The Holiday Apostrophe

It’s the season of giving for people from all walks of life, and when we give, we sign.

Are you signing your family’s name correctly?

And is the Holiday Apostrophe any different than the Everyday Apostrophe?

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Here are some guidelines:

When referring to a number of people in the same family, the family name is pluralized, with no apostrophe needed.

With Love from the Littles is CORRECT.

With Love from the Little’s and With Love from the Littles’ are INCORRECT.

If you’re captioning a photo, the same rule applies.

It’s The Robinsons, not The Robinson’s or The Robinsons’.

If, however, you’re talking about the family vacation, it’s…

The Robinsons’ Family Holiday or The Robinson Family Holiday, NOT The Robinsons Family Holiday.

If you struggle with the everyday apostrophe, the holiday apostrophe is sure to make your head spin, so when in doubt, remember this:

All the traditional rules apply when using (and not using) the apostrophe with proper nouns. If there is plural possession (The Smiths’ Year in Review), the apostrophe is used. If there’s only one Smith, the singular possessive is used (Howard Smith’s Christmas Adventure). However, if there’s no possession indicated, and the name is simply made plural, there should be no apostrophe (Love, The Smiths).

Are you struggling with how to properly refer to your family’s name? Simply comment here and I’ll give you a hand.

Or, maybe you have other examples you’d like to share. I invite you to do that, too.

Join me for book reviews, observations on writing, grammar advice and more by liking my Facebook page.

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Become a Published Author

If you’re trying to gain professional authority in your field, enhance your profile or simply get more business, the best way to accomplish that is to write and publish a book.

Writing a book is an oxymoron of sorts; a counter-intuitive notion. It seems like a ginormous task — something most business owners and entrepreneurs don’t even want to think about.

And yet, the crazy thing is this: Becoming a published author is the shortest route to attaining all those delicious things you’re craving, like notoriety in your industry, sales without having to sell, networking opportunities and yes, market domination.

Here’s why:

  • You’ll go from having to prove your expertise to owning it. That’s because without a book, you’ve got to give advice, spend hours crafting custom proposals, write dissertations on the meaning of the universe…all to prove that you’re worthy of a look. When you’re the author of a published book, it’s assumed that you’re an expert in the field — even by those who will never bother to read it.
  • Writing a book is a self-belief builder. If you’re like most professionals, the idea of writing a book is more terrifying than watching a Saw movie — at home, alone, with reports of a serial killer casing the neighborhood. Guess what? Your competition is at least as scared as you are. And do you know who wins? The one with the published book and the confidence to move on to bigger, better and scarier things. Fear’s just a thing, and the more of it you have, the better the indicator that you need to slay it.
  • A published book gives you plenty to talk about with your audience. There are press releases when it’s published, public speaking events to deliver its content, the winning of awards (and rubbing elbows at the ceremonies), book signings, guest blogging requests, PR opportunities…and lots of other fabulous, business-building breaks — because remember, you’re now a sought-after expert in your field.
  • Your business will become more visible. If you’ve ever felt like you’re invisible in the market, well join the millions of other business owners who are wallowing in their own anonymity. Write a book and voila! There you are. You see, when you’re a published author, people suddenly start coming out of the woodwork. Some of them will be hearing about you for the first time (thanks to the expert marketing of your book), and others will finally start paying attention when they see or hear your name.
  • Your profile suddenly looks more impressive. Writing descriptions and bios for your online profiles is loads of fun, right? You know what you do and what you’re skilled at, but what do your dream clients want to know about you? Well, I can tell you one thing they want to know: That you’re a published author. Seriously, put yourself in their shoes for moment. Who are you going to buy from? The published author or…well, you know…the other guy?
  • Books provide a passive income source. After the writing is done, you’ve got a network of marketing resources available to you, so that you can make money from this book while you eat, sleep or suck down drinks on a beach somewhere. Now, I’m not implying that writing and marketing a book is easy. I am, however, attesting to the fact that you can reel in passive income long after the hard work’s done.

I could go on and on, but you’ve got to get to work. You have a book to write.

Just a few pieces of wisdom before I go:

  • Your intellectual property and unique experiences are commodities that deserve to be compensated. Treat them like the gems they are. Share them with pride and with care.
  • Don’t get too wrapped up in perfecting your writing, especially in the first draft. They make second, third and fourth drafts for that…and there are these nifty little gnomes that only come out at night. They’re called editors.
  • Research the market before you start writing. The worst case I’ve ever seen? A woman spent five years writing her life’s work, only to realize when she took it to an agent that she’d inadvertently copied the subject matter of another best-selling book. Ouch!
  • Write from a place of empathy and understanding for your reader, who is also your dream client. Give them your heart, your soul, your sweat…your commitment. Nothing bad can come from that.

