Slow going


I've been noticing, the past few weeks, that suddenly I seem to have slowed down. I'm working, just much more slowly than I usually do. My usual "quickie" gigs - articles that usually take half an hour or so each - have turned into an all-day ordeal. I don't know how I can get back onto the fast track again, but the slower pace is frustrating me very much.

It's something of a comfort to know that I'm not the only one. One of the writer blogs I follow, the Writer's Confidant Blog, talks about end-of-summer procrastination. Although that's not quite what I am experiencing, I think it just might come down to the same thing. I think I'm slowing up because I got burned out on the excessive workload earlier in the summer.

Anyway, I have a few things to try to wrap up before the holiday weekend, so I guess I had better get back to it. Hopefully the long weekend will help me recover from this snail's pace...
By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, August 30, 2006 At 12:09 PM 0 comments

Check out my mySpace profile!


I've seen a couple of fellow freelancers mention networking on mySpace, so I decided to give it a try. Please feel free to visit my mySpace profile! If you're a fellow writer, I'd love to hear from you as well.
By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, August 29, 2006 At 11:09 PM 0 comments

An invasion of privacy


If the American government did this to its citizens, most of us would call it an invasion of privacy. So why is it okay for parents to do it to their children?

Of course, parents are constantly being manipulated by news reports and "experts" who instigate paranoia. They talk about how kids aren't being raised right these days, how they're getting into more trouble than ever, how it's not safe to let them play unattended. And now technology has allowed parents to delay children's independence even further.

The reason why I think technology like this won't work in the long run is because it doesn't teach kids the real reasons for obeying their parents rules and society's laws. Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral development holds that obeying out of fear of being caught is one of the lowest levels of moral reasoning - yet this line of thinking is exactly what this type of constant monitoring will do.

Children need to be taught about right and wrong, not just given rules and expected to follow them. And if you are teaching your child about right and wrong, they will immediately recognize that using a black box to spy on them is wrong.

Moreover, spying on your kids is just wrong. Our country was founded on certain ideas, such as an individual's right to privacy and the theme "innocent until proven guilty." This black box goes against all that. It violates a teen's right to privacy and freedom of choice. (Personally, I think if you haven't instilled good values in your child by now, then there's little else you can do besides letting them learn from their own mistakes.) It also assumes that they are already guilty of a crime, even if they haven't committed it yet.

Unless we want each and every teen fighting their own revolution for independence, I strongly urge parents to resist the temptation to spy on their children. No matter how easy modern technology makes it, it still isn't right - any more than the government spying on us or holding prisoners without trial is right.
By Katharine Swan On At 5:59 PM 0 comments

Check out the changes!


I've posted the changes to my website - check it out! It's minus a couple of links (scans of my clips that I haven't yet gotten permission to post on my website), but other than that it's ready! Take a look, sign my guestbook, and tell me what you think of the new look!
By Katharine Swan On Monday, August 28, 2006 At 11:25 PM 0 comments

Website changes coming soon!


The website changes are nearly finished, and I'm getting very, very excited about posting the finished site! Currently, I'm just waiting on a few responses letting me know whether or not I can post a scan of my clips on my website. I'm hoping to have all the okays in by the end of the week so that I can upload the changes!
By Katharine Swan On At 12:23 PM 0 comments

My new website


Several months ago, I started work on redesigning my website. My idea was to make it a little more career-oriented, a little more focused on selling my skills. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked by my crazy summer workload.

This weekend, I decided to work on the website changes - for the first time in weeks, if not months. Now I am happy to say that it is almost done: I anticipate that I'll be able to post it within the next week!

I will, of course, post again to let you know when the changes are live... I look forward to hearing what you think!
By Katharine Swan On Saturday, August 26, 2006 At 9:37 PM 0 comments

My new wedding blog

Since plans for our wedding are getting underway, I decided it would be fun to keep a blog on the subject - after all, a 1920s-themed wedding isn't your normal, everyday affair! If you look at my list of links in the sidebar, you'll see the link for My 1920s Wedding.

