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Not-A-Performace-Review Update

I promised to tell you how my performance review went last week.

As suspected, it was not a performance review. He never said it would be, so it’s not like there was any false advertising. Mostly we just talked about the company and our current projects. He did ask what the three worst parts of working for the company have been, but he said it laughing, so I couldn’t tell if he was joking. I was honest, but gentle.

There was no mention of a raise – again, not that I really suspected there would be. That conversation will come eventually.

So work continues on. We have some great clients, and I have many fun writing projects on the horizon. That’s one thing I really love about my job. In one week I can write about tree maintenance, the downfall of redevelopment, water recycling and Twitter’s new emergency alert system. And we might maybe have a new client that I am super excited about. I can’t say anything just yet, but if it happens, I will let you know.

So that’s the haps. More than anything, this post, and the one last week, are a test to see if my boss reads my blog.

Boss man? You there?

Yes! National Student Writing Competition

I am super proud to announce that Yes! Magazine is using an article I wrote for them to act as the prompt for their annual Student Writing Competition

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The piece dates back to 2010, and outlines a very difficult month in which I impulsively tried to go for thirty-one days without eating, drinking, wearing or washing with any Monsanto products. Being all writerly, I blogged about the adventure, and it got me a lot of attention – some good (I landed an agent), and a lot of it not so good. The biggest lesson I learned was that people do not take their food politics lightly.

Seeing this article take on a new life has brought up some old anxiety that is reminding me of all the reasons I have since distanced myself from the project:

1. I got my very own angry stalker. A very nasty man (?) posted repeatedly on my blog using all caps, and words I will never repeat. The same individual sent frequent tweets about how I was a Monsanto plant and that I have a funny-looking nose. Why do I care what that a-hole thinks? I don’t, but the words he chose to express himself were upsetting nonetheless.

2. Numerous publications asked me to write for them – for free. While I don’t mind a little pro-bono work when I believe in a cause, I am also a professional writer, and I simply cannot spend all my time writing for no money. Mostly I just ended up telling them to republish the Yes! article (and a couple others I wrote), and then felt guilty for not doing more to educate people about their food.

3. People started calling me The Monsanto Girl. While a more appropriate title would have been The Nonsanto Girl, it wasn’t the monicker that bothered me so much as the creeping sensation that I would never be known as anything else. If you read my blog, you know that fiction is my true passion.

4. I was misquoted. A lot. Just for the record – the movie Food, Inc. did not inspire the project, the project was not a boycott in the traditional sense (I had no illusions that my not consuming Monsanto products would in any way make the company change its ways), and I am not an activist (at least not by any traditional definition).

5. People got really crazy about equating Monsanto with GMO and held me up as their poster girl. I actually think GMO’s may have a place in our food system, but I also believe that our government doesn’t do nearly enough (anything) to test GMO’s before they are fed to the masses and that scares me.

When I realized I was continually explaining myself and clarifying misconceptions, I decided it was time to take a step back, for the sake of my own sanity. I was in the middle of a very difficult pregnancy at the time, and I needed a little more calm in my life.

The funny thing is, the project has taken on a life of its own. I joined forces with a friend of mine who is very much into food politics, and we started the Digging Deep campaign which now has over 4,000 followers on Facebook. (My “Storyteller” Facebook page

has just under 200 – you should go Like it.)

At this point I more or less feel like a traveler who strolled over a hill and happened upon a war. I fought a battle or two, then looked around, decided this was not where I wanted to die and got the ef out of there. I have immense respect and gratitude for everyone who continues to fight the good fight, and if an article I wrote two and half years ago can help spark discussion, well, I am truly honored.

Writing Every Day – Serioulsy

Okay, so I know it looked to you like I just kind of forgot to post for the last two weeks, but I was actually experiencing a complete WordPress meltdown.

Two days after I posted my last entry, I went online to draft my next post and I got this crazy error code. Couldn’t even get a login page. Arg! I mean, I’m pretty good with WordPress once I’m in the back end, but if I can’t get there, I’m lost. Luckily, a friend from the Kleverdog co-working space gave me a good rate on some FTP magic and viola! I’m back online.

So, let’s see, what have I missed telling you about since the 18th? Well, we’re still in the process of moving offices. So I’m currently working on a round conference table, with my keyboard WAY too high, which sucks, but it’s temporary. I’ve become a bit of an ergonomics Nazi, but frankly, I don’t know how people work long days without good positioning. I just ache and ache if things aren’t set up right. Which reminds me, I just discovered a new mouse called the RollerMouse. It’s awesome. You can read my review of it on the company blog here

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I continue to plug away at the novel. I’m currently doing a pass to fine tune the language. Really nit-picking stuff. Some mornings I plow through three pages, other mornings, like this one, I spend an hour and a half on one paragraph. It would be discouragingly slow if I didn’t see a real difference in the pages before and after. Certain sections are expanding, gaining detail and nuance, but mostly I’m cutting. Trim, trim, trim.

The thing I’ve most wanted to blog about though is that I’m re-reading a book called The Writer’s Portable Mentor

, by Priscilla Long. If you’re a writer, you really must check it out. It’s by far the best book I’ve come across about writing as a craft. It’s full of exercises, most of which I ignored the first time I read it, but now that I actually have a project in full swing, it’s giving me some great insight into how to hone my skills and really look at every sentence for structure and sound and meaning.

