Category Archives: business writing

You work where?

Photo by epSos.de on flickr

So a friend of mine just shared the incredibly exciting fact that she’s made $400 this year from her short fiction. Yes, that’s right, short stories.

If you’re an author, you’re jumping up and down because you know how difficult that is. She published short fiction in paying markets. Multiple stories. Multiple paying markets.

If you’re not a writer, you’re thinking $400 bucks? She’d better not quit her day job. And don’t worry (and thanks for caring :)), she hasn’t.

She experienced this reaction firsthand a few days ago when she met up with a friend she hadn’t seen in awhile.

“How’s the writing going?” the friend asked.

Very excitedly, my friend replied, “Great! And guess what? I made $400 last year selling short stories.”

Her gleeful announcement was met with something weak like, “Oh . . . That’s . . . really good,” and an awkward silence ’til the subject changed.

It’s hard to explain to someone that $400 can be a huge symbol. That it can represent all the time and labour that someone else’s 40K does.

And I had a similar moment this week. Someone whom I’ve never met came into the office where I work and recognized me because of my Just a Thought column that I write for the Terrace Standard.

“You work here?” she asked in a tone that suggested she’d just discovered I did lice checks for a living or something. “But you write.”

“Well, I do, yes, but I also work part-time to supplement my income,” I admitted, trying not to feel like the failure it felt like she was implying I was because I can’t subsist on my art.

“Well . . .” She seemed genuinely lost for words, even a little put out. “Well, I’d just have thought you’d make enough from your column to get by.”

??? !!! ??? !!!

(Sometimes excessive punctuation is all my brain generates as a response. Unfortunately, other people can’t see the string of type running in my head, so there’s often an uncomfortable pause as I sort myself out and try to find words.)

I was flattered. She thought my column was worthy of pay that would support me all month! I was also confused. Had she actually heard of a columnist who could get by solely on the income generated by their column? I felt like asking her to repeat her comment into a voice recorder, so I could play it for my editor. . . . :D

As I’ve said before, I write for a myriad of reasons and none of the primary ones centre around money. Yes, I’d like to make a living purely from my words alone someday (because then I’d have even more time to write!), but if that day never comes, I’ll still be working my day job and I’ll still be writing.

It makes me sad that financial compensation for a job well done is the language our culture understands best. “Success” is too often equated with a dollar amount.

On far more than one occasion I’ve been asked, “Why don’t you just sell a novel? Then you’ll be rich.” (Just. You can tell that comment is not from fellow writers!)

Selling a novel is seen by most—even, yikes, by some aspiring novelist—as akin to winning a lottery. It’s those writers I feel badly for. What will sustain them when they realize that even when their stories start selling, it’s likely they won’t be receiving Stephen King-esque advances and royalties?

All of society is poorer when it buys into the idea that only activities that make money are worth pursuing. It’s just not a point-of-view I agree with AT ALL. And if, in saying so, I’ve jinxed myself? Well, I’m okay with that. I’ll still be writing. And, yes, working there.


Day jobs—the good, the bad, the ugly!

About a year and a half ago, I decided to take a part-time day job—to supplement my writing and editing income, yes, but also (more importantly), because I wanted to free up my creative mind.

Nothing kills creativity like wondering how the mortgage will get paid and the freelance life (mine at least) was a bit feast or famine—some months were fantastic. Others—eek, not so much.

I’m not alone in extolling the benefits of working—at least part-time—for someone else when you’re in an artistic field. Over the years I’ve heard many professional authors and writers warn not to quit your day job too soon. Some even advocate never quitting your day job entirely—always keeping a ladle in the stew, so to speak. . . . Sometimes the recommendation’s based on the issue of money. The freelancer or novelist’s income can be irregular, like I mentioned. Sometimes it’s because the speaker feels that having a job in the “real” world gives inspiration to draw from, plus a much needed break (at times) from the solitary, inner realms that writers live in.

I can see both sides.

Most of us understand the comfort (and necessity) of at least a certain amount of dependable income, so I won’t spend much time on that. Ditto, we tend to be able to understand that having co-workers—both the ones easy to get along with and the ones that . . . aren’t—can inspire, perhaps act as sounding boards, etc. . . .

The big lure of going out one’s own is time. After all, what’s more tempting than the idea of business casual (or business professional) equaling pajamas? What could be more ideal than having an uninterrupted 8 hours to write—well, an uninterrupted 8 hours, minus the two hours for a cool lunch with other like-minded, pajama wearing intellectuals, that is. We romanticize (or I should say, I romanticize) the image of the madwomen in the attic a little too much. And there are, of course, days when the daily grind feels, well, like a grind—and we just want to be free from it.

I maintain, however, that if you really want to write a lot, to make your writing be your life’s work (a very separate thing from your primary source of earnings, by the way)—whether or not you have to do other work to pay your mortgage or buy groceries won’t stop you. It might even motivate you (when you have eight hours stretching ahead of you, it’s easy to wile away 6 of ‘em. When you want to get in 1000 words and you only have an hour or two, you tend to get on it).

And less than satisfactory days at work—even the occasional rotten days? Even better. (Just make sure that you’re not in a job you absolutely hate, because that could be muse-killing—though that’s a side tangent.)

If your “day job” is too perfect, too all-absorbing and fascinating, there’s the danger that you will feel, well, fulfilled by it and the desire, the drive, the compulsion to write will diminish.

If your job is creative and calls for imagining and envisioning and brainstorming—it could feed your writing, sure, but it could also easily satiate the part of your psyche that craves all that creating and thinking.

