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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. 

Whether or not you're a member of IWOC, we invite your contributions. Our only criteria are writing quality and the usefulness of the information to writers. IWOC reserves the right to gently edit submissions. For information regarding submissions, contact the Stet editor.


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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  • 31 Aug 2023 6:45 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    In last year’s review, we tipped our pink sequined hat to Sir Elton John, exclaiming in full voice that after the Covid fog had finally lifted, IWOC was indeed still standing. Today, with a debonair tip of a gray felt fedora, let us now settle back all cozy in the Pump Room’s Booth One, order up a bottle of Jack – a glass of ice on the side, light up a Chesterfield and reminisce about the year that was, Sinatra style. 

    2022-23 IWOC Programs 

    Dig this..

    He may not be Chairman of the Board, but Jeff Steele sure makes one helluva Chairman of the Program Committee. He and ace Co-chair broad Betsy Stormalong with contributions by other IWOC members, jam-packed the year with the following programs. Anyone who came and saw, came out wiser businesspeople and savvier self-marketers, loaded with ideas about adding more “value added” aspects to their writing services

    •  IWOC’S Ever-popular Annual Writers’ Roundtable, where everyone gets their say. (This is the only program not recorded, so all participants can speak freely.)
    • Self-Publish Your Book Checklist: Award-winning Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and author of numerous self-published, whimsically illustrated books, Greg Borowski took the spookiness out of self-publishing with his tried-and-true, step-by-step approach.
    • Supporting Freelance Investigative Journalism in Chicago: Eric Ferrero, Exec. Dir. of Fund for Investigative Journalism, scouted for writers who fantasize about being the next Nellie Bly.
    • The Power of Branding: Strategies to Successfully Market Your Writing Services were laid out in easy-to-follow doses by Christian Cook, author and public relations wiz.
    • Working with Adobe inDesign and inCopy: Book and magazine publishing veteran Rhonda Jackson demonstrated how even graphically challenged writers can create eye-catching visuals to accompany their content.
    • Tax & Accounting Tips for Freelancers, razor-sharp CPA Gavin Piasky engagingly provided clear, practical, law-abiding info and answers to the many taxing questions on many a freelancer’s mind.
    •  Using Storytelling to Gain More Business, IWOC Member and professional storyteller held us rapt with his own stories of how to incorporate that talent when pitching prospective clients.
    •  Feng Shui for Writing Productivity, Feng Shui practitioner Kim Downey interactively showed us the way to organize our office environment to optimize our writing productivity.
    • Price Your Work for Profit, a hands-on, how-to workshop presented most ably by business and creative coach, Jessica Abel.

    Got ideas for writing- or business-related programs? Contact Jeff. We welcome them all! 

    2022-23 IWOC Parties

    You think the Rat Pack was crazy? Oh, man, they were amateurs compared to a pack of us IWOC writers. Last December, we let it all hang out at our December Holiday Party at Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! For our August Greektown wingding, we partied till the wee small hours at Athena. (Ok, it was till 8. Gimme a break.) And for the second April in a row, we celebrated the Spring Equinox at the Weber Grill. Wow-ee Wow Wow, it was good.

    IWOSC Programs

    IWOC members also attended, free of charge, programs offered by our West Coast sister outfit, Independent Writers of Southern California. This year, they were treated to:

    • Exploring Narrative Structure in Your Writing
    • Start Writing and Keep Writing with Scrivener

    IWOC and IWOSC were not the only ones who put on cool programs. We passed the word to IWOC members about these world class events:

    Promoting our members

    We’re always telling members to come blow their horn. Or we’ll blow it for them. And so we did...

