Living on “The Edge”

I finished reading “The Edge” yesterday. The book brought back memories of growing up in my rural Pacific Northwest hometown. It’s a book written by “Clark Douglas” who in real life is one of my childhood best friend’s little brothers. Dougie, as we called him when we were big junior high girls, followed us around whenever I hung out at their home. I’m not sure how much younger he was, but he was a little kid and I enjoyed his company because of his personality and brain power.

I have tons of memories at their home. My brother’s good friend was Christy’s oldest sibling Larry. Christy’s sister Cathy was in my brother’s class. They had about 10 acres with a tennis court, cows, a barn with a loft and bales of hay — and a lake with a tiny island that Christy and I attempted to camp out on one summer. Christy’s room had a steep roof and gable. We could climb out the window and sit on the rooftop. Their mom left us alone and my only memories of their dad was pushing a lawn mower. Often we’d be the ones tagging along our big brothers on the golf course. Christy and I were the only girls on the boy’s golf team.

Although “The Edge” takes place in Montana, it could easily be our hometown with the high school football games being the star attraction in town and the athletes our local heroes. Douglas creates quirky characters that are entertaining and reminded me of my neighbors in Snohomish, where everyone knew everyone’s business. The story follows the life of Will Powers, the younger brother of local football heroes, through his early childhood being provoked by his siblings through his college years, marriage in California, to his return to his hometown. I admire how Doug created such depth of characters and intertwined their lives in unexpected ways.

The beautiful cover is painted by the author’s talented oldest sister Cathy and captures the PNW beautifully. Christy was editor and proofreader. With my history with this family, of course I whole heartedly recommend the book, but it was a good read, too.

From Amazon:

Prior to the turn of the century, life in western Montana provided all the elements of harmony and simplicity. William Powers had that life, and struggles to get back to it. William never accepts defeat, though. Battling through life’s hurdles, he ultimately must return to the person he once was in order to attain it. Pete Campbell, however, has to make a decision–do what is right, or do what the law says. As a deputy sheriff in a rural community, this may be up to his interpretation. Armed with knowledge of the people and the history of his community, Pete may choose to answer to a different standard. Pete tells us the whole story behind Will’s life. Though Will appears to be just an average person, nothing normal could be said about him. Fueled by love, anger, justice, and determination beyond measure, Will searches for his peace. Will’s story carries the reader back to a time and place that by today’s standard can only be imagined and desired. A delightful mix of comedy, conflict, romance, drama, and suspense are all rolled up into one tale. This easy read will captivate the mind, building story upon story until it all surfaces at The Edge.

Will the PRO Act destroy the 1099 life?

I wrote this when the disaster and arbitrary bill AB 5 passed in California. It was aimed at Uber and Lyft drivers but hit a bunch of other people as well including freelance writers and musicians. A fix was signed into law by the governor called AB 2257. My opinion is if you have to “carve out” 75 exceptions why not junk the bill and start over?

Now there is a new bill that passed the US House called the PRO Act. It’s a pro union bill that has the side effect of threatening to end freelancers. There may be benefits to the bill, but the unintended consequences are that it’s going to make it difficult for freelancers to continue running their small businesses. Here’s an article from The Hill that talks about the ABC test that defines if you’re an independent contractor or should be classified as an employee.

Here’s the post I wrote about AB 5:

beautiful view from window
The view from my freelance writer’s life in our old Palm Springs home.

I am a freelance writer. Obviously, I’m not writing to get rich. I’m doing it because I love it. I don’t need the state of California to dictate who I submit articles to nor how often. But in a new bill, AB 5 that will be law in January, they are destroying the freelance writing business.

In an article by Katie Kilkenny in The Hollywood Reporter called “Everybody Is Freaking Out”: Freelance Writers Scramble to Make Sense of New California Law, she spells out some of the confusion and frustration over AB 5. The real intent of AB 5 was to get rid of the gig economy — in particular Lyft and Uber drivers — and force people to join unions. That’s the bottom line.

A new bill that caps freelance submissions may make writing financially unsustainable for many workers even though the legislator behind the law insists that the goal is “to create new good jobs and a livable, sustainable wage job.”

