Quite Something

Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

What’s unique about you?

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

This is part two of my three-part blog from www.triangleareafreelancers.org, originally posted on October 13th, 2007.

 

Beginning writers are often told, “Write what you know.” This is because what you know—and especially what you feel passionate about—will roll off your tongue (and on to your computer screen) more easily than a researched topic. If you write about an area in which you have some expertise, your depictions will feel more authentic to the reader, and your words will ring more true.

Some aspects of freelancing are counterintuitive. It might seem to make sense to write about topics with general appeal in order to attract the greatest number of readers. In fact, it’s better to create a market for yourself by writing about what other people aren’t writing about.

This is one of the joys of freelancing. It gives you license to indulge your obsessions, to embrace your inner nerd, so to speak. The most quirky topic or hobby may prove to be the most interesting to a potential editor.

Think about what’s unique about you. What fan clubs do you belong to? What online forums do you contribute to? What hobbies do your friends tease you about? Try writing about your favorite episode of The Waltons, the best Clay Aiken concert you’ve attended, or the farthest place you’ve traveled to attend a Star Trek convention.

As a former columnist for The News and Observer, Don Vaughan, says in his April 20, 2007 column, “Don’t be ashamed – be proud! Stand up and let the world know. By admitting your passion, maybe, just maybe, you’ll open the eyes of someone who has never before experienced that particular joy. And that’s a wonderful gift to share.”

Don happened to be referring to his life-long interest in comic books. I would reveal what my personal obsession is, but I can’t right now. John-Boy’s coming on TV.

 

Off the beaten path

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

Yesterday I taught a class called “How to Write Your Family’s Story” at the Cary Senior Center. I did a book signing there in the fall and was invited back. It’s a beautiful facility and the people who run it are exceptionally friendly and helpful. They have such great classes that it almost makes me anxious to be a senior.

Almost.

I had ten people in the class, and they were very interested in the topic. I like to do a show of hands when I teach to find out what the participants are looking for. To inject a little humor, I always ask things like, “How many of you have no idea what you’re doing?” It lightens the mood and helps me to relax. Like most of us, they admitted to having boxes and bins of family memorabilia, and almost no idea how to get started writing about their families.

I used a microphone so as not to strain my voice, since it was an hour-and-a-half class. I’ve done a fair amount of speaking over the years, but I don’t consider it my strong suit, and I rarely use a wireless microphone. Imagine my horror when I discovered that I had walked into the bathroom with it still clipped to me. I didn’t know how to work the volume on the clip-on part, and didn’t want to go back into the classroom and leave again, so I took it off and left it on the floor in the hallway just outside the bathroom. At least I figured it out in time.

I often mention how I get things I need by bartering, suggesting that the seniors might be able to offer some service in exchange for getting their manuscripts typed or edited. Afterwards an interesting gentleman came up to me and introduced himself. Donald said he was an artist, and offered me artwork, of any type or in any medium, in exchange for helping him through the self-publishing process. He said he and his wife were leaving to go up north for six months (they only live here half of the year), and he wanted me to see his work before they left next week. He called his wife and she said he could invite me over to see it. He suggested I follow him to their house, which was supposedly only two miles away.

I’m not even sure why I did it, except that I hadn’t eaten and wasn’t thinking straight. But when I got to his house and saw his wife, Wanda, I realized I had met her before, at the fall book signing. His artwork was amazing, and I imagined using it for a book cover in the future. Donald read one of the stories he had written about his early life, and it was good. He told me that he had been an art instructor, and that they had traveled the world.

By then I was starving, and Wanda fixed me a sandwich. Then their two adult daughters dropped by. Beautiful, personable professionals, they had stopped by on their lunch hour. They were very excited about the possibility of their dad writing his memoir and were happy that I was encouraging him. He was from Poland, and was one of 12 children. I’m one of eight, which I mentioned in my talk. They said they’d been asking him to write, and he’d done a little, but not much. I suggested that he record his stories on a cassette or digital recorder and have the girls type them for him.

The one daughter asked a lot about All on Account of You, so I got a copy from the car to show to her, and she bought it for her dad. They seemed like a wonderful family, and I felt happy to have inspired all of them to record their history, one way or the other. I left Donald with these words: “Put your bottom in the chair (and write).”

On the way home I had the fleeting thought that it was quite an expenditure of time and gas to sell one book. But I quickly realized that it was much more than a sale. I had made some new friends.

An interesting detour, indeed. Even more so when I told my hubby when he got home from work that I had gone to a strange man’s house to see his etchings.

 

About Elaine

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Elaine Luddy Klonicki is a freelance writer who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her column “Box of Chocolates” appeared in The News & Observer. Elaine has written three books: All on Account of You: A True WWII Love Story, Thinking About Therapy? What to Expect From “The Talking Cure” and Captured Words: A Sentimental Journey. She is one of the co-editors of A Taste of Taffy: Samplings From the Triangle Area Freelancers. Through her writing, she shares with others the skills she has learned for living a joyful, purposeful, and inspired life.