    • Thomas James Thorson revealed the fourth book of his Malcom Winters Mystery series, Bad Fortune.
    • “Poet with a Guitar” Mark Fishbein produced and hosted the Afterwords Chicago Global Poetry Night, live at the After-Words Bookstore, where he and a cadre of fellow published poets read their works and signed their books "afterwards."
    • Laura Stigler’s prose entry, “Requiem for a Piano Bench,” won the honor of being published in the 2023 Anthology produced by the esteemed TallGrass Writers Guild
    • Cindy Bertram announced the airing of her weekly TV show “Good Ship Happens” and her new website going live, Good Ship Happens.
    • Kathryn Occhipinti’s new audio book Caterina Travels to Italy was nominated for the "Cover of the Month" contest on 
    • Jeff Steele celebrated his one-third century anniversary as a freelance writer.
    • Jay Schwartz had just published his short story, Car-Pain Diemon Amazon.
    • And as we do every year, IWOC participated in the Printers Row LitFest, displaying and selling our author members’ books at our table while talking to thousands of passers-by on the virtues of IWOC and how we help freelance writers of every stripe succeed in their careers. (Volunteer to help staff the table and join the fun at this year’s LitFest on the weekend of September 9 & 10. Contact organizer George Becht.)

    Perk alert

    Associate Members can now access the Job Board and Job Sites page. (Upgrade to Professional Level and have your Specialties and Areas of Expertise displayed on the Online Directory – the better potential for clients to hire you!)

    So, set ‘em up, Joe

    Yeah, yeah, the year went by all too fast. But hey, before we close down this joint for the night, let’s have one more round of whatever suits your zoot as we toast the coming year. If you’re an IWOC member, hold on to your fedora. Some pretty wild stuff is coming down the pike. If you’re not a member, quit your dilly-dallying and join already to get in on it all. 

    IWOC. We’re your kind of group, baby!

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 01 Aug 2023 11:43 AM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    In the past few years, a number of venerable Chicago writers organizations have bit the dust. Among them: Chicago Women in Publishing and Midwest Writers Association. How could this happen? Simply put, it was a lack of volunteers. The good news: IWOC is still standing tall. And not by accident. To keep this organization going, it has taken people who volunteer either to serve on the Board of Directors or on a Committee because they understand the vital role IWOC plays in Chicago’s community of writers -- and in the success of their own careers. 

    But the unvarnished truth is, volunteers are becoming harder and harder to come by. For the last several years, it’s largely been the same group of volunteers who have been willingly and gallantly serving. To my great relief, they’re going to continue to do so. But it’s neither fair to them nor to IWOC to keep depending upon the “usual suspects.” It would be wonderful if new people volunteered along with them, bringing in fresh ideas of their own. The beauty of this is, the more people who volunteer, the easier it is for everyone. And the more beneficial to IWOC – and you. 

    1)  TO MEMBERS: Nominate a candidate for the Board of Directors. Submit names to the Nominating Committeeby Tuesday, August 22. Who would you like to see on the Board of Directors? Among IWOC members, whose ideas, energy, and all-around get-along personality do you believe would serve IWOC well? If you know someone, do tell. If that happens to be you, that would be the best of all! 

    2)  Run for the Board of Directors. Serving on the Board is not time-consuming. It’s actually fun. The time commitment is nominal. We meet for one hour a month on Zoom. 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. To qualify as a candidate, you must be an IWOC member who also appreciates the value in IWOC and has the desire and viable ideas to make it even better.


    3) Join a Committee. Committees are what keep IWOC going strong! Choose one that jibes with your interests, skills, or desires. The Program Committee is always in need of members who can generate ideas for our monthly programs. Those programs are IWOC’s educational engines that help members like yourself succeed as freelancers and as writers. Interested in serving on this all-important Committee? Contact Program Co-chairs Jeff Steele or Betsy Storm. Other Committees:  MembershipPublic RelationsStet NewsletterSocial Media. Getting involved in this way will boost your confidence, polish your skills, and add cachet to your résumé. I speak from experience.

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

    If you’ve questions about any of the above, please contact me at

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

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 31 Jul 2023 7:43 PM | Sarah Louise Klose (Administrator)

    Ok, so Dirk was about to experience the worst, most disappointing day of his life. But he was clueless when he awoke bright and early on a warm sunny day, that he’d be traveling full speed into an insurmountable pile of challenges. He rolled over, kissed his frisky Tinder date good morning, and poured her a cup of Java Jive. After she left for work, he made his way downtown in his $500,000 limited edition Lamborghini and entered the parking garage. He gradually worked his way up to the trading floor, where his assistant presented the day’s market digest. By all accounts, his positions looked good and afforded opportunities for lucrative market corrections. However, all was not rosy in Dodge that day. By the opening bell it dawned on him that something went seriously astray, & that his short positions, taken to make him a fortune, would soon lead him to dire straights. In just the 1st 10 minutes he cringed while his portfolio tanked down to zero! In plain English: he was up the creek without a paddle.

