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Stet Blog

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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  • 30 Jan 2018 9:45 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak

    Good, Better … and Better … and Better

    I just read “Ph.D.s Are Still Writing Poorly” in the January 22, 2018, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. The author is Rachel Toor , an Eastern Washington University professor of creative writing, whose blog is full of great articles about writing. One of her statements is, “Writing well does not require brilliance or innate talent. Like most things, prose style improves with attention, practice, and discipline.” That struck me as good advice for IWOC members, regardless of their areas of writing concentration.

    How long has it been since IWOC had a presentation centered on improving our writing skills—the art and craft and process of writing? Sure, we’ve frequently heard speakers talk about breaking into new markets, independent writing as a small business, self-promotion and networking, and other practice builders. But it seems ages since we addressed improving what it is that we all do and how we do it. 

    I recall a couple of programs from several years ago that focused on writing as a discipline. At one a journalism professor from Northwestern University brought along a bag of oranges and tossed one out to everybody in the room. Gimmick? Sure, but instantly engaging and effective. He then told us to write about the item he had just given us. We could not use the word orange. Nor could we say anything about its taste because we had no way of knowing what that might be without altering the item. There were a few other constraints that I no longer remember. We had five minutes and only paper and pencil.

    It’s what we do, and we’re good at it.

    The speaker critiqued the work of two or three volunteers. Then he spent the rest of our time together discussing clarity, brevity, structure, vocabulary, and other elements of spare but descriptive writing. We had to stand back and look closely at what we had produced. Many commented that if they had heard what he had to say up front, they would have approached our “assignment” differently. Sometimes we need reminding.

    Another time we were joined by a creative writing instructor from Columbia College who demonstrated the utility of mind mapping, fish boning, arranging sticky notes, and asking the five whys when structuring and evaluating the effectiveness of our writing. Deconstructing was hard for some of us, certainly for me, but the result was that we discovered ways that we never knew or had forgotten about efficiency, direction, and economy of expression. Again, the speaker shared useful feedback.

    We all know how to write, and we know that good (and profitable) writing involves more than a piece of paper and a crayon—or a computer and a printer. Note the examples above have nothing to do with anything electronic. They’re about thinking, staring into space for a few moments, gathering and culling ideas, judgments, assumptions, introspection, content, and the process of putting words onto a page. It’s what we do, and we’re good at it. But maybe we could do it better.

    - Jim Kepler, Member since 1982

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

  • 17 Jan 2018 5:12 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak

    Holiday Party Play-by-Play

    If you didn’t happen to attend IWOC’s Holiday Party at Marcello’s on December 12, bet you’re dying to know the details. If you were there, here’s your chance to relive them!

    First, the food: As you see in the photo, showcased by IWOC’s Parliamentarian Tom Lanning with a flourish worthy of P.T. Barnum, the meal was served buffet style. What can I say. Every course was non plus ultra. All 30 guests started off with a deep dive into warm homemade Italian bread and Marcello’s signature focaccia chips with garlic herb butter. (Oh, that butter!) These were the perfect sidekicks to the mixed green salad, chockfull of crunchy cukes, ripe tomatoes, carrots, and seasoned croutons. If the meal ended there, I would have been happily sated.

    Making their way down the hedonistic display, guests treated themselves to picante chicken piccatta, lusty spinach lasagna and savory oven-roasted seasonal veggies. Was there dessert? Was there! Gourmet turtle, raspberry thumbprints and melt-in-your mouth dusted wedding cookies. Several guests made return trips for seconds. Of everything. I saw. I counted.

    "I've been to a lot of IWOC get-togethers, but this was the best."

    With plates piled high, we all retreated to three tables and between mouthfuls of gastronomic delight, engaged in lively (and often witty) conversation and laughter. As I looked around like a proud parent, it appeared everyone was having a grand time. It was a perfect mix of people – new and long-standing members, but also in attendance was Scott Winterroth, our November “WordPress” program’s presenter. Some non-members joined the festivities to get the feel of IWOC’s whole gestalt. They had to be mightily impressed. Let’s hope they become members. We’d be honored to have them.

    For the grand finale, member Betsy Storm played “elf” – as she does every year, bless her heart, distributing charming gifts to each guest, compliments of IWOC. A warm touch typical of Betsy – and frankly, of IWOC!>

    Eloquently summing up the evening was IWOC board member and Program Director Jeff Steele. “I've been to a lot of IWOC get-togethers, but this was the best. Everything from the way the room fit our group to the fantastic entrees (spinach lasagna, yeah! let's have the same thing next year!) to little touches like the hot coffee dispenser and the timing of the gift-giving to the way people mingled and got to know others was letter perfect.”

    I agree wholeheartedly!

    - Laura Stigler

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

  • 17 Jan 2018 4:53 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak

    IWOC Resolutions 2018

    Not that I always abide by this, but it never hurts to start out the New Year with a few solid resolutions – goals to achieve that represent an ideal, but not so lofty that they’re unattainable. Nor should the bar be set so low that to reach it wouldn’t engender any sense of accomplishment at all!

    With those parameters in mind, I’m revealing some of the resolutions that were voiced in our Planning Meeting last October – actions/ideas we hope to see come to fruition this year that will keep IWOC vibrant, relevant and ultimately attract more members and keep current members happy and involved.

    In 2018, we are resolved to...

    1. ...continue bringing you the kind of programs you clamor for, chockfull of ways to improve your business, and even get you to thinking of revenue streams that may never have occurred to you. Such as Convention Writing (January) and Ghostwriting (February), to name two. Many other surprises are in the offing. Keep checking our event page.

    2. ...reach out to the business community. Because businesses = jobs. We are in the process of making inroads with the Chicago Chamber of Commerce, raising awareness of IWOC among businesses so we’re top of mind as a primary resource for professional writers. We’re also creating business-targeted brochures and will have an ad run (free of charge!) in the January newsletter of the Far South Community Development Corporation.

    3. ...encourage those aforementioned businesses to post job openings on IWOC’s Job Line. We want them to think of IWOC as naturally as LinkedIn when it comes to job recruitment.

    4. ...reach out to University/College career centers and propose presenting our “Life in the Freelance Lane” series to soon-to-be graduates. Filled with practical advice on how to make it in a gig economy, it also may have the residual benefit of attracting millennials as members.

    5. ...host more networking ops (aka “mixers”) with other professional organizations. Nothing wrong with mixing business with a good time!

    6. ...conduct more extracurricular activities. Just as we were fortunate to be invited last year to special receptions at the American Writers Museum, we’d like to expand on the “fun stuff” to include events such as author readings by fellow IWOC members. Wouldn’t have to be limited to authors of any particular genre – but could extend to writers of all disciplines who are proud of their work and want to share!

    7. ...continue having IWOC make its presence known at such city events as LakeFX Creative Expo, Printers Row Lit Fest – and even in community fairs. Writers are everywhere – let’s go get ‘em!

    Any resolutions you’d like to add to IWOC’s list? Do tell! Our whole reason for being is to forge an IWOC that enhances your writerly life.

    Until then, may all your personal resolutions come true. Wishing you a 2018 filled with happiness, good health...and winning!

    - Laura Stigler

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

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