Monday, May 18, 2015

Sometimes Something Nice Happens

I really miss doing interviews with interesting people, like I used to when I was writing feature articles for a newspaper. Oh, man, I have some stories, like the Academy Award-winning composer (I was actually interviewing his wife, famous for something completely different and equally awesome) who was startled when he opened the door and saw me, then later confessed it was because I looked just like the one that got away. Meaning a girl he was once in love with and not anything nefarious.

You're not used to me talking about nice things, right?

That's why I'm very excited to have scored an email interview with Dr. Lori, star antiques appraiser for the Discovery Channel’s show Auction Kings. You can check it out by going to my vintage purse blog. Or by copying and pasting this link into your browser:

I’d love to do more of these for The Vintage Purse Gallery website and its blogs, so if you are someone—or know someone—who is in the vintage fashion business and has a unique perspective, especially when it comes to purses or purse accessories, please shoot me an email.

And if you’d like to meet me in person, I’ll be at the Tiara Garden Party at Strathearn Park & Museum, Sunday, May 31, 2015. The money raised by the Tiara Garden Party will benefit the Simi Valley Historical Society. I did my internships for my CSU, East Bay certificate in Art Museum and Gallery Studies at Strathearn Park, which was both fun and educational, plus I met some super nice people who work very hard to keep the place going. Last year, I went to the Tiara Garden Party as an attendee, but this year I’ll be exhibiting some of my vintage purses and answering questions about them, and wearing something fabulous.

Like this. Only not quite as animated.

For ticket information, check out the flier below, or visit

I promise to be characteristically grumpier on my next post.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Diary of a Slightly Annoyed Writer

I found my 2009 diary, which documents my year of sending out something writing-related every day. I tried to market this diary to agents and publishers with no luck. I called it “A Discouraging Word” (too vague, I think), “My Bloody Typewriter” (too esoteric; homage to a quote by Hemingway), and “365 Days of Rejection” (not true; I actually sold some stuff and won a few contests that year.)

Whatever the title, the idea never clicked. Maybe because nobody wants the truth to get out there, keeping us writers all hopeful and dreamy-eyed.


So, I’ve been putting some of my moments from that year on this blog as “stories from the freelance writing trenches” (not succinct enough; but who cares, it’s not as if you’re paying for it).

Here’s the diary entry, in blue, from April 8, 2009. In red are my comments of today, May 6, 2015.

It’s April and I’m officially four months and eight days into my goal of doing something writing-related every day. I’ve sent queries, written articles, entered contests, worked on a new Cafepress site (more info on that later) and followed up with publishers on my work. Yes, follow-ups (f-yous) count as writing-related. Shut up. My world doesn’t have clearly defined parameters. I am not black and white. I am gray. And pink.

Just for fun, here’s a little tally I came up with today, based on the journal I’m keeping on my progress, or lack thereof.

I queried two publications, one on January 2 and one on February 20 for an article about what you need to know before you go to cooking school. Neither answered.

And they never did. Also, the Cafepress site was, briefly, a selection of punny bumper stickers… for caskets: “Bumper Stickers 2 Die 4.” A concept ahead of its time. Or maybe too sick. (Note to the kids: not “sick” as in “awesome.” “Sick” as in Auntie Wendy is a real sicko.)

I postal-mailed an article query plus TIFF photos to a magazine on February 14. They sent me an e-mail acknowledgement that they received my materials on February 24. I sent them a follow-up e-mail on April 6 and was told that it’ll take up to six months to review my package.

OK, so this one I’m not clear on. I seem to recall that I eventually got a rejection, something like a year later.

On March 13, I called a publisher to find out what happened to an art book (collaboration with my photojournalist friend Tina) proposal package I sent last November. Also sent a follow up e-mail. The nice receptionist told me she’d check into it, but there was no way of knowing they even received my materials.

They never got it. Or they lost it. One of those things.

I sent an article query to a magazine February 1. They e-mailed me back right away, wanting to see the article. I wrote it up and sent it to them February 4. I sent a follow-up March 20 and found out that it’s still in the review process.

Never responded. No rejection, no nothin'.

