Ladies & Gents:
Welcome back for what may have been a long holiday weekend for you (though as I remember from when I worked in retail: it's not a holiday for a lot of people). I ran the Philadelphia marathon on Nov. 18 and then took alllll of last week off. Except for my mom getting sick on Thanksgiving and me losing my sous chef, I had a great week off. I went through the hundreds of emails I'd ignored last night, fired off a lot of emails this morning and wrapped up a feature, all before 10am. So let's get onto the newsletter, shall we? We'll start with three "How Did This Get Made" write ups:
Story 1: "A brief history of pets in costumes" for The Goods
The Idea: I had written for Racked, which has since become The Goods. When my editor emailed her writers with a guide on how to pitch the new, re-branded site, I thought of things that people buy that could be a story. I had just bought my dog a Captain America costume and bingo: pets in costume.
The Pitch: "So on the surface this might seem obvious: the pet costume market leading into Halloween. Because, you know, millennials are ruining everything and we'll spend $72.13 billion on our pets this year, according to the American Pet Products Association.
But my twist is this: this isn't that new, nor is treating our pets like members of the family. The first U.S. pet cemetery opened in 1896 and is a National Historic Landmark, and the International Association of Pet Cemeteries & Crematories (IAOPCC) formed in 1971. Want some black and white pictures of dogs in costumes? I got you here and here.
I'd say pets in costumes as a trend has a lot more to do with how much bigger Halloween is now ($9.1 billion industry in 2017, up from $8.4 billion in 2016, according to the National Retail Foundation) than it has to do with millennials delaying parenthood and getting pets instead (whatever THAT means).
Plus I think people will click on it. Because: dogs in costume."
From Pitch to Print: 5 weeks
Story 2: "Paper coffee cups will be the death of us" for The Outline
The Idea: I picked up this idea for a friend: unless I bring a reusable coffee cup with me, I can't get coffee out. In sticking with that commitment, I found out that most places were giving me discounts for bringing my own cup, so I thought that there's more to this than just "hey stop throwing this stuff away." That became a pitch, which became this story (which I talked about on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning).
The Pitch: "Hey [Editor]! I have another idea for you:
From Pitch to Print: 9 weeks
Story 3: "Healthcare organizations tap remote patient monitoring to manage conditions in real time" for HealthTech
The Idea: Well, there is no pitch here. Instead, this is a story built on client relationships and taking chances. Years ago, an editor for CIO started following me Twitter because of my running writing, and told me that he thought I could write for him. My initial response was lol no. I was not a tech whiz. But he kept saying it, and I kept thinking about it, until I finally landed on something that was a tech story but not a deep dive into a computer rabbit hole: how the city of Camden was using a new technology that they hoped would reduce crime. I lived next to Camden at the time, and went to graduate school there, and a PR person for the county suggested this story to me. It took the gentle nudging of the then-CIO editor to keep them in mind, and realizing that a pitch about a local town could fit, that got me the assignment. I ended up being a regular columnist for CIO for nearly three years, working with the editor on stuff that interested me with a tech component, and focusing specifically on security and hacking. That helped me learn about the industry and establish myself as a niche writer in it. That editor left, and CIO changed hands, which left me without a regular gig. But when HealthTech asked that former CIO editor if he knew of a good writer – bingo. This is my second piece for them. They assign without me having to pitch, which makes them a great client (along with offering a great rate anyway). I have since sent that former CIO editor a running t-shirt as a thank you. If this make you thinks about how freelance writing is a lot about sales: that's because it is.
From Assignment to Print: 3 weeks
Story 4: Why Run Marathons? for The New York Times
The Idea: At first I thought it wasn't fair to include this, but if I'm going to show you how different parts of a freelance life work together, I might as well. I've been writing the New York Times running newsletter for over a year now. It's weekly, they let me write just about whatever I want (though I always ask first), and I like it. They recently decided to try out some of the newsletters as standalone pieces, just to see how they do – which also makes it easier for me to share them across the internet. This is the second such piece. I had been thinking about this topic too since I signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon, since I knew it would be my tenth. That's such a round number, and I thought it would make a good newsletter column, especially since it would be hitting inboxes over a holiday weekend. Even though I didn't pitch it until after the marathon was over, I did think a lot about it while running the marathon, and composing possible pieces in my head is a way I pass time in long races. I also share this because it shows how establishing relationships over time can make freelancing easier. I have writing for the The New York Times since 2006, and for them about running since 2010. And since I have a spot to fill once a week, pitching is a mite easier.
The Pitch: "Hey [Editor!] "How about something on "why run marathons?" Yesterday was my 10th marathon, and I ran it in the same place I ran my first."
From Pitch to Print: 5 days
And now on with the rest of the show!
"How to Keep Your Pets Safe During the Holidays" for The New York Times
"Why Amazon picked Nashville, Tennessee" for Supply Chain Dive
"Health Care Organizations Tap Remote Patient Monitoring to Manage Conditions in Real Time" for HealthTech
"Paper Cups Will Be the Death of Us" for The Outline
"A brief history of pets in costumes" for The Goods
"Rampant returns and what to do about them" for Supply Chain Dive
"The delicate art of the data lake" for CIO Dive
"Legacy Hardware Offers Hackers a Gateway into Health IT Infrastructure" for HealthTech
"Hurricane Florence, one month later" for Supply Chain Dive
"Advance Probes for High-field MRI" for Michigan Tech News
What I'm Reading
- Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I'm listening to the audiobook and holy cats it's 35 hours! I go through about 10 of those in my first go-round at the library, then it had to go back (I got two 14-day loans and had to go to the back of the line). It just came up again so fingers crossed I'm hoping to finish it this time. It is very detailed and very good, and I'm glad I am doing the audiobook version because I don't know I could stick with it reading it. It's a good companion to driving and doing chores.
