Author Archives: maggiem1

Here’s what’s in the queue!

Fall is such a busy time for me. Many of my clients – and on my own blog – shift attention to Holiday at the beginning of September!

I’m working on the gift guide for OhMyDog!, a gift guide for another pet client, and the December issue of Pet Age. For a retail client, I’m updating their blog with fresh content to help their clients incorporate well-designed pet products into their homes.

In the lifestyle realm, I’m drafting three articles for a wedding publication, which are always exciting projects and a good way to stretch my creative muscles.

Plus, school started last week, so I have 20 budding writing students who I see twice a week. Love!

Phew! It’s certainly busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Hope your fall is off to a fabulous start!

News: Back to teaching writing!

One month from today, I will step back into the English classroom and help students get over their fear – and hatred – of writing!

I’m thrilled. I loved teaching at community college and was so sad when we moved to Louisiana and I had to let that go. Now that we’re back in Indiana, I’m back to the classroom. I can’t wait! This semester is going to be different from previous semesters, and I’m excited to learn about the changes to the curriculum. I’ll share my experiences as they unfold.

In the meantime, I invite you to revisit: 5 lessons I learned while teaching English.

Dear Freelancers, Stop writing on spec. Please.

I had a disappointing experience recently.

Long story short, an editor asked if I’d be interested in writing for them and, by the way, their rate is x. I said sure. I asked if he had assignments lined up or needed pitches. Pitches. So, I pitched. We went back and forth and ultimately decided on two stories. Then, the assistant editor emailed to say… write and submit them both, they’ll see what works, and pay me for/if they want one of the stories.

Nope.

I imagine that same assistant editor would balk at the prospect of doing her job all day, showing her boss what she accomplished at the end of the eight hours, and then getting paid for only the work he deemed usable. Eight hours behind a desk, say, but only two hours of work passed muster. No way would anyone agree to that.

Or imagine your dentist agreeing to clean your teeth, but you’re only going to pay him for the teeth that YOU think are cleaned well. What dentist in his right mind would agree to such an arrangement?

And, yet, that is exactly what they were asking me to do.

The problem? (I mean, other than the obvious…)

MANY freelancers take on this type of “on spec” work. It’s undercutting and undermining those of us who make our living at this. I pride myself in putting time and effort into every story I write. That includes background research, telephone calls, rough drafts, and editing. I’m unwilling and unable to commit that time to something I might – or might not – get paid for.

I’m also unwilling and unable to turn in shoddy work on the off change that I might – or might not – get paid for it.

Dear freelancers, please stop writing on spec.

You, your time, and your talent are worth so much more than that maybe/if scenario.

Here’s what I’ve been working on

Whew! How is it the second half of 2014 already? Doesn’t January seem like yesterday? But also so long ago when I look at completed projects for the year!

I can’t wait to see where the rest of 2014 takes me!

In the meantime, I’ve been working with two corporate clients – one on sprucing up the copy on an outdated website, and another on some engagement strategies for social channels. Seriously fun stuff!

I’ve also been working on fun projects for my favorite pet industry mag, Pet Age. Natural lifestyle topics are near and dear to my heart, and I was honored to write the entire Natural Supplement for them. Check out the digital version here.

I’m also taking the first coaching course I’ve ever joined – and loving it. I will share insights from the course as it unfolds.

Finally, I started moving many of my clips over to Pinterest. I love how visual and interactive that platform is for showcasing a portfolio. You can find my lifestyle writing and pet writing there!

As we prepare to move from Louisiana back to our home in Indiana, I’ll be taking some time off – all of next week, actually! But I’ll be ready to hit the ground running from our new (old) digs in beautiful Bloomington. Have a wonderful weekend and week ahead!

Book review: Cathedral of the Wild

Cathedral of the Wild book review

Before I dive into this book review, I’ll just pause for a sec so you can go buy it. Right now. It’s that fabulous.

Did you buy it? OK, good. Let’s talk about the book, shall we?

Cathedral of the Wild reads like a series of essays strung together. Every chapter could stand on its own. It’s in loose chronological order, walking us through Varty’s unconventional childhood on a game reserve, Londolozi, in South Africa. He writes in a tongue-in-cheek style that retells death-defying adventures with a sense of humor. 

The first two-thirds of the book go into great detail about the formation of the game reserve and all the of animals who call that space home. The chapter on elephants is utterly astounding. But when you hit that last third, you hit on the real message of the book: His family and upbringing has started to seem idyllic – they’re living in Eden and jaunting around the world when they feel the travel itch – but they’re slammed on all sides all at once. Deaths, professional setbacks, personal attacks, it all happens within a short period of time, leaving Varty feeling lost and unmoored in place and time.

The last third tracks his journey from being lost to coming home. The first 75% of the book is a lot of “showing” and the last 25% is mostly “telling.” It moves at a slower pace because of that technique change.

But, his message resounds. The book made me laugh and cry – almost in equal measure – and left me feeling inspired to get back out into nature. I highly recommend Cathedral of the Wild.

Here’s what happened at BlogPaws

I had a fabulous time at the BlogPaws conference last week. I learned so much about behind-the-scenes social media planning and content strategy, and I spent the entire time surrounded by a brilliant group of women. I tried to soak up everything I could over those four days. As I combed through my notes on the flight home, I realized a few key themes emerged.

BlogPaws 2014 recap

Here are my top three takeaways from BlogPaws 2014:

1. Tell a story. This point was made in numerous sessions. Readers want a story. Even if you’re writing a product review, turn it into a tale. People want to be entertained, so find a way to turn every blog post, tweet, and status update into a story.

2. Diversify. Don’t build your house on another man’s land, right? This holds true for social media platforms. After Facebook’s big algorithm change, a number of content developers experienced a hit. If you’re diversified and have a presence – and, ideally, an audience! – in several spaces, changes like that won’t impact you as negatively. However, your main hub has to be your own website. That’s your land.

