Guest Post: The Wealthy Freelancer

September 28, 2010 on 8:33 am | In Blogger's Desk, Bookshelf | No Comments

Guest post by Laura Valerie

I want nothing more than to be a full-time freelance writer.

I just love writing. I always have. I delight in being able to express myself through words. To paint a picture with my prose, and have people read and enjoy it. It wasn’t until this year, though, that I considered taking it beyond my law essays and password-protected Word documents. I decided that I want to pursue writing as a career.

As of now, I am just dipping my toe in the freezing cold ocean that is the writing world, with my blog Life.Beauty.Laughter. So far, it has been an incredibly encouraging and heart-warming ride, particularly when my writing idol, Sarah Wilson, mentioned me on her site. Nevertheless, I know that the road ahead is destined to be long and arduous. So before I committed to taking that trek, I wanted to really educate myself on what it means to be a writer. To pack my swag, you could say, with all the equipment I will need to survive the trip.

Along the way, I came across an article entitled Seven Years as a Freelance Writer, Or, How to Make Vitamin Soup. The author, Richard Morgan, has an exceptionally impressive resume, which includes numerous feature articles for the esteemed New York Times. Even so, Richard failed to achieve a freelance career that fulfilled and sustained him, figuratively and literally. As the title suggests, despite his lucrative credentials, he was forced to resort to subsisting on Vitamin Soup, a disgusting concoction of crushed up pills and hot water, during a dry spell between gigs – a low point that has obviously continued to plague him.

Your browser may not support display of this image.Reading that article was incredibly demoralising for me. I thought, if this talented, accomplished man living in New York City, the heart of the literary world, cannot make it as a freelance writer, what chance do I have? Me, as a 21-year-old girl living in Perth, the most isolated city in the world, utterly unpublished, with no contacts, slightly above-average marks and a penchant for overly flowery prose? I concluded that I would probably have to be a lawyer, after all.

That is when I read this book, which, miraculously, restored my faith in my writing dream.

The Wealthy Freelancer is a collaboration between three successful freelance copywriters (among other things), Ed Gandia, Steve Slaunwhite and Pete Savage. You can find their website here. I am not going to reveal to you the secrets of the book. I don’t think that it’s fair to the authors (you can buy it from Amazon for about $15), plus I wouldn’t be able to do it justice in this short piece. Suffice to say that if you are thinking of freelancing – and not just in writing but also design, marketing, virtual assistance – then you will find this book insightful and exciting.

What I will do is provide a few wisdoms that I have picked up, not only from these great guys, but also from other writers whose careers I have been scrutinising and what I have discerned has shaped their success.

  1. Know who you are

It seems that self-awareness is integral to building a successful freelance business. We must appreciate what we have to offer before we can persuade others that we are valuable enough for them to invest their time and money into us.

I have found that the best way to achieve this state of mind is to sit down and transcribe everything that you know about yourself. Try to avoid imagining the person you wish you were or who you want to become in the future. Simply reach inside your heart and decipher what makes you, you – your characteristics, experiences, neuroses, what you love, what you don’t, your strengths and your weaknesses.

It’s a scary prospect, laying yourself bare that way, but, trust me, it is a lot more affirming than you may expect! Gretchen Rubin even advocates it as part of her Happiness Project. She calls it “Be Gretchen”, and it is the first of her Twelve Personal Commandments. There is something freeing, and oddly exhilarating, about accepting our limitations. It means that we can focus upon our intrinsic worth, instead of wasting our energy trying to change what cannot be changed. The best approach is to treat this new consciousness as a gift – a new beginning.

  1. Know what you want

If we want to achieve our dreams, we have to know what they are. So write them down.

The Wealthy Freelancer suggests that we focus upon four aspects of our ideal careers: what you want to write, who you want to write for, how much money you want to make and what your ideal lifestyle looks like. We can use what we learned from the previous step to ascertain what we truly want from life, both in the short-term and long-term future. Keep these aspirations at your desk, in your handbag or on your whiteboard – anywhere within eyesight – to keep yourself on point.

It’s my belief that visualising something is not enough to make it happen. I do think, however, that it is more likely that our lives will evolve the way we want them to if we have a clear picture of the way we would like them to transpire. That way, the paths to our dreams will be more direct.

