Friday, August 29, 2008


Because I have nothing to work on today, I will be taking some time to catch up on the chores I've been putting off:
  1. Fold laundry
  2. Remove cat hair from upholstery
  3. Paint the bathroom ceiling

As much as I'm dreading these chores, I'm a little bit glad that I don't have any writing or editing to do because my mind is in a million different places. A random sampling of the things that have gone through my head today:
  • My article on Helium is currently ranked 66th of 301. There are 3 days left before the deadline.
  • David Duchovny has entered rehab for sex addiction. You'll understand the irony if you've ever seen his Showtime series "Californication."
  • The more I brush my cats, the more they seem to shed (hence, chore #2).
  • John McCain's choice of a female running mate = brilliant strategy.
  • Earworm du jour, courtesy of the commercial for the video game "Mercenaries 2" (this may become my theme song for non-paying clients, should I ever have any):

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I just read it for the articles . . .

The other day, as I was sorting through a batch of my creative writing from college, I came across a flyer for a reading by Bob Shacochis. I remembered going to it, and very much liking the story he read (called "I Ate Her Liver," from his collection of short stories titled The Next New World), but I've never read anything else by him.

Determined to remedy that, I paid a visit to my local library. A search for books by Mr. Shacochis resulted in several anthologies, as well as a few books whose subjects just didn't appeal to me. Among the anthologies was a book titled Playboy Stories: the best of forty years of short fiction. In addition to Shacochis' story, the book includes entries by several authors I like or have been wanting to read, so I checked it out.

I don't know that I'll read the book cover-to-cover, but I enjoyed Shacochis' story (titled "Easy in the Islands"--which is also the title story of his first short story collection), and am now reading one by John Updike.

As for reading more Shacochis, I may have to hit the bookstore. The library apparently doesn't stock either of his short story collections.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monkey business

Today I learned that the Germans call the at symbol (@) "Klammeraffe," which according to the book Wired Style translates into English as "squirrel monkey."

According to various Internet sources, however, a more literal translation would be "clinging monkey," but still . . . how cute is that?

Friday, August 22, 2008


I'm working onsite for that awesome agency client again, and I will not have Internet access while I'm there *gasp!* So you may or may see a post from me Monday-Wednesday, depending on whether I have anything to say when I get home (or if I get sneaky and write up some posts in advance).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I (heart) funny t-shirts

My love of reading is not limited to books and periodicals. I also love to read funny t-shirts. Some good ones I've seen lately (all from

Oh, and my article is now 38th of 184. I'd better get to rating (ah, now it's clear to me why Helium ties rating to being rated--it's a cruel joke on OCD folks like me)!

Rising through the atmosphere

My latest article in the Helium Marketplace is now ranked 26th of 168. I made a few minor changes to it via a process they call "leapfrogging", and my rank has been steadily improving ever since (pre-leapfrog, the article was ranked 86th of 138).

It appears, however, that my new and improved ranking has less to do with my edits (as I said, they were minor) than with the fact that I have been rating other members' articles. It seems there is a correlation between rating and being rated, at least according to the following quote from a Helium Marketplace article titled "How to increase your earnings at Helium":
For that reason it's important to rate when you're publishing to the marketplace, so that your articles can get rated.
What one has to do with the other is beyond me . . . but I'm not complaining. If all I have to do is read a little bit to secure a higher ranking, then so be it. The author of this article must have done an awful lot of rating, because it is ranked #1 despite the fact that it outlines one rather obvious shortcoming of Helium's rating process:
Even if your article is the best one, there is still a chance it won't be selected by the publisher. Publishers use a variety of methods to determine which article they want to purchase. Often publishers just choose the top ranked article. Article number two may actually be a better article, but if the publisher never looks at it, they won't know it. It's very likely that some publishers don't have the ability to judge the quality of the articles being written, and are using the rating system as a failsafe device.
Excuse me? If the top-ranked article isn't the best one, then why is it ranked #1? I think I may have just lost all faith in humanity. Or at least in Helium's rating system.

(Ooh, now I'm ranked 25th of 171!! Maybe badmouthing the rating system in one's blog is another factor that affects one's rank!)

UPDATE, 3:21 PM: 9th of 171. Go me!
UPDATE, 7:08 PM: 10th of 176. I fear I may go insane by the 9/1 deadline.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I finished my homework, can I go out and play?

I had deadlines yesterday and today, which I'm happy to say I met.

