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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, and members to be more interactive by leaving comments. (Simply click on the 3 vertical dots next to each blog's headline.)

We invite contributions from all interested parties both inside and outside of IWOC. Our only criteria are writing quality and the usefulness of the information to independent writers. For information regarding submissions, contact the Stet editor.

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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 2019 6:31 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    On August 29, Mayor Lightfoot reported on the State of the City. The news? Not good. In stark contrast, and as Commander- in-Chief of IWOC, I can definitively declare that the State of IWOC is very good. Nay, excellent. Most notably, IWOC is way more financially solvent than our fair City – thus enabling us to not only cover our operating costs, but to continue offering programs, parties, perks and other things (that don’t necessarily begin with “p”) aimed at benefitting the careers and, dare I say, even the morale of our members. There’s something going on here. Call it an energy surge. But it’s palpable, much of it owed to what has transpired throughout this past year, namely...

    • Our exploding Social Media outreach, thanks to Tephra Miriam. She has nimbly taken all our social media platforms to a whole new, fun level that raises IWOC’s profile to a whole new, fun level. (Plus, we got 600 meetup.com members – and counting every day!).
    • A 33% increase in IWOC membership since September 2018. Membership Chair Alicia Dale, with her unstoppable flow of ideas and gregarious nature, has gone full throttle in attracting and maintaining an outstanding caliber of members. Check out their profiles in the Online Directory and see for yourself:
    • Professional Members: Joseph Wycoff, Matthew Mayer, Manuel Galvan, Jay Schwartz, Chris Zambory, Carrie Pallardy, Chloe Riley, Patience Kramer, Richard Pallardy, Chris Ruys, Dan Gillogly, Ben Durham, Tonia Humphrey, Greg King, Jim Ardito, Desiree Mulkey, Francine Friedman, Terry Nugent, Natalie Roth, David Witter, Morgan Carey Bergren,  Ted Barnhart
    • Associate Members: Daise Imakando, Donna Gregory, Anne Hagerty, Christina Michael, Sandra Steele, Allison Torem, Lucia Mouat, Jennifer Posternack, Michele Popadich, Maria Rodriguez, Roberta Krause, Genevieve Waller.
    • Ongoing program excellence. Program Chair Jeff Steele and his stalwart Committee of Vladimire Herard, Betsy Storm and Julie Polanco, along with contributions from Ms. Dale have continued to bring in programs that both informed and entertained. Members who missed any can download the podcasts on our Members Resource page and relive such career-polishing gems as: The Chunky Method of Writing, Benefit Big by Blogging for Business, Secrets of Copywriting Success, Real Time Networking, Perfect Your 90-second Pitch, Pump up Profits by Increasing Your Efficiency, How to Build Your Success through Online Video Stories, Understanding Content Strategy to Create Brilliant Copy, and How to Use LinkedIn for Freelance Success.
    • Promoting our members. Proud of their breaking news and accomplishments, horns were tooted for:
    • Laura Stigler (the Chicago premiere of her fun-woman show, “Nashville Notes: The Diary of a Mad Songwriter”)
    • Tephra Miriam (Escape to Pearl City, Book 2 in her YA Clown Town Adventures fantasy fiction series; published children’s book A Monster or a Microwave; signed on as contributor of articles to media powerhouse Kivo Daily)
    • Roberta Allen (the book launching of her memoir Examined Lives)
    • Jarmila Del Boccio (winning Word Weaver’s Georgia Peach contest for Soli’s Saving Grace and debut of The Heart Changer, both historical fiction)
    • Francesca Peppiatt (her story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul’sRunning for Good” edition; staged readings of her play, “The Girls: Together Again” and her one-person show for Chicago Writers Bloc)
    • Alicia Dale (spoke on “Negotiating Tactics” at SheSays Chicago “Who’s Your Momma” event)
    • Julie Polanco (raising funds for Purple Asparagus Food Justice Org via publication of her children’s book, The Flavor of Friendship)
    • Manuel Galvan (hosted Roundtable Meeting at Union League Club to discuss Chicago’s mayoral candidates)
    • Kathryn Occhipinti (her collaboration with Chicago’s Italian American Voice, Fra Noi.com)
    • Kathleen Spaltro (The Great Lie: The Creation of Mary Astor bio to be published by University Press of Mississippi; articles published in Illinois Heritage)
    • Karin McKie (directed dramatic reading of Phantom Collective production, "Last Thoughts of Mary Stuart")
    • At the 2019 Printer’s Row Lit Fest, IWOC promoted books authored by IWOC-ers Adela Durkee, Veronica Hinke, Tephra Miriam, Kathryn Occhipinti, Karen Sandrick, Betsy Storm and Marci Rolnik Walker
    • “Life in the Freelance Lane: Business Basics for Freelance Writing Success,” hosted by Laura Stigler, Jeff Steele and David Steinkraus, the presentations are becoming ever more in demand, with appearances this past year at the Wilmette Public Library and encores performed at Skokie Public Library, City Hall, Chicago Career Transitions Center, and most recently, at NextDoor Chicago. Benefitting the writing community at large, the talks also have been benefitting IWOC, inspiring over a dozen attendees to join IWOC!
    • Parties. Not talking political ones here. Just the fun kind, and we had ‘em – the Winter Holiday soiree at Café Iberico (delicioso!) and at Athena for IWOCFest (Νόστιμα!)

