Helping j-friends to freelance

Aaron Kushner, the investor who rocked journalism in 2012 by buying the Orange County Register and expanding it while the industry was contracting, rocked itOld newspaper again this year by instituting bloodbaths that have lopped off more than one-third of the newsroom staff. Longtime bylines and credit lines are going or gone.

I dodged a layoff at the San Francisco Chronicle by pre-empting it: I paid off my bills, let my editor friends elsewhere know that I was available for assignments, picked a date and quit to freelance. I had certain things in my favor: I had already freelanced on the side nationally for 20 years, had hired and edited freelancers, and had run a business.

The newly freed reporters at the Register may not have those advantages. Reporters and editors tend to think locally – where the freelance money isn’t. They usually aren’t familiar with contracts or with entrepreneurship, other than what they’ve covered. They have a lot to learn if they choose freelancing as their next career.

A theory floats around that laid-off reporters and editors will crowd the freelance market, snapping up all the good gigs. Nothing could be further from More

Finding your voice

Every writer needs a voice, and most say they have one, then launch into examples of tone. Tone isn’t voice, and voice isn’t tone. Voice is such an esoteric concept, in fact, that many writing coaches skip over it entirely. Today we’re going to talk about voice, though, and how to find yours.

Voice unites reader and writer

Voice unites reader and writer

First, let’s define it by what it isn’t: tone. Tone is mood – upbeat, angry, confused, optimistic, the range of emotion. It changes with the piece. You wouldn’t write, for instance, about new cancer treatments in the same tone as you’d write about 3-D ink tattoos. You make a conscious – and conscientious – decision about the mood you want to impart to the reader. It reflects what you are: a careful writer.

Voice, on the other hand, is more akin to personality. It reflects who you are.

Scary? Yes, a little. You expose yourself with everything you write. The personality that comes through – your voice – has developed over a lifetime. Just like your real-life personality, your voice is composed of a million nuances More

Reaching for the ‘new normal’

Dad clip art

The putty knife pings against the siding, peeling off morsels of old paint. It’s a summery sound that reminds me of my dad. This is how he prepped the house for a new coat. I smile. Even if paint doesn’t stick quite as well to a weather-battered cabin as it does to a suburban house, I think: Dad is here, working through my hands.

Dad is missing his 14th Father’s Day. But he’s not missing. He still guides his first-born: Do it the right way now and you won’t have to redo it the right way later. Don’t rush. Stop to drink ice water. Take a nap with the cat.

This is “the new normal.” It’s how we settle after someone we love dies. It never will be normal, though, only new. As Father’s Day approaches, I avoid the ads for tools and men’s clothing, stay out of department stores, won’t even look More

When road-rage nuts come loose

[Warning: Unladylike language ahead!]


© Michele Piacquadio

The driver in the Cadillac CTS apparently felt entitled to remove my right front fender. At least, that’s how I felt about her cutting in front of me, right behind the car I let in, when she had had a quarter-mile to merge to the left.

I laid on the horn long and loud. Behind rolled-up windows, I called her an idiot. Then I called her a rude, f-cking idiot, mouthing the words straight ahead so she could see them on the fat chance that she ever checked her mirrors. I wanted her to know she had done something dumb. To me, she was only another self-centered, oblivious Real Driver of South Orange County. A half-mile later, I turned into the parking lot at my destination. The Cadillac went straight – or so I thought.

When I got back to my car, there was a note under a windshield wiper, a page ripped out of a pocket-size spiral-bound pad. The irregular handwriting said:

“You drive like shit.

“I bet you do The Zipper.

“I bet you need a hug.”

Three sentences, each one a little cooler. Good. I felt glad to be of therapeutic service. It was plenty creepy, though, to think that the driver was nutty More

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February 2023