article writing

CultureMap Austin

I’ve recently joined the ranks of contributors at CultureMap Austin, a daily digital magazine that publishes news, reviews and other content that’s centered around Austin and its surrounding areas.

My first piece was published a few weeks ago… a quick list of old school, kid-friendly Austin fun spots the whole family can enjoy.

crmap2

Another piece about New Braunfels “staycations” will be published later this week, and several more are on the front burner. So stay tuned!

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design

Guilty Pleasures

One of my best friends from high school is now kicking ass and taking names as the front woman of a popular band in town called Guilty Pleasures. It’s a balls-out, all-girl rock band that covers everything from Benatar to the White Stripes, with lots of legs and attitude. (They put on a tremendous live show; don’t pass up ANY chance to see them.)

They recently landed a big gig at the House of Blues in Houston, and needed a poster or two to promote the event. My friend knew I could find my way around Photoshop pretty well, so she asked me to help out. I came up with a bunch of templates, she picked her favorite and we made a few tweaks.

Even though she didn’t use all the drafts I sent her, I still really liked some of them, so I’m sharing them here. I absolutely love doing design work and will soon add this to my menu of services… until then, though — enjoy!

Warhol Lips

Smoky Glam

Rocky Horror

Hendrix

blog writing, collaborations, humor writing, personal writing

Co-Written With My Five-Year-Old

When I’m pressed for time and just can’t get the creative juices flowing, I often depend on my 5-year-old son Sam to write my content for me. He’s brilliant, hilarious and clearly a chip off the old block. Here’s a post we “co-wrote” this weekend for the grand finale of Funny Not Slutty’s 80s Week:

5-Year Olds Just Don’t Get the 80s

blog writing, books, humor writing

My Funny Valentine: An Anthology

I’ve touched on this in other parts of the site, but wanted to offer a direct link to the book my work was featured in late last year. Adoro Publishing’s humor anthology My Funny Valentine: America’s Most Hilarious Writers Take On Love, Romance, Humor and Other Complications was released in December of 2011 and featured a piece I wrote for my column at FunnyNotSlutty.com. The post was titled “5 Things I Will Not Be Doing to Please my Man this Valentine’s Day” and can still be read, with accompanying pictures, on the site.

To buy a copy of the book, visit its page on Amazon.

blog writing, personal writing

Kidding Around Austin

For a while last year, I played around with the idea of running a local mom-review kind of blog, which I called Kidding Around Austin. I kept up with it for a few months, doing reviews of local spots for family fun, and I really loved it but then freelance work started pouring in and it ended up on the back burner.

I couldn’t bring myself to kill the blog altogether; just really loved doing those little reviews and I always thought maybe I’d give it another go. Now, I think I’m ready.

Before I resurrect it, I wanted to share a few of its past reviews here. Really had fun with this last year, and I’m looking forward to starting it up again!!

(Keep in mind, this is a personal review blog and language will be salty — it’s just how I roll, y’all.)

business writing

Funny Not Slutty

A couple of months ago I was asked to write a press release announcing Funny Not Slutty’s newly redesigned web site. The site was created by and for women in comedy; I’ve written a semi-regular column for them since 2009. Super proud to be associated with the group, and I was glad to help when they needed a press release to promote the launch of their new look.

Also, here’s a look at past columns I’ve written for the site. This is pure comedy, folks — obnoxious and potty-mouthed, so be warned!

blog writing, humor writing, reviews

Rodeo Review

This review was originally posted on the blog Kidding Around Austin back in Marh of 2011. It was written mostly as a casual blog piece and is both obnoxious and potty-mouthed (my humor trademarks). Just a warning!

Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo

Yesterday I went to the Four Seasons for a brunch held by the super awesome folks at PBSKids (more on this later in the week) and got smacked in the face by the SXSW crowds. Once I was able to get out of downtown (which, believe me, was no small feat), I went home, picked up my boys, and spent the rest of the afternoon at the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo.

It was kind of like spending the morning on one planet, hopping a spaceship flight and spending the rest of the day on a completely different rock. I started my day on Planet Skinny Jeans, and ended it on Planet Wrangler.

SXSW is about technology. And celebrity. And being hip.

The rodeo? Totally not about any of that stuff.

The rodeo’s all about cowboys.

And meat.

And I don’t actually know what these things are, but it’s about these things.

It’s also a GIANT rip-off.  The big butt-screw started before we ever even got into the park – ten dollars for decidedly NON-rock star parking.

view from our car

Once you finally make it to the gates, it’s another $7 per adult ($4 for kids 3-12) to get into the fairgrounds. A grand total of $18 for the three of us to get into the park so we could spend a whole lot more on overpriced food and carny rides. Before we ever even walked in, we were nearly 30 bucks lighter. And our feet were already sore.

They make you pay for everything with tokens. Probably hoping those shiny gold coins will distract you from the fact that you’re handing someone nine dollars for a piece of pizza on a stick.

