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Bye, everyone!

0703f.jpg And now, it is late afternoon on the day before a holiday, and that means that, in the words of REO Speedwagon, it is time for me to fly. We’ll be closed tomorrow, and then Claire will be back on Wednesday with more wisdom on the freelancing life.
And remember, if you are a freelancer, every day is Independence Day. Diet Coke and Mentos all around!

Come Together in Every Nation

0703e.jpgTomorrow is a big holiday here in the states, but there are tons of holidays in other places all the time. I found several sites that list dates and describe the different events, which can help you pitch timely stories, write knowledgeably, or at least know why you can’t call Coke’s PR department on May 8.
The Earth Calendar lists holidays by date, country, and religion, but it doesn’t tell you what the holiday is or if it is one that everyone celebrates (like Independence Day) or one that’s mostly nice as a filler (like Groundhog Day). Here’s some useful information on Jewish, Christian, Mormon, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu holy days. Keep in mind that different denominations and different regions may have different practices or celebrate holidays on slightly different dates.
One site offering basic and fun background information on just about every holiday you can imagine is Yahooligans. Yeah, it’s for kids, but it’s a good place to start when you have no base of knowledge.

A Fair and Balanced Look at the Fourth

0701d.jpgMy grandfather was born on July 4, in England. He always said that he had no choice but to emigrate, because no one knew how to celebrate his birthday back home. I always knew things were different there, because he would bring us back English Smarties when he visited his relatives, and trust me, English Smarties are infinitely better than American Smarties.
If you clicked those links, you may have noticed that the difference between the addresses was the different top-level domains, .com for the U.S. version and for the English one. If you are searching for something that might be located in another country, using the top-level domain might help you locate it more efficiently. And if you play around with different top-level domains, you may find completely new Web sites.
The big portal and search sites have different versions in different countries, identified by different top-level domains. If you want to find something in Canada, Yahoo Canada might get you there faster than the regular site.
Now, for the fair and balanced part of this post: Maybe you are curious to know what the English think about the War of American Independence, what we call the American Revolution. They lost, so it’s not like they are all warm and fuzzy about it. Anyway, I searched on using the keywords American Independence, and it gave the the option of looking only at British sites. Sweet! And here’s what I found, to help you write a fair and balanced look at the Fourth of July: The BBC isn’t sure that the war was inevitable, the British National Archives show John Hancock’s signature on something called the Olive Branch Petition, along with other primary sources telling their side of the story, and here’s a humor piece that I think is making fun of us.

Fireworks for Writers

0701c.jpgWriting isn’t exactly a physically demanding job, but we need to use our fingers. You may be tempted to do things tomorrow that might result in your fingers being blown off, but why? My suggestion: get some 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke and a few packs of Mentos, and watch the fun begin. (A Cub Scout I know who had performed some experiments says that Diet Coke works much better than Diet Pepsi.)
There are other safe fireworks alternatives, but they range from wimpier to wimpiest. If you find yourself itching for the real thing, well, you can always learn Dragon Naturally Speaking instead of typing.

Reading Up on the Revolution

0701b.jpgTomorrow is Independence Day number 230. Because I am old, I remember the Bicentennial in all its glory – my father was on the Youngstown Bicentennial Commission, so 30 years ago, my siblings and I got to ride on a parade float in our 1776-style costumes. It was a big deal, and I was just young enough that I was not mortified to be seen in public in a calico dress and mob cap, necessary to hide my Dorothy Hammill haircut.
Did you miss out on all the fun? Do you have an assignment to write about the American Revolution? If your history is really bad, you might want to start with Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government, featuring everyone’s favorite Secretary of State and linking to clear explanations and primary sources. The motherlode of source documents about U.S. history is the Library of Congress, which can link you to a wide range of documents about the start of “this new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”. Act soon, though – I hear that Dick Cheney wants to classify these.

