Friday, 22 August 2008

Writing 9 to 5

When it rains, it pours...

After two months of submitting proposals to a freelance writing and editing site in an effort to get my fledgling career off the ground, I have had two job offers in the past two days, with a third party interested in "discussing things further." For the next week and a half, I will be “under deadline” as I furiously write 400-word introductory destination guides for a travel web site. I'll be covering such exotic – and not-so exotic – locales as Athens, Berlin, Brighton, Budapest, Cambridge, Dublin, Edinburgh, Florence, Lisbon, Madrid, Manchester, Oxford, Prague, Paris, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Zurich, Bermuda, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, and Whistler. Whew! I'm exhausted after just typing all that. It's a lot harder than even I originally thought; there are only so many ways you can say “this city has lots of great restaurants.” I am accessing my inner thesaurus and exercising my brain in ways I haven't since I was in grad school.

Unfortunately, I have quickly realized that I really underpriced my services, and I don't mean that in a conceited way. Normally, 400 words seem to type themselves, but when you're under pressure, those 400 words seem like 400 pages. But it's a Catch-22. Without experience on this particular site, no one was willing to hire me, and without someone willing to hire me, I couldn't possibly gain any experience. So I had to take that into account when charging for my first job. Still, I am getting paid something, and next time I'll have more of an idea of how long things will take and can hopefully be a bit more competitive in my pricing. Who knew the writing business involved so much... business.

Let's just hope Crumpet doesn't get any ideas about pushing up his/her deadline...

Okay, back to Word, where hopefully I'll get some inspiring ideas about Bermuda.

Friday, 15 August 2008

DIY Nation (or Nesting: Part 2)

In the almost two years since I have been living in the U.K., I have realized that this country really is obsessed with DIY. As far as I'm concerned, British home owners can pretty much be lumped into two categories. There are those who are constantly having extensions built, conservatories put in, and kitchens installed – whether the house needs it or not. It's as if the constant presence of builders and the smell of paint is some kind of status symbol. And then there are those who constantly talk about doing things but never actually seem to get anything done. I think these people must feel like if they actually finish a task they'll have nothing left to talk about. Even non-home owners can get swept up in DIY mania. I thought American TV was bad when it comes to decorating shows, but at least these shows seem contained to specific channels like HGTV or TLC. Nearly every time I turn on the "telly" here, there is some show on about property development or buying a holiday home. And they all make it look so easy. Yes, you can build an entire house from scratch in just three days! I'll confess my sin, though: some of these shows (like "A Place in the Sun") have become my guilty pleasure. Even I have been seduced by the idea of buying a run-down chateau in the south of France or a seaside villa in Croatia and "doing it up." See: I've been brainwashed! My real dream is actually much simpler than that: to one day be free from the shackles of wallpapering and painting so that I can flit between here and Europe and, instead of worrying about renovating, enjoy a nice glass of Bordeaux or a refreshing dip in the Adriatic.

In the meantime, our own decorating saga continues. Just when we think we have made real progress, we seem to uncover another layer of old lead paint that needs stripping (don't worry – I'm staying well away from the fumes) or another bit of skirting board that needs filling. What might seem like a two-step project suddenly turns into five steps. With old houses, one is never really “finished.” Thank goodness we have recently employed a reliable new cleaner: Henry.

Despite my frustrations, I can finally see a dim light at the end of the tunnel, which is good because I'm sure our Crumpet is thinking the same thing...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Nesting

I attended my first antenatal class today at our local hospital. Surrounded by a room full of bellies, I couldn't help but feel slightly overwhelmed. In some ways, it hasn't really hit me until now that I'm going to be a mommy in such a short time. It reminded me of something Ross said in the first season of "Friends" (which is constantly being re-run over here): "I always knew I was having a baby. I just didn't know the baby was having me"... or something to that effect.

Yesterday, at my 34-week check-up, my GP very casually stated that, technically, a woman is considered full-term at 37 weeks. "Wait, that's just three weeks from now," I said. And then the panic set in. We are nowhere near ready. We (and by we, I mean The Other Half) still have painting and wallpapering and floor-laying to do, not to mention furniture assembly, laundry (that's all me, of course), and last-minute shopping. But, deep down, I realize that whether we're ready or not, this baby will make an appearance when it's ready, no sooner or later.

So, twig by twig, we are preparing a home for our little fledgling. I ordered the nursery furniture yesterday, which hopefully will arrive within the 3-week time-frame I have been promised. And this weekend I will be ordering the last of the "bits and pieces," like bedding, a breast pump, a baby bath, and some more clothes. Then next week we'll go shopping for a stroller/car seat. I've started filling in the baby book, realizing as I completed the family tree that, soon, there will be three of us. It's all so overwhelming... but so very exciting!

Friday, 1 August 2008

She Writes Hard for the Money

For as far back as I can remember, I have had a love affair with language. I love the way certain words – like undulate or verdant – feel in my mouth, the way my tongue curls around consonants and vowels. There is nothing more beautiful than the rhythm of two perfectly-paired words or the musicality of metaphor. When you think about it, the English language is a fascinating instrument.

It was this fascination with words that led me to writing and my desire to tell stories. Since I was a little girl, I have carried plot lines around in my head, given voice to characters who have been bursting to break the surface. With the flourish of my pen (or the click of my computer keys), I have created new worlds.

This week, I came a little closer to my dream of making a living through words. As of Monday, I am now a contributing writer to suite101.com, an online magazine featuring articles on a variety of topics from food and drink to history to travel. I'll be posting articles primarily in the travel section, with a few contributions to some of the other sections, like “Partners and Parents” and “Writing and Publishing.” I have to write ten articles every three months (although I can write as many as I like), which works out to less than one article a week, so it isn't a lot of pressure. I have complete freedom to choose what I write about, within the limits of the topics covered on the site, of course. I certainly can't expect a full-time salary from it, although I will get paid, which is pretty cool in itself, despite how paltry the sum may be at the end of the day. (At the moment, who am I to turn my nose up at even an extra $50 a month?) And it won't bring me international prestige. It will, however, help me get some publishing credits and build a good portfolio, and I'll get great practice in writing for the web, which is a totally different animal from any other kind of writing I have ever done. I wasn't trained as a journalist, and as I learn the ropes of web journalism I find myself with a new found respect for those who can write engaging, succinct copy. Let's face it: brevity is not – and never has been – one of my strongest qualities.

My long-term goal is still to one day see one of my books on the shelf at Barnes and Noble or – even better – clutched in the hands of a commuter on the Tube, but I feel a sense of motivation now (and pressure – in the positive sense) that I haven't felt in a long time. I can actually call myself a working writer, and it's true.

My first article, which went live yesterday, is on the Great British Beer Festival (you can probably guess who helped me with my research on that one). Keep an eye out for my latest postings on suite101, which I'll be listing here on my blog.