Anthologies and Fairy Tales

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

Two quick announcements!

I am FINALLY ABLE TO TELL YOU that a chapter from The Biographies of Ordinary People Vol. 1 has been included in the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas’ What to Read in the Rain 2018 anthology! When I lived in Seattle, I was a volunteer tutor with the Bureau of Fearless Ideas — and this anthology, which includes writing from BFI students as well as authors such as Tara Atkinson, Frances McCue, and Shin Yu Pai, helps fund BFI tutoring sessions and workshops. Plus it’s a great read.

If you’d like another great read, get ready for The Billfold’s FIRST-EVER BOOK: Frugal and the Beast and other Financial Fairy Tales. I wrote thirteen personal-finance fairy tales, some of which you can read on The Billfold and some of which you can ONLY READ BY BUYING THE BOOK.

The pre-order will launch soon. I’ll let you know. ❤️

Registration is now open for How to Get Started as a Freelancer!

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I told you I’d remind you when registration opened for my new online course, How to Get Started as a Freelancer… and TODAY IS THE DAY. Register now, or any time before September 3, and you’ll get $20 off the price; register later and you’ll pay the full $235.

Here’s a quick reminder of what you can expect from this course:

  • Four weeks (September 29 through October 27)
  • Self-directed
  • Approximately two hours of work per week (to be completed at your own pace)
  • A step-by-step guide to help you build a freelance career, to include:
    • How to identify your beat
    • How to identify potential clients
    • How to pitch those clients
    • How to write an article
    • How to write more quickly
    • How to conduct interviews
    • How to build an online presence
    • How to network
    • How to schedule your time
    • How to predict and grow your earnings
    • How to identify and pitch higher-paying clients so you can keep growing your earnings
  • Access to a discussion group where you can chat with other writers and ask me questions
  • Spreadsheets, templates, podcast episodes, AND MORE

Here’s that registration link again, just in case you need it. Hope to see you in class! ❤️

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash.

New Writing Classes, Both In Person and Online!

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I’ve got three classes coming up in the next few months, including my first-ever online course, so here’s what you need to know:

First, I’m teaching two courses at the Iowa Writers’ House. If you are in-or-around Iowa City, I’d love to see you at one — or both! Here are the deets and the sign-up links:

The Path to Publishing

There’s no single path towards publication — you can query an agent and get picked up by a traditional publisher, you can work with a small press, or you can take on both the writing and publishing responsibilities and build your career as a self-published author. This course will outline all of the available paths to publication for both fiction and nonfiction writers, offer the pros and cons of each, and give you actionable next steps for whichever path you choose.

The Path to Freelancing

How do you get started as a freelance writer? Is it possible to turn freelancing into a full-time job? Nicole Dieker is in her seventh year of full-time freelancing, and she’ll teach you everything she knows about how freelancers make money: how to pitch (even when you don’t have clips); how to build a freelancer schedule that combines writing, pitching, networking, and administrative work; and how to grow your earnings over time.

I’m also teaching my first-ever online course: How to Get Started as a Freelancer, a four-week online course offered through Seattle’s Hugo House. This self-directed course runs from September 29 to October 27. You’ll get a weekly set of lessons and homework assignments to be completed at your own pace; you’ll also get access to a classroom discussion board where you can get to know other writers.

If you’re a Hugo House member, you can register for this course on Tuesday, August 21; if you’re a non-member, you’ll have to wait until Tuesday, August 28. YES, I WILL REMIND YOU. The course costs $211.50 for members and $235 for non-members, but you get a $20 discount if you register before September 3.

How to Get Started as a Freelancer will be a lot like The Path to Freelancing — in fact, they have the exact same course description. I’ve taught this class several times, and it is popular for a reason. My lesson plan gets results, and students do in fact build freelance careers.

That kinda sounds like I’m bragging on myself, but really I’m bragging on my students. I’ve given them the pitch template; they’ve been the ones to develop and send the pitches (and complete the articles, and build the relationships with editors, and so on). If you’ve been thinking about starting your own freelancing or publishing career, I hope you consider taking one of my courses — whether you’re in Iowa City for the in-person version, or signing in to the discussion board for the online one. ❤️

Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash.

Two articles about the writing and self-publishing process

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

It’s been over a month since The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2: 2004–2016 launched, and since then I have gone on a mini-book tour, taught two classes related to writing and self-publishing (with more to come), spent a long weekend at Disneyland, and, most recently, published two articles about the writing and self-publishing process.

The first article is at Longreads, and it’s titled How the Self-Publishing Industry Changed, Between My First and Second Novels. If you’re interested in numbers, earnings, expenses, and (for obvious reasons) politics, you’ll want to go read that one.