  1. Build your own brand

Yes, that oft-repeated, much sniggered at, phrase that seems to be making the rounds these days. Please, don’t scoff. It’s important. As writers, we are our own brand. So embrace it!

The idea behind building our brand is to develop a platform upon which we can embody our work. A lot of writers use their blogs as a means of doing this. Take a peek at some of these for inspiration: Sarah Wilson, MamaMia, Frock & Roll, Aesthete, Rachel Hills and, of course, Sarah Ayoub’s Wordsmith Lane. Be warned, blogging can take up a lot of time and energy! If you are time-poor, don’t despair – building your brand can be as simple as meeting and greeting people in the industry, attending writer’s festivals, emailing people you admire or contributing to other people’s blogs. In doing so, we need to navigate that precarious balance between being ourselves and, at the same time, being mindful of who we are trying to impress and appeal to – our readers and our potential employers. The idea is to build a profile for ourselves, representing what we have to offer.

But why, you may ask? Plenty of journalists are successful without the help of a public profile. Well, you’re right, it is not essential. But consider this quote by W. Clement Stone: “Tell everyone what you want to do and someone will want to help you do it.” If we put ourselves “out there”, opportunities are so much more likely to come our way.

  1. Treat your career as a business

Writing presents itself as such a whimsical livelihood. For our own sakes, however, it is so important to remind ourselves that we have to treat our writing careers as a business. The Wealthy Freelancer gives some great specific, practical advice. A few other things that I have grasped include: set up your own office; keep regular hours; be a pleasure to work with; and build contacts. Be kind to everybody who crosses your path. You never know – they may be (or know) your boss one day.

So those are a few wisdoms that I have picked up in the course of my self-imposed, rigorous preparation for embarking upon a freelance writing career. Thankfully, I have found that I can learn a lot from observing and probing into the careers of my writing idols. Some of the stories I have come across are disheartening; others are uplifting and encouraging. Either way, that icy ocean seems a lot more inviting now. Or, using my other analogy, that long, steep hike feels safer. Not only can I see the footsteps of those who have gone before me, but my pack is bursting at the seams, filled with tools and sustenance I will need to survive my journey. And I cannot wait to get started.

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Laura is a 21-year-old aspiring writer from Perth, Western Australia. She studies Law, French and English at university and works part-time as a makeup artist. She writes at her blog, Life.Beauty.Laughter., between classes, shifts and into the early hours of the morning.

Bookshelf: Jessica Rudd’s Campaign Ruby

September 15, 2010 on 8:58 pm | In Bookshelf | No Comments

A guest review by Wordsmith Lane reader Clare Griffin

Ruby Stanhope is a stylish English investment banker that has a healthy obsession with label shoes and Australian wine. Although a workaholic, Ruby is unceremoniously fired via an email, and while drowning her sorrows on Australian “peanut noise” books a ticket to Australia and lands in the middle of Australian history in the making.

While still hung-over and jet lagged at a fundraiser, Ruby scores a job as a financial policy advisor to the LOO (Leader Of the Opposition) and is dragged into the whirlwind that is Australian politics, rougher than usual thanks to Treasurer Gabrielle Brennan overthrowing the current Prime Minister, Hugh Patton.  With the drama of a party member overthrowing the current PM, Brennan also becomes Australia’s first female Prime Minster. The battle is then on for the LOO, Max Masters, to win the election and become Prime Minster.

Ruby is then on route for the craziest 33 days of her life, as team Masters jets all over Australia, trying to win over the nation. Along the way Ruby tries to stay away from very attractive journalist Oscar Franklin, embarrassing the LOO, trying to keep up with terms and a government she knows nothing about, attempting to get through her ever constant lists and trying to do a job she feels utterly unqualified for.

Campaign Ruby is the debut novel from former PM Kevin Rudd’s eldest child, Jessica Rudd. Jessica has had to face more critique then most debut novelists, thanks to her somewhat psychic storyline. Jessica finished her novel six months before her father was overthrown by his party and Julia Gillard took over.

Jessica Rudd has an easy writing style and the story flows well and quickly. Thanks to Ruby’s ignorance to Australian politics, the reader also discovers how Australian politics works, so even if you’re not politically minded you can still keep up. Although the book is about politics, the story is by no means boring as Ruby has a knack for finding herself in awkward, yet humorous situations.