The most basic lesson is to write every day. I’ve heard lots of writers say that and I’ve thought “yeah, totally, every day, except days I  oversleep, or weekends, or you know, if I don’t get around to it,” but something clicked this time when I read that. Every day. Long says to set a timer and write EVERY DAY for 15 minutes in a journal. This is meant to be totally separate from any other writing you do, and it’s a safety net. This is my new understanding of it. It’s that, even if I don’t get to my  novel on any given day, or week, I will still be writing, even if it’s just those few minutes before bed, or on a coffee break. Every day. I’m about a week into it, but I’m telling you, something clicked. I intend to write every day for the rest of my life. Seriously. Every day.

So that’s what’s been happening. I’m very excited to be back online.

Why I Blog

When a classmate of mine in the MPW masters program at USC told me that I just HAD to start blogging, I thought he was crazy. Blogging’s not for everyone. That’s a fact. Some people just want to go about their lives, write in their free time and leave it at that. Personally, I had lumped myself into the “it’s not for me” category, without really thinking it through.

But then, I had professors and agents all tell me that the best thing I could do while finishing my novel was build my platform. Ug. What a distasteful thing to do. As a writer who considers this work an art form, starting a blog simply to promote myself felt icky. But, since I figured they knew more about it than I did, I set up a blog and started writing about the one thing I felt I could speak on with authority – writing. And here I am.

Since I haven’t yet finished my novel, I have no idea how this whole “building my platform” thing is going, but I do know one thing for sure: a large percentage of the freelance work I get comes directly from people who have seen this blog. It turns out I’m promoting myself in a way I never even realized.

Forget my platform. This little blog of mine is building my livelihood.

The truth is, as a freelance writer, you have to do a lot to reassure people that you can put words together in a coherent way before they’ll even pick up the phone to call you. So I have my business website

, my LinkedIn profile , my Facebook page , blah, blah, blah. The number one thing new clients tell me over and over is “I read your blog.”

I tell you this, dear readers, because I know a lot of you are writers too. It’s hard finding clients, I’m here to testify. But it’s MUCH harder if you don’t represent yourself in some way.

So if you’re looking to start into this whole freelance thing – take my advice: start blogging. It doesn’t even matter what you blog about. You just need to put interesting (hopefully) words to your screen, again and again. And really, if you’re a writer worth a damn, that’s not such a hard thing to do.

New Gig

One of the perks of living in LA (and I have to admit that there aren’t many) is that I get to meet famous people.

Okay, maybe meet is a strong word. I get to notice famous people, as they live their lives and our paths occasionally cross. And it’s the strangest thing, because you see someone, and you’re thinking “I know this person,” but then, after you’ve been staring at them for an uncomfortable period of time, you realize, no, you don’t actually know this person, you just recognize their face from your favorite TV show or something. Then you feel kind of like an idiot for staring. Then you tweet about the famous person standing next to you. Then you go on about your day.

But sometimes I actually do get to meet said famous people, either because my guy is working with them, or their kid plays on the same soccer team as ours. And sometimes you actually get to know them a bit. Which leads me to my latest news – I have my first celebrity ghost-blogging gig!

I just turned in my first post, and I actually enjoyed working with him(her?) quite a bit (can’t give you any hints as to who it is or I wouldn’t be a very good ghost blogger now would I?). I hope this turns into a long-term, reoccurring assignment, because it really was fun to write. No offense to the executives I ghost blog for (not that I think any of them actually read my blog), but writing for a celebrity is much more fun. They have pretty glamorous lives.

As much as I enjoy bashing LA, I have to admit, I never would have made the connection that landed me this project if I lived in, say, Portland. So I guess I’ll have to take that into consideration from now on (but I still miss the REAL stars).

Is blogging a waste of time?

A friend of mine from grad school commented on my Facebook page the other day that, while she likes me and doesn’t want to offend, she hates the whole idea of blogs, even mine. Here’s how she put it:

I honestly don’t “get” blogs. If I have free time, I would MUCH rather spend it working on a novel rather than anything else. I like YOU–very much — it’s just the whole concept of “blogging” that is problematic to me and has been for years. It seems narcissitic to me and reeks of self-promotion over production. No one needs to know what you’re thinking every day. They just need to read your work. And to do that, you need to be focusing on the WORK not your “writerly image.” 

She goes on, but that’s the gist. And in some ways I agree. No one needs to know what I’m thinking every day. But I also have to take her comment with a grain of salt. See, this is a woman who produces a book about once a year. She is prolific, to say the least.

Unfortunately, not all writers can work on their novel all day every day. I wish I were one of those people, but honestly, if I’ve worked on my novel for four hours in a day I’m pretty happy with that. The rest of the time I’m exercising other writerly muscles, like my freelance work or my blogging (which I really only spend about an hour on every week).

I think blogging can be promotional, but it really only works in that capacity once you’re a big enough celebrity that people want to read what you have to say, at which point, do you really need the promotion? No. For me blogging is more about discipline and expression. The discipline of writing something regularly (for me it’s Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and the expression of myself in my writer community.

I’m pretty sure most of the people who ready my blog are my other writer/artist type friends, so I see this as a way to talk about what I’m working on, how I’m feeling about it, etc. I also like to share little things I discover that make my life easier as a writer. Certainly nobody’s under any obligation to read it, but I enjoy writing it. And I enjoy reading my friend’s blogs and knowing what they’re up to (I’ve listed some of my favorites on my blog roll in the right hand column, btw).

So maybe it is a waste of time, and narcissistic, but I like it.

Excuse me, I need to go spend some time gazing loving into the mirror now.