10 Word Nerdy Tips for Frankenstorm Apocalypse Preparedness

I lay awake in bed at 5:30 this morning as the windows shuddered and the wind howled. The cats prowled restlessly and the old radiators whistled and creaked. Back issues of Creative Nonfiction, the latest issues of Esquire and Vanity Fair, my new copy of The New New Journalism were in a loose pile next to the bed. My Kindle was plugged in over by my dresser. Nine books were on the shelf behind my pillow, in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

I had spent the previous three days growing increasingly freaked out by Frankenstorm-related tweets and news stories. Now, as I lay there cuddled up to my husband, I wondered aloud:

“Do you think I should download some more ebooks before we lose power?” [Read more…]

Where Are All the NJ Word Nerds Hanging Out?

Montclair Book Center

Maybe 15 years ago, back when the Montclair Book Center was still the Page One Café, I barely stepped into my local Barnes & Noble. Why would I? Instead, I spent hours browsing the books — old and new — on the left side of Page One. On the right side, there was a café. Live jazz. A healthy selection of periodicals, records, old movie posters, and other miscellany. It was all I wanted and needed, all in one place.

Today, the café is gone. The periodicals and other miscellany, too. It’s still a bookshop worth losing yourself in. But it’s not the same. It’s not the type of place where I can sit down with a good book, find the latest lit mags, and enjoy a meal and some music. That makes me sadface.

What’s even sadder is that I’ve been unable to find another shop that can step in and take its place. In Boston, I had the Trident Booksellers & Café. When I was working in NYC, I frequently showed up early for events at Housing Works, McNally Jackson, and the Strand, wandering the aisles before settling down for a variety show or a panel or a reading. Have I just been spoiled? Is there a reason I can’t find a single NJ bookstore that’s recreating that experience… that’s popped up as a literary hotbed for NJ writers? Where’s the NJ version of Book Boroughing!? Where’s the NJ literary community!? [Read more…]

How to Find the Right Balance Between Connected Writer and Crazy Recluse

me, in most social situations.

I crossed and recrossed my legs uncomfortably, picked cat hair off my skirt, and leaned away from the passenger sitting beside me as the 195 bus made its way in fits and starts into the city.

Only several hours before, I’d been having a Skype video chat with fellow writer and YEC member Dave Ursillo about community-building. He had recently launched an online community for writers, but our conversation inevitably wound its way to in-person events. 

The writer’s life is so solitary, I’d told him. I think it’s important that someone provides in-person events, so that writers can be around other writers. Who else wants to talk about the work that we do ad nauseum. Not my husband!

I’d meant it. Four years before, I’d hosted a successful Word Nerd Networking event with Marian Schembari. And it had immediately been obvious that writers were craving more, writer-centric interaction.

Still, now that I found myself on a bus into the city, on my way to a meeting with a possible new copywriting client, I couldn’t help being a complete crankypants. [Read more…]

Which Books Have Inspired Your Writing?

When I was a 5-year-old aspiring poet, I devoured books of poetry by Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe, memorizing lines that spoke to the part of me that knew I’d one day work with words.

Later on, as a teenager, I read Bill Ervolino‘s humor column religiously, soaking in his words over breakfast while seated at the brown, Formica table in my parents’ kitchen. I’d turn to the appropriate page in The Record before even glancing at the comics (though I was a die-hard Garfield fan).

From the beginning, what I read informed what I wanted to write.

Last month, I read Lee Gutkind’s You Can’t Make This Stuff Up:  The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction–from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between. (Say that one three times fast.) It immediately transported me back about seven years, to when I was taking Cris Beam’s From Pitch to Publish Class at New School. I was focused on the personal essay more than anything else at the time, but when we were required to read Robert Boynton’s The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft, I found myself fascinated by the concept of immersion journalism. [Read more…]

Choosing to Change Course Doesn’t Mean I Failed… Right?

<— This brilliant illustration perfectly conveys exactly how I’ve been feeling these past couple of months.

I posted about my depression / career-related identity crisis just last week, and am still struggling to scramble my way out of that hole.

Yesterday, I took my laptop to my favorite local cafe and tried to co-work with an old, high school friend of mine. But aside from pinpointing some possible markets for an essay I’d been working on, I couldn’t bring myself to do much else. I just kept sipping my raspberry-flavored Italian soda, staring at my laptop screen, and zoning out.

Then, this morning, I read a piece by Marian Schembari, about prioritizing your real life over your online life. It made me think of another post I’d recently written, about asking yourself: What are you willing not to achieve?

When you’ve been hustling like hell for a really long time, things tend to fall by the wayside. Sometimes, the things that drop to the bottom of your to-do list are your unpaid passion projects, the goals that nourish you, the dreams you really should prioritize. But sometimes, in seeing what you choose to let go — things that perhaps you conceived of as a means of growing your business — you start to realize what’s really most important to you.