I sent a flash fiction story to an online magazine February 12. I sent a query about safe city living to a trade publication February 13. I sent greeting card ideas to a company February 16. I sent an essay to a humor mag February 19. No answer yet from any of those. There are lots more after that, but it’s only been a month or so since I mailed or e-mailed my submissions.

Again, my memory is hazy, but I seem to recall that the flash fiction editor made fun of the story. True, I mostly suck at fiction, but this was not constructive criticism. The trade publication never answered. After a follow up with the greeting card company, the editor said they never received my ideas. The humor mag sent a form letter rejection, which was disappointing, but very professional compared to a lot of these companies.

This interminable waiting—with the possibility of never getting an answer—is just the way it is with the writing world. I don’t like it, but I accept it. But now you see why I’m entering so many contests. With writing competitions—even the silliest ones—at least I have some idea as to when winners will be announced.

Except several of these 2009 writing contests never announced winners, and one that I CLEARLY WON ended up being a complete scam, their excuse being that the site was in beta and it said so in the fine print, so I didn’t get my Mac Mini.

On the plus side, I won AND RECEIVED, thank you, a bright green hoodie from the Flying Dog beer haiku contest. I still wear it. In fact, I’m wearing it right now. It matches my dreamy eyes.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

I May Be Old But I Can Also Be Very Whiny

Recently, my daughter's boyfriend and his dad were walking the boardwalk in Venice, California. Dad saw a T-shirt. "I should get that," he said to his son. The shirt said, "I May Be Old, But I Got to See All the Cool Bands."

My daughter's boyfriend told his dad that I wrote that. I'm sure he was very impressed.*

(*Not really. He was probably thinking about that time he saw Pink Floyd.)

I know I've mentioned it in this space before, but, since "...Old...Cool Bands" keeps coming up, I think it warrants more addressing. More bitter, bitter addressing.

I wrote this slogan and sold it in 2009 to Ephemera, Inc. I think I was paid fifty bucks for it. Maybe a hundred. I can't remember. They own all rights to it. Everyone who has stolen it and put it on T-shirts and buttons and bumper stickers has stolen it from them. Not me. So I really shouldn't be bitter.

There is no way I could've marketed and produced it myself. It was better that I sold it to them. Whenever they--or any other social expression company--buy an idea from a freelancer, they have no idea if it's going to be a hit or a miss. This was a hit.

I am trying not to be bitter. At least I can say "I wrote that." It's entirely possible that more people have seen/purchased/identify with "...Old...Cool Bands" than all of my writing credits put together.

I also wrote "How can I PMS when I don't M anymore?", but nobody wanted it. Some slogans are hits. Some are misses. I swear, though, if I see this on a T-shirt, I'm calling a lawyer.**

(**Not really. I'm just going to complain about it here. And think about the time I saw The Ramones.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

It's Not Easy Being Green

Here's another tale from the writing trenches. Except this one is more lighthearted than that time a publisher who, after receiving my extensive proposal and (per her request) freakin' slides (not photos), said she was sending me a contract for a book about vintage purses, never did, then gave the assignment to one of her regular writers and published a book that was just like my "Whimsical Vintage Purses," with a title that meant the same, but with different thesaurus words.

Nope, this is much, much more lighthearted. Also, slightly less run-on sentence-y.

In 2009, around the time of my 24th wedding anniversary, I entered the M&Ms essay contest, which was all about why Ms. Green (AKA the horny M&M; of which rock stars always require bowlfuls per their contracts with entertainment venues) needs to help heat up our romance, in 150 words or fewer. The prize was a trip to Paris. Here's my contest entry.

While I could never imagine myself to be as glamorous and enticing as the lovely Ms. Green, I know she can help make my Valentine’s Day more romantic by being my very own personal muse, as I rekindle that newlywed spark of love I once had with my darling husband of 24 years. It’d be so wonderful if I could, this February 14, tell my beloved that instead of going to the usual car show or poker tournament or fast food joint, we can spend our 25th anniversary in Paris, embraced by the light of the moon, the Eiffel Tower silhouetted behind us. He’ll take me by the hand and tell me how lucky he is to have me for his bride, then gift me with a diamond anniversary band, tucked, of course, inside a delectable bag of M&M’s All-Green Milk Chocolate Candies.