The only part of the fairgrounds that didn’t seem to cost the price of a small child was Kidstown — but that section was so smelly and depressing (with all those poor, miserable petting zoo animals and tired ponies) that I would have gladly paid someone to make it all just go away.

However.

Here are the pluses.

My boy LOVES a carnival.

The rides were fun and the kids had a blast.

And the people watching?  Well, that just doesn’t get any better anywhere else than the rodeo, folks. And that’s the god’s honest truth. Some of the people we saw were worth the price of admission alone.

Two children with glorious mullets

Could we have gone to a regular old carny – the Thomas carnival that just happens to be going on over at the Dell Diamond right now, perhaps – for less money, better parking, and similar entertainment?  Well, sure we could.

But we would have missed this:

Her pink t-shirt says, in huge white letters, “FUCK Y’ALL I’M FROM TEXAS.”
Yes, that’s her baby in the stroller.

And that would have just been unacceptable.

Beej

article writing, business writing

Women, Divorce and Dollar Signs

I wrote this piece as an audition of sorts, for a group of financial advisors looking to position themselves as experts in the field of sudden wealth. They were interested in capturing a more female-centric audience, so I wrote this on spec and targeted it to a female audience. I’m not sure they’ll use it (if they do, it sounds like they’ll want heavy revisions), but I like this draft version a lot and wanted to share it, before it goes through the collaborative editing process.

blog writing, personal writing

The Power of Blogging

I want to say something about blogging.

I’ve been doing this blogging thing for a while now and, like anyone else, I’ve had my ups and downs. It’s the natural progression of a blog, I suppose, an evolution that we all go through on some level — at least, those of us who love it do.

I’ve loved the blog, I’ve hated the blog. I’ve felt insecure about it, I’ve been unbelievably proud of it. I’ve seen it as fun, I’ve seen it as work. I’ve walked away from it only to find that I missed it terribly.

Some days I can’t imagine writing a blog post, but I can’t even begin to imagine not having a blog.

It’s been a great springboard for me to other things. It’s challenged me and made me think and given me the confidence to try things I never thought I could do.

But more than any of that, it’s introduced me to an incredible network of people. Talented people. Smart people. Funny people.

Friends.

This week, I lost my job and while it wasn’t unexpected, it was still a pretty jarring experience. Being the obnoxious bigmouth that I am, of course I wrote a post about it – OF COURSE I did. I told the story with my trademark potty-mouth and complete disregard for my own best interests, hit “publish” without hesitation, and then immediately started to second-guess it. I mean really, what blogger HASN’T heard the infamous Dooce story? Don’t we all know someone who knows someone who’s lost out on the Job of Dreams because they got googled?

Still, in the end I decided to let the post stand, consequences be damned. Because (1) it was all true and (2) it made me laugh. Which was something I really, really needed to do at that time. And if it made ME laugh, it might make someone else laugh, and THAT seemed to make the whole experience worth it somehow.

So I left it up and waited for the inevitable professional backlash.

But you know what I got instead? Support. Lots of it.

Within 24 hours I had at least seven job leads, all from people who’d read that post. I had comments, phone calls, messages on Facebook and Twitter – some from people I’ve known forever and others from friends I will never meet. Most just wanted to offer their support, but a few had real leads for jobs that I might actually get. I’ve had serious conversations with two people in the last two days about possible long-term freelance gigs — both of which came DIRECTLY from that post.

I’ve been looking to go strictly freelance for a while now, but I’ve held on to that crappy old job because it was stable and I was terrified to take the final leap. Now that leap has been made for me, and while it sucks that it went down the way it did, my reaction has been anything BUT what I would have expected.

I’m scared, sure, but I’m also confident. Optimistic. HOPEFUL.

Whatever happens next, I know I’ve got some amazing people on my side. And I have my blog to thank for that.

Not everyone is a fan of blogging. A lot of people I know thumb their noses at it or consider it a waste of time. More than once I’ve heard “I just don’t understand WHY you like it so much.”

Well, this is why.

It’s not because I might end up getting work through my blogging connections — although in this time of uncertainty, that’s a pretty great thing for me. And it’s not because so many people seem to appreciation the situation I’m in and my ability to make light of it — although that feeling really does make me glow.

It’s because I’m part of something bigger than myself, and I feel that, and in times when I really need it, it gives me hope.

And that’s a pretty powerful thing.

————-

Originally published on BlogHer.com, April 22, 2011

blog writing, personal writing

Diversity

As I get further into a strictly-freelance career, I’m finding the road paved with tough choices. It all feels very make or break as I try to identify my work in a way that will make it the most appealing to potential clients — my “brand.” One of the biggest choices I’ve had to make so far? Diversity vs. The Niche.

Ask any freelancer and they’ll fall soundly into one camp or the other:

  • Team Diversity: You HAVE to be diverse in this business. If you can’t write about everything, you’re narrowing your own opportunities.
  • Team Niche: You absolutely MUST specialize in one area. No one will want to hire you unless you’re an expert in their field.