I'll update it whenever I have new news to tell!

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By Katharine Swan On Friday, August 25, 2006 At 3:49 PM 0 comments

The computer curse


I've never felt this before, but right now I can empathize with people who do:

My computer hates me.

Essentially, I got my computer back - with a bunch of problems. On top of it all, my email server isn't working right.

Yesterday I called to check on my computer, and found it was ready to be picked up. I went and got it right away. Thankfully, Averatec did not wipe the hard drive, so I don't have to download software and files and redo all the settings. The fan is also fixed, and I was right when I thought it was too loud even when I first bought the laptop - I can barely even hear the new fan when it runs.

Although the problem had been fixed, I discovered soon after getting home that I had new problems to deal with: the keyboard had not been put back in right, and was popping out on one corner. I had to take it back to the store this morning to have them take a look at it. (Remember, it was Averatec that replaced the fan, so the store basically had to retrace someone else's steps.) I was so afraid that it would have to go back to Averatec again and that I'd be without my computer for another 2 weeks, but the store was able to fix it.

When I got home, however, I discovered another new problem: my power, wireless, and hard drive lights are not coming on. The other lights - num lock, caps lock, and battery - do work, and I guess those are the more important lights. I really don't feel like making the drive to the store for a third and fourth time today, so I'm just going to deal with it for now and have them fix it later.

As for my email server - I haven't been able to receive or send emails using my mail software, although I can access my email account online - some of the time. (Other times the website is down, and I can't get my email at all.) I am really, really frustrated with computers right now, and hope that my email server fixes the problem soon.
By Katharine Swan On At 2:02 PM 0 comments

Banning books and restricting education: Crimes of the public school system


Today's news is full of stories of our public school system's attempt to limit free speech, free expression...even free education.

The first story is about a Miami school board's attempt to ban a book...even against a court ruling. The book is a children's picture book called Vamos a Cuba, part of a series that tries to promote cultural acceptance in children by pointing out the similarities between our culture and other cultures. A noble cause, right? Wrong - apparently! Opponents of the book complain that it does not present life in Cuba in harsh enough terms, because it tells the reader that Cuban children "eat and play like you do," or something to that effect.

While I can understand the desire for children to know the full story of life in other countries, I hardly think that glossing over the details is a reason to ban a book. What infuriates me is that certain school board members and parents feel that their objections to the book give them the right to prevent others from reading the book. In a glorious show of irony, a woman is recorded as complaining that a judge has no right to tell them what their children can read (i.e. by ordering that the book be returned to the library's shelves) - yet her statement implies that she should be able to tell others what their children can't read! I'll never understand why people like this can't see the book as an opportunity to educate the public about how they see life in Cuba, rather than trying force their opinions on a whole school system full of children.

The next story that caught my attention is a little closer to home: a teacher at a middle school near where I grew up was suspended for displaying the flags of countries discussed in his geography class. What the hell is wrong with our country that we are this paranoid about our children's sense of patriotism? What's next - jailing teachers for teaching children about other countries?

Both of these instances are nothing more than an attempt to control the public's thoughts, feelings, and political opinions. The truly horrible thing is that the people behind the attempts are trying to use the schools to force their opinions on others.
By Katharine Swan On Thursday, August 24, 2006 At 12:24 AM 0 comments

My laptop is on its way back!


I just checked my laptop's status on the Averatec site, and I am happy to say that it has been repaired, and was shipped this morning!!! I anticipate it will arrive at CompUSA by Tuesday. It is supposed to take a few extra days to check the computer in and call me to come pick it up, so I am guessing that I'll have it back by next Friday - exactly two weeks from when I took it in, as it turns out.

As well as my little Dell has done as a backup computer, I am very much looking forward to having my Averatec again.
By Katharine Swan On Friday, August 18, 2006 At 1:55 PM 0 comments

Anniversaries


Exactly one year ago tonight, Michael and I talked on the phone for the first time - a first phone call that lasted all night long! After our relationship became certain, we decided that the day of that phone call - August 17th - should be our anniversary, rather than our first date (a lunch date almost a week earlier). It was, after all, that phone call that cemented our interest in, and our bond with, one another.

