----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: July 2007

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.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Power of Positive Thinking

Today was a nail-biter of a day--I had to go into the staffing office that is handling the background check and all the paperwork for the freelance copywriting gig I was hoping to get. When I arrived, I learned that in addition to taking a reading comprehension test, a logic test, and writing an essay, I would also have to take a math test--without a calculator! I am not a math person at all, but I figured that since I was up for a copywriting job, my math skills wouldn't be of the utmost importance. Still, I took the time to figure out the questions...I was asked about percentages a lot, which has never been my strong suit.

I had 30 minutes to answer 10 math questions, and another 30 minutes to read a passage and answer 10 reading comprehension questions. I finished the reading comprehension section in nine minutes, but I used almost all the alloted time (and a lot of scratch paper) for the math section. Once I finished, the recruiter said, "The computer scores all these tests automatically. Let's see how you did." I told him that I didn't think I did very well on the math test, but then, to my surprise, I found out that I got all of the answers right! (I also got all of the reading comprehension questions right, naturally.) The recruiter then said something that I'm glad I didn't know before I took the test: "Everyone from the CEO to the most entry-level candidate has to take this test," he said. "And if you don't get eight out of 10 of the math questions right, you're out of the running." That would have been an added layer of pressure I didn't need.

But in the end, everything worked out just fine, and I got a call from the HR coordinator this afternoon to officially offer me the job. I start next Friday. Yay! Best of all, I'll have a set 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. schedule, so I will still be able to work with my tutoring students and pursue additional freelance work on the side. And even though this job is only part-time, the hourly rate they are paying me works out to a decent full-time salary! I am so happy, relieved, and thankful--I can't wait to get started!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More Good Things

I am still having my ups and downs of course--that's life--but I am feeling really positive about my chances for landing this copywriting contract. I spoke with the HR coordinator today, and she said the the VP of marketing really liked me a lot. So, now I have to sign up with their staffing agency to go through the whole criminal background check, but I think things are looking good.

I'm really trying to stay focused on that possibility, and some of the other good things that have happened recently. Here are a few:

1. Had lengthy chats with two of my best friends today.
2. Took a walk in the warm summer sunshine this morning.
3. Reconnected with some old classmates on MySpace.
4. Had an interested interview with a wine accessories manufacturer, which may lead to some marketing consulting work on the side.

There are irritating things that have happened recently, as well, but I am doing my best to ignore those incidents. For instance, I was not too pleased with an interview I had at another company, where the president of the company grilled me about my "writing output." This is a company that provides content for its clients' Web sites to boost the sites' search engine relevance. Most of the writing they provide is pretty shoddy, because they pay their freelancers 2 cents a word. Now, though, they have premier clients who are demanding better content, and that's where I come in. But apparently, the president is still somewhat averse to paying for quality and needs to justify it by knowing how many words I can churn out a day. I don't know about other writers, but for me, that's nearly an impossible estimate to make, because it all depends on the project I am working on. This guy was also fairly combative, telling me that he was getting "mixed vibes" from me, and that he didn't really think I wanted the job. This was my second interview with the company, and I know I could do good work for them, so I am trying to let these annoyances roll off my back. I am writing about them here and moving on.

I do have to write about one more ridiculous situation...in my side job as a Realtor, I try to help tenants find rental homes. The thinking is that then when they are ready to buy, they will come back to me for assistance. So far, however, it hasn't really worked out like that. What I've gotten is a lot of flakes and a lot of people with bankruptcies on their credit reports. And then there was this winner. I spent some time showing him some apartments one day, and in the course of conversation, I learned that I'd already met his girlfriend, to whom I had shown other apartments previously. Well, he liked one of the places I showed him, but when we went back the next morning so his girlfriend could see it, it had already been rented. So then I rushed around, trying to find them other options, and I took them out two additional times to see places. Finally, they decided to put in an application on one place, but they were leaving for Europe the next day. I had questions for them once I submitted their application, but they didn't return my calls or emails.

So then yesterday, I get an email from this guy saying that they rented an apartment the morning they left for Europe. Great. I'm so glad I spent all that time with them for no compensation. But that's what happens, and it wouldn't have bothered me so much if he hadn't then written, "By the way, you have the prettiest eyes I've ever seen."

It is true that my eyes are exceptionally lovely. But can you believe the gall? I spend time taking this guy and his girlfriend around, they rent an apartment without me so I get no commission, and then the guy tries flirting with me? Honestly.