One year later, on our 25th anniversary, my husband and I went to Las Vegas and had dinner at the Paris Hotel’s Eiffel Tower restaurant. The economy sucked and my husband's business was bad, so I had to sell some gold jewelry to pay for our weekend vacation. Screw you, M&Ms. I like Rolos better.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Making Good Choices

There’s this annual section in my newspaper called Readers’ Choice. I’ve been working it for years. Newspaper readers vote for their favorite dentist, hair stylist, Italian restaurant or whatever, the votes get tabulated, then they are separated into winners and favorites, generally in both east and west county. These winners and favorites are published in the Readers’ Choice section, which comes out in spring.
It’s a nice way to acknowledge the county's businesses, and, yeah, it’s advertising revenue for the paper. But the winners and favorites are NOT obligated to pay for an ad and they still get a free write-up—a brief advertorial about the business, with maybe one or two quotes from the owner—which is done by me or some other freelancer or, occasionally, a staffer.

These are over-the-phone interviews that shouldn't take too long. After the interview, I do the very brief write-up (this year, it’s 100 words each), I send it in, and then I get paid. This is how it SHOULD work, all easy-peasy-like, but doesn’t because sometimes it takes fourteen phone calls to get ahold of the interviewee. There have been other factors that have created problems, issues, delays, etc., a few of which I am pleased to regale you with forthwith.

There was that one year I got laryngitis and still had to make calls to do the interviews. I sounded worse than I felt, and I didn’t feel very well. I did it anyway because I was committed to doing the work. (This is how I am. For instance, I go to two police stations every Monday—or Tuesday, if Monday is a holiday—to do the crime blotters, and I’ve never called out sick, even the time I had a stomach virus. And, believe me, you don’t want to hear THAT story.)

The Year of the Laryngitis, one of the places I called was a (certain type of beverage) store. In my extremely hoarse, obviously ill voice, I congratulated him for being a Readers’ Choice winner, and his terse reply was something to the effect of, “Yeah, you just want me to buy an ad.” He also intimated that the votes were faked. Um, no, that’s not correct. Also, HACK COUGH SNEEZE OW MY THROAT HURTS.

That same year, I interviewed a (type of business redacted) shop owner and, upon publication, the city in which his shop is located was incorrectly listed as the next town over. The street address was right, the phone number was right—it was just the city that was wrong. I mostly take responsibility for this mistake, although some copy editor probably should’ve checked it. (Redacted) Shop Dude had my HOME PHONE NUMBER because I’d interviewed him for a feature article I’d written the prior year about the popularity of (redacted), which, essentially, was free advertising for his shop. Because of the tiny error in Readers' Choice, he called MY HOME to yell at me, which I am not used to, and which was very scary. I called my editor and asked him to call (Redacted) Shop Dude and apologize for the mistake, and tell him to lose my number.

Bonus: this year, the new editor tried to give me that very same shop for a Readers’ Choice advertorial and I told her “noooooo” and explained why. She was extremely understanding. Also, she thought it was funny, which it kind of is. Now.

Once, I had to interview the director of a funeral home for Readers' Choice. Remember, these articles are only 100 words, about two short paragraphs. (We used to also do 200-word pieces, which are still pretty short.) Anyway, Funeral Director Dude wanted—in addition to the basic information about the business—to include a rather lengthy POEM ABOUT FUNERAL DIRECTORS.

After my initial Jaw Drop of Dismay (but glad he couldn't see my reaction because we were on the phone), I mumbled an adequate response. I then contacted my editor at the time (she no longer works there) and she laughed and said she’d figure something out.

I have been very fortunate to have some great editors.

This year, I called a place that insisted I come in and experience (their category) in order to write a good article. The manager of the joint was audibly exasperated when I explained that it would be a very brief piece and continued to ask him questions about his services. He continued to insist I visit the venue. He actually SIGHED when I said, “What if I just get the info from your website?” My editor, thankfully, volunteered to write this one because she was familiar with (their category).

Also this year, I made the mistake of calling several Readers’ Choice winners/favorites on April 1. The one I talked to for at least twenty minutes, conducting what I thought was a very professional interview, was so sure it was an April Fools’ prank that, after I hung up, he called my editor. I had to call them back and assure them it was no joke.