And there you go: Why I think you should become a published author. You’re better than you think, and more capable than you’re capable of knowing.

Not sure where to start? Have you already written your book and it needs editing? Or do you want to become a published author without having to write a single word? I’ve got you. Email jacindalittle@gmail.com and we’ll talk about your goals, and if a ghostwriter is right for you.

 

I’m Such a Hypocrite

The wall pressed against my fingertips, convincing them to believe it was finally safe to breathe.

My head bobbed to the surface and I clung breathlessly to the side of the pool, searching frantically for Cindy — my life preserver, my time keeper, the woman who told me, a chubby kid who swam like a Christmas ham, to pretend I saw a fudge pop at the other end of the pool (in an effort to make me swim faster).

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Most kids would have asked for their time. Most kids would have rejoiced. Not me. Instead, I asked, “How come I’ve never seen you swim?”

Disrespectful? Maybe.

Curious? Definitely.

I wanted to know why this woman who spent an hour every week teaching me to thrive in a medium not prevalent in my species’ evolutionary history, a medium that could invade my body and kill me, never even got wet.

How could I trust her advice? How could I be sure she knew what it felt like to have your lungs about to explode, or your arms and legs scream out with fatigue? The only thing I knew about her was that she was, for my specific purposes, a highly literate fudge pop.

The summer passed slow and lazy, like they do for eight-year-old kids. By the time the first day of school rolled around, I had already snagged the Back-Float Award and the Most Improved Award (which was code for “you sucked when you got here, and now you suck a little less”).

But that’s not what I think about when I go back to that summer. I think about the last day when Cindy stripped off her shorts and t-shirt to reveal the broadest female shoulders I’d ever seen, sinewy legs and barely-there hips. She climbed up on the diving board and soundlessly slipped into the crystal blue water, emerging like something on a Beaches commercial. In that moment, she was transformed from a fudge pop to an honest-to-goodness mermaid.

I hadn’t realized that my mother had signed me up for swimming lessons with a former siren of the Atlantic. I guess she didn’t think I needed to know. Looking back, I wish I had. If I would have known how at-home Cindy felt in the water, or how seamlessly she mingled into it, not fighting it, not struggling…just being…I wouldn’t have needed that fudge-pop image.

My motivation would have been born of pure and authentic respect. Her raw example, her presence, would have been more than enough to make me kick faster, reach farther…be better.

Did Cindy do anything wrong? Absolutely not.

Have I? Without a doubt, yes.

You see, for the past 13 years, I have been coaching clients through writing their books. I’ve been editing their work and teaching them to better express themselves, and to more effectively communicate with their readers. I have taught them how we can use words to build businesses, reputations and relationships. I have been writing books for those experts too intimidated by the process, or too busy to give it their full attention. I have been cheering for the success of those works, as if they were my own.

And yet, I have not shed my layers and plunged into the waters I so affectionately call my home.

I have not written a book of my own.

That’s about to change.

 

 

 

 

Compartmentalizing Your Freelance Writer’s Life

“I’ve got it made.”

That’s what you should be able to say every morning, just after you gain consciousness and give yourself the liberty to choose what you’re going to do with the next 16 hours.

If you’re a self-employed writer, maybe you’ve felt this privilege: this freedom to spoil yourself into a blessed existence.

Or, maybe you haven’t reached the point where you feel in control of your own schedule. Perhaps deadlines are lording over your life, or all the other things you should be doing, instead of writing, are worming into your brain and taunting you into believing that you’re just a failed artist with no followers, no footprint…no future.

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Photo Credit: Fran Rosa of https://medium.com/@franrosa

I’ve been in both places, and in case you can’t hear me, I’m yelling: “You Can Choose!!”

I have found that by compartmentalizing my life, I can accomplish everything I need to accomplish–and maybe more importantly, all the things I want to accomplish.

Here’s the strategy:

  1. Wake up. That one’s easy when you love what you’re about to do.
  2. Determine your Mood. Ask yourself how you feel today. Goofy? Serious? Intelligent? Artistic? Melancholy? Ecstatic? Now choose an area or a task that will most intensely benefit from that state of mind. There’s no use trying to change the way you feel. Your work will suffer…as will you.
  3. Work Ahead.  This is the KEY component, and the one that will allow you to put point #2 to work. Determine where your focus will fall and do it full-on. Get more done than you have to. This will give you the freedom to make those disposition-based choices, rather than having to do what you’re not ‘feeling’ based on deadlines.
  4. Go All-In.  No matter what task or area you choose for a particular day or block of time, give it every bit of your attention. This should be easy if you’ve made the right choice.