    Yup. 2018-19. As the song says (and what Mayor Lightfoot couldn’t say), “It was a very good year.”

    Any ideas for 2019-20? Do tell in the comment section.

    Onward!

    - Laura Stigler

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 04 Aug 2019 11:24 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    Cred. As in “credentials.” For the longest time after I joined IWOC, I sat back and let the organization roll on and work for me without contributing much in return – other than my yearly membership dues. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) I was quite content in that role, fortunate to get enough work via my Directory Profile that enabled me to make a career out of freelance writing. But after several years, the gnawing sensation that I really needed to give back started to creep in. So, I took the plunge, joined the PR Committee, and from 2004 to 2016 wrote IWOC’s press releases for the monthly programs. Along the way, a funny thing happened to me: Not only was I able to polish the skills it takes to write a press release, but I gained the confidence to add “Press Releases” to my résumé – garnering work in that area that I never would have gotten otherwise. I increased my cred.

    IWOC can do that. Bring out skills, talents, sides of you that you may not have realized were there, adding value as a writer – or just as a person! All of which can help attract more clients. So, if you’d like to discover what’s in you that may be lying dormant – or just benefit IWOC (and yourself) by expanding the avenues where you can put to use the abilities you excel at, my advice? Join an IWOC Committee! Examples:

    • Membership Com: After being an IWOC member for only a few months, Alicia Dale was already smitten with the organization. Alicia is a genuine people person. Perfect for Membership. She embraced the Chair role and knew she found her niche. Not only has she helped increase IWOC’s membership by 10%+ in one year, but by reaching out to members both new and seasoned, she was able to give and get advice that has symbiotically helped advance careers – her own and others’. Sound like a niche for you? Get in touch with Alicia.
    • Program Com: Chair Jeff Steele is IWOC’s resident showman. If you’ve ever been greeted by him, you know of what I speak. Enter a room and he makes you feel like you’re a star appearing on “Late Night.” He loves “putting on a show” based on great ideas, whether they’re his own or coming from his Pro Com colleagues. If you’ve got ideas for fun, informative, practical programs, get with the Program! Talk to Jeff.
    • StetBlog: Cynthia Tomusiak is IWOC’s Editor of the Stet newsletter cum blog. And she does so from her digs in Nevada! Cynthia is always looking for contributors that will help make the StetBlog more interactive, interesting, informative – or just a good read. If there’s ever a way that can increase your SEO ranking, it’s a blog. IWOC gives you the opportunity to do just that. If you’ve got ideas for topics about the world of writing, or the business of writing – anything you feel would be of interest to writers, contact Cynthia to get on the StetBlog staff! Added bonus: You get to exhibit your own writing chops to IWOC’s nearly 800 contacts plus Social Media followers -- not to mention have your posts be visible to prospective clients. And speaking of Social Media...
    • Social Media Com: Tephra Miriam is our Social Media Master, brilliantly posting all things fascinating about IWOC, writing, writers’ groups, writers events, etc. – and news about IWOC members! If you want to get on board this train, contact Tephra. Not only will you learn from a real expert about the how-tos of SM (i.e., if you don't already know them), but you can become proficient enough to add that in-demand field of expertise to your listings on IWOC’s Online Directory.
    • Public Relations Com: Got a background in PR? Or would like to start building one? Contact PR Chair Katherine Mikkelson, who’s been serving on the committee since 2004 first as distributing the releases, then taking over the writing of them in 2016. Now residing in Dallas, TX, she wouldn’t mind handing over the reins to other capable hands. For you, PR could mean writing the monthly press releases, but it can go way beyond that. This is a wide-open committee that you could shape according to your abilities – or wishes.
    • Web Com: Does tech scare you? It did me. Just a little. But when Webmaster Roger Rueff explained how IWOC’s web server works so even I can understand, it really proved itself to be a most intuitive system. So now I’m posting events. Uploading our podcasts. Editing. Mass e-blasting. You name it. Me! A techie! How about you? Imagine the high you can get mastering an area usually anathema to us writerly types. It may even help you to gain confidence in creating your own website, if you’ve yet to build one. Contact Roger or me if you’d like to try your hand at this winnable game.