However, I am letting it go. And Mr. Pink needs to let it go, too. He wants me to give him this guy's email address so that he can give him what-for. But that won't be necessary. Then Mr. Pink said that I should forward the email to the guy's girlfriend. Again, no need. I am rising above it and focusing on the positive! (I just needed to gripe a little to get it out of my system. But I am not going to dwell. I am past all that now.)

Keep on keeping your fingers crossed about the copywriting job!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Keep Your Fingers Crossed!

I just had an interview for a freelance position that I think fits my qualifications perfectly. I would be working as a proofreader and a copywriter for a financial services company, and although the position is part-time, I would make more there than I would at any of the full-time positions I have applied for. Also, I think the marketing manager and I had a good rapport. I said, "I actually really enjoy proofreading and copy editing," and she said, "Really? Me too! What is it about it that you like?" I told her that good grammar is really important to me, so it makes me happy when I find an error and can fix it, and she said that she feels the same way. We're both word nerds! This is important because while many writers will tolerate doing proofreading and copy editing, not a lot of them truly embrace it.

I really, really hope that I get this job. I think that the company may want to check references, so I am trying to contact some past clients to see if they will say good things about me. The company plans to make a decision fairly quickly, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Positive Results

Yesterday, I posted positive thoughts on this blog, and today, something positive happened! I got a call from a woman who had seen my resume on Monster.com, and now she wants to bring me in to interview for a contract copywriter position. Today was just an initial phone screening, but I hope to have an in-person interview on Friday or next Monday. The position would be part-time for three months, but that would work out well because then I could take on more SAT tutoring clients. Plus, I'd be adding writing samples to my portfolio. The job also includes a lot of proofreading, and I think I am one of the few people out there who actually enjoys proofreading.

Other positive thoughts for the day:

1. I helped a student build his vocabulary and understand some of the finer points of grammar.
2. I am able to relax with a good book this evening.
3. The morning fog gave way to a beautiful sunny day.
4. I feel calm.
5. One of my friends really liked a dip I served at my housewarming party and wants the recipe. That made me feel good.

Let's see how long I can keep up this positive spirit!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Accentuate the Postive, Eliminate the Negative

"You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don't mess with Mr. In-Between."

I don't know why I know the lyrics to that old Bing Crosby song--it's probably a song that my grandma or grandpa taught to my mom, and she then passed it on to me when I was little and having a bad day. And since I've been having a bad few days, I decided it's time to accentuate the positive.

A list of positives:

1. Mr. Pink and I got to visit with my brother Esquire this weekend.
2. We threw an outstanding housewarming party.
3. I had two job interviews today.
4. I have caring friends, a loving family, and a wonderful husband.
5. I live in a nice place in a beautiful location.

Now, my pessimistic side wants to offer up rebuttals to some of the positives on my list, but I am going to eliminate the negative instead.

I don't believe in "The Secret" or the "laws of attraction" or anything like that, but I do know that it's more fun to be around happy people than it is to be around depressed people. That's why it's time to do some positive affirmations and "always look on the bright side of life"!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Crisis of Confidence

What do you call a life crisis that happens in between mid-life (ages 45--50) and quarter-life (ages 24--25)? The third-life crisis? The 30-year panic? Whatever it might be called, I am having one.

The problem is that I am 30 years old (31 next month, if you want to get all depressing about it) and I have no idea what to do about my (non-existent) career. When I got my master's degree in journalism, I was all optimistic about my future. I thought that by the time I was 30, I would have the skills and experience I needed to start my own magazine. Oh, the folly of youth. For my first job, I worked a start-up trade magazine that never quite got started, so I was transferred to another, even more boring title. I then decided that maybe PR was where I wanted to be, so I got a job at a well-known entertainment PR company, where I lasted all of five days. Started on a Monday, quit on a Friday. It had something to do with the $11,000 pay cut I'd taken, as well as being asked to fetch the boss's lunch. I don't make a good underling, which is a real problem when you're trying to launch a career. And that's why, seven years later, I am still spinning my wheels.

