----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: February 2006

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Compliment

So, when you write for trade magazines, as I do, you don't expect much in the way of recognition. And I write for small magazines that cover pretty boring topics and don't pay particularly well. Oh, the glory of it all!

Because I am one of the best and most reliable writers, I get the juciest assignments. That's all relative, of course, but I recently wrote about the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, which is really an outstanding project. I thought I turned in a pretty good article, or at least one that wasn't terribly dry. And then I didn't think much more about it.

Today, I got a handwritten note in the mail from a woman that I spoke with at the architect's office. She wrote," your cover story on Vanderbilt Children's Hospital is amazing! The copy is beautifully written and tells a very comprehensive, accurate story." Now, she's a part of the story, so maybe she's not totally objective, but that still made my day. It's always nice to be recognized, even if it's just for a little story in a little magazine that maybe 5,000 people read.

The note means a lot to me, and I'm glad the woman took the time to write it and send it in the mail. Somehow, an email wouldn't be nearly as meaningful. Let's keep handwritten letters and notes alive!

WhirlyBall Follow-Up

Success! I received a comment from an anonymous poster who has played WhirlyBall! S/he says that the cars only go a few miles per hour, and the game only involves throwing Whiffle Balls, so it is not very dangerous. The Web site did say that the cars moved slowly, but still. Bumper cars? Alcohol? Throwing things? I was skeptical. However, I thank the anonymous poster for setting the record straight. Stay safe, Chicagoland! (And Cleveland, too.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Lawsuit Waiting to Happen

Many thanks to Mr. Pink for bringing this to my attention. Seriously who thought that this would be a good idea? "Hey! I know! Let's combine drinking with driving and throwing things at other people! Then, let's bill it as 'the second most fun thing in the world,' and tout it as a 'team-building' exercise."

Is that really smart? To get a company together and encourage them to drink, drive and throw a ball at each other? I can just imagine some disgruntled employee having a couple of beers too many and aiming with just a little too much force at the boss's head. Not a pretty picture.

And how coy of the WhirlyBall developers to call their game "the second most fun thing in the world." (It needs a hyphen, by the way.) I guess they are leaving it up to our imagination to think of the first most-fun thing in the world. Or maybe they just didn't want to bring sex into their marketing plan.

Anyway, if any of you live in Chicago, Vernon Hills, Ill., Lombard, Ill., or Cleveland, and if you have actually experienced the joy of WhirlyBall firsthand, please post and tell me about your experiences.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Celebrity You Resemble

I found this site courtesy of Confessions of a Nobody. You have to register, but once you do, you can upload a picture of yourself, and it will tell you which celebrity you most resemble.

Well. I tried it with two different pictures, the one of me in the green sweater and the one of me in the pink sweater (scroll down to see them both). In the green sweater, the site said I resembled Emma Watson, aka Hermione in the Harry Potter movies. Okay, people say I look young, but she's 16. I'm 29 (and a half, as of Feb. 4). I think that's a stretch. In the pink sweater, the site said I looked like Gwyneth Paltrow. Um, no again. Do I look like a washed-out blonde to you?

Funnily enough, I have had more than one person tell me that I look like Dorothy Hamill, which seemed odd to me at the time, but after watching Skating with Celebrities (hey, I was really, really bored and Mr. Pink was out of town), I can kind of see their point.

Sooo...did you check out the site? Who do you resemble most? Or, who do people say you look like? Inquiring minds want to know.

Book Report

Some general musings on the books I read in January....Let's start off with the one I hated.

Adored, Tilly Bagshaw
This is not the sort of book I usually read, as I make a differentiation between "chick lit" and pure, unadulterated trash. However, I wanted something mindless to take with me on a long weekend, and this book seemed like it had plenty of pages to keep me occupied. But I was wrong. It did not hold my interest at all. In fact, I read the first chapter or two and discarded it. It was absolutely preposterous. What Hollywood movie star/mogul, no matter how powerful, brings his mistress home to live with him and his wife? What wife has so little backbone that she stands for it, and indeed, throws a welcoming dinner for the little tramp? More cartoonish characters than a comic book. I'm sure Danielle Steele and Barbara Taylor Bradford (two other novelists that I never read) have better-quality offerings, if this is a genre you enjoy.

