13 years later and the circle closes

standard January 14, 2015 7 responses

Back when I was in college I babysat for a woman who worked in advertising. She was hands down the coolest person I knew. Possibly the most unstable, but definitely the coolest, so when I found myself needing a summer internship, I begged her to let me interview at her agency.

This led to my most painful interview memory ever, where, after I had GUSHED about how much I just LOOOOOVED ads, she asked me which were currently my favorite and I completely blanked.

“Uh… the one with… the plane….” I stammered, making a pathetic initiation of a plane flying with my hand.

Incredibly enough I got the job. Hard to turn down virtually unpaid and willing help. And so began my love affair with all things advertising.

I spent that summer filing things, watching endless bits of competition reels, helping them move, from one office to another, and doing basically anything they needed me to do.

The next summer I got another internship  (much better paid, as in, I got some money rather than none) in New York City. I lived in the stark and rather depressing Barnard dorms, navigated the seriously overwhelming and expensive Big Apple as best as I could, and loved every minute of it. It was a smaller agency and I actually got to do some advertising work.

Then I met the love of my life and threw caution and dreams to the wind and moved to Boston instead of going home to finish school.

I hadn’t given up on advertising, I was just willing to let it slide for a bit as I attempted to obtain a Masters while living an ocean away from my school and my teachers, at a time when people were just barely starting to use the Internet.

It took me a few months of working at a daycare center by day and doing class work at night to realize the situation was untenable. I ditched any hope of finishing my Masters like that and found myself an ad agency that would hire me.

Because ad agency.

This was my first real stint as an actual employee of an ad agency rather than just a summer internship. I lapped up every minute of it. The client pitches. The cantankerous creatives. The fun we had even when we were beyond exhausted. I loved the challenge of translating client requests into language the creative teams could use, and then translating the creative teams’ work for the clients. It was hard work, but it was fun.

So, it stood to reason that I was determined to work in advertising after finally finishing my Masters.

Life’s funny though; it never quite goes how you plan.

We moved to California in October 2001. The world around here had essentially skidded to a halt. Marketing budgets had been cut right and left and there were no marketing jobs to be had anywhere. There was one interview that could have gone my way, but something about the team rubbed me the wrong way and I didn’t push for the job. There was another interview that for some reason just didn’t work out. And that was it. The doors had shut in my face and I found myself changing tacks.

So here I am, thirteen years later. I’ve made a name for myself as a writer. I’ve published a novel. I do a lot of consulting. And I truly thought my ad days were in my past.

Until a friend offhandedly asked me if I would ever consider copywriting.

In all my years working, living, breathing ad stuff, and later all my years working, living, breathing the written word, it had never occurred to me to blend the two.

I said yes without a moment’s hesitation. Went to my first meeting hoping against hope that no one would guess I was faking it with all I had. Aced my first project. Aced the second. And now find myself once again immersed in the fantastic world of advertising.

People, it’s fun.

Every new project leads me to having to learn something new. Want to know anything about solar power? Flash technology? Data storage? I got ya covered. 

I’m working with creative people. I’m exercising a part of my creative brain that hasn’t had a chance to play much in recent years.

I’m allowed to be as punny as I want. It’s even encouraged. Swoon.

Even better? I’m good at it. Better than I ever was on the client side of things.

Do you know how good it feels to feel good at something? Damn good, that’s how.

They may not be words I’m writing for me, but they’re fun to write and it’s amazing to be working with people again. And who knows, maybe one day, someone driving down the highway on their way to work, will get a laugh out of one of my tag lines.

That’s almost as good as becoming a best selling novelist. Almost.

Processing the Post Conference Chaos

standard April 14, 2014 5 responses

I’ve been going to blogging conferences more or less regularly since 2008 and, other than for the very first one I attended, I’ve had to fly to get there. I always feel a hint of envy for the people who live within driving distance of the conference; packing for them is a breeze and doesn’t need to resemble a game of Tetris, but then I remember just how much I relish my flights home and I go back to trying to find creative ways to fit a million pairs of shoes and countless little 3oz bottles of shower products into my carry-on bag.

You see, conferences tend to be like this:

You arrive, a bit anxious, a bit shy. You meet a few people in the lobby of the hotel. You go up to them with trepidation, introduce yourself and BAM, you’re off. For the next two or three days the hectic mornings of a mom with 7 kids will have nothing on your frantic pace. First there are lots of sessions. It’s like cramming a semester’s worth of studies into a two day period. Then there’s networking in the halls between sessions. Lastly there are a bunch of evening events, dinners, after dinner chats, after chat drinks, and then decompressing and processing with your roommates until the late hours of the night.

Add to that the fact that most conferences take place on the East coast leaving me with a 3 hour time delay which works great in the evening and not so great in the morning, and you’ll find me, on the morning I’m due to go home, vibrating slightly from a mixture of too much coffee, too little sleep, and way too much information to process.

Know what’s an amazing cure for that?

Being strapped into a plane seat for a couple of hours.

Until this weekend every post conference flight has given me the opportunity to sit down, pen in hand, and just free write my way out of the buzzing chaos in my head.

