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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Writer/Editorial Consultant

One of my specialties is that I write for businesses.

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Here’s what you’d find if you read my Copywriting page:

These days it’s especially important that your business stands out. That it gets noticed. How do you make that happen?

We work together and make sure your potential clients know your story.

When there are two comparable brands of the same product available, which one do people buy? They buy from the company whose name they remember. The company they know something about.

• The one whose products win awards.

• The one whose president builds Habitat for Humanity homes on weekends.

• The one whose product came about because Grandma won a ribbon at the County Fair when she was a girl.

Let’s tell your story – in whatever way makes sense for your particular business. I can help you figure that out.

As a writer and editorial consultant, I help with your written communications.

I work with some clients occasionally, as needed for a specific project, and others on an ongoing basis. My clients set the pace: Some know exactly what they want. With others, we brainstorm together to find the right mix of keeping their company name out there, showing their products in the best light and catching people’s attention.

Perhaps you haven’t been sending out press releases to announce new happenings with your products, your industry and your employees, and consequently your company name isn’t in the forefront of people’s minds as it could be. I can help you clarify your message, figure out what needs to be written, as well as when and how, and get it done.

Maybe you want to resurrect or start up a newsletter in order to be in better touch with your clients. I can help with that. Do you need:

·      Fresher website copy?

·      A letter to go out to your customers/clients?

·      A media kit?

·      An employee manual?

·      A blog?

May I ghostwrite a newspaper or trade magazine article for you and make sure it gets into the right editor’s hands?

·      Need help crafting a speech?

·      What about a brochure or some other written material?

Because I’ve been doing this for some years now, I have lots of ideas and a good sense of what works and how to do it.

In addition, one of my strengths is taking information and asking the right questions until the details and especially the significance – the importance – are clear to everybody else, too.

It means you may have to answer a lot of questions at first, but I am good at pinpointing the questions that need to be asked and won’t waste your time. And as I get to know your company better over time, our work together will become even more powerful.

One of my long-time clients hired me as a result of Honolulu magazine assigning me to write about his business. After that article appeared, he called me and said that in all the articles that had been written about his business over the years, no one had ever gotten his story just right like I did.

Yet all I did was listen. I didn’t assume which were the important aspects of his story; I listened to what he told me was important, and I shaped the article around that.

I don’t write about his business for magazines anymore; now I write about his business for him. We’ve been working together now for years.

If you could use help with your business’s written materials – and telling your stories clearly and effectively – I’d be happy to discuss how we might work together.

Please call me at 808 964-1494, or email me at leslie AT leslielang.com.

If you know of someone with a business that might need a writer, or your neighbor is a marketing person, or your sister-in-law is a decision maker in a small company, would you please pass on my info? I appreciate people spreading the word.

Connect me with someone needing a business writer/editor and I’ll get you in the next big movie. You know, if I can. Like, if pigs started flying and big movie producers started Twittering with me and stuff  like that.

But let people know about my business and I’d appreciate it, anyway.

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New York Times: News Without Newspapers

An article in tomorrow’s New York Times is titled ‘Hyperlocal’ Web Sites Deliver News Without Newspapers.

If your local newspaper shuts down, what will take the place of its coverage? Perhaps a package of information about your neighborhood, or even your block, assembled by a computer.

A number of Web start-up companies are creating so-called hyperlocal news sites that let people zoom in on what is happening closest to them, often without involving traditional journalists.

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It’s very much like what has sprung up over at FBI blogs, to which I belong. (And when I say “sprung up,” I mean “consciously created by forward-thinking Damon Tucker.”)

The FBI blogs site it not quite as hyperlocal (the article talks about areas as small as a block). By definition (“From Big Island”) we FBI bloggers are from around the whole island.

I think it’s really a terrific idea. I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say that I browse the site everyday and learn all sorts of things that aren’t in the local paper.

From the article:

But many hyperlocal entrepreneurs say they are counting on a proliferation of blogs and small local journalism start-ups to keep providing content.

“In many cities, the local blog scene is so rich and deep that even if a newspaper goes away, there would be still be plenty of stuff for us to publish,” said Mr. Holovaty of EveryBlock.

Sounds familar.

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Our “On The Cheap” Sites To Launch 3/10

Leslie: “Oh, nothing much; what’s new with you?”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS:
Leslie Lang
hawaiionthecheap@gmail.com
808 964-1494
Twitter: @LeslieLang  

Kris Bordessa
hawaiionthecheap@gmail.com
530 295-0887
Twitter: @KBordessa

“On The Cheap” Websites Highlight Best Bargains on the Big Island and in Honolulu

Hilo, HI – March 6, 2009 – Tuesday, March 10th is the official launch of two new online sites – Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap – which are dedicated to bringing Big Island and O‘ahu residents and visitors up-to-the-minute information on free, discount and cheap things to do and other local deals.

