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Since its inception in the 1980s, the IWOC monthly newsletter, Stet, has featured helpful news, tips, and information for IWOC members and the entire Chicagoland freelance writing community—including previews and recaps of IWOC meetings and events, book and service/software reviews, and advice for developing and sustaining business as an independent writer. As of January 2018, the standard monthly newsletter format has been replaced with the blog format contained on this page, which allows articles to be posted in a more timely fashion.

Whether or not you're a member of IWOC, we invite your contributions. Our only criteria are writing quality and the usefulness of the information to writers. IWOC reserves the right to gently edit submissions. For information regarding submissions, contact the Stet editor.

ViSIT THE Stet ARCHIVES

Over the years, the Stet delivery format has evolved from snail-mailed paper copy to emailed PDF/HTML file to site-hosted, aggregated blog. Stet issues in PDF/HTML and aggregated-blog format from 2002 to 2017 are available for viewing in our archives.

  • To view PDF/HTML issues of Stet (published from 2002 to 2015), click here.
  • To view Stet in its aggregated-blog format (published from 2016 to 2017), click here.

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  • 01 Sep 2021 3:58 AM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    “What day is it? Is there an end in sight? And where the heck did I put my phone?” Those were pretty much the questions we all were asking, over and over, during these past 12 months. Every day seemed like Groundhog Day as we tried to create some semblance of normalcy in what was definitely an abnormal year. Having had to shelter in place for much of it, a trip to CVS became my idea of a good time. And dining in an igloo in 20º weather was an experience I won’t soon forget. Lost in the maelstrom of masks, vaccines and confusing mandates, at least there have been some things that served as a calm within. An anchor. A North Star, if you will. One of those things was IWOC.

    Looking back on 2020-2021...

    No lockdown was going to keep us down.

    No way. While some organizations seemed to have lost their way, IWOC carried on seamlessly, transitioning our in-person meetings to Zoom. At 6:00pm on the 2nd Tuesday of every month, we all had a specific destination, and knew when we got there, we could escape for one hour and immerse ourselves in information and amiable discourse that would help make us wiser business people, savvier self-marketers, unleash our full creative potential and even flick on a few light bulbs about career options for writers we might never have thought of otherwise.

      2020-21 IWOC Programs

      Having assembled a year’s-worth of programs was Program Chair Jeff Steele and his stellar Program Committee members Vladimire HerardBetsy Storm and Scott Winterroth. Members who missed any can download the podcasts on our website’s Member Resources page and relive such info- and advice-packed gems as the following, listed in chronological order:

        • Twitter for Writers (presented by IWOC member / Ghostwriter Alicia Dale)
        • Current Legal Issues (by Lawyers for the Creative Arts)
        • Make 2021 Your Most Creative Year Ever! (Global panel hosted by IWOC member / Blogging Instructor and co-founder of Content Academy, Scott Winterroth)
        • How Audiobooks can Increase Your Book Sales (Audiobook expert and founder of Fort Raphael Publishing Company, Kevin Theis)
        • Building Your Website: Hire a Designer or DIY? (Dawn Verbrigghe, CEO of Jottful Website Design and Dorka Kardos-Latif, Online Marketing Manager of Copyfolio, a DIY website builder)
        • Writing for Trade Magazines (Editors Lisa White, Craig Barner and IWOC Member / Journalist Jeff Steele)
        • Unleashing Your Story (Written Legacy Coach Danielle Perlin-Good)
        • Promoting Your Writing with Video (Video Producer Reno Lovison)
        • How Public Speaking can Grow Your Writing Business (Award-winning international keynote Speaker/Trainer Clinton Young)
        • Build Your Professional Brand(Marketing/Communications strategist, speaker, adjunct instructor Susan Caplan

        IWOSC Programs

        IWOC members also attended, free of charge, several of the programs offered by our West Coast sister organization, Independent Writers of Southern California. Over the course of the year, they were treated to:

