Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy holidays?

Sorry to say, the 60 Percenters Freelance Holiday Toast was not to be.

I heard from several people who said they couldn't make it due to deadlines or other obligations, and no one said they could come, so I called it off.

But I forgot to note that on this blog, so Rene Gutel, bless her heart, who was somehow left off my "freelancers" mail list, schlepped to My Wine Cellar in vain looking for us.

Sorry, Rene. I didn't have much holiday cheer this year, either. With so many of my friends and colleagues losing jobs or closing businesses, my investments dwindling daily, and the state of the news business in general being in the crapper, I was feeling low.

But here's the good news: So many writers out there were so busy with work -- work! -- that they couldn't peel themselves away. How many people out there today would gladly trade places with a person who has work?

I also remembered: My father-in-law narrowly dodged a bullet recently with an emergency triple bypass. We could have lost him.

And I recently attended a festive holiday party that collects gifts for worthy charities, even though the hostess battled cancer all year. She forged on, generously serving eggnog, wine and catered food, and waving off my questions with, "I'm all better now."

Finally, Eric and I, thank God, have been healthy all year. We enjoyed some beautiful hikes in Arizona and California all summer and a fantastic trip to Peru to hike in the Andes in September.

I re-evaluated.

I am able to hike with my husband. When you have your health and you have love in your life, you cannot get any richer than that. Having work is nice, too, and I'm grateful for that. But you can earn as much money as you want and it's worth nothing if you don't have your health.

These are indeed happy holidays.

Job posting

In case you didn't get this from one of our freelancer friends:

POSITION OPPORTUNITYASSOCIATE NEWS PRODUCERKTVK- 3TV is accepting applications for the position of Associate News Producer.

DUTIES:Assist Producers and Reporters in the gathering of information and the writing of scripts for newscasts.Assist Producers as necessary in the production of daily newscasts. Provide News research support.Participate in the production of regular news inserts, live/location remotes and non-scheduled news bulletins.Check wire stories and network feeds for up-to-date and breaking news. Bring creative story ideas to the newsroom meetings on a regular basis. Print and collate daily scripts and distribute to Producers and directors on a timely basis. Run teleprompter when assigned. Perform other duties and responsibilities as assigned.

QUALIFICATIONS:One year newsroom experience or related broadcasting degree preferred. Strong writing abilities with excellent grammatical skills. Excellent verbal and written communication skills. Ability to work well under pressure while meeting strong deadlines. Ability to work well as a team, as well as independently. Excellent computer and typing skills. Basic journalistic skills and editorial judgment for writing scripts. Ability to sit for long periods of time. Long hours of computer and telephone use. Position will include nights and weekends.Resumes to: KTVK, Producer, 5555 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85013. or fax- (602) 207-3336.

Belo is an Equal Opportunity Employer.It is the policy of this station not to discriminate in its employment and personnel practices because of the person's age, race, color, creed, religion, genders, handicap, sexual orientation, national origin, and all other protected classes. Discriminatory employment practices are specifically prohibited by the Federal Communications Commission.

Monday, December 8, 2008

60 Percenters holiday party

If you didn't already get the e-mail, consider this your invitation to the 60 Percenters holiday party at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10, at My Wine Cellar in Ahwatukee. We will toast to our good fortune of being freelancers and hopefully share some tips and advice.

MWC sells beer and wine as well as bottled teas and sodas. They serve pizza, bruschetta, salads and other munchies if you want to get a bite to eat.

Directions: I-10 to Warner Road. West on Warner, pass the light at Circle K (51st St.) and turn right at the first driveway past Childtime. If you get to the office building under construction, you went too far. 480-598-9463.

My Wine Cellar, if you don't know, is my "Cheers." I've known owners Tom and Kathleen Fordyce practically since they opened just over 10 years ago in a smaller space up the street. You will usually see me there at least a few times a month trying a new cab or calling a cab -- I almost always take the ALEX bus there and either grab a ride home with someone in the neighborhood or taxi it back.

