From whence does it come? And why? And why can’t I stop reading it?
Valued readers, new and old, I wish I had something heartfelt, educational or inspiring to leave you with at the end of the year, especially since I am going abroad for two weeks and may not be able to post a new essay until I get back.
But I need to get ready for my flight.
So for now, I will leave you with my thoughts on my favorite spam comments to hit the blog this year.
Keep functioning, terrific job!
Would that, on our worst days, there really was someone to tell us that putting one foot in front of the other qualifies as a fantastic effort. I read spam comments like this and pretend it’s a message from the universe.
Are your searching for Barbecue Recipes as well? I absolutely adore this blog. A lot excellent stuff. I appreciate every style of barbecue, however my absolutely favored is Carolina Barbecue. However, a good Texas Brisket creates a couple of the very best barbecue recipes on the earth. I’m a searcher in a quest for the best barbecue!
Some spam comments imply a story I’d like to hear more of. A barbecue enthusiast travels the earth sampling his favorite dishes, searching for a barbecue pal to share his journey. Maybe it’s me!
I’ve been surfing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be a lot more useful than ever before.
I like to think that I am improving the internet one post at a time. Some spam is worth taking to heart.
Thanks a lot for providing individuals with an extraordinarily spectacular chance to discover important secrets from this web site. It can be so kind and stuffed with fun for me personally and my office fellow workers to search your website not less than thrice in 7 days to read the latest guidance you have.
If there’s anything an office should be, it’s stuffed with fun. And I get an absurd kick out of the “not less than thrice in 7 days” part. Where the hell does this stuff come from?
alainamabaso.wordpress.com is wonderful. There’s always all of the ideal info in the ideas of my fingers. Thanks and keep up the excellent work!
This makes the cut because of the “ideas of my fingers” bit. Who here sometimes feels as if, while you’re typing, the thoughts are in your fingertips and not your brain?
I was just seeking this information for a while. After six hours of continuous Googleing, finally I got it in your website. I wonder what is the lack of Google strategy that do not rank this type of informative websites in top of the list. Usually the top web sites are full of garbage.
Six hours of Googling? How grueling. This is an example of how the zaniest falsehoods can be made believable by the inclusion of one realistic tidbit. How many websites full of garbage have you seen this year? Well played, spam.
All that we do here is 100% legal. We are corporate citizens who are responsible for our operations and are viagra 100mg
In my mind, a nice round-up of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and erectile dysfunction.
Baby powder. I heard eating more tomatoes and drinking tomato juice helps reduce sweat too if you would like a more permanent solution.
You are so competent at writing, you may have been an English professor.
Again, the suggestion of irresistible narratives. How does one become an English professor by dint of mere competency at writing? And I like the interest of the implication that I may have been a professor at one time. Was I or wasn’t I? Why did I leave academia?
Let’s get together for lunch. My watch is faster than yours. We look forward to your visit. Have you ever driven a BMW? eventually i caved in. We are prohibited from smoking on school grounds. What’s your goal in life. Keep your temper under control. I guess I could come over
No thank you – whoever you are, you sound far too distractible. Stay where you are. And my temper is fine, dammit.
Yet it’s not a good idea to get carried away and make the blog about your family or outside interests. You have to find the right balance, and with practice you’ll discover it. You should not, however, blog about anything that you wouldn’t write in a business email.
My family would certainly agree that it’s not a good idea to blog about them. I have been strictly forbidden to write about several family occurrences, among them the bleu cheese nut-ball incident. And it’s obviously much too late for that last tip.
I’ll miss you guys while I’m away, but I hope you’ll stick around for the new year. In the meantime, if you want to read more about the joys of keeping a blog (I’m sure many of you can relate), check out last year’s piece on bizarre Google search terms.
This is what my cubicle looks like at the beginning of a day of writing copy at the office.
I may look back on this blog post in a few years and cringe that I was callow enough to compose an advice article about writing professionally when I have been doing it for only five years. But a growing number of people have asked me for advice.
While this is aimed primarily at writers, I have an inkling that the same principles apply to current or aspiring professionals in graphic design, fine arts, photography, or any number of fields.
FYI, this ain’t a tutorial on the Art of Writing. It’s not about the pros and cons or financials of freelancing. And I am not a fiction writer. This is about finding and keeping freelance writing gigs in journalism, PR, marketing, copywriting and related fields. And each of the ten tips is accompanied by a holier-than-thou example from my own life – I am not foisting ideas upon you that I wouldn’t try myself.
Just so you know, I have no degree or formal training in writing, besides a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater Arts and English (I know, I know, I practically have to beat the high-paying employers off wherever I go). This is all stuff I learned on the job.
Also, nobody start salivating about using my tips to make tons of money. I am not rich. What we’re talking about here is paying the bills with enough left for an occasional movie or dinner out.
1) Be a spider.
Are you done?
Each person you build a good relationship with is a thread in your web. Each gig they hear about and each job list they subscribe to is like a bug flying into your sticky trap. (Like my stellar analogy? You’re welcome.)
Some people will advise aspiring writers to endlessly thumb the Writer’s Market and pitch, pitch, pitch (sell editors on a story) if they want to get published. I think your energy is just as well spent in building a network that will give you a shot at the assignments editors already have in mind.
Make lists. Set contact goals. Be friendly and bold. The worst someone can do is say no or ignore you. Do not be afraid to reach out to people of a different age, race, or sex. Don’t just stalk your idols on Twitter. Write to them. Swallow your shyness and brashly introduce yourself to the VIP at the party. If I can waltz up and introduce myself to Dr. Mehmet Oz that time we wound up at the same church service, you can too.
Unfortunately, he does not glow like this in person.
Ask people out for breakfast, lunch, dinner or coffee – even if you’ve never met. Spark friendships and pick their brains for opportunities or resume tips. Maintain the relationship with occasional friendly e-mails and invitations and always thank others for their time.
In the last five years, I’ve written for at least twenty different editors. Out of those, how many did I approach out of the blue with a pitch?
The rest became interested in giving me an assignment when I contacted them via tips from my network, or because I had already worked with an editor or a writer they knew.
Maybe I’m a just a good networker and a bad pitcher. But if you’re pitching nonstop and getting nowhere, maybe you should work your way in with a different approach.
If any of my current editors are reading this, feel free to try and figure out which stick figure you are. If any future editors are reading this, please be assured that I am extremely respectful.
