International Freelancers Day replays

If you missed the videos available in real-time on International Freelancers Day — Friday, September 24 and Saturday, September 25 — replays are now available!  If you registered, you should have gotten an email today with a website and a password to access the videos.

Even if you didn't register before the event, however, it's not too late!  You can watch three of the videos on this page, and if you like what you see, you can register to get access to the rest!

I haven't had a chance to look at any of the videos yet — I'll probably start going through them this weekend.  The one I'm most interested in is the one about staying motivated and productive when you work from home.

If you've watched any of the sessions, either as replays or during the event, which ones do you recommend?

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By Katharine Swan On Thursday, September 30, 2010 At 12:43 PM 0 comments

Happy Banned Books Week!

I used to blog about Banned Books Week every year, but looking through my old posts, I see it has been a while.  I just found out it was Banned Books Week from an announcement on another blog, but it has been a while since I've "celebrated," so I decided to read a frequently challenged book.

My criteria for making a decision were that the book had to be an ebook (so I can start reading right away), had to be affordable (I hate paying more for an ebook than I would for a paperback), and had to be a fairly fast read.  I also preferred to read something I either haven't read before, or haven't read for a very long time.  All of the books in the top ten list of banned books for 2009 were either ones I'd already read, not available in ebook form, or too expensive ($13 for The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things?!), so I headed over to the list of challenged classics.

There were a few on the list that I already had in my ebook collection, thanks to Barnes & Nobles free classic ebooks promotion (which ended September 14th — I'm still sad about that).  However, I eventually settled on The Awakening.  I may have read it or part of it in high school, but what I don't remember won't hurt me!

(Anyone notice, by the way, that Huckleberry Finn is not on that list of challenged classics?  Very odd.  I was pretty sure that was something like one of the most frequently challenged classics ever.)

Anyway, here is a cute video listing the top ten challenged books of 2009, with explanations of why each one was challenged.  There are a few classics (To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye), and of course the Twilight Saga, but I was surprised to see my favorite Jodi Picoult book, My Sister's Keeper, on the list.  It's not a young adult book by any means, but I suspect since a recent movie was based on it (a generous statement, since I hear they changed the most pivotal plot twist in the book), a lot of high school English teachers were probably teaching the book in their classes, in the usual desperate attempt to interest today's kids in reading.

Anyway, enjoy the video — and if you are reading a banned book this week to celebrate, please share your choice in the comments!

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, September 29, 2010 At 10:21 AM 2 comments

Spelling and grammar mistakes on the rise

I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like poor spelling and grammar is on the rise.  Ten minutes on Craigslist will make you feel pretty pessimistic about the future of our country's literacy rate.  But there are a number of spelling and grammar mistakes that I'm starting to see more and more from people who ought to know better.  Here are a few that I can think of off the top of my head.

Hyphens:  There was a sign in a local park, advertising a fitness boot camp that was going to be held there, that asked whether you were "worth 1-hour a day" (or something to that effect — I don't remember the actual number, just the hyphen).  That sign irritated me every time I saw it.

Along the same lines, I've also been seeing a lot of statements like, "She is 5-years-old."  No, no, no!  She is either 5 years old, or a 5-year-old.  What I don't understand is why this is suddenly becoming so common.  I don't remember it being such an issue until the last couple of years.

Capital letters: I have noticed a lot of people lately writing about "my Dad" or "my Mom."  When I was in school, I was taught that the word was only capitalized if it was used as their name.  Talking about my mom or dad is not really using it as their name, so the word isn't capitalized.

I'm noticing this a lot on Facebook.  I'm sure a lot of you will say, "Oh, yeah, Facebook is full of people who don't know how to spell, etc."  But the scary thing is, the people doing this are people I went to school with.  Was I the only one paying attention back then?

One word versus two: This one is for my dear sweet husband, who often emails me from work that he is "going to workout" when he gets home.  This is like the difference between log in and login, and it drives me crazy.  The verb is two words, the noun is one. e.g., "I'm going to log in to the website, but first I need your login information."  Or...  "I'm going to work out when I get home."  "I hope you have a good workout, honey."

I didn't include the classic there/their/they're or to/too/two because I'm talking about mistakes that I didn't used to see very often, and now I see all the time.  I'm sure I'm missing some.  What spelling or grammar mistakes are you starting to see more often?

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By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, September 28, 2010 At 2:31 PM 4 comments

International Freelancers Day

Kathy Kehrli's wonderful blog, Screw You!, gave me the heads up that tomorrow is International Freelancers Day.  I won't be online much tomorrow, but I dropped by the check it out, and was amazed at what a great list of sessions and presenters they will have.  They also have a full day on Saturday, and all of it is free!

Even if you aren't going to be able to attend on short notice, I think it's worth registering — if you are registered, you'll be able to watch the videos for free at a later date.

I am especially interested in a session called "Workday Nirvana: How to remain inspired and productive when you work alone."  This one runs at 12:45 EST tomorrow, so I won't be able to make it, but I'm hoping to be able to catch it as a rerun.  Sounds like it could offer some advice that will help me with productivity — something I have been struggling with lately.

Also of interest is a presentation on Saturday by the author of the Well-Fed Writer series.  I've read the first book, but I'm interested to see what he has to say in the short video session!

Will you be attending any of the presentations?  If so, I'd love to know what you think, so that when Friday's sessions are available on replay I know which ones I want to watch!

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By Katharine Swan On Thursday, September 23, 2010 At 3:37 PM 0 comments

Time to whine

I don't feel like writing anything terribly useful or instructional today. I've had one heck of a weekend, and I feel a need to complain about it.

