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Pitch Fail

Monkey (well, technically a chimp) on a typewriter

You’ll never guess what just happened.

So I’ve been trying to drum up a bit more business writing freelance.  I feel like I could probably take on one more monthly gig while still managing to keep track of which of my children is which (the non-identical ones, at least).  And then the Archdiocese of Melbourne went and got itself a new Archbishop, which meant a special edition for the magazine I write for, which meant they wouldn’t be needing ME to write for them this month, which left me feeling a little bereft and unwanted and resentful of the Archbishop elect (how DARE he?), especially when an extra bill came in for exactly the amount I would have been paid if it had been business as usual.

So, I had some time to sell myself to editors.  But I didn’t really know how to go about it.  I hunted around on websites, but couldn’t find any email addresses.  Then I made myself a profile on LinkedIn, but it seemed all the editors had private accounts.  When I told people about my hunt, they invariably would tell me about a newsletter of magazine they knew about that was “always looking for writers”, but which only offered the joy of seeing your name in print as payment.  Thank you: no thank you.

Lovely M had some contacts, so I armed her with some material to chase them up with.  But I haven’t heard back, and I didn’t want to bug her.  Plus I didn’t want to face up to the idea that my writing was NO GOOD and not worth a second look.   I’m going to my high-school reunion in a month and all of the publications I write for have the word ‘Catholic’ in the title somewhere.  This needs to change.  So I pressed on.

Then, as I was digging about on LinkedIn (“you have almost reached your browsing limit”), I found the details of the editor of the Woman’s Weekly!  Perfect!

So I spent a whole day crafting a breezy-chatty-yet-professional introductory letter and chose three of my best pieces to share.  I wrote about how I’d grown up reading the Weekly and how it’s still close to my heart.  I showed it to my family and asked their advice.  I pitched ideas for future articles that I said I was already working on.  I fantasised about being Pat McDermott’s understudy (she writes “Patter” – perhaps I could write “Scatter”?).  And then I waited.

Here was my plan:  I figured the editor would most likely begin her day by going through her emails.  She would start early – Maybe 8? Maybe 8:30? – because she might have a meeting at 9.  So if I sent my masterpiece at, say, 8:45am, it would come floating in to the top of the pile right when she’s in email-reading mode.  I was all set.  The PDFs were attached and all of the publications I mentioned were also hyperlinks to articles I had written for said publications.  Any minute now and I would press send.

But that’s not really a true picture of events.  It wasn’t like I was sitting there with my finger hovering over the send button, watching the clock.  I had set the laptop open with everything cued up on the kitchen table, that is true.  And I got in perhaps thirty seconds worth of finger-hovering.  But then Annie needed help making porridge and Poppy wanted milk poured and Christopher needed me to shout at him to stop teasing Harry, and Daisy wanted me to find the Thomas the Tank Engine spoon.  And then the doorbell rang and it was my mum and I hadn’t seen her in WEEKS and she’d brought food over and we needed to talk lots as we reorganised the fridge to fit it.

Mum looked across to the kitchen table.  “Uh-oh.  Daisy’s on your laptop.”

“Oh, isn’t that cute!”  I said.  It was cute.  Daisy was working away with the same intensity she must have seen her mother display countless times before.  Then I froze.  “Get off Mummy’s laptop, Daisy!”  I exclaimed, and rushed to the table.  My email page was open, as it had been before.  Now, however, a line of bold text ran across the top of the screen “Your email has been sent”.  Wait: what?

But surely this wasn’t such a bad thing.  I was going to send the email anyway – maybe Daisy had done me a favour dispatching it in such a timely manner?  It was like she was my adorable little personal assistant.  I frantically scanned the sent message.  It was such a bad thing.

There, in the middle of one the opening sentences, Daisy had added her own input: a string of random letters and punctuation marks.  In a mad panic, I dashed off the following message:

“Oh my goodness!

With regards to my previous email, my two-year-old jumped on my laptop as I was answering the door.  She made her own amendments and sent the email off before I was ready!  With the exception of “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, the email is what I meant to send. Please excuse young Daisy’s input and be assured that I am usually a scrupulous proofreader and never short of anecdotal material!