California-based freelance writer Arianna Jeret recently learned about Assembly Bill 5 and is now concerned she and her colleagues in CA may soon be speaking about their jobs in the past tense.

Jeret, who contributes to relationship websites YourTango.com and The Good Men Project, says freelance writing has helped support her two children and handle their different school schedules. Her current gigs — covering mental health, lifestyle and entertainment — allow her to work from home, from the office and even from her children’s various appointments. “There were just all of these benefits for my ability to still be an active parent in my kids’ lives and also support us financially that I just couldn’t find anywhere in a steady job with anybody,” she says.

Jeret is now coming to terms with how her lifestyle will change come Jan. 1, when AB 5, California legislation aimed directly at the gig economy that was signed into law Sept. 18, will go into effect.

The bill, which cracks down on companies — like ride-sharing giants Lyft and Uber — that misclassify would-be employees as independent contractors, has been percolating through the California legislative system for nearly a year. It codifies the 2018 Dynamex decision by the State Supreme Court while carving out some exemptions for specific professions.

I worked at jobs with benefits for years before deciding to stay home and work as a contract employee. I did this when I became a mother. My husband had benefits from his job, so I no longer had to worry about health insurance, etc. I had the freedom to stay home and write. I’ve written for PR firms, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and worked on non fiction and fiction manuscripts. I’ve had enormous freedom in my writing career to juggle it with motherhood and volunteering. Sometimes writing took a back seat. And that’s okay. It was all my choice. 

Freelancers have different reasons for not being full-time or part-time employees. They know what the benefits are as well as the drawbacks. Why doesn’t the state want us to decide what fits our lives best? Why do they think they know better?

AB 5 came up with a number of 35 submissions to a single publication, or you’re considered an employee. And you have to join the union, too. So how did the State of CA come up with that number?

As for how lawmakers settled on the 35-submission figure, Gonzalez says that she and her team decided that a weekly columnist sounded like a part-time worker and so halved that worker’s yearly submissions. After protest from some freelancers, the number was bumped up to 35. “Was it a little arbitrary? Yeah. Writing bills with numbers like that are a little bit arbitrary,” she says.

Still, labor experts and freelancers alike are skeptical that the desired outcome of AB 5 — that newsrooms will hire California-based freelancers as part-time or full-time employees — will be achieved in the short term, especially as the news media continues to face major challenges to its business (in September, Business Insider estimated that 7,200 workers have lost their media jobs so far this year). Many publications that employ California freelancers aren’t based in the state and it’s not clear how AB 5 will affect them. Still, some are choosing to opt out entirely. Indeed, several freelance writers who spoke to THR say that various out-of-state employers — some with offices in California — have already told them they’re cutting ties with California freelancers.

What’s especially disheartening about this bill is that is was written by someone who doesn’t understand the industry at all. They have no idea how their law is going to affect the media industry.

Here are my thoughts today:

What’s even scarier is this may be the law of the land. 1099 part-time work may become a thing of the past. I remember when I decided to start my own PR business back in 1992. I was excited, scared to be on my own. But I quickly landed two big clients that paid the bills. I followed the footsteps of three other young women who were graphic designers I had worked with for years. They struck out on their own and were loving the independence and working their own hours. I felt like we were a group of independent, strong women — working for ourselves and no longer for our male bosses. It was an exciting time. The good old days.

I’d love to hear from other freelancers about their thoughts on AB 5 and the new Pro Act.

Needs, Wants and Writing

I wrote this one year ago after struggling with character development in a manuscript. After reading this, I’ll dust off the file and dive in again.

baby peeking out behind the door

My writing expert a few years ago.

When my kids were in Catholic elementary school, a teacher explained the difference between needs and wants to them. I remember being impressed with how the teacher brought this lesson down to their age level and it was something that I hadn’t explained to my kids. Yet, it’s such a crucial life lesson. When you’re raising kids, they often have a lot of things they “need.” They want to fit in with their peers and when one friend gets the latest whatever, they feel they need it, too.

When my kids told me they “needed” a colorful iPod mini or a deck of Pokemon cards I could answer smugly, “Is this something you need—or something you want?”

I pretty much think they believed it was something they needed.

