----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: November 2008

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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Thoughts

My life is like a roller coaster...soaring highs and swooping lows. Right now, I feel like I'm on a descent. But things are picking up steam, and I think I'll be cranking up to another peak again soon. Besides, without the lows, the highs wouldn't seem very high, would they? Here are just a few of the things I'm thankful for:

1. I'm spending Thanksgiving Day with loved ones.
2. I have a good marriage.
3. I have caring friends and a wonderful family.
4. I just earned my yellow belt in martial arts, which gives me a sense of accomplishment.
5. I'm healthier and stronger than I have been in the past.
6. I have two job interviews and a freelance project lined up for next week.
7. I don't own a home, so I don't have to worry about foreclosure. And my rent is a fraction of what a mortgage would be.
8. When times are tough, I have a strong support network.
9. I haven't gotten a rejection letter from the literary agent yet.
10. I have an appreciation for both the ridiculous and the sublime.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Think Positive!

The unemployment rate in California is now 8.2 percent, so I am trying to stay positive. Although I still do not have a job, I do have a lead on two potential freelance projects, and I think that at least one of them will come through. Fingers crossed!

Also, I got a very nice email from an acquaintance who read part of my book. She said it was "a real page-turner" and that she could immediately identify with my main character. Her kind words really cheered me up...there's nothing like a few compliments to provide a confidence boost.

Finally, I am physically much stronger and more flexible than I was just a few months ago, thanks to my martial arts training. I've never been particularly active or interested in physical fitness, but now I take pride in what my body can do. I haven't lost any weight, but I have built muscle, and I am much more toned. My instructor is even encouraging me to take part in an upcoming competition. I'm also working on a personal essay about my experiences, which I hope to be able to sell to a newspaper or magazine.

When I see how many other people are out of work, I realize that all I can do is keep trying and hoping for the best. Much of the situation is out of my control. The only thing I can control is my feelings and emotions, so I might as well try to look on the bright side. It's certainly better than being miserable and depressed!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Three Weeks and Counting

It's been about three and a half weeks since I submitted my book package to a literary agent. In general, it takes at least six to eight weeks to hear back, so I'm not surprised by the lack of response so far. In fact, I'm just glad I haven't gotten a rejection letter yet! (Of course, I'm probably jinxing myself by writing this post.)

In the meantime, as my faithful readers know, I've been searching for a job. Here's a little progress report:

1. Wrote a banner ad, landing page, and lead-generating article for a small financial brokerage. The team was "real pleased" with my work and asked me for a price quote for two longer, more labor-intensive pieces, which I explained would cost more than the original article. I didn't hear back for a few days, and when I followed up last week, I was told that the company was still awaiting cost approval. I hope that the project will eventually move forward, but with massive belt-tightening in every sector, it may be a no-go.

2. Upon request, provided writing samples to a nutraceutical company that approached me after seeing my resume on Monster. My contact there then asked me to provide a 250-word writing sample, with citations, about the health benefits of co-enzyme Q10, "keeping in mind FDA regulations on what the nutrition industry can and can't say." In general, I am happy to take writing and copy editing tests as a way of proving my skills, but this company had not provided me any information about the position for which they were hiring, and when I went to its Web site, all that came up was a logo and a phone number. Also, the emails that I received from them were poorly spelled and punctuated, which seemed unprofessional. I asked my contact to provide some additional information, but I never heard from her again, leading me to believe this was a scam to get free work from unsuspecting writers.

3. Had a phone interview on Friday with the head of a marketing agency who was looking to hire a copywriter. We had a good chat, and he said he thought I could "provide value" to his company. However, he let me know that he was speaking to many other candidates. I followed up with a hand-written note. No word as of yet.

4. Created and sent a direct mail piece advertising my skills to local publications and marketing firms. Made one connection for a potential assignment next month.

5. Got in touch with an old client that generally asks me to write catalog copy and press releases to refresh its corporate image before a major trade show in January. Sadly, I learned that the company had hired an in-house public relations person to handle those needs. I was not considered because I live 400 miles from the office.