          • What Writers Must Know About Finding & Working with Representation Today (IWOSC’S Annual Literary Agents Panel)
          • “Drama Pajama” Virtual Conference for Playwrights (Alliance of L.A. Playwrights)
          • How to Write Funny (panel of award-winning film and TV comedy writers)
          • New Film & TV Writing Opportunities in 2021 (panel of distinguished producers, screenwriters)
          • Write More in 2021 (bestselling author and personal coach, Dr. Marty Nemko)
          • Writing Successfully for Children in Today’s Complex Time (panel of Children’s writers)
          • Writing What You Don’t Know. Yet. (journalist-turned-novelist Christina Hoag)
          • Taking Great Photography for Fun & Profit (National Geographic photographer Erika Fabian)
          • Conversation with bestselling author T.C. Boyle

          Events of Interest

          IWOC and IWOSC were not the only ones who put on outstanding programs. We also informed IWOC members about these world class events:

          • "Craft Your Story for Success" Workshop (Lynn Sanders, founder of Difference Makers Media)
          • Chicago Quarterly Review: Anthology of Black American Literature Group Reading
          • What to Consider when Starting a Podcast with Word Press (hosted by Chicago WordPress Community Meetup)
          • “Make This Your Most Creative Year Ever!” (Scott Winterroth’s proprietary Global Virtual Weekend Summit)
          • Attaining the Ever-Elusive Work/Life Balance as a Freelancer (Upwork Expert Talk)
          • How the Publishing Industry has Evolved in 2020 (Chicago Women in Publishing)
          • So You Want to Write a Novel (best-selling author Kayla Ancrum) 
          • Bestseller Book Marketing Copy Secrets (webinar hosted by author/book publishing consultant Judith Briles, featuring award-winning Copywriter & Consultant Casey Demchak).
          • C3 Word Games (IWOC Member/Ghostwriter Alicia Dale)

          Promoting our members

            Proud of their breaking news and accomplishments, horns were tooted for...

            • Scott Winterroth’s hosting of his proprietary “Make this Your Most Creative Year Ever!” Global Virtual Weekend Summit
            • Jeff Steele’s guest appearance on 1070am radio show, “Multifamily Matters” out of Houston, TX
            • Roger Rueff's webinar based on his book, Discovering the Soul of Your Story
            • Anna Marie Kukec Tomczyk’s publication of her first book, We Are Eagles: Inspiring Stories of Immigrant Women Who Took Bold Steps in Life through Literacy
            • Terry Nugent’s launch of his newly-branded business, Terryfic Writing, LLC.
            • Alicia Dale’s launching of her “First Draft Group” Writing Workshop and “Nonfiction Notes” Newsletter 
            • Francine Friedman’s recently published novel, Beyond the Green
            • Tina Jenkins Bell’s review of Chicago Quarterly Review’s new Anthology of Black American Literature, published in the South Side Weekly

            Speaking of speakers...

            We’ve added a "Be a Guest Speaker" page to our website where experts on any number of topics relevant to writing or the business thereof can request to be a guest speaker at one of our monthly programs. Voilà! We’re attracting requests from across the country. Speaking of which, that’s how we nabbed our October speaker, who will be Zooming in from San Francisco. Keep an eye out for the details. It’s gonna be a good one. 

            By the way, if you happen to know or have a suggestion for a speaker whom you think would appeal to IWOC members, tell us – or if it’s someone you know, encourage them to fill out the form on our Be a Guest Speaker page (under the Calendar tab at www.iwoc.org) Perhaps you, yourself, would like to speak on a topic dear to your writerly heart – or business-minded head? Fill out the form! IWOC’ers love hearing from experts who are one of their own.

            Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! And, oh yes, Jobs!

            Another addition to the IWOC website is a page that's chockfull of links to the hottest Job Sites for Writers. As of this writing, 50 are listed. And ever growing. Accessible to members only, any one of these links can lead to your next profitable gig or long-term client relationship. If you haven’t already, start exploring!

            Perk alert

            The idea that bubbled up last year is now a reality: it’s the Member Referral Awards, where you will get 10% off your next membership renewal fee if you’ve referred a new member. But wait, there’s more! Get 20% if you’ve referred two that same year! Etc. The process is simple. Contact Membership Chair Jeff Steele when it’s time to renew your membership. Let him know who the new members are that you referred, and we’ll create a special coupon code that you’ll enter when paying your renewal fee. 