I had a conversation with my son two years ago about needs and wants. I was telling him how I was struggling with a rewrite of a mid-grade novel but was beginning to have a break-through. I hired an editor to review my manuscript and the main thread of advice was to add depth to my main characters. I have a “good” protagonist and an “evil” antagonist. It’s a book about friendships and growth in character, yet my characters are pretty shallow. My son—brilliant person that he is—suggested I look at their “needs” and “wants.”

Seriously? The child who “needed” so many material things is now lecturing me on “needs and wants?” Yes, he is and in literature, he explained, needs and wants take on a subtle but different meaning. I found a good article “What your character wants versus what they need” from the Novel Factory. Here’s an excerpt:

What your character wants
We all want something. Some of us crave power, others long for heaps of cash, others want five minutes of fame. Some of us dream of having a baby, or a picture perfect wedding. Then of course there are more specific goals, like to win Countdown, to meet David Attenborough or to bake the perfect flan.

At the outset of your novel, you need to establish what it is your character wants – what it is that they are pursuing? What do they believe will give them a feeling of satisfaction?

What your character needs
However, there is something else under the surface, and that is what your character needs.

There are very few things human beings actually need, in order to be happy, and most of the things we fixate on wanting only obscure the really important things.

The things we need can usually be distilled to one thing: love.

This bit of advice from my son was eye-opening. I truly love my kids and his interest and expertise as a Lit major has helped me.

mom and baby sitting on the beach

Back when needs and wants were simple.

Have you explained to your kids about needs and wants? If you’re a writer, how do you use needs and wants to enrich your characters?

 

Creating my own space

view of back yard through french doors

This was the view from my kitchen table where I worked for years.

I’m excited. I’m getting my own writing room. I haven’t had my own space since before kids. I used to have our guest room all to myself, when we moved into our Palm Springs home 28 years ago, we called it “The Computer Room.” I had a Mac computer, which was pretty rare back in 1992.

Then two babies later, the Computer Room evolved to other uses. I began working at the kitchen table (not a hardship with gorgeous views) with the advent of a laptop. I worked in the kids’ rooms, too. Also, our master bedroom. But I didn’t have my own space.

At our new Arizona home, there is a formal dining room. The sellers asked if we wanted to buy their dining room furniture which was beyond gorgeous. I was tempted, but something in the back of my head said “no.”

It struck me that I could use the formal dining room as my “formal writing room!” I now have my own space. I could work in the spare bedroom, but what happens when the kids or guests are here? It’s not really my space anymore than my office in Palm Springs, which was really my son’s bedroom.

I’ve talked on the phone with a couple friends from CA and one is supportive and the other is appalled. What am I going to do when I have a houseful for Christmas dinner?  Well, we have lots of informal seating inside and outside. We aren’t big entertainers and when the once every few year Christmas dinner occurs, it will be informal — just like it was in Palm Springs. Isn’t it better to use the room daily, rather than once every few years?

We went consignment shopping this week and I found my writing desk, which I’ve always dreamed of, my chair and a bookcase. I’m putting it all together and I can’t wait to work in my own space.

formal writer's room

My new space to write converted from a formal dining room. Today, I’m unpacking all my books and filling bookcases.

Do you find a formal dining room a practical space? If yes, you probably use it and do entertain? What about your space to work? Is it all your own or is it a multi-purpose area?

Needs and wants in fiction writing

I looked back on what I was doing right before the global pandemic hit. What was life like prior to shelter in place? Well, it was pretty much the same as it is now. I sit in front of my laptop. Alone. I’m even working on the same project that I was back in January. I took on a bunch of writing jobs since then, but now I’m back to the same project. The only difference is my husband is stuck at home working remotely, so I get a few more distractions than I used to.

Here’s what I wrote about in late January:

baby crawling and peeking out behind door.

My son a few years ago peeking from his bedroom.

When my kids were in Catholic elementary school, a teacher explained the difference between needs and wants to them. I remember being impressed with how the teacher brought this lesson down to their age level and it was something that I hadn’t thought about explaining to my kids. Yet, it’s such a crucial life lesson. When you’re raising kids, they often have a lot of things they “need.” They want to fit in with their peers and when one friend gets the latest whatever, they feel they need it, too.

