Category Archives: Freelance Writing

Techniques and resources for freelance writers who are looking for writing jobs.

Gray Dapple Thoroughbreds Rescued by Actress and Former A Circuit Rider

Anyone who owns horses knows just how much the current economic downturn hurts. In fact, The Unwanted Horse Coalition conducted a survey to find out just how deep this issue runs and learned that the recession is hitting horse owners hard; it is also hitting horse rescues hard.

Up until a few months ago, acclaimed Hollywood actor and Broadway star, Paul Sorvino was able to fund one Pennsylvania-based horse rescue pretty much singlehandedly. That’s because Gray Dapple, which currently has 18 horses in care, is run by his daughter, Amanda Sorvino.

But the recession has cut her father’s ability to cover all the costs. “At the ranch, Dad wrote the checks and I brought in horses and we had a staff – a barn manager and my boyfriend and me. It was a family operation,” says Amanda Sorvino.

It is still a family operation but funding is tight.  Some people think because she is the daughter of a famous actor, Amanda’s rescue doesn’t need donations. But with 18 horses in care right now and more sure to turn up, Amanda says costs are going up because of the kind of horses she rescues.

“Some horses are not going to be adoptable. They are young but they are lame, injured. We tend to have horses that have special needs. And some will never leave my rescue.”

An A Circuit rider in her childhood, Amanda got into the rescue business because of one horse – Pastel. “…probably the most beautiful horse I have ever seen. But Pastel was not going to make it in the circuit,” Amanda pauses to collect herself. “We purchased another horse for me. We kept Pastel for awhile but she was just forgotten. I never really knew what happened to her. I looked for her for years but never did find her.”

Pastel inspired the name for her rescue – graydapple.org – but New Holland was what really got Amanda started on the path to rescue. “I have been rescuing for more than 4 years, after my first visit to New Holland. I was shocked that a kill buyer could buy show horses and ship them to slaughter.”

Rescuing horses also led Amanda to begin finding, investigating and exposing illegal slaughterhouses in the mid-Atlantic region. “I grew up in an actor’s family and on movie sets. A lot of life is acting so when I went undercover to investigate the Bravo operation, – I was playing a role. I never had any fear while I was doing this.”

But Amanda has paid for her activism, receiving death threats and unable to disclose where her rescued horses are being kept. “Because of all my undercover work, I don’t like to give the location out. I have exposed so many kill buyers and there have been threats made,” explains Amanda. “The horses are now in three boarding operations.”

Amanda relies on volunteers to help her recover, rehabilitate, retrain and adopt out the horses she rescues and like other rescue operations, she is always looking for funding. “Because we are boarding all the horses right now, we need to get something back for all of the money we put out when we rescue and rehabilitate.”

She has horses available for adoption and uses fees to help defray costs but adopting one of her horses is not easy. “The application is really restrictive; we charge a non refundable adoption fee.” Once you adopt one of Amanda’s horses, you can’t, “…re-sell, give away or trade the horse. The horses come back to me.,” Sorvino laughs. “It’s not really a rescue. We are a rescue in spirit, a combined rescue and sanctuary.”

Even with adoption fees, there is never enough to cover costs. Amanda makes it easy for people to donate to her rescue, accepting checks, major credit cards and PayPal.

“When we rescue a horse from slaughter we make that horse a promise that life will be wonderful from her on in.”

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Filed under Equestrian Articles, Freelance Writing, Mid-Atlantic Horse Stories, Writing About Horses

Top dressage riders and trainers offer online learning at Dressage Training Online

Top dressage riders and trainers offer online learning at Dressage Training Online.

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Filed under Equestrian Articles, Freelance Writing, Mid-Atlantic Horse Stories, Writing About Horses

Facing The End

Funny but I never thought I would be retired. Note the use of the word “be.” I am being retired from my current position effective 12/31/2009. It is a mutually agreed upon retirement but it is odd to be in this position.

I am currently presiding over my own professional death. And I have mixed feelings about it ranging from downright giddiness to stark terror. Writing has always helped me with uncomfortable situations before. I am hoping it will help me again.

Retiring will open up more time for writing. And I will actually be able to have a life instead of make a living….but will I be who I think I am when I am not driving into an office 54 miles away from my home? What will happen to all the skills I developed over all the years I worked? TBD, I guess.

Just 18 more working days.
More to come…

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Freelance Wanted, Sort of…

This is a story about a freelance job that looked good but, by the end of the process, smelled bad.

Like many freelancers, I troll Craigs List a lot, looking for opportunities.  Most of the time, I am looking for writing jobs but every once in a while, an ad of a different color attracts my attention like the ad for transcriptionists.

The company, Focus Forward, is willing to pay $10 for every 15 minutes of transcribed tape.  Since I transcribe my own interviews all the time and am pretty fast at transcription, I thought I could make a few fast dollars doing something interesting and easy.  I applied.  It wasn’t all that easy.