    His upbeat assessment of the day’s promise quickly morphed into horror and disbelief. He couldn’t recall doing this much damage to himself since he was a young boy, when he threw some stones so close to his father’s Chevy that the actually shattered the entire windshield! He envisioned that day, and the sly pride he had that he could do so much destruction with so little effort! It was a boy’s career defining accomplishment. And, when he woke his dad up from his nap to update him on what had happened, all he could muster was: “Ddaadd, that windshield?” “Yes, son, what about it,” flashing some perceptible sign of concern. “Well, Dad, it’s just not very good!” His father replied, “ok, now that you’ve awoken me from my slumber, let’s go out to see just how 'not very good’ my trusty windshield is! “ Upon seeing the scope of the disaster, his father’s jaw dropped, he turned both white and red at the same time, and promised his son a spanking! 

    He, his mom, and little sister were fighting back chuckles the next day when Dad pulled out of the driveway with a windshield less car, imagining how many bugs would find a home in his teeth during the journey to work! Ah, the memories! Not to mention the savings each week from his meager allowance to pay for the new windshield. He had sworn then that someday he’d have money handy the next time an unforeseen expense happened upon him. Well, dear old Dad decided then to pave the driveway, so that it would be gravel free and and no longer tempting for his precocious son to practice pitching with a pile of stones.

    After this memory began to fade, it slowly sunk in that he had lost his entire bankroll in that series of trades, lock, stock and barrel. After being assisted to the office by his clerks, he then became aware that he’d had an accident, and that it was difficult to hide in khaki trousers. He now couldn’t fathom the future. How would he pay his bills? Where would he live? Could he even afford to keep his Tinder account? After changing, he slumped into his chair, stared out the window, then slowly walked to the garage. That’s when it hit him: he’d now have to live in his car! Can you imagine trying to pack all of your possessions into the equivalent of a coupe sports car? But, 1st things 1st. It was time to hit the bar and strategize. He ordered the usual: a dry vodka martini with hot peppers and a twist of lime. And, as if this wasn’t sufficient, he ordered his favorite double cheese burger with everything, and a side of beans, and chased it down with a big pint of beer. By now, he was looking forward to the challenge of slaloming home in his car, and it wasn’t even noon. After half a block, he felt suddenly nauseous, and quickly pulled over. Before he could exit, he felt tectonic shifts in his innards, and heaved violently into his dashboard. When he was all through, he nearly marveled at the Jackson Pollock like appearance and the puke covered rear view mirror. Not to mention, the stench was so rancid, it was no help even opening the windows. This luxury car now smelled worse than a frat house on a Sunday morning. Oh yes, the vents on his state of the art sportster were now caked with vomit, and he feared this malodorous odor would require special attention to remedy it...

    ** To read the remainder of the story, go to Amazon at where it is available for purchase. Or, if you are an IWOC member and wish to read it for free, contact Jay at

  • 30 Jun 2023 7:05 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    In the month when America celebrates her independence, it’s more than appropriate to celebrate the independent way in which we freelancers have chosen to work and live our lives. With the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we are guaranteed the right to pursue happiness any which way we can. Freelancing is one of those ways. But unlike the American revolutionaries who have fought before us over two centuries ago – and won, Independent Contractors are finding ourselves still having to fight. For our own freedoms. And way of life. 

    If you’ve followed any of my previous articles, you’re aware that Independent Contractors are in the crosshairs. Illinois Governor Pritzker has the deceptively named “Freelance Worker Protection” Bill on his desk, poised for him to sign into law. I’ve contacted him, as have others in IWOC and in other groups and organizations. According to a recent article in The Center Square (which quoted my letter), apparently the opposition is growing. Will it give the Governor second thoughts? We can only hope. 