    So seriously. Do consider participating in any one (or more) of the above Committees. Or devise one of your own. (Event Planner, anyone?) When you do, don’t be surprised if the same funny things that happened to me (fattening the résumé, boosting confidence, a rise in SEO rankings) – can happen to you!

    - Laura Stigler

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 04 Jul 2019 7:51 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    George Becht coordinated IWOC's presence at LitFest and nine IWOC members volunteered to help staff our space in four two-hour shifts each day. A great big THANK YOU to all the volunteers.

    We were one of 15 exhibitors under the Illinois Woman's Press Association (IWPA) tent in the middle of Dearborn street on Saturday and Sunday, 8 and 9 June.

    Our purpose in being there was threefold:

    • Solicit members. This is the primary potential for the event's attendees and we were able to have quite a few engaging conversations on both days. About 50 people signed up to be on our email list for further information and notices..
    • Solicit businesses to engage our members. We did have a few inquiries and were able to direct those folks to the Find A Writer area of the website.
    • Allow members to display and sell their books. Seven members displayed their books and volunteers were able to close three sales.

    In all, a successful event with positive anticipation for next year.

    - George Becht

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 01 Jul 2019 8:04 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    No, this is not about the profile we all examine critically in a 3-way mirror. (I do, anyway.) I’m referring to the profile you have posted on IWOC’s Online Directory. The one that is your business’s calling card, posted to capture clients from all corners of the globe who are in search of professional independent writers in Chicago. The one that could make a difference in hiring you – or someone else. Far be it from me to be critical of that profile either. But I’d like to suggest a few places where you could nip and tuck that may help you optimize your opportunities for garnering more work – tips taken from analyzing the profiles of those who get work through IWOC. And lots of it.

    First, you must know...

    If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1000 times. But it bears repeating for the 1001st: Clients don’t necessarily know who you are, or that you even exist. (Brutally stated, but true.) So when they go a-Googling for freelance writers, they won’t be entering your name. They’ll be entering such keywords/phrases as “Chicago freelance writers” – or variations thereof. When they do, IWOC will come up on the very first page, if not in the top 3 rankings. They’ll then go to www.iwoc.org, click on “Find a Writer,” and enter a specialty or field of expertise. If it happens to be one of yours, your name will pop up. Amongst the millions of writers the world over, clients will be reaching out to you. No cold calling needed on your part. That’s called a “warm lead.” Cool!

    So now that clients are eyeballing your profile, ask yourself: Is it attractive enough? I don’t mean in the glamour-puss sense. I mean in the business sense. Will it attract them? Make them feel that you’re the writer who can save their day and then get them to contact you? Following are points to ponder that may very well raise your chances of getting them to do just that.

    1). You oughta be in pictures.

    That headshot of yours. Is there one? Or if so, is it one of those generic “silhouettes” that look like you’re in a witness protection program? Why the mystery? Post a real picture. Doesn’t have to be shot by Annie Leibowitz. Just make sure it’s of good quality. Clear. And that you look professional – but approachable. It’s been scientifically proven that words accompanied by pictures are far more likely to be read. The same, I would venture to guess, would be true for your profile.

    2. The “Summary” section

    Consider this to be your elevator speech. On a 3-story elevator ride. You have about 30 words to grab potential clients by the collar. So cut out the fat and make sure every one of those words carries its weight in gold. Thoughts to consider:

    • What kind of writing do you do? Summarize it in sharp, concise terms. Think of your words as hors d’oeuvres. Small bites that pack a tasty wallop.
    • What is the biggest benefit you can offer clients that would separate you from the pack?

