The Best Lazy Saturday in Months

8.12.12

In honour of finishing the first semester of CreComm, I'm taking a break from writing and instead am enjoying a lazy and relaxing Saturday babysitting two of the best behaved kids I know and their four cats and two dogs. I think I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!

From left: Mumble, Bean, Kitten, and Marie
Mumble

Marie

Bean and Kitten
London

Pookie

Restaurant Review: Bistro 7 1/4

1.12.12


Owner and chef, Alexander Svenne
Photo credit: pegcitygrub.com





Looking out at Bistro 7 1/4 from a seat at the chef’s table, the view could easily be that of a busy restaurant in downtown New York City. Located in Winnipeg’s South Osborne, people have been coming from every area of the city for the restaurant's famous mussels and frites and electric atmosphere, since it first opened in 2006.

At 8 p.m. on a Friday night, the dinner rush is just getting started. Every few minutes more people arrive and give their name to the hostess. They are not left waiting for long and are quickly shown to their seats in either the lounge or restaurant. The lounge and restaurant are separated by a wall down the middle of the room where large abstract paintings in soft muted colours hang on both sides, making the whole place feel like an upscale art gallery.

It is a special experience to dine at Bistro 7 1/4. A woman sitting to my left is donning a pearl necklace and sultry red lipstick and nearly every man in the room has on a wrinkle-free dress shirt. At the table directly behind my boyfriend and I, a group of friends cheer and clink their wine glasses together and at an intimate table against the wall, a young couple smile nervously across the table at each other.

It is comforting and refreshing to meet our waiter — a middle-aged man dressed professionally in all black with a friendly smile on his face. He has been working at Bistro 7 1/4 since it first opened and knows exactly what to recommend when we say we are interested in trying a new wine. The $32 bottle of El Petit Bonhomme we order is as smooth as he said it would be. 

We are served a complimentary baguette with whipped butter, citrus salt, and a tasty sun-dried tomato spread. We nibble away and discuss how restaurants hardly ever serve bread anymore while watching owner and chef, Alexander Svenne and three cooks work the tiny, open kitchen in front of us, dancing around each other as the orders stream in. Svenne remains in the thick of the action the entire night, grilling steak, steaming mussels, and frying fish. He concentrates on evenly slicing a medium rare duck breast and finishes the plate with a little garnish. He then takes a half chicken off the grill and slathers a generous helping of mashed potatoes on the plate before placing the chicken on top and pouring white mushroom cream sauce over everything — it’s my chicken fricassee!

Our meals are in front of us without delay — there are no heat lamps in this restaurant. We dig in and enjoy the unique flavours of these new additions to the menu and are more than happy with our choices. The lavish helpings leave us feeling more than satisfied, but without any room for dessert, although we appreciate when our waiter drops off a dessert menu anyway.

When we receive the bill we are not surprised that it comes to $99.98. Expensive? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. We have paid as much for dinner at various big-box chain restaurants in Winnipeg, but never received the same level of excellent food and service as we did at Bistro 7 1/4.





5 Reasons to Write for your School Newspaper

24.11.12

If you're a journalism student, you've probably heard that writing for your school newspaper is a great way to hone your writing and editing skills. If you're a business, engineering, or graphic design student, it may not be as clear how writing for your school newspaper can benefit you.

The truth is that regardless of what you are studying in college or university, writing for your school newspaper is beneficial for many reasons. Strong writing skills are important whether you work in an office, need to communicate ideas to clients, or send business emails. Learning how to write different types of articles will help you understand how to write convincingly and effectively, but there is also more to be gained from contributing to your school newspaper than just learning how to write.

1. The chance to meet new and interesting people

Not only will you meet students from other programs at story meetings as well as the writers and editors who run the newspaper, but you will be assigned stories that require you to interview strangers. Although you might feel uncomfortable interviewing strangers at first, if your experience ends up being anything like mine, you will meet interesting people that you never would have met otherwise. The opportunity to interview entrepreneurs, authors, politicians, and regular people with amazing stories is my number one reason for writing for my school newspaper.

2. You will become an expert on the current events you write about

What better way to learn about and understand a topic then to conduct your own research and inform others about what you've learned? Journalists tackle difficult and complicated subjects daily and are then expected to communicate these issues clearly to the general public, often in just 400 - 500 words. You will also have to do this when you write for your school newspaper and as a result, you will accumulate a wealth of knowledge about topics you may have never heard of before.

3. "Contributor" looks great on your resume

For students with little work or volunteer experience, including on your resume that you contribute to your school newspaper is a great way to set yourself apart from your peers because it shows potential employers that you are versatile. Sometimes, possessing good writing and communications skills can be the reason you score the coveted internship or job when there are many applicants. In today's economy, employers are looking to hire people with the "full package" for entry level positions. Knowing how to write, and write well, will only help you when you are up against stiff competition.

4. Fame and glory

Okay, maybe not Hollywood style fame and glory, but it's pretty darn cool the first time you see your name published — and every time after that. It also feels good to post "I'm Published!!" on Facebook and to watch your status receive 20+ likes.

5. It could be a once in a lifetime opportunity

How many times are you going to attend college or university? It's possible more than once. It's my second time around in post-secondary school and I have a number of friends pursuing an additional diploma or degree, but you never know where life will take you. Make the most of your school experience while you can and get involved in as many ways as you can. As a contributor for your school newspaper, you have the important role of helping to create a dialogue among students, your school, and the wider community.

At the end of the day, your school experience is what you make of it. Writing for your school newspaper is just one of many ways to get more out of school than just what is covered in class. But keep in mind next time you pass by a stack of your school's newspapers that you are a student and therefore that's your school newspaper. If you have something to say — write it!



