I'm pleased to announce I'll be writing a regular arts column in Vancouver Island Almost Free Magazine. Have a read through my first article, in which I explore well-loved classics on stage this spring in Victoria.
As a semi-professional violinist and an amateur musical theatre performer, the arts are close to my heart and have been since I was in elementary school.
One of the reasons I love writing so much is that I get to explore subjects I'm interested in and share them with others. It's been a goal of mine for years to write a column about the arts in Victoria and on Vancouver Island, and I'm thrilled this opportunity has come my way.
I'll be sharing links to my column on Twitter and in my portfolio as they become available online. Or, you can pick up print copies of the magazine at dozens of shops, cafés, restaurants and organizations on the Island.
Enjoy tips and coupons for affordable living, as well as editorial content about health and fitness, arts and culture and more.
Students, fresh out of school, understand the age-old, job-searching paradox: you can't get a job without experience, but you need experience to get a job.
When I launched my writing business nearly a decade ago, a fellow freelancer advised me to seek out volunteer work to build and expand my portfolio. It worked like a charm. I approached organizations and businesses I was interested in and wrote ads, newsletters, media releases, and blogs, gaining valuable experience crafting messages for different needs and audiences.
These volunteer opportunities allowed me to cut my teeth with my craft while also helping me learn to run my new business. I'm grateful they trusted me with their brands; I owe them much thanks for my success today.
The second part of the freelancer's advice was to "know when to stop volunteering."
From a business perspective, I understood she was telling me not to be afraid to charge what I'm worth, especially as I gained more experience. But I've never given up volunteering. I have a skill that people need, and I am happy to help causes I care about communicate their messages.
At the moment, I'm volunteering with three organizations: Mount St. Mary Hospital, my alma mater Laurentian University, and Falconry An Intangible Cultural Heritage.
For Mount St. Mary, I've donated time designing visual collateral for them, a Christmas card and a brochure, a follow up to a brochure I was hired to produce a few months ago.
For Laurentian, I write feature articles for the bi-annual alumni magazine. I had been volunteering on a Board committee, when the Board decided to resurrect the alumni magazine. I've been contributing a few feature articles to every issue and was thrilled when the first assignment I received was about a man I'd gone to high school with (he's a stunt man in the movies!).
Most recently, I've begun helping Falconry An Intangible Cultural Heritage, a falconry group based in B.C., with their communications strategy. I've recommended ways to update and improve their website and use social media more effectively. Soon, I'll be editing their blog posts, too, which should be fascinating reading.
As much as I am helping these organizations, they are helping me, asking me to think in new ways, consider different approaches, and expand my skill set.
I highly recommend maintaining a few volunteer accounts, no matter what your field, no matter how successful you become. Every business moves ahead thanks to help from people here and there; certainly, I was helped along by individuals and organizations who took a chance on a new writer. I'm so glad they did and, in tribute to their graciousness, I will continue to pay it forward.
“How wonderful it is to be able to write someone a letter! To feel like conveying your thoughts to a person, to sit at your desk and pick up a pen, to put your thoughts into words like this is truly marvelous.”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
I've blogged about letter-writing and its capacity to strengthen personal and business relationships. I'm pleased to announce that on October 20, 2016, I will be hosting a letter-writing program, along with a colleague and fellow letter-writing lover, Lisa, at the Greater Victoria Public Library.
The program is free and advanced registration is not required; everyone is welcome to this drop-in program.
Writers spend a lifetime practicing the art of selecting and rearranging words (and then rearranging them again). Not everyone has a lifetime to devote to this practice, but many have a desire to improve the words they put to paper and screen.
Read on for three quick and dirty tips to improve your writing. The recommendations I've chosen are a good start to achieving stronger, clearer, and more persuasive communication. I hope you'll agree that these tips are not intimidating — an intimate knowledge of grammar is not required — and they'll bring about excellent results.
Earlier this year, I posted about my first article in an American magazine, Fresh Cup Magazine, based in Portland. Today, I'm sharing my second article in that same magazine, an article on Silk Road Tea, a company from Victoria, B.C. that is well-known and well-loved by locals.
I love writing about tea—there's more to it than the beverage; there's the experience, the history, the culture, and traditions. This article allowed me to delve into the history of Victoria's Chinatown, the oldest in Canada. Much of my research on this topic was conducted with the help of a project affiliated with the University of Victoria called Victoria's Chinatown: A gateway to the past and present of Chinese Canadians.
My first blog post of 2016 is to share with you great news: my first article in an American magazine has been published!