When my kids told me they “needed” a colorful iPod mini or a deck of Pokemon cards I could answer smugly, “Is this something you need—or something you want?”

I pretty much think they believed it was something they needed.

I had a conversation with my son two years ago about needs and wants. I was telling him how I was struggling with a rewrite of a mid-grade novel but was beginning to have a break-through. I hired an editor to review my manuscript and the main thread of advice was to add depth to my main characters. I have a “good” protagonist and an “evil” antagonist. It’s a book about friendships and growth in character, yet my characters are pretty shallow and flimsy Definitely one dimensional. My son suggested I look at their “needs” and “wants.”

Seriously? The child who “needed” so many material things is now lecturing me on “needs and wants?” Yes, he is and in literature, he explained, needs and wants take on a subtle but different meaning. I found a good article “What your character wants versus what they need” from the Novel Factory. Here’s an excerpt:

What your character wants
We all want something. Some of us crave power, others long for heaps of cash, others want five minutes of fame. Some of us dream of having a baby, or a picture perfect wedding. Then of course there are more specific goals, like to win Countdown, to meet David Attenborough or to bake the perfect flan.

At the outset of your novel, you need to establish what it is your character wants – what it is that they are pursuing? What do they believe will give them a feeling of satisfaction?

What your character needs
However, there is something else under the surface, and that is what your character needs.

There are very few things human beings actually need, in order to be happy, and most of the things we fixate on wanting only obscure the really important things.

The things we need can usually be distilled to one thing: love.

This bit of advice from my son was eye-opening. I truly love my kids and his interest and expertise as a Lit major have helped me.

mom and toddler son sitting on the beach

Back when needs and wants were simple.

Have you explained to your kids about needs and wants? If you’re a writer, how do you use needs and wants to enrich your characters?

 

How AB5 changed freelance writing in CA

I wrote this a year ago, when the disaster and arbitrary bill AB 5 passed in California. It was aimed at Uber and Lyft drivers but hit a bunch of other people as well including freelance writers and musicians. Last month a fix was signed into law by the governor called AB 2257. My opinion is if you have to “carve out” 75 exceptions why not junk the bill and start over? Meanwhile on the ballot November 3 is prop 22 that exempts the Lyft and Uber drivers from AB 5. Here’s my post from last October:

beautiful view from window

The view from my freelance writer’s life.

I am a freelance writer. Obviously, I’m not writing to get rich. I’m doing it because I love it. I don’t need the state of California to dictate who I submit articles to nor how often. But in a new bill, AB 5 that will be law in January, they are destroying the freelance writing business.

In an article by Katie Kilkenny in The Hollywood Reporter called “Everybody Is Freaking Out”: Freelance Writers Scramble to Make Sense of New California Law, she spells out some of the confusion and frustration over AB 5. The real intent of AB 5 was to get rid of the gig economy — in particular Lyft and Uber drivers — and force people to join unions. That’s the bottom line.

A new bill that caps freelance submissions may make writing financially unsustainable for many workers even though the legislator behind the law insists that the goal is “to create new good jobs and a livable, sustainable wage job.”

California-based freelance writer Arianna Jeret recently learned about Assembly Bill 5 and is now concerned she and her colleagues in CA may soon be speaking about their jobs in the past tense.

Jeret, who contributes to relationship websites YourTango.com and The Good Men Project, says freelance writing has helped support her two children and handle their different school schedules. Her current gigs — covering mental health, lifestyle and entertainment — allow her to work from home, from the office and even from her children’s various appointments. “There were just all of these benefits for my ability to still be an active parent in my kids’ lives and also support us financially that I just couldn’t find anywhere in a steady job with anybody,” she says.

Jeret is now coming to terms with how her lifestyle will change come Jan. 1, when AB 5, California legislation aimed directly at the gig economy that was signed into law Sept. 18, will go into effect.

The bill, which cracks down on companies — like ride-sharing giants Lyft and Uber — that misclassify would-be employees as independent contractors, has been percolating through the California legislative system for nearly a year. It codifies the 2018 Dynamex decision by the State Supreme Court while carving out some exemptions for specific professions.