The farewell speech of Hugh Patton is omniscient of Kevin Rudd’s speech. Whether she realises it or not, you can hear Kevin Rudd in the way Patton speaks; the pauses every few words, similar characteristics, the family standing behind, silently giving their father and husband strength-much like what Jessica would do for her Dad, six months later.

Jessica’s writing is witty and doesn’t bombard you with Aussie colloquialisms, instead inserting them only when necessary. Considering we have just gone through an election campaign much like Ruby’s, the book gives terrific insight into how a campaign is put together and what goes on behind closed doors. Jessica Rudd worked on her father’s campaign in 2007 and has obviously drawn on her experiences and has realised how funny politics can be.

Campaign Ruby (Text ($32.95) is intelligent chick-lit that will make you envious of Ruby’s shoe collection while learning about Australian politics at the same time.

*******

Clare Griffin is a freelance writer and editor based in Victoria who writes regularly at her blog Girl On A Soapbox. Clare dreams of writing the great Australian novel which will then be made into an Oscar winning film where she will win Best Screenplay. Clare is also very jealous of Ruby Stanhope’s shoe collection.

Bookshelf: Romeo, Giulietta & a book that makes Shakespeare’s play even better

September 7, 2010 on 9:17 am | In Bookshelf | No Comments

“Of all the great love stories ever told, hers is perhaps the most famous. To me, she is the key to my family’s fate. To you, she is Juliet”.

And so the opening paragraph of the blurb of Anne Fortier’s Juliet (Harper Collins, $32.99) seduced me to the point where I had to read it at once, despite the enormous pile of review books that had come before it. And read it I did, preventing myself from going anywhere or doing anything until I succumbed entirely to the re-working of the story of the woman who, like Helen of Troy, had captivated hearts so much that it killed the emnity between her and her foe and had him die rather than face life without her.

Upon the death of her aunt, all-American girl and bonafide Shakespeare lover Julie Jacobs is distraught to discover that all her aunt’s riches are to be left to her sister Janice, the prettier, sassier and more guy-friendly version of her.

Used to coming second-best, Julie packs her bags and heads to Siena,  the place of her mother’s death, to uncover the mystery of the key that was the only thing left to her in the will. Lacking language, charm and looks that make the Italian men stallions and the Italian women smug ladies who lunch, Julie has a difficult time adjusting to the notion that the safety deposit box which the key opens contains treasure of little monetary means, but a bunch of old letters, skteches and notes on the various Italian stories that ultimately resulted in the biggest love story ever told: that of Romeo and Juliet.

As she delves in archives, old family histories, and the frescoes of old Italian piazzas, Julie is shocked to learn that she is the descendant of Juliet herself, not Juliet Capulet as history has come to know her, but Giulietta Tolomei, whose love for Romeo Marescotti was blessed by the guardian of Siena herself, none other than the Virgin Mary. It seems even heaven cannot rest until the will of Our Lady is done, as it was pledged to her by Romeo himself on the feast of her Assumption in 1340 in his quest to prove his love for the woman that made him forsake all others.

As she learns more and more about her family’s history, Julie understands that old familial fueds are still dominating Sienese life, and that the notorius plague on the houses of her ancestors is still very much at work.

Despite the efforts of those around her to put her sleuthing to bed, Julie, by now realising that she too is a Giulietta Tolomei and that her American name Julie Jacobs was part of a plan to save her her mother’s fate of death at 25, is drawn to the mystery that claimed the lives of many over the years, and the secrets that still haunt Siena today. And though she knows that only Romeo can put an end to the curse, Julie can’t help the connection she feels to Alessandro Santini, associate of the Salimbeni family whose ancestors were responsible for the parting of the star crossed lovers in the first place…and the fact that Romeo’s story ended a long time before.

