Category Archives: work

finding and holding down a job; working towards a career; relating to paid work, not including sex work

Prepping for a conference

I’ve learned a few things about how I work best at professional conferences, and I hope some of this can help you, too. This year, I’ve attended two writing conferences—one huge and one tiny—and will be attending another in September. These thoughts could also apply to social conventions as well, though I don’t have those in mind as much in writing these notes.

  1. Book your room in the hotel that’s hosting the event. Seriously, this is a big deal. It gives you a kind of home base to which you can escape if the need arises. (For me, the need always arises.) If you decide not to do this, try to make a space for yourself as best you can. That may mean retreating to your car or finding an unused conference room, but having a little space to breathe will help keep your spirits up the entire day.
  2. Wear clothes that make you feel strong, confident, and self-assured. Think about the conference you’re attending and dress appropriately, of course, but also make sure that you’re dressing in a way that helps you be your best self.
  3. Get there early to scope out the place and people. Like, really early so that you can see the venue and have time for yourself before other people arrive. Or, on the flipside, arrive right on time to minimize the chances you’ll have to engage in conversation. I move between these two ideas pretty fluidly and they’ve both worked for me at different times. It also depends on how much time I have to spare before the event.
  4. Allow yourself to make a graceful exit when you need time to yourself. As Susan Cain says, “If you know that you are going to allow yourself to leave early, it’s a lot easier to be fully present and engaged for the time that you’re there.”
  5. Remember to tell yourself: Nobody belongs here more than me.

Hopefully I’ll have more about the conferences themselves in another post soon. Thanks for reading!

FFF 08: Freelance, part 2

Please start with Freelance, part 1. [I bent the purpose of this month by writing a nonfiction piece over two days. I decided it’s okay because I’m still writing.]

I opened a third, unrelated document and tried to comment inside it, which worked fine. It wasn’t just my Word program, then. Just to cover all the bases, however, I shut down Word completely and then restarted it; still not allowed to comment on either of the Not Quite There documents. I shut down my entire computer and rebooted; still no dice. I looked up several work-arounds on the official Microsoft Office Suite forums and scoured the Microsoft Word help pages for something that I could do that would allow me to comment on the document that the editor had directed. I looked through tens of pages of unofficial forums and help pages. Nothing.

Finally, an hour and a half after first accepting the assignment and opening both documents, I wrote back to the editor.

I’m very sorry; I have spent the last hour and change trying unsuccessfully to make comments on either of the documents you sent me. At first I thought it was just the document you directed not to comment on, but then I discovered it was both. I can make comments on/in other Word docs just fine; I only seem to be having trouble with the two you provided.

I have looked up how to make comments in Word forums and the Office Suite help website. (I know how to use track changes and comment, but I wanted to be sure.) I shut down Word and reopened the document fresh. I even completely restarted my computer, all to no avail. I am not trying to change anything in the documents, just make comments. Am I missing something obvious somewhere? Please help!

My apologies.

I explained exactly how much effort I’d already gone to in order to skip the part when the helper asks me if my computer is plugged in and stupid stuff like that. The editor wrote back, in part:

Basically, we lock the documents we send except for the PR Prep document which allows comments only. Go to Words Review tab, and click Add Comment (or New Comment, depending on version). Do not try to turn on Track Changes, as it’s grayed out. The Sourcing document is for reference only and is read-only.

Along with her obviously less-than-satifactory answer, she attached several not-quite-related documents, including the house style guide and a document called “Major uses of the Comma”. I already had all of the documents she sent me, but I knew at that moment that it would be fruitless to try to explain my problem any further. I supposed I was on my own.

I wracked my brain for a way to enable ‘Add Comment’ and came up with nothing short of hacking the file and rewriting it from the inside out, but I wasn’t going to go to all that trouble for a proofreading gig that I wasn’t even getting paid for. Finally, I had a thought.

Maybe the document would work on a different computer. My Apple computer is old and dies a little more everyday, and its system hasn’t been upgraded in more than a couple years. I booted up my best friend’s PC desktop computer, which he lent to be indefinitely for the purpose of playing video game RPGs. He had Apache OpenOffice, a free, open source Word-style program. I loaded all of the relevant documents from my computer onto a flash drive and moved everything over to his computer, where the program wouldn’t allow me to save in the original *.docx format. Luckily, I could create a new *.doc file, wherein I was finally able to make comments, as I had been trying to do all along.

Tired of messing with this unpaid proofreading—did I mention it was unpaid?—I decided to just open the read-only document on my Apple computer and the new “comments only” document on my friend’s computer so that I wouldn’t be forced to share the screen between two documents that were purportedly exactly the same thing.

…Except, as I immediately noticed upon careful inspection, they weren’t exactly the same thing. They weren’t significantly different, it’s true, but I didn’t know which document I was supposed to be proofreading. Which was the publisher’s “final” manuscript, the read-only document or the one that allowed comments? What the fuck, right?