3. Collaborate. This point wasn’t ever overtly stated, but so many speakers mentioned that, as writers and bloggers, many of us work alone. Ok, so our dogs are our colleagues, but they’re not particularly helpful when it comes to WordPress widgets or social media strategy. One speaker suggested finding an accountability partner. Another said to assemble a tribe – either online or off – who will give you honest feedback. One of the more techie speakers suggested finding local meetups of folks who are working on the same platforms as you are so you can share tips and tricks. Whatever route you take, it’s important to find someone you trust.

Overall, the conference was incredible. I learned a ton and met some amazing people. I hung out with old friends and made many new friends, too! I already can’t wait until next year.

Attending the BlogPaws conference

Here I am in Lake Las Vegas!

I'm Going to BlogPaws 2014 - The Pet Blogging and Social Media Conference

 

 

 

 

I’m attending BlogPaws, a conference that I find TREMENDOUSLY valuable. See those caps? That’s how strongly I feel about this. TREMENDOUS.

In fact, I’ve only ever missed one of the conferences (damn chemo), so I’m super excited to connect with old friends, meet bloggers I admire, and network with other sites and brands. It’s so important to step out from behind the computer screen and collaborate face-to-face. I’ll be back with a full recap next week!

Are you here, too? Tweet me @maggiemarton so we can get together! 

Book review: Authorpreneur in Pajamas

Many writers are choosing to self-publish their work. It’s swifter than going the traditional route, and it allows authors the ability to manage their platform and promotion.

Authorprenuer in Pajamas by Geraldine Solon

In her eBook, Authorpreneur in Pajamas, Geraldine Solon walks the aspiring writer through the many components of promoting self-published work. The short book – it’s only 80 pages, including the acknowledgments – touches on the various social media channels available and a smattering of promotion ideas, like hosting a virtual book tour or offering a giveaway.

The book provides a mile-high view of each step, though many of the chapters include links to references to get more information. I think this book could help someone who is brand new to the publishing industry get an idea of what’s involved and, hopefully, provide a starting line. Most readers could utilize the elements outlined in the book as a prompt to research more in-depth the tactics that spoke to him or her.

I have one gripe. If you’ve read my other reviews of self-published work, this is a persistent problem: It isn’t well edited. There are subject-verb agreement and preposition errors – along with a few other nit-picky things – throughout the book, which I always find to be incredibly distracting. (I know, I know. I’m a grammar nerd. I read grammar books for fun, and edit absolutely everything I read. Many readers can overlook those errors. I just can’t.)

For only $0.99 on Amazon, Authorpreneur in Pajamas could be a great value for someone who has no idea where to start in self-published book promotion.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

What makes an expert?

As a writer, I frequently interview experts in various fields because their in-the-trenches insights help explain complicated concepts, or they’re the first to know the latest advances or changes in a given industry.

Then, imagine my surprise, when I’ve been called a handful of times this year to be an expert source for an article, a radio show, and on another blog! I was shocked that someone dug me up on Google and though that I had the credentials to be a source.

But, of course, that’s exactly how I do it when I’m looking for someone to interview.

So, how do I know who to call on? What makes an expert?

The first place I start is, of course, Google. First, I look for published articles. Experts are often published in scholarly or professional publications. Or, in many instances, if someone has been quoted in other mainstream articles, I can assume they’re versed on being interviewed.

Next, I look for social media presence. This varies widely by field, but if someone is active in the social space, I can usually count on that person to be responsive and able to convey ideas for a general audience.

Third, I seek out a personal or professional website. Honestly, these days, if someone doesn’t have a website, I discount their expertise. Even a single page that lists highlights and contact info is sufficient.

Finally, I toggle over to LinkedIn and check out the person’s profile.

Those four points give me a great indication if someone is widely published or cited, if they’re able to convey their ideas well, and if they’ll be responsive to working with the media.

Those are all “soft” criteria, of course, but it’s worked well for me. Time and again, by eliminating potential sources who don’t meet those elements, I wind up with the perfect person for the piece.

How do you seek out sources to interview for your stories? Any points I’m missing. Tweet @maggiemarton your suggestions!

My current reading list

I am a bookworm. Reading is my great escape, and it provides quiet, calm solace in the busy rush of life. Because things have been nutso lately – from sick dogs to deadlines – I’ve fallen behind on my reading.

So, I wanted to recap my current and upcoming reading list so you can follow along. (Any of the Amazon links below are affiliate links. If you purchase a book through those links, it won’t cost you a penny extra, though I’ll get a tiny commission.)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
by Susan Cain

I’m nearly finished with this book; in fact, I plan to finish it this afternoon. I’m loving it. It’s chock full of research about introversion and how introverts can harness their natural strengths. A must read!

Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home
by Boyd Varty

I’ve had this on my Kindle for weeks now, as a NetGalley review. It’s up next, and I’m excited to dig in!

Dog Gone, Back Soon
by Nick Trout

I’ve never read anything by Nick Trout, which is sort of odd considering how immersed I am in the pet world. Regardless, I’m looking forward to this one. (And my review will be on OMD! with a possible giveaway, too!)

Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog (Karen Pryor Clicker Book)
by Emma Parsons

I purchased this book ages ago when I was going through an info-gathering phase as Lucas’ leash reactivity worsened. We’ve made huge progress in classes and with other texts, so I’m not sure how this fell off my list. Now that we’re going through reactivity training with Cooper, I picked it back up and have already learned a ton.

That’s it for my “next up” list. My “someday” list is a mile longer! Once I get through these, I’ll share my next round.

What are you reading these days? Tweet @maggiemarton with book recommendations and I’ll respond with some of my own!