Motivated by the current coupon-clipping climate, Big Island writer Leslie Lang and former Hawai‘i writer Kris Bordessa started the websites, which are updated most weekdays, to help Hawai‘i’s residents and visitors get out and about “on the cheap.”

To celebrate the sites’ launch, both Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap are having daily contests for the first week – or more – starting March 10th. “We’re all about deals, so we’re getting off to a good start by giving away all sorts of great Hawai‘i-related gifts,” says Lang. “Chuck Moore hula girl t-shirts, Macario photographic prints, locally created ceramics from the Hilo art gallery High Fire Hawai‘i, some Hawai‘i-related books, a gorgeous woodblock print donated by Volcano Artist Margaret Barnaby and there will be some other surprises, too.”

In addition, Big Island On The Cheap.com is offering printable, discount coupons to ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, and Honolulu On The Cheap.com is offering discount coupons to the Waikiki Aquarium. “We are excited to promote both of these great attractions that we ourselves enjoy,” says Bordessa, “and also honored that they were so enthusiastic about offering support to our new venture.”

Over the past several weeks, thrifty readers of Honolulu On The Cheap and Big Island On The Cheap have learned about free Hawaiian music concerts, yoga classes, history lectures and even an Avocado Festival. That’s in addition to dozens of deals on everything from malassadas and sub sandwiches to hotel rooms.

“Everyone—including us—is looking for deals right now,” says Lang. “And they’re out there. We’re just trying to make it easy for people to find them.”

Listen for Leslie Lang on the radio Tuesday morning; she’ll be discussing the websites and their official launch at 8:05 a.m. on the Big Island’s Mynah Bird show, which is at KHBC/92.7 FM and KONA FM at 92.1 FM.

Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap are part of a rapidly growing network of independently owned and operated “On The Cheap” sites, which are launching nationwide on March 10. A complete list and links to Cities On The Cheap websites are available here.

About Leslie Lang
Leslie Lang is a Big Island–based freelance writer who works as an editorial consultant (writing press releases, newsletter items, blogs, speeches, reports and more for businesses), as well as a freelance magazine writer and book author who specializes in writing about Hawai‘i. She blogs at http://blog.leslielang.com.

About Kris Bordessa
Kris Bordessa, formerly of Hawai‘i and now living in California’s Gold Country (where she also runs Gold Country On The Cheap) is the author of several books and writes regularly for national magazines about family travel.

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Honolulu On The Cheap

Here goes: A “soft launch” of my new project!

I’ll bring out the balloons and party streamers later soon, but for now, I’ll just tell you: 

I’ve launched a new website. It’s called Honolulu On The Cheap, and it’s all about cheap, discounted and free things to do in Honolulu and on O‘ahu in general. It will be useful, I think, to both visitors and residents; I keep both groups in mind as I select what to post about.

I’ve just started putting up copy there, and here’s a sampling of what I’ve got up so far:

• A printable coupon for Jamba Juice’s $1 deal on its oatmeal with real fruit and fresh brown sugar crumble (good at any participating Jamba Juice)

• Free kids’ workshops at Home Depot on the first Saturday of every month (they make a project and even get a free, kid sized, orange Home Depot apron to take home)

• Where you can stay in Waikiki for only $79/night (click here for the answer)

• And how to get a free ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins

Other content, including articles, interviews and even downloadable “special reports” having to do with Honolulu On The Cheap, is coming soon.

This site is part of a new, nationwide network on “of the cheap” city websites, and you can see the ones that are live on the left sidebar of my website. More are in the works. Each is independently owned and operated (kind of like a Dunkin’ Donuts) but we are collaborating, sharing and cooperating as a network.

I also just signed up for Twitter. I’ve not been interested in the Twitter phenomenon and never thought I’d say that! However, I can see how it can be useful to promoting my site. If you’d like to follow me, I’m “LeslieLang.” If you do, I promise to spare you news of me brushing my teeth or stopping to fill up the car with gas.

I’d love to hear what you think about honoluluonthecheap.com! And let me know if you hear of anything I might want to feature there.

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2009: My Power Freelancing Year, In Spite of the Economic Disaster

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, which usually just end up being rather disappointing.

But like many people, I do tend to get reflective at the end of the year. Doesn’t it seem like a perfect time to pull one’s thoughts together and plan for a fresh new year coming up? While our bodies are relaxed and full of hot cider and snowball cookies, the new year always seems full of delicious possibilities.

This year, in my reflections, I knew that I’m ready to have a Power Year in terms of my work as a freelance writer.

Does that surprise you, in these times of economic disaster? Though I will undoubtedly have to market myself harder, companies that need to increase their own marketing in this tough market are still hiring writers. And I do several different kinds of writing, which gives me options.

More than ever, I still maintain that working for oneself, for many different clients who work in many different industries — clients that you can add to or replace as needed — is a more secure way to make a living than counting on one employer that could let you go at any time.