Time is money, people. Meaning my twenty bucks per advertorial sometimes ends up being about four bucks an hour. Which I’m pretty sure isn’t a living wage, even for freelance writers.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Doing My Home Work

I’ve been searching the want ads, even though that’s not what they call them.

No, what happens is you post your résumé to Monster and LinkedIn, and then you wait for the offers to roll in.

Last week, I was email-asked to apply for positions such as structural engineer, senior Linux administrator and accounting manager. Because those jobs totally fit my qualifications as professional freelance writer with a certificate in Art Museum and Gallery Studies.

Real certificate I received after completing the program at CSU, East Bay. 

Faux diploma mill certificate that came with my "DeMille University" tee, which I bought from Headline Shirts. I love them. I have, like, five of their shirts. Because I'm mature like that.

I picture myself, hair in a bun, sensible heels, be-suited, faking my way into a management job. Why not? I did it when I was 20. OK, I’ll tell you why not. Because three decades later, it’s an employer’s market. You worker bees better have the precise credentials, because, I’m tellin’ ya, there are way more qualified job-seekers out there than there used to be, hair-bun be damned.

The bigger problem is that I am partially responsible for taking care of my 4-year-old grandson, and I probably couldn't even take a part-time office job doing PR or writing web copy or whatever. I mostly work at home in the few hours he’s at preschool, which includes assignments for my newspaper, the one magazine for which I currently write articles, and the upkeep of my various websites.

We had a dilemma a couple of weeks ago, in which my grandson had pinkeye and had to stay home from school. Three of us—his mom, grandpa and I—had to work. Luckily, the fourth adult in our home—his aunt—was able to watch him for the three hours it takes me to do my weekly Monday assignment, plus another hour-ish I needed in order to conduct a phone interview for a newspaper advertorial.

I used to joke about how cringe-inducing the term “it takes a village” is, but I have learned that this concept is not so cheesy. Particularly when it involves pinkeye. Which was not caught by the rest of the village, thank goodness.

Anyway, I am brainstorming ideas I can do at home, even while the kid is here. Just like I did when my own kids were little, twenty-plus years ago. Deja freakin' vu all over again, except with high-speed Internet instead of low-tech fax machines.

Besides continually updating The Vintage Purse Gallery, my most recent endeavor is MADCAPtion, a blog in which I caption old photos (that I own). I’m trying to somewhat get back to my roots, which consisted primarily of writing greeting card copy and button and keychain slogans. Take a look at it when you get a chance. Let me know if I’d be better off working as a structural engineer. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dog Day Afternoon

I wish I could remember what that editor said to me about how her boss hated when columnists would write essays about dead dogs. It was “dead dogs and…” something else. I can’t remember.

Live cats? Broken romances? Near-fatal car accidents? Still can’t remember. I only remember the dead dog part.

Which is why I was reluctant at first to put this picture and this quote on my personal Facebook page.

“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.” --Dean Koontz

Even though this dead-dog-story-hating boss is a friend of mine on Facebook and may have seen the post, I felt OK about doing it, because I didn’t make any additional remarks. Didn’t have to. Couldn’t. What could I say? RIP Sirius Black Dager, 10-15-02 to 03-02-15? That just sounds so... yucky. I admit something equally yucky--that even though I don't believe in heaven, that's where I told my grandson that Siri went: doggie heaven. Because he's four and I'm either a coward or a wonderful grandma for not wanting to traumatize him. I'll go with wonderful coward. 

Anyway, I’ve been moping around for four days, crying occasionally and second-guessing our decision to let Sirius go. Based on his declining health, it was clearly time to do so, and he wasn’t going to get better, nor was he going to leave on his own.

But "helping" him pass doesn’t make this any easier, "right thing to do" be damned.

He really was the best dog I ever had. I’ve loved all my animals, but this guy was special. I know I sound like everyone else with a beloved dead pet, but you can think whatever you want. I don't care. He was a great dog and this one was a lot harder than every other pet's passing I've had to deal with. Harder than some people I know, too.

And while I try to forget his last moment, which was, thankfully, peaceful, he prances and herds in memory, and lives on in cumulative dog hair that the vacuum will never pick up, and is mine forever in the password to my laptop.

And if you don’t like this particular dead dog story, don’t worry because I’m not writing another. I can't vouch for others, however. There will always be some dead dog somewhere to write about.