            Finding ourselves back on track

            At last, like Groundhog Day’s Punxsutawney Phil, we’re emerging from our mandated hibernation. Yes, there’s the shadow of the Delta variant that may have us scampering back into lockdown, but we are more optimistic. So much so that we’re planning our first in-person meeting for October. The only one on Zoom will be the aforementioned guest speaker, who will be displayed on the big beautiful flat screen for all meeting attendees to see and with whom we’ll be able to exchange Q&A. 

            Actually, we already did an in-person “test run” in August when we celebrated IWOCFest at Athena Restaurant, where 20 members – some masked, most not – got together for the much-needed camaraderie and indulgence in a multi-coursed meal worthy of the Greek Gods. It was glorious seeing everyone laughing, talking and knock wood, in good health. 

            But great as the year was (in IWOC terms), let’s close the book on this one and look forward to the next, when we can hopefully find ourselves back to normal at last. 

            A votre santé!


            -- Laura Stigler

          • 31 Aug 2021 9:39 PM | Sarah Louise Klose (Administrator)

            For his 79th birthday, my father requested Ghost Soldiers, a nonfiction book about U.S. Army Rangers rescuing 500 American POWs at a Philippines prison camp during World War II.

            My father served in the United States Army during WWII, in the Pacific Theater, but didn’t talk about his own service until he finished that book. Then he spread his artifacts on the dining room table for us. A black and white photo of him, looking young and slim in his army uniform. An edition of Yank - The Army Weekly. A cloth badge from his unit with the Amphibious Engineers. A hand-written postcard he’d mailed to his sister from Kamakura, Japan.

            In 1943, my father was sent to West Virginia University, to study engineering in an army cadet leadership program called the Army Services Training Program (ASTP). He was 20 years old. The U.S. expected a long war, and wanted future officers who were college graduates. But in 1944, the program suddenly shut down, and sent enrollees to load ships in New Orleans, then work at a cannery in California before being shipped to the Pacific.

            Now, my father opened up maps of the Philippines and Japan, and traced his finger along the paths his unit followed during the war. He shared sad stories, humorous stories. He requested other historical nonfiction books for his birthday and the holidays. We gave him Citizen Soldiers, Lost in Shangri-La, Flags of Our Fathers, With Wings Like Eagles, Shadows in the Jungle, The Girls of Atomic City. I bought him a WWII Vet cap, which he proudly wore when we took him to Veterans Day celebrations, military concerts, and the 75th anniversary of D-Day held at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, IL.

            Tom Brokaw’s book of personal stories told by World War II vets, called The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections, appealed to my father. “I’ve been waiting for someone to say this happened!” he said, after reading one vet’s account of one thousand U.S. planes and bombers filling the sky when the Japanese surrendered on the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945. My father had witnessed the surrender and airpower flyover from the shore. But surrender didn’t mean he sailed right home -- my father was assigned to stay on in Japan for the U.S. occupation.

            He was deeply moved by Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, about the survival and resilience of WWII airman Louis Zamperini. I'd bought him the author’s previous book, Seabiscuit, about a racehorse that electrified the sports world in 1938. He passed the book on to me after finishing it. It’s fun to think about how my family watched another amazing horse named Secretariat win the Kentucky Derby in 1973 -- and then go on to win the Triple Crown. My father was as thrilled as his children, and talked about that horse often.

            My father eschewed novels, mysteries, science fiction. He preferred nonfiction books with a historical bent (some of which read like thrillers). An employee at Women and Children First bookstore in Chicago raved about The River of Doubt, which covered Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing adventure in the Brazilian rainforest. I gave that to my father, then bought him Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten City, which is also set in the Amazon.

            Since he had an interest in how things worked (he could build, fix or repair anything), I gifted my father The Path Between the Seas, which was about the building of the Panama Canal, then The Wright Brothers, both books by David McCullough.

            When he worked as a patent attorney, my father read and wrote about inventions. Plus, his father (my grandfather) was a printer at the Chicago Tribune. So I bought Paper, a fascinating book about paper and printmaking, following author Mark Kurlansky’s book discussion at the 2016 Printers Row Book Fair.

            For Father’s Day 2017, I gave him Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific 1944-1945. My father treasured the book. He filled it with bookmarks, wrote in the margins, talked of favorite passages, shared even more memories with us.