If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go crawl into a nice dark hole now…

Regards,

Kate”

Except I used Daisy’s actual name, not her blog pseudonym, because I figured I should be honest and it’s a nice name, which shows good judgement on my part.

So that was yesterday.  The time in between has been spent clicking the ‘refresh’ button on my email and jumping at loud noises.  But she hasn’t written back.  She hasn’t written back AT ALL.  I’ve taken to wringing my hands together and muttering at strangers.

I blame the new Archbishop.

 

PS.  I just went back to look at the email I sent and discovered, on top of everything else, I wrote the name of the magazine wrong.  I wrote “Women’s Weekly” – not “Woman’s Weekly”.  And I did it MORE THAN ONCE.  What is WRONG with me??  No wonder she hasn’t written back!  She probably didn’t even read as far as “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, she probably threw her computer aside in disgust when she saw I didn’t even bother getting the name of her publication right.

I need to go mutter at some strangers (“Comensoli…ComenSOLI!”)

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Scraps and Pieces

Scrapyard cars

 

Hi everyone.

My husband’s taken the kids to Aldi, so I really should write something.  But I’m feeling the crush of perfectionism that comes when I’ve been away from the blog from too long.  I feel guilty for avoiding you.  Sometimes I forget that my blog isn’t actually a person, it really does feel that way sometimes.

I don’t have anything of great importance to share, but I thought I’d show you a few excerpts from messages I sent my family recently.  After all, this is how this blog began.  The original ‘fail’ posts were just group emails I sent out to my parents and brothers and sisters, many of whom were doing far more interesting things overseas.

Anyway, if you’re reading this and are related to me, please excuse the clip show.  I’m just trying to get back in the swing of things.

Also, if you have an idea of something you’d like me to write about, drop me a line in the comments.  I’m a bit ‘duh’ at the moment…

1. Goodmorning

“Hi everybody. Annie, in her quest for milk, managed to distribute half a litre on the kitchen floor, over the top of a stool, into Matilda’s shoes and all throughout the plate cupboard (both shelves). The worst part is, I was in the room the whole time, just didn’t realise what she was up to.

The cup in question somehow got a hole in the bottom. I can imagine Annie thinking “Why does this keep happening to me? Perhaps I should try pouring it over here instead?”

Everybody’s decided to join in the “I’m a nutter Knightley” chorus. Christopher is still in his pyjamas doing dishes at a rate of 1 dish per hour, Harry keeps trying to turn the TV on, Daisy wants to be fed nonstop and I had to confiscate Matilda’s iPhone after she kicked Christopher in a temper. No Background Briefing podcast for you today, Missy!

2.  Awkward

So I went out with a bunch of nice homeschool mums last night.  As we were walking to our cars I got a message from my husband: “ETA?”.  He was thinking of watching a movie and wanted to know if he should start it without me.  I surreptitiously communicated with my thumb:  “We’re in the carpark now, but that could still mean another hour or two.  These women do not know how to stop talking.”

Then my friend’s phone beeped.  A moment later she says “was this message meant for me, Kate?” and she read it out.  All at once I realised what I did.  I saw my husband’s text on the screen of my phone as it came in, but when I opened Messages to reply, it took me to the screen I had open from before, when I was texting my friend to let her know I was on my way.  I tried to gabble out an explanation, but it was a bit hard to talk because even my teeth were blushing.

I was home in time for the movie.

3. Ego a go go

I got an email from my editor yesterday. I was in the swimming pool cafe with Harry, Annie, Daisy and Poppy. I was a little noisy about it: “What’s this, children? An email from my EDITOR? I wonder what MY EDITOR would like me to write, me being a WRITER and all”

Then I looked impressively around the cafe. Harry said “I want chocolate.”

 

Odds and Ends

My notebook is chock-full of half-written blog posts. They all seem a little bland to me. This post is going to be short and, let’s face it, rather dull, but (and this is important) I’m going to finish it and type it up and post it.

The article I wrote for Australian Catholics has been published (!!!)  If you click here, you can catch a tantalising glimpse of the title, graphic and first paragraph.  The rest, unfortunately, is only available to online subscribers.

If you live in Australia, you might be able to get a copy from your local Catholic church or school.  Failing that, I might see if I can get permission to reprint the article a few months from now.  I’m not really sure how these things work.

