Archive for ‘WOW: Words on Writing’

October 23, 2012

The Reason Why I Love Rejection (And Why You May Start Loving it Too)

“Thanks but no thanks.”

Image courtesy of: Freedigitalphotos.net

“I’ll pass.”

“Not interested.”

“It’s not right for us.”

These are all words I hear on almost a daily basis. Most people will cringe and sink further into their seat if they saw these in their inbox everyday. But I love every single minute of it. It’s not because my favorite word is no. (It’s not.) And it’s not because I enjoy failure. It’s because every single one of those rejections I stumble upon in my email is a little glimmer of hope that I am getting somewhere.

Let me explain. I work in the media. A majority of my day is spent sending out cold pitches to magazine editors who don’t even know I exist. This happens to be the routine of millions of other freelance writers around the world.  That means editors get hundreds of emails sent to their inbox on a daily basis by people they don’t know. Chances of them actually opening my email are slim. But every once in a while a miracle happens and an editor glides her coveted mouse over to my email and opens it. Now most of the time, I get nothing in return. If I’m really lucky I’ll get a glowing response that says, “I love your idea. How about writing for the upcoming mother’s day issue for $2.00 per word.” But most of the time, if I get any response at all it’s, “I’m not interested at this time, but thanks for thinking of us.”

Of course, I would have preferred to get the uplifting response offering me an assignment. But I’ll take the rejection email too. Although it’s not as obvious, the “bad” email means something too. It means that out of the hundreds of emails the editor got she thought my email pitch was worth opening. And even though the pitch wasn’t worthy of publication she did think it was worth a response. She could of easily deleted my email and went on her way without giving me a second thought. But to that editor, I was more than just an anonymous girl who sent her a failed pitch. I was a girl that took a chance and at least deserved a response. It was proof that I must have done something right. More importantly that rejection was the beginning of a new relationship.

See, I knew that if that coveted editor read and responded to one email the chances of her reading and responding to another one of my emails was heightened. So rather than taking that rejection as a sign of defeat and failure, I flip it and turn it into the beautiful beginning of a new relationship and a dream. It’s my cue to start pitching and emailing that editor as though my life depended it. Even more importantly, it’s a sign to not give up. And nearly 100% of the time, those signs are correct.

It was a few months ago that I got my my rejection letter from an editor at REDBOOK magazine. I didn’t give up hope. I continued to forge a relationship with that editor through consistent emails and conversations. And then one day, a dream came true. I was offered my dream assignment and my article was featured in the August issue of REDBOOK.

Just goes to show you that my favorite words to live by are true. You can’t fail if you don’t quit. And to think it all started with a rejection letter…

When was rejection a sign of better  things to come in your career or personal life?

TERRIfic Quip: When things are falling apart they may actually be falling into place.

August 15, 2012

Contribute to my New Book!

What should you say? Everything you’re not supposed to!

Remember when I blogged about the first ebook in my series of 100 Things you Should Never Say?  (If not, you can read it here.) Well thanks to the success of the first book and request of many, I am now following it up with one for the brides. Because we all know that brides do get out of line even though it’s their day. Of course, it’s not always because she is a bridezilla. It may simply be that she doesn’t realize what she is saying or doing is wrong. (Let’s not act like we’ve never been on the delivering end of an unwarranted comment that we never even realize was rude.) It’s never fun having to pull your foot out of your mouth; especially when that foot is dressed in picturesque pearl white, four-inch stilletos.

So it’s definitely time we keep these brides from experiencing a world of pain by preventing any feet inserted into mouths.

Stop bridal diarrhea of the mouth and let me know what shouldn’t be said…

Here’s what you should do:

1. Brainstorm those crazy, off-the-wall, funny, or just plain rude things you’ve heard brides say or things you haven’t heard but know they shouldn’t say.

2. Send an email to terri@writingbyterri.com  with the subject line saying What Brides Shouldn’t Say.

3. In the email, state the phrase or question that should never leave a bride’s lips and why.

4. Include your information such as location, profession, or relation to weddings (i.e. wedding guest, bridesmaid, photographer, groom, seamstress, etc.)

5. Wait for my feedback

It’s that simple! And no, you don’t need to be a wedding pro or expert to join in – just someone who can recognize the crap that leaves a brides lips from time to time. Looking forward to reading your suggestions!