            Over a year later, it became hard for him to read due to eye problems and cognitive issues, and he thought it best that we stop giving him books. That was hard for me to accept.

            September 1 marks one year since my father died, at age 97. Losing him has meant struggling with a huge hole in my life. There are overarching feelings of sadness, and a tremendous sense of loss. I find myself in a wrestling match, trying to ensure happy moments can rise above unrelenting pain.

            I take comfort in knowing these books enlarged him, enlightened him, and informed his life. I’m grateful for the sacrifices he made. I feel we can never thank him enough. And I’m glad that many of these books helped my father process the emotions that he’d shut down related to WWII.

            Stacks of books. Peace and pain. A jumble of memories, a lifetime of love.

            -- Sarah Klose

          • 01 Aug 2021 9:17 AM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

            It’s coming up fast! That time of year when we’re scouting for members who would like to serve IWOC by serving on the Board of Directors. However this year, it’s a bit different. Without any arm-twisting, nine out of our ten current Board Members have opted to remain on the Board for the 2021-22 term. I am truly grateful, as they each are important contributors to the well-being of our organization. Plus they’re just great people to be around. Yet that still leaves us with one seat open. One seat! ready to welcome anyone who’s eager to help us keep IWOC strong, relevant and vibrant now and into the future. And have a good time in the process.

            Are you willing to be The One to run? Or know someone who might be? Nominate them -- or even better, nominate yourself!  

            As you mull it over, consider the following qualifications and benefits:

            • To qualify as a candidate, having been an IWOC member for at least one year is preferred, but not mandated. Appreciating the value in IWOC and having the desire and viable ideas to make it even better are what matter most.
            • Serving on the Board is not an onerous task. We meet for just one hour on the 2nd Tuesday of every month right before the networking hour of our monthly program. Since we are resuming in-person meetings, that would be at 4:00pm.
            • We have lots of laughs. Some disagreements. Such is the price of democracy. But the result is a satisfying sense of accomplishment towards the goal of creating a better IWOC.
            • Most importantly, you’ll be able to have a real influence on how IWOC can help boost everyone’s writing career – including your own

            Since 1981, IWOC has been playing a unique and vital role devoted to helping independent writers succeed. This is your opportunity tactively help morph IWOC into your vision of how it can best serves its membersCome join the Board. In doing so, I can almost guarantee one more benefit: You’ll find yourself growing in positive, unexpected ways. To my surprise, I know I did. 

            Note: Please send your nominations to the Nominating Committee – either George BechtJeff Steele or myself -- by Friday, August 13. Questions? Contact any one of us.

            -- Laura Stigler

          • 29 Jun 2021 7:55 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

            In last month’s President’s Post, as you may recall – and if you don’t, you can read it here, I divulged ways in which you can maximize your opportunities to find and land jobs, simply by taking advantage of the resources IWOC offers. Resources that apparently many members have forgotten about or had no idea existed. For my next act, I’d like to offer “7 Job Search Tips to Live By.” Some are forehead-smacking obvious. Some you may never have thought of. But each can be a very sharp arrow to keep in your Job Search quiver, and could work in tandem when using IWOC’s resources to the fullest. However...

            Full disclosure: I filched the tips from a blog by Allison Smith on Monster.com. Please know that this is not an endorsement of Monster.com. It does happen to be one of the Job Sites listed on our Job Sites for Writers page, but that is the extent of IWOC’s (or my) involvement. I simply came across these wise words of career advice and thought they were too good not to share with you. 

            Here are teasers to the 7 tips, italicized to indicate direct quotes from the blog. 

             

            1. Copy the Key Words

            Want to make sure your resume gets past the robots—a.k.a. the applicant tracking software [ATS] recruiters use—and into the hands of the hiring manager? Use appropriate keywords in your resume and cover letter.

             

            2. Get an Edge with a Cover Letter

            Not all job ads require a cover letter, but including one gives you an edge. Most ATS programs scan your cover letter as well as your resume. Your cover letter gives you an additional opportunity to provide those precious keywords.

             

            3. Take the Resume Upload Shortcut

            If you ever have to choose between filling out an online application or uploading a resume, it’s in your best interest to upload the resume.

