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Monthly Archives: June 2016

A Far Cry from the Concerts of My Youth

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A Far Cry from the Concerts of My Youth

I grew up going to see bands. At the age of fourteen I saw my first show:  the hardcore band Fugazi. For some reason, I had brought my backpack with me to the tiny venue where they were playing. I stashed it in the bathroom and spent the night in the mosh pit, jumping around with a bunch of sweaty, tattooed dudes.

A big part of my high school life was going to shows. Since not too many bands made a stop in my sleepy hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, my friends and I used to drive to Richmond and other nearby cities to see punk bands like Against All Authority, The Bouncing Souls, Anti-Flag, and our favorite: Less Than Jake.

In the summers, we headed to DC for the Warped Tour. We’d spend the long, hot day seeing our favorite bands and getting free samples of Yoohoo for sustenance.

I loved going to shows because it was a chance for me to jump up and down, scream really loud, and unleash my emotions in a way that I didn’t get to in my regular life of being a straight-A student. I crowd-surfed. I jumped on stage and screamed into the microphone. I threw my sixteen-year-old body into a sweaty sea of other sixteen-year-old bodies and let the tide take me over.

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Me and my friend Melissa with Roger from Less Than Jake, circa 1999

 

I always dressed the same way for shows: jeans, a t-shirt or tank top, and sneakers. Wearing anything else was stupid. My friends and I used to make fun of the girls who showed up at the Warped Tour wearing flip-flops or skirts or, for God’s sake, high heels. What were they thinking? You can’t crowd-surf in that. Your toes will get smashed in the pit. And purses? Forget about it. After the backpack incident, I never brought anything with me to shows except a few dollars tucked into my back pocket. What else could I need? All that mattered was the music.

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I wrote something about this concert last week, too.  See here.

 

Skip ahead to the present day.  On Friday, my husband and some friends and I went to see Weezer and Panic at the Disco at an outdoor amphitheater in Northern Virginia. I was excited. I’d never seen Weezer before, and it had been a while since I’d been to an outdoor concert. I was imagining we’d picnic leisurely on the lawn in between bands then enjoy a big Weezer sing-along at the end of the night.

The day of the concert, my husband came home early from work and we got ready to go. The weather forecast was clearly calling for rain, so we packed two umbrellas and our raincoats. I stuffed a cooler bag with strawberries, cut-up watermelon, cheese, granola bars, and two leftover banana-walnut pancakes.

“Should I bring a book?” Paul asked.

“If you want.” I tossed some bug spray into my bag then went upstairs to find the foldable camp chairs. I considered my outfit. I was wearing a sundress and sparkly white sandals. Should I change into jeans and sneakers? It was hot outside. I decided what I was wearing was fine.

We loaded up the car and began the forty-mile-but-three-hours-because-of-traffic drive to Jiffy Lube Live.

As we drove through the parking lot, I was surprised to see so many teenagers. With Weezer as the headliner, I’d assumed it would be a bunch of thirty-somethings like us.

What is that girl wearing?” Paul asked, nodding towards a girl in high-waisted shortie-shorts. “Her butt is hanging out. Do you think her parents let her out of the house dressed like that?”

I was more impressed with the fact that none of these teenagers were carrying anything with them. Where were their umbrellas? Weren’t they concerned about the impending rain? Most of the girls weren’t even carrying purses. They just had their cell phones tucked in the back pockets of their shortie-shorts.

We parked and got our stuff out of the car: two camp chairs, my purse, a tote bag, and a cooler bag. We looked like we were planning to live at Jiffy Lube Live for a week.

“We’re older,” I said as we walked towards the gate. “We require more stuff now.”

As we neared the entrance, a teenage boy in a neon green Jiffy Lube Live t-shirt stopped us. “You can’t bring those chairs in.”

“But the website said we could,” I protested.

“Sorry, that’s the rule for this show. No chairs. And they’re not going to let you bring all those bags in either. One bag per person.”

Annoyed, Paul and I rearranged everything into my purse and the cooler bag, and I trudged back to the car to put away our chairs.

As we neared the entrance for the second time, the same teenager stopped us again. “They’re not going to let you bring that cooler bag in.”

“It’s not a cooler bag, it’s my husband’s man purse,” I said.

“I don’t get it. Are we not allowed to bring in food?” Paul asked.

“You can bring in food,” the boy said. “Just not in a bag.”