Fans of Romeo & Juliet (and all round stories of forlorn) will love this novel from Danish film maker Anne Fortier, who has a PhD in the History of Ideas (sounds nice, no?). Fortier weaves the tale of the star-crossed lovers with the story of her modern-day heroine in a brilliant meshing of past and present Siena in all its history and glory. Her expert story telling and dramatisation means that you’ll struggle to convince yourself that you do not indeed know the characters of old and present Siena in such an intimate way, and that the story that she weaves in fact was nothing short of an inspired work of fiction. I found it hard to put it down, and when I finally finished, I kept flicking back to my favourite parts to soak up this amazing, and believable, reimagining of the world’s most famous lovers, and the fates and fortunes that brought about their untimely end. If you read one book this year, make it this one, and stay tuned as I try to get an interview with Anne Fortier herself,for I feel that this is one wordsmith’s story worth soaking up.

Books, Bags & In Betweens: High Fashion, Lowly fakes, and Harold Carlton’s Heaven, Hell & Mademoiselle

July 29, 2010 on 12:20 pm | In Bookshelf, Life Snapshots: Shopping Bags+ Food+ Adventures+ Style+ Inspirations+ Home | No Comments

‘Please don’t cry, Monique, they say “identical models” but I doubt they will be,’ Chanel explained. ‘The workmanship will be shoddy, the fabrics poor quality. No one can copy the essential qualities of a Chanel.’

And this was the sentence that cemented my decision to love Harold Carlton’s latest book, Heaven, Hell & Mademoiselle (Orion, $32.99). You see, not long ago, I posted on my Facebook status that I was sick of Facebook allowing fake brands to advertise their wares on the site: not only was every fake I encountered tacky and thus not an accurate representation of the designer and the luxury that the house purported, but I couldn’t help but think that the obvious market for these fakes was promoting a lower culture that destroyed the appeal of fashion as an art, and that funded those nasties we want eradicated from the world (there is significant research that shows that fake markets fund terrorist training and groups, among other things).

As someone who has celebrated some of her bigger life milestones with the purchase of a designer good (if only as an investment piece that transformed my otherwise chain store wardrobe, for the use of a family heirloom and as testament to my love of a luxury that goes the distance), and who loves the appeal of advertisements for luxury brands and the chic factor they bring to my inspiration wall, I was able to really resonate with the sentence in Carlton’s book, which gave me some comfort in the face of my frustrations. Not because I had saved to celebrate my milestones with a material object (we all have our weaknesses), but because I would hate for my creative work to be so blatantly copied in a manner that denounced its value. High fashion and couture is art, so where is its copyright and why are we so quick to embrace the lows of it? Surely we know when we’re not in the presence of the real thing, so why buy into it? (I was given a fake Gucci wallet when I was in year 8. I was embarrassed, even at that age, to be carrying it out around).

I guess what I am trying to say is that creative licence is a lot more than money and style. It’s someone’s love and work stamped on something that requires effort and commitment (most designer bags, at least in the league of Hermes & Chanel, are hand stitched, and in the case of Hermes, made by one person), and the fact that there are some people profiting (albeit in a tacky way) from ripping this work and creative licence off.

The fact that I own a few real designer bags makes me very conscious of the fakes, and I am often quite smug (naughty!) at the fact that I can tell what’s real and what’s not. maybe it’s because I hate liars, and maybe it’s because I worked just as hard to save up for my goods that it irks me to see them paraded around at market stalls with no concern for their true value as a product. Then again, this is the difference in the way that people see fashion: whether as a statement or just as clothes, shoes and accessories that you scope out when getting dressed everyday.

The former are the type you’ll read about in Harold Carlton’s book, and maybe through his tales you’ll be able to see just how much fashion can really mean.

When I picked up the book and read its blurb, I thought that I would hate it and that it would bore me, but I was more than plesantly surprised. Perhaps because I had known little of the author at the time (his last book, Labels, was published in 1988), and I was overcome with a scepticism about how this man, whom I purported to be a fashion journalist, would capture the time, place and exuberance of 1960′s Paris with the might required for a book on the grand dame of fashion: Coco Chanel herself.

But Harold Carlton (whom I discovered actually worked as an assistant designer for two Parisian maisons de couture, and was a fashion illustrator for a number of high profile publications in New York & London) has done a maginificent job, not necessarily for capturing the essence of 1960′s Paris (the storyline itself would have worked no matter the time or setting, and to me, was thus rendered irrelevant to the appeal of the whole book), but for his great story telling, and particularly in his ability to weave together four very different characters, all essentially on the same mission: to find love and work in fashion in Paris couture.