Renegade Writers Roundup

0701a.jpg The Renegade Writers were in fine form last week, ticked off about auditions for a no-pay job, linking to the Writers Guild list of helpful contacts, and not sharing my grudge against Apple.
Now, do you like the picture? If you can’t get enough of Styx, Dennis de Young – the pride of South Holland – will be at Taste of Chicago on Sunday, July 9. I was at the Taste on Saturday. It was crazy and crowded, but where else on this earth can you have mutter paneer followed by cheesecake on a stick?

The Mark Twain Library of Humor

0630e.jpgMark Twain was a funny guy. He was an editor as well as a writer, and he put together a few different anthologies in his day. The Mark Twain Library of Humor is a great one that features several stories about writing. It’s readily available in bookstores and libraries if you want to read a physical copy. Because the copyrights are long expired, you can also find many of the stories online. If you aren’t going to set goals this weekend, maybe you’d like to read instead.
Charles Dudley Warner’s The Plumber (page down to see it) has some timeless advice on setting rates. Twain’s How I Edited an Agricultural Paper Once will seem familiar to those who have written for trades; you can even listen to it if you are too tired to read. And if you have never read Twain, get right over to Project Gutenberg to see what’s there.
If you want to do some typing, Wikisource is looking for folks to enter the stories there, as many of those written by other authors have not been collected online. I was trying to find Eugene Field’s wickedly funny “The First Day at Editing”, but I could not. But trust me, PR freebies and the folks who live for them are not a new development.

Getting Things Done

t_16175_01.gif If you are going to set goals this weekend, and if you like the idea of breaking each into a series of discrete actions that you can start taking now, you might like David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. I love it, and so the the good folks at Lifehacker. Today, Lifehacker discusses the iCommit Web-based application for hard-core GTD.

Tales (or Tails?) of Freelancing with Dogs

0630d.jpgYou know my theory that successful freelancers have either kids or dogs to keep them on schedule? Jen Miller agrees. “I adopted myself a dog in December, in part because I work at home all day long, and she forces me to get out,” Jen says. “Emily (who I also call my ‘boss’) is a jack russell terrier/something mix, and she forces me to take a break instead of sitting at my desk all day long. Plus, whenever I’m stuck, I take her for a walk. Sometimes she gets A LOT of walks!”
That’s Emily up in the corner. Does your dog also keep you on track? What about your kids? Do you have a non-dog, non-kid method that works for you? Tell me about it – I’d love to hear it.

As Seen on TV

0630b.jpg If you grew up in Cleveland, you’re familiar with one of the local television institutions, Academic Challenge. I was on my school’s team, oh so many years ago. One cold Sunday, my family got bundled up in the station wagon and made the drive from Youngstown to Cleveland so that I could make my television debut. The host was Don Webster, who also pulled the daily lottery numbers, and my little brother could not believe that he was in the presence of such greatness.
Although no tape of my appearance exists, I can say this much: I wasn’t the person who froze on camera and caused our team to come in second.
Huh? Are you trapped on TV Newser? Not at all. I bring this up because I recently talked to a potential client about writing stories for multi-media presentations, and the writer might have to appear on camera to read them. Would I feel comfortable doing that? Uh, sure, why not?’s own Claire Zulkey has sometimes been called up on share her wit and wisdom with the viewing audience. Like my potential client, many modern writing projects use a range of available media, not just words, to tell a story. And, of course, we all dream about having our book featured on Oprah.
The basic advice that I learned on my afternoon at the WEWS-Cleveland studios is this: wear solid colors, apply lots of makeup (or at least use powder), and look at the camera or at Don Webster, not the camera operator, the production team, or your friends in the studio audience. Here’s some advice from the producers of GOV-TV in Albuquerque and some advice from a school district in Colorado.
And if you want to be on Oprah? Well, the producers make it easy. Here’s the list of upcoming shows. If you have a book or project that fits one of their topics, you can just let the producers know, and you’re on your way to West Randolph Street!