Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Getting the Point

 At the end of 2008, I made it a goal to send out a query, submit an article, come up with greeting card ideas, or enter a writing contest every day of 2009. I wrote a journal documenting this fiasco, which I think is a fair representation of the life of a real working freelance writer.

I tried to sell my experiences as a book. This endeavor didn’t pan out. Naturally. Because these things are either ironic or expected, and occasionally both.

I’ve been periodically sharing these stories in this blog and decided it's time for another tiny tale from that year of writing dangerously. 

A movie came out in 2009. It was a romantic film/chick flick/date movie about a 19th century poet. Exactly the type of movie I would never, ever go see. Or buy. Or watch by accident. (For the record, my all time favorite movie is Die Hard. The first one. The ONLY one.)

A contest was run to publicize the movie about the poet (who was not played by Bruce Willis). You could enter via mail or Twitter. As part of my goal of sending out something writing-related every day, I tweeted my "love letter." As of today, four-and-a-half years later, I couldn’t find the winners’ list, but this tweet still exists: https://twitter.com/KeatsTweets/status/6764927037

I was one of the winners. It took me about thirty seconds to write the love letter and a few more to tweet it.

I won a $400 Mont Blanc fountain pen. It looks like this.

 Not mine. I got this pic off someone’s unsold eBay auction.

I kind of wish they’d sent me the four hundred bucks instead of the pen, so I could say I make $48,000 an hour.

I tried selling the pen to one of those We Buy Gold and Fountain Pens places, but the young woman who worked there had no idea what it was and had to call her boss, who did know what it was, which I figured out because she got very weird during their conversation. Like, when you’re listening to one side of a phone call and the person knows you’re listening and says, “mmmm hmmmm” a lot so they don’t give anything away.

Also, she was trying to get the pen to work (it didn’t have any ink in it) by pressing the tip very hard on her desk blotter, which made me cringe.

I think they offered me $50. Or maybe it was $100. I don’t remember. I only remember it wasn’t $400. So I left.

The pen sat on a shelf in my office for four years.

And now for the happy ending to this YAY I WON A WRITING CONTEST FOR DOING VIRTUALLY NOTHING BUT I DIDN’T GET ANYTHING OF VALUE WHICH IS MY DESTINY story: My daughter learned to love schmancy fountain pens while in college and studying abroad and being all cultured ‘n’ stuff ‘n’ junk.

She graduated from college last June and I gave her the fountain pen, which I think she likes even better than her graduation gift, which is a 1930s vanity with mirror. (She knows all about schmancy makeup, too. I get my cosmetics from CVS.)

This ending makes me even happier than winning the contest. How's that for unexpected?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Freelance Writer Mad Libs*

Dear _____ (proper noun)

It was really________ (adjective) ________ (verb + ing) you at the ____________ (place). You seem to be a _________ (adjective) ________ (noun).

When I told you I was a freelance ___________ (job title) who works mostly for the __________  (proper noun) newspaper and you said you ___________ (verb) for them, too, I thought, “How could I not know your name if you are a fellow ____________ (job title)?”

Later, I found out from your ____________ (relative), who was also at the ___________ (place), that you ___________ (verb) letters to the ____________ (job title of a person who edits a portion of a newspaper).

Again, you seem very _____________ (adjective), so I do not judge you for your inability to differentiate between being a _____________ (job title of someone who gets paid to write) and a ______________ (person who comments on stuff that’s in a newspaper).

However, you really aren’t a ____________ (job title) and you probably shouldn’t tell ___________ (plural noun) you meet at _____________ (places) that you are a ______________ (job title) because it’s simply not ______________ (adjective).

____________ (adverb),

________________ (my name)

*with apologies to the creators of Mad Libs and to my childhood.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It’s the End of the Job Market As We Know It

More news from the job-seeking front.