“That makes no sense,” I said.

He shrugged. “I’m just telling you the rules. And you can’t bring those umbrellas in either.”

“What the heck? You know it’s supposed to rain, right?” I pointed at the black clouds above our heads.

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The gray clouds over the amphitheater… Photo by Layla Bonn0t.

 

Grunting with annoyance, we took all the food out of the cooler bag and shoved the cooler bag into my purse. Paul put on his raincoat and stuffed one of the umbrellas into his sleeve. I hid the other one at the bottom of my purse. Then, with our arms full of snacks, we made our way towards the front gates.

“Crap,” Paul said. “They’re waving people down with a metal detector. They’re going to think this is a weapon.” He pulled the umbrella out of his sleeve and took off his jacket. Then he balled up the jacket, hiding the umbrella inside it. We went into the line of an older security officer who looked like she didn’t really care about her job anymore. She poked half-heartedly at my purse then waved us through.

We found our friends, who luckily had a blanket for us to sit on, and staked out a spot at the top of the lawn. I had just opened my strawberries when the raindrops started to fall. Paul and I put on our raincoats, but I was hot in mine, and the raincoat didn’t stop my feet from getting wet and muddy.  Suddenly, a drunk girl tripped and fell onto our blanket, smushing our strawberries. It started to rain even harder.

Panic at the Disco was playing, and all around us, teenagers were dancing in the rain, not caring about getting wet or muddy. And suddenly, I didn’t care either. I took off my raincoat and lifted my face to the sky.

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Layla, Eva, and Paul.  Photo by Layla Bonnot.

 

By the time Weezer came on stage, our snacks were wet and smushed, the blanket was wet and dirty, and everything in my purse was slightly damp. I realized it was stupid to have brought all this stuff. I’d turned into someone my friends and I used to make fun of. I’d forgotten that all you should ever bring to a show is yourself. All that matters is the music. I felt old, and kind of lame.

But then Weezer started playing “Surf Wax USA.” It was the slow part at the very beginning, and no one else on the lawn was singing along, but I did, at the top of my lungs: “You take your car to work. I’ll take my board. And when you’re out of fuel, I’m still afloat…”

When the fast part started, I jumped around like I was a teenager in the mosh pit instead of a thirty-something in a sundress. “I never thought it would come to this,” I screamed, thrashing myself about, “now I can never go home!”

It was a far cry from the concerts of my youth, but for the briefest of moments, I felt like a kid again.

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Enjoying the Weezer concert in our own way.  Photo by Layla Bonnot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weezer Traffic Jam, or, Enjoy Where You Are

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Weezer Traffic Jam, or, Enjoy Where You Are

I’m a sucker for a Groupon. Apparently I’m not the only one in my family, since my brother just got back from a Groupon-trip to Japan.

I haven’t traveled internationally on a Groupon (yet), but I have bought Groupons for restaurants, hair salons, wine tastings, Escape Rooms, barre classes, and even the Renaissance Faire.

Back in January, I bought a Groupon for tickets to the Weezer concert that is happening this Friday at the Jiffy Lube Live amphitheater. Only $20 to see one of my favorite bands!

But, sucker that I am for a deal, I didn’t take into account that the venue is 40 miles away, and that getting there on a Friday afternoon in the summer is going to be the absolute worst DC traffic nightmare imaginable. My husband estimates it will take us three hours of stop-and-go hell to get there in time for the opening band. Sort of gives new meaning to the idea of tailgating before a concert…

But I’m trying not to let this impending traffic doom get me down. “Oh well,” I keep saying, “it will be fun once we get there.”

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The iconic Weezer blue album.  Absolute essential listening.

 

In other news, it was almost a year ago now that I lost my literary agent, and since then I have been on a frustrating, stop-and-go journey to try to find a new one. I’ve sent queries and participated in Twitter pitches and even met one-on-one with agents at conferences. I’ve had a good number of agents request the full manuscript. I’ve gotten some no’s, some positive feedback, and I’m still waiting for five agents with my manuscript to get back to me. Sometimes it sort of feels like I’m stuck in a traffic jam.

I keep thinking I’ve got to endure this frustratingly slow crawl towards publishing, looking forward to the day when I finally get “there.”