2) The Networking Sandwich
And now you’re saying, “OK. Crap. It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
This is only partly true.
Finding gigs is a networking sandwich:
Quality work earns you admiring contacts. Network among those contacts to find new jobs. Then prove yourself to your new contacts with more quality work.
Even with a strong recommendation, those editors I mentioned in the first example began by asking me if I could provide some clips as a test of my skill and style.
If my work was lousy, those connections would be useless.
3) Marshal the Troops
Once you’ve had some practice building your own network, position yourself as a leader. Think of ways you can bring people together to share the resources in your fields, and be an affirmative facilitator of the conversation.
Holier-than-thou Example: I joined a writers’ networking group that was about to fizzle because the original organizers didn’t want to continue the effort. I saw an opportunity and stepped up to take charge of it, organizing meetings and maintaining and expanding the contact and RSVP lists. It takes a lot of time of and effort, but the friends I’ve made and the work opportunities we’ve all shared have been worth it. I helped other members find new markets for their essays, and other members helped me find new work as a copywriter.
4) Get in Their Faces
It can be easy for a freelance writer to slump behind a computer and a phone to meet the day’s deadlines. Nowadays, it’s possible to work with an editor – or your fellow writers – for months or even years without meeting face to face.
But don’t be that writer.
Invite your editors and colleagues out for lunch. Take advantage of local industry events. Be more than an e-mail address or another byline to the people you work with. Making that effort will give you one more way to stand out in a competitive field.
Holier-than-thou Example: I had written for a publication for about two years without meeting my editor in person, so when the publication began to host events for its readers and contributors, I made a point of going and introducing myself. Now, the relationship with that editor, plus my continued work, has grown into an Associate Editor job offer. I start next week.
5) Think Hyper-Local.
Your career will never start until Psychology Today accepts your pitch, right?
Major newspapers and magazines aren’t hiring. Thanks, Internet. But the flip side of online media is that there are lots of new, highly-targeted local markets that are probably looking for good freelancers.
Is there a local news site in your town or a locally-focused magazine in your city? Research the site or publication and pitch that editor with your hometown knowledge, or leverage your network to get in touch.
Holier-than-thou example: About two years ago, the branch of NPR media in Philadelphia was launching a new series of websites targeted to specific neighborhoods. A former co-worker of mine was a former co-worker of one of the new editors, and I asked for an introduction. I now write a wide range of stories and essays for several editors there. Riches and glory? No. A paycheck and entertaining work? Yes.
6) Work for free. (For awhile.)
You thought you could start your career with a big, fat contract? I admit, it’s not unheard of (I am beginning to suspect my downfall is my disinterest in young adult paranormal romance).
But get real. You need to get your foot in the door somewhere, and build up a body of bylines. It’s ok to volunteer your time and skills when you’re just starting out, if the experience is relevant to the career you want to build.
But be careful. You will run into people – even editors – who claim to think that the privilege of a byline in a competitive market should be more than enough compensation to you. Or they might tell you that the entry you get to shows or events as a writer should be enough of an incentive for you to provide your work for free. They are wrong.
You decide the line between unpaid experience that benefits you in the long run, and an editor or publication that tries to exploit your skills. Once you’ve made the transition to paid work (unless you choose to volunteer for a good cause), stick to it.
I wanted to become an arts writer, so when I heard about a website that needed theater critics when I was a year or so out of college, I jumped. They didn’t pay their writers, but over two or three years, I amassed hundreds of bylines and took in hundreds of professional shows – a better education than four years of college. But I slowly quit writing for the site when my growing experience allowed me to pick up paying gigs. The editor tried to coax me back earlier this year, still without compensation, and I said no. I am grateful for the start I got, but right now I have too many assignments to spend time on work that doesn’t benefit my bank account or my own platform.
7) Volunteer, Altruistic or Not.
If you think you have writing skills but need practice in a real-world setting, don’t have a professional network, or have yet to build your resume, you can kill all those birds with one stone.
Find a small, hard-pressed office of people nearby who are trying to do some good in this world and ask them if they need someone to write their blog posts, website or press releases or handle social media or PR.
Voila: experience, skill-building, and the start of your network.
When my former playwriting teacher connected me to a nascent dance company that needed help developing original librettos, I met with the young and socially-conscious artistic director. I ended up joining the board and working on several librettos as well as managing PR campaigns for the company’s shows. It was like a second job for zero pay, but the experience was priceless, I felt good about the cause, and I don’t even know how many gigs I’ve landed over the years that were the result of networking among the esteemed friends and mentors I met through that company.
8) Be Versatile.
A former editor once told me over Pad Thai that the key to a viable writing career was getting in good with one high-paying magazine.
I know because I did it. I began writing for an international trade journal that sometimes paid me upwards of two thousand dollars per piece. My whole month’s budget was made with one article. I was in heaven.
Then the mag ran into financial trouble and my apologetic editor told me they’d been forced to axe their freelancer budget. Good thing I had cultivated work in several other markets, just in case.
There are no guarantees for the freelance writer: even the sweetest gig could evaporate next month. Be willing to tackle a variety of fields and topics. A big reason I am able to pay the bills by writing is that I don’t let new arenas intimidate me. Arts, science, medicine, aviation, farming, business, architecture: whatever it is, I track down some experts to tell me all about it, and write that piece.
From an earlier post titled “What It Is Like to Be a Freelance Writer”
Often, to make ends meet, you must be willing to transition between different realms of work. I had been a blogger, essayist and journalist for years when an opportunity to become an agency copywriter came my way (thanks, networking). I didn’t say, “Oh dear, I have no advertising experience.” I showed up, scared witless, and began learning.
9) Prostrate Yourself on the Altar of the Blogosphere
Yeah, yeah, the whole reason writers’ careers are crumbling everywhere is that witless scribblers are giving their stuff away for free on blogs.
That’s one way of looking at it. But I think that’s a pessimistic, no-fun view.
There are tons of reasons to maintain a blog, as long as you can commit to posts of consistent quality. Yes, any 21st-century writing manual can tell you that you need to build your own platform and audience as a writer – no big ol’ publisher is going to do it for you anymore (hence the difference between writing that builds your own presence and brand, and writing for free for a random publication that’s willing to exploit you).
