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Stet Blog

Since its inception in the 1980s, the IWOC monthly newsletter, Stet, has featured helpful news, tips, and information for IWOC members and the entire Chicagoland freelance writing community—including previews and recaps of IWOC meetings and events, book and service/software reviews, and advice for developing and sustaining business as an independent writer. As of January 2018, the standard monthly newsletter format has been replaced with the blog format contained on this page, which allows articles to be posted in a more timely fashion, and members to be more interactive by leaving comments. (Simply click on the 3 vertical dots next to each blog's headline.)

We invite contributions from all interested parties both inside and outside of IWOC. Our only criteria are writing quality and the usefulness of the information to independent writers. For information regarding submissions, contact the Stet editor.

ViSIT THE Stet ARCHIVES

Over the years, the Stet delivery format has evolved from snail-mailed paper copy to emailed PDF/HTML file to site-hosted, aggregated blog. Stet issues in PDF/HTML and aggregated-blog format from 2002 to 2017 are available for viewing in our archives.

  • To view PDF/HTML issues of Stet (published from 2002 to 2015), click here.
  • To view Stet in its aggregated-blog format (published from 2016 to 2017), click here.

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  • 28 Nov 2018 7:37 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)


    Ulrich Sandmeyer 1948 - 2018

    My heart is heavy. Ulrich Sandmeyer, who co-founded Sandmeyer's Bookstore with his wife Ellen in the 1980s, has passed away. The young, idealistic couple created an independent book store that is cherished by local residents and worldwide visitors who stumble upon it as they stay in nearby hotels. In this authentic independent book store, you'll find local authors and not readily-found children's books. A cork board showcases the accomplishments of writers and events of interest to them. Artful greeting cards and grandly designed notebooks are available to inspire readers and writers. It's easy to spend an afternoon in the cozy former printing warehouse with the original restored wood floors that creak as the reader walks through to explore the lovingly displayed books. The young visionary couple was instrumental in establishing the Printers Row community. 

    Printers Row has been an unlikely neighborhood in the center of a commercial environment since the 1980s. Sandmeyer's Bookstore is a structural component of the transformation from a defunct block of printing warehouses into a neighborhood of residential loft living. In the 1980’s and early 90’s an eclectic group of people willing to live without access to a grocery store and endure the risk of petty crime in this unnoticed neighborhood occupied the lofts Printers Row and housing of Dearborn Park. We were all frequent visitors of Sandmeyer's knowing that the Sandmeyers saw the jewel inside the urban grime, the potential the neighborhood held and  it's emerging promise. 

    The vision of this idealistic pioneering couple  transformed the neighborhood into a haven for independent writers. Sandmeyer's was an early supporter of the Printers Row Book Fair that at one time drew a handful of visitors and has now evolved into Printers Row Lit Fest that draws tens of thousands of visitors, artists and authors from around the world to celebrate the influence of the written word and those that are brave enough to invest in sharing it.  The Independent Writers of Chicago, also formed in the early 1980’s, has been a participant in the revolution with an annual booth just steps outside of Sandmeyer's.

    Mr. Ulrich will be appropriately memorialized at Grace Place Community Center in the heart of the Printers Row community he helped to build. Grace Place is an interfaith organization known as a Community Center because there's an old Chicago law on the books that won't allow a bar next to a faith organization. 

    In lieu of flowers, the Sandmeyers suggest donations to the Chicago Public Library Foundation https://cplfoundation.org/. Services will be held Saturday, December 1 at 11:00 AM at Grace Place (637 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL).

    As the South Loop Neighborhood continues to transform and grow with expanding universities, businesses and upscale rental living, it will serve us well to remember our roots and the contribution of Ulrich and Ellen Sandmeyer, who with youthful optimism  were willing to risk and invest to create so much. 

    Ulrich Sandmeyer, you will be dearly missed.

  • 18 Nov 2018 2:14 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    Jay Newton-Small was desperate. The Washington, D.C.-based founder and CEO of MemoryWell, a site that relates stories of elderly people entering memory care, needed a writer, and she needed one fast. Newton-Small had journeyed to the Chicago area to host family nights at three local nursing homes, where writers would interview residents and their loved ones in preparation to crafting stories. I had interviewed two residents at Brookdale in Hoffman Estates, but was not available for the next day's sessions at St. Paul's House on Chicago's North Side and at Lutheran Home, an assisted living facility in Arlington Heights.