    3. The difference is in the “Details” section

    Here’s the section where you get to flesh out the “Summary.” Several thoughts:

    • While “business speak” is never a mistake, it also never hurts to let your personality shine through. If you want to inject some humor, why not? Use an unconventional adjective? Go for it. You’re a writer. You’re allowed!
    • The wall of copy. Nothing can be more daunting to a reader than seeing a solid copy block that’s as long as a train of CVS coupons. Without any breaks in between. Break it up, kids! Into more easily digestible paragraphs.
    • The Details section is not for merely slapping up your résumé. Nor is it making the best usage of the space by just entering a laundry list of what you already have listed in your listings! This is your first chance to showcase your writing ability and form a narrative that flows. (NO TYPOS, PLEASE!) Here is where you get to put meat on the bones, expanding for instance, on what you offer, your strong suits, ways in which you’ve helped clients solve problems, etc. As for your résumé, consider attaching it to your profile as one of your samples – and mention that.
    • Afraid to sound like you’re bragging? It’s ok. It’s not bragging if it’s true! You’re just being confident about your accomplishments, abilities and problem-solving savvy. For the record, clients love confidence. It puts their mind at ease.
    • Here’s a BIG secret: If one of your areas of writing isn’t on the Expertise or Specialties list, state it in the Details section. Example: Let’s say one of your specialties is writing about pet care. Include it in your narrative. If a client does an “Advanced Search” under the “Details” field and enters the word “pet,” your name will come up. Ka-ching!

    4. If you’ve got links, flaunt ‘em.

    Post the links to your Social Media platforms, blogs...but especially, to your website, where clients can really drill down into who you are and what you do. And speaking of websites, if you’re going to direct clients there, be sure your site looks clean, contemporary, is up-to-date and easy to navigate. Your website is what will most likely motivate a client to get in touch.

    5. As for sewing up the deal...

    That’s out of IWOC’s hands -- and in yours. But at the very least, through a strong, engaging online profile, you’ve increased your chances of attracting a client’s attention and bringing them to the table. The potential for landing more business? Lookin’ good!

    - Laura Stigler

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 09 Jun 2019 7:25 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    Fresh off our Magical Mystery "Life in the Freelance Lane"* tour, I’m seeing a pattern in some of the questions we get asked. No matter where we present, from the American Writers Museum to Skokie Library to the Career Transitions Center of Chicago...to our most recent presentation at Next Door Chicago (a buzzing community hive located in Lincoln Park), budding (or even seasoned) freelancers are consistently inquiring: 1) “Do I need to set up an LLC?” 2) “Do I need a license to start my freelance writing business?” and 3) “Do I need a tax permit?”

    Gonna be totally frank here. When I started out freelancing, none – and I mean none – of those questions ever crossed my mind. Under the heading of “Ignorance is Bliss,” I began my business simply by making cold calls, answering ads and joining IWOC. This was in 1989. Knock wood a million times, I’ve been working ever since. Yes, throughout the years there have been feasts and famines. But overall, the work has been steady. Apparently Ignorance has paid off, and freed me to just dive in and start earning a living doing what I love. Again, knock wood.

    So for the record, let’s unpack each of the questions with as pithy an answer as I can muster.

    1). “Do I need to set up my business as an LLC?” Disclaimer: I’m no lawyer. But from the way it was explained to me, LLC’s do have some advantages, such as:

    • You can set up a 401k, which you can even borrow against should the need arise.
    • It protects you against liability.
    • You can pursue giant clients, who sometimes like that protection.

    Taking all that into consideration, here’s the most sensible advice I’ve heard from experts: START MAKING MONEY FIRST. I also have to say that unless you intend to engage in slander, lies and plagiarism, there ain’t a whole lot you can be sued for when you’re on assignment. But don’t quote me on any of this. Best to consult an attorney. (We have a great one right here in our midst: IWOC member Marci Rolnik Walker of Lawyers for the Creative Arts.)

    2).“Do I need a license to start my freelance writing business?”Not unless you’re planning to also give Botox injections. Or sell booze. Or offer hair weaving services. That sort of thing. In other words, even if you’re getting paid for it, you don’t need a license to write.