But reasons for blogging go beyond this. I find that the more you write, the more you write. Blogs keep you sharp between assignments. They’re also an outlet for what’s personally important to you, keeping your drive and ambitions fresh. They can be your editor-free playground (believe me, tailoring your stuff to several different editors every week can get tiring). And on the other hand, I have landed work with new editors or employers because they checked out the blog, or even purchased pieces from it. I’ve also developed pieces on the blog that I later worked into paid, published essays.
And once you’ve built up a modest audience, a blog is a fantastic excuse to hit up other writers you admire for interviews.
I have been a huge fan of bestselling author Mary Roach for years. I got up my courage one day and contacted her through her website. She kindly agreed to an interview for this blog.
I found out that her early career was very similar to what I’m doing now. Later, she e-mailed me to say she had enjoyed the interview, and added “Keep at it. I expect to be saying, ‘I knew her back when…’”
10) Be Big-Minded
If you want to be a writer, you’ll hear a lot about how competitive the field is. You will feel the impulse to hoard your leads, keep good markets to yourself, and shrug when others ask you for specific advice, lest they threaten your piece of the pie.
People have romantic notions about writing careers, and if you have some measure of success, others will come out of the woodwork to poach you for THEIR networks.
Remember, networking is a two-way street. If your editors are looking for new talent, share that with people who have the right skills. Don’t be stingy with useful tips to people who ask for them.
I had lunch with a contact once who happily took my advice on local editors to approach. But when I asked if my new colleague could offer any contacts to me, the person expressly refused to reciprocate, saying I would be too much competition (yes, I never said it wasn’t a jungle out there).
That is one way of doing business.
But to me, sharing valuable contacts is just one more incentive for me to stay at the top of my game. I don’t mind if editors add my colleagues to the team. I want work because my skills merit it, not because I froze out other people who might also be eligible.
And if you help someone today, who’s to say the tables won’t be turned tomorrow?
Let your confidence in your own skills translate into a helping hand for others, and watch your friendships increase as fast as your work opportunities.
This blog post.
Also of interest to bloggers, book-lovers and linguaphiles:
If I paid any attention to my e-mail, I would think there was a world full of people who love and follow my blog, viewing it as a valuable commercial opportunity as well as a fount of top-rate content. Alas, much of my blog-related e-mail is nothing but the brave new world of online advertising. The internet is awash with forums of bewildered bloggers who have gotten these messages for the first time (secretly hoping, even if just for a moment, that somebody has noticed them and there is money in blogging).
That’s not to say that these messages don’t have their value. How can I not appreciate nakedly exploitative e-mail subject lines like “I Love Alainamabaso.wordpress.com!”?
The following e-mail is practically a blogger’s rite of passage:
My name is Leslie and I recently stumbled across your blog alainamabaso.wordpress.com. I work for a company, Blog Services Inc., that connects bloggers with advertising partners. I currently have clients that are interested in developing a sponsorship with you. This helps them with brand awareness and is a great opportunity for you to make some money from your blog.
Check out BlogServicesInc.org for more information and testimonials. Please feel free to contact me directly if you are interested in a partnership or have any questions. There is no need to submit the form on our site, as contacting me directly will lead to a quicker response.
According to what I can find out, this company claims to pay bloggers a whopping $10 or so to publish a post written by the company (with “sponsor” links embedded, of course). The catch (if you’re still looking for another one) is the company requires that you pretend to have written the post yourself: to get your money, you can’t label the thing as a “guest” or “sponsored” post, and you must keep it live indefinitely.
But other e-mails are more interesting – particularly the ones that pretend to know me and my blog (and you, dear reader). Those who are trying to exploit bloggers’ painstakingly crafted little audiences for free marketing seem to believe that a few friendly words will convince a blogger that an advertising ploy as grimy as the underside of my bureau is an irresistible piece of public relations.
Now, my hat goes off to good PR people. I’ve worked on both sides of the press table, and there’s a lot of emphasis on crafting the right pitch – tell the writer something wildly interesting, and he or she will call you back. But there’s a reason public relations is called “public relations” (“relations” being the operative word) and not “the scintillating pitch business.”
As an arts writer adrift in press releases, invitations and pitches every week, I find that good PR folks keep an eye on your work, know your interests, have impeccable follow-up, and maintain an upbeat, collegial attitude with you, apart from any individual pitch. Of course I won’t do a story that I don’t think has objective merit, and no, you don’t have to know me to get me interested in a story, but you’ve got a huge leg up pitching to me if you’re actually familiar with my work, know what I like to write about, and know what regions I usually cover.
The fun thing about the cutting edge in subterfuge marketing via blogs is that these advertising agents believe that because you publish words on your blog, you will publish ANY words on your blog. It’s like the Scottsdale, Arizona Polo Championship that keeps sending me press releases. Why the hell am I on their list? I’m just a writer whose e-mail they picked up – never mind that I cover the Philadelphia arts scene. A large press list does not equal PR.
Those who would use your blog for their own advertising ends see you not as an author and curator of content, but as someone who spews words to a small but devoted audience.
“Hi Alaina,” a recent e-mail from what seems to be an au pair-locating company says. “I spend a lot of time researching articles before I sit down to write them and as I am researching I take note of sites that I would like to share the article with when I am done.”
Who knew getting your links and copy up on someone else’s site for free was as easy as declaring that you would like to share it? In this case, the so-called article was called “How to Navigate an Airport with a Toddler in Tow.”
Perfect fit for this blog, huh?
“The reason I have reached out to you is because of your blog!” begins another message, this one apparently from a woman who survived Mesothelioma and wants to offer her “guidance, inspiration and hope” to others. “I contacted you because I feel that your blog would be an excellent place for me to share my story.”
What do you guys think?
Here’s one of my favorites, for its sheer devotion to the ridiculous premise that the e-mailer and I have some kind of relationship.
“Dear Alaina,” it begins. “It’s me, Steve Spill, the resident magician at Magicopolis in Santa Monica.”
“More than once I’ve heard someone say, ‘Hey, Steve, you ought to invite some bloggers to your long-running hit magic show Escape Reality!’ The most recent someone was Woody, from the Tikkun Holistic Spa, located a few doors down from us here on Fourth Street.’”
What the fuck.
“We spent a pleasant few minutes when we bumped into each other at lunch time. At one o’clock that morning, just as I lay me down to sleep, Woody’s suggestion flitted through my mind, but I couldn’t remember which particular bloggers he suggested.”
