Thursday, September 24, 2009

Here, There & Everywhere

Many full-time employees traverse the same path each their offices and back, Monday to Friday, 9-5. Those who work from home may merely commute from bedroom to computer. Such routines can be either comforting or monotonous.

A Gainfully Unemployed’s week is will o’ the wisp, depending on which way the freelance winds blow. And how much discipline we have to focus on career vs. social events. I’ve started highlighting the success journal I keep so I can see at a glance where my time is going. Because my goal is to have at least 5 outgoing things every day...whether they are auditions, query letters/submissions, etc.

Some weeks, I mostly work at home. Others send me hither and yon. This past week had me traveling to:
--Greektown for a cable TV show shoot
--Humboldt Park for a print looksee
--Lakeview to see The Best Church of God. It’s an all-new each week parody church service where parishioners believe in the literal word of the Bible as set down in the original English. Check it out, here.). I’m doing the weekly Missalette and a weekly promotional piece posted in the church (theater) vestibule.
--Right after that, off to St. Charles after picking up a fellow actress for a small industrial. It took us an hour and a half each way (on the return in pouring rain) to do a two hour shoot at a coffee shop. She was the barista, I was the customer.
--The Loop (for my non-local readers, that means the area of downtown circled by our elevated train, called the “L”) for an hour and a half interview for a part time job.
--On a different day, again to the Loop for a committee meeting.
--Ravenswood for a focus group gathering.

Add in other events including lunches in Lincoln Park and River North, an appointment in Streeterville, an evening in Ukranian Village, dinner with a visiting author friend in Evanston...and you can see that a lot of this week was spent coming and going.

So I had to fit in various projects with upcoming deadlines, including writing and revising the BCOG pieces, a quick VO job, a concert press release, a flier for a committee open house, auditions I wanted to or was asked to submit, a family issue, my next contribution on the English medieval period to a group blog about historical romance (

Though I chose to make time to work on a non-fiction project, I didn’t add pages to any new fiction manuscripts or revise two that I’ve been meaning to (one for a friend who’s critiquing it and the other for an agent who said she’d look at one of my early medieval romances if I turned it into historical fiction). Or another non-fiction project with a co-author, with whom I’m meeting again soon. Or more self-marketing. I did catch up with several author and other friends...

Do you feel you have control over your schedule? What's a good balance of work, errands/chores, social activities and personal downtime?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Size Are You...Today?

Many sources fuel our troubled economy, from unemployment to the tight credit market. Yet retailers want and need us to shop more. Here’s one reason why I’m shopping less: size frustration.

I just bought a pair of size 0 petite jeans. I realize some women might be thrilled to be bamboozled into thinking they’re thin enough to fit into zilch-sized jeans, but I find the concept a bit patronizing of shoppers' intelligence. Manufacturers want us to think, "Oooh, I was an 8 last time I bought this kind of jeans, now I'm a 6. How thin am I! I don’t need to work out, I need more clothes!"

The point is that when sizes are so inconsistent, shopping becomes a chore instead of a pleasant, rewarding experience. With this designer I guess I'm now a 0, but with another I could be a 2, 4 or a 6. Or a 25, 26 or 27. Now a few also offer short, regular or long. I don't care what size I am, I just want clothes to fit so I don't have to try on so many. Not to mention that given the recession (yes, yes, I know it’s supposedly ending), inventories are down so the store might not have sufficient selection were I in the mood to take 10 pairs into the dressing room. I don’t have the patience or want to take the time to run from store to store.

With my former favorite jeans (Jag) I used know exactly what size I wore. I could try on any pair and they’d fit great. No alterations required (anyone who has had a pair of jeans hemmed knows how much that adds to the cost, especially if you want the “original hem.”) But suddenly I was a size smaller. Now that size doesn't quite fit, nor does the next size down. The jeans in my closet still fit fine, so it's not like I’ve gotten skinnier.

(I’m not going to talk about the ridiculous rise issue. If most manufacturers want to target women in their 20s and ignore shoppers over 35, that’s their choice. Low rise on women of a certain age IMO just doesn’t look good. I don’t want to feel or see that little, squishy roll of muffin top. I did buy a pair of GAP’s new 1969 slim jeans, because they were on sale and fit perfectly everywhere else [except the length], but we’ll see if I wear them with anything but a long, heavy sweater. I’ve tried one of the few brands geared toward women who aren’t in their 20s, but the styles, fit, and washes don’t interest me. And the tummy tuck panel doesn’t seem to serve its purpose.)

As to customer service and checkout, I commend Nordstrom and GAP for having helpful salespeople who not only knew their products but went out of their way to bring other jeans I might like and, equally important, do so in a timely fashion. Most other stores I’ve shopped recently haven’t had the staff to enhance the shopping experience and/or have had long checkout lines (and I waited longer than I thought reasonable at the GAP).

And, dear clothing manufacturers, I don't enjoy shopping online. There are too many sites. All the scrolling and going back and forth makes me dizzy. Just because an item looks good on the tall, tall model doesn’t mean it’ll look good on the average or short woman. I’ve come across enough inaccurate measurement charts that the pleasure of opening the package I’ve waited for is ruined when the item doesn’t fit. A friend orders several sizes of each garment. But even with free returns, it’s too much of a hassle for me to pack the stuff back up, fill out the form and drop it off at UPS or the post office.

I rejeoiced to find a practically perfect pair of jeans at Macy's...a DKNY petite style that was even on sale. They only had one pair in my size. When I went online to buy another, there wasn't enough identifying info on the jeans for me to find them among the zillion hits...