I sent another email to the editor in charge of my proofreading trial to ask with which of the two documents I should work. She wrote back in part, “I’ve never come across this before… They should be the same.” Then, she told me to focus my proofreading on the comments-allowed document. I wanted to know why she sent me the read-only manuscript in the first place, then, but I wasn’t going to ask. I had already spent more than three days in the back-and-forth clarification, and I had only a week to proofread 300 pages, a little less than 50 pages a day every day right up until the deadline.

Fifty pages may not seem like a lot, and maybe it isn’t if I’m reading for pleasure, but when I’m reading specifically to find errors, it’s nearly more than I can handle. It’s not like I was getting paid, after all. When did other proofreaders find the time to read through an entire manuscript properly in only a week? I guessed I was going to find out.

I opened the modified comments-allowed document and hunkered down for some serious editing proofreading. I’m still trying to decide if jumping through all these hoops is worth it.

This post is part of Flash Fiction February.

FFF 07: Freelance, part 1

[I bent the purpose of this month by writing a nonfiction piece over two days. I decided it’s okay because I’m still writing.]

I freelance edit for several small presses located in the United States. I realized last year that I was going to have to do some of my own legwork to get my name out there; people weren’t going to just know what a great editor I am. (And yes, I’m a pretty great editor.)

Of the publishers to which I introduced myself late last year, I’ve been in regular contact with two. The first—we’ll call them Leagues Ahead Press (not their real name, obviously)—is a decent publisher with a decent, non-bureaucracy-laden system. This could be partially because it’s a small press and not a bureaucratic behemoth like, say, Penguin Random House or HarperCollins is, but whatever the case, working with them has been phenomenally easy (especially compared to working with the other publisher; but I’ll get to them in a moment).

When I work with Leagues Ahead Press, this is how it goes. They send me a manuscript via Word document attachment in an email to either content edit or copyedit or both. I use Word’s ‘Track Changes’ and ‘Add Comment’ features while I read through the manuscript, and when I’m done editing, I save the file under a new name to avoid confusion and send it back the same way it was sent to me to the same person who sent it. Then, at the end of the month, I receive a receipt for my services and a direct deposit payment into my checking account. Rinse and repeat.

Now, dealing with the other publisher with which I’ve been in contact has been… less cut and dried, shall we say. Let’s call them Not Quite There Press because, well, they’re not quite there. This publisher is very professional and very bureaucratic. I was actually in contact with Not Quite There before I ever contacted Leagues Ahead, but the process with the former has taken so long that I’m not sure it’s even worth it anymore.

First, I applied to be a contracted content editor. Someone from Not Quite There Press sent me a relatively short test and a bunch of directions, house punctuation rules, and the like. The house punctuation rules and the like isn’t unusual, and I read through the documents carefully and took the test in about an hour and a half. Normally, I wouldn’t take that long, but I wanted to be thorough and complete in my editing since it was, after all, a test of my skill.

After about a week, I was notified that I had not been chosen to continue the process to become a content editor. I was surprised because I pride myself on knowing language inside and out and being able to communicate well through writing. But, I know content editing is often subjective, so I didn’t bother taking it personally. They offered to put me in the cue for the contracted copyeditor test, and I accepted.

Second, they eventually sent me the copyeditor test along with all the same documents I already had, plus some extra ones specifically for copyeditors in their employ. I read the new documents and took my time with the test. I wasn’t worried because I’m the best copyeditor I know. That’s not bragging; it’s just fact. I sent the test back, satisfied that I had done well.

Again, I was notified that I had not been chosen to continue the process, this time to become a copyeditor. This time, I did take it personally. I don’t know how much I missed, but my proficient editing skill leads me to believe that either (1) their house rules for editing are unusually divergent from standard editing practices, or (2) the people at Not Quite There don’t quite know what they’re doing, or (3) likely both. In any case, they offered to put me in the unpaid proofreading cue for a two- or three-manuscript trial before moving up in the ranks to a paid copyediting position. I was a bit wary at this point, but I accepted.

Third, one of the editors who handles Not Quite There’s proofreaders contacted me with yet more documents about house rule punctuation and proofreading requirements, which I dutifully read. Shortly thereafter, the editor sent me a 300-page manuscript to proofread with a deadline only a week and a half away. That seemed a little soon to me, but I was still putting up with this publisher’s strangeness, and it’s not like I could complain to the editor herself; she probably hadn’t created such a short deadline herself and was only relaying it to me.

I had been sent two separate manuscripts that were the same except that one had formatting notes on it and was locked against editing (it had been made read-only) and the other lacked formatting notes and was open only for comments (it had been locked against editing except allowing the reader to make comments using Word’s ‘Add Comment’ system).

