Thanks For All the Fish!

We made it to the end of the month, you and me! I blogged every day in June and successfully completed the Freelance Success 2014 30-Day Blogathon. Thank you for reading, or at least hanging in there. (I only got one “unsubscribe” during the month.)Leslie Lang, Writer, Memoir, Biography, Content Marketing, Hawaii

My goal was to take some of the things out of my head and get them onto my website. I wrote some articles about how much I love the genre of memoir and biography, and a little about some of my work in this area:

And about my other specialization, content marketing, including what that is and some examples of work I’ve done:

And I wrote about books and the power of words:

and a little about Hawai‘i, too:

I will now give you a bit of a break and will stop pelting daily emails at you — though this did get my blogging muscles back in order, I must say, and I will probably be blogging here more often than I had been.

Therefore: “So long!” but only for now, and Thanks for all the fish! (If you don’t know the reference, you should probably read the book.)

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Driving to a Hawaiian Volcano

Here’s an article I wrote about the volcanoes here on the Big Island awhile back. It also hints at a little bit of my own family’s history.

We really live in a remarkable place.

Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter, Content Marketing, HawaiiOn Hawaii’s Big Island: Powerful Pele’s Playground

By Leslie Lang on 08/30/13

My grandmother used to tell me about her Hawaiian great-grandfather, who drove long-ago tourists up to the Volcano in a horse-drawn carriage.

Back in the late 1800s, the journey from Hilo took two days, with an overnight stop to rest the horses and travelers. But once they arrived, the landscape undoubtedly looked very much as it does now.

Still an otherworldly land worth visiting, the unique Volcano area is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Sprawling, huffing and erupting within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea and Mauna Loa exhibit nature’s drama in action. But while change and creation, and birth and destruction, are part of the park’s inherent nature, I can still see what my ancestors very likely saw: a moonscape in places, where ghostlike trees hold their ground as ethereal steam swirls from a landscape pocked with vents….

Read the rest here

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Piecing Together the Memories

One reason to get your story down:

“It has always been on the written page that the world has come into focus for me. If I can piece all these bits of memory together with the diaries and letters and the scribbled thoughts that clutter my mind and bookshelves, then maybe I can explain what happened. Maybe the worlds I have inhabited for the past seven years will assume order and logic and wholeness on paper. Maybe I can tell my story in a way that is useful to someone else.” 

― Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank, a novel based on the true story of Mamah Borthwick and her illicit love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright.

Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter, Memoir, Biography, Author

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The Relationship Between Freelancing & Bonbons

“You’re a freelance writer in Hawai‘i? Really?!” I hear this occasionally and realize that what I do sounds pretty plush to people who aren’t freelancers.

I get it. They like thinking about not having to get up early to clock in at a non-dream-job. I can sleep in and wear what I want every day, they are thinking. And on top of all that, HAWAI‘I, where the crystal clear ocean is warm like a bathtub, and sea turtles swim lazily alongside you, and there are gorgeous sunsets. Leslie Lang, Freelance Writer, Ghostwriter, Content Marketing, Hawaii

Some of that is true. But other freelance writers understand how this lifestyle really works. Let’s look at some of those assumptions.

Sleeping late!

I could sleep in but I usually don’t, because I’m running a business here. I keep fairly normal business hours most of the time, because that’s what works for me. The regular hours keep me sane – I don’t have to worry about when my work is going to get done. And it works, too, because there are people I need to interact with, and most of them are available during regular business hours. Of course, there is some flexibility, though, and if I were feeling a little under the weather, I could sleep an hour or two later and make it up on the other end without needing to get anybody’s permission.

Working in pajamas!

I don’t do that; I get dressed. When I switch on my business head, I don’t want to look down and see pajamas. Pajamas say bedtime, not “book contract.”

Time off whenever you want!

Yes, I can take time off and help chaperone a school field trip, or see a friend who’s suddenly in town on a weekday. But then I usually make up the time later, because I keep my work calendar comfortably full. Many weeks I work more than someone who clocks in from 8 to 5 (does that surprise you?). I’m trying to change that.

Writing when the muse strikes!

No. Writing when the assignment needs to get done.

Beach! Ocean! Sunsets! 
Leslie Lang, Freelance Writer, Ghostwriter, Content Marketing, Hawaii

There are days when I come into my office in the morning and flip on the light, work without hardly leaving my chair except to flip the light off a little later when it’s bright outside, and then work until the sun has meandered off and I need to turn on the light again. Successful freelancing takes a lot of work, and unlike an employee, a freelancer handles everything. Not just the work, but also obtaining, invoicing for and collecting for the work, and the accounting and the taxes and the retirement plan and the IT and the website and the marketing and the purchasing and the social media and the public relations and paying for the medical/dental coverage. I really just want to write, but it doesn’t work that way. A friend of mine lists herself on Facebook as her company’s CEO & Janitor. True.

Bottom line? I love freelancing and I like doing it here in Hawai‘i. I like having some flexibility, but this is a real business I’m running here and I work hard. I’m tired at the end of my workday. No bonbons are being consumed, and if you call me you will not hear Oprah’s voice coming from a TV in the background.