The year that sets the tale is 1968, and four young fashion hopefuls have arrived in the city of love, dreaming to make their way to the top in the competitive and often damning Parisian fashion scene. They have all come from different, often fraught, backgrounds or recent events, and are burdened with both their past and their quest for making something of themselves in the future.

And, lest this girly scenario supposedly lend us the wrong idea that this is a somehow girls-only book, they are not all women: and the men play as much a part in the novel as their female counterparts. Monique’s chance encounter with Mademoiselle herself sets the stage for her successes, and her undeniable natural talent as a seamstress, sees her plucked from the workrooms to a place where she can command a lot more than she’s ever been used to: but will she let an adulterous man and her little relationship know-how affect her career?

Christopher on the hand, is not as devoted to Chanel as Monique: the boy just wants a shot as a desginer in the couture houses. Clawing his way to the top is one thing where fashion is concerned, but as he finds himself letting his English sex appeal get the better of him, he wonders about the choices he has made in the search for success.

Samantha is the New Yorker who has had Daddy pave the way for her too long. The only problem is, when she decides she’s going to make it on her own, she fails to realise that her brash attitudes is not exactly what french society is made of.

And then there’s beautiful Sophie, who has had everything she could have ever wanted out of life, except the answer to a question that has paved the way for her burdening insecurities a little too long.

As their lives collide in mash of fashion, society, culture and relationships, and all in a quest for work, they all begin to realise that what they set out to achieve is not necessarily what their happiness is made of.

Bookshelf: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (An Eclipse Novella)

July 29, 2010 on 12:18 pm | In Bookshelf, Guest Bloggers | No Comments

A guest blogger post by Josephine Ayoub*

*My 15 year old sister (and an amazing creative writer with a flair for drama the likes of which I have never seen. And this is not my nepotism talking. Anyway, she didn’t want to do this review, because she doesn’t “do” reviews. But I thought I would let her flex her wordsmith muscles a little by giving her a task that would challenge her).

A new way to look at the world of the vampires…

A new way to look at the Cullens…

A new way to look at Bella Swan…

This novella is a way to look at them…From the eyes of a vampire.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (Atom, $22.99) is the latest title from the mind that brought us the Twilight phenomenon. Any fan of the Twilight Saga, will surely be sucked into the secretive and sinister vampire life of Bree Tanner, a character first seen in the third book of the series, Eclipse. Now see the side of the story that was never seen before: The side of the newborn vampire. Your browser may not support display of this image.Bree Tanner is one of many newborn vampires created by Riley. Feared and strong, Riley leads these newborns, but under the command of someone they only know as ‘she’. But when Bree finds an unexpected friendship in another vampire named Diego, she begins to realize that their creator has many secrets about the vampire world—secrets in which he can’t afford for them to find out. Is she just another pawn in Riley’s tricks and games? Bree and Diego know something is coming—something big.

With no clue of what to do or who to trust, and she finds herself in an ultimatum. She must now pick a side…Before it’s too late!

I loved visualising the story from a new point of view after reading of her in Eclipse. Knowing the secrets that Bree craved to uncover, it was alluring to hear her thoughts and it made me anxious awaiting the moments she found out about the truth.

I would have loved it more to know her story right from the beginning too. I mean, from exactly when she was turned…The story is set about three months after she was turned by Riley, so there is some missing spots. She does however describe memories, giving us a small idea of what it was like and her past… I would’ve liked more of that.

***

Josephine Ayoub is the kid sister of Miss Wordsmith Lane herself, Sarah Ayoub. She’s in year 10 at the local highschool, loves reading, TV dramas, and pasta in white sauce and has a sick mistaken theory that she’s moving in with Sarah when she finally ties to the knot to James. Josie spends far too much time spinning stories, whether she’s telling them in far too lengthy conversations to her siblings, turning them into hit school plays or using them to manipulate and scare her younger cousins when they get out of hand during baby-sitting. For someone who’s concerned about the environment, Josie always forgets her bedroom light on. And, as Sarah would like to add (without Josie’s consent), this extends to the home environment also, where Josie always forgets to pack the laundry and the dishes. The easiest of all chores.

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