But the thing is, this part of the journey might last a long time. And to be honest, I’m beginning to think that the reason I haven’t found a new agent isn’t so much because I’m not lucky or well-connected (although those things are true, too), but because my book isn’t good enough. Maybe I’m not quite “there” yet as a writer.

Maybe I still have a lot to learn and a lot to improve.

I’ve been trying to rush through this stage – this pre-agent, pre-published stage. I’ve been feeling antsy and frustrated at my lack of progress. Maybe I need to stop looking ahead and start focusing on where I am right now. Stop worrying about getting an agent and start looking for ways to improve my writing. Stop shopping around this old book (which I wrote four years ago) and start writing a new book with some of the skills I’ve learned.

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This is what the DC area looks like… pretty much always.  But it’s worst on Friday afternoons in the summer.

 

I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to not be (too) negative about the drive to the Weezer concert on Friday. My husband and I will have a chance to chat. I can load up my ipod with some good podcasts for us to listen to. I can bring a delicious snack. We might as well find a way to enjoy ourselves on the road, because lord knows we’re going to be there for a while. Instead of it being a frustrating means-to-an-end, I’ll try to think of the drive as part of the fun.

And as far as my writing goes, I think that’s the key as well: find a way to enjoy this stage of the process. I’ll get an agent when I get one. I’ll get published eventually. Best stop worrying about when. Best to enjoy myself where I am. Because lord knows I might be here for a while.

Cross Country Trip 111

Enough Is Enough (Again), or, How to Know When You’ve Written Enough

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Enough Is Enough (Again), or, How to Know When You’ve Written Enough

Since it’s summertime now, I am reposting an old entry about writing and sunbathing from several summers ago, when I first started this blog.

My only follow-up comments about this post are:

a)  This is the first summer of my adult life that I don’t care so much about getting tan.  (OK, fine, I want to get a little tan, but I’m not going to be a freak about it.)

b)  I still, four years later, worry that I’m not doing enough writing each day.  I still feel guilty and worry that I’m being lazy.

c)  The other day I sunbathed for the first time this summer.  (Only for an hour, and at 4pm instead of mid-day.)  And, you know, at least when I sunbathe, I read.  I figure, as a writer, reading is part of my job.  So technically, I’m working in the sun.

Anyway, here’s the old post, first published July 30, 2012.  (Nearly four years ago!)

Enough Is Enough!

The past few days have been rainy here in Cape Cod, so today, since it was actually going to be sunny, I decided to go to the beach for some good, old-fashioned sunbathing. (Right now my mother is screaming in horror and making me a care package of SPF 50 and a giant, floppy hat.) I know, I know, it’s very bad for me, but I like to lay out in the sun. It feels nice to have a blanket of solar heat against my bare skin as I drowsily read and listen to the waves. But, I must admit, I do it in large part for the vain reason that I think I look better tan.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten much more concerned about wrinkles and skin cancer and unsightly moles, so I don’t sunbathe as often as I did, and when I do, I take more precautions than I used to. For instance, now, when I go to the beach, I wear a hat, and SPF 50 on my face. My chest and back and stomach get SPF 15 or SPF 30, and they may or may not get a reapplication, depending on how responsible I’m feeling that day.

My legs, more often than not, get nothing. That’s right. Nothing. I think my legs look better tan.This habit is probably why the following conversation occurred when I visited my friend Dawn and her husband, Scott, in Philly a few weeks ago:

Scott: Eva, are you wearing pantyhose?
Me: What? No.
Scott: Are your legs just that tan?
Me(Secretly delighted) What? Yeah, I guess so.
Scott: They’re like a completely different color from the rest of you.

Which I guess is true. My legs are a few shades darker than my arms, which are a few shades darker than my face, which makes me look sort of like one of those 1-2-3 Jello Parfait desserts:

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It all begs the question: how tan is tan enough? When will I be pleased with my level of leg-tan and stop feeling the need to go to the beach every time it’s sunny?  The answer, it seems, is never.

I am by no means tanorexic like the disturbingly-tan mom who was accused of bringing her 5-year-old in the tanning bed with her, but I’ll admit that I sometimes plan my day around finding the optimal time to lay outside and tan. I’m always pleased to see my tan lines in the shower, but no matter how tan I am, I always think that maybe I should get just a little bit tanner.

