2016 Freelancing Recap

This year in my freelancing life, I nearly doubled my number of bylines yet quadrupled my pay, and I exceeded my goal of getting published with four dream publications (I landed six). I met my TinyLetter subscriber goal and am setting a considerably larger one for 2017.

In 2016, so far I’ve had 52 paid bylines in 11 publications. In 2015, I had 38 in 8 places. Halfway through this year, I gave up writing for HelloGiggles for a variety of reasons, and decided to stop taking low-paying gigs. I also did some high-paying work for three corporate clients.

Thanks The Toast (RIP!) and, subsequently, a bigger Twitter following, my newsletter list got bigger this year. An essay I wrote was on the front page of Yahoo for a hot minute. In April, I had essays published in a literary anthology (Little Fiction | Big Truths) and the spring issue of Oregon Humanities, a prestigious literary magazine. This summer, a former editor at HelloGiggles took me with her when she got an editor gig at a breakfast site owned by TIME. In the fall, I had a byline in The Washington Post. I got to interview Gaby Dunn and Rhea Butcher, and I met Kristen Schaal.

My book goals fell through almost entirely when my roller derby career momentarily stalled, but I did complete a first draft. It was expertly edited and shaped by Liz Galvao, and a second draft will be in the works toward the end of 2017/start of 2018. In the meantime, I still plan to spend 2017 trying to get an agent.

To round things out, a list – since, again, that’s the format in which this site’s 2008 origins are rooted. Here are the published pieces I was most proud of in 2016:

Here’s to 2017! Happy writing.

Goals for 2016


#squadgoals (via)

I am not making new year’s resolutions for 2016, but I am setting some goals. Many of them are writing-related, but not all of them are.

In 2016, I’d like to see the following happen:

  • Get bylines in five big wish list publications
  • Triple the number of The Sleeper Hit TinyLetter subscribers 
  • Get a literary agent by summer
  • Query 20 publishers by fall
  • Have a commitment to publish by the end of the year (even if it’s me, committing to self-publishing)

In non-writing goals, I hope to: 

  • Adopt a cat
  • Keep in closer touch with friends, be it through email, text, or travel
  • Bike 500 miles
  • Learn to play the ukulele
  • Either get the tattoo I’ve been thinking about for my 30th birthday or decide it’s not for me
  • Have an additional $3,000 in savings 
  • Send more mail to loved ones
  • Collaborate on at least one creative project with someone whose work I admire (any takers?)

I also hope to stay active with the Rose City Wreckers and keep in great shape, but for the first New Year’s in a long time, I don’t have a weightloss goal/scale number in mind.

What’s on your 2016 agenda/to-do list?

2015: Freelancing Recap

This was the year in which I finally started taking freelancing seriously, and decided to stop feeling anxious about pitching publications, large or small. I made a joke on Twitter at some point this summer that I was getting rejected by the biggest names in the biz, and I said it half-pridefully. Putting myself out there and dusting my shoulders off made a difference, and that boldness landed me some big wins. I have to wait until 2016 to share some of them, but for the coming year, I look forward to a bigger and better showing of my work.

As of today, in 2015, I have had 38 paid bylines in 8 publications – I’ve got up to four more that might still run this year. At the beginning of 2015 I was mostly doing local listicles for Chicago NewsCastic. I stopped writing for them in March when, as my client list grew, I decided I could do better. At first this gamble didn’t feel like it would pay off – I hit a dry spell over the summer, between my cross-country move and getting turned down by a handful of big publications from my dream wish list.

Then at the end of that dry summer, I got scooped up by The Billfold after pitching an editor I’d long admired and whose career I’d been paying close attention to. Around that time, my newsletter list started to grow more and more. I got essays picked up by Little Fiction | Big Truth (print anthology coming in 2016) and Story Club Magazine. An editor at HelloGiggles saw potential in me and asked me to start pitching her directly. I began landing interviews with people I admire and got to do pieces I cared about, more and more.