Before I discovered this method, I felt like I was doing all the wrong things on the wrong days. I was cramming for band rehearsal while my mind was busy rolling over the best ways to brand a consulting business, or I was crunching numbers for a statistics blog with a mind distracted by the question “How am I gonna hit that note tonight?” I have even caught myself backspacing over lines of my own fiction because I couldn’t stop thinking about the flow problems erupting in the client’s book I was editing.

The people in my life have come to accept my working in this way. A ghostwriting client will have my undivided attention for a week, and then I might drop off for a few days. Or, my band members might feel pummeled with messages one day, and then think about checking with the morgue the next. The people in your life will learn this about you, too. And when you deliver work of exceptional quality, with a smile in your heart and earlier than expected, they’ll learn to love it.

What are your tips for building a blessed writer’s life? I’d love to hear about them, and learn from them. Comment here.

Have you heard? My Facebook page Jacinda Little, Writer for Hire is now called Jacinda Little. I made the change because I want that space to be for all lovers of books, reading, writing…not just those who wish to hire a copywriter or ghostwriter. So get on over there! We’re talking about stuff that’s gonna light you up (and if we’re not, I want to know what will). See you there.

The Paris Architect: A Review

One piece of writing advice offered by Stephen King tells us to combine two unexpected, seemingly unrelated, concepts. He did this in Carrie, when he paired up telekinesis with the hell that can be high school. Never mind that the manuscript was rejected 30 times…let’s focus on how that debut novel changed the way many of us view storytelling.

When Charles Belfoure built the foundation for The Paris Architect, he certainly followed this vein.

Image result for the paris architect

As a person who knows little about architecture, I find it hard to imagine coupling it with anything other than perfunctory-type notions…after all, what conflicts with, and would therefore complement, the spatial elements of structural and artistic design? Well, I thought maybe I found the answer in Loving Frank, a novel based on the Frank Lloyd Wright’s long-time affair with his mistress, Mamah Borthwick Cheney. Architecture and romance: Unexpected, right? Yes, but not quite right.

Belfoure, however, got it oh-so-right.

His combo? Architecture and suspense.

Who knew?

For the love of all that is magnificent, who knew?

This novel, set in 1942 German-occupied Paris, follows a Parisian architect, Lucien Bernard, who is so flattered by the commissioning of his work during a time when most Parisians fear for their lives and subsist on bare rations that he agrees to design buildings for the manufacture of German armaments, despite accusations of being a conspirator.

This is only a slice of the story, though. What got him involved in this mess lies at the root of a tale filled with twists that captivate without confounding the plot. At first, he is reluctant to design hiding places for Jews in Paris homes and apartments, vowing over and over that each design will be his last; until he finds himself involved to the point that his fear for his own life becomes subordinate to other discoveries he makes about himself and what will become his mission.

The character development in The Paris Architect is superb. Not only do we get gratifying journeys through the minds and hearts of a number of characters, we see the real-time evolution of relationships and philosophical ideals. The emotional attachment developed with these characters is rich.

And I can’t forget the suspense. Belfoure knows how to keep you on edge, virtually experiencing the torture and death of so many innocents through your own mind’s eye.  You can’t help but transport yourself to war-time France, to ask yourself with the completion of every paragraph, with the anticipatory turn of every page…what would I do?

I celebrate the day I picked up this book at the suggestion of a librarian. Congratuations, Charles Belfoure. You have handily entertained and stirred the heart of a hard-to-please reader. You have not only packaged an unexpected combination into a brilliant demonstration of character development, pacing and setting, you have captured this historical fiction lover’s heart.

Penalty of an Artless Existence

Manipulating cold, steel-edged words for those who will pin them up for inquiring minds to digest and regurgitate as currency.

Singing metered phrases crafted by forlorn and joyous hearts, raped and robbed by my unknowing tongue.

Riding the lines of another’s hand, lost and drowning in a deeply hued sea of his existence—a magnificent, sultry pool, though not my own.

*****

How is an artist to survive? When the must-dos and must-have of this, our perfunctory existence, demand that we repress the artist within? How must we speak to the ingenuity that was not only gifted to us, but that has been welded to our humanity—to every interaction, to every emotion, to every lens through which we view the biosphere?

How are we to survive when we feel compelled to silence this artistry—like the mother who suffocates her child against her breast to spare the innocent from an acute and critical enemy—in a world that seems rigid, black, gray?

Your artistry is not unlike a splinter entrenched deep below the skin, festering within your flesh. It must come out, and if you do not consciously extract it, it will exhume itself. Your artistry will manifest as anger, your ingenuity as hatred. Your imagination will turn black, your vision a translucent view of spoiled shades. Your ear will pluck pretentiousness over rhyme. Your soul will spin a web around your gift, until it begins to pulsate like some sickening omen, and you will wish for another chance at plucking that tidy splinter.