I should get out and enjoy that ocean and the sunsets (or sunrises) more. Right now, though, you know: I’ve got work to do.

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Painting Pictures About Hawaii

Hawaii writer, Leslie LangI specialize in writing about Hawai‘i, where I live and have deep roots, in addition to ghostwriting memoirs, biographies and family histories. I help Hawai‘i individuals, small businesses and larger ones with their content marketing.

From the Content Marketing Institute:

Content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

I’m familiar with Hawai‘i’s culture, its language and orthography, and many of the islands’ movers and shakers. Whether it’s writing content about Hawai‘i’s business, travel, culture or people — or something else — I do it. My master’s degree in anthropology, specifically the cultural anthropology of Hawai‘i and the Pacific, makes me knowledgeable about and able to write well about Hawai‘i’s culture and people. My journalism degree and background means I know how to conduct research and find the information I need.

Who hires a writer like me to write content? Hotels (I’ve written for the Kohala, Halekulani, and Trump Waikiki hotels, among others), representatives of trade industries (like Hawaii Hospitality magazine), airlines (Hawaiian Airlines, the former Aloha Airlines), travel companies (such as Jetsetters, Fodors.com), online behemoths (such as Ancestry.com), human resources companies (ALTRES), other corporations (Trek Bicycles) and local businesspersons (Richard Ha, and many others). Just about anyone who has a business and a message to impart, in other words.

I’ve been in this business full-time now for about sixteen years, and it’s been interesting to see content marketing emerge. It’s sort of a new buzz phrase, content marketing, but really it means writing articles, web copy, blog posts, white papers, reports, and the like to help tell someone’s story. It’s very much what many of us writers have been doing all these years.

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Hawaii Content Marketing & Rock Stars

Do you know that buzz phrase “content marketing?” It’s what businesses are calling the content they hire us writers to provide. Here’s the best definition of content marketing that I’ve come across; it’s from the Content Marketing Institute:

Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content Marketing is showing the world that you are one. – Robert Rose

Content marketing is a focus for me, and much of the content marketing I do is related to Hawaii, where I live and work. I know Hawaii well, and my journalism background and years as a freelance writer makes it easy for me to research and write (or ghostwrite) about just about anything – whether it’s related to Hawai‘i’s business, travel, culture, people, or something else.

I don’t have links to many of my articles on my website right now, so I am compiling a list here. This is just a small number of the many and varied magazine articles, books and blog posts I’ve written for various businesses, corporations, hotels and media outlets in Hawaii and elsewhere.

On Business & Current Affairs:

Hawaii Travel

Hawaii Culture

Hawaii People

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Books on Writing

I guess it’s no surprise there are so many books about writing. We writers need something to write about, and some of us write about writing.

Writing is a craft that I continually work on. In college I majored in journalism, and since then I have continued to take writing classes (both in person and online), participate in professional writers’ groups and online forums, and sometimes in local writers groups — and I also read how other people have succeeded as writers. How they do it. Their tips.

They’re just like us, most of those other writers. We’re all just people sitting in front of a yellow pad of paper or a laptop, starting with a blank screen and a head full of ideas. Reading over the years about how some people have accomplished what they’ve done has helped me set goals for my own writing, and reach high.

I could read about writing until the cows come home. (“What cows?” asked my then-four-year-old with a puzzled look, once, when I used that expression.) Though it’s best to put down the books and hit the keyboard from time to time.

Here are just some of the writing books on my shelves, which I’ve loosely grouped into categories here. I have learned from or been inspired by many of these.

BUSINESS

Early on I realized that you are only a hobbyist, and will likely get nowhere as a professional freelance writer, until you accept that it’s a business and you need to be businesslike (in setting goals, where you focus your efforts, calculating your overhead and knowing how much to charge, protecting your copyrights, handling accounting, paying taxes and much more). Some creative sorts have to really force themselves to buckle down and learn the business aspect of being a self-employed writer. Here are some books that can help:

  • The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing, ed. by Timothy Harper
  • This Business of Writing, by Gregg Levoy
  • Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer, by Jenna Glazer
  • Six-Figure Freelancing, by Kelly James-Enger
BY WRITERS ABOUT WRITING
I don’t know how to group these books, some of which inspired and convinced me I could quit the day job and live happily as a writer (they were right!):
  • Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
  • The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
  • If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland
  • Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande
  • Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Living the Writer’s Life, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Thunder and Lightning, Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
  • Making a Literary Life, by Carolyn See
  • On Writing, by Stephen King
  • No Mentor But Myself: Jack London on Writing and Writers, ed. by Dale L. Walker and Jeanne Campbell Reesman
FICTION/NOVEL WRITING
What pondering these titles from my bookshelf tells me is that I have long wanted to delve more into fiction and novel-writing. But I knew that already.
  • On Becoming a Novelist, by John Gardner
  • On Teaching and Writing Fiction, by Wallace Stegner
  • The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner
  • Writing the Novel, by Lawrence Block
  • Writing Fiction, by Janet Burroway
  • How to Write a Book Proposal, by Michael Larsen
  • The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, ed. by Meg Leder, Jack Heffron and the editors of Writer’s Digest

MAGAZINE/NEWSPAPER WRITING
I have done an awful lot of this. I started out, long ago, writing an occasional freelance piece for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and then got a regular freelance gig working for Hilo’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald, where I wrote features and entertainment articles every week. That was terrific in teaching me how to just sit down and do it. When I had several articles due each week, I also got over my reticence about calling people to ask questions. That was worth it all right there.