    When Newton-Small found she had more residents waiting for interviews than anticipated, but faced a shortage of writers, she put out an emergency appeal to me. Knowing IWOC's Katherine Mikkelson lived in Arlington Heights, I told Jay I'd reach out to Katherine.

    In near miraculous fashion, Katherine said she would make herself available at a moment's notice to visit Lutheran Home, about a mile from her residence, conduct multiple interviews and turn around the resulting articles in a week's time. Within minutes, I had introduced the two women by email. Katherine found herself with a new client likely to hire her repeatedly for future family nights at Lutheran Home, and Newton-Small had averted a writer shortage.

    It was a case of IWOC's mission – which includes bringing writers and paying clients together for mutual benefit – being fulfilled yet again.

    And on this occasion at the 11th hour.

    - Jeff Steele

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 18 Nov 2018 2:09 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    Anticipation built steadily among both attendees and presenters as the minutes ticked down to IWOC's Wednesday, September 26th Life in the Freelance Lane presentation at the American Writers Museum on Michigan Avenue in Chicago's Loop.

    IWOC president Laura Stigler, vice president George Becht and member Jeff Steele had honed their talk across many previous appearances before library, church and civic groups. But this night promised to be different. The three veteran Chicago-area scribes would soon stride to the dais in the recently-inaugurated shrine to America's most glittering literati.

    By the time AWM program director Allison Sansone introduced the speakers, 37 current and would-be freelancers had filled row upon row of Readers Hall seats in rapt anticipation of the much-publicized address. By all accounts, they did not come away disappointed.

    The insightful program laid out a sensible, easy-to-follow guide through the rewards and roadblocks of launching a freelance career. It was followed by 45 minutes of well-informed and discussion-provoking questions from audience members, who quizzed the IWOCans on a broad array of topics, from how to garner assignments and the various ways to charge, to contracts, pay hike requests and strategies to convince late-paying clients to pony up.

    Ably supported by IWOC veterans Richard Eastline, Alicia Dale and Claire Nicolay, who had eagerly joined the fun, the trio of presenters took turns fielding queries, serving up insights earned the hard way over their combined near century in the freelance writing trenches. When it was all over and the IWOC speakers had departed the stage to a round of applause, the reviews were universally favorable. As one captivated attendee wrote:

    “My thanks to you . . . in sharing your experience and ideas! You helped me look at my work from new angles. Although I might be the one freelance writer who is content to get by without ‘maximizing’ profits, I do care about building my business so that I might be able to land new and interesting gigs. Your advice will, I believe, help me do that!”

    - anonymous

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 18 Nov 2018 2:02 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    I came across this Letter to the Editor in a recent Wall Street Journal issue. Excerpted here, writer Natalie Canavor of Annapolis, MD was lamenting the fact that not only have ACT writing scores declined since 2006, but that writing tests were no longer required by either ACT or SAT college entrance exams. I wanted to share her thoughts with my fellow writers, followed by my own:

    “Few universities concern themselves with teaching practical writing skills for the workplace. Poor writing skills have been identified as the biggest disconnect between academia and what employers need, in some cases desperately. Our digital age doesn’t reduce the need for well-written, everyday communication, ranging from customer correspondence to marketing materials to presentations…Should we care the about quality of writing? How can we not?”

    We are in a cultural crucible that ought to be of tremendous concern to us all. But while Ms. Canavor’s observations frustrated and angered me, I also found myself overcome with thankfulness…

    Thankful that I grew up in the time that I did, and for the education I received (Peterson Elementary, Von Steuben High, and Northeastern Illinois U.) It was a time when the “3 R’s” were emphasized in school, assiduously drilled into us by teachers who understood that these skills would stay with us for a lifetime, carry us far, make our lives easier, more productive, more enriched. The “3 R’s” were a mental Survival Kit. And those teachers were the stalwart scouts who guided us through.

    I am thankful for my parents and grandparents, who put a premium on the art of writing. I could not have asked for more shining examples to follow. And I am thankful every day that I’ve inherited their DNA.

    While we all may have arrived at it from different places and experiences, we can be thankful we’ve been lead to this point: that we can write. That we love to write. That we take great pride in the ability to write. And perhaps best of all, we can make a living at it. How lucky is that!