Even though today is technically our one-year anniversary, we will be celebrating the occasion this weekend. In fact, we have a rather exciting weekend planned! It will be the only anniversary of this type that we will be celebrating; the next one will be our one-year wedding anniversary. :o)

Today, however, is also a one-year anniversary of a different nature: it is the anniversary of the death of a good friend and employer. Meg Dorn, who employed me to perform a number of odd jobs while I was still in college, passed away a year ago today. In fact, I found out about her death just hours before Michael and I started our all-night phone call; and Meg was a major topic of conversation that night.

And so, a year after her death, I struggle with what I can say about Meg that will live up to her memory. Meg was unlike any other person I have ever known: she was a very private person and incredibly eccentric; yet to those who knew her, she was bursting with life and love. She was more generous than any other person I've ever known, despite the pain that she endured at the hands of those who should have loved her most. Even a year later, I can recall her as clearly as though she were standing right here beside me.

I miss you, Meg. I miss walking into your house and hearing different music playing at full blast in almost every room of the house; and whenever I eat sushi, I can still hear your voice asking for your "blast-off sauce." Most of all, I miss the vivaciousness with which you approached life.

Both anniversaries represent fundamental elements in who I've become and the choices I have made throughout the past year. I hope that both influences continue to guide my path for a long time to come: Michael by my side, and Meg as the memory of the most amazing woman I will ever know.
By Katharine Swan On Thursday, August 17, 2006 At 12:39 PM 0 comments

Plugging away/Intrusions


I have been steadily plugging away, and gradually my work load is receding. Not that I don't have enough work to do anymore - quite the contrary, I am still rather busy. I have simply gotten past the mind-numbing amounts of work.

However, this week has been somewhat of a challenge. So far, every day this week has included at least one rather time-consuming errand to run. I'm hoping to be able to devote Friday, at least, entirely to writing.
By Katharine Swan On At 1:06 AM 0 comments

Projected wait time


So far, I've managed to get through 4 days without my Averatec. My Dell (the backup laptop) is holding up pretty well, but I hate being tied to the modem.

I went to the Averatec site to check the status, and found out that my computer was just received today. However, I also noticed a note on another page that said that repairs take 7-10 days, rather than 3 days (which is apparently what their paperwork claimed, and also what I was told by the CompUSA technician).

In other words, my computer may not be back in my hands in 2 weeks, after all - it may be more like 3. So instead of counting down to a week from this Friday, it could be as far out as two weeks from this Friday.

The Dell and I are getting along fairly well so far, but will be able to stand each other's company for that long???
By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, August 15, 2006 At 4:03 PM 0 comments

Computer woes


It turns out my beloved Averatec 1020 is just as mortal as any other laptop. The fan, which was always a little noisy, has quit working altogether. I noticed two days ago that the computer was getting pretty hot, and yesterday I realized that the fan was not turning on at all. I don't think any time would be a good time to have something like this happen, but now was definitely not it.

So today, instead of working, I spent the day troubleshooting (using the generic instructions Averatec gave me) and backing up my files. It took a while, because I had to keep shutting down my computer to keep it from getting too hot, but I did get all the important stuff off (I think - :::knock on wood:::).

This evening I took my laptop back to CompUSA, where I bought it about 10 months ago. Because the laptop is still under warranty, they are shipping it back to Averatec to fix. They said I could do it myself, but I have heard that Averatec has crappy customer service, so I asked CompUSA to take care of it for me.

Unfortunately, I will be without my laptop for a minimum of two weeks. I'm glad that I kept my old laptop; even though it's pathetically outdated - a 500 MhZ pentium with only about 20 GB of drive space - it'll serve as a backup. However, it doesn't have wireless capabilities or a very good battery, so it'll be a couple of weeks before I can enjoy some of my favorite habits again - taking my laptop into different rooms, working at a bookstore or coffee shop, or even working in the basement to escape the heat, to name a few.