The rest of the story goes that Steve guessed Woody was talking about me in the Tikkun Holistic Spa, but since it was too late at night to call Woody to check, Steve sprang to the computer to write to me, just in case.
If you guys would’ve wanted to hear about Steve’s magic show, or if you know this Woody character, I sincerely apologize for not taking Steve up on his invitation.
Here’s another gem.
“Hi Alaina, Just writing to say how much I enjoy reading your site. We at Lifeinsurancequotes.org recently published an article, “How to Help When Your Spouse Loses a Parent”, that we think is tailor-made for your readers. If you agree, it’s our hope that you’d be willing to pass it to your readers. Whatever you do, keep up the great work! We’re big fans.”
What do you guys think? Tailor-made for you? If so, I’ll follow up with Lifeinsurancequotes.org right away.
Because of the all the sharp PR people I know, I am especially tickled by the belief that adding our names and a few friendly words to a mass e-mail turns a blind stab at free marketing (whether for au pairs, life insurance or God knows what else) into – hey presto! – online PR. The generators of these e-mails pretend not to realize that they can’t fake a relationship with me.
Is there a blogger somewhere getting taken in? I guess there must be – otherwise these messages wouldn’t exist. But by all means, keep them coming. In a world where bloggers are often derided as the pallbearers of worthwhile media, I like the reminder that I have standards.
Sarah Palin, a former US governor and current media lightning-rod, joins her husband in showing support for traditional Christian values…by buying a fried chicken sandwich. (No word yet on why she wears her sunglasses inside.)
Fair warning to my readers outside the US: Americans have got their panties in a major twist this month about some chicken sandwiches.
My dad introduced me properly to Chick-fil-A when I visited my parents a few months ago.
He had been rhapsodizing about Chick-fil-A for at least two or three days by the time we stepped up to the counter: the hot, tasty chicken sandwich with fresh lettuce and tomato, the waffle fries, and most of all, the milkshakes.
I doubt he remembers his kids’ high school graduation as well as he remembers his first taste of the Chick-fil-A Banana Pudding Milkshake: according to him, the treat was both arctic cold and yet still easy to sip through a straw. Real bananas swam in vanilla ice cream and met ultimate bliss with ‘Nilla Wafer cookie crumbles that retained their delicious crunch.
But that wasn’t all – Dad also extolled the stellar customer service at Chick-fil-A. Not only would they serve you the best chicken sandwich in the biz, they’d make you feel like a king.
When we went to Chick-fil-A, the girl behind the counter beamed as if she’d been waiting for us all day, and the chicken sandwich and milkshake were everything I heard they’d be.
The next week, I dragged myself to the mall (I needed an outfit for a job interview). Hungry and trembling with the exhausted vexation of a full-figured woman searching for a blazer that fits in the arms and waist as well as the bust, I saw the red Chick-fil-A marquee at the food court.
As I sat down at a table with my sandwich, I realized that it needed a spot of mayo. There was a long line at the counter and I could only see ketchup packs. Just as I decided to do without, an elderly man in a Chick-fil-A apron appeared at my left elbow.
“How are you doing today, miss?” he said. “Are you enjoying your lunch? Do you have everything you need today?”
“Hi,” I said. “Actually, I was hoping for some mayonnaise.”
He smiled with pleasure, reached into his apron pocket, and handed me a pack of mayo.
“You have a great day, now,” he said, before moving onto the Chick-fil-A lunchers at the next table.
I was transfixed for several moments by the shock of being waited upon in the mall food court, where the closest thing to customer service is the cleaning staff sweeping the floor right where your feet are resting.
“He drives Chick-fil-A’s efforts to provide genuine hospitality, ensuring that customers have an exceptional dining experience in a Chick-fil-A restaurant,” the Baptist Press said of Dan Cathy in a July 16tharticle.
Chick-fil-A’s proud Christian foundation has been a source of moderate controversy for a long time – devotees of their chicken sandwiches have long bemoaned the company’s strict policy of closing on Sundays.
Oh, and there’s the small matter of Cathy’s public preference for the “Biblical definition of the family unit”, reconfirmed in the same Baptist Press piece.
We could dwell on which Biblical family Cathy admires: King Solomon’s extraordinary assemblage of concubines, or perhaps Jacob’s marriage to the sisters Leah and Rachel and his subsequent fecund, wife-approved romps with two handmaidens. Or maybe Cathy would emulate King David, who sent Bathsheba’s husband off to die on the front lines after spying on her during her bath. Or maybe the law about a widow marrying her husband’s brother resonates best.
But what Cathy means, of course, is the Biblical importance of denying equal rights to homosexuals. His recent comments on the Ken Coleman Show claim that advocates of gay marriage are “prideful” and “arrogant”.
“We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,” he says.
Cathy’s comments about gays aren’t usually so pointed or inflammatory. In the past, he’s claimed that Chick-fil-A doesn’t discriminate against anyone, and that as a fast-food restaurant, they have no public political stance.
But gay-rights advocates in the US are pretty riled because of several million dollars Chick-fil-A has donated to far-right American groups that, depending on your source, advocate the “curing” of homosexuality with special reeducation programs, urge the reinstatement of laws against sodomy, teach that homosexuality is naturally associated with pedophilia, and lobby against the repeal of Ugandan laws that punish homosexuality with death.
There hasn’t been a mass shooting, major US natural disaster, or politician caught in a humiliating affair for about two or three weeks over here. Granted, the Olympics are going on. But that doesn’t provide nearly the angst outlet that we need.
So….Chick-fil-A hates gays! TO THE INTERNET!
The fallout has had more unexpected plotlines than a “Game of Thrones” novel.
Among loud lamentations at how tragic it will be to cut this delicious chicken out of our lives, there’s the Chick-fil-A boycott by my liberal peers, who declare that not another penny of their money will go towards donations to hate groups. There was the “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” counter-wave, in which thousands of good southern Christians lined up around the block for chicken sandwiches to show their support for NOT supporting the gays.
Chick-fil-A noted record-breaking sales.
Meanwhile, the wider fray was already breaking into more factions than the rebels of Syria.
Multiple city politicians announced to the press that Chick-fil-A would be blocked from building restaurants in their jurisdictions because of Cathy’s views. A tsunami of self-appointed pundits-turned-Constitutional-scholars fought back to define the proper roles not of women and men, but of business and the government.