First of all, you have to download transcription software.  Then you have to download the “rules” for transcription, transcribe a test tape and send it in for “inspection.”  I was fine with the software download.  I was fine with doing the test.  I ran into trouble with the “rules.”  They have a LOT of rules that are not logically ordered and contradictory.  But I decided to play the game.

Here’s a company that states, right in the rules, that you have to transcribe the audio tape, verbatim.  Last time I looked, that meant word for word.  In those same rules, however, they have a whole list of words and verbalized pauses that they don’t want transcribed.  Problem #1.

They also carefully call out that you have to transcribe everything including the conversation at the end…but don’t mention the conversation at the beginning. So transcribe everything but not really.  Transcribe the conversation at the end…but no mention of the beginning.   Problem #2

And Focus Forward gives you ways to cover words that are either not clearly stated on the tape or not at all familiar to you.  You are told to use [PH] to indicate you are spelling the word phonetically if you can’t hear or don’t recognize it.  I used this device for a drug name I had never heard of but that was called out as incorrect in the transcript.  Problem #3.

I got a snarky email informing me I didn’t make the cut.  Failure to type the intro conversation about the weather and vacation was fatal.  I also use [PH], capitalized celiac and spelled Super Fresh as one word.

Freelancers everywhere probably have similar stories of making an honest effort to meet all the requirements of a prospective client only to be washed out NOT for lack of skill or lack of trying but for being utterly unable to jump through hoops that are tangled up like spaghetti.  If, when that happens to you, remember…it really isn’t your problem.

BTW Focus Forward is STILL looking for transcribers.  I wonder why?

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Filed under Business writing, Freelance Writing, Medical Writing

News Versus Articles – What’s the difference?

The first difference between a news story and an article is simple — a news story MUST be balanced.  All angles and parties have to be represented.  That means doing your homework, getting the background and contacting  interested parties.  It is more work but only telling one side of a story ensures prejudicing the content and perhaps, the reader, to one interest group’s point of view.

Another difference is this is one place where what the author thinks about any element in the story is just not relevant, at all.  The story should be told by the people involved with the writer only providing bridges where necessary.  For example, here is an excerpt from a story on an internal dispute within a union.  I have removed the names and titles of the people quoted because this story has not been published yet but notice how the quotes are used.

“The leadership sees fit to railroad this through the membership by limiting information, restricting the vote by having it a “must be present” vote… in the most remote location in the state, in the middle of the week in the middle of the day. What a sham.  There are 20,000 of us shift working … and they really expects us ‘to be present’ to vote at the most important vote in the history of our union? I don’t think so.”

“That is a totally inaccurate statement and it’s unreasonable,” says XXXX, President of the Board of Directors of the union.  “We have been talking about this for quite some time.”

Do all your interviews.  Transcribe your notes.  Let the interviewees tell the story and follow this old journalism rule — include who, what, when, where and why.  It’s a simple rule but a good one.  The trick is to pack as much of that information into the beginning of the story as possible then flesh these elements out and let the people you interview tell their story in their words.

If you have done your job well, neither side will be able to claim victory.


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What Makes A Writer Run

I was standing in a store yesterday waiting while someone tried to figure out how to mail the manuscript for my first novel to a publisher in Canada when, suddenly, right there, my next novel started to write itself.

Granted, I have had the idea and the high level outline for this one in my head for about 9 months but my character was strangely quiet. Then, while watching the various characters come in and out of this store, each with his or her own story, each wearing their hopes and dreams on their faces, Trish started to speak and I was ready for her.

One thing a writer is NEVER without is pen and paper so I whipped out my pad and wrote the words as fast as I could, barely keeping up with her/me. If you want to write, carry the gear. Guess why?

Because the way it comes into your head the first time you hear it is almost always the best way to write it! Even 15 minutes later, chances are you just won’t be able to capture the thought, the words, the scene the same way. And believe me, there is nothing worse than trying to remember the moment of inspiration.

So be prepared, listen and when the talking starts….start writing!

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Crashing and Burning But Still Writing

Living life in the fast lane sometimes means you’re going to crash!  I’ve been recuperating from a car accident, reading and thinking, a dangerous combination.  It’s funny how important something you love becomes when you can’t do it.  I love writing; I leaned just how much on my enforced hiatus. 

Why writing?

It is the most basic form of connection that people who will never know each other, may never speak to each other, can use to bridge an entire continent.  Writing opens your eyes to different views and your mind to ideas you might never have encountered.  Sometimes a few words cobbled together in an expression or sentence can change your life.

Every writer hopes to have that kind of power, to hear his or her words repeated, to see them ripping across the Internet, touching and changing people’s lives at the speed of light.  Not many of us get that opportunity but if we keep writing, keep sending our words out into the universe, we may not shake the universe but we will touch some people, connect with strangers and make a difference in our world.

So whether it’s a short story, a tall tale or a novel, keep putting words on paper and keep reaching out.

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