    3). “Do I need a tax permit?” Not quite sure what is meant by that. But the only thing related to taxes that I deal with is paying them quarterly, using the 1040-ES (Federal) and IL-1040-ES (State) forms you can download from online. You can also pay online. But I am not a CPA either. So my advice would be to talk to your trusty accountant to discuss your particular situation.

    The bottom line is this: Freelance writing is probably one of the easiest businesses in the world to set up. Yes, you can chase your tail, make sure all your ducks are in a row, get sidetracked with articles and classes that will give you every imaginable and confusing – and even irrelevant “how-to.” Writers are infamous procrastinators, and sometimes, all these “to-dos” are nothing more than procrastination tactics.

    To start working as a freelance writer, all you really need is your computer and a phone. Oh yes, and your talent. That’s it. You’re ready to hang out your shingle.

    Now, as those experts advise: Just. Start!

    - Laura Stigler

    * "Life in the Freelance Lane: Business Basics for Freelance Writing Success" is presented regularly at various venues throughout Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Regular speakers are Jeff Steele and Laura Stigler, along with alternating presenters George Becht, Sally Chapralis and David Steinkraus. If you'd like to join our speakers roster or host a presentation at your venue, please contact president@iwoc.org or scribsteel@ameritech.net

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 03 May 2019 7:28 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    Apps, blogs and self-help books aside, arguably the simplest, most effective organizational tool I have ever come across is the Eisenhower Box. Perhaps you’ve already heard of it. Maybe even from me, as I’ve touched upon the subject in last month’s StetBlog about March’s Roundtable. But it’s worth delving into, as it really has helped resolve my perennial Spring Cleaning resolution, “I’ve GOT to get more organized!” Maybe it will help resolve yours. After all, better organized = more productive.

    In a convenient nutshell – or box: The Eisenhower Box was (obviously) devised by the 34th U.S. President himself. And if anyone would have a supremely efficient organizational strategy, it would be a WWII 5-star General.

    So...

    ATTENTION! Note the four quadrants in the accompanying diagram. Particularly the headings “Urgent” and “Not Urgent.” Those two words alone have cleared my brain’s obstacle course, so that when about to attack a particular task, I’m automatically asking myself, “Is this urgent?” Most of the time it turns out to be a covert procrastination trap. A sinister distraction from getting to things that are urgent. Like deadlines.

    As an example of how I incorporate the Eisenhower Box in my day, I will run through the mundanities of last Sunday. (Spoiler alert: If you think the life of an IWOC President is all State Dinners and croquet matches in the Rose Garden, you will quickly be disabused of that notion.)

    The four tasks at hand, NOT in the order of urgency: 1) A Wednesday assignment deadline, 2) IWOC emails, 3) cooking a brisket for two guests, 4) cleaning (for the guests). While everything on that list initially had me in panic mode, I put myself at ease by thinking “Urgent/Important” and “Not Urgent/Important.” Like disciplined soldiers, everything dutifully fell into place and in this order: Cleaning, Brisket, IWOC emails, Deadline. I deleted the “Non-Urgent/Non-Important”-- the trifles that always manage to lure me off course: Polishing a pewter votive, clipping coupons, treating cuticles, catching the Sunday morning news shows – and dozens of others.

    Yesterday (Monday) had presented a whole new list of “to-dos,” demanding a reconnaissance thereof. What I decided to put off Sunday as “Not Urgent/Important,” now has moved to Urgent/Important: The Assignment Deadline. Also urgent: This Post, also due Wednesday. Of the two, paid work takes precedence. So I completed that yesterday, and today (Tuesday), I'm this close to finishing the Post. Wooo Woooo! Missions accomplished!

    Nothing like the feeling of getting one’s to-dos...done. Are yours? Stop reading this and start tackling what’s “Urgent.” Forward...march!

    - Laura Stigler

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 03 May 2019 7:11 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    Have you been totally rejected lately? Have you applied for a job or sent something in to a publisher and received a form rejection back? They’re always the same—impersonal, indifferent, coldly standardized. Don’t despair, Jimbo’s here and I am a master of rejection. In my younger days, I was rejected by countless women. Maybe that was because I looked like Quasimodo and had a hump on my face! But most of my rejections came from magazines that shot down the articles or stories I sent in.

    The rejections piled up; in fact, I literally papered the wall with them. Worst of all, they were always form rejections, which inspired my revenge. I found a brilliant way to get back and make a point, which I joyfully share with you now as a way of getting even and who knows?—maybe a way of getting what you want. I devised this rejection of their rejection letter.