*  *  *

This morning I told myself I would write until lunchtime then go to the beach in the afternoon. After all, I hadn’t sunbathed in a while, and heaven forbid my legs lose their tan! I spent the morning alternately writing and slacking off. And when I mean slacking off, I mean doing things that aren’t writing. My slacking off included:

-booking a plane ticket to Ohio for a wedding
-vacuuming and mopping the entire house
-finishing The Psychopath Test (awesome book – I highly recommend!)
-eating various snacks

However, despite all this slacking off, I managed to write nine and a half pages on my novel. Still, I wasn’t sure this was enough to warrant the treat of going to the beach in the afternoon. “I don’t know, Eva,” I told myself. “You could write more. Joyce Carol Oates would scoff at this measly bit of writing.”

The question is: how much writing is enough for one day? Because no matter how much I write, I always think that I should do just a little more.

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Me on Cape Cod.  I’m sun-safe, see? I’m wearing a big hat!

 

I guess that’s true with a lot of things. When do you know when to stop? When you’ve done what’s expected of you? When you’re tired? When you’ve gone on a three-week-bender and written an entire novel on scrolls of paper ala Jack Kerouc?

When I first got to Cape Cod, I set myself the goal of writing five pages per day. But now that I’m routinely exceeding that goal, I’m not sure when to call it a day. Last night on the phone, a friend told me  I haven’t set my goals high enough. But what if I set them too high and can’t reach them?

The thing is, we can always do more. I could always get tanner. I could always find more things in the house to clean. I could always write more (and maybe I should). For other people, they can never make enough money, run enough marathons, buy enough clothes. But “enough” is a relative term.  What’s enough for one person might not be enough for someone else.  At some point, you just have to decide what “enough” will be for you, for today, and make it be true. On the other hand, if you have something you’re working towards, maybe it doesn’t hurt to keep pushing up the bar a little bit, making what counts as “enough” just a little more as time goes on.

After my nine and a half pages, I ate lunch, then rode my bike to Crosby beach. The bike path smelled like jasmine, and I realized that it was good to get out of the house, away from the computer. I walked along the beach. The tide was really low. I spread out on my towel and told myself: one hour of laying in the sun. That’s enough. And it was. Then I came home and wrote this blog post. Because I’m not Joyce Carol Oates, and I think I’ve worked enough on my novel for today.

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Crosby Beach on the Cape.

Interview with Susan Lynn Meyer, Middle-Grade Author of Skating with the Statue of Liberty

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Interview with Susan Lynn Meyer, Middle-Grade Author of Skating with the Statue of Liberty

Susan Lynn Meyer is the author of three books for young people.  Her latest publication, Skating with the Statue of Liberty, is the companion to her debut novel Black Radishes, which won a Sydney Taylor Honor Award and was named a Massachusetts Book Award finalist and a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year.  Both novels were inspired by stories she grew up hearing about her father’s escape from Nazi-occupied France and his early years in New York City.  She lives with her family in Massachusetts and teaches literature and creative writing at Wellesley College.

I found Susan somewhat by chance, and lucky for me she agreed to do an interview.  As it turns out, the two of us have a couple of things in common.  Read on to find out more about Susan and her new book.

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Susan Lynn Meyer with Black Radishes and New Shoes.

 

When you were writing Black Radishes, did you think there might be a companion book some day?  Was Skating with the Statue of Liberty something your agent or publisher encouraged you to write?  

No, I didn’t plan to write it ahead of time, but as I came to the end of Black Radishes, I realized that there were more stories I wanted to tell. My editor also liked the idea, and in fact she thought a third book might also be a possibility. We’ll see! I’m working on something different now, but I think possibly later I might want to take the story back to France and write something more about Nicole from Black Radishes and what happens to her after Gustave leaves for America.

 

Did you find it any easier to write Skating with the Statue of Liberty since you were already familiar with the main character and had previously done research on the time period?  

Sadly, no. Not at all! There was a lot of new research to do about America during the war rather than France. And crafting the story was hard. In fact, writing Skating with the Statue of Liberty was much, much harder for me than writing the first book. I think this was partly because I felt I had something to live up to. I pretty much wrote Black Radishes thinking that no one except my writing group partners would ever read the book—which was freeing, in a way! With Skating I pretty much wrote and then threw away two entirely different novels before writing this one.

 

Skating with the Statue of Liberty takes place in New York City in 1942.  How long did it take to research the book versus how long it took to write it?  