    But as the saying goes, freedom doesn’t come free. It's a never-ending battle because there are always those who want to take that freedom away and wield power over you. So if you haven’t already, please join in the good fight. It’s not all that complicated. You can write Gov. Pritzker hereOr call hereYou can even copy and paste the letter I wrote, making the appropriate changes so it applies to you. I sent the letter to all our members and contacts on June 18. Check your past emails. Or contact me if you would like a copy. 

    For more background that also contains informative links, please click on any of my President’s Posts with the following titles:

    1. The ABC Wolf is at Our Door
    2. Fight for Your Right to Work
    3. Update: Is Your Freelancing Life in Danger?
    4. Also, calling for reinforcements! Please join the Fight for Illinois Freelancers Facebook page to help shore up our cause. 
    This is not a scare tactic. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is real. 

    Thank you for acting. 

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 25 May 2023 3:33 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    If you’ve read any of my past Stet posts on the war against Independent Contractors -- the group in which most of us writers belong -- you may be interested to know that in Illinois, the Freelance Worker Protection bill has passed both houses of the Illinois State Legislature. It isn’t a stretch to say that Governor Pritzker will most likely sign it into law. 

    This does not bode well for freelancers, given that it sets the table for passing some form of the ABC Test (which is based on California’s destructive AB5 law). While “Freelance Worker Protection” sounds benign, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing that can negatively affect Independent Contractors of every stripe, as well as the businesses that hire us. It adds rules upon needless rules that we’ll all potentially have to obey – never mind that the majority of us freelancers have been fully capable of successfully managing our own careers and the business relationships with those who hire us.

    If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, I invite you to read any one of my previous postings:

    Fight for Your Right to Work (May 2023) 

    Update: Is Your Freelancing Life in Danger? (March 2023) 

    Is Your Freelancing Life in Danger? (November 2022) 

    For this June Stet, I was planning on asking you all to contact your IL representatives and express your opposition to the Freelance Worker Protection bill and the looming ABC Test. Now that that point is moot, perhaps contacting the Governor should be the next step. While it may be futile, it may communicate to Mr. Pritzker that this matter is not going unnoticed, and provide some hint as to why Illinois is hemorrhaging businesses, big and small.

    If there are effective next steps we all can take, I will inform you either in an email or the next Stet.

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 05 May 2023 2:00 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    On April 24, I sent out a letter to our members, 700+ contacts and the media about a vote on the 26th regarding the nomination of Julie Su for Labor Secretary. Working off of information I was given, I mistakenly said the nomination was up for a vote by the U.S. Senate. Rather, it was being voted on by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. My apologies for the error. Nevertheless,  the Committee voted along party lines to advance Ms. Su’s nomination. Not good. And if you continue to read, you’ll see why. 

     The more hopeful news is, the U.S. Senate will have the last word and there’s still a chance to make your voices heard. If you’ve already done that, thank you. But if not, I cannot stress enough how important it is to contact the Senators mentioned below. The AB5 law in California, which Julie Su championed, has been decimating thousands of small businesses and the livelihoods of Independent Contractors. The AB5 law is now being considered by the current Administration to apply nationwide, which will devastate the economy. No doubt Ms. Su will be in full support.

    Think of it: There are 60 million Independent Contractors representing over 600 professions (including writers of all stripes). Even if your job(s) won't be affected personally, this can affect you in more ways than you realize, given the likelihood that many people you may hire (or one day need) are Independent Contractors. CPAs, Realtors, lawyers, architects, caregivers, videographers, hair stylists, housekeepers, childcare professionals, pet sitters, yoga instructors, transcribers, interpreters, wedding planners, face painters, the spa and wellness community, graphic designers, truckers, landscapers, nurses -- the list is near endless. What’s more, many of the small businesses you may patronize will be forced to hire their Independent Contractors as full-fledged employees or face a crippling fine. In CA, this has wreaked havoc on small businesses, putting untold numbers out of business altogether. 