And you can sometimes catch me behind the bar, too. I'm a "pinch hitter" on occasion when Tom and Kathleen can't be there and need someone to watch over things. Working there is helpful because one of my others jobs is being a food critic. Although I worked in restaurants and bars for the better part of a decade through high school, college and graduate school, that was -- ahem -- a while ago. This keeps me solidly in touch with the hospitality industry and, I think, makes my restaurant assessments more realistic and fair. I think it also makes me a more considerate customer when I go out.

Of course, it's kind of funny when people who don't know me saunter into the bar and begin treating me with an utter lack of respect. You can tell a lot about a person by how they interact with hospitality workers. We don't have an official caste system in this country, but anyone who's been a waiter sure can tell you it's there, but under the surface. If you're over 25 and still bringing people glasses of water, many people look down their noses at you. 

Inevitably, someone I know will sit at the bar and ask me about my writing, and I can see the look of shock and disbelief from the other patron who had just sized me up as a loser. They typically change their opinion right quick; I'm now in "their world." They talk to me differently; they begin asking me 20 questions. This sickens me. I'm nothing if all I do is tend bar? In Europe, service work is a serious career; here, it's seen as a fallback, a default, for those who can't hack it in a "real job."

If you want a thorough investigation of this topic, I suggest you read or buy the book , Waiter Rant. It's insightful, sad, hilarious, poignant, disgusting and essential for anyone who's ever worked at a restaurant or eaten in one.

Do any of you have side jobs beyond freelance writing? What kind of job? How are you treated? Do you enjoy the variety of having a couple of jobs?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Will work for free

AHHH, the old "please work for free" plea. You know the drill: We're a new publication, we need writers, but oh, we can't pay you. But it's A) going to yield great clips for you, B) going to be the Next Big Thing and you will be in on the ground floor.

We've all seen it on Craigslist, and a fellow Society of Professional Journalists member below spotted it recently on the SPJ freelancer board.

(Shameless plug coming) If you are not an SPJ member, please consider joining. We have a freelancer board where you can post your credentials and potential clients can post for writers wanted. Once, a client contacted me directly after seeing my SPJ profile and I ended up getting a lucrative 3-month gig.

Anyway, I'm posting the SPJ member's eloquent response to Exception Magazine. Based on the number of follow-ups from other SPJers in my inbox, a LOT of folks took exception to Exception...

Dear non-paying publication:

Without wanting to speak for SPJ itself, I would note that we are the Society of PROFESSIONAL Journalists.

I am a professional journalist. That means I get paid for my work. Please don't bother me until you can treat me like a professional. In terms of quality, dedication, and commitment, you will definitely get what you pay for.

And for the other professional journalists on this list, I truly hope you will not undermine your own economic interests - or those of your fellow journalists around the world - by working for free.

Best of luck to all.

Jeff Inglis

On Tue, Nov 25, 2008 at 5:55 PM, The Exception Magazine Editor <> wrote:
Dear SPJ writers:

Next month, The Exception Magazine is launching and we are looking for contributors from across America.  The magazine is a nonpartisan, online news site that covers stories overlooked or ignored by traditional newspapers. I have attached our editorial guidelines so you can get a better sense of what types of stories we are looking for.

Just to be upfront: this is a "passion project" of sorts amongst people that think partisan blogs are ruining our public discourse.  Unfortunately we are not funded and cannot compensate any writers at this time.  I know there are a lot of scams out there like Associated Content.  We can't promise anything other than exposing your work to a broad audience.  So if you can't participate in any way, we totally understand.  We will only email you again if you email us back.

Hope some of you are interested!

Stefan Deeran

Jeff Inglis
Editor - Writer - Photographer
Phone: +1-207-749-4502

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jury duty, follow-up

Thanks to everyone for all the comments on jury duty. I feel better.

I also have a friend who is a judge and I asked him about it, and he said it's unlikely anyone would seat a jury that close to Christmas.

If it's a couple of days, no biggie -- I do think that would be interesting. Plus I get to meet my friend for lunch while I'm at the courthouse (if I even get called to go in that day), so that will be fun.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My civic duty

An open plea to all of you:

I got a jury summons the other day.

While I am more than happy to do my civic duty, this can wreak havoc on a self-employed person's business.