I worked at jobs with benefits for years before deciding to stay home and work as a contract employee. I did this when I became a mother. My husband had benefits from his job, so I no longer had to worry about health insurance, etc. I had the freedom to stay home and write. I’ve written for PR firms, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and worked on non fiction and fiction manuscripts. I’ve had enormous freedom in my writing career to juggle it with motherhood and volunteering. Sometimes writing took a back seat. And that’s okay. It was all my choice. 

Freelancers have different reasons for not being full-time or part-time employees. They know what the benefits are as well as the drawbacks. Why doesn’t the state want us to decide what fits our lives best? Why do they think they know better?

AB 5 came up with a number of 35 submissions to a single publication, or you’re considered an employee. And you have to join the union, too. So how did the State of CA come up with that number?

As for how lawmakers settled on the 35-submission figure, Gonzalez says that she and her team decided that a weekly columnist sounded like a part-time worker and so halved that worker’s yearly submissions. After protest from some freelancers, the number was bumped up to 35. “Was it a little arbitrary? Yeah. Writing bills with numbers like that are a little bit arbitrary,” she says.

Still, labor experts and freelancers alike are skeptical that the desired outcome of AB 5 — that newsrooms will hire California-based freelancers as part-time or full-time employees — will be achieved in the short term, especially as the news media continues to face major challenges to its business (in September, Business Insider estimated that 7,200 workers have lost their media jobs so far this year). Many publications that employ California freelancers aren’t based in the state and it’s not clear how AB 5 will affect them. Still, some are choosing to opt out entirely. Indeed, several freelance writers who spoke to THR say that various out-of-state employers — some with offices in California — have already told them they’re cutting ties with California freelancers.

What’s especially disheartening about this bill is that is was written by someone who doesn’t understand the industry at all. They have no idea how their law is going to affect the media industry.

I’d love to hear from other freelancers about their thoughts on AB 5 and the fix AB 2257.

Remembering Ray Bradbury

In honor of the great Ray Bradbury who died in June 2012, I’m reposting this story about what I learned from him.

I was looking through my book shelves for summer reading. I picked up Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing: Release the Creative Genius Within You. It’s a small paperback book that has sat on my shelf, unread. I opened the cover and on page one the autograph of the author and the date May 1996 stared me in the face.

imgresThat’s the first time I heard Ray Bradbury speak — and the first time I asked him to sign a book. My daughter, who graduated high school last week, was three months old, and my son, a junior in college, was three years old. That’s a lot of years to have this book sitting on my bookshelf.

Yes, I’m now reading this collection of essays and remembering how inspiring his talk was. Earlier that same day in May 1996, I recognized Ray Bradbury at Las Casuelas the Original, a small Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from the Riviera Hotel, where he was speaking later. I introduced myself to him, as he ate alone, and I said I couldn’t wait to hear his talk.images-1

It was one of the first writer’s conferences I had attended, and I was kind of in a fog, having a newborn child and little sleep.

Ray Bradbury was amazing. He reminded me of a young child, finding wonder in the world. He had the ability to stay young at heart and observe the world as though seeing little things for the first time. I loved his story of how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA library at a rental typewriter for 10 cents for a half hour. He said he was literally a “dime novelist.” It gave me courage and the belief that we can do anything — if you want it badly enough.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. He advised us to turn off the TV. Don’t watch the news. He said they were selling soap and there was little or no good news and it would rot our minds. Instead, “Read the Bible, a poem and an essay every day.”

How I’d wish I’d listened more carefully and followed that advice 18 years ago. How different would my life be today? The good news is, it’s not too late to start. And I’m proud to say, I started down that path yesterday.images-3

My all time favorite Ray Bradbury book is Fahrenheit 451. My son Robert loves this book, too. I took my son to meet Ray Bradbury during another local speaking engagement years later. Robert has a signed copy of Farenheit 451 that he treasures. Ray Bradbury was a very accessible and kind man, willing to share with all of us enjoying his gift and genius — and striving to be 1/100th the writer that he was. images-4

“What do you love most in the world? The big and little things, I mean. A trolley car, a pair of tennis shoes? These, at one time when we were children, were invested with magic for us.” — Zen and the Art of Writing