Let’s start with the Craigslist ad, which appeared about a month ago. I copied and pasted it here in its entirety, blanking out a few details using asterisks because Xs just make it look like it’s a job in porn.

compensation: *****
telecommuting okay
We are a growing ***** company in ***** currently accepting resumes for a project support position. This position will be part-time with some flexibility in work schedule. While the main duties of the position are centered in document production and editing, there is also additional need outside of these responsibilities with other administrative tasks. 

- Large amounts of work creating Publisher documents for technical and leadership training from various forms of notes combining existing materials and hand written notes and comments. 
-Content and format editing of documents for publication.
- Administrative tasks -- will serve as a back-up to administrative staff with duties such as printing web-based reports for clients, creating and editing Word and Excel documents as needed.

- Possesses a strong sense of urgency to complete high quality work.
- Strong attention to detail.
- Able to multi-task and handle multiple projects at the same time.
- Able to work well under pressure and strict deadlines.
- Able to work in a team environment and has outstanding communication skills.
- Motivated and has a "can-do" attitude.
- Resourceful and solution-oriented.
- Proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Publisher and willing to learn other Office programs. 

This will be a part-time position with required hours varying according to project work status. The applicant will be required to provide their own computer (preferably a laptop) for work production. Although this individual will be required to attend occasional office meetings, the majority of work will be done in the employee's own home and at their chosen hours.

How fabulous is this? It’s perfect for my schedule. I could keep my current freelance assignments, plus I’d still be able to pick up my grandson from school.

So, what’d I do? I emailed a cover letter and my resume, that’s what.

Did I hear back?


It’s not that I’m upset that I didn’t get the job. I just don’t understand why I didn’t get an acknowledgement. A generic “Thank you for your email. We will get back to you if you meet our requirements.” Or “Sorry, this position has been filled.” Or something. Anything. I don’t get it. Why is silence OK? Is it because it’s a buyer’s market?

Thanks for listening. I feel fine. Really I do.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Your Résumé, I (P)résumé

This is my Monster.com résumé.


If you don’t want to click on the link, I’ve copied and pasted the summary here for your enjoyment.

Professional freelance writer with over two decades of experience writing articles, advertorials, essays, web content, press releases and more. Interested in a career in museology. Currently enrolled in the Art Museum and Gallery Studies certification program at CSU, East Bay.

OK, so maybe that’s not as enjoyable as, say, the next installment of Game of Thrones—which I’ve never read or seen, and know nothing about except that I’m jealous of the author—but, there you have it. The above summary is my career in the tiniest of nutshells.

I almost wrote “in the nuttiest of nutshells.” Which I like a lot. And am going to use later, in conversation, at a party, where I am being delightful and stylish and am sipping an adult beverage.

Anyway, I almost immediately got a response to my résumé after posting it on Monster. “How exciting for you, Wendy!” you say, clasping your hands in anticipation.

But no.

The email was from someone at Sears, who said my qualifications would make me a good outside sales rep for the company’s home improvement department.


What is it about my résumé, other than the fact that I posted it, that makes you think I want—or am qualified—for such a job?

I got another one, from a different company, for a different job, but equally as non sequitur-ish.

Seems companies are relying on the desperation of applicants to get them to apply for jobs for which they have no interest or qualifications.

And that, my friends, is my opinion, presented to you in the nuttiest of nutshells.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Copy Wrongs

Stay with me here, people. Just for a minute.

This is a link to my Cafepress store. http://www.cafepress.com/realwriter

I’ve had this store since 2005. It has products for writers in it. They have silly lines about writing. The ideas in this shop belong to yours truly. My copyright is right there for all to see.

Here is one of my products, featuring a line I made up. All by myself. In this little ol’ fuchsia head. Which may not have been fuchsia at the time, because I added it to the Real Writer shop so very long ago. Note: I wrote this and uploaded it to my shop before that dumb movie with Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson.

A Facebook friend of mine posted a link to a mug with this slogan on it, recommending it to her writer friends.

It was not my mug. It was another store’s mug, with the same slogan, verbatim, on it.

I have seen this sort of theft before. Many times. But, today, it made me especially sad. I really didn’t need to be sad today. I have too many things to do. Like write a newspaper column (because I am a professional freelance writer), work on a project for my internship (because I am trying to better myself by getting a certificate in museum studies), and clean my house (because it’s dirty).