In the first quarter of 2016, I will have not one, but two pieces, on a site that has long been on my dream list; I am slated to have a piece in a print, local Portland alternative weekly, after months of hoping to find a place in the local scene; and a piece for which I got to interview women writers I admire will run the first week of January. I still have my dreamlist of publications, and I hope I can crack into three to five of them in the next 12 months.

Also this year, I wrote a (nearly finished!) first draft of my book, which I expect to take up most of my brain space in the coming year as I try to find an agent and publisher. I hope to get some excerpts from the book published on sites early on, so hopefully I can achieve a couple 2016 goals at the same time.

To round things out, a list – since that is the format in which this site’s 2008 origins are rooted. Here are the published pieces I was most proud of in 2015:

  • 14 Reasons Women & Children First Rocks (Chicago NewsCastic, February); I got to promote an incredible independent feminist bookstore and work closely with store co-owner and my friend, Sarah Hollenbeck.
  • How I’ve Put Shine Theory Into Practice (HelloGiggles, April); This one landed me an interview spot on WGN Radio in Chicago, and was included in HelloGiggles’ fourth birthday celebration post as a favorite piece.
  • What It’s Like To Be A Hearing Impaired Skater (Little Anecdote, June); I pitched a Portland author I’d never met and asked to write a guest post for her roller derby site. She and I are on a first name basis now and swap interviewing tips. I’m so glad I reached out to her.
  • A History of My Life Through Movies (HelloGiggles, August); This is the HG piece that got me on an editor’s radar, and now I work with her directly for everything I write for the site. She loves bouncing ideas off writers and is quick to respond – always a plus.
  • The Cost of Getting Your Car Booted by the City of Chicago (The Billfold, September); This wasn’t the first piece I did for The Billfold, now one of my most popular clients, but it was a fun piece that got a lot of response.
  • A Season of Housekeeping in Ohio (The Billfold, November); I sent this 2,200+ word essay to Nicole Dieker, my awesome editor at The Billfold, unsure it would be a good fit for the site. She liked it and made it work, and it got kudos from the site’s editor. This essay on loss and friendship is the piece I am most proud of this year.
  • The Cab Driver (Story Club Magazine, November); I wrote this essay in June for a live lit performance in Chicago. One of Essay Fiesta’s co-hosts encouraged me to submit it for publication, and it found a home with Story Club Magazine. Big props to editor Rosamund Lannin for working back and forth with me to get this piece in its best final version.
  • How Gilmore Guys Do Money (The Billfold, December); I pitched this to my editor fully owning up to the fact that I wasn’t sure I could make this interview happen, but that I’d do whatever I could. She took me up on it, and the co-hosts of my favorite podcast agreed to speak with me.

Image of The Billfold piece about the Gilmore Guys podcast.

It was a pretty great year. I can’t wait to see where my work ends up in 2016.

As a reminder: I blog here less and less, but you can still keep up with everything I’m doing and writing by signing up for my email newsletter. It goes out every two weeks, usually on Wednesdays.

2015 New Year’s Resolutions: A Last-Minute Check-In


(image via)

Last month I took a look at the New Year’s Resolutions I set for myself in January and was pleasantly surprised – I haven’t done too bad this year. Definitely not 14 for 14, but that was a pretty ambitious number to set. Since it’s the first day of the last month of 2015, here’s an update:

  1. Do as many live lit shows as I possibly can this year
    • “As I possibly can” was a nice caveat to throw myself. In 2015, I did three live lit shows, but that’s still more than I did in 2014. Remember when I used to be too scared to get on stage and read my writing? I’ve had a lot of great performers around to encourage me to share my stories, and I’m thankful for them.
  2. Complete intro roller derby class at Derby Lite
    • Check! And then some – I went on to do Level Two at Derby Lite and now I skate with the Wreckers here in Portland. It basically shaped a big part of my life.
  3. Do Feminine Comique training
    • Done! It was a wonderful, terrifying experience, and I met a bunch of bad ass ladies through this February class. A DVD of my final performance exists, but no one has viewed it, including me.
  4. Volunteer marketing services to at least one nonprofit
    1. I came in real close on this one, but in the last month I volunteered some Instagram assistance to my friend Becky’s employer (a synagogue), and I am also reprising my role in volunteering press release writing and marketing services to Slow Roll Chicago for their toy/coat/bike drives.
  5. Bike 500 miles by year’s end
    • Hahahahaha nope
  6. Lose final 9 lbs for a total of 30 since May 2013
    • I haven’t weighed myself once since August, but I feel/look great. If I haven’t lost those nine pounds, they’re not troubling me.
  7. Re-visit ASL skills, even if just via YouTube video practice
    • I re-took a level one class with Christina this spring, since she was interested in learning. I bought a fingerspelling app in October but I need to use it regularly.
  8. Take an intro ukulele or fiddle class at Old Town School of Folk
    • While I technically have 30 days to buy a ukulele, I think this will be a very fun thing to try in 2016 when I’m not on book deadline.
  9. Mull over possible tattoo idea for at least six months
    • Much to my dad’s chagrin, I am 80% sure I’ll be taking the plunge in March, to celebrate my 30th birthday. I’ve had my design idea for a year now, and I still want it.
  10. Have the best Chicago summer ever
  11. Travel to visit Eileen and Margaret in Massachusetts
    • This is HAPPENING! Twice! Both in December! When I made this resolution I had no idea Stef would eventually move to Boston too, giving me additional incentive to go. In a week and a half, I’m flying there for a party at Eileen’s and I’ll be there again for New Year’s Eve with Stef.
  12. Write for DNAinfo, NewsCastic, and other sites as much as I can
    • While I no longer write for either of these local Chicago sites, 2015 turned out to be a huge year for me in terms of freelancing. I’ll be doing a summary/year-in-review on that topic alone in the coming weeks.
  13. Make a plan for better savings
    • Hmm. Well, there’s always 2016.
  14. Ring in 2016 from Portland, OR
    • I did it! I actually moved to Portland. I’ll be physically ringing in 2016 from the east coast, but that sure seems like a technicality.

How’d you fare this year?

In Just 7-10 Business Days

The troubles with my ears, both my real ones and my fake ones, seemed to pick back up the week I left Chicago. I thought at the time that the crossing of mountains and changing of altitudes had messed with my inner ears, displacing pressure and unbalancing sound more so than usual. The week after I moved, I had the worst summer cold I’ve ever had. I was out of commission lying on the floor of an unfurnished apartment, talking to no one.

It wasn’t until after I recovered and began talking to other people again that I could not help but notice things were all around quieter to me than usual. Still, our brains can let us sit in denial for longer than we ever think they can, and I ignored it a while longer.

Then my right hearing aid started eating up batteries like candy. They’d last less than a day, instead of a little more than a week. I simply stopped wearing that hearing aid. It wasn’t the first time. For those who know me well, you know I don’t think much of that right ear anyway. No one can walk on my right side and expect to carry on a conversation with me. It’s been that way since 1997. And on top of that, that right hearing aid was never quite right. The man who sold it to me three years ago failed to adjust it properly and I, an irresponsible almost grownup, failed to get it set right by anyone more capable.

Finally I made an ear appointment with an ENT in my neighborhood, one that also had an audiologist on staff who could look at my hearing aid. One morning at the end of August, I went in to see both. The audiologist conducted the standard hearing test, and while she was flabbergasted at how terrible my right ear is, I was more concerned with whether or not the left one had gotten any worse. I stared at the chart she printed out, trying to tell from memory of seeing past charts.

After the test I went in to see the ear specialist. He too was more preoccupied with the worse ear. I tried to explain that I have all but written that ear off — I was there to see if they could fix my hearing aid.

