here will have a broad impact, but I’ve learned a lot and do enjoy getting to know others who like to speak their minds on sites they control.

My blogs are also listed at Technorati, and it’s a very useful site that has definitely sent traffic my way. Other sites where I’ve listed haven’t yet returned the results I’ve seen so far with these two directories.

I’ll post about the results of our “experiment” once we have an idea of the impact. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Super resource for bloggers

For bloggers hoping to increase readership and income, iwebis.com is a great resource. Mona Weathers, who writes under the pen name monawea, offers information about earning opportunities, social networking, communicating with readers and other topics of interest to those of us bitten by the blog bug.

Monawea says she blogs as a personal “outlet,” and for the extra family income. She tells her readers they’ll learn about the changing Web. She discloses the fact sometimes the reader will find sponsored reviews. And with humor, she promises, “You will not find out what I had for breakfast, lunch, dinner or any other meal in between.” She even notes there'll be occasional grammar and spelling errors.

She’s organized a “Mass Buzz” promotion for Blog Catalog members (blogcatlog.com). That event launches May 14.

I highly recommend a visit to Monawea’s blog—I’ve learned a lot during my own visits.

Meanwhile, if you have a blog tip or favorite site, feel free to post it in the comments section.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Infidel’ a best-seller bravely written

When Ayaan Hirsi Ali scheduled an appearance at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in Western Pennsylvania, Islamic leaders wanted her stopped. One Islamic center leader who had immigrated to America from Egypt told the Tribune-Review the author had “defamed the faith.” He further noted, "If you come into the faith, you must abide by the laws, and when you decide to defame it deliberately, the sentence is death."

Hirsi Ali’s lecture did take place, with security measures carefully put in place. Death threats are no surprise to anyone who’s read the book. The svelte native of Somalia walked away from her religion after realizing she had no personal freedom, not to mention a traumatizing experience with genital mutilation when she was very young.

“Muslim schools,” she writes, “reject the values of universal human rights. All humans are not equal in a Muslim school… there can be no freedom of expression or conscience. These schools fail to develop creativity—art, drama, music—and they suppress the critical faculties that can lead children to question their beliefs.” She wrote that passage in response to Islamic schools in Holland, the country she fled to after her father arranged her marriage to a complete stranger.

Hirsi Ali’s book is a page-turner in the grand memoir style. Her Ulysses-themed journey takes her from continent to continent, and she ultimately ends up in the one country that represents redemption for so many, America. The author finally admitted to herself and to the public, “I don’t believe in God.” That statement, along with revelations about the rigors and cruelties of her girlhood in an Islamic society, has earned her great praise from Western thinkers and vitriol from many Muslims, both male and female.

Her flight to America followed the death of a friend and collaborator, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. The two made a short film together. ‘Submission’ offered an artistic take on the violence Muslim women often face. A Muslim man who had come to Holland from Morocco stabbed and shot van Gogh to death because of the film.

Deeply pained by van Gogh’s death, the author refused to be silenced. “I am told,” Hirsi Ali reflects, “ ‘Submission’ is too aggressive a film. Its criticism of Islam is apparently too painful for Muslims to bear. Tell me, how much more painful is it to be these women, trapped in that cage?”

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Fringe poet—putting poetry in the hands of readers

Last week I did a reading at Daytona Beach Community College. I had such a good time with the students. We hung around afterwards, talking to one another about poetry, writing and music.

Poetry is pure pleasure. My apart-ness is probably the primary reason I can enjoy it. I don’t have to answer to a university. I don’t have to publish or even submit unless I want to. As I toured with A Poetry Break, I spoke to truly diverse audiences, from children in economically challenged school zones to trade associations and organizations made up of educators on all levels. I read in saloons, at book club gatherings, at writers’ conferences. A special moment for me came when I read at the U.S. Library of Congress.

I don’t aim my work at a niche audience. The public is far more intelligent than many intellectuals believe. My book sold well, and is still carried in many stores. I hope the same will be true of the next collection. I’m in the final edit stages with that book. I’m talking to several different publishers.

A special moment during my DBCC reading came when students asked for a copy of one of the poems I read from the new collection, “Florida Aubade.” I wrote the poem for my husband. Coincidentally, South Carolina poet Jayne Jaudon Ferrer included that poem in her National Poetry Month Parade, and she was kind enough to let me know her readers enjoyed it.

I’ve followed a new poetry controversy, courtesy of a writeup in Poets and Writers about the Dorset Prize. This isn’t the first poetry contest controversy and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But every time I read about a poetry contest administered with questionable practices, I’m glad I’ve hung onto my money all these years.

When the publisher accepted 'A Poetry Break,' he gave me a modest advance and paid me industry-standard royalties. I worked hard to take the book to potential readers. It proved its merit in the marketplace.

That’s good enough for me. Meanwhile, I subsidize writing poetry by writing nonfiction for newspapers, wire services, magazines and Web sites. It’s a great arrangement.

Related Links

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer
Home pages for South Carolina poet Jayne Jaudon Ferrer

Dorset Prize Dustup
Kevin Larimer's article at Poets and Writers

Poetry Beat at The Writer magazine
Kay Day's column at The Writer online; premium content for subscribers only.