All told, it took me about 5 years to write the book. I’d research, write, research, and write again, so it is hard to separate the two. I’d take the plot off in a new direction and need to find out something new. For example, I’d realize I needed to find out about the Red Cross in this period (though that ended up getting dropped from the book), or that I needed to learn the details of the postal system and how letters were sent between the US and Occupied France—that ended up being an important part of the book, and at first I wasn’t even sure that letters could have gone in and out of France at this time. But they did, and they were censored, which was very interesting to explore in the novel.

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Skating with the Statue of Liberty explores themes of race and discrimination in the U.S.  Did you ever worry about writing such hot-button topics?

In a way, no and in a way, yes. I feel a very strong pull toward writing about children in situations of real adversity. When I was a child, I kept thinking and thinking about what my father had gone through and what he had escaped, and his story was one I really needed to tell. Writing about the ways he both had and hadn’t escaped racism by coming to America was the natural continuation of that impulse. When Gustave encounters anti-Semitism at the inn, for example, he struggles to make emotional sense of the fact that this kind of thing is still happening to Jews even in America, even though it is much less extreme than what he has seen in Europe. And racism against blacks strikes Gustave as jarring in America (as it did my father), especially because the country is fighting a war for democracy, and he’s very sensitive to racism against blacks because of what he has been through.

The story pulled me in that direction. I didn’t want to get things wrong, though, and it was very important to me to research the experiences of black people in New York in the 1940s, through reading memoirs and listening to oral histories and through talking to people. I also felt it was very important to ask black friends to read the story for me while it was still in manuscript. So I wasn’t worried, exactly, but I felt I needed to write about the subject with a lot of care and attentiveness.

 

As you were researching segregation in the 1940s for Skating with the Statue of Liberty, you got the idea for a children’s picture book called New Shoes, which was published this January.  How was the process of writing a picture book different than writing for middle grade?  

Yes, while researching racial segregation in New York in the 1940s, I came upon the fact that is at the center of New Shoes—that in many places until the mid 1960s, African Americans weren’t allowed to try on shoes before buying them. I was so stunned by that fact (and by my embarrassment that I hadn’t known it before—I felt I should have), that I knew I had to try to write a story about it.

One thing that is very different in writing a picture book is that it is much easier to keep the shape of the whole thing in your head—I have trouble with that when it comes to novels. But it was a very hard story to write. I kept going back to it over the course of several years, knowing that the ending wasn’t right and trying something new. It was relatively easy to set up Ella Mae’s problem—she’s not allowed to try on shoes—but very hard to figure out a satisfying ending that to some degree resolved that problem but was also realistic for young girls to do and believable for the 1950s

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Like me, you used to be a middle school teacher.  Now you are an English Professor at Wellesley College.  Do your students know you write books for children?  How do you balance your scholarly writing with your fiction writing?    

Actually, I wasn’t a real, full-fledged middle school teacher during the school year, but I taught for several years in a summer program for middle school students, teaching them literature and writing, while I was in graduate school. I’m still friends with some of them on Facebook!

Yes, my Wellesley students definitely know I write for children.  Once a year I teach a creative writing course on writing for children, and it always has a long waiting list. It’s definitely hard to find time to do both kinds of writing because I’m a slow and meticulous researcher and writer.   And I think I have to accept that that’s just how I am.

 

Also like me, I know you loved the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren as a I kid.  (I decided long ago, if I ever have a beach house, I’m naming it Villa Villekulla!)  What are some of your current favorite middle-grade books?    

Pippi! Yes, I loved those books so much I once tried copying one over by typing it out (and I could not type at all!) so that I would always have it even after the original went back to the library!

I especially love novels with very compelling, believable main characters, and I know a book is good when I feel the desire to read it multiple times. Some of my current favorite MG novels, books I know I will go back to, are Michelle Magorian’s Back Home, about an English girl returning home after spending the war years in America, and Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming and the subsequent books in the Tillerman cycle. Dicey and her grandmother in particular are such individuated, deeply believable people.

Oh—and can I come visit you at your Villa Villekula if you ever get one?

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Susan’s debut novel, Black Radishes.

 

And we seem to have even more in common!  You started off as a math major at John Hopkins but switched to English and eventually got your PhD from Yale.  I was a math minor at William and Mary but went on to get my MFA in Fiction Writing.  Do you ever miss doing math?  Do you think the part of your brain that used to do math has come in handy in your writing process?