How do you find the perfect pair? How can stores/designers make shopping easier?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coming and Going

I remember a line from the opera The Great Gatsby about people coming and going. Gatsby held huge parties at his mansion (I was one of his waitresses in the Lyric Opera production), but wasn’t close to many of his guests. In our lives, we might lose touch with someone we care about; someone we know casually might take on a more meaningful role. We meet someone new we click with, and a new friendship is born. Others come and go.

Recently, several people have returned that I’m glad to have back, including a sorority sister found on Facebook. And a few are becoming more important. For now, or the longer term?

It can be hard to define what brings a person back into your life. Coincidence, timing... or is there a reason, a purpose, some impact one of you will make on the other? For example, I recently saw an author acquaintance at a conference. We chatted for a minute, but for whatever reason didn’t make plans to talk further. Now she’s visiting Chicago and we’re going to have dinner. Maybe we’ll just catch up and have a pleasant evening. Or maybe there’s something she’ll say--even if I’ve heard it before, she might say it in a different way--to make me realize which direction I want to go or help me to view challenges from a better perspective. Maybe there’s a way we can support each other going forward.

Are there people you miss? I miss two. One is a friend from college; we stayed close for many years...way before long distance was cheap and email, texting and Facebook kept people in constant contact. I’m not sure why we lost touch. And I can’t find her online.

The other is a friend I met years ago at a writing conference. We had so much in common we’d even brought the same pair of Ann Taylor pants to wear for the dressiest event. For awhile we talked every week to make sure we were on track with our life and writing goals. She came to visit a couple of times and we saw each other at other conferences. Then she adopted a daughter (and became one of those moms she said she wouldn’t...too busy to talk/keep in touch). She did email to say she’d call--several weeks ago. I'm sure when she does call, we'll pick up right where we left off.

When one person’s lifestyle changes, the dynamic of the friendship often changes, too. When friends have kids and get caught up in whole new world of mom things. When you or a co-worker gets a different job. How do you maintain what you had, or do you accept that a new phase has begun?

And what about the people you’d rather not have in your life...a boss you don't get along with, an annoying family member or someone who always seems to call/want something at the most inconvenient times (like the neighbor in the recently released Extract)? Can you gracefully find a way to limit communication or do you have to suck it up and put on a smile?

Then there are the friends you know you'll have for the rest of your life. For whatever reason, there are people who just get you. Those you can always count on.

Thanks to my friends, just for being.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Signs and Making Decisions

Do you believe in signs?

When you're making a major decision--whether to accept a job offer, move in with someone, get involved with a volunteer project--do you rely only mainly on facts or feelings? You might do research and weigh the pros/cons. Rely on an advisory board of friends/family. Listen to your gut or subconscience, if one of them tells you something you can understand. Maybe you pray to whatever power you believe in to send or help you choose the answer. Maybe you look for signs (a guy said he decided to date me instead of someone else because as he was driving and pondering, he saw a truck with my last name on it). Chances are you go with a combination of some or all of the above.

Sometimes the options seem overwhelming and outcomes difficult to predict. Maybe you're caught between a rock and a hard place, where no path looks promising. Or you fear making a huge mistake that can't be undone. Then you freeze, and do nothing. You hope the situation will change or resolve on its own, an obvious solution will surface. How do you handle lingering doubts so they don't get in your way? Have you ever known you were making the wrong decision, but went ahead with it?

Recall Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

In the past few months I've been struggling with much of the above as it relates to my writing. Should I start yet another new project...if so, which genre, which story to tell? Revise one(s) I have? Finish a non-fiction project? Keep submitting, believing it's all about 'right place, right time?' Believe one of the submissions already out there will lead to representation/a sale and show me the way? Just give up and get a day job?

I've sort of been pursuing all of these options, to cover my bases. Yet this approach makes me feel scattered, that I'm losing focus and not getting enough done. I thought the writers' conference I attended in July would re-inspire me, and/or perhaps I'd meet someone who'd help me move forward (a friend happened to choose a lunch table with an empty seat next to her...and the person who sat there is now her agent. I did talk a lot with a successful author I've known for years who offered to critique one of my partials; she sent comments on the first chapter and I'm deciding how to address her suggestions.)

I've already spent years working on getting published....insanity or persistence? In some respects taking the path of least resistance can be easier, whether or not that's really what you want or is your best choice. For me, right now, quitting, doing nothing are easiest. Submitting more isn't that hard. Revising, starting fresh or finishing projects is much more difficult and time consuming. What to do?

Maybe I just got a sign, in the form of a contest judge's comments on my latest opus. She wrote, in part, I’d love to see the writer – who is quite gifted with words, grammar, sentence structure, and generally good writing – come up with something fresher that’s never been done. Would love to see this author go totally off the deep end with a high concept story that will bowl over editors and agents. The writer obviously has a LOT of talent. Go deep...take wild and never know what will happen!

You have a great knack for the written just need a stronger story.... Keep working at’re almost there. I can sense it for you!

Is this just one published author's opinion, a red herring, or my new direction? Every aspiring author knows agents/editors want something fresh and high concept. A strong story. Obviously I think mine is all these things (and have received other feedback supporting my opinion), or I wouldn't have written/entered it. Is receiving this advice at this time the push I need to move forward? If so, how do I 'go totally off the deep end,' without pushing the envelope too far?

How do I know?