A writer’s week

Here’s my desk, messy as usual…

In the middle of American Thanksgiving, last weekend — at 12:30 on Saturday — I got an email that made me cry.

Having applied for one of the country’s most competitive journalism fellowships, for which hundreds try each year, I was told I’m one of 14 finalists. They will only choose six, so it’s far from a sure thing. If I win, I’ll receive funding for six months. I go to Washington, D.C. Dec. 10, with only 15 minutes in which five judges will question me further, to determine who will win.

Wish me luck!

I worked this week on two very different projects, another 2,500 word feature for The New York Times business section, my fourth for them since April. I also finished up a 20-image slideshow for the DIYnetwork, an on-line branch of HGTV, focused on interior design; writing wasn’t the skill needed here but a strong visual sense as I pored through dozens of images, chose the ones I think best, then contacted architects, designers, photographers and manufacturers to get their permission.

I pitched a few ideas, but didn’t hear back. I’m still “saving string” — accumulating clips and sources — for my next two non-fiction book ideas as I’ve found a new agent to work with. I hope to write both book proposals in December, unpaid work I never like much but the only way to sell books to publishers; a book proposal, for those who have never written one, is essentially an intellectual blueprint, laying out clearly what you hope to say, to whom and in what detail.

I have to hire a new assistant, something I’ve been putting off, a little — a lot — weary of having to train new people every few months. I’m aware that if I paid $20/hr+ I’d keep them longer, but I’ve yet to see any difference in skill or attitude between people I pay $1o to $15 an hour.

I read a thriller for fun, and am halfway through a great new business book (yes, really) about personal finance, trying to find someone to pay me to review it. I speak next week to a local women’s club, hoping to sell copies of my book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.”

I have a few story ideas I need to pitch to magazine and newspaper editors. This is the part of my writing business I enjoy least, busy enough juggling immediate, short-term and long-term projects as it is.

Our only car was in the shop all week for a viciously costly — four-figure — repair, the second one that size in a month. Double whammy, as living in the ‘burbs without a car is hopeless. The good news? I walked my hilly neighborhood at dusk, savoring the terrific Hudson River views, cutting through people’s backyards and made all sorts of discoveries I’ve never noticed in 24 years driving quickly along the same streets. I was inspired and moved by this terrific blog post, featured on Freshly Pressed, about how much the writer saw during his hour-long neighborhood walk.

The trees still have many of their red, orange and yellow leaves and I could shuffle my feet through huge piles of them on the sidewalk, happily feeling like a five-year-old.

As we head into the final month of 2012, I’m trying to plan ahead for 2013. The business of journalism and publishing is changing so quickly, though, it’s hard to know where to best expend my energy.

Next year, if all works out as I hope, I’ll sell two books to publishers, take a six-month break from this hustle with my fellowship income, do more paid public speaking and find more new markets for my work; this year I found nine, three of which didn’t last long. I always prefer, whenever possible, to create long-term relationships with repeat business.

But people change jobs and sometimes a new working relationship fails to pan out for either side.

How was your week?

36 thoughts on “A writer’s week

  1. thisintersection

    Good luck to you! This week I cleaned my desk, and posted the introduction to my work. on my blog. Feeling good about it, out of work now, not sure I want to return to the job grind. All the best to you…

  2. thisintersection

    Good luck to you! This week, I cleaned off my desk and posted the introduction to my new work in my blog. It’s been a good week, I even cleaned out kitchen cabinets. It has been raining for three days in Southern California, a good time to clean and write by the window.

  3. Congrats on being a finalist! It’s been an awesome, awful week with the National Novel Writing Month wrapping up. I learned so much in the course of the month and I look forward to applying it to my winter reading.
    I wish you continued success!

  4. Good luck with the interview. I am sure it will go well. When I cleaned my desk I nearly fell off my perch; 606 people looked and made a comment! Food for thought. Your desk looks great to me.

  5. Congratulations, and wishing you the very best for the fellowship!
    My week was loooong. Both my boys went back to school, medical emergency with big senile dog before the second boy was even out the door, and a not so encouraging medical appointment with Flower Child.
    On the bright side, I get to stay in my sweats today, I made a new blogging friend, and I’m pleased with my most recent Mrs Fringe post (not my usual style), which was motivated by a small but lovely moment of friendship.
    All in all, a typical week–and probably more than you wanted to know, lol! 😀

  6. I began reading your blog on a regular basis after I read your book Malled. It brought back memories of jobs worked and experiences shared with others; I worked many, many part time jobs to get through school. It was a great read, and you are an excellent writer. I recently joined ASJA in the past few months and do enjoy your posts and those of the other writers there as well. I will post an Amazon review. Congratulations on the news concerning the journalism fellowship.

    1. Thanks so much for making time to read Malled! It’s always a real pleasure to hear from someone who enjoyed it — and an Amazon review would be very much appreciated! Welcome to ASJA and I hope you find your membership helpful and valuable. I still do.

  7. Congratulations on being short-listed for the Fellowship – what an achievement. By the way, I particularly like this paragraph: ‘The trees still have many of their red, orange and yellow leaves and I could shuffle my feet through huge piles of them on the sidewalk, happily feeling like a five-year-old.’ Even though I’ve never been to New York, and I only know of the storm devastation from what I saw on the television and read in the newspapers and on-line, it gives me such an idea of where your city is at. PS My week was good – busy, privately triumphant, but good. Thanks for asking.

    1. Privately triumphant…now that sounds very good indeed! Congrats!

      I actually live 25 miles north of NYC, but we can see the towers of midtown and downtown from our street, oddly enough. The storm damage is truly horrific for people who live right on shoreline in Queens, NJ and Staten Island — and, like 9/11, we are all still sharing our stories and comparing notes. Jose tells me (if of interest) that tomorrow’s NYT (online at nyt.com) has stories of businesses here and how they were affected by the storm. Some of the stories are quite shocking (looting, for example.)

      You must come to NY. You would/will SO love it!

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