    To get clear, first-hand knowledge of the destructiveness that AB5 has caused in CA, if you do nothing else, visit Go to the :16:43 point of the video, which is when the hearing starts with opening overview statements from U.S. Representatives Kevin Kiley (R-CA) and Alma Adams (D-NC). Please pay particular attention to the 6 witnesses who spoke for 5 minutes each, including a member of Freelancers Against AB5 (at :34:15 in the video) and two members of Fight for Freelancers (at :39:21 and :59:46.) 


    • Contact your U.S. Senators via the Senate website asking them to oppose this nomination.
    • Make special calls to Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.VA), Sen. Angus King (I-ME), and Sen. Krysten Sinema (I-AZ). Also call Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who claims he doesn’t yet know how he’ll vote on Su. It doesn’t matter if you’re not from their states. They’re voting on a nominee that will affect all freelancers, and that includes you.
    • Fight for Freelancers has put out a press release related to this, and they offer it as language you can use/massage or as a link to include in your contact.
    • More info at 

    Democrats, Republicans, Independents, this can and will affect everyone -- and the economic health of the U.S. over all. Please. Take action. Your voice can help make a difference.

     -- Laura Stigler


  • 05 May 2023 1:58 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    With sadness, Independent Writers of Chicago acknowledges the passing of legendary IWOC member Richard Eastline. A member of IWOC for decades, Richard serve the group in many capacities, including as a long-time board member and unofficial photographer.

    96 years young at the time of his passing, Eastline was known for regaling members about his career in advertising, which launched in June of 1950 and spanned the industry's classic "Mad Men" era.

    In his energetic 20s, Richard would cab to Chicago's Northwestern Station on a Sunday evening, leap into a berth on the overnight Empire Builder and wake refreshed in the Twin Cities the next morning for his 9 a.m. client meeting. A patron of the arts, Eastline also served for many years in The Cliff Dwellers, a private club for members who are professionally engaged in the major arts or one of the allied arts.

    We'll miss you Richard. Rest in peace and thanks for all you gave to IWOC.

    -- Jeff Steele

  • 29 Mar 2023 7:13 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    What makes a star? To my mind, it’s someone who you may never have heard of. Never have even seen before. Yet no matter your age, 5 or 95, upon the first time seeing them perform, something about them pulls you in. An ineffable magnetism. And you’re a goner. A fan for life. 


    This will be dating me for sure, but that happened to me at the age of 5. Family and visiting relatives were gathered around the television on Sunday night, about to witness some singer on the Ed Sullivan Show who apparently was taking the country by storm. Ed introduces the “young man,” the crowd starts screaming, and from the moment Elvis appeared on screen (shown only from his waist up), I forgot myself. Forgot any inhibitions I may have harbored. I sprung up and started to dance. Wildly. Frenetically. “Dance, Laura, dance!” my family egged on. My parents bought me the 45 vinyl of “Love Me Tender,” which on my little red record player, I played over and over and over again. Even more times than “Teddy Bear Picnic.”


    Elvis. Never before or ever since has anyone sounded like him. Moved like him. Looked like him. And let’s face it. Elvis exuded pure, raw sexuality that could be felt whether you stood next to him, saw him approaching from blocks away, or just stared at him in a photograph, mesmerized. He had “the kavorka.” (Seinfeld fans, you know what I’m talking about. Google it if you don't.) 

    I remember Elvis’s face appearing in full color on the cover of one of the Sunday supplements of the newspaper. His image filled the entire page. I leaned in close, able to make out the pores on his inimitably sculpted cheeks. I leaned even closer to kiss it, inhaling the scent of the paper. An intoxicating scent that still has the power to make me feel lovesick at its very recollection.  

    So it was with those memories buried deep in my subconscious and out of curiosity that I decided to rent the recently heralded “Elvis,” a movie directed by Baz Luhrmann, starring Austin Butler in the title role, and Tom Hanks as the infamous Colonel Parker. Tom, to his great credit, disappeared in a character that bordered on the villainous. But Austin. 