I've had a few full-time jobs, but I am much happier when I'm able to set my own schedule and work for myself. Suddenly, however, I am faced with the need to earn a steady income, and my past career choices are coming back to haunt me. My resume shows no stability, and employers question why I would want to work for them full-time. I would question that, too, and the answer is, honestly, that I don't really, aside from my need to earn a paycheck. I am overqualified for administrative assistant jobs, underqualified for the better-paying jobs in my field, and completely lacking in skills for any other career. I had a brief flirtation with a career in real estate, but that ended when I realized I had no sales ability whatsoever. Well, no, actually. I am still making myself insane by trying to sell real estate and rent houses to people, but I work 12 hours a day, and I make no money. So it's probably time to try a different approach.

Here's a list of what I'm good at: writing; copy editing; being organized. It's not a very long list. Ideally, I'd be able to freelance as a copywriter and a copy editor and earn enough money, but I am not good at going after clients. Most of my previous clients all came from word of mouth, and I am unsure how to establish myself in my new hometown. Do I just write to publications and companies in my area and offer my services? That's what the books say to do, but I can't believe that's all there is to it. I have applied to numerous freelance gigs through Craigslist, but all of those people seem to want someone they can pay $6 an hour. I like to write, but I don't like it enough to do it for less than minimum wage.

The real blow came when an assistant job that I had lined up and was supposed to start in a week and a half suddenly fell through. I was supposed to work as a marketing assistant/girl Friday for a local real estate broker, but he called yesterday to say that he hadn't closed an escrow in four months and so could no longer afford to hire me. If that's not a sign that the real estate market is imploding, I don't know what is.

Now what? Do I just take any job? Do I suck it up and ask a temp agency to find me a $12 an hour secretarial position? Do I apply for the assistant editor job that pays $30,000 a year, even though that's far less than I made right after school? Do I train for a new career? Do I chuck it all and head back to the safety of academia, i.e., law school?

I don't know. I wish I were more like Mr. Pink. He had a desire to be a graphic designer, he went back to school and got a BFA, and then he used his design skills and his people skills to create a niche for himself. I have no niche, and I'm starting to believe that I have no people skills, since I've been working with all these potential renters lately, and not one of them wants to rent from me.

I am wallowing a bit, I admit. I need to pull myself up and figure out a solution. But at this point, I am so beaten down, and I feel like such a failure, that I don't even know where to begin. I was good at getting good grades in school, and now I'm afraid that I'll never be very good at anything else. I am tutoring two high-school students for the SAT, and I enjoy that, but the $90 a week I'm currently making from that gig isn't going to pay the bills. So now what? I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Parents Out of Touch With Reality

I have been out of touch with reality for the past few weeks myself, due in large part to some new work I have undertaken. I have been working 12-hour days, six days a week, and yet I have not yet seen any sort of financial reward. I hope some monetary satisfaction will be coming soon.

Saturday was a rare evening out. Mr. Pink and I decided to go see "Live Free Or Die Hard," a summer popcorn movie if ever there was one. We picked a 9:35 showing at a stadium-seating theater, and we got there about 20 minutes early to ensure our pick of choice seats. We were comfortably ensconced, but stragglers continued to come in even as the previews were ending, and then they were upset that they couldn't find seats together. Yes, I know all the pre-roll and the advertising at the movies is annoying, but it's either endure that or face the consequences of less-desirable seats.

I wasn't really bothered by this, though, until a father came in with his daughter, who was maybe 5 or 6 years old. Then his wife and his 11-year-old son came in, along with an aunt or maybe Grandma. No seats together! What do we do? What do we do?

Some suggestions:

1) Start by leaving the kids at home. Yes, this "Die Hard" was supposedly softer and it only carried a PG-13 rating, not the typical R, but still, it's Die Hard! It's going to be bloody and messy and violent! Do you really want your 6-year-old daughter watching John McClane run over people with his car or use a car to drop helicopters from the sky?

2) Come earlier. Or, send a few people in ahead of time to get seats, while the rest of you buy your giant sodas and troughs of popcorn.

But really, the main thing is, leave the kids at home! Yes, it's tough to get a babysitter, but if you want to have a family night out, do it at an age-appropriate venue, not a violent movie! And certainly don't take your 6-year-old to a movie when she doesn't understand the concept of whispering, let alone NOT TALKING AT ALL during the movie.

I do have to give the father some credit, though. After the daughter kept up her high-pitched monologue for the first 20 minutes of the film, he took her outside, and they were never seen again. And I could enjoy the rest of my popcorn flick in blessed silence. Well, except for all the on-screen explosions and car crashes and whatnot. But that's to be expected. Yippee-kai-ay, motherf-----!