If you’re more interested in the process of writing, you should read my Draft Journal essay titled The Five Times I Tried Writing My Novel. It took me roughly two years to write the draft that became The Biographies of Ordinary People, but that was not my first attempt at telling this story.

It’s interesting to think about the ways in which “all the books that were not Biographies” changed, over the years. My first draft, which I started (and quickly abandoned) when I was in college, focused entirely on a college-aged woman — there wasn’t any family in it, just ambition.

In the version I started drafting while I was a receptionist in Washington, DC, the Meredith character was named Therese Gorrell, and she had been born in the rural Midwest — she wasn’t a transplant from a larger city, like I had been as a child. (In Biographies, the Grubers’ move is a natural starting point for the story; not to misquote Tolstoy, but you could easily say that Vol. 1 is “a stranger comes to town” and Vol. 2 is “a woman goes on a journey.”)

In the version I worked on in Los Angeles, which was the most fully-formed of any of the drafts, there were four Grubers: Rosemary, Jack, Meredith, and Natalie. That was the draft that was too much like autobiography, and it wasn’t until I added Jackie to the story that it began to come together as a novel instead of a retelling of my own childhood. I created Jackie to force a different set of family dynamics and ensure I wouldn’t just write what I’d grown up with, but she ended up becoming this character that I intensely admire (and in some ways envy), and she allowed me the ability to branch the whole “how do ordinary people make art” question down a different path.

There’s also a version where Meredith is grown up and is asking Rosemary questions about her life, and the whole thing is a framing device for flashbacks to both the 1990s and the 1960s, and I’m really glad I got bored with that idea because I’m already bored just explaining it to you. (Plus I would have had to do a lot of research about the ’60s.)

So. What I mean to say is that you should read the Longreads piece and the Draft Journal piece, and be grateful that you got the current version of The Biographies of Ordinary People, instead of all the other versions I discarded along the way.

Photo by Dana Marin on Unsplash.

Seattle, Portland, Juneau — I’ll be reading and/or teaching in your cities soon!

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

We are just over a week out from PUBLICATION DAY for The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2, and in addition to putting the finishing touches on the paperback (which looks beautiful, by the way) I’ve also finally put all the pieces together for the 10-day, three-city book tour I’m doing in June.

Here are the stops:

  • Tuesday, June 5: Teaching “The Finances of Self-Publishing” at Seattle’s Hugo House. 6-9 p.m. Sign up here.
  • Wednesday, June 6: Reading and signing at Seattle’s Phinney Books. 7-8 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Friday, June 8: Reading and signing at Portland’s Another Read Through. 7-8 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Sunday, June 10: Reading and signing at Juneau’s Rainy Retreat Books, with music from Marian Call and Laura Zahasky! 5-6 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Monday, June 11: Teaching “Getting Started as a Freelancer” at Juneau’s 49 Writers. 6:30-9 p.m. Sign up here.

I’d love to see you at any/all of these events, though I wouldn’t recommend all of them because that’d probably cost you around $2,000! (Yes, I’m still tracking all of my earnings/expenses on my blog.)

If you’re in the Iowa area, I’ll be leading a discussion of The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 at Next Page Books in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, May 15. Discussion starts at 7, and I’ve heard there will be wine. I’m also planning some more local (to me) readings and classes for this summer, and the next time I’m on the East Coast I’ll see if I can set up an event or two.

Also, The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 was selected as an IndieReader Best Reviewed Book of April, and Kirkus selected The Biographies of Ordinary People as one of the 35 indie reviews to be featured in its May 15th issue!

I am so excited to get to share Volume 2 with you, and to see some of y’all on tour, VERY VERY SOON. ❤

Photo credit: James Wang, CC BY 2.0.

Self-Publishing Update: Book Tours and Community Building

Sales/Expenses Since April 11

Books sold: 1 ebook (Amazon), 1 ebook (Google Play)

Money earned: $4.81

Money spent: $0


Books sold: 377 ebooks, 147 paperbacks

Volume 2 pre-orders: 33

Money earned (book sales): $1,485.68

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $7,561.90

The following was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I’ve been living in Cedar Rapids for five months now, which I’m already mentally rounding up to “half a year,” and although I still don’t feel comfortable making blanket statements about what life in CR is like, and I definitely don’t feel comfortable making “I live in Stardew Valley” jokes even though that is, in fact, what it feels like, I’ll try to describe my new life in terms of What I Did Yesterday:

It was Ecofest, so I set my alarm to wake up early enough that I could ride my bike out to Prairie Park Fishery for the Tour de Trees. I knew that the event would involve bike riding and tree planting, but I didn’t realize that this wouldn’t be the kind of tree planting I did when I was in elementary school, where the trees they gave us were roughly the same size as weeds. These trees were the size of trees, and I was inappropriately dressed.  However, one of the organizers, whom I knew from Revival Theatre Company, gave me a pair of work gloves, and I dug up rocks and hauled water from the river with everyone else and we were able to plant three trees and name them. (It’s a tradition to name them.)

