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?