I feel it is futile to send such thieves a cease and desist letter. I cannot afford an attorney and one will not be appointed to me. These jerks will keep getting away with this stuff. It makes me not want to be a writer. At least, not of fun one-liners. Anymore.

Thank you for listening. Now please discuss. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I See Dread, People

I write articles. I usually have to interview people when I write these articles. I do this over the phone, or in person. Often, people tell me things they shouldn’t tell me. Occasionally while we are on the phone, but mostly when I am face-to-face with them.

This happens in my other life, too. At the supermarket. The doctor’s office. Standing in line wherever. There is something about me that makes people share the most intimate details of their lives.

This generally does not bother me as long as the story does not involve felonies or oozing wounds. I like hearing stories. We are bonded for that moment, but I don’t need to be friends with these people. That line does not have to be crossed. They have gotten something off their chests, and I have another interesting story in my head. Because, let’s face it, my life is not interesting. I wouldn't have it any other way. Boring is fabulous. Boring does not raise blood pressure or cost money. I don't think I have a fully functioning adrenal gland anyway. No roller coasters for me.

Sometimes, however, the private disclosure is followed by an instantaneous look of regret or dread or even panic. The people I am interviewing for an article will say, “You’re not going to put that in the story, are you?” And I will say, “Do you see my pen moving?” Because when they offer something too personal, particularly if it is unrelated to the article's topic, I will stop writing. I am listening, but this stuff will not go on their permanent record.

It's not as if I'm going to tattoo it on my arm or anything.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Ghost of a Chance

Time again for me to give you one of my painful tidbits from a career that's spanned decades that feel like eons.

Which can be good or bad, feeling-wise, but in this case, mostly bad. Here ya go, if you can stomach another one. And by "if you can stomach," I selfishly mean "if I can stomach," since these probably annoy me more than they annoy you. But I'm all sensitive like that.

Years ago, I submitted a query for an article about my sister, a paranormal investigator, to a couple of magazines. The problem with this is that the better known magazines want writers who’ve sold nationally—which I have, but not to any big-name publications. Then, when it comes to the "little" magazines, they just don’t pay enough. Nope, I ain’t writing 1,000 words for $25. I don’t need a byline that badly. Although, twenty-five bucks is at least good for a gallon of gas and a latte, am I right?

Since my sister lives in the Bay Area, I hit up the magazine section of the San Francisco Chronicle. (Note #1: I've deleted some things that aren't critical to the anecdote, but will protect privacy, because I'm nice. Shut up. Am so. Note #2: I left in the name of the publication because its magazine section's submission policies and editor have changed.)

Here's the email.

Dear Ms. (editor's name withheld because I am nice):

Paralegal by day, paranormal investigator at night, (name withheld) approaches both her career and her hobby in a unique way. She has to—she’s been profoundly deaf since birth. As a member of Bay Area-based (ghosthunting group name withheld), she cites her work skills, sense of adventure and extreme curiosity—along with the strong intuition she’s developed due to her hearing loss—as factors that contribute to her ability to conduct the atypical investigation into the unknown.

May I send you “Sensing the Supernatural,” 600 words about (name withheld) and her ghost-hunting experiences?

As a professional freelance writer, I’ve conducted numerous interviews and written articles for many publications, including the Ventura County Star, Los Angeles Daily News, Byline and The Writer. You can see a list of my credits at http://www.wendydager.com.

Thank you very much for the consideration.

Wendy Dager

This is the very curt response I got, in the most effing annoying and completely unprofessional bright blue ink.

"Sorry, but with the magazine’s monthly, themed publication schedule I just have no room for stories such as this."

Dude, really? You couldn't be a little more polite? And freakin' blue ink? I dunno. It’s not as if her reply was in all caps, but I still pictured her typing the words “such as this” while dressed as Snow White’s stepmother.

"How dare you send me a professional query such as this?" 
Photo from soundonsight.org