Received Writer’s Digest today

Received the newest copy of Writer’s Digest today. Will be looking at it this weekend.

If my two above sentences seem odd to begin with a past participle form of receive (Received) and a helping verb (Will), it’s because I was tired of beginning sentences with the pronoun I.

It looks like a fascinating issue, and I look forward to reading it.

A day in the life of Richard Zowie, writer or: One Day in the Life of Richard Richardovich

I couldn’t resist paying homage to the late Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn by naming this blog posting the way he did his book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Russian: Odin Dyen’ Ivana Denisovicha). No, I’m not in a Russian gulag, although in the winter here in Michigan it might seem that way.

My middle name is actually Paul, but in Russian the middle name is actually the patronymic, meaning a name that identifies your lineage. Richardovich simply means “Son of Richard” since my Dad’s name is Richard. Dad, whose own father went by Paul, would be Richard Pavlovich (the Russians transliterate Paul as Pavel).

The one or two readers of this blog might wonder a writer like me does on a daily basis. Since Monday’s the day I complete my assignments for the week, I thought I’d take you through a typical Monday:

7:30 a.m. — I wake up and thank the person who designed cell phones to have alarm clocks in them. I try to avoid hitting the snooze button. Shower, something to eat, quick check of e-mail and reminding myself of what I have to do this day.

8:15 a.m. — I drive to work and try to keep observant of what’s said on the radio and what I see as I drive into the coverage area of the paper where I work, the Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald.

9 a.m. — I arrive at work, pick up any messages left for me, drop off my time card and my mileage sheet to my publisher’s wife (Lisa) and, again, check my e-mail.

9:15 a.m. — Time to get together with my editor (Craig) and co-worker (Mandi) for a meeting to discuss what we have for the paper that week. This includes what is finished and what we’re still working on.

9:25 a.m. – 5 p.m. — My tasks include but are not limited to: finishing writing stories, proofreading them, making changes as necessary and then e-mailing them to my editor; taking photos and editing out the bad ones. I gather up my photos for the week onto a jump drive and deliver them to my editor. I write cutlines for all the photos. If I submit a set of photos from an event, I make sure it’s accompanied by a short story. Sometimes I may have to go out and take more pictures or gather information for another story. I try to make sure the photos I submit are whittled down to the absolute best of the best. If I take 50 pictures of an event, my job is to submit no more than 10 photos (preferably five) to my editor since it takes time to sift through the photos.

The stories and cutlines and word documents are e-mailed to my editor while, again, the photos go on the jump drive.

Any further unfinished stories, cutlines or other items go home as “homework.” During the busy traffic of the high school sports season (especially during basketball/baseball/track in the spring), I usually don’t get to bed until past midnight.

6 p.m. — I get home, eat dinner, find out how everyone’s day went and–yep, you guessed it–check e-mail.

7 p.m. — I start brainstorming for next week’s issue and then update my blogs. I also piddle around on Facebook (a great way to promote my blogs). Other writing projects (journals, fiction, essays) also get done, along with answering e-mails and looking for off-duty freelance work (writing work I do at home on my own time).

9 p.m. — I watch something on television or watch a movie I rented from Netflix. Favorite shows currently are Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, The Middle.

11 p.m. — Bed. (Earlier, if possible, if I have to go to work at the gas station the next morning and have a 5 a.m. wake up).

Richard Zowie tries to stay busy in his writing life and believes it’s far better to be busy than unemployed. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Working for an old client again

Besides working at the newspaper 30 hours a week and about 24 hours a week at the gas station, I now am working on an assignment from a freelance client who pays well (or in today’s market, a fair living wage). This assignment was a miracle: I thought it had been on indefinite hiatus due to budget cutbacks. It returned right at a time when our van needs repairs done sooner rather than later. (One repair is already done and we’re hoping to get perhaps four other urgently-needed ones).

Yes, I’m kept busy and have to be quick about blogging and journaling and throwing out lines for more clients and putting on hiatus non-paying clients, but it’s a blessing to be able to earn extra income.

Richard Zowie is a writer whose first love is fiction. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

To blog or not to blog: knowing when to hit ‘delete’ instead of ‘post’

This past week I wrote two blog postings, one for this blog and the other for my From A to Zowie blog. After much deliberation, I have decided post neither.

The first one was a movie review of an indie film my wife and I saw a few weeks ago. Writing about this film took me back to my teen years when I saw a movie that, frankly, I regret watching. If I named the movie I recently saw, you might know the older film I’m referencing. Suffice it to say, overall I did not like the film and have decided not to post about it even though the posting was decently written.

As for the second one, it was a listing of writing projects I have going on with brief descriptions of each one. It’s funny–I find poker to be a waste of valuable television air time, but sometimes you have to approach your writing career like a game of poker. Be very careful not to tip your card. Know when to hold, fold, walk away, run, blah blah. After some consideration, I felt that blog posting revealed too much information about my projects, so I decided to axe it also.

Even today, after having been a blogger now since 2007 or so, I am astonished by how much personal information is out there.

One former work colleague (I won’t say where) blogs under a pseudonym and used to air lots and lots of details–some of it pretty personal–about her job. It’s the kind of thing that could get you into trouble someday.