Chaffing a bit at work—whether it’s because the job doesn’t stimulate you mentally or inspire you creatively, or it doesn’t pay enough, or because of personality clashes with other staff members—is a good thing.

If you’re lucky enough to have job to go to that pays the bills, gives you fodder for characters (maybe even villains!), and you have the added benefit of not loving it too much, good on you! You’re in the perfect place to kindle your writing fire and motivate you to get your stories out. (Or that’s what I tell myself anyway. Heh heh.)


Can a writer (or should a writer) ever really go it alone?

If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.  ~ David Brin

Last night I met with the Northwords Writers’ Camp writers and presented on how the Internet fits into/enhances my writing life.  I mentioned how it’s a great resource for:

  • Support, Inspiration, Community
  • Education, Practice
  • Writing markets, Publishers
  • Marketing, Communicating and building relationships with readers

I also delivered the reminder that we all apparently need to hear on on occasion. Just like any super hero has their kryptonite, the Internet has a side that can cripple even the most stalwart writer. It’s called TIME SUCKAGE. Only writing is writing.

And I touched on a few other things to beware of online (in blogs or public forums):

  • Nothing is private
  • Nothing goes away
  • Published online (even “just” on your blog) is published.

But feeling that the pros of getting involved in the Internet writing community (how it can help one grow in and enjoy his/her writing life) far outweigh any small cons, I encouraged each attendee to start their own blog and we spent the rest of our time talking about Do’s and Don’ts of great blogs and did some writing exercise to per chance get us started.

As ever I was blown away by people’s creativity and how unique and highly individual each person’s results were, even with exercises as specific and guided as the ones we did together were. It reminded me yet again of why I write, why I readto share, to learn, to grow.  To think, to laugh and sometimes, though definitely not last night, to cry.

It also reminded me of how good it is to get together with other writers (in person, live!) and talk craft. The Internet is awesome and I’m incredibly grateful for it, but it doesn’t replace the value and importance (and fun :)) of getting together in real-time with flesh and blood people who share your interests. (We talked about that too.)

If you’ve been writing in solitary confinement (as is, of course, the necessity and norm)or perhaps are feeling that you’re not getting enough alone time with your wordsre-read the quote I opened this post with. It’s good to have people and other activities in our lives. They refill the well.

Yes, only writing is writing, but sometimes to keep on track with our writing (in a way that brings joy, refreshes our inspiration, soothes our fears, etc) connection with other kindred soulsonline or face-to-faceis just what the Dr ordered.

What do you think? Can any writer truly go it alone?


Is it weird to post a link to an interview of me?

In answer to my title’s question . . . perhaps. But I can’t help it. The questions were really fun and I’m excited and flattered to be featured on one of my favourite blogs, scribo ergo sum–a blog that just coincidentally happens to belong to to one of my favourite writers, Jen Brubacher. It is the best coincidence of all that she is also a dear friend.

Anyway, I always love a chance to talk about writing and if you’re at all interested in hearing about my first publication, how I got into writing and editing, what my opinions about ebooks vs. traditional books are, what my favourite writing books are, plus other intriguing writerly things ;-), please check it out at: http://jbrubacher.blogspot.com/2010/07/interview-with-ev-bishop.html


Interviewed at The Freelance Survivor

I was recently interviewed by Dee-Ann LeBlanc of The Freelance Survivor, a site packed full of useful information. Fun! You can read what I had to say here.


Terrace Writers’ Guild 2009 Fiction Contest

logoTWGThe 3rd Annual TWG Fiction Contest is open for submissions!

Deadline: Postmarked by Tuesday, October 27, 2009

1st Place: $250.00 from UNBC and paid publication in Northword Magazine.

2nd Place: $150.00 from Marion Olson of Re/Max and author’s name and story title published in Northword Magazine.

3rd Place: $75.00 from saz communications and author’s name and story title published in Northword Magazine.

Rules and guidelines:

1. All submissions must be written by individuals currently living in Northern British Columbia—that’s any community north of Quesnel, including the Queen Charlotte Islands.

2. No entry fee is required, and all story rights remain with the author. All genres are welcome, but sorry, no poetry or stories intended for children.

3. Submissions must be between 1500 and 3000 words. Stories that do not meet this guideline will be eliminated from competition.

4. All works must be original and free of plagiarism (which includes third-party poetry, song lyrics, characters, etc., without written permission). The contest’s audience is the general public, so excessive violence or sex, determined by the judges, will result in
disqualification. Entries may not have been previously published.

5. Entries should be typed in 12-font, double spaced in black ink on white paper, and must have a cover page with the title of the work, the author’s name, contact information, and an approximate word count. Every subsequent page must carry the title and a page number, but the author’s name must be deleted in order for fair judging. Any submissions not meeting these guidelines will be disqualified.

6. Manuscripts will be destroyed after judging. A #10 (business size) self-addressed, stamped envelope must be included with the entry in order to receive judging results. Entrants may choose to not send an SASE, in which case winners may be viewed by visiting this website after December 31st, 2009.

Please mail submissions to:

TWG FICTION CONTEST
PO BOX 1046
TERRACE BC
V8G 4V1

Winners will be notified by December 15th, 2009

No email submissions will be accepted. For more information, e-mail here.

On behalf of Terrace Writers’ Guild and all the writers up here in Northern BC that benefit from the inspiration and motivation this contest provides, I’d like to express a tonne of appreciation to our generous sponsors: Northword Magazine, UNBC, Marion Olson, and saz communications.


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