             

            4. Keep a Job interview Cheat Sheet

            This is one of the easy job search tips to overlook. Take 20 minutes to write down everything that you’ve accomplished during your time at different jobs.

             

            5. Help Headhunters Find You

            Not to toot our own horn, but we highly suggest setting up an account on Monster.

             

            6. Get Relevant Job Listings Delivered to You

            You know how you can fall down a rabbit hole scrolling through all those pages of job listings? Bypass that whole laborious exercise.

             

            7. Check-in Regularly

            One of the best job search tips we can give you is to be persistent. Know this: Job searching is a marathon, not a sprint. 

             

            To dig beyond the teasers, please visit 7 Job Search Tips to Live By.  Keep in mind that while some of these are clearly promoting Monster, they can easily apply to most any employment website.

             

            Happy job hunting!

             

            -- Laura Stigler

          • 24 May 2021 3:47 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

            In all the years that I’ve served as IWOC’s President – and there’ve been many (in terms of terms, I’ve way surpassed FDR!) – there is one thing that keeps on surprising me about our members. No, it’s not the depth and breadth of talent and diverse specialties that IWOC’s roster represents. That doesn’t surprise me at all. Neither does the willingness to help each other and offer great writing and career advice. Nor is it the love of camaraderie so many of us enjoy (and that will be celebrated when we at last get together for August’s IWOCFest!). Sorry, it isn’t any of the above. It’s this....

            How the majority of members still don’t take advantage of what IWOC offers in the way of jobs, self-promotion and resources. Let’s start with Jobs:

            Writers’ Line Job Board: Are you subscribed? If not, you don’t receive alerts when jobs are posted. I will say, I wish we were always flooded with postings, but on the occasions that jobs are posted, they’ve presented some good (and often great) opportunities. I can personally vouch for that. So if you wish to get a jump on the jobs as they’re posted, go to your profile (you must be logged in), click “view profile” >“email subscriptions” > “edit profile.” Check “Writers’ Line Job Board” and the frequency you’d like to be notified. Then “save.”  You can always unsubscribe. (But why would you?)

            Job Sites for WritersThis is a benefit we’ve added this last year. Have you seen it? No??? Go to the pull-down menu on the “For Members” tab and click “Job Sites for Writers.” On one page, you’ll find a compilation of over 40 reputable sites that post jobs for writers – many of which are exclusively for freelancers. And we keep adding to them. I’ve received feedback from numerous people who have had positive experiences with these. Most (if not all) of the sites listed will send you automatic notices of open positions tailored to your qualifications once you sign up with them and fill out your profile. Certainly beats pounding the pavement (virtual or otherwise) in search of work.

            Profile need a facelift? How does your profile look – that is, the one you’ve posted on the IWOC Online Directory? Does it need updating? Does it convey your writing services, personality, business style, etc., in a way that will attract clients? The Directory is another one of the easiest ways to get jobs – where the clients come to you. The way it operates is, a client will do a search for “freelance writers in Chicago.” Whether they searched on DuckDuckGo, Google or Yahoo, IWOC will pop up on the first page. The client will then go to the IWOC website, click on “Find a Writer” and ferret out writers who fit their requirements. And that is how they’ll find you. So make sure your profile works for you.

            But let’s say the job isn’t quite right for you. Consider recommending another IWOC writer who might be a better fit. Or suggest to the client that they go to the pull-down menu on the “For Employers” tab at www.iwoc.org, and post the job on our Writers’ Line Job Board. See how we’ve come full circle here?

            Maybe you’re aware of all these job-getting features. Maybe not. But in any case, they are there for you. I urge you to take full advantage of them.

            Be on the lookout for future blogs, where I’ll reveal other career-enhancing IWOC attractions you might unwittingly be missing.

            -- Laura Stigler

          • 30 Apr 2021 6:05 PM | Sarah Louise Klose (Administrator)

            The scientists. The front-line personnel – medical and civilian. The first responders. Truckers. Grocery stockers. Delivery workers. Military. And our then Commander-in-Chief, President Trump. All had been united in one grand mission: to literally save the country. Save the world. I was feeling so grateful for every one of them. Within one mere year, it all funneled down into one shot. One shot in the arm. My husband Ken and I got ours today. April 9, 2021.