What things do you a think a bride should just never say?

TERRIfic Quip: Silence is the most powerful scream.

June 6, 2012

One of the Most Under Appreciated Careers of All…

This just in: Journalists get no respect.

When you think of under appreciated professionals I bet a few of them come to mind. They’re probably the same ones that come to most modern Americans’ mind. Each and every one of you probably drum up fond memories of teachers, nurses, military professionals and even social workers. However, the profession I’m referring to is the one that seems to get bashed on nearly a daily basis. One might argue that it may be the most under appreciated profession for that fact alone. They receive little to no gratitude. They work long hours, are faced with heartbreaking situations regularly, accomplish impossible tasks, have almost no holidays, expose injustices and change the world. They’re the media professionals known as journalists.

The job description asks for a lot. A lot that many aren’t willing to do. There’s also a lot depending on what they do. Think about it. Teachers may depend on those newspapers and books composed by writers to teach their next class. Business professionals depend on the updated Yahoo news story  written by a journalist to determine how the real estate industry can effect their next big business decision. Parents look towards their stories to learn about the state of education so they know whether or not to vote in favor of passing the school budget increase. Senior citizens need them to read about how to best plan their retirement funds and deal with health issues. Teenagers and young adults turn to their magazines to get advice on resume techniques or to simply brighten their day with fashion tips or heartwarming story. It’s one of the few professions that can stir up emotions from anger, inspiration, curiosity, empowerment, frustration, betrayal, content and enlightenment all with one breathe.

Writers’ words hold a lot of power and really can change the world. Yet, they are constantly criticized, swiped at, and accused of blowing things out proportion. It’s a lot of responsibility and heat to take for such little pay. The average writer/journalist/reporter salary rings in around $30,000. With a masters degree under their belt, that salary only goes up to about $45,000 to $50,000. There is no such thing as overtime or holidays because the news doesn’t stop.

They also aren’t  honored on any holidays because many don’t respect them or recognize all they do. And the ones that are honored on holidays are few and far between because they are so easily forgotten. When was the last time you thought about journalists who risked their lives to keep the public updated on wars and terror on Memorial day? Or what about that writer who was able to make you realize you weren’t alone as she captured the exact thoughts you had the moment you found out you were diagnosed with cancer? Have you thanked her?

Journalists don’t get discounts to stores, receive special perks or have a week dedicated to their greatness like some other honorable professions do. It takes a special person to put in such hard work with almost no acknowledgement. It’s about time journalist/writers/reporters were added to the ranks of honorable careers noted for their ability to make moves and change the world.

Do you think journalists are under appreciated? What other careers do you think receive little appreciation or respect?

TERRIfic Quip: Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.

May 24, 2012

Wanted: Partner to Whip my Butt into Shape

You read that right. I’m looking for a partner to kick my ass. Nope, I’m not talking about a life partner or personal trainer. What I’m in need of is a writing partner to hold me accountable.

One of the perks of being a freelance writer is not having a boss. Interestingly enough, one of the downfalls of being a freelance writer is not having a boss. Unless I’m rushing to meet deadlines for a client or an article for a magazine, I have no one to make sure I get other work done like my queries, book proposals or new marketing plans. And quite honestly, no cares if  I get that work done. Why should they? It’s not anyone else’s job but mine.

But when you don’t have a boss you have no one breathing down your neck making sure you are successful. It’s up to me to find that motivation on my own. It’s not always that easy. Those of you who work for someone in a cubicle don’t have that problem. No, I don’t I want a boss to work for, but you get the picture.

What I need is a writing partner to kind of act like a boss – the kind you actually like though. But instead of working for the boss. We’d be working together. To depend on each other to reach our goals.

You see, since I started writing full-time I’ve found that I’ve started to lose myself. I came into this determined to change the world with writing and have a bunch of books, investigative pieces, and earth moving stories under my belt. Instead, I’ve found myself getting stuck writing unexciting projects for copywriting clients, trendy service pieces for national publications and whatever else can pay the bills at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I sill LOVE what I do and want to make a difference but I’ve seemed to lose sight of that along the way. I no longer push myself as hard as I should to nab those earth shattering article assignments and claim that greatest Fortune 500 copywriting client. I don’t dedicate as much time as I should to churning out those personal essays, creating topics for that potential education column. I need someone to help me find that desire and focus to reach those heights again.