But also, I was there that morning because I needed this doctor to tell me that my worst fear was not currently being realized. I needed him to tell me that the tumor that had been discovered on my left eardrum in 2012 had not come back. I needed him to tell me the answer to this thing I was afraid to ask out loud.

It has been almost a year since my last check-up with my Chicago specialist, the doctor I trust more than any doctor I ever had as a kid. He found the tumor back then and removed it in a two-part surgery I wrote about at the time. It was a dark period and a terrible, isolating recovery.

This new doctor in Portland didn’t see a tumor. I breathed a sigh of relief, and that is when he told me he recommended I have surgery conducted on both my ears, starting with the right one. I stared at him and tried to see things from his point of view.

Too many ear doctors have seen my right/worse ear as some kind of challenge. I am so sick of it — All I care about is preserving the hearing I still have. The Chicago doctor did what he could to improve my better ear, and that failed. If he can’t do it, I don’t think I trust anyone else to go in there, poke around, and give it the old college try.

I politely told the Portland doctor I would be seeking a second opinion with my old Chicago doctor at the end of September, when I will be back in the city for a work trip. I made an appointment immediately and have been waiting impatiently ever since for October 1 to roll around.

This past week, my left hearing aid, the one I depend on every day in every interaction with another human being, stopped working. I am not sure why, but I do think it’s been through more wear and tear than usual in the last few months, mostly thanks to roller derby. My new audiologist can’t fix them herself, but she can send them away to be fixed far from here. For $200 each, they can be gutted and re-fitted with brand new inner workings. $400 for refurbished hearing aids isn’t bad, really.

“How fast can they do it?” I asked on the phone.

“They do it pretty quickly,” she assured me. “We always get orders back in within seven to 10 business days.”

I held the phone, silent.

There will never be a 7-10 business day window during which I don’t need to interact with another person.

Tomorrow I will go and drop off the left one at her office, and ask her to send it off alone. I’m keeping the right one, the one that has been killing batteries by the day, and using it on my left ear even though it’s programmed completely differently. It’s a flawed back-up plan, but it’s the only one I’ve got. I leave for Chicago in a week, and after that, I’ve got visits from friends planned and a trip to Ohio for a wedding I’m in. I can’t not hear during that time.

The doctor here mentioned that my good ear’s eardrum appears to be sinking — the one that had a the tumor. I am pretty sure that was the case this time last year, but I won’t know until a week and a half from now when I see my Chicago doctor if this is cause for concern. It’s almost all I’ve been able to think about since the end of August, and more so this past week.

With my ears, there is either peace or complete turmoil. There is so infrequently middle ground.

2012 was my year of ear surgeries, a year of depression and futility; but at least I had support. My ex-boyfriend and Christina got me through the first surgery, and my dad traveled to be with us all for the second one. When I made my plans to move, it never once occurred to me what it might be like, or how scary it would be, to have to deal with it all over again on my own from across the country.

Hopefully that never has to happen. I guess I’ll find out when I’m in Chicago.

Some Oregon Beauty

The Columbia River Gorge, as seen from Vista House

The Columbia River Gorge, as seen from Vista House

Weekdays aren’t so bad for me in terms of getting out and talking to people. I’ve been good about going to Collective Agency, a coworking space here in Portland, to work remotely. There’s always a group of people working there, happy to walk to lunch at the food truck pods nearby together. I like them a lot, and it’s interesting hearing what other people do for work that allows them to do it from wherever they like. It’s interesting hearing why they choose to do it where they do.

Most evenings I go to Coffee Time, which I said in a previous post is at NW 23rd and NW Johnson when it’s actually at NW 21st and NW Irving. The people working there recognize me already and are friendly. There are always tons of people inside and outside, so I can sit wherever I want to listen in on other people’s conversations and chess games. I don’t really talk to people there, but it’s nice to be around them.

Weekends have been harder; My first weekend here, I frantically ran errands and made my summer cold and cough worse from overexertion. The second weekend, I wrote in my TinyLetter about getting very emotionally invested in Bojack Horseman on Netflix and being unreasonably sad when there was no more of it for me to watch by the time Monday night rolled around.

