Do you ever wonder who reads your reply to an advertisement for writers? Sometimes it is an editor with hair. Sometimes it is an editor without hair. A few weeks ago it was me, a 40-something freelance writer who started out with long, luxurious locks and ended up bald as a baby's butt.
My saga began when I was asked to find writers for a Web site. "No problem," I thought. "I'll ask Jade to run an ad on Inscriptions." Now, thanks to some of the 400-plus readers who responded, I have no hair. Allow me to address those who contributed to my shiny scalp.
GROUP 1. To the 35 people who sent attachments even though I asked you to paste your bio and clip into the body of an e-mail: If you can't read, why should I believe you can write? This large group caused me to yank out random handfuls of locks. Not to worry. I'll try a stylish zigzag part from now on.
GROUP 2. To the three people who sent me attachments infected with worms and viruses: I promptly pulled out my bangs in your honor and added a headband to hide the damage.
GROUP 3. To the half dozen or so of you who wrote, "I didn't send clips. The best way to see my work is to go to such-and-such search engine and insert my name": Go to such-and-such search engine and insert 'Following Instructions.'
GROUP 4. To the few who said, "Send me your address and I'll send you some clips": Sure, like I'm going to send you my address? Duh. Send me your address and I'll send you a few hairs.
GROUP 5. Speaking of my address, to those who figured out my street name and house number: I am impressed with your research capabilities, but revealing to me that you know where I live is a bit bizarre. I installed a security system and filed your reply in a folder titled Possible Stalkers.
GROUP 6. To those of you who misspelled words in the first two sentences: I removed a nice patch (including some bloody follicles) covering the nape of my neck. Worse yet, the e-mail from SexyHoney@SomeISP.com who is interested in "writhing" for our company is solely responsible for the fleshy patch behind my left ear. If a writer spells 'write' wrong four times, I'm right not to hire the writer. Wright? Err I mean, right? I purchased a lovely, navy blue beret to get me through the winter season.
GROUP 7. To the dozen people who assumed they would be writing for the Internet Service Provider used in my e-mail address: You were worthy of only a few frantic twists, but the loose strands later fell out. Thanks for your contribution to the overall look. (If I list my e-mail address as Editor@aol.com, would you assume you'd be writing for AOL?)
GROUP 8. To those of you who have published books and written articles for the Washington Post, the New York Times or People Magazine: Congratulations! You may have credentials, but I still want a clip or a link to something you've written. A soft lilac scarf should carry me through spring.
GROUP 9. To the few who sent an e-mail telling me you'd follow with a second e-mail that contained your bio and a third e-mail that contained a clip: You were a minor annoyance. Nonetheless, I snagged the few remaining frizzies on your behalf.
GROUP 10. To the 20-something of you who sent no bio, no resume and no clip, but were nonetheless concise and got right to the point, I'll return the favor here.
* "Sure, I can write. How much can you pay?" Sure, you can write. Can you follow instructions? See Group 1 above.
* "What are your rates?" If you had sent a resume and clip, perhaps you'd know by now.
* "Send me more information and I'll send a resume and clips." As a child, we called this playing Doctor. You-show-me-yours and I'll-show-you-mine.
* "Before I send my resume, can you tell me who you are?" No.
* "I have written poetry and wrote essays. Please respond." That's nice.
* "Please advise how much you pay so I don't waste my time." You just did.
* "Saw your posting. How long of a wait is on the pay?" Forever, in your case.
* "You don't say how much pay. Some publications pay almost nothing." And???
* "Tell me what you pay before I spin my wheels for nothing." Call a tow truck.
As a fellow freelancer, I share your concerns. But the two dozen people who responded without even a decent greeting or closing did not make the cut. I found a quaint little Web site where I can order discount wigs, and I'm now sporting a mane that would make even Farrah Fawcett drool.
On a serious note, the bio's and clips from the other 300 respondents left me feeling both inferior and extremely lucky in the same breath. I marveled at the available talent just waiting to be snatched up by some editor, yet wondered why God had blessed me with the opportunity to judge these people instead of vice versa. It was a learning experience for me, and I hope you benefit from my humorous analysis of your replies.
Please, fellow freelancers, when answering advertisements:
1. Follow instructions.
2. Purchase a good anti-virus program and keep it updated.
3. Address the receiver of your e-mail with respect. A short letter with complete sentences is always appropriate and appreciated.
4. Always check your spelling. Then check it again. Then check it again. Then...
5. Select an 'identity' or screen name that denotes your professionalism.
6. Don't make assumptions.
Kudos to Jade for having amassed such a unique pool of readers
at Inscriptions. A handful of superb freelancers now have a decent
writing gig and I'm saving a bundle on hair care.
By K. Marie O'Brien
SOS: a recognized call for help, or a serious cerebral disorder that can catch writers unaware? In my case, it's the latter. It's called Selective Observance Syndrome, and I suspect writers are all too vulnerable to its attack.
Always on the lookout for story or article ideas, I keep my eyes and ears open, observing everything I can. While waiting on line at the post office, I overheard two teenage girls' brief conversation. One was relocating to France with her family and was bemoaning the unwelcome upheaval. This short eavesdropping episode grew into one of my short stories. All in all, a fairly normal occurrence for a writer.
But beware. Selective Observance Syndrome can be hazardous to writers, as well as those around them.
Upon leaving a grocery store once, I witnessed two managers and a security guard detaining an 80-year-old woman for shoplifting groceries. The story possibilities so boggled my mind that immediately upon reaching my car, I jotted down some notes and drove home to expand on them while they were still fresh. My enthusiasm didn't wane until I realized I had neglected to retrieve the seven bags of groceries from the pick-up lane outside the store.
The beginnings of SOS!
As you can see, SOS victims possess acute awareness in the area of story possibilities, but it's at the expense of producing episodes of absentmindedness. Since contracting this malady, I've had several occurrences. So writers, be warned; SOS can strike anywhere and any time.
SOS can cause you to lose things.
To clear my mind of dust balls, I took a break at a nearby mall. Returning to my writing, though, would turn out to be harder than I thought. I struggled for three minutes with my key in the car door trying to open it before someone came along threatening to call the police if I didn't get away from HER car. (Well, it was the same color as mine.)
SOS can cause you to run out of things.
Entering a self-service gas station, my mind wrestled with the ending to a particularly difficult article. I pre-paid for my gasoline and drove out of the station, still weighing the choices available for my story. I was six blocks away before realizing I hadn't put any gas in the car.
SOS can cause havoc to the ones you hold dear.
While diligently working late one night, SOS caused my deafness to the muffled meows echoing from deep inside my laundry chute. When I finally rescued the cat, which had plunged down two floors (luckily into a pile of soft sheets), I received a stern feline snub for such negligence.
If other writers have a successful method of dealing with SOS, please share it with me. My family would be grateful to no longer find socks in the refrigerator, eggs in the medicine cabinet and cat food in their cereal bowls.