I never fail to be amazed at the coherence that I can pull from the noise.

This weekend, three days hanging out with other writers at the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, should have ended the same way. I have pages and pages of notes taken in incredible session after incredible session to read through. I have a ton of business cards to sort through and ideas about emails I want to write to think through. It was an amazing conference. One I know I have so much to say about.

But a large group of punk kids had a party in the lobby and parking lot of our hotel the last night we were there. They partied, loudly, starting around 11pm. When I left to go to the airport at 4:30am they were still going strong. I was very, very tired and very, very cranky.

So instead of freewriting and processing my way home, I slept. Hard.

And then there were my kids to hug, puppy kisses to fight off, stories about their weekend to hear, messes to clean up, life to get back on track, and all that brilliance has been pushed into some shadowy recess of my brain, awaiting a quiet moment to emerge.

Of course it’ll have to wait. This morning I’m having a preventative breast MRI, then the puppy needs to go to the groomer, I need to take the kids to apply for passports, three days of emails to answer, oh, and I have to figure out how to get my Passover cake out of the mold it seems to be really attached to. Thinking that singing Let it Go! at the top of my lungs isn’t going to cut it.

If there is one thing I am taking away from this weekend, one thing I don’t need quiet to process, it’s that I need to re-prioritize my days. I need to make space for the words. Because at the end of the day, without the words I have nothing, nothing I’m proud to call my own, and that pride was the highlight of my weekend, one I’m not ever going to be ready to give up.

Publishers gone mad

standard April 3, 2013 2 responses

While I was traveling last week I stopped in an airport bookstore (as travelers are wont to do). I spotted Jennifer Lawson’s book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, now out in paperback. I was stoked because I’ve been wanting to read it and I do so love laughing.

And god knows I was going to need a laugh or two on my trip. 

But then I stopped laughing, because I saw what the publisher was charging for the book.

No, but seriously, what asinine publisher chooses to charge $16 for a PAPERBACK?

SIXTEEN DOLLARS.

FOR A PAPERBACK.

So there I was, desperate to support a blogging “sister” by purchasing her work, happy to support a small airport book seller by buying it there, and frozen by the ridiculous price staring at me.

SIXTEEN DOLLARS. FOR A PAPERBACK. 

What on earth is wrong with these people?

I was livid last month when I discovered that, thanks to Apple, publishers had been granted the right to set prices on digital versions of books, ensuring that more often than not the eBook will be more expensive than the paperback version of the same book.

Now I’m just horrified to realize that the madness extends further.

So here’s the new deal.

Writers write books. They bow, scrape, kiss butt to get these books published. They rewrite books to fit the publisher’s vision of what will say. They’re given no say on cover art or final edits for books. They’re given no money or help for promotion and advertising.

And then crazy prices are slapped on these books.

All too often after that, the books are pulled, killed, because they aren’t selling as well as the publishers had hoped and the whole cycle begins again with another poor sob author.

Is it any surprise that more and more authors are turning to Indy or Self-publishing?

Is it any wonder that more and more reasonably priced Indy or Self pubbed books are selling?

Some books need time to “mature” before they “take off.” Publishers don’t give them a chance.

Book stores need to be able to compete with Amazon. Publishers don’t give them a chance.

Writers need to be allowed to write the books they need to write. Publishers don’t give them a chance.

I strongly believe that, much like the major record labels, in the end, the publishers will lose. People will find other ways to write the books, publish the books, and sell the books. Readers will be more and more drawn to good writing, supported and promoted by fans, rather than a big name publishing label.

I can’t wait for that day to come about.

But in the meantime, just how many books have to be shortchanged by the madness? How many authors have to be punished by an antiquated system that refuses to realize that world around it is changing and leaving it behind?

9 Motivational Quotes that Get Me Writing

standard March 22, 2013 3 responses

Writing, much like running, is one of my greatest joys and one of the things I struggle most to do. I sit down at my computer, ideas bouncing around my head, and instead of opening Word, or even this blog post editor, I open Facebook, my email, Twitter, Pinterest, anything to put off that moment when my fingers will hammer out what’s in my head.

I’m not sure why I procrastinate the way I do; writing is the greatest high possible. And yet, here you have it, even knowing how much I’m going to love it, I always balk at the idea of getting started.

So, much like I trick myself into running, I’ve created a Pinterest board filled with awesome quotes on writing. Reading encouragements from great writers reminds me how privileged I am to be part of their crew and jump starts my desire to get going.

Here are my top 9 favorites.

1) Find a way or find an excuse. (Bonus: Works for running or writing!)

Find a way or an excuse
2) Start with one word and see where it goes.

Letters
3) Everyone finds it hard. Even greats like Hemingway.

Hemingway
4) We don’t write because we like to, we write because we need to.

mad
5) It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be.

draft
6) Writing, it’s how I think.

think
7) It’s as easy as it is hard.

Easy and hard
8) The elves aren’t coming any time soon.

elves
9) Not letting the story out just isn’t an option.

untold
What gets you to stop procrastinating and start writing?

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