----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: June 2009

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.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Future is Wide Open

Into the great wide open, under the skies of blue...that Tom Petty chorus describes my life perfectly right now. Well, except for the fact that we're suffering from "June gloom" here in Dana Point, so the skies are more gray than blue. But you get the idea.

Now that Mr. Pink and I are both out of work, we have the opportunity to reshape our future. As I see it, we've got nothing to lose, so we might as well go big. Mr. Pink made some fantastic connections at the HOW Design conference, and we are already working together to create a website and brand identity for our first client...Soda Creek Vineyards.

Our skills are complementary, so we're going to take the plunge and start our own creative agency. We've got all the equipment and know-how we need. We just have to build up our client list. Oh, and come up with a name for our endeavor. And market ourselves. And create our own website.

As I see it, the American economy is moving further and further away from the old employer/employee model. Let's face it...most jobs provide little more than a paycheck, and possibly health insurance. In many instances, perks like paid vacation, sick leave and 401(k) matching are no longer being offered or are on the chopping block. (My last position offered none of those things, not even health insurance.) And for people my age, employer contributions to Social Security and Medicare are likely to be worthless by the time we're eligible for such benefits. Sure, companies like Google offer an enviable array of employee benefits. But as I see it, those companies are the exception, not the rule.

Striking out entirely on our own is not going to be quick or easy, but we will be 100 percent in charge of our own destiny. Exciting? Definitely. Scary? Absolutely. Worth it? Stay tuned...

If you need writing, editing or design services from a young, hungry, talented duo, leave a comment in the comments section, and we'll help you fulfill your needs, at an attractive price.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Unemployed Again

I just became a statistic. My boss laid me off today "due to the economy and lack of work." Let it also be noted for the record that lack of common business sense on the part of the business owner was a contributing factor in my layoff.

About two months ago, my boss signed a three-year lease for 2,000 square feet of office space. He spent $10,000 on new office furniture, about $6,000 on new computers, another $6,000 to have the computers networked and installed, and who knows how much on a VoIP phone system. He did all this even though we didn't have any clients or any new business in the pipeline. He did all this, and yet he cheaped out on buying an official licensed version of the Adobe Creative Suite software. The software just updated itself and Adobe realized that the license was invalid and locked the software. The graphic designer can't use any of the programs and is working from home. So now there's just my boss and one full-time employee sharing all that shiny new office space with him. Excellent decision-making, sir! Way to be a "top-tier, Fortune 500-level" marketing and advertising agency!

Mr. Pink is unemployed as well, so I'm not sure what the two of us are going to do. We're both looking for full-time work, but we are also considering starting our own marketing and design firm. I know that we have more talent than my (former) boss does, and I'm pretty sure we have better business sense, too.

Ah, life. It's always interesting, no?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Unemployed? No, Funemployed!

I haven't been laid off--yet--but the situation seems grim, so the axe could fall at any time. I need a little cheering up, and this article from the L.A. Times inspired me to create me own list of why a part-time work schedule isn't so bad.

1. A part-time paycheck is better than no paycheck at all!
2. More time to spend with Mr. Pink (also "funemployed).
3. Leaving the office at 1:00 means less temptation to go out to lunch, saving me both money and calories.
4. More time to exercise--it is bikini season, after all!
5. Matinee pricing at the movies.
6. More time to outline my ideas for my next novel.
7. Finally time to watch the entire seasons of Private Practice and Damages that are currently residing on my DVR.
8. More time to plot with Mr. Pink about creative business ideas that will allow us to throw off the shackles of working for the boss man forever!

It all boils down to one simple fact: I have more free time, but less money. So my approach is twofold: I'm finding free ways to enjoy my free time, and I'm seeking ways to make my free time pay!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dealing With Rejection

Even though I have signed with a literary agent, rejection from other agents still stings. When I started sending out query letters, I didn't realize just how long it would take for agents to respond (if they responded at all). So, today, I received a rejection letter from an agent that I queried back in February after meeting her at a writers' conference.

She wrote me a very nice personalized letter which said she enjoyed meeting me at the writers' conference and that my character's story "is a moving one, threaded with the right touch of humor and poignancy. Unfortunately, I wasn't as taken with the writing as I was hoping to be, and as I would need to be in order to represent this novel properly."

Look, I know that not everyone is going to love my work. Rejection is part of the process. The important this is that my current agent is excited about my manuscript. But rejection still hurts. And it makes me doubt myself and my writing. Another agent who rejected the manuscript said in her note that I was doing too much telling and not enough showing. She wrote, "You have an intriguing story concept here, but you need to get us to the drama faster."

So I worry. Are these two agents right about my work, or is the agent who signed me right? Is my novel really ready to be submitted to publishing houses? Is it good enough to get a book deal? Should I go back and do rewrites? What if it gets published and is then savaged by the critics and totally bombs? Why am I filled with self-doubt? When should I listen to my critics, and when (and how) should I trust myself?