    Whether it’s through our genes or Divinely bestowed – or both, to be able to write well is a gift. A gift, I believe, that we are duty-bound to give to others, whether it’s to entertain, to inform or, as many of us IWOC’ers know, to come to the rescue of businesses by offering them the writing services they “desperately need” to help them succeed. It is also a gift we are obliged to pass along in the form of teaching or mentoring. If schools aren’t doing it, then it is up to us.

    As Thanksgiving approaches, we have many things to be thankful for. Possessing an ability that has been in demand since the first scribblings on a cave wall, is certainly one of them.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Write on!

    - Laura Stigler

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 05 Oct 2018 12:55 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    Ah, October! Plump pumpkins. Turquoise skies. Green leaves metamorphosing into monarch butterflies. And oh, yes! While we’ve implemented a year-round rolling membership, it’s renewal time for the majority of IWOC’ers. So, if you’re still on the fence contemplating renewal – or joining in the first place, allow me to give you one of the strongest reasons to leap from that fence and into the fold of IWOC:

    Return of Investment

    A big part of getting freelance jobs is having a defined marketing strategy. And the IWOC Directory can be one of the most potent arrows in your quiver. For the relatively small price of a Professional Level membership, you’ll have staked your space on the web, your posted Profile working for you 24/7/365 for all the world to see. Plus, because IWOC comes up on the first page of a Google search, you’re more likely to be found. No way – not on Google or Facebook – anywhere! could you get kind of exposure so affordably. Land one job out of it, and you’ve more than made up your dues. Talk about ROI!

    Granted, there are no guarantees. Getting jobs also has much to do with areas of expertise. When it comes to outsourcing writing, some specialties are simply more in demand than others. But what can also make a difference is how your profile is presented.

    A few tips for creating a “Profile of Success”:

    You oughta be in pictures

    Your friendly face always makes a better impression than one of those shadowy silhouettes. Unless you’re in a witness protection program, best to post a real photo of yourself that telegraphs you’re approachable, professional. And ready to work.

    Your U.S.P.

    In other words, your “Unique Selling Points.” If you’ve noticed, in your profile you have the perfect opportunity to really sell yourself. So, focus. Focus on what you have to offer that is unique to you. Elaborate a bit on your fields of expertise or experience. Don’t be afraid to put a little passion in your description. Show your personality. If you were the employer, does your profile sound like someone you’d like to hire – and work with?

    Project positivity

    Nothing is more of a turn-off than an air of negativity. Employers have their own challenges to deal with. If you project a positive aura, that you’re a problem solver, that there’s no such thing as “no” – who wouldn’t want to hire you!

    Yes. All of that. In one Profile that can be out there year-round, night and day, working for you like your own private ambassador. And for just the measly price of a Professional Membership.

    So, jump off that fence and renew – or join IWOC for the first time. May it lead to many happy Returns of Investment.

    - Laura Stigler

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)

  • 09 Sep 2018 3:18 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    Well that went fast. Guess that’s how it goes when you’re getting great things done! Ready for another trip in our way-back machine to see exactly what we did get done this past year? Once again, don your rear-view goggles, Mylar jumpsuits, hold on to your helmets and let’s get to it:

    LONG LIVE IWOC!

    In terms of financial figures, IWOC is in fabulous shape. Thanks to fashioning new efficiencies and cutting costs, IWOC is destined to continue living a long and illustrious life in service to its members. And while we’re on the subject…

    MORE MEMBERS

    In the last year, Membership has increased by 20%! How did that happen?

    MORE REACH-OUT…

    New Membership Chair: Having only been a member since last October, already Alicia Dale is earning multiple stripes with her initiatives, networking citywide, reaching out to potential members, and reeling them in with a warm IWOC welcome. In June alone, IWOC gained 7 new members. A record! Thank you, Alicia.

    Life in the Freelance Lane (LIFL): This traveling show with its merry band of IWOC-ers (Jeff Steele and yours truly, with (in rotation), Sally Chapralis, David Steinkraus, and George Becht) continued picking up speed – and members, making appearances at colleges (North Central, Harold Washington), Libraries (Merlo, Niles-Maine, Oak Park, Skokie), and (drum roll please) on Sept. 24, the American Writers Museum! Dreaming of joining the band? Contact Jeff Steele.