            On our own mission for survival (first having to battle the maniacal drivers on the Dan Ryan – seemingly a greater risk of fatality than COVID), we drove just outside of Chicago to the Tinley Park Convention Center to be inoculated. I had to take a picture of Ken, masked, in front of the Convention Center sign. This was as good as any vacation spot that had to be marked with a memory. We were about to enter a real sanctuary – one whose sole purpose was to protect lives.

            Police, on foot and in squad cars, were everywhere in the parking lot. As we passed, I did notice them taking note of us. Were we there to cause trouble? Armed perhaps? But seeing me in my ill-fitting skinny jeans and Ken in his “vintage” Generra jacket bought at a Spiegel outlet 30 years ago, I detected relief on the faces of these security men and women. We were ok. We fit the mold of Group 1B. And although spritely in our steps, we weren’t a threat.

            Entering the Center, we stood in a long but quick-moving line, everyone masked. Everyone adhering to the six feet apart rule. Right at the door we were greeted by military. A sight that filled my heart with a feeling of pride and my mind, a sense of safety. Young people, men and women, across the diversity spectrum, all sweet as can be, yet damn professional and efficient. They seemed to love what they were doing, politely but firmly guiding everyone, understanding that a calm demeanor must be maintained at all times, just in case any vaccine participants were feeling jittery, envisioning themselves being hustled out on a stretcher as they were read their last rites. These brave souls of the military so willingly step up to defend our freedoms. Our lives. And now, in this case, help us as we fight to defend our own lives and defeat the “invisible enemy.”

            Following orders, we wound our way around a maze-like path delineated by the kind of roped-off posts you see at airport security lines. Everything moved fast, despite having to show our I.D. at several Checkpoint Charlies along the way, each time answering pretty much the same questions: Do you now or have you ever had COVID? Any symptoms? Passing those tests, we proceeded into a wide-open, airy room filled with at least 200 tables and even more chairs, everything placed six feet apart.

            We were led to a young gentleman who bore the name “Johnson” on his military uniform. We laughed, as I mentioned I thought that it was referring to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But no. “Johnson,” coincidentally, was his name. A good omen! He checked us in, and in making small talk, we learned that he was in the National Guard, and was called to serve for seven months at various COVID outposts. Seven months away from his regular job. I asked if his employer took it well. “Had to!” he said. The government ensures that his job will be waiting for him after he completes his service. If not, the employer will suffer great consequences. “That must be reassuring to know,” I said. He agreed emphatically.

            Soon, we were called to the “shots” station. Ken sat at a table directly opposite mine. His nurse told him to look straight ahead. The reason: the 1” javelin designed to plunge deep into the muscle tissue. Some get woozy just looking at it. My nurse kept me distracted with friendly chit-chat. I told her I was actually excited. She got a kick out of that. Being on the front lines, she already was “Pfizered.” I said we didn’t mind waiting for the J&J to become available. We liked the whole “one-and-done” deal. She administered the shot. Ken got his. We then went to the “holding pen” for 15 minutes – in case we had any reactions. We had none. Except for laughing when I texted Ken, “PUT YOUR VAX CARD IN A SAFE PLACE!” He texted back, “What card?”

            Not having been wracked with chills, attacked by a rash or drawn into the White Light, we upped and left.

            Ken and I. Thirty eight years of marriage. Surviving a lot of things, and knock wood, so far, even the pandemic. Seeing him sitting across from me as we simultaneously received our shots, who would have thought that getting vaccinated together in this historical time, would be one more thing to solidify our bond. It was almost romantic. Like right out of a war novel.

            As we walked out of the Convention Center, feeling somewhat giddy at having crossed this hurdle, I unexpectedly caught my reflection in a mirror. I crashed.

            I’ve got to get rid of those skinny jeans.

            -- Laura Stigler

          • 30 Mar 2021 7:36 PM | Sarah Louise Klose (Administrator)

            Surely you’re familiar with the old adage, “Opinions are like belly buttons: Everyone has one.” (Thought: If we have more than one opinion, does that mean we have more than one belly button? But I digress.) That adage certainly holds true for writers -- especially when it comes to what makes great writing. Should a sentence be spare? Pared down to its purest essence – à la Hemingway? Or do we prefer the more esoteric, labyrinthine route to get to a point – a style oft favoured by academes? So many styles! So many ways to write! Nevertheless, there are a few basic guidelines that, no matter our writing style, can make even a pedestrian “note to self” sound like deathless prose. Below are the rules that every single one of us must, without fail, always follow.