The article was a lot of fun (and a lot of work) to write—it's about the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, located in the mountains by beautiful Lake Louise in Alberta. You can find the story in the December 2015 issue of Fresh Cup Magazine, a publication about specialty coffee and tea.
Researching the story meant I had to hike the trail to the teahouse, something I was proud of myself for doing, since I have never hiked in high altitudes before, and I found myself short of breath on the trail. But turning the corner and seeing the teahouse made the journey worth every step—not to mention getting that first sip of hot chai tea.
I invite you to read the article about the experience here: Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse.
Thanks to everyone who helped along the way to make this article a success, especially Susanne Gillies-Smith, owner of the teahouse.
This story will have a special place in my heart forever, since it's the first article I've had published in an American market. I'm happy and thankful—two great things to be at the start of a New Year.
Wishing you all the best in 2016!
How am I today? I am good.
Does my response sound incorrect to you? Did it make you shudder?
Until recently, I would have scolded myself to hear "I am good" come out of my mouth rather than "I am well." Despite it being a sentence I utter multiple times per day, I'd never thought of the grammar behind the response; I simply followed the protocol learned in grade school—that one should use the adverb "well" rather than the adjective "good" to modify a verb.
But no matter how many times I'm asked how I am, I've never liked saying "I'm well."
Then, I came upon Peck's English Pointers, by writer, editor, and author Frances Peck.
Now, I know whether "well" or "good" is correct—and I know why.
The other day, as I was preparing an application for a copyediting contract, I started thinking about how I could stand out from the masses. I knew there would be dozens – if not hundreds – of other applicants, so instead of telling the person hiring how skilled and passionate I am about copyediting, I decided instead to focus on the relationship between writers and editors.
When I began freelance writing nine years ago, I got nervous to receive the editor's first set of comments. I wanted every article or piece of writing I submitted to be perfect; I longed for the editor to say, "Wow, Jessica, I didn't have to change a word! You get a GOLD STAR!"
I believed fewer edits meant I was a better writer and that, in turn, my piece of writing was the best it could be.
I was wrong.
I am a bit of an enigma. I will boycott a company for misusing an apostrophe in its advertisements, but I embrace (for the most part) the addition to the OED of modern slang like "amazeballs."
A fellow writer pointed me to English comedian, writer, and actor Stephen Fry for illumination on this paradox within me.
On March 31, 2014, Canada Post raised its postal rates by 35%. A domestic stamp will leave a $1.00 hole in your pocket, or $0.85 each if you buy stamps in sheets.
Big business will hardly bat an eye at these changes. But small businesses? Even with reduced rates for bulk mailing, a small business will think twice before mailing 500 Christmas cards. Maybe an e-card is a better option. (Never mind about the new anti-spam legislation... that's for another day.)
If my prediction is correct — that the increased prices will deliver more unwanted flyers and less valuable, personalized mail — there is an opportunity to be had.
People feel good when they get – and send – mail
Receiving a piece of quality mail — a hand-written letter or card — has become a simple but welcome phenomenon — a diamond in the rough.
According to this article in the New York Times, hand-written notes are experiencing a re-birth. They've always been a sign of good manners, but they are back in vogue for more reasons than Emily Post understands.
U.S. postal rates have not risen as drastically as Canada's, but research to the south suggests the letter-sending renaissance is connected to the digital revolution. Guy Trebay's aforementioned article sites experts that say an emotional connection is forged by choosing stationery, putting thoughts to paper, and sending a card.
The intimacy is matched on the receiving end — opening a letter, holding it in your hands, and engaging with it.
The letter forges a bond between sender and receiver, a bond not achieved through a "Thx for gift TTYL" text.
In business and in our personal lives, we strive to create bonds. Whether you are looking for a sale or to improve a relationship, touching the emotions of a person means you are connecting, moving a relationship forward, and earning loyalty.
I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this post: Send hand-written notes!
A note shows you took the time to choose stationery, think about what you wanted to say, looked up the receiver's address, sealed the envelope, put a stamp on it, and dropped it in the mail. A note shows you care about the person on the other end; it shows you value the relationship enough to devote time to it.
And, in a world where the amount of personal mail is reduced by increasing costs of postage and digital communications, your note, in an anything-but-#10-envelope, with the hand-written address, will stand out like a turquoise Tiffany's box. And your message is the jewel inside.
> Further Reading
Hooked on the power of letter writing? Check out More Love Letters, a global movement to spread joy through letters. You can leave unaddressed love letters to life around your town, or you can send a letter directly to a person in need of support.
Jessica Woollard, freelance writer in beautiful Victoria, B.C.