Then we all rode our bikes back to NewBo City Market, which is both a community center and a local vendor space, to continue the Ecofest celebration. There was food, live music, bus tours of Mount Trashmore, a film festival, and a compost bin mascot named Yardy. And, because people knew me, I got recruited to play a oak tree in this demonstration of “threats to our local tree population.” I was killed by bur oak blight, along with all the other oak trees in the demonstration.

I’m not going to be so reductive as to say “nobody ever asked me to play an oak tree in Seattle,” because I was invited to be part of an original musical (Molly Lewis’s Thanksgiving vs. Christmas) and I did a whole bunch of cabaret-style shows with Marian Call. The difference in this case was that I went to a town event and people said “Hey! Good to see you! Want to help us?” That’s the piece that never quite fell into place, in all the other places I’ve lived as an adult.

After Ecofest I went back to my apartment and logged on to Marian Call’s Karaoke Jukebox Challenge fundraiser, which was the other important part of yesterday: building a life in a new community while remaining connected to this other, mostly online community that I’ve been part of for years. (Also, supporting a friend.)

It’s interesting, because the more I live here the more I want to stay — like, I’m excited to take The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2 on tour, but I’m also excited to get back to Cedar Rapids and hang out with the bike people and the theater people and the writers I’ve met and, you know, do things. I’m helping launch a book club at the local bookstore. The Farmers’ Market will be starting up soon. The opera just announced its 2018–2019 season and I need to figure out how to be a supernumerary.

On the subject of The Biographies of Ordinary People, here’s a list of my current appearances and tour stops:

Next Page Books

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Saturday, April 28, 12-3 p.m.

It’s Independent Bookstore Day! I’ll be in Cedar Rapids’ own Next Page Books signing copies of The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 —  which has been selected as the first title in the New Bohemia Book Club.

Next Page Books

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Tuesday, May 15, 7 p.m.

The inaugural meeting of the New Bohemia Book Club. We’ll be discussing The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1.

Hugo House

Seattle, Washington

Tuesday, June 3, 2018. 6-9 p.m.

I’ll be teaching a one-night only course on the finances of self-publishing. Register here.

Phinney Books

Seattle, Washington

Wednesday, June 6, 7 p.m.

I’ll be reading from The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2.

Another Read Through

Portland, Oregon

Friday, June 8, 7 p.m.

I’ll be reading from The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2.

I still want to book events in Juneau and Los Angeles, and I’ll let you know if/when they’re added to the schedule. I’ve also been asked to do a reading in Washington, DC, although I suspect that might not happen for the same reason why these Juneau and LA events might not happen: because I haven’t built relationships with booksellers in those cities. (Have you read my Billfold piece on networking yet?) You can occasionally book a reading or a performance off a cold call — I’ve done it, and it’s always worth a try — but you’re a lot more likely to get the booking if you’ve already built the relationship.

You’re more likely to get other opportunities as well — I was recently invited to be part of an anthology, for example, and although I don’t think I can formally announce the book yet, I can say that my invitation came after having built a professional relationship with the organization releasing the anthology. (Also, I think I can say that I am SO EXCITED.)

On the subject of “professional accolades,” I am very happy to announce that The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 was selected as an IndieReader Approved title. I still don’t know whether IndieReader will give Volume 1 a Discovery Award — I’ll find out in May — but getting the IR Approved designation felt pretty good.

I do know that Volume 1 did not win any of the other awards for which it was entered, which is a bit of a disappointment, but it was an honor to have nominated myself.

Plus, Volume 2 just got its Kirkus Review: “A shrewdly unique portrait of everyday America.” I love that line because it echoes the “Dieker writes with unrepentant honesty about the human condition” review that Volume 1 got from the BookLife Prize team. (Another award that I did not win.) I also love the word shrewd. We don’t use it often enough.

That’s all the news I have for right now; the Volume 2 ebook is still available for pre-order at Amazon, and I’ll have more information about the Volume 2 paperback soon. In the meanwhile, I’ll be getting ready for Indie Bookstore Day next weekend and this book club that I’m getting to help launch — and I’ll tell you once again how happy I am to have moved to Cedar Rapids. ❤

Photo credit: Katja Schulz, CC BY 2.0.