Any advice or commiseration would be much appreciated. For now, I'll try and drown out the self-doubt by telling myself that my agent believes in my work, and Mr. Pink believes in my work, and my family believes in my work, and I can't just focus on the negative all the time. And it's 5:35 on a sunny Saturday evening. I think I'll have a nice cocktail now.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nothing To Do But Laugh...

My boss keeps telling me that decisions on our key messaging points and unique selling propositions simply cannot be rushed. Well, today, dear readers, after five months and 27 days of pondering those points, my boss imparted his great wisdom to me.

It was not worth the wait.

Here's what we do: we develop brands and position companies to succeed. We handle media planning. We "create marketing campaigns from concept to delivery with creative, out-of-the-box thinking [side note: is there anything less creative than the phrase 'out of the box'?], implement [sic] through traditional and new media platforms."

Yep, that sure sets us apart from all the other advertising and marketing agencies out there.

He also listed our strengths. And can you guess what he listed as our No. 1 strength? Take your time...I'll wait.


As he explained to me, my boss is a marketing expert, and is therefore the very essence of our company. Has he worked in a marketing or advertising agency before? No. Has he successfully launched any major campaigns? No. Has he published any articles or white papers on innovative marketing or advertising practices? No. Nevertheless, he is a marketing expert. I think someone may have been exposed to too many self-esteem classes as a child.

And finally, my boss has decided that each of our web pages needs a creative title. So, instead of calling our portfolio page "Portfolio" or "Sample Work," he wants to name it...drumroll, please..."Picassos." What else can I say?

But I'm trying to stay positive. I still have a job, albeit for only 20 hours a week. And now I have a new project to work on...coming up with a tagline and writing our web copy.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Astera Breaks Her Silence!

Did you miss me, dear readers? It's been a full six months since my last blog post, and I'm sure all 12 of you are simply dying to know what's been going on in my life. Quite a lot, actually, which is why my blog posting has fallen by the wayside.

Let's start with the good news, shall we? I now have a literary agent! Yay! Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that my book will be published, but it does move me one very important step closer to that goal. Most publishing houses will not review unagented material, so having an agent helps get me in the door. And, at the writers' conference I attended back in February, one editor was interested in seeing my manuscript once I found an agent, so maybe she will fall in love with it and buy it. Here's hoping...

So, I've accomplished one half of one of my New Year's resolutions for 2009. The year is only half over, but I feel like I should have made more progress on my resolutions by now. Resolutions #2 and #3 (put my promotional plan for said novel into place and sell film rights to the novel) hinge on the second part of resolution #1 (find a publisher for the novel). I was doing really well on resolution #4 until a pinched nerve and severe muscle spasms forced me to give up my martial arts training for a while. Luckily, I am now on the mend.

But now for some bad news. Mr. Pink was laid off from his job in April, and my hours at my job were cut in half last week. So, our financial situation is grim and it looks like resolution #5 (pay off credit card debt--for good this time!) is going to have to take a backseat to paying our essential bills, like rent. We are cutting back as best we can, but at this point, our main goal is to not increase our debt at all.

In other bad news, it turns out that the job I liked so much after I started in December is not quite as good as it seemed to be. (Nothing ever is, is it? Sigh.) My boss is, to quote a friend, "completely batshit crazy." We're a small marketing and advertising agency, but we have no clients, and my boss refuses to make decisions that would enable us to get more clients. Oh, we did have one client, but that all went sideways and now the client is refusing to pay his rather substantial bill. Anyway, if you were running a business and were considering hiring a marketing and advertising agency, would you hire one with no website? No portfolio of sample work? No marketing collateral? Business cards with out-of-date contact information? Well, I am shocked! Whyever not?

My boss seems to fixate on things like how spreadsheets should be formatted and what font we should use in our company emails and whether or not his personal assistant needs to de-lint his chair, but we've been working on our "key positioning points" since I started, and he's no closer to finalizing them than he was six months ago. Now, if it were me, I wouldn't have started a business without already knowing how to differentiate my service from my competitors, but that's just me. So, now we can't write web copy or a sales glossy or any other collateral until he nails down the positioning points. Our sales rep is completely frustrated, because when he does make contact with potential clients, they ask for additional information about our company, and he has nothing to give them. And although my boss keeps insisting that we are a "top tier" marketing and advertising agency, it doesn't really strike me as "top tier" to hand out business cards with our old phone number and address crossed out and our new information written in.

Although my reduction in hours at work comes with a reduction in pay, it does at least give me the opportunity to focus on finding new freelance clients and on helping Mr. Pink brainstorm on how best to start his new business. And, I'll be able to blog more frequently! So all is not lost, but we are a bit adrift.

What's new with you? How are you surviving the recession? More crazy boss stories and book publishing updates coming soon!