The last time I was a full-time freelancer, I received a summons twice in about a year-and-a-half. Both times, when I called the day before, my services were not needed and I never had to report.

Once, while employed at the Republic, I had to go sit in the waiting room all day, but was not called in to a courtroom.

Have any of you been called to jury duty? Did anyone care that you were self-employed and could potentially go bankrupt if seated on a long-term jury? Have any of you been seated on a jury? How long did it last?

I don't mind serving a few days, but if I have to take a couple of weeks off, that could undermine my ability to meet deadlines. As it is, I've been telling editors I can't plan on taking much work next month because I don't know what my situation will be.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Here is the proof

In case you're nosy (us? writers? nosy? pshaw), you can access a list of all the trouble Purscell has caused over the years.

Go to:

then click on “recorder” at top, then “search recorded docs”

enter last name: Purscell

first name: Richard

This is amazing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Warning! Another horror story

One of us has had yet another unfortunate experience with getting ripped off by a publisher.

She wrote for a new magazine called Chandler Residence, which hired her to profile a luxury home in Chandler. Publishers' names are Rick Purscell and Tim McIntire.

Here's an excerpt from her e-mail:

"I must admit, I thought it a strange time to be starting a magazine geared to homeowners, but what they hey, the gig paid $500 and was right up my alley."

Well, they never paid her, and it turns out a few of the other people in the loop knew of Rick and said he has screwed writers for a couple of decades now. He used to publish Ahwatukee Monthly and apparently sucked it dry, closed the doors and took off. One person said he owed some writers thousands of dollars, and no one has ever collected from him.

An excerpt:

"He knows exactly how to set everything up so there is no way to touch his personal funds and there are never any funds or assets for the company.... One of his editors hired a private detective because he owed her a big chunk of change and even though she got a court order for him to pay and tracked him down, she never got a dime. "

So let this be a warning to other writers not to work with these slimeballs.

A dilemma

A fellow freelancer has a dilemma.

She's been asked to write for a local web site, EatFreshAZ. However, the publisher won't give her an assignment letter outlining the scope of work, deadline and fee, nor will he provide a contract. He told her he is too busy to meet with her for coffee, too.

And he told her the article, despite being for online, won't publish until March, so she can't expect a check until after it runs.

So the writer is getting an odd feeling about all of this and wondered if she should take the work or take a pass. What do you think? It could be legitimate, and she could be passing up a good opportunity. Or, these could be warning signs that something isn't right.

Has anyone else worked for this site or have any experience with the publisher?

I told her to follow her gut, which is what I've had to do when accepting new work.

Sometimes you just don't know. Last year, I accepted work from an advertorial magazine that didn't seem on the up-and-up at first. I did meet the editor at his office, but I had trouble finding it because I forgot the exact address, and when I called directory assistance, the business name was not listed.

I wrote all the copy for two issues, feeling weird about it the whole time, and then got the "we lost your invoice" line when I started asking about it.

Turns out, the publication was an offshoot of a reputable out-of-state newspaper company, and I got all my money and it ended up being my most lucrative contract of the year. I was quite sad when it folded for business reasons.

Then again, I thought West Valley Magazine was reputable, and I found out it's no such thing. It has a history of screwing writers out of pay. Great.

So, folks, what are your thoughts? Is there a good "smell test" a place should pass before you agree to write for it? Or is it just a crapshoot?

I hope this blog will allow us to communicate more freely on this topic so we don't all continue to take work from these lizards. See the next post for more info on that.

Friday, November 7, 2008

PR Star of the Week: Denise Seomin

It's a little late, but I did not forget about the PR Star of the Week.

This week's PR Star is Denise Seomin of the Phoenician.

Some of you might have read my dining review of Il Terrazzo, the Phoenician's new high-end Italian restaurant, in the October issue of Phoenix Magazine. If not ... well, it was generally not positive.

Although I fully stand behind my opinions and strive for accuracy and fairness in all reviews, I anticipated some prickliness from the Phoenician camp over it. But Denise is a true pro. I had a question for her regarding something else going on at the resort and she responded promptly and thoroughly, and assured me that she is willing to work with me in the future.