Irritated that I had to read the two documents side by side on my computer (one to read the notes and the other to make my own notes), I opened the comments-allowed document and read the first few lines. There was a punctuation error on the first page. I highlighted the offending comma and tried to add a comment. “This command is not available because the document is locked for edit,” the note at the bottom of the screen read.

Confused, I opened the other document, thinking that maybe I had tried to comment on the read-only document instead of the one that allowed for comments. I highlighted the same error in the second document and tried to make a corrective comment. “This command is not available because the document is locked for edit,” the note read again.

Please continue in Freelance, part 2.

This post is part of Flash Fiction February.

Read my recent articles at 2Shopper

Guys! I’ve got a bunch of new articles up at the 2Shopper blog; please check them out and comment!

So far in June
Friday the 13th and 4 Unique Gifts for Father’s Day and Organize WHAT? and Want free books? and Bookish: 5 Must Haves for Book Lovers and Five articles that made me more interested in the world

In May
April showers bring May flowers: at home and April showers bring May flowers: at work and Sally Ride Day and National Salad Month and National Photograph Month and National Waiters and Waitresses Day

New work elsewhere!

I’ve been a busy writer these days. I’ve got a review up at Hippocampus of Butterfly Tears: Stories of Entrapment to Empowerment.

I was also hired last month to write articles of interest for the 2Shopper blog, and my first two posts have already gone live! Check out First Week in April is Read a Roadmap Week (published April 4) and Do we really need another excuse NOT to do housework? (published today). I’ll be posting more at the 2Shopper blog this month and next (possibly longer), so keep a sharp eye for some great new articles.

Hope your week goes well. Good hunting.

Resolutions for the New Year

Without getting into the discussion about whether or not December 31 is really any different than January 1 (hint: it’s not), I’ve come up with three resolutions for the New Year. I’ve thought about it long and hard, and I want to have resolutions that (1) I can actually accomplish, (2) help me strive but don’t overwhelm, and (3) do not necessarily involve “getting rich quick” or “shedding a few pounds”… Because honestly, everyone wants to be richer and feel good when they look in the mirror. Those are basically standing societal goals, at least where I live, and I don’t need to contribute to that by falling for any pyramid schemes or jumping on the “join a gym today!” bandwagon.

When someone says something, believe them
Dear future self: You know that guy who tells some horrendous ‘joke’ (trigger warning: “I bought a rape whistle and it’s come in handy…really helps to mask the screams.”) and then, when you tell him that was completely not funny, he says, “Aww, don’t get bent out of shape about it! Lighten up! It was only a joke; you have no sense of humor”? That guy is not joking. Don’t worry about ‘being polite’ or ‘being nice’—that guy is not your friend. Don’t be afraid to tell off that guy; don’t be afraid to not laugh; don’t be afraid to ask him to explain the joke. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend; don’t be embarrassed, and don’t be afraid to embarrass him. When someone says something, they are feeling out how you’ll take it. Don’t be afraid to not take it. Stand up for yourself; don’t be afraid.

Get a job
Preferably in my field of study, and definitely higher-paying than what I have now… which wouldn’t be difficult, sadly. I actually don’t mind the work I do now; I dislike some aspects of it, of course, but I like my coworkers and the work isn’t terribly mentally taxing. And I would like to have higher pay. (Right now, I’m living below the poverty line.) In this vein, I’ll be applying for work every couple of days or so until I land something better than coffee shop work.

Submit my writing
Or, “Receive ten rejections.” If I’m not getting rejected, I’m not submitting enough work (or, I suppose, I’m just that awesome). This way, I will ‘win’ this goal either way: either I’ll succeed by having more of my work published, or I’ll succeed by having at least ten rejection letters by the end of the year.

I am just not with it today

I am just not with it today

I have a three-item list of “things I have to do today”:

1. writing at Zeli’s (apply for 2-3 jobs)
2. books with [friend] (if there’s time)
3. family night

One (#2) is even optional since it hinges on a friend’s ability to sit in my room and make help me do it. Another (#3) is going to happen whether I want it to or not since it happens every Sunday whether I want it to or not.

That leaves this morning, writing at Zeli’s (#1). Here I sit in Zeli’s, an independently-owned coffee shop, having intended to apply for two or three jobs in my field of study or at least something not-what-I’m-doing-right-now-related. Unfortunately, I completely forgot my flash drive, which has all my cover letter material and various resumes for tailoring. (By that I mean I have several differently-formatted resumes with varying degrees of the same information, not that I’m a con-artist, obviously.) I’m kind of stuck.

I’m so tired I’ve nearly fallen asleep in Zeli’s this morning, which is completely unlike me. Usually, I write and do other things with my writing group (we literally sit together on our own laptops and just write—that’s it) and I make my ride wait five or ten minutes once they arrive because “I just have to finish this sentence; gimme a second.”

Today, I’ve looked at the clock ten times already and it’s only 11:30ish and I’m about to keel over.

What. the. hell.