The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2 is available for pre-order!

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

Exciting news, y’all: The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2: 2004–2016 is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

This is ebook only; I’ll let you know as soon as the paperback is ready.

The official release date is May 22, 2018, one year minus one day after The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 released, because books release on Tuesdays.

I hope you enjoy the second volume. It was a lot harder to write than the first volume, in part because adult lives don’t have the same linear forward motion as child and adolescent lives. There are stops and starts and circles, and way too many opportunities to repeat the same mistakes until you learn and grow beyond them.

But thank goodness we do keep learning and growing.  ❤

(I was reading Kim Fu’s The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore this weekend — highly recommended, btw — and there’s a section of the book that deals with a young woman trying to carve out an artistic career in Los Angeles, and I was like “Wait a minute, I did that. I remember doing all of that, and now it feels like something I did when I was younger and more foolish and in some ways more open, because I was ready to take whatever seedy success came my way.”)

Here are a few other items of note:

It’s been just about a month since The Billfold switched to a Patreon-funded model, and we’re getting closer to our second Patreon goal. If you are one of our Patreon supporters, THANK YOU.

If you are writing your own novel and you’d like an editorial eye, I have some open time on my schedule for the next few months and I’d love to work with you. Here’s how to set that up.

If you’re looking for something to read on the internet, I can’t stop thinking about Edith Zimmerman’s My First Year Sober. I’ve never been a super-heavy drinker, but over the past six months or so I’ve sort of… stopped? It’s not that I never drink, because I had a finger of bourbon at Christmas and sipped on a glass of wine at a dinner in January, but it’s more like the experiences of 1) being tipsy and 2) being tired and fuzzy-headed the next day aren’t experiences I want to have — and see, now I’m going to start sounding like Edith does in her essay, the whole “I feel so much HEALTHIER” thing that she admits is annoying, but the essay is brilliant and also it has ILLUSTRATIONS, so go read it.

And pre-order The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2 if you want. Thank you. ❤

The Writing & Money Podcast is now FREE FOR EVERYONE

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I wanted to let you all know that I’ve switched the Writing & Money podcast from a Patreon subscription model to a Simplecast FREE FOR EVERYONE model.

I’ve been watching the stats, and what I’ve learned is that a lot of people are listening to the free episodes but only a small number of people choose to become subscribers.

So I’m making all of the episodes free. The ones that currently exist, plus the episodes to come.

I hope you agree that this is the way to go — I’d been thinking about it ever since the Patreon kerfluffle a while back, and when I reblogged the free “how to do your big creative projects” episode last week, the numbers confirmed it.

I want to share what I know with as many people as possible, and the $1/month subscription was getting in the way of that.

Here’s the newest episode: How to Become a Regular Contributor. 

Here’s the RSS feed if you want to add Writing & Money to your favorite podcast app:

I hope you enjoy the podcast! ❤️

Happy Belated New Year!

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

We are technically halfway through January, but I still want to wish you a happy New Year. (It’s still new! New enough!) I realized I hadn’t written you an update since last November, which… um… my life has changed a lot since then.

I moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa on November 30, and I want to write a whole long post about that but I don’t quite have the words yet. It’s still new enough that I don’t want to start labeling and making comparisons; right now it’s my job to both get involved and step back. I will say that I haven’t gotten used to living in a place where events start on time.

I also got The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 back on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play after the Great Pronoun Shutdown of 2017. (Not iBooks yet, though. They haven’t responded to my Help Desk request.) I’m in the process of prepping Volume 2 for publication this May, and that is going to take up the next several weekends; I need to get as much of it done as possible before I go into rehearsals for the Revival Theatre Company’s production of Ragtime.

(I’m so excited about living in a place where I can do theater again. If you’ve read Biographies Vol. 1, none of this should surprise you.)

If you’re thinking about starting your own big project in 2018 — it being the season of resolutions and all — take fifteen minutes to listen to my Writing & Money podcast episode How to Do Your Big Creative Projects (While Still Doing All Your Other Work). If you like that episode, you can subscribe to the entire podcast for $1 per month; you can also leave comments, which I will be delighted to read.

On the subject of feedback: I’m curious what you’d like out of this TinyLetter in 2018. Would you like me to share every post I write on, including my This Week in Self-Publishing updates? Would you like a roundup of everything I publish at The Billfold and Lifehacker and anywhere else I write? Would you like me to share the most interesting thing I read in the past week, such as this brilliant interview with Terry Gross at Vulture?

Or would you prefer I just email you when I have a new book or a new class or a new event?

Let me know — and happy belated New Year. ❤️