This past Friday, I went to a couple of bars by myself, but felt strange in both. I stayed out at the second one a while, listening to music, but never talked to anyone. I went home and slept for nearly 10 hours in a baking-hot apartment that still doesn’t have the AC unit I ordered last week.

I wasted away Saturday. I keep doing this thing where I leave my apartment and wander aimlessly before giving up and going home again. Part of it has been the heat, but part of it has been a frustrating lack of direction. My brother was home when I called him around 8 my time that night, meaning it was after 11 in Ohio. It felt so good to talk to him, and he offered some advice on how to set up my furniture after I gave him a video tour. I admitted I’d been having trouble making myself go out and talk to strangers.

“There’s an ice cream place two blocks away, where there’s always a line out the door, like Jeni’s,” I told him. “People complain about the wait, but I’ve gone there three times since I got here. I’ve got the time to wait in line for ice cream.”

I woke up Sunday morning, late. It was 9, but I saw I already had a text from my dad saying a friend of his was in Portland on business with his son, who is my age. They might want to meet up, he said, so I decided to get ready for the day in case they called. While I was in the shower, Betsy texted — the  girl who is the daughter of a friend of my dad’s I mentioned. She wanted to know if I wanted to get brunch, and just like that, I had plans.

I met Betsy at a cafe in her neighborhood. After we ate and got caught up on the last 20-something years, she asked me if I’d been to Vista House yet. I told her I didn’t know what it was, and she asked me if I wanted to go. I did.

She drove us west on I-84, the way my dad and I had come in a couple weeks earlier. We took a winding back road to  a gorgeous structure on top of a peak, which overlooks the Columbia River Gorge and everything else around. It was breathtaking.

“I’m glad you asked,” I told her.

Vista House

Vista House

She wanted to see how bad the congestion was at Multnomah Falls, probably the most famous waterfall around, and a huge tourist attraction. I’d spent months double-tapping photos of the falls on a range of Instagram accounts, and I wanted to see it in person. On the way to the waterfall, we found another, one neither of us had seen and one I’d never heard of. Latourell Falls was easy to get to and you can get even closer to it than you can Multnomah. We stood at the base of a giant, beautiful waterfall and felt the spray from it hit our legs and our faces. It was already the first non-90-degree day in several, but right then, I finally felt comfortable.

“This might be even better than Multnomah,” Betsy admitted.

I’m glad she said that, because it turned out we couldn’t see Multnomah that day. Too many people had had the same idea, and there was nowhere to park. I’d never have guessed parking would be a concern at a natural landmark, but welcome to Oregon, I guess. We headed home, glad to have seen what we did.

I’ve been thinking about Latourell ever since.

Latourell Falls, from a distance

Latourell Falls, from a distance

I told Betsy in the car about how my dad had a friend in town, who I was supposed to meet up with later. I mentioned that he had yet another friend, with yet another daughter our age, who had just moved to Portland.

“It’s so strange,” I said, “I feel like Portland must be made up of all of these daughters of hippies who migrated here.”

She laughed.

“That seems fitting, actually,” she said.

I’m going to Astoria on the Oregon coast on Saturday with my Chicago-turned-Portland friends, Christina and Kiernan. Then I’m going hiking with Betsy on Sunday. It’s nice to have trips and conversations to look forward to.

Latourell, up close and personal

Latourell, up close and personal

Why Living Alone is the Best

I mentioned last week that one of the joys I’ve now experienced in living alone is picking out my own stuff. It’s been a week now, and I have some other things to add to the list of why living alone is awesome. Maybe I won’t want this forever, but for now, this is the very best thing for me.

