December 19, 2014

8 Most Popular Posts of 2008

As 2008 draws to a close, I want to thank all of my readers for sharing their insights and supporting this blog. This has been a tumultuous year of ups and downs for many of us.

For me personally, 2008 was the year I transitioned into full time freelancing and the year my father passed away. I’m optimistic that 2009 will offer positive new directions both personally and professionally, and I hope that it brings the same for all my readers.

In case you’ve recently discovered the blog or if you might have missed a few posts over the past year, here’s a recap of some of the 2008′s most popular posts in chronological order:

5 Tell Tale Signs of a Bad Editor: My readers and I are nothing if not opinionated. Read some of our pet peeves about working with editors, then check out 5 signs of great editors as a counterpoint.

Letter to My Dell Inspiron 1200: Our love wasn’t meant to last, and in this bittersweet blog post, I explained why. But the good news is I now have a nicer, faster, prettier laptop.

Big News (not involving a ring): In which I announced my plans to freelance full time and chronicled the range of reactions from friends, coworkers, and family members.

Are You a Writer or a Journalist?: A lively discussion about the subtle semantic differences between being a writer or a journalist.

Computer Essentials: Readers weighed in on whether I should buy a BlackBerry, and I succumbed to the peer pressure a few weeks later. Note: the laptop cooling station hasn’t been as essential as I’d thought, but I can honestly say that Skype has been a great cost-cutter for me.

10 Tips for New Bloggers: If you’re considering joining the blogosphere in 2009, then read this post for ways to boost your readership and maintain momentum.

Why Should Writers Blog?: The single most commented post this year discusses the value of blogging, even when you’re not getting paid.

Creative Ways for Writers to Earn Extra Cash: Be sure to read the comments, too, as several readers wrote in with money-making suggestions of their own.

Happy New Year!

Flickr photo courtesy of Moonberry

A Blogger’s Christmas Parody


Instead of three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree, I give you…

A VERY Creative Way to Get Clients
2 Hilarious Writing-Themed Videos: Morbid Major Magazine Song and Pay the Writer
3 Tips to Make Writing Less of a Struggle
4 Ways to Bring Good Karma to Your Writing Business
5 Myths of Freelance Writing
6 Things I Liked About My So-Called Freelance Life
7 More Productivity Hacks for Writers
8 Ways That Twitter Can Grow Your Freelance Business
9 Ways to Turn Downtime into Productivity Time
10 Things You Should Keep for Tax Purposes
11 Tips to Get More Out of Your Freelancing
12 Ways to Write a Good Subject Line
Bonus! 50 Useful Google Apps for Writers

Happy Holidays!

Flickr photo by minxlj

Ready for My Closeup

Before I publish the obligatory “Happy Holidays” post and call it a year (don’t worry, it’ll be a good end-of-year post, I promise), I just had to share this. My photographer friend Rachel suggested we get together to update my headshots, and I think she did an excellent job of putting me at ease and making me look creative and writerly (I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the most photogenic person on the planet).

I don’t think that every writer’s website needs professionally shot photos, but it certainly helps to create a professional image and put a human face on your writing so editors/client get a sense of the person they’re hiring.

I’m choosing three new photos for my website and random contributor bios, so check out the photo slideshow and weigh in with your faves. And if you’re in the market for a wedding photographer or some family photos, then give Rachel a ring.

5 Q’s with Gail Konop Baker

Though I’m no longer interviewing writers on a weekly basis, I thought I’d revive the 5 Q’s format to interview Gail Konop Baker, author of the recently released memoir, Cancer is a Bitch, which I just finished reading. True to its title, the book is a frank and at times hilariously funny look at Gail’s life before, during, and after breast cancer.

I’ve read a few other memoirs in this genre, and Gail’s is the one that really tells it like it is (or how I assume it would be, not having had cancer myself). We discussed the perils of writing from personal experience, as well as dealing with writer’s block.