- The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn. I checked out this audiobook to bridge the gap between Hamilton checkouts and it's good, zippy, historical British murder mystery fun.
- Lethal Strike by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling). Good book, but too long, especially after reading so many Michael Connelly books, which must be the tightest books on the planet.
- Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. How in the world did I miss this as a teenager? I don't know. I'm glad I caught up though.
- My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. I bought this thinking it was a road trip book, which is somewhat is, but she doesn't drive! Haha. Oh Jen. I enjoyed it very much though.
- Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine by Alan Lightman. I bought this right after I got back from Maine, and I consider it another in a long line of books that attempts to explain physics that I just can't pick up. It amazes me that I took advanced physics in high school and didn't fail the course.
- Web of Love by Mary Balogh. I believe I found this romance novel at a library book sale. I've read a few of her titles before, so it was worth picking up a used copy.
- The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly. I don't know how I feel about the Lincoln Lawyer novels compared to the Harry Bosch series. This felt a bit too tied down by courtroom drama.
- Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. This is as good as everyone said it was – and scary AF.
- Life is a Marathon by Matt Fitzgerald. This book is coming out in March, and I think will resonate with an awful lot of runners. Like the best running books, it's about running but a whole lot more than that.
- Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh. This is part of Balogh's survivors series. I bought the whole series from a used dealer on eBay so I have one on hand in case I'm looking for some romance!
- The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede. My mom read this book, and then I saw a few other friends reading it lately even though it came out in 2002. I think a lot of people need a bit of uplift right now.
- Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I think library book sales are great places to buy those books that everyone read for a lot less than what they sold for originally, and catch up. I've read Larson's Dead Wake but never got around to this one. Thanks to the library book sale, I finally am.
What I'm Watching
- Patriot Games. This movie did NOT hold up, and just made me want to watch Air Force One.
- Great British Bake Off. Honestly is there a better show in television. I do not think so.
- Endeavor. So from what I can tell, there's three series in this line: Inspector Morse, which was made first. Then Inspector Lewis, which came second. And Endeavor, which came third but is supposed to take place before both of the other series. I loved this and Inspector Lewis but can't find Inspector Morse streaming online. Anyone? I do love my British murder series.
- Baywatch. This already feels stale – way too many macho man and gay jokes. I don't think a lot of those jokes would have survived if it was made right now.
- Private School Negro. My first introduction to W. Kamu Bell was through the dearly departed Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period podcast. This was also good.
- Schitt's Creek. Good Lord this TV show is so good. Dan Levy is a treasure.
- A Star Is Born. I had seen the Judy Garland A Star is Born, so I knew what was coming. But oh man did this movie crush me. A friend said she couldn't tell if she wanted to see it 1,000 times more or never again. I concur.
- Bojack Horseman. My brother has said he can't tell if this show seems so good because it is good, or because there's nothing like it on television. I don't know the answer.
- The Guernsey Literacy and Potato Peel Pie Society. This Netflix movie has the most accurate portrayal of how physical writing can be that I have ever seen. Worth it just for that.
- New in Town. I saw John Mulaney's Kid Delicious standup when it first came out, so went back to this one. ALSO good.
- Upstairs Downstairs. This was a short-lived update of the classic British TV show. I think it was just a bit too soon, because just a few years later, Downton Abby caught fire. It's soapy and gorgeous in the same way. I wish it'd gotten one more chance.
- The Emperor's New Groove. I don't think I've seen this since it came out. It's way way funnier than I remembered.
- Being Erica. So…I have mixed feelings. It's a Canadian show that kept pulling me along in its first season even when I wanted to stop. Things seemed evened out in the second season (and they dropped the Gilmore Girls-esque musical numbers, which helped). This isn't a spoiler, but it involves Erica, a woman in her early 30s who gets the chance to go back and change regrets about her life – thought she can't really change anything. For example, she wants to stop a couple from getting together. She can change their first date, but they get together eventually anyway. It says a lot about fate and destiny and free will. I have a slight problem with the time travel aspect because I subscribe to the Back to the Future philosophy that you can go back in time, but you go to the same physical spot – you can't jump location either. In Being Erica, they jump location, which bothers me and holy wow I'm a nerd. Also, if you have any Canadian shows to recommend, let me know. I obviously have Schitt's Creek and Being Erica. I also loved the Murdoch Mysteries.
- Ladies in Lavender A historical movie with Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Need I say more? It also has the creep from Avengers: Civil War as a young innocent dude. It's weird.
- Ralph Breaks the Internet. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. I'm really glad I went – it was a nice escape for a few hours. Also, I had the *entire* theater to myself. I guess a 4:45pm show the day after a long holiday weekend isn't the time everyone dives to go to the movies.
Until next time!
Jen A. Miller