    Dear _____________ Magazine.

    Thank you for your recent submission of a rejection letter to my article suggestion. It has been carefully reviewed by our editorial staff and, unfortunately, has been found unacceptable. This in no way reflects on the quality of your rejection; it simply means that rejection is not suited to our purposes at this time.

    We apologize for the form letter, but the sheer number of rejections we receive makes it impossible to respond personally. We wish you luck in rejecting other people and thank you for thinking of rejecting Jim Ardito.

    I sent that letter out and got some wonderful responses back from editors, including a rejection of my rejection of their rejection letter. This letter allowed me to establish a relationship with one editor who eventually did publish an article. See? Being a smart aleck and wiseass can pay off. Rejection? Who needs it? We get enough of it in life—especially if you have a hump on your face! P.S. My picture has been edited.

    Lobster Fra Diavolo (Brother Devil)

    (Lobster in Spicy Marinara Sauce)

    Leap from rejection to utter love and acceptancewith this dish. In Italian, the “brother devil” in the name comes from the addition of red pepper, which adds nicea spicea. This is truly my favorite food in the world and that covers a lot of dishes—the essence of lobster permeates every loving spoonful of the sauce and each strand of luscious linguini. When I was growing up, this was our family Christmas Eve, “White Dish” favorite. My mother did not particularly love it or any shellfish, but she wasn’t selfish so she served it anyway. Oh, reject adding parmesan cheese. That’s forbidden with this recipe and most every Italian fish dish.

    Third, I explained how people buy books in a bookstore or off a rack in a drugstore or from some retailer. Think about it: how do you buy a book? Tons of research shows that readers attracted by a book’s cover pick it up from the shelf, open it or turn it around, and read the blurb on the inside flap or the back cover. Readers who like what they see may then check the table of contents (nonfiction) and read a page or two. If they like that small sample, they may take the book to the cashier and buy it. Or not.

    What youza need:

    3 Tbls olive oil

    10 unclothed cloves of garlic (this dish is spicy!)

    1 onion (chopped)

    Salt, pepper to taste

    ¼ cup oregano, 10 leaves fresh basil, garlic powder, 2 bay leaves

    4 16 oz. cans Contadina Crushed Tomatoes in Puree (if you’re making this, make a lot)

    2 whole lobsters (3 if you can swing it—Super H market in Niles often has live lobsters for $8.00 a lb)

    Red pepper flakes (shakes to taste)

    ½ cup parsley

    1 ½ cups white wine

    What youza do:

    This is gross, but you’re going to have to kill the lobsters or have the fish monger do it. Is there a humane way to kill a lobster? Is that an oxymoron? Who knows, but I’ve read about this and the jury seems to be out as to whether lobsters feel pain and if you can get a life sentence for killing them? The prevailing opinion is that the best way to do them in is to numb them first in the freezer for 15 minutes to an hour, then plunge a sharp knife straight down right behind the eyes. Yikes! Sorry to bring up an indelicate point when discussing a delicacy – and it really is—so don’t hesitate for a second to kill them and cook this anyway. (Sorry, PETA people.)

    After they’re dead and you’ve expressed proper remorse (seriously), cut the belly open. I used to throw out the “tamale” (a.k.a. guts). I now know this is considered a sacrilege since the tamale is a source of much lobster flavor.

    Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions and then the garlic. Remove these babies, add a little more oil, put the lobsters in and sauté them until they turn as crimson as a Cape Cod sunset. Remove lobsters, put onions and garlic back in, add tomatoes, wine and all the spices. Simmer for around an hour. Add lobsters and cook on medium high heat for no more than 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and go read the Brothers Karamazov. In short, wait a long time.

    The longer you let this sauce sit, the better. Let it rest for at least three hours, but it’s best if you can keep it in the fridge overnight. This really transforms the dish and I strongly recommend it. Reheat the sauce just before the linguini is done. Cook your pasta al denti, pour it onto a platter and add sauce quickly so the pasta doesn’t get pasty. Place at least one lobster in the center, garnish with parsley and serve proudly. The presentation looks spectacular and the taste is incomparable. Your guests will go wild—expect it and accept it.