This kind of reaction is what makes a "star."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Reluctant Marketer

Like many freelancers, I often interview small-business owners for articles.

Lately, unsurprisingly, many are telling me how hard the economy has hit them. A few have asked me for suggestions on how to increase their business. Me!

Having never owned a restaurant or retail shop, I don't know if I'm exactly the best resource out there for them. Of course I mention that they could hire a PR/marketing firm, but most of the folks I'm dealing with can't afford it right now.

So I have been inducted into service as The Reluctant Marketer. OK, maybe it's not so reluctant. Sometimes I see basic mistakes and can't help but point them out. For instance, this once came out of my mouth: "You're never going to get the clientele you want with this wine list." (I recently heard that the restaurant in question, which never changed its list, is not doing so well.)

Other times, I have been asked for ideas on boosting business, and if I think I can help, I make suggestions. I recommend using e-mail newsletters effectively, for example. I've had ideas for promotions. I have told people (when asked) that they have basic problems with the food and service that no amount of marketing will overcome.

I don't know if any of my advice will help these struggling businesses, but I sure hope so. It makes me wonder if I have a second career in me yet.

I wonder if other freelancers give advice to people they've interviewed? Has anyone else thought about leaving the writing biz for marketing? Some of you do both -- is it tough to balance?

Friday, October 31, 2008

PR Star of the Week: Andrea Kalmanovitz

I'm announcing a new feature on the 60 Percenters blog: PR Star of the Week. Each week, I'll sing the praises of one local PR person for doing something terrific.

As all reporters know, PR people are often maligned on a spectrum ranging from "mild annoyance" to "nefarious ne'er-do-well."

But freelancers tend to have more respect for them and usually develop amicable relationships with them. We depend on their press releases for stirring ideas and keeping us up-to-date on new businesses, events and projects. We count on their organizational prowess for scheduling client interviews and helping us track down additional sources.

This week's PR Star is Andrea Kalmanovitz, director of communications for Avenue Communities. Many of you might know her as your contact for Centerpoint in downtown Tempe. She has been invaluable to me in setting up a walk-through, lining up interviews and dispensing timely, useful and often technical information on a complex topic.

I cannot thank Andrea enough for her expertise and professionalism.

Do you have a candidate for PR Star of the Week?

I don't think I will run out of candidates even if I never get any outside nominations, but I'd love it if you'd e-mail me with suggestions each Friday morning. Please, let's just keep it open to nominations by freelancers, not from other PR folks.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Isn't it ironic that I posted an entry just last night about finding work and how some writers and editors just don't "gel," and this morning I get word that my work for The Times has gone away.
Let's not get into gory details, but just say that while someone there was happy with my first article, someone else was not.

Writing is subjective, as we all know. At our 60 Percenters real life meeting, someone asked if anyone was reading anything good lately and we got into a discussion about books. Slim Smith said he bought "The Shipping News" on my recommendation and stopped reading after two pages! Whoops. Nothing wrong with that; I'm just shocked that I thought he would like it.

Another friend at the meeting had raved about Eat Pray Love and insisted every woman should read it. I tried, but it wasn't for me. I couldn't get past the first chapter. The thing has sold multi-bazillion copies! Oprah loved it! Am I an idiot? Do all of these other readers have insight that I don't?

Nope, it just wasn't a fit for me. It's like going to the mall and trying on clothes. It's not that 99 percent of the clothes at the mall are bad clothes, even though it feels that way sometimes (especially when middle age sets in). Maybe the color wasn't right with my skin tone. Perhaps some clothes aren't cut for my figure.

Whatever the reason, those clothes will probably find a good home with someone, just not me. Now, there's always the case of the lime-green muu-muu, which is just objectively bad.

But rarely do you run a cross the writing equivalent of the lime green muu-muu. I certainly don't think that's my problem (correct me if I'm wrong).

The person at the Times thought if we worked together some more, we might find that fit. It's an idea: Sometimes after I've worn a pair of jeans a few times, they start to feel even better. But if something doesn't feel right in the dressing room right off the bat, I've learned, chances are it will get worse.