I’ve also written an article for Madonna, AC’s sister publication (!!!), but that will just be a re-working of my Mary, Help of Kitchens post and it hasn’t gone to print yet.

My (other) work in progress.  See that bit of purple at the bottom of the shot?  That's my belly...

My (other) work in progress. See that bit of purple at the bottom of the shot? That’s my belly…

The twins continue to grow and I am now officially the size of a small W-class tram.  I am coping with all this by waddling everywhere like some oversized toddler and perfecting the art of Phoning It In.

Behold:  Harry’s birthday cake:

dodgy cake with increasingly indecipherable writing

I ran out of writing icing.  Fail.

I think, perhaps, I should rename this post “Odd and End”, because I can’t think of anything more to tell you and my break is almost over and I’m determined to actually finish this post so it doesn’t become lost among my other half-written monstrosities floating around the place.  Incidentally, if there is something particular you would like me to write a post about, please leave me a comment.  I’m feeling a little stuck at the moment.

And now, in the spirit of Phoning It In, I’m going to finish this post right now, without anything witty to round it off and without tying any ends together.

*dial tone*

Bliss

Meme: picture of oddly smiling Mr Bean with caption "This is my excited face"

Oh! I am so excited! Please be patient with me while I have a little gush.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent an email to Australian Catholics magazine.  I’d been meaning to do so for a while now.  I kind of hoped they might take me on to write something for them and I gave them links to some of my posts (OK, six posts.  I may have gone a little overboard).  For those of you who didn’t go to Catholic school here and didn’t receive a copy of this glossy quarterly with your Friday newsletter, Australian Catholics is an entertaining and accessible magazine which also seeks to address the deeper questions of what it means to be a Catholic in today’s world.  As far as church-based colour publications go, it’s kind of a big deal.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning that the reason I had the mental clarity to compose this email was because my heroic husband had taken all of my offspring (well, not the ones in utero…) on a camping trip, leaving me to wallow in the luxury of a quiet house with nobody to please but myself (I tidied the kitchen bench and it stayed tidy!)

Anyway, the thing is they wrote back!  And they said they would be Definitely Very Interested in me writing an article for them!  And then, after an exchange of emails (my response email had something in it about how their response made me do little squealy noises in my chair.  Not sure why I felt the need to share that.  Probably should have pretended that I’m such an in-demand writer that this sort of thing is totally commonplace but I think I was high on the fumes of the spray-n-wipe on the kitchen bench which was still clear and shiny), and also a phone call (do you remember what we were talking about?  That was a long tangent I went on in the middle.  You might need to go back to the start of the sentence.  Sorry about that.), I agreed to write a 550 word article for them which would tie into the theme of their upcoming issue.

And they would totally pay me for it.

It was after about half-an-hour of dancing around the house that the panic set in.  Wait a minute: this isn’t like my blog where I bang on for as long as I like on a topic that interests me.  This is a professional article with a set topic.  I don’t think I have anything of use to say on this subject.  And I have to be funny.  I can’t be funny on purpose.  What am I going to do?

Plus, by now the children were all back home and I was feeling far less sure of myself and my writing abilities than I had been in my super-confident child-free bubble.  But, after talking my husband, family and Lovely M to death on the topic, I somehow managed to tease out a few ideas without having to invent a fake ‘fail’ story (my sister’s suggestion: I don’t think I could have pulled it off).

I didn’t have much time to write the article, which I think was a good thing.  It stopped me from procrastinating and agonizing over my lack of things to say.  In the end, I got down to work and scribbled down something that was far from brilliant, but still workable.

And about twice as long as it needed to be.

I think it’s a good discipline for me to put my writing on a diet sometimes.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but brevity isn’t exactly my strong suit.  The first few hundred words I culled made everything sharper and snappier and gave the article a good pace.  But I still had to lose 180 more words and I was down to muscle and bone!

In desperation, I emailed the draft around to my family and they gently coaxed me to scrap and condense, without neglecting to stroke my ego (“this section reads really well.  You did a great job, Kate.   Now, get rid of it.”)

Some friends asked me “how do you find the time to write?”, then they visited my house and stopped asking that question.  As I spent my days furiously tapping at the keyboard or wandering about vaguely, churning ideas in my head, the entire house quietly and promptly fell into disrepair all around me.  Let’s just say, the kitchen bench had long lost its sparkle.