Now I'm trying to decide: go outside and enjoy the afternoon, or do the housework I've neglected over the last few days?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bittersweet office supplies

My friend Carina is moving to Sweden. She's been sorting her belongings, trying to determine what is essential and what she can get rid of. I helped her for a few hours (okay, more like 7 hours--she has LOTS of belongings) yesterday. Lucky for me, she is as big a fan of office supplies as I am. I walked away with:
  • a business card organizer
  • 400 index cards and a box in which to store them
  • binder clips
  • document organizers
  • a 3-ring binder
  • several small notebooks
  • The Gregg Reference Manual
  • a microcassette recorder and tapes
  • a bunch of cute file folders
  • a paper cutter
I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. And, to be honest, I also felt a bit like a vulture . . . but she couldn't take everything with her, and at least she knows her things will have a good home. So thanks, Carina--and safe travels! I'll miss you. :(

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The horror! The horror!

What is it with Hollywood? I said nothing when studio executives deemed it necessary to remake such classic films as The Nutty Professor and Dr. Doolittle. I turned a blind eye to the horrifying 1996 modernization of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. I feigned indifference to remade horror films like The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

But I cannot stand idly by while they rework a true masterpiece of schlock, that pinnacle of midnight movies known as The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Okay, so maybe I can--and likely will--stand idly by. But I'll be grumbling the whole time. Hollywood, there are just some things you should leave well enough alone. Shame on you. May you be plagued by an angry horde of "unconventional conventionists".

You say tomato, I say . . .

I submitted my second article to the Helium Marketplace last night. Written for possible purchase by a magazine called GreenPrints (aka "Weeder's Digest"), it is the story of my one and only foray into the dangerous world of tomato gardening. It has it all--love, suspense, death, rebirth . . . let's just hope the GreenPrints folks feel the same way.

I've not found a way to link to the article, so maybe that's only something that can be done after the deadline (if I am mistaken and there is a way to link to the article, I'm sure one of the ever-vigilant Helium folks will comment to let me know how to do it).

As I learned from my last experience, when one first submits an article to Helium it is automatically ranked in the 50th percentile. As of this post, my article was 34th out of 78 (math challenged though I am, that is better than 50%, so I must assume that it has been read and positively rated by my fellow Helium members). This ranking is destined to change, given the fact that the deadline is 9/1. Will it change for the better or the worse? Only time will tell . . .

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


To quote our--ahem--eloquent President, "Fool me once . . . shame on . . . shame on you . . . if fooled, you can't get fooled again!" (queue howl a la Roger Daltry)

I responded to another seemingly decent, albeit slightly vague, Craigslist post for a writer. And like some sort of bad deja vu, I got another nearly instantaneous reply from my friend James. I won't even bother to post it, because except for a different list of reference codes, the response was exactly the same as the last one.

Consider yourself flagged, James.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hitting the target

I've spent my day thusfar working on a project that is due tomorrow. It's mostly done, and I plan to get it to the client by close of business today.

The project involves messaging: I've been asked to draft 30-second, 60-second and 3-minute messages that staff can use when they're talking to the outside world. The 30- and 60-second messages were fairly easy, but I am struggling a bit with the 3-minute message. I was given plenty of material to work with, so it's not a lack of information that's causing the problem. It's that I find myself walking a fine line between "relevant" and "fluff".

One of the background pieces I was given was a survey that, among other things, ranks the key issues among two of the groups the messaging is supposed to target. I think that will be the most important information for me to focus on as I enter the final phase of writing for this draft.

Wish me luck!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A beautiful day

It is a GLORIOUS day. Warm, but not humid. Sunny, with big puffy clouds and a Crayola-perfect "sky blue" sky.

I just want to go out and play!

And because I'm a freelancer and not tethered to a desk in an office, I suppose I could . . . but I do have work to do. It's just really wonderful to know that I could go outside if I wanted to!

Friday, August 8, 2008

This is NOT a job for a writer/editor

This ad, posted under the title "Writer/Editor", was on Craigslist this morning:


-Prepares reports and analysis for the purpose of forecasting title demand and making recommendations for initial and replenishment order quantities. Collaborates with Editorial, Marketing, Finance, Custom, and International to arrive at quantity recommendations. Ensures documented inventory management process is followed.
-Collaborates with Manufacturing in forecasting/prescheduling work, obtaining pricing requests, and ensuring stock is delivered in time to meet sales needs. Also works with Manufacturing on special projects as needed.
-Monitors reprint requirements by monitoring reorder points and/or other reprint trigger reports. Recommends reprint quantities that optimize PP&B (Print, Paper & Binding) while balancing potential inventory obsolescence.
-Monitors back orders and manage inventory levels to ensure out-of-stock situations are minimized. Works with Customer Service or Item Master staff to provide alternative solutions when dealing with out-of-stock or out-of-print situations.
-Reviews inventory levels and prepare reports, analysis, and recommendations for the purpose of identifying return, discounting, remaindering and scrapping opportunities as applicable for the business unit. Following stakeholder input, ensures decisions are implemented.

