More Than Thirty Days of Thankfulness

I didn’t participate in 30 days of thankfulness during the month of November, but began composing a list in my head as I read friends’ Facebook posts and blog entries about the many good things in their lives. While I was thinking of the things and people who should be on my own list, I was also brainstorming for a way to extend the new technology-driven tradition beyond the month of November.  So here are a few of the things, animals and people I am — or at least should be — thankful for each and every day. I plan to add to the list through the new month and new year and revisit it in thankless times to come.

1. I am thankful for my boyfriend. He’s paid for more than his fair share of beer, burgers and bloody marys over the past few years so I could pursue part-time professoring and full-time freelance writing.

2. I am thankful for my so-far successful return to professional writing and reporting after a decade-long detour into teaching.

3. I am thankful for my mom who is in good health and good spirits after a life-changing move to a retirement home this summer.

4. I am thankful for my sister and her family. They have provided countless hours of logistical and moral support to both me and our mom before and since the move.

5. I am thankful for my cat Lucy. Lucy Cat, who has been a faithful and fun companion through one failed relationship, three states and nearly a half dozen moves, even decided to stay close to home this summer rather than yet again answering the call of the wild while we were on vacation.

Although, as made evident by this video, she was less than happy about it.

Promoting Books on Pinterest

Here’s a link to my latest article in WOW! Women On Writing about how authors and others in the publishing industry are using Pinterest to promote their work. Now, all I need to do is write my own prose to pin.

The Dreaded Letter of Introduction

As a follower of freelancing guru Kelly James-Enger, I have been trying to heed her advice by writing a query letter almost every day, following up on queries after they’ve been sitting in cyberspace for a month or more, and responding to rejections, which she calls “bongs” not by wallowing in self pity, but by sending a fresh idea to the editor who rejected the last query within 24 hours and refashioning the old idea to fit another market.

I’ve had some success with the approach and have been busy working on articles for a variety of magazines and websites. But, with the holidays looming, my agenda of follow up reminders is full while the one marking upcoming deadlines is looking like the advent calendar from Bad Santa.

Today, I’m finally sitting down to tackle a task I’ve been dreading — writing a letter of introduction. My query letters are typically all about an idea with just a few sentences that highlight my professional credentials. A letter of introduction, on the other hand, is all about me. I’m not just tooting my own horn, I’m playing an extended solo.

As a person who recently asserted she could probably field as well as Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (though I have to admit my bat would be lacking), this shouldn’t be so difficult. But it is, even though research shows that people who promote their own accomplishments are seen as more competent than those who downplay their hard work. So I am finally going to finish my first letter of introduction — right after I play a few rounds of Words With Friends.

My new story in WOW – Women On Writing

I wanted to take an opportunity to share one of my favorite writing websites. WOW – Women on Writing always makes the Writers Digest list of top sites for writers. And, this month, it happens to have a story from me that features interviews with freelancing expert Kelly James-Enger, Christie Morgan Ison, a fellow Arkansas State University alum better known as the Fancy Pants Foodie, and Lisa J. Jackson, a freelancer and frequent contributor to Live to Write – Write to Live, one of my favorite writing blogs.
You can read more about them all in “Freelancers: Shed Your Pajamas and Share Your Passions.”

In Praise of Adjunct Teaching

Sharing what I know and learning new things from new people are two of my favorite activities. This would explain why I became a reporter and writer. It would also explain why, after the events of September 11, I was inspired leave my job as a business reporter to join Teach For America in an effort to make a difference in the lives of those not already earning a six-figure salary.

Thanks to that amazing organization, I had the opportunity to teach special education and English in Saint Louis City’s Vashon High School. I later moved on to a nearby middle school and, after meeting and working with some incredible adults and young people, finally remembered why few would ever elect to return to middle school in any capacity. Given that I had also expended considerable time, effort and money earning a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, I also thought it was well past time for me to return to writing something other than office referrals.

Still, I knew I would miss sharing my passion for reading and writing with young people, so I settled on what has thus far proven to be an ideal compromise. In addition to adding a certain level of class to my attic storage space, that aforementioned master’s degree makes me qualified to teach college courses as an adjunct.

Adjunct teaching certainly doesn’t give me a six-figure salary comparable to those earned by the executives I used to write about. In fact, it doesn’t even offer anything close to what I brought home as a full-time public school teacher in a struggling city system. But it has been an enlightening experience that makes me honestly echo the cliché that I hope I am teaching my students as much as I am learning from them.

Indeed, it was the textbook for my business communications class, coupled with a few innovative presentations from my students, that inspired the idea behind my first published piece in a decade. And the classes I teach — in which students are encouraged to submit almost all their work through a blog — are the only reason this site exists today.

It’s true that adjunct teaching is often, if not always, a poor way to earn a living for extremely educated, underemployed degree holders hoping for substantive salaries, health insurance and a tenure track professorship. But I would argue it’s an excellent way to sharpen your skills and supplement your income while working on a book project, raising a family or pursuing your Ph.D.

And I can say from experience that it definitely beats middle school bus duty.