            How to Write Good

            1. Avoid alliteration. Always.

            2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

            3. Avoid clichés like the plague. They’re old hat.

            4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

            5. One should never generalize.

            6. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

            7. Be more or less specific.

            8. Sentence fragments? Eliminate.

            9. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

            10. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

            11. Who needs rhetorical questions?


            APRIL FOOLS! (Although some of those pointers ain’t bad!)

            The above list of writing rules was brought to my attention by IWOC Board Member Terry Nugent, who filched it off the internet. Thanks for the lol’s, Terry! Of course, if you’d like to add to the list, please do so in the comment section. Click the dots next to the headline to enter your rule(s). If we get enough entries, we’ll publish them in the May edition of Stet!

            Here’s my contribution:

            12. Double negatives are a no-no.

            -- Laura Stigler

          • 30 Mar 2021 12:14 PM | Sarah Louise Klose (Administrator)

            Post was edited for Stet. To read Heather Kenny’s full article, published on Medium, click here.

            I’ve only been freelancing full-time a little over a year, but I’m already making a decent living. If current trends continue, in 2021 I should match or even overtake my salary from my last full-time job. So I’m successful -- even if it doesn’t always feel like it while I’m continually marketing myself, juggling clients and projects, and identifying digital tools. I get asked for advice regularly, so here are my top tips.

            • Have a financial plan for the first year. I got a severance package when I was laid off from my job and had savings, so I could pay my bills and not freak out about money for a while. If you don’t have a cushion, start socking money away, or freelance part-time to get a head-start on building a client base.
            • Put up a website and a LinkedIn profile. Your website, especially when you’re just starting out, doesn’t have to be anything special — it can be clips and basic information about you, quickly posted on WordPress or Squarespace. You can also promote yourself and connect with others on LinkedIn.
            • Create a portfolio of your work. I’ve been a writer for over 20 years, so I had samples ready to go from my former job and my occasional freelance gigs. If you’re a newbie writer, mock up some samples in your niche.
            • Identify your niche and preferred type of writing. Do you like to write snappy copy for social media? Are you good at sales copy that converts? I enjoy using my journalistic skills to write business posts, articles, white papers, and case studies. Also consider the industries you want to write for. My writing experience was in higher education services and healthcare, so I pursued those areas and added on B2B technology (which is now one of my niches). A niche doesn’t have to limit you — it’s just a way to focus your efforts.
            • Identify and reach out to potential clients. Now that you know your niche, find clients in the space who need your services. I’ve looked up companies and pitched to their marketing managers (using LinkedIn, then hunter.io to find their emails). But I mainly found work through my network and didn’t need to rely on cold emails.
            • Work your network. Friends, family, former coworkers, people you chatted with at an event, LinkedIn contacts — let them know what you’re doing and ask them to pass your name and information along to those who may need your services. My first two clients came from my aunt and my first boss after college.
            • Be open to learning and adapting. At first, be willing to explore. As you get more experience, you can gain more control and have your work align more with your interests and preferences. Sometimes your career can surprise you — I never expected to write about technology, but it turns out I’m good at explaining complex concepts in an engaging way. This is actually part of the fun.
            • That’s the quick version of how to get started. With freelancing, I’ve worked harder than I ever did at almost any job, but I don’t mind because it’s on my behalf. If you’re ready to face your fears and create a plan to survive the first year, I encourage you to go for it.


            • - Heather Kenny

          • 01 Mar 2021 3:35 AM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

            Pssst. I shouldn’t be telling ya this. Now ya gotta promise, whatever’s discussed here stays between you, me, and the billions of others who prowl the internet. It has to do with money. Ya know. Scratch. Dough. Moolah. Bread. Got that? OK. So. Ya ever pass those magazine stands – maybe in a train station or over there by Michigan Avenue, and you see all these magazines with names ya never heard of? Names like, “Plants.” Or “Cereal.” And ya wonder, “Who the heck reads that stuff?” Yeah, well, they're called “trade magazines.” And here’s the dirty little secret: there’s money to be made between them pages. Pages that a whole lotta people read. Yeah. That’s right. Now shut up and listen...