[Read more…]

Why I Don’t Want to Have It All

Class started off slow. Instead of sitting cross-legged on our mats, hands resting palms-up on our knees, we rolled up blankets and placed them — lengthwise — beneath our backs. We stretched out, our heads propped up on blocks, our arms flung out to our sides, our eyes closed. We concentrated on the rise and fall of our stomachs. Our chests.

After coming under the gentle spell of our own breath, we rocked forward onto all fours, and then leaned back into child’s pose. Then we slid forward onto our stomachs, where we were told to stretch our arms out above us and rest our foreheads on the floor.

That’s when I felt the tears burning behind my eyelids. They were so sudden, they took me by surprise. I pressed my forehead and nose into my mat, hard. I rocked my head from side to side, allowing my hair to fall around my face. [Read more…]

So You’re a Freelancer. Do You Still Need a Resume?

I’ve always been a cover/query letter junkie. My freshman year of college, I learned from my most favorite professor of all time that all resumes looked the same. It was the cover letter that set you apart.

So when I fled the corporate world five years ago to freelance full-time, I was relieved. Finally, I thought. I can toss that resume into my virtual recycle bin.

But I was wrong.

First I needed a resume for that post-college internship I decided to take on so as to beef up my portfolio and build my network.

Then I needed a resume for that permalance gig I applied to so as to beef up my income.

And I’ve needed a resume so many times since then, even for the smallest of projects.

What can I say? Some clients are traditionalists. The query letter / online portfolio / blog / social media awesomeness / online empire doesn’t do it for them.

Unfortunately, my resume was a snore.

That’s where Jenny Foss came in. [Read more…]

Join My Quasi-Secret Word Nerd Facebook Group Maybe?

Hey guys. This totally doesn’t count as this week’s actual blog post, but I just wanted to let y’all know that I’ve created a quasi-secret Facebook group for word nerds.

Basically, it’s an invite-only Facebook group I’m using as a testing ground for features that will eventually appear on the still-being-developed Word Nerd Networking site.

I’m also hoping it will become a fun, virtual hangout for all my fellow word nerds, where we can chat about what we’re working on, share project leads, show off our home offices, post about freelance resources, and more.

I’d love to invite all of you — as you’re the most fantastic writers I know — but I can only invite people with whom I’m already Facebook friends. So if you’re interested in joining the party, connect with me here, and then shoot me a message that mentions you’re itching to get into the Word Nerd Networking Facebook group. Include a link to your online profile, so I can confirm you’re a working writer. I’ve previously kept my word nerdy life separate from my Facebook life, but THE WALLS MUST COME DOWN.

Once you’ve gained entrance to the group, you can feel free to post about any ol’ word nerdy thing you can think of, or even upload photos of your home office and/or other word nerdy product. (You’ll see I already have a pic up there of me with my “reading is sexy” mug.)

And… that’s that! You may carry on with your tweeting and your Spider Solitaire-ing now. 🙂

Related: How I Learned to Live and Write with Intention

The Circuitous Route from Pitch to Publish

I once took a non-credit, continuing education class at the New School called From Pitch to Publish. It was about developing and pitching personal essays and narrative journalism pieces to print publications, but I feel the simplicity of the name hints at the vision many of us have of the book publishing process, too:

1. Develop idea.

2. Write proposal.

3. Pitch agents.

4. Get agent.

5. Pitch publishers.

6. Get publisher.

7. … or don’t. The End.

In reality, the journey can be far more circuitous.

Awhile back, I shared this story on a pair of authors who got their book published… eventually. As I work on my own book, I’m also finding that the process is not as straightforward as I once expected. Instead of simply facing the possibility of publishing or not publishing my book, I find my book… changing. [Read more…]

Why I’m No Longer Fit for an Office Environment

I’m already several hours into my workday, and I’m still unshowered, wearing the pajama top that sometimes slips down so low I unintentionally flash my husband. My hair hangs in oily, unattractive clumps, and I sorta smell. I mean, I’d like to shower, but I’m pretty sure that as soon as I disrobe, that package I’m expecting will arrive.  This is what I get for not rolling out of bed until after 8 a.m., after my husband has already walked out the door to catch a bus into work.

So I’m sitting here at my computer, taking care of small tasks while my brain still lumbers into wakefulness. I’m tweeting and making my way through my inbox and feeling a bit resentful of all the conference calls I’ve had to be on over the past few weeks.

Because god forbid anyone tries to communicate with me via anything but email.

I have another conference call in under an hour, and I wonder what they’d think if they saw me now. Dirty. Barefoot. My slightly disgusting coffee mug at my side, litter underfoot like sand. [Read more…]