So which is it?

Personally, I’ve chosen to embrace the “Diversity” approach – mostly because my portfolio’s patchwork-like properties fit in well with that strategy. My past and current work is all over the map — blog posts, magazine articles, technical manuals, marketing blurbs, whatever pays the bills. Subjects run the gamut from child safety to staff bios to cheesy Hallmark holidays to haute couture. I currently have four blogs –(1) a potty-mouthed, ridiculously obnoxious humor blog, (2) a family-friendly blog about local Austin activities, (3) a professional blog that “sells” me and (4) an anonymous journal where I purge the evils of the day (and no, don’t ask — I’ll never tell).

Specialize? I wouldn’t even know where to start!

I suppose it would be nice to be an “expert” in something other than spilling coffee on myself (which I do with alarming frequency). It would be great to have a steady, stable income pouring in from work in one particular subject, without having to research and question and learn for each piece from the ground up.

But that also sounds kind of boring.

One of the things I like most about this freelance gig is the variety it lends to every day. It’s such a refreshing change from the vanilla condition of state government work.  A niche might bring me a steadier stream of work, sure… but what about variety? What about challenge?

The jobs I get the most excited about are the ones most unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I was recently approached to write a series of racy short stories for a local erotica magazine, which is completely outside of my comfort zone, terrifying, nerve-racking — and I could not be more excited to get started. I can’t imagine I’d get that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling very often if I were a purely “niche” writer, and for me, that’s a deal breaker.

So in the grand battle of One Focus vs. Many, I’m happy with the side I’m on. Now let’s see where it takes me!

blog writing, personal writing

Swimming

The other day someone asked me what it felt like, jumping from a steady, stable day job into a fresh start as a freelancer. My answer? So far, it feels a lot like diving headfirst into a pool of freezing water, right in the middle of winter. I’ve plunged from the warm security of a full-time, corporate job into the icy cold waters of freelance — and right now, my lips are a little blue.

When you take a dive like this, it’s a shock at first – of course it is. I knew that before I ever even stuck a toe in the water. But here’s what else I know: My temperature will adjust. As long as I keep swimming, my body will continue to warm. The harder I work, the more comfortable I’ll feel.

Before I know it, getting out of this pool will seem impossible. The water will seem too warm and cozy to abandon. Just lifting one hand from the deep to feel the air around me will leave my fingers frosty.

For the moment, I’m treading water. An amateurish dog-paddle and my trusty water wings are all that keep me from sinking. But pretty soon, I’ll ditch the floaties and start swimming on my own. I’ll keep at it, lap after lap, and before you know it, I’ll be swimming the 100-meter medley without ever even taking a breath.

Yes, my teeth are chattering a little right now. But it’s only a matter of time before I give Michael Phelps a real run for his money.

blog writing, personal writing

Optimism

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about optimism and what it can do for you.

I’ve spent the last several years in a job that has paid the bills but has never made me feel passionate or excited about my work, and I’ve recently made the decision to cut back my hours and use my new extra days to pursue a strictly freelance career.  I’ll be giving up company-paid health insurance, profit sharing, 30 percent of my vacation and sick time, and the stability of a full-time job – not to mention the dramatic reduction in income I’m about to face.  Given the current economy (which EVERYONE keeps reminding me about), I’m putting myself in a scary, scary position.

And I AM scared.  I’m really scared.  But you know what else I am?

HOPEFUL.
EXCITED.
OPTIMISTIC.

For the first time in my life, I’m taking charge of my own future and not letting fear dictate my next move.  I’m taking a huge chance and all I can see is the opportunity of it all.

That’s kind of an awesome place to be.

I won’t lie, there are times when I ask myself What on Earth are you doing? and my pulse races a little when I realize that the answer is, I don’t really know.  But whenever those feelings of fear and uncertainty start to take over, I force myself to step back, take a deep breath, and repeat this to myself, over and over:

It’s going to be a great year!

As I begin networking and putting myself out there for others to meet and hire, I’m trying to let that optimism seep into everything I do.  I want the people I deal with to FEEL it.  I want them to know how excited I am to be doing this, how happy I am to be in charge of my own career and life for the first time since I started working a zillion years ago.  I want them to know that my optimism will extend to the work I do – and not in a cheesy, over-the-top way, but in a Wow-this-writing-is-fantastic! kind of way.

I want them to know that I’m passionate about this career path I’ve chosen, and even if the work I do for them comes on a small scale I’m still glad to be doing it, because for me it’s all about independence and learning and growing and CONNECTING with others.

If they feel that from me, they’ll WANT me on their team – and there’s no place I’d rather be.

This optimism I’m feeling is doing more than just easing my fears.  It’s making me happy.  It’s motivating me to start taking more chances and really putting myself out there in a way I never have before.  It’s opening me up to ALL possibilities.  And I think it’s making me a better writer, too.

It really IS going to be a great year!