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Stet | November 2016

01 Nov 2016 6:13 PM | Anonymous
Stet Newsletter
November 2016

Volume 35 | Number 11

Editor's Note

Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

As the board and I continually work to improve Stet, we are adding and asking for “Letters to the editor”.

Letters to the editor, sometimes abbreviated LTE or LTTE, usually address reader’s concerns.So as an IWOC member or friend of IWOC, we’d like to ask you: What are your concerns? Opinions?

Have any advice to give on freelancing in general? Writing tips? Want to comment on any articles in previous Stet issues? The subjects are wide open and we’d like to give you an opportunity to express yourself, as long as it pertains to either IWOC, the freelance business, writing — or all of the above.

Reminder: Due to the Presidential Election, there will be no November meeting.

LTE’s have always been a feature of America’s newspapers, and in fact many of the early news reports and commentaries were published in the form of letters. In the mid-18th century, LTE’s were the main venue of political and social discourse.Why not continue that fine American tradition!

So please submit your thoughts, concerns or ideas to me, your Stet editor.

If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

- Cynthia Tomusiak

December Meeting Preview

The IWOC Holiday Party

It’s time once again for the IWOC Holiday Party! 

This is an opportunity for all members and friends of IWOC to get together for the festivities, fellowship, and fabulous food.

I am certain there will be a visit from Santa. And, I am also certain that all IWOC members are on his "nice" list!

Please join us for dinner on December 13th at Marcello's, located at 645 W. North Ave, Chicago.  More details and information to follow!

- Cynthia Tomusiak

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October Meeting Recap

Ask the Experts

Jim Kepler

It was time once again for the ever-popular IWOC Roundtables, when members and guests get together to exchange advice and ask questions concerning their freelance writing business. Past IWOC president Jim Kepler moderated the event.

All of the tables were dynamic and vibrant!

Several roundtable participants stated that they find out what the going rates are by consulting Writer’s Market.

Some highlights:

While discussing how to capture new clients, the participants weighed in on the merits of such marketing tools and techniques as websites and cold calling.

A dialogue on rate setting had one of our fellow IWOC-ers relaying a memorable anecdote: When asked by a prospective client to give an estimate of her charges, she provided the client with a range of $400 to $525. The client lamented,“Oh gosh, I don’t think so. I'd hoped to pay around $500.” The client had to be reminded that $500 actually fell within the $400 to $525 range. The writer landed the assignment.

Cold calling is an excellent way to reach people who might need your writing services.

Negotiating rates brought varied responses: One roundtable participant stated that most of his clients he’d had for a while, so he didn’t have to negotiate rates. Another person said that she really pushes clients to give her a figure, and that she tends to undercharge them. She added that some rates are not negotiable, especially for editors. Another participant noted that a lot of her clients are non-profit and tell her that they have limited budgets. She added that she brings up the subject of money “sooner rather than later.” Several roundtable participants stated that they find out what the going rates are by consulting Writer’s Market, as well as IWOC’s Rate Survey (available online to IWOC members.)

On the subject of self-promotion, one participant said he needs to re-do his website and would use Go-Daddy. Another writer said she has gotten work from going to a Christian Writer’s Conference. A writer who writes about senior care noted that she goes to trade shows focusing on this particular area and then writes articles.

Among the conclusions reached were: Cold calling is an excellent way to reach people who might need your writing services. When negotiating with a client, allow him or her to make the first move.

For all of these tips and more, be sure to attend the next IWOC Roundtable Event!

- Karen Schwartz, Jeff Steele

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President's Column

Planning the Plans

Laura Stigler

I hate meetings. Perhaps it stems from harboring deep-seated painful memories of a past life experience – the one spent in Corporate, when we’d be hauled into meetings to plan meetings to plan planning meetings. My feeling is, once you cut away all the chaff (the babbling blowhards, the irrelevant tangents, the superfluous information (TMI!), the boss’s story of how he broke his foot in a skiing accident when in actuality, according to his secretary, he slipped and fell into the toilet) – just get rid of all of that, and most meetings could probably accomplish their goals in 15 minutes. And that includes a 10-minute coffee break! But I’m off on a tangent. Sorry.

So no, not a big fan of meetings. But now that I am IWOC’s newly elected President, I find myself in charge of the blasted things. No longer can I let my mind wander, pipe up with an idea here and there and then resume daydreaming. I have to set the agenda, guide the direction and stay awake throughout. And you know what? I’m actually liking this! Certainly if subsequent meetings are anything like the one that served as my initiation into the Presidency, this should be a blast. (As opposed to blasted.) I’m referring to the 2016 Planning Meeting we held on October 8th. I’d like to tell you about it. Because I do believe what was discussed might be of great interest to you, whether you’re an IWOC member, former member or wish to one day join.

Allow me take you behind the curtain...(watch your step please, some of our snacks have left the floor kind of sticky)...

One of the greatest challenges that IWOC faces is coming up with programs that will woo writers out of their cozy lairs and attend.