Most importantly, I would love to have a writing companion. Working for yourself can get rather lonely. As much as I love venting to my fiance about what it’s like to send 20 queries a day without getting a single response, I’m thinking he wouldn’t get it as much as an actually writer would.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a one-side relationship. I’d help you with deadlines, establish goals, and reach your full potential as well.

So here it is… My cheesy want ad –

Wanted: Writing partner to kick my lazy, un-focused, lonely butt into shape. Must: Be totally focused, motivated, and deadline driven. Have the ability to offer open, honest criticism and not have a problem with people who can talk your ear off.

Interested? Leave a comment  right now and we’ll chat!

Are you a solopreneur? How do you stay motived and hold yourself accountable?

TERRIfic Quip: Create the life you want. Not the life you think you should want.

March 27, 2012

8 Source Blunders to Avoid When Dealing with a Journalist

You interviewed with a journalist and had your advice mentioned in a national publication. You know the journalist writes about  education all the time and you made sure to let her know you specialize in higher education. So why hasn’t she called you back for future interviews?  Chances are you’ve committed one or more of the following blunders that can make a source’s or interviewee’s reputation self-destruct.

1. Having limited availability.

Journalists often work on a deadline. Don’t expect the writer to be happy to use you if you schedule a time to chat but then suddenly  become unavailable and request to reschedule. We understand that life happens, but we’ve got a job to do. Having to reschedule your interview or search for a completely different source creates more pressure for getting the story in before deadline. Journalists like to have a stable of sources they know are dependable in a moments notice. Continuously rescheduling, proves you are incapable of that status and will warrant limited callbacks.

2. Playing avoidance.

If a journalist asks how you think parents should handle their child’s crushes, don’t go around the question by providing information about every childhood crush you can think of and how  none of them lasted. Of if you asked whether or not Trayvon Martin was killed because he was wearing a hoodie, don’t tell the writer that black people look best in jeans but you love to wear skirts most. Avoiding a journalist’s questions is never a way to their hearts. Address the question at hand and only provide background information if it is pertinent to the topic or question asked.

3. Rewriting the story.

When journalists call you to verify a quote or a fact, please don’t attempt to rewrite the whole story for them. The process is called fact-checking, not have an amateur edit and do your job for you. When placed in this situation, simply answer the writer’s question and move on. Nothing extra is necessary at that point unless asked for it.

4. Being a product pusher.

The story may be about chemicals found in hair products, but you probably shouldn’t continuously push your fabulous new all natural shampoo throughout the entire interview. The story is about the topic not your amazing life and products. All that is needed is your expert opinion, so refrain from the sales pitch.

5. Pimp your marketing.

Even if the interview went well, it is inappropriate to sign journalists up for an influx of your newsletters or campaigns. We already have to deal with an overflowing amount of press releases in our mailbox. The last thing we need is another unrequested item to clutter our lives and emails.

6. Requesting special access.

No matter how many times I decline and explain the reason, sources still feel the need to routinely ask to see the story before it’s published. It’s a surefire way to get you blacklisted as a source. Journalists and publications maintain credibility by not being influenced by third parties. Allowing sources to see stories before it is published appears as though you are making changes to suit that source which will lead to questioning the credibility of the story and publication. So keep asking a journalist to see the story beforehand, but always expect the answer to be no. You can also expect to never be called back to interview for future stories.

7. Record Breaking.

When signing on to an interview you agree to have your comments possibly published in a news story. If you plan on breaking interview records, by reciting “off the the record” continuously throughout the interview, don’t agree to the interview. Make it easy on yourself by either declining the interview or refraining from saying something you don’t wish to be published. Otherwise, you will be labeled a PIA (Pain in Ass) to journalists, and see less press time in the future.

8. Sugarcoated Bribery.

Offering to give a free massage or payment of some kind in exchange for favorable coverage of the issue on your part  is not wise practice. Not only is it unethical practice for a writer to partake in, it will be a waste of time and money for you because good writers won’t buy into it. They’ll also remember that you try to manipulate through bribery and will refrain from interviewing you again.

Do any of the above practices and expect to be placed on a journalist’s personal “Do Not Call List”. Do what you can to make the journalist’s job as easy as possible and you will forever be in our good graces.