No one has ever asked me that before! It has come up in my work as a literary critic—I wrote a paper once on mathematical imagery in Emily Dickinson’s poetry. It’s really important to Dickinson—I should go back to that essay sometime! But aside from a general tendency to be logical and intellectually rigorous with myself, I don’t think so.

 

What is your number one piece of advice for those writing historical fiction for young people?  What is your favorite piece of writing advice in general?  

My advice for historical fiction writers (and it is also something I need to remind myself) is that you can’t possibly learn everything you need to know before you begin writing. So start writing! As you go, you will make mistakes and/or find you need to research things. For example, I found I needed to research school lunch menus while writing Skating With the Statue of Liberty.   That’s just not the sort of thing you can possibly know you’ll need to know until one character decides he wants to go buy an extra dessert!

My favorite piece of writing advice in general is one I also need to remind myself of: let your mind float free. I don’t write well when I sit down and try to write through sheer discipline. Discipline works for me for a lot of things, but not for fiction writing. I try not to forget to take a walk before writing. I start out generally knowing where the next bit I’m writing is going, and then I take a walk and let my mind float and dream and work out what will happen. I recently found out that my writer friend and agency mate Conrad Wesselhoeft does this too. Does anyone else out there?

I do that, too, Susan!  I usually reread what I wrote the day before, try to write more, and then when I get stuck (which sometimes happens right away), I take a walk.  Often I come back with at least one idea of how to proceed!

 

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Susan Lynn Meyer

 

Thanks so much to Susan Lynn Meyer for this interview!  Be sure to check out her books, Black Radishes, New Shoes, and Skating with the Statue of Liberty.  

 

 

Freelance Writing: Worth the Time? (And a List of Jobs That Are Not!)

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Freelance Writing:  Worth the Time?  (And a List of Jobs That Are Not!)

Recently I decided to get into the freelance writing world. There are thousands of blogs and websites out there needing to be updated with unique content on a regular basis. There are (apparently) thousands of people out there wanting to self-publish e-books but not wanting to bother actually writing the books themselves. And, of course, there is a seemingly-insatiable need for click-bait listicles. In other words, our online world has created a need for writers, and I figured I could make some extra money by being one of them.

There are lots of places to find freelance writing work – craigslist, Freelance Writing Jobs, ProBlogger Job Board, Erika Dreifus’s very excellent blog – but on the advice of a friend I decided to spend some time on a site called Upwork.

I figured I’d scan the postings every now and then, and if I saw a job that seemed interesting and worth my time, I’d apply for it.

My very first time on Upwork, I found a posting that sounded right up my alley. For $500, all I had to do was come up with 365 original creative writing prompts. I contacted the client, and she hired me. I wrote the prompts, submitted them through Upwork, and got $500 deposited into my bank account. Sweet!

Turns out, it was beginner’s luck.

Because gigs like that – well-paying and fun – don’t come around often on Upwork.

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It takes luck to find good freelance writing jobs.  (Photo by Umberto Salvagnin)

 

Next I got paid $18 to edit a short article. It took me less than an hour, so, okay, not bad. If I had a steady stream of one or two of those a day I’d be onto something, but it was the only Upwork job I found that week. Good thing I’m not relying on freelancing as my only source of income.

Last week I got paid $60 to write an article about DC neighborhoods for a real estate website. It was pretty easy. Soulless, but something I could do in the afternoon, after I’d used up my creative energy working on my novel. It took me 2 hours total. $30 an hour isn’t great, but it’s not bad either, especially considering I didn’t have to spend time driving anywhere.

But. Consider all the time I’ve spent this past month browsing the Upwork postings and applying to jobs (several of which I haven’t gotten). Is it worth it? I don’t know.

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Is it worth it??

 

It’s been interesting. I’ll say that. It’s been interesting (and often disheartening) to read some of the job postings. So many of them are simply not worth my time, while others are downright sketchy. I’m often amazed at the ridiculously low prices clients are offering, but I’ve heard that there are people doing these jobs overseas where U.S. currency is worth more. Of course, that’s why so many of the posts specify “native English speakers.”

Here is a small sampling of some of the ridiculous, hilarious, and sketchy Upwork jobs I’ve seen recently — for which I will NOT be applying.