    - James Ardito

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 08 Apr 2019 8:45 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    I had a call a few days ago from a woman who told me she found my name in the IWOC directory and is looking for someone who will ghostwrite her autobiography. She said she’s led a fascinating life and wants to put her story into book form to share with others.

    This is not the kind of ghostwriting that I do. I told her, though, that I had a couple of questions for her along with a suggestion.

    First, I asked what books she reads. She replied that she reads some articles but rarely any books. My response was to tell her that before thinking about writing a book, she needs to read. And read. And then read some more. You can’t write books without reading books.

    Second, I asked her who she thought would buy her book and who would read her book; they’re not always the same. She said she hadn’t really thought about that. I suggested she think hard about an audience because writing the book is only about one third to a half of the project she has in mind. There’s a lot more effort needed to get rid of all those books once you’ve done the work and been published.

    Third, I explained how people buy books in a bookstore or off a rack in a drugstore or from some retailer. Think about it: how do you buy a book? Tons of research shows that readers attracted by a book’s cover pick it up from the shelf, open it or turn it around, and read the blurb on the inside flap or the back cover. Readers who like what they see may then check the table of contents (nonfiction) and read a page or two. If they like that small sample, they may take the book to the cashier and buy it. Or not.

    Then I gave her an assignment. I told her to write a blurb about her book, something that would entice a reader to make that purchase. She has no idea at this point what form her book will take; she hasn’t yet found a writer. But she knows her story. I told her writing a blurb of about two hundred words will help her focus on what she wants to say and how she wants to say it. Most important it will make her think about how to make her story appealing to a reader—and a ghostwriter.

    Writing and publishing a book is a process, and it’s work—hard work. It requires planning, organizing, honing, lots of rewriting, and, before typing a single word, figuring out who the book’s reader is going to be. The process is the same whether you’re going to approach a professional publisher or take the self-publishing route. And so is marketing the book. The days of finding a publisher who will guide and coach first-time authors and then turn their work into a marketable product are long gone.

    I asked whether my caller was offended by my questions and suggestions. No, she said, she was grateful. Our little ten-minute telephone conversation had helped her figure out what a big job lies ahead, how likely or unlikely it is that she’ll be able to complete the task she’s set for herself, and whether it’s worth her time and energy. I wished her good luck and told her to read some books—lots of books.

    - Jim Kepler

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 08 Apr 2019 3:53 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and IWOC can suddenly go awry. (My apologies to Robert Burns.) Such was the case with “Networking Made Easy,” last month’s scheduled program that had to be cancelled at the 11thhour, due to the speaker’s family emergency. Having been in situations ourselves where life throws you a curveball, we completely understood and expressed our concern and good wishes to the speaker. But we also knew we had work to do. And fast. Like Wonder Woman swooping down in the nick of time, Membership Chair Alicia Dale came through. “Let’s do a Roundtable!” she declared triumphantly, arms akimbo. Bam! Zoom! Pow! The day was saved.

    Roundtables just happen to be one of IWOC’s most popular annual programs in which freelance writers of all levels get together to give and get advice. Upon learning this, any disappointment attendees felt at the unexpected change of topics was fleeting. In fact, they soon came to realize that what we were about to embark on was networking in action! 

    After everyone voted to arrange all 15 chairs in a group-therapy-like circle, Alicia asked one pointed question: “What’s on your mind?” That was it. Topics came whizzing through the air faster than speeding bullets. Concern after concern was each met head-on with sound solutions, backed with common sense and experience. Let’s reverse the rotation of the Earth a bit and touch upon at least some of the topics covered on the eve of March 12:

    Concern: What if, for whatever reason, a client refuses to pay?

    Solutions: There are many ways to approach this one. 1) Sometimes clients aren’t aware of what goes into a project, and you need to get into a dialog. 2) Then there are times when ya just have to “eat it.” And learn from that most effective teacher of all: Experience. Which will teach you: 3) It’s always a good idea to have clients sign a contract that states conditions and terms of payment. Sample contracts are available to members at IWOC’s Member Resources. 4) Arrange up front for a “Kill Fee.” 5) When all else fails, there’s always Small Claims Court. 

    Concern: How do you get new business if you don’t have time to pitch new clients?

    Solution: It’s all about time management. A fantastically simple way to organize your hours is the Eisenhower Box.

    Concern: How do you beat the fear of cold calling?