            So ya got these trade magazines. All kinds. I mean, like there’s gotta be a trade magazine for every kinda -- what’s the word – oh yeah. Trade! Think I'm just gummin’ my chops? Hey. You wouldn’t believe what I just found. A list – that’s right – an entire list of a gazillion (give or take) trade magazines on just about every subject you can think of.

            Pick a trade. Or even a hobby. Say you like dancin’. Well guess what, my friend. There’s a trade magazine for that. Ok. Pick another one. Ya like cows? Wa-laa. There’s a trade magazine for that! Pretty cool, huh? And guess who these trade magazines hire. Yup. Writers. Not just that. The pay is darn good, too. Who knew???

            I’ll tell ya who knew. The three panelists who’ll be at the next meeting on March 9. They go by the names of Craig Barner, Jeff Steele and Lisa White. And they’ll be spillin’ the beans on “Writing for Trade Magazines” – gonna tell all the secrets of how to land assignments, what they pay, the opportunities – that sorta thing.

            “But I’m not interested,” ya say? Quit your whinin’, will ya? Ya like food, don’t cha? Ya like trucks, don’t cha? I mean, there’s gotta be some subject you’re interested in. And if not, then get interested. Hey listen. I know a guy who knows a guy who was given an assignment by a tile magazine. You heard me right. Tile. And this guy says, “What do I care about tile? Yawners!” But he took the assignment anyway ‘cause he has this thing about money: He likes it. Turns out, this was one heckuva fascinatin’ assignment. And the article turned out to be one heckuva great piece for his portfolio.

            I got a fancy name for this “phenomenon,” if you will. It’s called finding the “intrinsic drama” in a subject. Everything’s got it. I don’t care if it’s toothpaste, dog food – or tile. There’s something interestin’ in every subject. Something that separates it from everything else. It’s just up to you, the writer, to find it and make it bloom. Like a flower. Aw, listen to me. Ain’t I poetic? (Or is that pathetic?)

            Anyways. Now you know at least some of the secrets about “the Trades” (as they say in the biz). Come to the program and find out more. In the meantime, members may wanna check out that list I mentioned earlier. There's a link to it on this page. Just let’s keep it between you and me, OK? Oh alright, and maybe the lamppost. But that’s it!

            Bada-bing, bada-boom.

            -- Laura Stigler


          • 28 Feb 2021 9:52 PM | Sarah Louise Klose (Administrator)

            For a number of years now, I’ve been an outspoken fan of Contently.com. The content marketing platform offers a free online portfolio to showcase any piece of work you’d like to spotlight. Not only can you easily upload your published writing by typing in a URL, but I’m told there’s also a means of uploading PDFs to the site.

            The online portfolio of Contently.com permits you to tell a little bit about yourself and provide contact information. You can crow about the clients or publications for which you’ve written, list the topics in which you specialize, and highlight the formats and skills for which you’re known.

            Of course, the best part of the portfolio is its attractive, colorful presentation of writers’ work. For each one of my articles, it displays the name of the publication, the headline and a couple of sentences from the opening of the article. In most instances, the site picks up the photo, illustration, rendering or chart that accompanied the article online.

            It’s easy to add new work samples, move them around, and delete those you wish to discard. Upon the initial setup of my Contently.com page, I discovered that once I entered the name of a publication I wrote for, the portfolio raked the online universe for stories with my byline from that publication and added them automatically. For this reason, visitors can continue scrolling through my portfolio long after they’re sick and tired of it.

            But people have long since grown weary of me singing the site’s praises.

            So don’t take it from me, take it from professional freelance B2B writer Sharon Hurley Hall, another aficionado of Contently.com.

            Here is Sharon’s portfolio on Contently.com.

            https://sharonhurleyhall.contently.com/

            And here is her very positive review of what it has done for her writing business.

            https://medium.com/writers-blokke/why-im-more-than-content-with-contently-da1df4025627

            In short, I’m urging writers to give it a try. Like Sharon Hurley Hall and myself, I expect you’ll enjoy a measure of contentment yourself.

            - Jeff Steele

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