    Adding two more ostrich-sized feathers in our caps:

    • IWOC has landed a partnership with the City of Chicago’s Business Affairs & Consumer Protection Dept.(BACP), where we recently presented LIFL to an SRO crowd and will continue presenting as “regulars” there;
    • The Career Transitions Center of Chicago (a “good works” organization introduced to us by Membership Chair Alicia Dale) has received such positive feedback after our recent LIFL presentation, they’re already making room on their calendars to have us back for repeats.

    MORE TEMPTATIONS:

    How else are we attracting new members – and keeping current ones?

    Crowd-Pleasing Programs

    A standing “O” for our Program Committee, Chaired by Jeff Steele who, along with committee-mates, Vlad Herard, Alicia Dale, Sarah Klose, Julie Polanco, Tom Lanning and Sally Chapralis brought in guests who spoke on such all-the-rage topics as “Convention Writing,” “How to Create a Podcast,” “Branding and Marketing Your Business,” “Turn Your Book into an Audiobook,” “Ghostwriting” and “How Content Strategy Creates Brilliant Copy.” And then there was the IWOC Roundtable, a perennial favorite.

    Events of Interest

    Only IWOC members are alerted to events that, while not offered by IWOC, may still be of interest to them. This year, members were e-blasted about the “Sell More Books” Seminar, “Freelance Pitch Clinic” and the “Writing Workshop of Chicago 2018.”

    Member News e-blasts

    Just implemented. And the positive response has been overwhelming. Any member who wishes to tout their latest wins can now have them e-blasted to our 700+ contacts. Nice perk! Send your big news to Alicia Dale.

    StetBlog

    Our Stet Newsletter has gone through many transitions over the last three decades – but none more dramatic and frankly, more fun, than this! Now appearing as an interactive, living Blog, not only does the latest IWOC-, writer- and business-related news come to you, but you can come to it – by contributing posts! One big benefit: you’ll be raising your own SEO ranking – so essential for attracting the world’s attention to your name. Submit postings to Cynthia Tomusiak.

    Our Meetup.com Group

    11 months ago, we’ve created an IWOC group on meetup.com to raise our profile amongst writers of all levels, all disciplines, all over town. We’re already up to 360+ members, adding more every day.

    Special Discount

    Non-members attending our monthly programs can now receive a 10% discount on their first year of membership if they sign up at the meeting. Consider it a rebate of sorts – and our way of saying “thank you” for coming – and joining!

    Gift Memberships

    Know any writers who can benefit from IWOC’s benefits? Next time a holiday or special occasion rolls around, help increase membership by giving an IWOC Gift Membership! To do so, contact Alicia Dale.

    A Brochure Facelift

    We’ve nipped and tucked IWOC’s brochure to give it a more millennial look. And it’s turning heads. Help promote IWOC by picking up a few at the next meeting and passing ‘em around wherever you go!

    Speaking of turning heads, mine’s spinning from all we’ve accomplished this year. Yours, too? Then let’s jump off this way-back machine and start planning IWOC’s path to the future. Together. Hang on to your Mylar jumpsuits, though. They’ll come in handy for Halloween.

    - Laura Stigler

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)

  • 09 Sep 2018 3:12 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    IWOC members enjoying the fellowship of IWOCfest!

    -  photo by Alicia Dale

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)

  • 13 Aug 2018 4:29 PM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    IWOC’s Board of Directors is sad to announce the death of former member Karolus Smejda.

    Karolus attended our last holiday party and was most recently at our July meeting. Many long-term members will remember Karolus, who was the founder and president of PowerSuasion, Inc., a company that improved work performance through custom interactive communications learning using actor-based and technology-based platforms. He also presented workshops for IWOC.

    Karolus had many friends and provided them with countless sweet memories. Please forward your thoughts and stories of Karolus to StetBlog administrator Cynthia Tomusiak, who will then post it here on the Blog. You may also leave a comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.

  • 09 Aug 2018 10:20 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    Believe it or not, IWOC is not secretly run by a chipper group of gerbils perpetually scurrying on a treadmill. It actually takes people to keep this beloved organization going – people like...you! Wait! Wait! – please don’t turn away. It’s not hard work, really. But the more people who volunteer – even by doing just a little bit, the easier it is for everyone. And the more beneficial to IWOC (and you) at large. So I’ve three quick ways members can get involved that won’t require a lot of time, yet can reap maximum rewards. :

    1) NominateWho would you like to see on the Board of Directors? Whose ideas, creativity, energy, street smarts and just all-around get-along personality do you believe would serve IWOC well? If you know someone, do tell. And if that name happens to be yours, that would be the best of all!