I have many specific ideas about what “Power Year” means to me — in terms of income goals, increasing my base of steady clients and doing some different, new-to-me types of writing. I have broken down my goals into categories that I want to further, or work toward, or start on. And I’ve written down the specific, strategic steps I want to take in each area. 

I put it all in writing. And at the end of each month, I will check that document and see how I’m doing and if anything seems to be falling off the radar. I will start a section with the month’s name and note what I accomplished.

I know that I achieve so much more this way than if I merely slogged through my year a day at a time. Maybe some people can do that. But I need to have a plan laid out in front of me if I want to move forward and achieve more than just the same old thing.

The other thing I did before the New Year was to clear off my desk, which has a tendency to get a little chaotic at times (and then, consequently, so does my brain). Both were like that — messy and needing tending — at the end of 2008.

It feels wonderful to sit here at a neat and tidy desk, everything I am actively working on in a short, reasonable pile to the left of my computer. 

You might think what your writing (or other) goals are this year. Then break them down into “actionable” steps (don’t you hate that word? I do). 

(I hate it so much that if I think of a better word while lying in bed tonight, I will get up and change it.)

If you’d like to propose a newspaper column this year, maybe your first steps are to read a couple books about how to write newspaper columns, and scour the web for everything that’s been written about it. Write down those steps.

Maybe your next steps would go something like this:

• Call XX, a local newpaper columnist, and ask to buy her lunch and have an informational interview about column-writing and writing for her newspaper.

• Pinpoint your column’s focus, title and approach.

• Write six sample columns.

• Get feedback from trusted writer mentor or friend.

• Revise.

• Approach newspaper editor at XX with your proposal.

• If no, approach second choice newspaper editor.

Write down your goals and the steps you’ll need to take to reach each one. Then look at that list every work day and move down it. One thing at a time. Knock ’em off.

Even if you don’t fully achieve your end goal — and you might — having a plan will get you much, much closer to it than just muddling along.

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Procrastination and the Freelance Writer

Procrastination is not the freelance writer’s friend. 

Of all the suggestions I’ve heard over the years regarding being an efficient freelance writer, one of the best has been to start on an assignment as soon as you get it.

I try to do this and it really works. Sometimes it’s just getting started that’s the hardest part of writing something. So even if I just jot down some notes regarding how I plan to approach the story, gather up background research and set it aside in a folder, or make a list of possible interview subjects and find their contact information, it means I’ve already plowed in. When I’m ready to devote my attention to that assignment, it’s all downhill.

In related news, I was amused when I came across this Procrastinator’s Clock.

If your procrastination problems mean you have difficulty getting out the door, or to appointments on time, check it out. It’s guaranteed to be up to 15 minutes fast. However, it also speeds up and slows down in an unpredictable manner so you can’t be sure how fast it really is

Good grief. It would drive me nuts. But it is amusing.

And it makes me glad I work at home, in my comfortable office, where I work hard and put in a lot of hours, but where 15 minutes one way or the other usually just isn’t that critical.

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Freelance Writing & Kukui Nut Trees

For lunch today, I had a picnic with my husband and little girl in the shade of our big old kukui nut tree. We brought along my daughter’s Bob (learning to read) books, and decided we will call it “The Reading Tree” and sit there sometimes to practice reading. She loved that.

After we ate and read and played some little kid horseshoes, I lay back on the green- and blue-striped picnic blanket and watched a white, cottony cloud barrel across the perfect blue sky. After awhile, my daughter and husband wandered off and I actually napped briefly. When I woke up, it was to the feeling of warm sun on my face when the kukui leaves momentarily parted. It was excellent.

It was a work day.

Oh, the freelance life is definitely not all sitting around in pajamas and watching Oprah, let me tell you. 

If you’re good at what you do, and busy, it’s really an awful lot of work. I can remember, years ago when I started freelancing, being surprised at how hard I was working. (Maybe I had been expecting pajamas and Oprah.)

It is, of course, a real business with real work that needs to get done, well and on time. In addition to the interviewing, writing and revising, there’s always marketing that needs to be done, to keep the work coming in, and then invoicing and estimated taxes and lot of other paperwork, and keeping up with supplies, because nobody’s filling the supply cabinet but you. And a whole lot more.

Generally I keep regular work hours, which is what works best for me. I don’t sleep in on a work day (unless I’m sick, and then the flexibility is lovely), and I don’t chat on the phone during work hours. There is work to be done.

Once in awhile my regular work hours just aren’t enough, and there have certainly been times when I’ve worked into the wee hours, or pried myself out of bed much, much earlier than my body appreciates to squeeze in a couple extra hours.

But then again. Then again — occasionally I take the time to do something like have a lovely, relaxing picnic with my family in the middle of the day.

And then I am reminded of how much I appreciate the freelance lifestyle. The work is interesting, I have total control over how my career progresses, and I can sometimes take a little time off to do what’s important to me and my family — like picnicking and then napping under a kukui nut tree. I can’t imagine living any other way.

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