After that I started writing for magazines. More interesting, more in-depth, more time for craft. Yet it doesn’t always pay enough to pay the bills. There are a few people who only write for national magazines and make a good living, but you cannot count on that these days. If magazine freelancing is your plan, you’d better start out with some other income, too.

  • The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, by William E. Blundell
  • Writing for Story, by Jon Franklin
  • Creative Nonfiction, by Philip Gerard
  • Story, by Robert McKee
  • Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, ed. by Jean Fredette
  • You Can Write a Column, by Monica McCabe Cordoza
  • The Renegade Writer, by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell
  • Travel Writing, See the World, Sell the Story, by L. Peat O’Neil
  • Literary Journalism, ed. by Norman Sims and Mark Kramer
MEMOIR
  • Living to Tell the Tale, A Guide to Writing Memoir, by Jane Taylor McDonnell
  • Inventing the Truth, the Art and Craft of Memoir, ed. by William Zinsser
ON WRITERS
It’s aways fun to read how other writers do what they do. Computer? Typewriter? Pencil and pen? Schedules? Rituals? Isabel Allende always starts writing a new novel on January 8th, because that’s the date she started her very successful (and wonderful) novel House of the Spirits. (It’s one of my favorites.)
  • Writers on Writing, Collected Essays from the New York Times
  • The Writer on Her Work, by Janet Sternberg
  • The New New Journalism, ed. by Robert S. Boynton
COPYWRITING
Some of my work falls under the category of copywriting. These books were somewhat interesting as I started out writing for businesses, but I’ve found that I figured out a lot of it by myself, along the way. The Well-Fed Writer is currently a bible to some copywriters.
  • The $100,000 Writer, by Nancy Flynn
  • The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman
  • Secrets of a Freelance Writer, by Bob Bly
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook, by Bob Bly
RADIO
This is one of the few books from my long-ago college journalism days that I’ve kept. I have worked in public (and commercial) radio a little bit, and really enjoyed it. I keep the book in case I want to get back into it one day. Cool book.
  • Telling the Story, the National Public Radio Guide to Radio Journalism
LASTLY
And, my favorite title of all:
  • Too Lazy To Work, Too Nervous to Steal: How to have a great life as a freelance writer, by John Clausen

Image © Tanjaru | Dreamstime.com

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Remembering & Being Remembered

sandStefani Twyford is a video biographer in Houston, and she is also a wonderful writer and thinker. I just rediscovered her blog post about an African proverb, and it haunts me a little bit:

…The proverb recognizes two spirits. “Sasha are spirits known by someone still alive, while Zamani are spirits not known by someone currently alive.” According to James Loewen in his book Lies My Teacher Told Me: “The recently departed whose time overlapped with people still here are the Sasha, the living dead. They are not wholly dead, for they live on in the memories of the living … when the last person knowing an ancestor dies, that ancestor leaves the Sasha for the Zamani, the dead.”

Walsh’s use of the proverb was in illustrating the power of oral and personal history. As a Personal Historian, I spend a lot of time educating people on the power and value of leaving your story for future generations. As long as people are alive and can pass your stories on to future generations, you will retain some degree of immortality. But like the game Telephone, each iteration of the story becomes less and less reliable and more anecdotal until what is left after a few generations is, if you are lucky, merely a name on a genealogical chart and some mention of characteristics… Read the rest

“When the last person knowing an ancestor dies, that ancestor leaves the Sasha for the Zamani, the dead.” Wow. It’s a powerful way of thinking. And it does make you think about keeping track of your family stories. Ask about them, and then write them down!

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What She Learned About Jack

micRead this article and you’ll understand why I’m interested in gathering and writing personal histories.

It’s called What I Learned From Jack, and it’s from Barbara Allen Burke’s excellent blog I Am Story.

An excerpt:

For the past 2 ½ years, I’ve had my version of Tuesdays with Morrie. I’ve had “Wednesdays with Jack.” Just about every week—with occasional breaks for holidays or travel—I’ve spent a couple of hours with a bright, engaging 89-year-old former military colonel and inveterate sailor. Each week, I’ve gone to Jack’s apartment, armed with a tape recorder, my laptop computer, and an atlas. Jack sits in his favorite chair and I set up my equipment and sit next to him. And then we talk. Read the rest

Click over and you can read a little bit about Jack, and why putting together his family and personal history was so satisfying and rewarding to Barbara.

What a life! (Bonus points if you get it right: Am I talking about Jack, or about the writer?!)

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