While we all got our Constitutional dander up, guerilla skirmishes on first-amendment free speech flared as Facebook apparently disabled a page supporting Chick-fil-A, and then quickly reinstated it. Free-speech stalwarts pointed out that Cathy is entitled to his point of view, while a flood of suspiciously anecdotal news stories countered that the free-speech dispute is irrelevant because discrimination is in action at Chick-fil-A, from gay employees who feel compelled to stay in the closet at work to a woman who claims she was fired because her Chick-fil-A manager said women should be stay-at-home moms.
Business experts were more interested in coolly debating whether corporate presidents helped or hurt their profits by taking public stances on hot political and religious issues.
Anti-gay Christians rejoiced that so many people are still willing to rally to their agenda, as evidenced by the epic queues at Chick-fil-A locations below the Mason-Dixon Line. Gay-rights advocates rejoiced that the last corporate stronghold of anti-gay sentiment in America was nothing but a chicken-sandwich chain.
Meanwhile, the high-minded hipster gentry got to work pointing out everyone’s terminal hypocrisy, declaring that those waiting in line to support Chick-fil-A would never flood the volunteer lists of a homeless shelter with such zeal, as Jesus would no doubt want them to, while also taking their secular community-garden buds to task for boycotting Chick-fil-A without also boycotting companies like Apple, Amazon or McDonalds for their egregious violation of things like fair working standards. An NPR commentator pointed out that mayors publicly decrying Chick-fil-A for anti-gay bigotry have ignored proven and persistent racial discrimination in their own districts.
Other commentators held forth on bullying, while others devised all sorts of ways to bedevil Chick-fil-A: ordering chicken while dressed in drag or, based on an obscure Bible passage about providing food and water to your guests, demanding free food of Chick-fil-A employees, if they’re so Christian and all. Gay-rights enthusiasts responded to Chick-fil-A appreciation Day by staging a nationwide same-sex kiss-in at Chick-fil-A restaurants.
And in perhaps my favorite development of all, fat-acceptance activists have begun blasting liberals who try to shame habitual Chick-fil-A eaters for being fat: fighting homophobia with fat-ism is just trading one form of bigotry for another!
All we need is a questionable study linking Chick-fil-A to autism in children of gay parents, and we could keep the controversy going until next Wednesday, at least.
One thing I wonder about is our possibly overblown notion of ownership. If I have converted my money into a chicken sandwich, and then enjoyed said sandwich, do I have cause to make any demands on what Chick-fil-A does with what was formerly my money?
While there is something to be said for voting with your dollar, and buying products from socially and environmentally responsible companies, I can’t imagine tracking every dollar I spend, to make sure that the business who’s got it is disposing of it in a way that pleases me. That dollar ain’t mine anymore and its fate isn’t my business – I traded it for a goldfish or a bottle of nail polish or a banana.
If Dan Cathy gives a fraction of his profits to anti-gay groups, am I complicit in that, when really all I did was convert my dollar into waffle fries? As soon as I polish off the fries, I have no claim on that dollar anymore. Why should the occasional cheerfully-served, heavenly Chick-fil-A milkshake dog my conscience?
As I type, I can practically hear the screams of the progressive mob, who would behead my spineless rhetoric faster than Henry VIII would dispatch an unwanted wife.
The truth is, I can think of better ways to support gay rights than NOT eating at Chick-fil-A. But I doubt that I’ll eat Chick-fil-A again, at least in Philadelphia. Despite what my parents think about my working in the “big city”, it’s really a pretty small town around here, especially if you’ve got the network of a journalist. I can hardly step off the train without running into someone in the crowd that I know.
God forbid they see me with a Chick-fil-A bag. They might think I’m a bigot. Or a Christian. Or a bully. Or a Constitutional law enthusiast. Or a gay-marriage opponent. Or a fat person. Or a fat-activist-hater. Or a Republican. Or a free-speech zealot. Or a hungry, weak-willed liberal. Or, worst of all, an ignoramus who doesn’t read blogs at all.
The very best part of visiting my blog’s administrative dashboard might just be a little box that tells me what Google search terms led people to find my blog. Chronicling the public’s secret desires this way is hardly a unique theme for a blog post, but I think the end of the year is a good time to reflect on just what phrases have led you here.
“Sweatshirts about duct tape and Jesus”, anyone? Or “Evil santa claus bunny rabbit”?
This search term feature is quite useful for a blogger. The good news is that a lot of blog hits due to search engines were people Googling my name or my book (though a few variants intrigued me, like “asteroid alaina” and “hurricane alaina”). Most flattering was the simple phrase, “Alaina Mabaso says”. I’m so glad you care what I think. On the other hand, over the last year, though I’ve published what I thought were worthwhile essays on death, grief, politics, literature, gender issues, the digital world and more, I found that the blog topics people searched for most were goldfish fry, pharmacists’ tattoos, and the hats of the royal wedding (I am not the only blogger who now knows that the American public has a bizarre obsession with the headwear of British royalty).
I divide other search terms into categories.
The first category is Ambiguous Concepts. This included “Katherine heigl extra terrestrial”. Maybe not so strange for people who think she is an alien. Or perhaps she starred in a sci-fi movie I’m not aware of. If I were to Google her in connection with another term, I just wouldn’t know what to say other than perhaps “Katherine heigl attractive uptight woman who needs a man to loosen her up”, but clearly some Googlers have more imagination than Hollywood screenwriters.
Take me to your leader.
A second confusing search term was “snake bites on Goth kids”. Who wants any kids to get bitten by snakes, even if they do have poor taste in clothes? Or are “snake bites” a kind of jewelry or accessory I’m not aware of? Also, is there such a thing as a Goth kid? I am picturing a five-year-old in eyeliner, combat boots and a black trench coat.
Another head-scratcher was “multiple breast fiction”. Is there a genre of erotica dedicated to fantasy involving more than the usual allotment of breasts? Or was this written by a person who does not know or believe that women are endowed with two breasts? More importantly, how did my blog pop up under this search term?
To sum up this category for today, I’ll add the possibly unfortunate search term, “Alaina smells”. I’d like to think that this Googler was trying to find an essay I wrote about bad smells, but there’s also the troubling possibility that “Alaina smells” is someone’s opinion.
A second category brings a fascinating range of stories to life: Long Search Terms.
“a man bought a goldfish in a petshop. upon returning home, he put the goldfish in a bowl of recently boiled water that has been cooled quickly. a few minutes later the fish was dead. explain what happened to the fish”.