I flagged it as "miscategorized". I really hope it was just a mistake on their part, because if they really expect a writer or editor to do this job they are insane. Or they have some grudge against writers and editors and this is some evil scheme to suck out their souls one "inventory management process" at a time. There's no writing. There's no editing. There is a lot of bureaucratic and administrative nastiness, which is just cruel and unusual punishment.

Oh, and I'm happy to report that somebody flagged that other Craigslist ad I wrote about. I went back later that day to flag it myself, but it had already been removed.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Come on down: the musical

Do you think there are any legal (copyright, etc.) issues that would get in the way of a person (me, duh) writing a musical about The Price is Right?

Would you pay to go see it?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A good month

August is shaping up to be a good month for Written Expressions. It's only the 6th and I've already completed 3 projects. I'm starting another one tomorrow, and there are two more projects on the schedule for later this month.


And proving that anybody can benefit from the services of an editor . . .
fail owned pwnd pictures

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Suspicious minds

As part of my perpetual search for work, I regularly scan Craigslist for potential projects. More often than not, the ads posted are for jobs that pay poorly (if they pay at all) or the posts are intentionally misleading. One that I saw today falls into the latter category:


Concept & Content Strategy
- Work with business owner(s) and Director to conceptualize content that will advance the company's merchandising, business, marketing, or branding objectives.
- Has a deep and thorough understanding of those objectives, and can translate those into clear executable steps.
- Defines what information is needed for a successful customer experience.
- Collaborate with and set content direction for team and agencies.
- Develops standards and tone/voice for brands.
- Assess existing and proposed content.
- Coordinates content development; establishes efficient workflow processes.
- Highly aware of competitor best practices.

Writing and Editing
- Ensures that content is consistent and effective across all mediums/channels.
- Review agency and team efforts and provide effective direction and feedback.
- Work with functions across the company to ensure good communications and foster a collaborative work environment.
- Often looks for areas that need improvement, and is able to drive implementation of changes and solutions.
- Able to write hands-on as needed.
Two things excited me about this post: it was listed as being "part time" and the salary range was right up my alley. However, I was suspicious about the lack of detail related to what info was expected from the candidates who might be interested. Why would they post so much detail about the position, and then nothing about the qualifications of the applicants or what they should send to demonstrate their experience (resume, writing samples, etc)?

My curiosity got the best of me, so I replied. In my reply, I requested more information about the company and asked what information they wanted from interested applicants. I received this reply back almost instantaneously:
All applicants are required to post they [sic] resumes first.

If you have already done so then the available jobs are
located under the following Reference Codes:

Reference Code: 096772
Reference Code: 2568
Reference Code: SJC19605
Reference Code: 275501
Reference Code: 2877
Reference Code: NJ-2734
Reference Code: MD.0800835

The fact that his reply came back faster than he could have typed it, coupled with the typo, the long list of position reference codes, and the requirement of posting a resume before getting more information about the position replaced my curiosity with suspicion. It's all just a little too "cloak-and-dagger" for my tastes, so I will not be pursuing this "opportunity".

Monday, August 4, 2008

Enough is enough

Sometimes, being anal is a blessing--but when it comes to knowing when a piece of work is finished, it's a definite curse.

Change a word here. And a word there. And there. Then change one back. Delete a sentence, then paste it back in. Tinker with paragraph order. Monkey with the leading. I could do it all day long, and it would likely drive me slowly insane.

So I force myself to stop, in spite of that little voice in my head that tells me one more change is going to make it SO much better. It's hard to do sometimes, but it's absolutely necessary--not only for my sanity, but also in order to meet deadlines.

I'm sure I'm not the only writer who doesn't know when to stop . . . so how do you deal with it?

Friday, August 1, 2008


The creative staffing firm came through again . . . they called at 10:15 this morning and asked if I could meet with the client at 11. I quickly got myself together and headed out the door, and was back home and working on the project by 1.

Thought I'd take a moment to stretch, get some water, and write a (very) short post about it. Okay, back to work!