 

Need Native Speaking Ghost Writer for 7000 word book ($70)

I need an author that does not mind taking on a somewhat  technical topic. This will be a how-to-guide and tips

There is just so much so much wrong with this post. First of all, 7,000 words does not a book make. Second of all, $70 hardly seems like an appropriate amount to pay someone to write a (albeit tiny) book. Third of all, might we want to know the topic on which we will be giving how-to tips?

 

5 Inspirational phrases for boys, ages 7-10 ($5)

I am looking for a good Creative Writer who can craft 5 short phrases that will be added to a poster for a little boy’s room.

Weird, but intriguing. Still, for only $5 it hardly seems worth the time it would take to apply for this job.

 

Ghostwriter For Poetry Project ($25)

Looking for someone who is willing to help ghostwrite who also likes poetry.

I really need to get this done tonight

Tonight, huh? Why? Is it due tomorrow for 11th Grade English class?

 

I need a ghost writer to write fiction books in the genre of erotica ($100)

I am looking for a ghost writer to write a short book in the category of fiction in the erotica genre. I would like to see what work you have previously done in the genre. I would also like you to read some free books on kindle in the genre which are best sellers so you can get a flavour of what I want. Initially this is a first short book of around 6,000 words. However I would like to publish a series.

Let me get this straight. First I need to read a bunch of self-published erotica, then I need to write a 6,000 word “book.” (An adult novel is rarely less than 80,000 words, btw.) And for all that I will get $100? I say nope to that.

 

20 long Article Writing Job – $5 per article

What I’m looking for is a decent article writer who can write well researched/engaging content for my websites.

The articles will need to be around 1800-2200  word long ( so somewhere around 2000 on average each).

You think you’re gonna get well-researched articles for $5 each?!?

 

Online dating message (icebreaker) writer needed

We run a small online dating profile writing service.  We currently have about 300 clients but will be doing some significant expansion for 2016 to the US and beyond.

As a side part of the business, we also write our clients’ initial ice breaker messages for them to send.

I’ve written about this sort of thing before (see here). It’s CREEPY!!

 

Article Rephrasing Expert Wanted ($150)

We are looking for a writer who is good at rephrasing articles. The text is mostly easy to read fluff content for the web.

I don’t know, guys. This seems sketchy, too.

 

letters ($100)

I need someone to prepare 4 recommendation letters based on the information template we will provide. The content should reflect outstanding language to flash the importance of the person and his work.

OMG, seriously?  Note to employers:  beware of glowing letters of recommendation.  They might have been bought.  So sketchy.  Also, “flash the importance”?  Whaaaa?

 

Write 1000+ words of Premium Bedroom Decor Content ($6)

I will give you one topic to write about in the bedroom decor niche.

If I am satisfied with your work, you’ll get additional work.

Six dollars? Bedroom Décor Content? No. Just no.

 

How to Break in and Burglarize any Residence ($50)

I am looking for a ghostwriter to write a humorous, yet true guide on how to break in and burglarize homes. I am asking for around 5,000-6,000 words of *high quality content* in exchange for $50.

Humorous, yet true? What IS this?  I don’t know, but I don’t want to be involved.

 

Are you EXPERTLY familiar with the American T.V. Show House M.D. ($50)

Hi… My ex-wife said I remind her of House M.D. though I have seen the show and in many instances totally understand him (when others dont) I am looking for a freelancer to help me understand who he is and why he is.  Obviously someone with background in Philosophy, Psychology or Literature is the optimal person.  Not just a fan of T.V. but someone who understands archetypes/conditions/philosophies etc…   If this is YOU… I could use your help.  Though I am unsure how much I can devote to this, it really depends on your writing ability, your articulation and creativity.    I would suggest a small job initially (500-1000 words) to make sure we are both on the same page, THEN we can discuss more work relative to this.  I STRONGLY PREFER NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS.

Okay, this is just plain strange.  Moving on…

 

Create a children’s book based around the honey badger from youtube ($80)

Looking for a talented, native english speaker to create a children’s ebook of 20-25 microsoft word pages. This book should be based around honey badger from you tube and integrate grumpy cat from youtube in a fun and creative way!

OMG, this is hilarious. I’m not going to write it, but I do hope this book gets made!

 

In short, I will continue trying my hand at some freelance writing, but I am going to be very selective about which jobs I take.

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And beware of sketchy writing jobs!  (Illustration by Edward Gorey.)