Too bad; I hoped I could create stunning ensembles that the Times would be proud to parade around town. Instead, I'm back on the rack, waiting for someone else's eyes to light up and hear them say, "That's exactly what I've been looking for!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More layoffs

Gannett announced another round of layoffs today, which means more of our friends and colleagues will be out of work soon. They're trimming 10 percent of staff at the Arizona Republic in December.

The situation is grim, but I expect some of those getting cut will land on their feet as freelancers. On a positive note, I've been busier this month than I have in a while. Sure, my pay isn't what I'd like, but there's work out there.

The problem is finding it.

It's not easy to lay the foundation and make all the connections for jobs. It's one of the biggest struggles, in fact. I recently sent several queries, only to hear crickets chirping in return.

When I see my colleagues landing new clients, I'm happy for them, and I am sure they feel the same for me when I get a gig.

And on occasion, we share contacts. I've recommended people to editors when I can't take assignments or don't want a particular assignment. Sometimes I have to realize I'm not a good fit for a publication, or I don't gel with the editor, but someone else I know might be perfect.

But generally, we are not going to hand over our client list to each other or to a new freelancer and say, "Here are the best editors in town and what they're looking for and what they're paying."

I wish only the best to anyone who has recently suffered a job loss or who might soon be laid off. But please consider our position. Network away, my friends, and ask us anything you want about freelancing, but please don't expect us to be unpaid consultants who will line up work for you.

If you do bend our ear on the topic for an hour, the least you can do is buy us lunch sometime. Heck, even a drink. Coffee. Something. We're freelancers, after all. At least you still have a job for now.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The good witch

Lest you all think I have it out for editors and publishers, I wanted to publish a "good witch" post to balance out some of the negativity here.

I was absolutely thrilled to find out earlier this week that Amanda Kingsbury, my former editor from the East Valley Tribune, will be in town this weekend and I will get to see her for the first time in about three years, I believe. She is bringing her toddler daughter, Violet, whom I've never met, and her husband John, who will no doubt be jealous to the point of tears over my husband Eric's killer new mountain bike.

To say I can't wait to see them all is an understatement. Amanda is an editor extraordinaire who became a friend. I pretty much owe my career to her. She is one of the most intelligent and talented people I know, and on top of that, she is a complete sweetheart. I lacked confidence when I started in the Features department at the Tribune and she was the best teacher/editor a writer could ever have: Positive, constructive, encouraging, funny ... there really aren't enough adjectives to describe her.

Thanks to her tutelage, I became proficient at everything from the snappy 200-word intro to the 2,000-word long form feature. I won my first (and so far, only) award thanks to her: First place in long-form lifestyle writing from the Arizona Press Club.

She's won several awards and honors throughout her career and is now at the Indianapolis Star, where I'm sure she is kicking butt, as usual (in a good way).

Recently I looked back through several old feature articles I wrote while working for her, and I was proud of them. I took a few of them to an interview with a prospective publisher and he told me I was exactly what he'd been looking for. Those articles helped me land a new and exciting client, the Times (look for my article on unicycles in the November issue).

I've had several other wonderful editors since Amanda, but she is truly special.

Feel free to share your "good witch" stories here. Are there any editors you want to applaud? Any other colleagues who have been a positive influence?

Now this is scary

Speaking of scary editor stories, I have to warn you all about a most heinous character in our midst: The Publisher Who Wouldn't Pay.

Some of you know the deal. A colleague of mine took a job editing West Valley Magazine last spring. She assigned me a story with a fee that I thought was a bit low, but I took it hoping to establish a good relationship with the publication and be able to do more lucrative assignments as time went on.

After I filed the story, which took longer than I'd expected to research, publisher Kevin Elliott fired my colleague and then gave me and many other writers the run-around for a few weeks -- including the old "check's in the mail" line.

I don't know what happened with most of the other writers. One of my friends finally got a check, but he only owed her about $50. He owed me $190, which is no great sum, and another reason I'm baffled why he would burn a bridge and risk his reputation over it.