    Going in, I had my doubts. Would I be convinced that he was Elvis? It’s always difficult when an actor takes on the role of a cultural icon. You’re always comparing them to the original. No one, no matter how great the actress, can quite capture the incandescence of Marilyn. But as for Elvis, who I’ll be bold and say that he is indisputably the biggest cultural icon this country – and the world has ever seen – how do you even dare approach playing such a man? But after seeing the movie, I couldn’t stop thinking of it. Dreaming of it. While not quite the same in looks (who is?), still, I was overcome. Austin captured the embodiment of Elvis, to the point of unearthing emotions in me that have laid dormant for decades.

    Among all the impressions that I am left with from this movie, one thing stuck out and has stayed with me: That, while Elvis’s life was so transformative for music, for our culture, uplifting and inspiring millions upon millions worldwide, in the end became so tragic. For if there is one thing that is unforgivable in my book, it’s to hamstring the creative spirit. As what the Colonel tried desperately to do to Elvis. 

    At the start of their relationship, the Colonel promised Elvis he will make him fly. At that notion, a smile spread across Elvis’s lips. He felt that he found someone who understood him and could take him to that next level. Yes. He was meant to and ready to fly. So while it was the Colonel who put Elvis not just on the map, but had the promotional prowess to put his image on every object imaginable, from bed sheets to bobbleheads, it was the ultimate irony when the Colonel, after initial tremendous success, tried unrelentingly, selfishly, to turn Elvis into something he absolutely. was. not.  It was like binding the wings of an eagle.

    It is almost quaint to think how in the 1950’s, Elvis’s physical gyrations were considered beyond the pale. Far too vulgar for the delicate sensibilities of the American audience. Television execs were adamant. They wanted him to stop moving. Cold. Elvis’s response: “When I sing, I have to move.” It was that basic. That inbred. He had to move. That’s how I felt when he sang. I and millions of others. Seeing Elvis’s story unfold in the movie, it became clear how that instinctive “motion seed” was planted. 

    When he was a kid, growing up in the downtrodden town of Tupelo, Mississippi, he’d be lured by the sounds of black revival meetings emanating from the distance. The clear, powerful voices. The contagious beat. Gospel music. He’d scurry off full speed to peek into the tents, where he spied pastor and parishioners singing full-throated to the rafters, gyrating, quivering, overcome with a spirituality that seemed to overtake every fiber of their being. Enthralled, the young Elvis couldn’t hold back. Something within him swept him into the tent, into the crowd where churchgoers swooped him up and supported him in a circle of loving arms. In the throes of what could only be described as a holy spirit, the energy, the music overtook him. Together, they all shook, rattled and rolled. 

    And isn’t that what we all do when we watch or listen to Elvis? In the movie, as the camera panned his audiences, everyone seemed almost possessed. Meek-looking women in babushkas or with hair in tight curls would shoot up from their seats, screaming uncontrollably. Tears streamed down faces. Arms were outstretched across the stage, hoping to touch his shoe, his pant cuff. Any part of him just to satisfy what their hearts cried out for. It dawned on me: His concerts weren’t concerts. They were revival meetings, rock ‘n’ roll style.

    Elvis was the first to claim that he was not the inventor of rock. He gave all credit to its roots: the black gospel and blues singers that came before him or were his contemporaries, inspired by the likes of B.B. King. Little Richard. Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Big Mama Thornton. Into the mix of influences, add Jimmie Rodgers (“The Father of Country Music”) and “The King of Cool,” Dean Martin. Elvis absorbed the genres, and imbuing them with his own unique soul, his moves, his voice, his looks, was able to spread the gospel of rock all across the South. Then the North. Then the world, crashing through all barriers of race, religion, age, gender, culture. Elvis was the right messenger at the right time.

    I could go on. About the roller coaster ride that was Elvis’s career. The good movies. The bad. The Vegas extravaganzas and television specials that resurrected his career. But through much of it, it became a tug-of-war between what Elvis and what the Colonel wanted. Elvis, in his heart, knew who he was and where he was meant to be. More than anything, he was born to perform. To feel that exalted love and electrifying energy with live audiences not just in the U.S., but across the world. Yet he never toured outside the country. The Colonel nixed it. 

