What Richard Zowie is up to as a writer

I’ll spare my readers my lame “5’8!” response…oh, wait, I just gave it. Never mind.

I still write for the the Genesee County Herald. I write news, sports, a column and also take pictures. It can be tiring since–depending on the season–sometimes I’m up until the early morning hours on Tuesdays completing sports assignments. A few athletes from one school like to tease me about not remembering their names, and I’m inclined to politely level with them and say: “Ladies, do you have any idea how many schools and sports teams I deal with? [Currently, about 20 teams] And every year, the rosters change due to graduation and to new players coming in.”

I’m also trying to get back into freelance writing in my off-time, since it can largely be done at my laptop with my cell phone. It’s a matter of being relentless and building client lists.

When it comes to freelancing, some lessons I’ve learned:

1) Take deadlines seriously. Getting work in ahead of deadline is never a bad thing.

2) When it comes to payment agreements, get it in writing and save it for your records. You just might need it if you suddenly have to serve as a debt collector. Which leads me to…

3) If someone stiffs you on an assignment, feel free to post as such when they try to hire out for new work–just make sure you report the facts. One certain gentleman owes me $100 for a freelance assignment about blind-spot mirrors on cars, and I doubt I’ll ever see that money. In retrospect, I should’ve been much more aggressive.

4) Avoid clients who either can’t pay or tell you that your “payment” is for your byline to run with the story. Well, of course your byline runs with work you’ve written. (The only time at the Herald that I don’t put my byline on a story is when all I’ve done is copy edited it). If the client lacks the budget to pay a writer, then they should not be asking for the work to be done. Tell your auto mechanic that you need them to replace your alternator but that you don’t have any money to pay them but will tell your friends to have work done at their shop.

Two hours later, when they’re done laughing, they’ll tell you, no thanks.

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

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.