    Solution: Like jumping in a cold swimming pool: Just do it. Do it enough and you get used to it. Given the cold shoulder? You can’t take it personally because they don’t know you! But always first ask if they “have a moment.” Also, there’s a phenomenon called Cold Calling Karma. Start making calls and seemingly out of nowhere, other opportunities will arise.

    • More great info that was shared: 

    ·        The value of Grammarly
    ·        Finding a quality editor
    ·        When to charge by the hour vs. by the project 
    ·        Resources for job ops and how to structure your fees 

    The evening was chockful of those kind of inspiring and informative thoughts. They always are at these Roundtables. If you missed this one, not to worry. We’ll be scheduling another in the Fall. But for now and to all those who planned and participated in this Roundtable, thank you. You performed heroically!

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 01 Mar 2019 6:47 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    A few weeks ago, we unleashed a Survey Monkey out to about 750 of our contacts, made up of IWOC members, former members and those who’ve yet to join. Why did we do this? Guess it’s like those written “interviews” we’d pass around to our secret crushes in elementary school: We wanted to know what everyone really thinks of IWOC. We kept it anonymous, so respondents could feel free to voice their honest opinions, without fear of the Monkey coming after them and wreaking havoc in their homes.

    Last week, our well-trained survey simian fetched the responses. The results had us swinging from the chandeliers.

    The first thing I’d like to share is our members’ ranking of the various features/benefits IWOC offers. Here’s how they all panned out, starting with the top banana:

    1. Informative monthly programs
    2. Online Profile Directory
    3. Networking ops
    4. Camaraderie
    5. Writer’s Line Job Board
    6. Program Podcasts
    7. Opportunity to sell books (such as at LitFest, CWIP Publishing Fair)
    8. Stet blog
    9. Parties
    10. Other (Mentoring was mentioned)

    The fact that Monthly Programs rated #1 was extremely rewarding. Since IWOC’s inception, thinking of interesting, relevant programs has been a major challenge. Yet somehow, we’re still able to offer them every month – one of the benefits that sets IWOC apart from most other Chicago writers organizations. Kudos to our Program Committee for consistently coming through.

    As a close second banana, the Online Profile Directory missed the top spot by a hair. Its appeal is quite understandable, considering it provides members with worldwide, 24/7/365 exposure to their services for the mere price of a Professional membership. Try buying an ad for that kind of coverage at that price! Get one job out of it, and you’ve more than made up the cost.

    The rest of the rankings are self-explanatory, and were followed by a whole bunch of positive comments. Thank you for those!

    There were also some issues raised that deserved answers. But alas, with the respondents being anonymous, it was impossible to address their concerns directly. So I will try here:

    Issue: Location. A few non-members lamented that we always have the monthly programs in Chicago, as opposed to the suburbs. For them, having to travel to meetings was a non-starter. To this we say:

    1. Program podcasts are posted on the “Members Resource” page of the IWOC website, so no need for members to travel. Granted, you won’t be able to ask questions and engage in the lively art of networking, but at least you’d be privy to all the valuable info.

    2. After 5:00pm, $8.00 parking is available (with validation) next door in the Bloomingdale’s building. Also, there are apps (Ex.: Spot Hero) that can guide you to discounted parking in the area.

    Issue: Writers’ needs. One previous member said IWOC didn’t meet their writerly needs. It would have been helpful to hear suggestions as to how their needs could be met. If that response was yours, please contact me to opine.

    Issue: Parties. Apparently one respondent was tired of IWOCFest being held in Greektown. Hmm. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “To tire of Greek food is to tire of life.” But popular as Greek has been, there’s no reason not to contemplate changing the venue. We already have some FESTive ideas percolating.

    So what have we learned?

    1. That IWOC is serving its members well. And it shall continue to do so, from offering informative programs to maintaining a comprehensive Online Profile Directory, promoting members’ notable news and providing a hub in which friendly fellow freelancers can congregate to exchange advice – or just to laugh, dine and kibitz.

    2. That there is always room to improve. But this is where we’ll need your help. Let us know your needs, what you feel is missing, Program suggestions – anything! Be specific. And we’ll get busy filling in those blanks.

    Thank you for taking the time to participate in the Survey. Hope you found it more fun than a barrel of – well, ya know.

    - Laura Stigler

    P.S. Let’s jump up and down in appreciation for Membership Chair Alicia Dale, who wrangled the Survey Monkey and made it happen!

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


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