    Imagine. A superstar known the world over who never got the opportunity to know that world. I think of how he would have thrilled them in England. Germany. France. Singapore. Australia. Oh, what they all missed! 

    At first it was the banning of his movements. He broke through. Then it was about the clothes he wore. He broke through again. And finally, it was the stifling of his greater ambitions, of further fulfilling his true self. Once more, his wings were bound. It was asphyxiating.

    A lesson for us all. Never let anyone stop you, no matter how good you think their intentions may be. Follow your own heart, your own dreams, your own true self. 

    Never, ever let anyone stop you from soaring. Like an eagle.

     -- Laura Stigler


  • 28 Feb 2023 5:27 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    As you may recall, in my October 2022 blog I sounded the alarm about the ABC Test and AB5 laws that have disastrously affected the livelihoods of millions of freelancers and small businesses in California. Proposals of copycat laws have been taken up in states nationwide, including right here in Illinois. This is not good. 

    To (re)familiarize yourself with an overview of the situation, I invite (urge) you to read the October blog. Here are a few more things I’m inviting (urging) you to do to get a feel for the real impact of these laws and what they could mean for your business — and that of your clients’. These are the easy-to-do actions suggested by Lila Stromer, a New York-based self-employed editor who has been deeply involved in fighting this issue and has been my main source for getting the correct information to you. From her weekly newsletters:

    1. If you do nothing else, take 9 minutes to view this video of Rep. Kevin Kiley  (R-CA), chair of the subcommittee on Workforce Protections in the U.S. House of Representatives. He “takes on the USDOL (U.S. Dept. of Labor) and the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act,” mentioning “many of the fields that have been harmed” due to California’s AB5 Act and the PRO Act — facsimiles thereof that are attempting to move through the U.S. Congress.  

    2. Read H. RES. 72, a one-page, very digestible resolution proposed by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-48).  Summed up as Recognizing the contributions of independent workers and contractors to the American economy,” it gets what freelancers are all about.

    3. From Lila’s newsletter: “Good interview on how AB5/ABC Test destroyed/is destroying freelancer businesses across hundreds of fields. Use the examples listed when making noise to legislators. It also makes clear how many fields were damaged in California by AB5, and what could happen to freelancers if similar bills pass in other states or at the federal level. It also includes excellent advice on what noise to make right now. It’s an interview on YouTube and just about 10 minutes long. Well worth your time!

    4. Express your opposition to any bill in Illinois based on the AB5, ABC Test and PRO Act, all of which infringe on the working rights of Independent Contractors and small business owners. Contact bill sponsors IL Rep. Will Guzzardi (D- 39th District) and IL Rep. Marcus Evans (D-33rd District)

    5. CALL TO ACTIONCall the HELP Committee members to tell them why the PRO Act with the ABC Test is so harmful for freelancers across the nation (since you will probably be speaking to someone who isn’t your senator).

    When contacting legislators, you can briefly mention how and why you’ve chosen the freelance life. In essence, no politician has the right to tell us freelancers how we choose to work and live. 

    This is our fight. Have at it.

    -- Laura Stigler 

  • 01 Feb 2023 6:36 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    Brace yourself. I’ll be the first to admit this is about a first world problem. Knock wood, it wasn’t tragic. Not life or death. As far as real problems go on a scale from 1 to 10, this one rates about a minus 12. Nevertheless, first world problems can be irksome. Irksome to the point of crazed obsession. Such was mine.

    The one I’m referring to started when I happened to be browsing on Etsy and came across a bracelet. Not an expensive one at all – on sale for $12.00! – but truly delicate and lovely. Seven lapis lazuli stones strung in an intricate silver setting. I had to have it. Had to. I ordered. Two weeks later, it arrived from India. I opened it and it was just as lovely as had been pictured. However, the clasp was of the toggle variety. A tricky little thing that could make putting on a bracelet more complicated than necessary. Oh, well. The bracelet was still too pretty to pass up.