    2) Why run? It’s fun! And that’s not just fake news. Serving on the Board is not the time-consuming drudgery one fears. It is fun. The time commitment is nominal. Plus, you’ve got the bully pulpit for presenting your ideas, bringing them to fruition, and creating the IWOC “of your dreams” – which could help your own career as well as those of your fellow IWOC’ers. (Caveat: you have to be a member for one year to serve.)

    Or...

    3) Commit to a Committee. Maybe this would be more up your alley. Choose a Committee that jibes with your interests, skills or desires. There’s one for Membership, Programming, Public Relations, Social Media, Stet Blog, the Website...or form a new Committee altogether. It’s pretty amazing how by simply getting involved this way can boost your confidence, your enjoyment level – and your cachet on your résumé.

    We all have a stake in this organization. There is a reason you joined IWOC (or may want to), whether it’s to get more work, learn more about the business and craft of writing, networking ops, or just getting out of your writer’s lair to meet new like-minded friends. But keeping IWOC beneficial, relevant, and vibrant doesn’t happen by magic. (Or gerbils.) It needs members getting involved.

    So if you’re interested in any of the above, please contact one of our Nominating Committee members: Alicia Dale, Jeff Steele or yours truly.

    Not a member? Become one! And start taking advantage of all the benefits that members enjoy.

    - Laura Stigler

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)

  • 09 Aug 2018 10:08 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)

    In today’s written word environment, one readily gets the impression that grammar—and especially punctuation, its mechanical component—seems destined for oblivion. Even with the trend toward brief communications, boundless opportunities arise for criminal assaults on the objective of clarity in expression. And possibly the most frequent victim of abuse is the comma. There seems to be an ongoing acceptance (most of the time) as to where a period belongs. But when it comes to placing a comma, anything goes. For instance, check out a yard sign that offered “Dog,s for Sale.” Is a plural of the noun intended or could it be that a comma is replacing an apostrophe, If so, then a word relating to dog is missing and I hesitate to contemplate the options.

    Possibly the most arguable circumstance involves what is known as the “serial comma,” or the use of a comma in a series of related words. Should it be “black, brown, and yellow” or “black, brown and yellow”? Self-appointed grammar police will insist that the comma is necessary so as to define the phrase as containing three separate colors. Without it being present—they claim–-a reader could assume that there are just two colors, one being black and the other a brownish yellow. “Picky, picky” retorts the opposition. There’s no confusion because if the second color were a blend, why then you’d use a hyphen. But that procedure introduces yet another punctuation mark—the hyphen—and who would ever want to complicate the issue all the more? The best approach may be to just do whichever you want and go on with your life.

    Still another trap comes with what could be termed the “expository addition.” Loosely, it refers to the insertion of a phrase or clause that qualifies or identifies or simply adds information to an otherwise complete sentence. As an example: “John Smith, a protagonist also called Ralph, is a major role.” Using commas to set off the explanatory note is considered standard style. Suppose you are uncertain. Simple solution is to take another approach—use parentheses. Now you have “John Smith (a protagonist also called Ralph) is a major role.” It’s the coward’s way out.

    And let’s not forget the simple direct object vs. a command attached to the recipient of that command. A comma makes all the difference. Really? The following pair of identical word commands do not mean the same when one has a comma and the other omits it:. “Let’s eat, Grandma!” and “Let’s eat Grandma!” In the second instance, we encounter a child with a most peculiar culinary preference. Moral of the story—disregard commas at your own peril.

    All in all, the mysteries of the comma are not mysterious at all. We seem to be caught in a trap of our own making. There is some notice of a growing condition for having too many or too few commas within the contents of a page or even a paragraph. Some writers tend to sprinkle them profusely throughout their text. Perhaps it’s a sense of it being better to have more to spare than to not have enough. However, either choice is wrong. Even in this day of hyper-technology, sorry to say, there is no formula or algorhythm to advise how many commas per chunk of words you need. Tough, but the old-fashioned way of doing it manually “by the book” is really worth a try.

    - Richard Eastline

    (Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)

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