Some of you know I have type 1 diabetes. I was diagnosed in 2002, when I was in college, when I finally decided weighing under 100 pounds for no apparent reason was a good reason to go to the doctor. I manage it well, though, and it rarely interferes with my work or my hobbies.

I do, however, like to participate in studies through my doctor's office. For the one I'm doing now, I had to be put on NPH, an older 12-hour insulin, on Friday.

My life has not been the same ever since, and I don't mean that in a good way.

Suddenly I understand why being diabetic used to be such a terrible thing. I was diagnosed after Lantus, the 24-hour insulin on the market, came out, so I'd never known anything but long-acting, even-keel insulin and highly effective, short-acting insulin. NPH, on the other hand, has extreme peaks and valleys in its effectiveness, making it impossible for me to do my usual carb-counting (how I determine the amount of short-acting insulin I take for each meal). I fight extreme lows all day, yet in the morning when I wake up, my blood sugar is sky high.

I had intended to get some work done over the weekend, but it just didn't work out. After crashing Saturday evening and narrowly managing to avoid crashing on Sunday, I just didn't have the time or willpower to work around our other weekend plans. And this morning I had such awful nausea while my blood sugar rapidly dropped from its morning high, that I have to confess I wasn't very productive today, either.

Luckily I should only be on NPH for a week. My next appointment can't come soon enough — I want my life back!

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By Katharine Swan On Monday, September 20, 2010 At 4:19 PM 0 comments

Making time to blog

I've been neglecting my blogs for a long time now, almost all year. I've had a number of things come up throughout the year, until I literally felt like I was barely hanging on, barely able to even manage my client workload, let alone administrative and marketing tasks such as blogging and finding new clients. Put it this way: I have a lot of catching up to do with my email inbox, my freelance income and expense records, and other administrative tasks.

I've been trying harder lately to keep up on my blogs, however. I did miss a week recently, but you'll notice I am trying to get two or three posts up on my blog every week. It's a far cry from the daily posting I used to do, but it's a start.

Part of what I'm doing is trying to make time to blog. A couple of times a week, I make it a point to blog first thing in the morning. This is what I used to do, but with all the trail rides this summer, and feeling pressure to get caught up on the days I didn't go out to the barn in the morning, I'm having to make a real effort now to work this into my schedule. I'm also trying to write and schedule future posts when I have a chance, so that I don't get wrapped up in something else later in the week and forget.

How about you? Do you schedule time for blogging, and when do you find is the best time to do so?

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By Katharine Swan On Monday, September 13, 2010 At 9:37 AM 0 comments

Reading styles: Are you a traditionalist or a multitasker?

For a change of pace, I wanted to talk about an article I saw on NPR on Monday, about reading more than one book at once. If you have 15 minutes or so, listen to the story, maybe while you make your lunch. It's an interesting idea: Why do we feel we have to read one book cover-to-cover before we start the next?

I have to admit, I am pretty traditional in this respect. I don't often read more than one book at once, and I don't even particularly like to "quit" once I start reading a book. Sometimes I'll force myself to read it all the way through, even if I'm not enjoying it.

When I was in college, though, I'd always be reading many books at once. As a literature major, the more lit classes I had, the more books I was reading — sometimes more than one at once for one class! Plus I always had something I was reading for pleasure (though I finished those novels much slower when I was reading a lot of books for classes).

I never had any trouble keeping them straight, yet since I graduated, I've still returned to thinking of it like a violation of some rule if I read more than one book at once. I recently read a couple of short stories (ebooks) while I was reading other books, and even that felt a little like I was pushing the envelope.

What about you? Do you regularly read more than one book at once? As writers, we have to be good at multitasking, but do you make use of that skill in your leisure activities — or are you a rigid traditionalist about reading one book at once, like I am?

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By Katharine Swan On Thursday, September 09, 2010 At 11:25 AM 1 comments

An unexpectedly quiet night at home

I was originally supposed to babysit this evening, so Michael made plans with a friend. (I still babysit for a family I started with in college. It's been six years, and I've known their two younger children from the time they were teeny babies, so it's a labor of love as well as a welcome source of cash on the side.)

Turns out they don't need me to babysit after all, so my evening is unexpectedly free, and I've been happily deciding how to spend it.

Today wasn't the most productive day, so I think the first thing I'm going to do is get some more work done. I just got several new projects in, and I'm eager to get started on something fresh and different, after struggling all day to focus on one single article.

And oh, how could I plan a quiet evening alone without reading? I'm currently reading Dracula in Love, and enjoying it very much. An hour or so alone with my book sounds fantastic.

I am also thinking about going somewhere for all this lovely alone time. Maybe it sounds counterintuitive, but I've been home all day, and it hasn't really been working for me. I'm debating between Starbucks and Tokyo Joe's — both are close and provide wireless, although I must say sushi sounds more appealing than anything else at the moment!

Since most evenings I spend eating dinner and watching movies with my husband, it's nice to have an evening to myself for a change. What about you? How do you like to spend your quiet evenings alone — and how often do you get them?

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By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, September 08, 2010 At 6:06 PM 0 comments

Holiday weekend aftermath

I didn't get much done over the holiday weekend. I meant to, but from the time Michael was home (he took off on Thursday and Friday) until this morning, the working part of my brain pretty much shut itself off completely. I prefer to think of it as that I needed the vacation, rather than as a continuation of some of the problems focusing that I've had lately.

Anyway, after a weekend of relaxing, spending time with my husband and his family, and riding my horse, I have four client articles to catch up on, plus I need to respond to two client emails that got rather lost in the shuffle last week. It doesn't sound like much when I condense it into one sentence like that, but it is a lot of work that I need to get done ASAP!

Do you have anything you are playing catchup on after the holiday weekend?

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By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, September 07, 2010 At 10:33 AM 2 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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