Urban Muse: Your candidness about your relationship with family is really refreshing, but did you ever worry how they react to your book?
Gail:
Absolutely! That was a biggest worry from the start. But I showed everything to my husband and children first just to make sure they were okay with what I was revealing. But the thing is, while it seems I real everything about everyone in my life. I don’t. I mostly reveal myself and am very careful about the details of my family and friends’ lives. There is a lot I don’t say and in fact at one point my editor wanted me to add more scenes with my daughters and myself and I said no. I shared what I felt comfortable sharing. I left details in that I thought were universal but at the same time, I always tried to be as open and honest as possible. Partly because I kept thinking, why hold back now? Why not be my most authentic self on the page? In my life?

I do realize, though, especially when I’m out in public reading or when I receive e-mails from readers that I have invited people into my personal life and sometimes it takes me by surprise. It all happened so fast. The ordeal, the writing about the ordeal, the publication of the book (all in a little over 2 and half years).

UM: When you’re going through a major life event, it can be hard to get enough perspective to write about. How did you know that the time was right to write about your illness? Had you kept a journal during treatment or did you rely on memory?
G:
I didn’t know. I didn’t mean to write it at all. Honestly. But after spending weeks staring out the window and obsessively Googling health sites and mixing up batches of homemade organic facial creams, my husband pressed a journal into my hands and said, you have to write this. Still, I didn’t want to…. but one day I picked up a pen and wrote: “I’m sitting topless in the oncologist’s office on Valetine’s Day. Cancer is a bitch. After that it all flooded out. So a big chunk of it came straight out of my journal. But the truth is, I didn’t have perspective. I just wrote it and I think that’s why it reads so raw and with such a feeling of urgency. It still feels raw. And when I read it in public, I can get really choked up.

UM: You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. Do you have a preference for one or the other? Why?
G:
As I said, I never planned to write a memoir. I’d written poetry and short stories and two novels, the last one about a woman who finds a lump in her breast and thinks she might have breast cancer and wonders if she’s lived a meaningful life (that I completed two weeks before I went in for my annual mammogram and was diagnosed myself!). SO writing a book about having breast cancer was not The Plan. But after my surgery, I couldn’t think, couldn’t write…. until I started writing in the journals (and I wasn’t the journaling type before that).

Interestingly, since then, I haven’t been able to write fiction. At the time I didn’t realize this, but I think writing from my life helped ground me in my life. In the here and now. And maybe I’m still grounding myself… I have discovered that writing from my life opens my eyes to my life, helps me notice the threads and patterns, the intricate texture, the metaphors and symbols in the every day world. It’s actually quite amazing to see and notice with that kind of intensity. My next book is about marriage and I’ve been writing some essays about old boyfriends… that’s kind of fun!

UM: How do you handle writer’s block?
G:
I don’t get blocked so much as distracted. For me it’s a matter of focusing on the writing and shutting out the computer, the e-mail, the mess in the house, the appointments I have to make. It’s very easy for me to get side-tracked. So I tell myself I’m going to write for two hours. Once I get going I usually keep on going. Once I start writing I’m very fast. I like to write fast. Revising could take me forever but the writing itself (for me) is better if I don’t think too much and just move my pen across the page. I guess that’s my answer, that’s what I do if I’m “blocked” just move my pen across the page. And have faith that something will come out! I think writing is the ultimate leap of faith.

UM: Who are some of the authors who inspire you?
G:
Early influences were Kurt Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger, Fitzgerald, Tolstoy, Flannery O’Connor, Virginia Woolf, Grace Paley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sylvia Plath. For as long as I can remember, I would fall in love with writers and would read everything they ever wrote and also read everything about them. A couple of years ago I fell hard for Ian McEwan and then had a brief fling with Nick Hornby and more recently, Elizabeth McCraken. But when I started writing Cancer is a Bitch and was tryign to figure out what I was writing, I went back to Annie LaMott’s Operating Instructions and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thing and thought that is the kind of thing I’m aspiring to write.

Thanks, Gail! And congrats on the book.

Photo courtesy of Gail Konop Baker