Richard Zowie is a writer whose first love is fiction. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Richard Zowie’s The Joy of Journaling

As a writer, it goes without saying that you should write every single day. Part of that is keeping a journal (or diary, if you prefer) of what you do on a daily basis. I’m finding my style is a mixture: I liked President Ronald Reagan’s “what I did today” style that he used in The Reagan Diaries, but I also like to throw in some commentary here and there. This way, a future American literature student won’t be put to sleep reading through my archives.

Sometimes, I write longhand and throw in some doodles while other times I write by computer. While it can be fun to allow my left hand to get some exercise working with a trusty Papermate pen, I prefer the computer since I can get my ideas down faster.

I will say that what I journal about generally stays in the journal. This isn’t Live Journal. Some things are personal and will stay personal.

Unfortunately, I also tend to be a prolific procrastinator when it comes to journaling. I’m sorry to say there are entire years of my life where I did not keep a journal. It’s a shame; procrastination is a major vice of mine.

Lord willing, I can return back to investing five minutes of my time each day to writing what happened on that day.

Richard Zowie is a writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Finished reading ‘I, Robot’ by Isaac Asimov

It took longer than I would’ve liked, but I finally finished reading Isaac Asimov’s collection of short stories, I, Robot.

This book, for those who haven’t read it, bears some resemblance to the I, Robot movie that starred Will Smith. Perhaps I’m being generous to say “some”: in the movie, I can remember robots doing some harmful things to humans. It was a fascinating tale, but after reading these short stories, I detect a strong sense of disconnect. Perhaps because most of these stories were written in the 1950s while the movie came out a few years ago. And we know how much Hollywood butchers great stories (such as Michael Crichton’s great novels Sphere and Rising Sun).

It would take too long to discuss each story individually, so I’ll provide an overview and then discuss what I liked and didn’t like.

It’s very difficult to encounter a science fiction story that doesn’t feature a robot in it. Writers of today see a world of tomorrow where robots serve our every need. Some are cooks, some are butlers, some are police officers, some do labor while others provide the calculations necessary to help exploration of other planets and even stars. Asimov is no different. In I, Robot, robots serve as babysitters, miners, lawyers and even giant computers used for calculations to improve the economy, promote peace and, best of all, further the human race. Each story is a story related by “robopsychologist”* Dr. Susan Calvin at the end of her life (she dies at 82 in 2064) to a reporter.

Some stories deal with amusing problems that go beyond the malfunctions that are commonplace today with computers. What if robots on Mercury refuse to believe a) that humans created them, b) that their robotic origins are on earth and c) that they’re accountable to humans? Further problems arise when a robot programmed to read minds decides it doesn’t like what it sees and starts doing the unimaginable; another robot decides to hide from humans out of a weird superiority complex; another robot gives the blueprints for a spacecraft that when built, takes humans onto a distant trip to the stars.

My two favorite stories were Evidence (where an honest, squeaky-clean district attorney/aspiring mayor is apparently a robot, but nothing’s done about it since he does such an outstanding job) and The Evitable Conflict (where robotic computers control the world’s economy, peace and make humans wonder why they seem to be giving odd data that suggest errors).

What I liked: Asimov was an excellent story teller. While the book took three months to read, his stories made you think. Robots can certainly be a blessing or a curse to mankind, and Asimov posed plenty of healthy “what if?” scenarios?

What I didn’t like: Sometimes it was a little too technical, which might explain why it took a little long to read. Asimov’s style is vastly different from Ray Bradbury’s energetic, comic-book style of description, and he reads similar to Crichton.

Overall, I liked I, Robot. Someday I’ll re-read this book and add it to my personal library.

*Dr. Calvin is a scientist who specializes in robot psychology rather than being a psychologist who’s actually a robot.

Richard Zowie is a writer. As a child, he wanted to be an astronaut. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

How much do you read?

If there’s one dream I have as a writer, it’s being able to write full-time for a living. I’d love nothing more than to be able to write fiction, be a journalist, blog and write columns and essays full-time without the need for a second job.

Many successful writers, when asked the secret to their success of writing for a living, will tell you that any successful writer must do two things daily: read and write. Some writers will spend several hours churning out thousands of words of fiction, blogs, columns, essays, journals before settling down later in the day with some great books. And perhaps a few magazines.

I am envious of those who can maintain a heavy book-reading workload. Stephen King in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft describes himself as a slow reader but somehow manages to read scores of books annually. Wow. It makes you wonder what he considers to be a fast reader. Maybe, perhaps he had in mind the older brother of one of my friends. Andy told a reporter once that his brother, Peter, could read about seven books per week.

Not per year or per month. Per week.

I am in awe and honestly wish I were like these people. One of my goals in life, both as a writer and as someone who wants to learn about the world, is to become someone who’s “well read”.

So far in the past year I’ve read four books that I can remember. One was a biography on Jim Morrison, another was Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing while two were novels by science fiction writer Ben Bova. I am currently finishing up Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and plan next to read a collection of Bova’s short stories. After that, who knows? Whatever catches my fancy.

It is, of course, best to discipline yourself as a writer to read daily. By reading, you get an idea of what flows, what works and what doesn’t flow and what doesn’t work. Sometimes terrible prose can not only teach you how not to write, but it can also inspire you (“Hey, if this person can get published, so can I!”).

Perhaps this evening, when I get done blogging, I’ll do a little reading. Besides the two books I have checked out at the library, I have more than 100 books at home that I have yet to read.

Richard Zowie is a writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.