Here are a couple of his e-mails in response to my "where is my check" question: "I did receive it and sent a check last week. Can I check the address?" (Yes, I re-sent my address and asked if that was what he had on file.) "I can’t be sure I am not at my work. I will cancel and replace as you should have had it by now." Well, no check arrived, and Kevin never ran the piece.

I even called Hal De Keyser, supposedly a respected journalist in the Valley, who's been working with Kevin. He said he would see what he could do, but he's ignoring my e-mails, too.

All this over a lousy $190! Another freelancer told me the exact same thing happened to her a couple years ago with Kevin.

So be warned. If you work with Kevin, expect only tricks, no treats.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Real life 60 Percenters meeting

As the final Tuesday of the October draws near, the freelance community in Phoenix is giddy with anticipation of the monthly 60 Percenters gathering.

OK, maybe you're not giddy, but hopefully it does put you in a somewhat better mood knowing that you can meet and mingle with others who understand the freelance life.

We're heading to Solo Coffeehouse on the southeast corner of Mill and Baseline roads in Tempe at 9 a.m. Oct. 28. No need to RSVP.

In honor of Halloween, we will trade scary editor stories (imagine spooky editor sounds here).

My cell number is 480-298-0958 if you get lost.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Your invited!"

Some of you got my e-mail forwarded from Denver Magazine with the subject line, "Your invited!"

I overlook typos and obvious brain farts in e-mails, especially when sent in haste. I hope others do the same for me.

But this was an invitation to a major launch party from a major city magazine. It seems many of our colleagues in the industry are losing their grasp on the language.

I can't count how many times I've seen local writers use "take a peak" when they meant "take a peek," or "flare" instead of "flair."

And apparently not everyone was in class the day we learned the difference between "it's" and "its." Hint: Read your sentence out loud, replacing "it's" with "it is." If it doesn't work, remove the apostrophe. "It's" is a contraction for "it is," while "its" is possessive -- the neutral correlation to "his" or "hers."

Let's all get on the good grammar and positive punctuation train, folks! I'd love to hear YOUR favorite common errors. YOU'RE invited to post them here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another one bites the dust

The economy takes its toll on another publication: bizAZ, the business magazine published by the Arizona Republic, is folding. The November/December issue will be its last.

What in the world will the Business section do for centerpieces now? I never picked up bizAZ anymore, but I could keep up on what my gals Patricia Bathurst, Susie Steckner and Christia Gibbons were doing because their articles were always "repurposed" to the main paper.

Arizona Woman had cutbacks in its publishing schedule this year, too, but as far as I know, that's still clinging to life.

The Republic magazines were among the last in town to pay a decent frelance rate (50 cents a word). Thank goodness Phoenix Magazine is still doing all right, but that one publication is not going to keep all of us writers in town in business.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mark your calendars

It's a ways off, but mark your calendars for the first weekend in April.

The Valley of the Sun Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will host the Region 11 Spring Conference April 3-4 at the Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU.

We're working on panel discussion topics right now, so don't be surprised if we come calling on some local talent (that's you!) to participate.

If you haven't been to the new J-school downtown, it's wild. Mark Scarp likens it to a "journalism theme park."

Except in a real journalism theme park, they'd only serve Lean Cuisine and burned microwave popcorn at all the concession stands. The "Deadline of Doom" roller coaster would only run once a day (OK, twice -- once before noon for online stories).

And no matter how many basketballs you threw through the hoop in hopes of winning a stuffed animal, an editor would be on hand to ask you to do it again, maybe this time from another angle.

Attention all freelancers!

Attention Arizona freelance writers,

It's high time we had a blog by writers, for writers. Let's write about writing!

Do you need ethics advice? Are you trying to track down local sources? Has an editor stolen an idea from you? Did an editor ask for unreasonable revisions? Do you wonder how much you should be getting paid? Do you need a place to vent frustrations?

You are among friends.

Please consider this a "virtual coffeehouse" for airing any freelance-related topic. We also gather in real life at 9 a.m. the last Tuesday of the month at a Tempe coffeeshop. The date and venue can vary; e-mail me if you want to be added to the e-mail list for updates.