The purpose of the planning meeting was (ta-da!) to plan for the upcoming IWOC year, reviewing what, as an organization, we do well, not do well and then brainstorming on how can we improve – all with the ultimate goal of attracting new members, keeping our current members happy and helping them all achieve greater success in the freelance writing life. There were nine in attendance. And all participated fully and enthusiastically. They were: Board members George Becht, Brent Brotine, Tom Lanning, Claire Nicolay, Jeff Steele, David Steinkraus and myself. Also: past IWOC President Jim Kepler and current PR Committee member, Karen Schwartz.

Some highlights:

Signing up made simple

When several of us openly confessed to the fact that after years of being IWOC members, we were still somewhat confused whenever we had to renew our membership, we knew something was amiss. I mean, IWOC is a welcoming organization. We should be making it as easy as possible for writers to become a part of it! Seems obvious, but sometimes you have to go the long way around to arrive there.

So our first order of the day is to simplify. Streamline. From the several membership levels to the pricings of the profile listings. It should be an A-to-B process where everything is transparent – before you actually sign up. Don’t want to get too much into the weeds here, because there are still details to work out. But our goal is to have it in place when the next Membership Drive rolls around come September 2017.

Wooing writers to programs, events, workshops

One of the greatest challenges that IWOC faces is coming up with programs that will woo writers out of their cozy lairs and attend. Programming is a monster that constantly has to be fed. I always stand in awe of IWOC’s Program Committees – past and present – in how they manage to come through every time. We want to continue and build upon their gold-star record. Revive what’s been known to draw crowds in the past. And create new, innovative programs that will enhance your business, sharpen your skills, and even just plain entertain.

Maybe it’s conducting specialty workshops, such as How to Write an Effective Press Release. Or one on grant writing. Or creating an ad for your business. Maybe it’s having more journalists, book authors and bloggers speak. Oh! and people who actually hire writers! We’re also thinking of the infinite possibilities of reaching out cross country and bringing in guest speakers via the magic of Skype. These are just some of the ideas we’re exploring and are bent on realizing.

For that, we are asking, no, BEGGING for your feedback.

There were several other issues and great concepts discussed in our meeting, but what it all comes down to is:

How can we woo you? Yes, YOU!

For that, we are asking, no, BEGGING for your feedback. So here’s our first “to-do”, which will take priority over all other actions that came out of our Planning Meeting: You will shortly be receiving a survey. A very short survey. Three short questions only. It should take you a very short time to complete. But if you do, it will go a long way in helping make IWOC reach its greatest potential as a significant tool that can help you reach your greatest potential as a successful independent writer.

Sound like a plan?

- Laura Stigler

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Featured Member

Marjorie Skelly

Marjorie Skelly

How would you describe yourself? I have had a long-term interest in the arts—in particular, writing poetry, short stories, and essays; teaching poetry and short story writing in libraries and other venues; choral singing with North Shore Choral Society of Evanston, IL, Edgewater Singers of the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago, and most recently the up-and-coming performance in January, 2017, of "Too Hot to Handel" in Chicago’s Auditorium. I found my niche a long time ago due to my unquestioned and full embrace of writing and singing. In this sense, I am truly filled with enthusiasm, gratitude, and love--and as I said in a recent IWOC presentation, I am most thankful for being married to my husband, Jim, as almost all of my financial support comes from him.

That said, my Achilles’ heel is that so much of what I love produces little income. I want to make more money, but not just for myself, as that extra money would be my own personal thank-you note to my husband. So, to all reading this profile, if you hear of paid work that would suit me, please do get in touch with me. Furthermore, I would consider business writing, writing of a religious/spiritual nature, and writing related to the arts. Also, given the bizarre nature of the current Presidential election as of this writing, I would welcome the opportunity to try some political writing. I have been paid for articles published by National Safety Council, Dartnell Corporation, the former Lerner Newspapers, and for one piece that can best be described as a hybrid consisting of creative non-fiction, essay, and memoir.

What advice would you give a client working with a writer? Stay in contact with the writer as frequently as possible. Writing is such a lonely business that we can feel as though we live in a black hole resulting from lack of correspondence!

Take the long shot.

What is your motto and why? My motto is to aim very high because the higher you aim, the more room you have to both fall and fail. Take the long shot. That said, I sometimes wish I had stayed more in my comfort zone than getting out of it as much as I do.

What accomplishment are you proud of? Finally, I am proud of my most recent significant writing accomplishment--getting my first book, The Unpublished Poet, published with In Extenso Press in December, 2015, a book that was endorsed by a former Poet Laureate of Indiana and consists of essays, short stories, and poetry. You can buy the book on Amazon or through the publisher at 800-397-2282 or on the website at as ACTA is the sole distributor of the book. Or you can buy the book directly from me.

Is there a website or other contact information? I very much welcome contact at Marjorie Skelly,, 773-450-5419. Thank you!

- Marjorie Skelly

Some questions for next month: 1) How would you describe yourself? 2) What is your specialty? 3) What one line of advice would you give a writer working with a client? 4) What would you like to be doing differently in five years? 5) What do you love most about what you do? If you have questions of your own you would like to answer, that is fine as well. Stay tuned!

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IWOC's New Members

IWOC would like to extend a warm welcome to our newest members: Sara Carminati and Sue Rosenfeld.

- Pam Colovos

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IWOC Board of Directors

Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian) George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman Cynthia Tomusiak

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