What other faux pas should sources avoid?

March 21, 2012

Does Writer’s Block Exist?

If you’ve been around the block, you’ve probably come across some posts stating that Writer’s Block just doesn’t exist. According to some it just has to be some figment of our imagination. How can someone just run out of words to write? There’s always something to say! Well I’m here to tell you that what you’ve read is false. Depending on how you define writer’s block, it most certainly does exist. But if you allow it to exist, it very well can mean the end of your career. According to Wikipedia, Writer’s Block means, “a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.” 

However, one might argue writer’s block only exists to those who don’t write for a living. I have to admit I agree with this sentiment. If your well-being depended on your writing and it meant you staying out of the poorhouse, I’m pretty sure you will find a way to churn out words with every breathe within you. It doesn’t matter if the words are good or not. You will find them and apply them to your bills. Therefore, those who have worked at a newspaper and were expected to write five reported stories a day cannot relate to the sentiment of writer’s block. They don’t worry about finding words that are good enough, because they know they can. They focus on finding enough words in time to meet their deadline so they can pay the bills. Hence the reason, why some argue that writer’s block simply does not exist.

However, if you associate writer’s block with the sentiment that no words seem good enough I think most can relate. No matter what industry you are in, everyone can relate to feelings of insecurity and second-guessing yourself. It’s natural, but it’s definitely not a feeling we should let linger whether it refers to writer’s block or not. The key is to find confidence and reassure yourself that what you do and say is good enough. You have the words. You are just afraid to say them.

Of course, that’s not always the easiest thing to do. Ease your mind by remembering the big picture, your goals, and your accomplishments. If that doesn’t work try a change of scenery. If you normally work at the desk in your office, move to the kitchen. Bounce some ideas off your friends and family or do a search to see what else has been written on that topic for inspiration. (But don’t plagiarize!) Most importantly, start to think like a veteran New York Times reporter and write like your life depends on it!

Do you believe Writer’s Block exists? What do you do to cope?

February 28, 2012

What Journalists Actually Do (In case you didn’t know)

Keeping up with the trend of the recent “What I do/What they think I do” memes, I figured it was about time I post one for the writers and journalists out there. Here are a few posted on sites such as StuffJournalistslike.com and futurejournalismproject.com.

(Via Stuff Journalists Like)

(Via Future Journalism Project )

(Via Word Thief)

(Via Jelena)

So do you finally understand what writers do? I hope so, because it’s very frustrating when I have to constantly explain it. 

February 22, 2012

Diamonds are Nice But I Prefer Referrals: Referrals are a Freelancer’s Best Friend

I know it’s shocking considering I just got a diamond of my own, but it’s true! When you are a full-time freelance professional, nothing is better than a referral. Mostly because it makes a freelancers jobs so much easier. I speak from experience. Depending on your tactics, marketing can cost a lot of money. So when you give a referral not only does it save us money, it frees up some more time for freelancers to dedicate on making sure your project is done absolutely perfectly. Meaning you actually get more for your money. It’s a win-win situation.

So under what circumstances, should you give a referral for your freelancer of choice? Anytime you are satisfied with their work or simply had a pleasurable experience. The only time I may suggest you refrain from that is if the person you hired clearly states that his or her schedule is way too full to take on more clients. And even then, you may not need to because you never know when schedules clear up down the line. So please, spread the love for the freelancer in your life (hopefully me).

And we don’t care how you do it. You can tweet, email, make a Linkedin update, put it in a Facebook status, write a blog post, or call someone. Whatever your outlet of choice, use it to shout your freelance love from the mountain tops. Trust me; it benefits everyone.

February 21, 2012

How Joining a Forum Can Help Your Writing

So you want to be a better writer and reach out to a particular audience? The solution is simple. Join an online forum. Believe it or not, joining a forum can be very helpful for getting to know more about your target audience.  It offers assistance by doing three things:

1. Allows you to see what members of a particular demographic care about and have an interest in

2. Enables interaction and conversation on in-depth subjects

3. Helps to keep on top of news-worthy topics in the community

There seems to be a trend in which people in forums tend to feel a sense of camaraderie with other forum members. Therefore, it should be no surprise when members are experiencing personal issues and can’t discuss with “real life” friends or family, they go ahead and vent in their online forum of choice. This helps you in three ways. You get to see what makes people of a certain demographic tick, recognize what resources are not available to help them with the problem, and you can write or pitch a story about it. This way, you know exactly how to cater to their needs. Because I’d like to write for publications the reach out to middle-class Arican American women, I belong to a forum called Long Hair Care Forum.  If you want to reach gay right advocates, join an equality rights forum. If you want to reach hairstylists, join a beauty forum, etc.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many pitches and stories have been inspired by forum topic discussions that help me get inside my potential audience’s mind.