6. Revamped my resume to make it more targeted for administrative jobs, which seem to be more plentiful than writing jobs. Applied for positions such as receptionist, typist, and executive assistant. No response as of yet.

7. Signed up with a temporary placement agency. No assignments currently available that match my skill set.

8. Updated my LinkedIn profile and have been spreading the word that I am eager to find full-time or contract employment.

9. Advertised my tutoring abilities in the local area.

10. Attended a training session to become an SAT essay grader for the Princeton Review. Awaiting the next step--an online test.

I realize that the employment situation is grim and that many, many others are searching for work. I had just hoped that my combination of education and experience would qualify me for something. I am even willing to start over and take another entry-level position, despite my years of writing and editing experience. However, it's depressing to find that entry-level positions still pay so little. I saw one assistant position advertised where the president of the company wanted someone with three or more years of experience to keep the office clean and organized, answer phones, design marketing materials, handle accounts payable and accounts receivable (MUST be a QuickBooks PRO!"), run personal errands, babysit his children, take care of his home and pets, make travel arrangements, assist his wife with any requests, "complete any and all tasks asked of you which may at times be unexpected or unorthodox," "be able to think for him," and be available 24/7, all for $32,000 a year. I've seen other positions advertised that claim to have "competitive compensation," which in their minds is $26,000 a year. When I got my first job nine years ago, I made $35,000 a year. But hey, the marketplace is glutted with people looking for work, so employers can afford to be picky. Maybe I should be applying for these positions as well, on the theory that any job is better than no job.

At least Mr. Pink is still gainfully employed. We are also lucky to be renting a nice condo in a beautiful area that is unaffected by the Southern California wildfires. I have good friends and a fantastic family. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving. But I just don't know what else I can do to find a job. Some of you have offered very helpful suggestions in the past. Any other thoughts?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Exploring Every Option

Recently, I sent out a direct mail package to local businesses and publications to pitch my writing and editing services. Only one person has responded so far, but I am hopeful that the connection will lead to paying work. I'm also applying for jobs like crazy, and I'm writing custom-crafted cover letters for each one, but it's tough not to get discouraged when I rarely get any sort of response.

I did receive an email from a woman who said she saw my resume on Monster, and she requested some writing samples, which I sent. Now, however, she wants me to write a short article on spec, with citations, but I don't even know what company this is for, or what sort of duties this job would entail. The company "Web site" is really just a landing page with the company name and phone number. That's it. I told the woman that I'd be happy to complete a writing test, but I wanted to get more information about the position they were hiring for first. So far, I haven't heard back.

It seems like there are so few legitimate job opportunities out there, so I'm doing my best to create my own opportunities, but it's an uphill struggle. I'm sure many of you out there can relate. If you're searching for a job right now, what are you doing to keep your spirits up? Me, I'm making sure to get lots of exercise. I'm also trying to focus on the positives in my life, such as my supportive family, my loving husband, and my great friends. Still, it would be nice to have a paying job!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


This morning, I was wide awake at 6:30, and I am by no means an early rising morning person. I think I woke up early because I am excited and nervous about today's election. Make sure you vote...I think it's going to be a close one.

I'm voting for hope and change and an intelligent, thoughtful leader. I hope you do the same.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Bright Spot!

About a week ago, I applied for a position as an SAT essay grader for the Princeton Review. I felt sure that my experience as a test prep tutor and my background in journalism qualified me for the job. Luckily, I was right...I have been invited to attend an essay grading training session next week! I hope that once I complete the training session, I'll be hired. The hourly pay is quite good, so it will be a nice supplement to my income, even if there are only a few hours available each week.

In other news, I continue to apply for jobs every day. Full-time, part-time, freelance...at this point, I'm not picky. I hope that Mr. Pink is right when he says that a job search is at least partly a numbers game and eventually someone will call me in for an interview. Also, thanks to the continuing generosity of the Pater Familias, I am no longer having panic attacks about paying my bills. Seriously, I do not know what I would do without the love and support of my family.

So, Mr. Pink and I are still in belt-tightening mode (who isn't, really?), but I am feeling a bit more positive about my prospects. And let's all hope that the literary agent who has my sample chapters falls in love with my book and wants to represent me!