I would dearly love to know the source of this inquiry. Is some student cheating on a biology test’s curiously sadistic question? Or is this simply the plea of a heartbroken would-be fish owner seeking answers?
Or try this one:
“just saw a commercial saying that if my kids eat fruit snacks, a kid in africa might get a laptop. wouldn’t it make more sense if I buy a laptop, africa kids would get fruit snacks?”
I am picturing a suburban housewife ashamed to voice her musings on “africa kids” to anyone else in the neighborhood, but turning hopefully to the internet to see if anyone else had privately noticed how bizarre it was that American kids should get fruit snacks while African kids got laptops – shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Then there are the Questions or statements that I wish I could answer personally.
One is “surname Mabaso in English”. Guess what: it’s “Mabaso”.
Also, to all the people searching for “good morning translated to Tsonga”: it’s avuxeni.
Another is “What age can you sell goldfish fry” or “how old are goldfish before you can sell them”.
Despite pet stores that would lead you to believe that goldfish are, in fact, a salable item, the answer to this question, for the home aquarium-keeper, is your home-hatched goldfish will never reach an age at which they can be sold to anyone. If you can wheedle your friends into adopting a few of your goldfish fry for free, you should count yourself lucky.
To the person who Googled “What does Alaina want for her birthday”: I would like the 2008 miniseries version of “Sense and Sensibility”.
Just check in with the other readers before you buy it, I need only one copy.
To the person Googling “what is the solution to the story peanut butter rhino”: if you simply want to know how the book ends, the sandwich is stuck to his ass. If you’re wondering how such an inane storybook made it on the market, I have no answer.
There are also the Terrifying search terms, namely “Large clear centipede Philadelphia”, “centipede clear feathery legs” and “Worst centipede real”. Pretty many people are Googling centipedes and we all now know we’re not alone in our fears. Worst of all: “scutigera coleoptrata giant” and “Scutigera Coleoptrata bite”.
More enjoyable are Fun imaginary scenarios, like “Female hans solo” or “Stinkybugs go to camp”.
Of course, there are also many mildly embarrassing or intriguing Sex-related searches.
“Breaking dawn sex excerpt”, for example. No fair: go buy the book and turn down the corner of the page where Edward and Bella Go All The Way if you want to. You ain’t gonna find it on this blog. Let me just throw in here that an alarming number of us are Googling questions about Edward and Bella’s wedding night, as well as Kody Brown’s polygamous bedrooms (one Googler even shows a peculiar interest in this Mormon’s feet).
More troubling, perhaps, was “Harry potter sex comic”. Though I admit I did write a Harry Potter-themed blog which questioned the Sex Ed standards at Hogwarts.
I wish I knew who found my blog by looking for “Leonardo dicaprio hyperventilating attractively” – and whether anything I wrote tickled their fancy.
I hope the timid soul Googling “images of men’s and women’s reproductive part” did not get more than he or she bargained for by taking to the internet.
I think some bloggers tag their stuff like crazy to drive hits to their site, when the content of the blog actually has little to do with the tag. Therefore, my favorite category may be Search terms that are highly satisfying because these people probably found exactly what they were looking for on my blog.
For example: “e.t. comes”. Here is an illustration of this exact statement from my blog post titled “The Truth About E.T.”
I don’t care what you say, E.T. is the stuff of nightmares.
I didn’t know it when I began writing poems on extremely random topics, but there is a large segment of the population who wants to find them. Who knew that somebody out there was specifically searching for “heat wave poems”? Hey, try this! And yes, I did write a “poem about stink bugs”! Whaddaya know, I’ve got an “airline poem” too. “Porsche poem”? Sure, here it is. I’ve been slacking on the poems this year, and now I feel bad, because it’s obvious there’s a large contingent out there seeking poems on non-traditional topics.
Are you glad that I don’t know what it is you’re Googling?
In the recently published “Gluten Wars” poll, voters seem pretty well split between a devotion to gluten in their own lives and a happily gluten-free existence. This was not the clear-cut answer I needed, so thanks a lot to everyone who participated.
Regardless of past disappointments, perhaps you can help me this week.
My current dilemma seems pretty monumental, at least from my own perspective. You may not find it as interesting, but your more objective take is probably all the more valuable.
Should I ditch the freelance life for a “real” job (assuming I could find one)?
Here are the relevant factors, as I see them.
I can usually make ends meet month to month, though a few other pursuits, such as a bit of eldercare and a smidgeon of tour-guiding, in addition to pay for my articles, have helped to round out my bank account this year.
I am not eschewing regular employment so I can sit in my apartment (or my parents’ house) and call myself a “writer” because I keep an exhaustive blog about my life. I have relationships with several editors at a few different publications who seem willing to assign me articles and features on an ongoing basis, or at least publish what I send them when I feel inspired. Over the years I’ve been steadily building my portfolio and experience and am continuing to meet my career goals.
When people ask me what I do for a living and I say, “writer,” I get a personally unprecedented internal surge of happiness and self-worth. Not only do I love to write – I love to learn, and sometimes I think a writing career is just one big excuse to go on learning about things, right from the experts, without having to pay for school. In the last week or so, I have written about Italian cooking and food trucks, toad migration, the Philadelphia Orchestra, racism and Mary the mother of Jesus. Upcoming assignments include mural design and urban chicken-keeping. I love not knowing what new knowledge the week might bring.
And, in the world of my own shameless ego, what is better than being introduced to a group of people as “the author” and being asked to sign your book? Plus I like the special access to interesting people or events that comes with being a member of the press. No-one returns your call faster than someone who realizes you want to write about him.
The cons of my current lifestyle are the hours spent crouched over a calculator, my bank balance and my assignment/invoice-tracking lists, watching the dollars coming in barely covering the dollars going out. But even this is not as depressing as the inevitable difficulties of actually collecting the money that is due to me through an amazing world of invoicing screw-ups that I never would have thought possible. Also, there is the problem of knowing that I have, in theory, earned enough money to cover my bills, but not knowing whether the money is going to arrive in time to pay said bills.
It also takes a lot of ongoing energy not only to meet existing deadlines, but to always be cranking out ideas for where else I’d like to be published and what else I could pitch or write, and reminding editors that I exist and that I can write pretty good. Nobody is going to hand any work to me.