The final, rather emaciated draft, was chock-full of apostrophised contractions and was sometimes so word-frugal that it didn’t make sense.  Even then, it was 34 words over.  But my editor (“my editor”: doesn’t that sound nice?) very kindly said they could work with that, and so, in a fortnight or so, my article is going to print (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Thank you so much for making to the end of this post.  It was such an indulgent one – bloated and well over the word limit, long past deadline (I started writing this weeks ago), and with no real point to it.  But that’s the best thing about having a blog, I guess – every now and then I can get away with indulgent and boasty writing.  Maybe my next post will have some sense in it.

I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Post 100!

Bells at Bells Beach

Let the balloons fall from the ceiling! This, my friends, is Post Number One Hundred for Laptop on the Ironing Board. Huzzah!

I figured, seeing as though my blog’s second birthday came and went without a peep from me, I’d make a fuss of post 100 instead.  This takes a supreme level of co-ordination that’s almost beyond me.

Vital Statistics

Posts:  100 (well obviously)
Followers: 847
Website hits: 19,374
Most Popular Post: Soul Diet
Countries: 105
Most Obscure Sounding Country to Visit my Blog: Martinique.  Or possibly Guernsey…

Thank you for this little piece of self-indulgence.  And, while I’m at it, thank you for this BIG piece of self-indulgence that is this blog.  I can’t describe the joy it brings me to write something and know that you’re actually going to read it.  Thank you for supporting me in my electronic therapy!

I’m sure there are other important things I should say on such an occasion, but I can’t think of them now, so let’s just crack open the electronic champagne.  To blogs everywhere!  Salut!

Homeschool Update

Our first week of homeschooling has been rather blissful. Matilda is her usual lovely self and Christopher Robin has proven to be a joy to teach. He attacks his work with enthusiasm and is great fun to have around.  Life has been much simpler, too, without a lot of school admin to deal with.  It’s funny the amount of background stress that sort of thing creates for me.  I will cheerfully draw up schedules and curriculums for homeschool and happily spend hours researching the best resources and discussing plans with anybody who’ll listen.  But sort out uniform/school lunch/reader/form and money/permission slip?  Yech!  Spare me!

Christopher Robin has proudly started his own blog.  He calls it Bruce Bogtrotter’s Guide to Food and it’s all about his favourite subject in the world.  He has named himself after a gastronomically talented character in Roald Dahl’s Matilda (which we recently read together).   Christopher/Bruce has been formulating all sorts of ideas for upcoming posts, and I’m sure he would fall off his chair in excitement if you were to leave a friendly comment there…

A bunch of extracurricular sports and other activities start this week and in a fortnight we will join a weekly co-op, which thankfully will cover a lot of the subjects I tend to skim over (like PE, Music and Art!)  and give the kids a chance to work in groups.

This is just a little post, designed so that I can give you a small wave whilst in the thick of it.  I really hope to write something more interesting soon!

Get Ready for Art in August!

artwork

 

It’s almost here!  Art in August – an excuse for those of us who don’t think we’re very artistic but like the idea of nurturing our creative side to crack out the paints and pencils and spend some time doing art for art’s sake.  We do this without apology or explanation.  We do not listen to the voice that says we have more important things to do, we don’t deserve this time, and, what’s more, that picture looks like rubbish.  We produce and we post!

If you’d like to join in, here’s what you have to do:

  1.  Get creative (and don’t apologise about it)
  2. Take a photo of your creation (unless you’ve created a photograph, in which case you can skip this step)
  3. Post this photo on your blog
  4. Link back to this post and mention somewhere that you’re joining in Art in August

I will link to you in my blog as well.  If you don’t have a blog, there are two ways you can join in:

  1. Post your work on the blog’s Facebook page
  2. Email the photo to me at laptopontheironingboard-AT-gmail.com  (I’ve written it out that way to stop robots spamming me; when you email me, write it out the regular way)
  3. I will post it on my blog for you.  You can even use a pseudonym, if you like…

I really should have put this post up months ago.  I haven’t given you much notice, I’m afraid.  But no fear – it seems to be the tradition for Art in August to post well into September and October!