What I love about forums is the ability to connect with the potential “client” or demographic in a personal but  intellectual level. (Kind of like Facebook but 100x better!) Unlike Facebook, it seems chances of actually having a conversation of substance is much greater and there are much less passive-aggressive comments (depending on the forum you join). On my forum of choice, I’ve had discussions about education, entertainment, careers, financial planning, parenting etc – things you might see on a host of other forums. The only difference is it was written to and from the perspective of the African American woman. Once you see how audience writes and how they like things written, you have a better idea of what tone and point of view to use in your own writing.

Other than great communication and meaningful interaction, online forums keep you in the know. I was surprised how much I knew about trends and breaking news thanks to the forum I belong to. Sometimes these forums give the ability to learn the news as it’s unfolding. This is good for journalists since its always in your favor to be on top of timely topics.

And of course, I can’t forget that forums allow you to read. You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read. Sure, it’s probably better to read a book, but a forum is better than nothing.

In what ways has belonging to an online forum helped you?

February 1, 2012

Why I Love HARO

As a journalist, there are a few tools I depend on to survive in this crazy world of media. One is the Associated Press Stylebook. The other is my subscription to Media Bistro. I also can’t go on without my MacBook Pro. And I can’t forget about Google Alerts.  Then there’s my digital recorder…  Ok, so there are a lot of things I can’t survive without in the journalism world (learn about them here), but I’m here to tell you about one of my favorite survival tools, Help A Reporter Out (HARO).

HARO is an email list in which media professionals can submit queries regarding sources they are in need off and have it sent to thousands of subscribers who can then contact them directly. It has come in handy in several occasions when I needed to find sources in short time periods. I highly suggest any business professional looking for exposure to sign up. However, that’s not the only reason I love HARO. Unbeknownst to many, HARO is great for many other reasons and uses.

One thing I like to do is  look at each media outlet and see if there is a publication I never heard of that I would like to target for freelance opportunities. I then begin researching that company and see what kind of topics they look for. This method isn’t just for freelance writers, though. Any business professional can go through HARO queries and find businesses they may like to work with in some way. Think of it like an innovative “phone book.” (Whatever, you do refrain from using the email listed in the query for other business opportunities. That’s a big no-no.)

I’m a big fan of random fun facts. Every once in a while, queries list an interesting statistic that you otherwise never would have given a second thought about. And those interesting statistics, I found thanks to HARO then become great conversation starters. – Not to mention they end up serving as inspiration for future pitches I may want to craft.

But  when I’m sick of writing pitches or queries, and choose to be on the other side of the computer I turn to HARO to become the source of a journalist’s dreams. I’ve been quoted in many articles and I’ve gotten lot’s of opportunities from using HARO to be the source. Hey, writers like some exposure too…

And I thoroughly like the exposure to like-minded professionals. Freelancing can get kind of lonely sometimes, so I find it find to interview or be interviewed and continue to stay in touch with the person. For some reason, I tend to feel a sense of camaraderie with my sources and interviewers. Sometimes, building a relationship with them has led to some great business opportunities. Just goes to show you that networking can happen anywhere.

On those days, I like to be anywhere but here, I turn to HARO and hope to find some tidbit about a different location. HARO founder, Peter Shankman, is an avid traveler and tends to include very short blurbs about his destinations at the top of some of the emails. Just the other day, he mentioned something interesting about Europe and Los Angeles. On the days, that he doesn’t mention anything about his travels, I simply use the top portion of those emails as a shopping guide. Every email has a short paragraph about advertising a service or product you should think about purchasing.

And of course, when you read as much as I do, sometimes you run out of things in your stash. Reading HARO queries allows me to pick out stories I may find interesting and make a mental note to look it up once it’s published. After all, I can’t write them all so I might as well read it all when I get the chance!