Not much better...
The J.A.P. Chronicles, Isabel Rose
I thought this was going to be a nice, light, chick-lit read, but it had pretensions of seriousness. At least, I think it did. How else to explain all the descriptions of deviant sex and molestation? These are "issues"! Anyway, it failed on both counts--tt wasn't funny and it wasn't "literary." Pretty much a waste of time. And why did the book jacket feel the need to point out that "the author herself is a member of a prominent New York family"?

The rest of these were pretty good. As you can see, I have diverse tastes. But when I read for pleasure, I do definitely veer toward the chick lit. Chick-lit and novels of the Gilded Age and the Jazz Age. That's what I like.

The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom, Suze Orman
This was one of my "New Year's Resolution" reads. I wanted to get my finances in order this year and start putting money away for the future. Surprisingly readable, although not exactly for the financial novice. I certainly don't have enough assests to have to worry about setting up a trust, for instance.

Julie and Julia, Julie Powell
A blovel! Or whatever you call a novel that's based on a blog. I have to say, I admire Julie. I am much too picky of an eater to ever attempt such an ambitious cooking project. She cooks and eats everything in The Joy of Cooking! No organ meats or offal for me, thanks. Still, a fun, lighthearted read. It made me want to make some of the recipes for myself.

The Beautiful and Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Dissolution at its finest. I love Fitzgerald's way with the language. But is it wrong that this book kept making me long for a cocktail of my own?

Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld
I could not relate to the main character at all, a Midwestern outsider at an East Coast prep school. It seemed like she was willfully making mistakes and putting herself on the sidelines. It's one of those books where you want to shout, "No! Don't do it!" But she does it anyway. Still, an interesting read, although the denouement was not particularly shocking.

A Year in the Merde, Stephan Clarke
A British man is hired by a French company to launch British-style tearooms in France. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. I think we are supposed to laugh at the bumbling French, but there are also plenty of opportunities to laugh at the bumbling Englishman.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See
Technically, I read this back in November, but I wanted to include it because it was such a good read. A very moving story of two girls' friendship in 19th-century China, and what happens when we use the wrong words to express ourselves.

Okay, recommendations for February are appreciated!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The End is Nigh

When I find errors like this in an AP story, it truly makes me think that the end of proper English is at hand.

"It's publishing date is just 10 days before the movie opens." (From "Opus Dei Aims to Improve Its Image," a story about the group and the Da Vinci Code. At least the headline is right.)

Does no one care about the difference between its and it's anymore? Rachel Zoll, you should be ashamed, as should the copy editor who reviewed this piece.

And here's another egregious error, also put out there by the AP!

"I first want to make it very clear to people around the world that our's is a nation that believes in tolerance and understanding," Bush said. (From "Rice Accuses Iran, Syria in Muslim Violence," a story about the rioting over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.)

Our's? Seriously? Now, Bush probably doesn't see anything wrong with that sentence, but Terence Hunt should know better.

Yes, everyone makes mistakes. I have made several grammatical and spelling errors in this blog. But professional writers and copy editors have a duty, I believe, to do their best to uphold proper usage and grammar. If we don't do it, what hope is there for the rest of the country?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

When It Rains...

Ah, the life of a freelancer. Not too long ago, I was sitting around wondering where my next paycheck was going to come from. Now, for the past two weeks, I have been frantically trying to finish assignments before I start a six-week in-office gig. I'll be doing some copywriting for eBay (nice big-name client), while the regular copywriter goes on paternity leave. I think I'll get some good stuff for my portfolio, too.

Anyway, I read a bunch of books in January, and I wanted to share them with you. But that will have to wait, because I am still in frantic mode. We leave tomorrow for Florida for Mr. Pink's grandmother's 90th birthday/family reunion. This is the extended family that I have not met yet. We'll be there for all of about 40 hours, so I don't know how well I'll get to know anyone, but I am looking forward to meeting some of the cousins who are close to our age. Even though it's a quick trip, I'll get a little sunshine on my face. We're staying right on the beach, though. It's the beginning of February, for crying out loud? Who is prepared to put on a swimsuit in February? I need at least another two months of Pilates and Fit Ball Sculpt and cardio before I'll really be swimsuit-ready. But I guess I'll just have to deal with what I've got, hips be damned!

Okay, so, book report next week. Do any of you have reading suggestions for me?