There is an answer. My husband provides it as gently as he can when he suggests that I alleviate my stress and make more money by “switching careers” or, since I’m reasonably smart, perhaps going back to school for an MBA or something else more lucrative than journalism (not that I even went to school for journalism in the first place).
I’ve worked in an office before and I’ve had the pleasure of weekly or bi-weekly paychecks (taxes already deducted), especially the ones that slip into my bank account electronically, even saving me the trouble of going to the bank. Budgeting is ridiculously easy when you can count on receiving the same amount of money on the same days of the month. Perhaps I could even pay off my student loans before my own unborn children start college.
If I worked a regular job, I could probably come home around six o’clock each day and sit on the couch, instead of flitting around the city or suburbs all day, chasing meetings, interviews or assignments, and then sitting down at my computer until all hours of the night.
Even imagining a return to more stable, consistent employment (probably some kind of marketing, PR or tourism job, given my experience and abilities), where my daily duties would be fairly consistent and I would work with the same people in the same place week after week, makes me more than a little desperate, even as I longingly imagine the potential financial comfort. I want to continue meeting new people, diving into new topics, and telling stories. But the bottom line is that I may need to be more practical than that.
Life is not about doing whatever you think is fun. Life is about being a responsible adult and paying all your bills on time and making enough money to afford some kids, dogs, a house and a nice car, and not be bankrupted by health insurance costs, even if you don’t like your job. And maybe my whole idea of working any job besides freelance writing is needlessly pessimistic, and I simply haven’t found the right employer for me.
Right now, it seems like whenever I sit down at the computer and swear to myself that today I will job search and send in applications, a writing assignment will come in and I jump on that instead. Not only is it more interesting than job hunting, it guarantees a payment that a job hunt does not guarantee. But am I screwing myself in the long run by not pursuing something more lucrative and stable? Is it foolish to explore more ways to increase my freelance income through journalism, essays, blogging or corporate writing when I could be applying for normal jobs?
I’m sure many of you can relate to the freelance life, whether you’re a writer, musician, actor, artist, or any number of things. What has your experience been? Would you recommend your lifestyle to others?
My acquaintances are always curious. How should I answer?
“Well, things I write get published and then publications send me money. I then apply this money toward my bills. Is that having a job? I’m sort of like an artist, so I wouldn’t know.”
But mostly I smile politely and say that I’m a freelancer. In the last few years I’ve published maybe a couple hundred articles in eleven or twelve venues (if that makes me a total amateur, keep it to yourself – I was working a “real” job full-time until a year ago). That doesn’t include my book or over 100 (unpaid) pieces I’ve written for this blog – let’s not discuss the cost-effectiveness of this.
The challenge of explaining (and sometimes defending) my work to others makes me think of more writing-related problems.
First, there’s the awful and mysterious matter of the snafus that often arise when I work with a new editor.
In late 2009, I landed my first magazine assignment. The event I was covering, outside of Philadelphia, was scheduled for the day after I returned from a vacation on the West Coast. However, my flight out of the tiny Oregon airport was inexplicably delayed. I then missed my connecting flight out of San Francisco by a few minutes. Not only were there no available flights to Philadelphia until the next day: there were no available flights to Newark, Boston, New York, Washington or Baltimore.
In early 2011, I got an opportunity with a news website. My first assignment was to write a preview piece about a local theater company’s show. I proceeded in the usual way, contacting the PR department and scheduling a visit with the show’s director and artists. The PR guy was cordial at first, but the night before the interview was to take place, an e-mail which I wrote alerted him to a horrendous miscommunication.
He had assumed that a “preview on the show” meant a lengthy feature, for which I would visit the theater over a series of months and delve into all aspects of the company’s art. Since I had actually intended one visit for a 700-word article, he wrote me a terse e-mail rescinding my invitation, telling me that in fact no-one involved in the production had any time to meet with a writer.
This was followed by a longer, similarly unprovoked communication in which he declared that all proposed media articles should be preceded by a written and signed contract between the writer and the theater company, so that no-one would ever have disappointed expectations.
(This, I think, is a hazard of theater artists who find themselves in professional external relations roles for which they have not been trained.)
Anyway, I had to go back to my new editor and explain why I could no longer write the piece he was expecting. I felt like an ass and wondered how I could have bungled the kind of assignment I’ve been writing for years.
In both of the above situations, the editors somehow recognized some particle of redeeming professionalism me, and gave me another chance. (That PR guy recently invited me to review his latest show – I did not reply, as I’m not sure who would be responsible for writing the contract beforehand).
This week, I finished my first assignment for another magazine. Especially when I am dealing with an editor for the first time, I work hard to polish my article and submit it early. Monday morning, ahead of a noon deadline, I was doing a few tweaks on a piece I’d worked on for over a week.
My computer screen flashed a jagged blue-and-black jumble, and then it went black.
The pain is still too fresh to impart what happened over the next few hours. Insert your happy tale of how all your files have been backed up online for years, instead of just a few crucial things on disk (this is what people have been telling me, ostensibly to comfort me with their own peace of mind). Suffice it to say that a computer expert estimates that he may have been able to save “30-50%” of my files, but the damage was “pretty extensive”.
I had to tell my new editor that I wouldn’t be able to make the deadline. Then I spent the day re-writing the article from memory on my husband’s computer before delivering my machine, like a little black corpse, to a data salvage expert. I sent the re-written article on Tuesday morning.
I don’t know yet how things will work out with this new magazine. But I’m sufficiently spooked: what is it about landing new assignments that brings disaster upon my professional efforts?
I’m sure I’m not the only writer who’s a bit melodramatic. When you routinely put pieces of yourself out in the world in the form of written work, perhaps your sense of world’s stakes are slightly aggravated.
The frustrations of being a writer aren’t limited to assignment catastrophes. Sometimes the challenges of seeing your work filtered through an editor’s keyboard are almost as bad.
Scary as the Paranormal Activity movies are (and yes, they are constant goosebump-fests), the idea that heightened surveillance would provoke a paranormal presence is somehow oddly comforting. Perhaps it’s because it implies that if a ghost ever bothered us, we could minimize its manifestations by making different choices than Paranormal Activity’s fatally inquisitive boyfriends. Like the proverbial playground bully, perhaps, in a logical reversal of the Paranormal Activity formula, spirits go away if you ignore them.