It'll be a very long two weeks.
By Katharine Swan On Thursday, August 10, 2006 At 6:23 PM 0 comments

A warning to fellow freelancers: Stay away from this "employer"!!!

Early in my blog, I mentioned a child writer named Adora Svitak, and went on to idealize about the number of child authors that have made names for themselves in recent years. That post was partly spurred by the fact that I was "hired" by Adora's mother to review her book. As it turns out, my idealized view of the upstanding mother was a little off-base.

Here's what happened:

I agreed to write a review of Adora's book, Flying Fingers, in order to give her some publicity, and her mother sent me a copy. No payment was ever discussed; I was somewhat naive at the time, and assumed I'd get paid by whoever published the review. I queried and queried, but wasn't getting much luck. Then Adora's mother asked me to write a review for her to use as a reference, as she was trying to get an international contract for the book. I agreed to write the review, but as I was trying to find a publisher still, I told her in no uncertain terms that it was only to be used as a reference, and was not to be published, even in part, without my express permission. She agreed; in fact, she said that she would notify me of everyone she sent it out to.

So imagine my surprise when I was searching the internet for my pen name one night, and came across my name on a page that was entirely in Chinese (except for that translation of my name). I had Google translate the page, and discovered that Adora's mother had gone against her promise: she allowed a third of my review to be published in an article about Adora!

I was infuriated, naturally. I tried to demand payment, to no avail - unfortunate that I had never discussed the subject with her. Then I spent a good deal of time tracking down those responsible for the website's content. I insisted that the excerpt was a copyright violation, and must be removed immediately. I got the run around from the company that hosts the site, and an email entirely in Chinese from the site's owners, but eventually the article was removed. However, I never received so much as a "sorry" from anyone - not the website hosting company, not the website owners, not Adora Svitak or her mother.

In fact, the last time I heard from Joyce Svitak was several months before this ordeal happened - shortly after sending her the review, in fact. She asked me to edit her daughter's next work for free. Naturally, I told her no, and I haven't heard from her since.

As a full-time freelance writer, I feel obligated to warn my fellow freelancers to avoid working with Adora Svitak or her mother. Judging by my experiences, Joyce Svitak believes that a free copy of a book is sufficient payment for hours and hours of work - and she has no regard for the rights of the writer to their work! As a result of my naivete in trusting Joyce, I ended up putting a lot of work into something I'll never be paid for - but I also learned a lot about how to protect myself as a freelancer. I hope you, too, can learn from my mistakes.

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, August 09, 2006 At 2:42 PM 0 comments

Advice gleaned from my first failure


My workload has lessened considerably now, as I have finally completed the major projects that were hanging over my head. However, one of the projects was completed on less-than-desirable terms, as I missed the deadline - by a long shot. It's not like I wasn't working; on the contrary, I worked my ass off! It was just too much work for me to handle.

At this point, about all I can do is to hope this one project is not too much of a blight to my career - and to learn from my mistakes. It's clear to me that this happened because I accepted too much work at once. Had I known a few things beforehand, I might have avoided such an experience; but now that I have learned by lesson, I might as well pass a few tips on avoiding a similar situation on to my fellow freelancers.

Estimate the time needed to complete a project generously. This way, you'll have a little cushion in case it takes you longer than you expected.

Be firm about telling prospective employers what you can and can't handle. If I'd told a couple of employers, "I'd love the job, but I won't be able to start work on it until [such-and-such a date]," I wouldn't have gotten into such a pickle.

If you're swamped, don't keep looking for work! Most seasoned freelance writers will tell you to keep searching the job boards, even when you have plenty of work, but don't believe it! You'll only end up inviting more work than you can handle. Stop searching for jobs when you have enough work to keep you busy for several weeks; you can always resume your search as you complete your existing jobs.
By Katharine Swan On Monday, August 07, 2006 At 5:26 PM 0 comments

Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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