  • Netflix decisions are mine alone: Do I want to watch all of season one of Bojack Horseman while ostensibly unpacking? Why yes I do. And you only know that I did that because I just told you. No one is here to judge, or to dare suggest we watch something else for a while. Or go outside.
  • Face mask with abandon: I can put on my gross dead sea mud mask and forget about it and, when I remember it’s there an hour later, it’s cool because no one else has seen it. It’s just me and I am into having smaller pores.
  • Working out: I haven’t been able to do my Jillian Michaels DVDs for years for three reasons: One, they are insanely hard; Two, no matter how comfortable I was with whoever I was living with, I never felt okay with anyone seeing me do these ridiculous moves; three, there’s a lot of jumping involved and downstairs neighbors really hate jumping. Now I live above a garage. NO EXCUSES.
  • Mess is mine: What’s that, Vance Joy? Who left all these gross Trader Joe’s salad containers out on the counter? Me. It is always me.
  • Groceries: I am the only one eating what’s in the fridge, and no one is tempting me with junk food. If I buy another carton of dark chocolate peanut butter cups and eat them in two days that is entirely my own fault.
  • Kitty: I can and will get a cat and no one will be inconvenienced by said cat but me, and I will love him/her unconditionally.

I’m sure there will be more to add to the list as they come up. But for now, I’m off to go conquer the art of not feeling weird eating alone in restaurants. Bye!

New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

I never reach all of my goals for a new year, but I do alright. With all the optimism in the world, I offer my resolutions for 2015:

  1. Do as many live lit shows as I possibly can this year
  2. Complete intro roller derby class at Derby Lite
  3. Do Feminine Comique training
  4. Volunteer marketing services to at least one nonprofit
  5. Bike 500 miles by year’s end
  6. Lose final 9 lbs for a total of 30 since May 2013
  7. Re-visit ASL skills, even if just via YouTube video practice
  8. Take an intro ukulele or fiddle class at Old Town School of Folk
  9. Mull over possible tattoo idea for at least six months
  10. Have the best Chicago summer ever
  11. Travel to visit Eileen and Margaret in Massachusetts
  12. Write for DNAinfo, NewsCastic, and other sites as much as I can
  13. Make a plan for better savings
  14. Ring in 2016 from Portland, OR

Hair Envy

I have wanted bangs for most of 2014, and off and on for years before. Every once in a while I’d tumble down a Pinterest rabbit hole and pose the question to Facebook. Almost everyone shut me down, and with good reason: Curly hair and bangs seldom mix.

I asked my stylist about them over the summer and she just laughed and laughed. I dropped it.

But I still wanted them so, so bad. I like my hair, and I’m happy with having low-maintenance, curls. I knew throwing care-heavy bangs into the mix was ill-advised, but I wanted a change. I wanted Jenny Lewis hair.

Then Jaimi got bangs last week. She looked like she fell gracefully out of a damn 1970s issue of Vogue and I was positively dying from hair envy. She was one of the few to encourage me to try bangs despite the social media backlash I’d gotten at the idea. It’s just hair — it grows back. Everyone has a bad hair cut now and then and life goes on.

Saturday, I brought a Pinterest board to my stylist to show her.

“I know you said no to bangs, but is there anything on here that’s feasible?” I asked, handing her my phone. She scrolled through:










“Yessssssss,” I hissed excitedly.

She refused to give me blunt, choppy, across-the-eyebrows bangs. Fair enough. She did agree to long, side-swept ones, but she made me swear to blowdry them straight every single morning.

“But I don’t have a blow dryer,” I said.

She stared at me. Then she told me to go buy one from the CVS across the street before I did anything else. I agreed, worried she would change her mind if I hesitated.

She thinned out my crazy-thick hair and asked me one more time if I was sure. I said I was, and seconds later, BANGS.

She blew out my hair and I watched her deftly use a round brush to hold my bangs straight under the heat of the blow dryer. I bought a brush from the salon and headed to CVS.



The ends started curling almost immediately after I left, so I suspect keeping them straight will be the never-ending battle I was warned about. But so far I love having a different look for the first time. I have no idea how I’ll need to go about maintaining them or if I’ll stick with them, but for now they are fun to play around with.