Some of us must create. It is the bread and water of our existence. We must output, in order to balance the input…lest we suffer the penalty of an artless existence.

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Drink in the creations of others; it is necessary for the awakening of your own. But do not resolve this as your portion. You shall starve.

“Use it or lose it” is what they tell the athletes. “Climb the ladder” is what they preach to the capitalist. And what is there for the artist? There are only two things: Self and Others Like Us. Never underestimate the power of these. Never suppress your need to create, your need to live as you were born.

No Thanks: Two Words Every Writer Needs

This isn’t a story about good guys and bad guys; it’s not even a story about right and wrong. It’s a story about values, being honest with yourself, and the willingness to admit when something just doesn’t feel right.

If you’re a ghostwriter, copywriter, or editor, you’ve probably taken on more than one client who wasn’t the greatest fit for you—and if you’re just getting into the business, the in-the-moment, omg-I-have-to-pay-the-rent temptation to do so will be compelling.

This isn’t a business with steady paychecks. There’s no predictable income. And so, when someone contacts you to take on a project, you’re default answer is, “Yes. When can I start?”

Slow down there, cowboy. Before you accept that offer, I implore you to have a conversation that may sting in the present, but that will push you toward a future graced with a steady flow of [quality] earning potential. You see, when the clients you choose are great fits for the type of business you’re choosing to run, communications are clear, your work is appreciated, you get quality referrals, you feel fulfilled every night and motivated to get to work every morning.

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Here is the checklist that I use when opening conversation with a potential client, to determine if I can be of maximum benefit to him or her (and likewise, of course):

  • Take a close look at the initial contact message or email. If it’s filled with grammatical and punctuation errors, this person will not be a great fit for you. I know, this seems counter-intuitive. Isn’t this the type of person who needs you the most? And who will rely on you to keep them on the right path? NO. This is a person who has no regard for language, and will therefore have no regard for the quality of your work. In my experience, the people who have the lowest appreciation levels for language correctness (even if through no fault of their own) are the quickest to criticize without foundation. So if you’re a writer—especially one with a militant respect for literary precision—avoid clients with bad grammar.
  • Ask for a link to his or her website. This will be a technical exercise, as well as a gut-feel one. Does the content appeal to your sensibilities? Does it align with your areas of expertise, past writing experiences, or with an area you’d like to break into? It the content well-written? And if not, has the potential client expressed dissatisfaction with its quality. If the person contacting you takes pride in a poorly written website, steer clear. Likewise, if the material does not appeal to you, do both of you a favor and graciously decline.
  • Know your values, and draw parallels. You have a set of personal and/or corporate values upon which you’ve built your business (or on which you plan to build your business). These are the credentials you should be using to hand-pick clients. If your top values include precision, humor, timeliness, or honesty, then I recommend choosing clients with those same values. Not only will they recognize their values in you, and feel drawn to and vested in your work, you will enjoy working with someone who shares your worldview—or at least part of it. Look for key words that hint at values in their communications with you. Include hints at your values, and see how they respond. Use early interactions like a first date, in order to decide if you can “live” with this person for what could be an extended period of time.
  • Note response times. Are you the kind of writer who lives and moves by deadlines? Or are you in favor of a world that includes more lenience? Note how quickly the potential client returns phone calls and emails, and how he or she responds to your timeliness (or lack thereof). This will be an indicator to how well timelines will flow when projects are in full motion.
  • Consider past interactions and trust your instincts. This is a business that’s highly reliant upon networking; and quite often, we know (or have worked alongside) the people who are contacting us. If you were not impressed by this person’s work ethic or work quality through past projects, politely decline and move on. Remember, the best indicator of future circumstances are past events. To believe that someone will work differently because you’re playing a bigger role in their day is just folly.

Not every potential client is sold on YOU. Some are simply contacting you to ascertain your capabilities—to see if you’re a good fit for their project. Keep this in mind as you interact. And no matter your impression, always demonstrate professionalism that befits your business. Accept projects with gratitude, and show that same gratitude when politely declining due to lack of expertise, a maxed-out workload, or a conflict of views. You may also wish to offer access to your network by recommending a writer who may be better suited to the project. Goodwill never goes out of style, and will always open doors for referrals and the best kind of chatter about you.

Have you found other methods useful in hand-picking clients? Do have a story about a client interaction to share? Or a question about choosing clients? If so, please comment below.

Looking for more advice on how to get started (or to improve) your ghostwriting, copywriting, or editing career? Need more tips for saying “No Thanks”? Subscribe to this blog, like my Facebook page, or contact me for more on how you can make a living with a few of our favorite things: WORDS.