So what if my bedroom door sometimes opens by itself just a little bit? I don’t look at it, and then I attribute it to the draft. Perhaps if I set up a camera in my apartment, things would be different. But I never, ever will.
Here is the ending my editor published:
“But the idea that heightened surveillance would provoke a paranormal presence is somehow oddly comforting, because it suggests a practical solution: Perhaps paranormal spirits, like playground bullies and Kim Jong-Il, go away if you just ignore them.”
I never mind when my stuff needs to be edited for space or flow – given my verbose tendencies, it’s a common problem that makes me grateful to editors. But I do object when I feel that an editor has taken out my style in favor of his or her own – rewritten the piece, instead of edited it.
If I had wanted to allude to the mysteries of Kim Jong-Il, I would have. It’s a distracting reference, in my opinion. I explained all this in a brief e-mail to my editor that I hope was not unnecessarily querulous. He replied that the edits were not for space considerations, but to make the review more interesting. He agreed to take Kim Jong-Il out, but said that he’d put him in there to hold the readers’ attention, because Kim Jong-Il is “an example that a reader can easily relate to, as opposed to simply dry theory.”
Now, after braving delayed flights, bizarre PR staff, missed deadlines and the loss of 50-70% of my computer files, I am faced with a new, constantly unfolding writer’s Armageddon.
If my review of Paranormal Activity 3 was too full of “dry theory” to be interesting to readers, tell me again – why I am in this job?
Yesterday I received the coveted Versatile Blogger Award from Sandra over at She Can’t Be Serious. For those unfamiliar with this particular WordPress honor, it’s a way for avid WordPress bloggers to pat each other on the back while generating more hits. Recipients are supposed to list seven little-known facts about themselves and then spread the award around by providing links to twelve or fifteen (I’m not sure which it is) other bloggers’ sites.
I think my primary responsibility as a blogger is to deliver engaging original content to my readers, be they one-time visitors or long-time subscribers. To be honest, I am not sure that simply accepting the award, and then giving links to other bloggers, makes the grade. Other bloggers whom I read have received the award, and frankly, the resulting posts aren’t that interesting (especially if they haven’t forwarded the award to me).
The time involved in properly accepting and executing the Versatile Blogger Award makes me think about the three full-time jobs that I have as a freelance writer. The first job is to write. The second job is to track down the payments that are due to me for what I have written. These payments go awry for every possible reason: invoices are lost or mislaid or misfiled or delayed, checks arrive unsigned or are sent through the wrong damn processing center, and the supposed convenience of electronic payments just leads to a whole new labyrinth of delayed processing and missing or mistaken bank codes. But I digress.
The third full-time job is promoting my work. While writing quality stuff attracts an audience like nothing else can, this is different from the public relations and networking operations that also build and maintain your audience. I fear that using a post to celebrate my Versatile Blogger Award is dangerously like straight PR instead of writing – and it’s PR for other bloggers as much as for me. Is that fair to my readers? Sorry if that rings distastefully to anyone, especially fellow bloggers, but I always try to tell the truth on this blog.
That being said, I recognize that all us bloggers are in this together and it’s worthwhile to help each other out. I’m always grateful for the chance to get my work in front of new readers. Perhaps the most appropriate thing to do, to avoid rubbing anyone the wrong way, is to crack a mild, self-deprecating joke about awards and graciously thank the one who awarded me.
So thank you to everyone who made this day possible, especially in light of yesterday’s blog about how I never win any contests. And thank you to Sandra. I’m so glad you found my blog and that you enjoyed it. Alaina Mabaso’s Blog readers are hereby encouraged to check out the humorous, easy-to-relate-to She Can’t Be Serious. And I will now follow through with seven things about myself.
After two years of writing this blog you might already know more about me than you ever wanted to. But here goes.
1) When I was a kid, I thought I could communicate with the people on TV by stuffing my crayon drawings into the VCR.
2) I love sweet-n-salty treats over any other food.
3) I work pretty well with editors generally, but I loathe it when they take a notion to add in adjectives that I didn’t write or imply.
4) I hate going to the mall, but my husband loves it.
5) I have never learned how to drive a manual transmission.
6) I surreptitiously try to smell all food before I take a bite.
7) Once a parent told me that I would have more friends if I was less opinionated.
In light of my total lifelong failure to become less opinionated (thankfully, my friends don’t seem to mind), before I move on to nominate more bloggers, I have a few suggestions for the Versatile Blogger Award.
How about a smaller list of awardees? What with my three jobs listed above, in addition to writing, illustrating and promoting my own blog (my family and my highly needy goldfish also fall in there somewhere too), I don’t have time to go read twelve other blogs just because you suggested them. Can we narrow it down, perhaps concentrating the honor of the award even further for those worthy enough to be chosen, and making it more likely that potential new readers won’t be overwhelmed by the list?
What is the meaning of the Versatile Blogger Award? Does it simply mean “blogs I like”? I’d like to take it in a more literal sense and honor bloggers that I not only enjoy, but who truly are versatile: showcasing a range of knowledge, topics and tone. Let’s face it: being prolific or hilarious isn’t always the same as whetting an intellectual appetite or inviting new perspectives. By the way, if your blog doesn’t appear here, that doesn’t mean I do not (or would not) enjoy reading your stuff in my (very limited) free time.
Let’s be sure to make the pay-it-forward list more than a column of links. In the spirit of comradeship and effective mutual PR, let’s say a few words about why readers should visit those blogs.
So I’m going to go ahead and follow my own rules now.
Please visit Renee at Life in the Boomer Lane, if you haven’t already. Most of the posts deal with the perils of aging, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something for everyone to enjoy there, and Renee often plays with different formats and tones, so that her blog is not merely a humorous slice-of-life site.
Why not try Thomas at Middle of the Freakin Road? I name him versatile because unlike everyone else in America these days, he makes of point of commenting on political issues from a centrist position that does not favor one side or the other.
I also like Gideon’s Golden Way, an unassuming little blog written by a thoughtful woman about training her service dog, Gideon. I am partly a sucker for this blog because I love golden retrievers and the human-animal bond in general, but I also bestow the Versatile award because some blog posts are written by Gideon himself, and I admire this depth of interspecies teamwork.
If you’re still ready for more, you could check out Merry Farmer – not only does she write in a genuine, enjoyable style on a variety of topics, her first book is coming out soon! I’m looking forward to reading it.
So that’s it for today, folks. Thanks for sticking around.