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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Ch-ch changes

Kicked major booty on my run this morning. Amazing what making positive changes to your life can do for your spirit. After the insane fall I had with work, some things HAD to change. I think I wrote here about a weekend of tears of exhaustion after endless work without a break — or a paycheck.

Ever since, Danny and I have been brainstorming how to manage my business life better. The first step was to find some regular work that would allow for steady paycheck. In November I started a contract arrangement with the KnowledgeWorks Foundation. My job is storyteller for the small schools initiative at Cleveland Heights High School. It’s a good move for me on a number of levels:

1) It gives me a chance to observe education reform in public schools based on research from a leading foundation (and with the funding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation).
2) It provides a steady source of income.
3) It gives me a chance to get out of my home office and really hone my observation skills.
4) It provides an outlet to explore narrative nonfiction writing in a workshop setting with other storytellers around the state.
5) Let’s me hang around Cleveland Heights, one of my favorite cities.

Step two was to eliminate some monthly bills in an effort to reduce the amount of income I need to generate every month. As much as I loved having the landline, it didn’t make sense to pay for that, the rarely used fax AND the cell. So I’ve gone wireless with my communications. No more landline and no more fax.

I enjoy being a book reviewer, but the time had finally come when I needed to say farewell to the weekly religious book reviews, despite it being a regular-paying gig. As of today you will no longer see my reviews in the PD. The burden of having to read a book every week for review became too much in light of the other projects that would be on fire every week. (Yes, I did actually read them. You can’t very well review without having done so.) I felt as if I was giving short shrift to everything as a result. I’m thankful to have had a byline appear weekly in the PD for the past 18 months. But the relief at not having to read books in the same genre week after week is intoxicating to say the least. Freeing, actually.

I’ve got a review I’m working on now for the PD Sunday book pages and I have another in the can for PAGES magazine March/April issue. Hopefully, I can continue to review for those outlets on an occasional basis.

One very large marketing project is nearing an end. I’ve enjoyed working with the people, but this project has dragged on way too long in my opinion. Another is in layout and the bulk of my work is done.

After discussion with the editor while in Las Vegas, I’ve started writing profiles of journalists with “cool” jobs for SPJ’s Quill magazine. First up is NPR’s legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg.

The one project that has been hanging over my head and really left me twisting in the wind was the pain management book for the Cleveland Clinic Press. Although I’ve had several chapters written, it didn’t feel comfortable to me and was honestly stressing me out. As of yesterday, I’ve finally got a better sense of direction for the book, clarification on the audience and some much-needed deadlines to complete the project. I’m grateful to the editor for letting me talk through my confusion and frustration.

Those are some little changes. I continue to write pieces for the Catholic Universe Bulletin because I really like Editor Dennis Sadowski and he gives me some amazing stories to cover. And I’m also working with former SPJ pal, Connie Swenson, on Smart Health magazine.

Having a stable of regular work frees me up to pursue more national work. To even think I could shoot off queries under the pressure I experienced in the fall was folly indeed. Maybe this year I’ll learn to be realistic about my time.


Lori said...

I need some of that brainstorming magic. Again. Sounds like your poised for some fantastic new adventures.

(The word verification is saying I have to type usccu -- think that has any bearing on the outcome of the game that's about to start? I'm rooting for Texas since it'll only make OSU look better...)

Greta Garbo said...

Congrats on what sounds like some good restructuring:) Now if some of that sanity could come my way.

Goodness, I hope you don't find it totally random that I've left comments on your blog! I'll be soon moving from the Cleveland area (a large part of my current insanity), but you reign as one of the better speakers to have shown up for my writers group (westside writers), and certainly being a reader of your blog has been educational. Best wishes with your new projects.

Wendy Hoke said...

Lori, a great game indeed. Ryan and I watched through third quarter. We were rooting for Texas primarily because USC had won twice in two years. Let's plan a get-together. Las Barras is no longer. I think it's called Tequila Blues now.

Greta, I'm sorry to hear you're moving from Cleveland. I hope it all works out for you and life settles into a peaceful rhythm. I hope you'll stop by Creative Ink from time to time and let me know how you're doing. I wish you the very best.

Jill said...

You sound so together and clear-headed. Good for you, and a great way to start the new year. Always inspirational to the rest of us, I know, to see someone else forging forward in their own way.

Oh and hey - I thought you're doing the KW thing to be able to see me more? :)