    I attempted to put it on. 15 minutes later, I was still attempting. It was becoming a ridiculous, expletive-ridden struggle. I wanted my money back, and wrote to the seller telling him so. He could only offer 50% refund and told me to keep the bracelet. Deal. But I could not rest. After all, toggles have been fastening jewelry for millennia. Surely Cleopatra knew how to work it. Why couldn’t I? There had to be an answer. 

    Seeking wisdom, I visited the Dalai Lama of modern life’s mysteries: I went to YouTube. Sure enough, there was a demonstration unlocking the secret of this enigmatic doo-dad: “Let gravity do its work.” Aha! I carefully followed the pointers when...Eureka! I did it! I solved the mystery! I was overjoyed. I immediately wrote the seller, telling him to forget the refund. “I LOVE THIS BRACELET!!!” I told him, just to make him happy. “Very good, Kind Buyer,” he replied. “Now I could retire.”

    But that wasn't the end of it. Oh, noooo. Like “A Christmas Story’s” Ralphie with his Red Ryder bb gun, I couldn’t wait to play with the bracelet. Over and over, I practiced The Toggle. It kept working like a charm. Finally I put it away, and went about my business for the rest of the day. Then, right before I went to bed, I wanted to play with the bracelet just one more time, ignoring one of my husband Ken’s oft repeated axioms, “Never do anything technical after 8:00pm.” (One night, after 8pm, I upgraded the software on my iPhone. Big mistake.) This wasn’t a technical matter per se, but the axiom still applied. Nevertheless, I put the bracelet on. Nice! I then proceeded to take it off, when...oh, no. The toggle wouldn’t budge. Wait, what??? It went on so easily! Why can’t I unlock it? I pushed. I pulled. I twisted. I started breaking into a sweat. 

    It is now 2:00 am. Alone in the living room, working under a 60 watt bulb for the last hour, I managed to contort my hand into a claw-like pincer and was able to roll the bracelet off, providing a bit of relief. But still, I couldn’t unlock the blasted thing. Imagine an anchor being caught between two parallel iron bars. It seemed near impossible to undo. I was beside myself.

    The whole thing started taking on a symbolism of nonsensical proportions. All night I was tossing and turning. It’s stuck. I’m stuck. In my dreams. In the city. In a lyric. In life. Every time I look at another piece of jewelry, I’ll forever be reminded of how stupid I was, not leaving a good thing alone. I had to keep playing with the bracelet after hours, didn’t I. When I should have just gone to bed. I’m such an idiot. 

    Naturally, Ken is getting the brunt of all this. But sage that he is, he remained calm, simply stating, “Let it go. It’ll happen. It’s geometry.” It’s true, I thought. The hypotenuse of it, or whatever, will somehow work itself out. I started to make peace with the situation. At least I could roll the bracelet on and off and, wanting to put a good spin on it, thought maybe the fact that the lock was so intertwined, symbolized our marriage. Us. Together. Intertwined -- in a good way. I could live with that.

    Two more days pass. In the wee hours of the second night, I woke up with a start. For some reason unknown, I decided to fiddle with the bracelet one more time. I took the bracelet out of my jewelry box, went to the living room, turned on the lamp and started to push the toggle. I’ve no idea of what I did differently or how it happened, but suddenly the lock released, and snakelike, the bracelet cascaded down into one straight, glorious strand. My jaw, quite literally, dropped. Staring at it in disbelief, I was utterly in shock. Geometry! It was like witnessing Houdini suddenly break loose from his labyrinth of chains. It was magical. 

    The impossible was possible after all.

    Believe it or not, I somehow knew this would turn out right. Because in some way, looking back, the whole incident was kind of like the process of writing, when we get stuck sometimes. We become obsessed and overwrought. How do we get out of it? Three lessons:

    1. Let it go. Talk a walk. Take a nap. Walk the dog. Wash the dishes. When you least suspect it, without knowing how or why, the answer will cascade down from the heavens. 

    2. Calmly say to yourself, “It will happen.” Then leave it at that. That simple phrase puts a positive wave out there, opening the path for your mind, your gift to come through. Always. 

    3. Never do anything technical after 8:00pm.

    Bracelets. Writing. It’s all magical.

    -- Laura Stigler

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