Topaz

17.11.12




My family brought home Topaz and his sister Sapphire thirteen years ago. We had been looking for a kitten for a few months and I remember when we laid eyes on them — the cutest chocolate-point siamese kittens we'de ever seen— we knew we were done for. They had so much energy and were so excited to have visitors that all of a sudden they would jump up, hook their little claws into our pants, and try to climb all the way up into our arms. We couldn't resist getting both of them.

Topaz turned out to be the goofy one. A little on the larger side, he was very particular about his breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you were late feeding him, he would howl until you stopped what you were doing and paid attention to him. There's no doubt he was spoiled, but it's because we loved him so much.




His favorite place to be was curled up under a blanket. When the family was all together in the living room, he would prance in and claim his spot in his favorite chair in the corner of the room near the fireplace and one of us would set a blanket over top of him.

Sadly, Topaz passed away suddenly at my parent's house a few days ago. It was heartwrenching and a very hard week for me to get through. Topaz was much more than a cat, he was a little friend I could always count on being there and a member of our family. I will miss him with all my heart.


Gary Doer Talks to Creative Communications Students

10.11.12


Gary Doer speaking to Red River College Creative Communications Students


One of the many reasons I love the Creative Communications program at Red River College is that not a week goes by without a visit from at least one journalist, author, producer, PR professional, media personality, or politician.

On Friday, none other than Canada's ambassador to the United States and former NDP Manitoba premiere, Gary Doer spoke to us about the outcome of the U.S. election, Canada's stance on Iran, and the need for more trade between Canada and the U.S.

Doer was informative and entertaining as he addressed our class, concluding his presentation with a joke about how we would get to watch him play dodgeball with the media.

This was Doer's second visit to Red River College in two years. He also spoke to Creative Communications students in November of 2011. Doer's daughter Emily is a second-year Creative Communications student.


Gary Doer and I




Scrum!

Scrum cont...








Internship at The Projector!

2.11.12

I am very excited to announce that I was chosen for the position of intern news editor of Red River College's newspaper, The Projector!

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to experience The Projector from an editing standpoint and to learn from everyone on The Projector team.

This past Tuesday was my first Projector meeting as news editor, and I had a lot of fun brainstorming story ideas with the full-time news editor, Alana Odegard and the other news intern, Danielle Da Silva.

Over the next few weeks, I will be shadowing Alana and trying to learn as much as I can from her before she leaves on her work-placement, at which time Danielle and I will take over as editors in her absence.

If you are interested in reading The Projector, new issues are published every second Monday and can be picked up at Red River College — or you can contact me and I'll get you copies! You can also visit us online at www.theprojector.ca.

Thanks for your support!







Enjoy Cooking on the Fly? Spaghetti and Meatballs, Impossible to Mess Up

27.10.12

I love food, but I don't enjoy baking and cooking the way some people do. I think it boils down to the fact that I dislike following a recipe. If I don't have everything a recipe calls for, I would rather try and substitute the missing ingredient with something I already have than make a trip to the grocery store — even when the missing ingredient is butter.

I recently baked chocolate chip cookies. I had a craving for them and had all the ingredients, except butter. But who needs butter? It's fattening and can cost up to $4.97 for one stick. I also think that most recipes call for more butter than is really needed. 

So I went ahead and started making cookie dough. I mixed together flour, sugar, eggs, and fat-free sour cream in place of butter. I followed the rest of the recipe and then rolled my dough into cute little balls, placed them neatly on a baking sheet, and popped them in the oven.

Did my cookies turn out? Not really. They weren't horrible but they didn't flatten out like cookies are supposed to and they tasted pretty bland. I decided to look into the reasons why they turned out this way, besides the obvious. 

What I found out is that sour cream actually can be successfully used to substitute butter in certain recipes. In cookie recipes, sour cream can be used to substitute some of the butter called for, although fat-free sour cream is not recommended.

Cooking allows much more flexibility than baking when it comes to substituting ingredients and making up a recipe as you go. After a long day, the last thing I want to do is cook an extravagant dinner following a recipe. I prefer to cook when inspiration strikes and following my own rules.

Spaghetti and meatballs is one meal that is a pretty safe bet to cook on the fly. Adding fresh vegetables and spices to your sauce and making meatballs from scratch can make it a bit more interesting, but it's still nearly impossible to mess up. If you like pasta, it's the perfect weekday evening meal and tomorrow's lunch is already made!


Cherry tomatoes and white mushrooms.
Toss tomatoes, mushrooms, and salt and pepper in a pan with a little canola oil.
Pasta from scratch would be delicious, but let's be honest — I'm in CreComm!
I'm pretty generous with my pasta sauce. No measuring cups here!
Since lean ground turkey contains less fat than lean ground beef, I use it in place of beef whenever I can. Here I added one egg, bread crumbs, Montreal Steak Spice, and a spoonful of barbecue sauce to ground turkey to make the meatballs.  
Roll the turkey into little balls with your hands and place them in a lightly greased pan.
Get the pasta going! I like whole-wheat spaghetti.
Meatballs are ready! 
Spoon spaghetti, meatballs, and sauce onto a plate. Dinner is served! 


The Short Story: A Creative Writing Exercise that Worked for Me, You Can Try It too!

20.10.12










In my creative writing class at school we use a little gem of a book called Writer's Gym: Exercises and Training Tips for Writers by Eliza Clark. The book is not only handy for its tips on how to write intriguing dialogue and advice about developing plot and character in a story, but also provides a number of writing exercises to help get ideas flowing.

 I wrote the following short story for my creative writing class a couple of weeks ago. It was the result of a writing exercise we did in class that was taken from Writer's Gym. I'll provide an explanation about the exercise at the end of the story, but first I invite you to read my story and see if you can guess what the writing exercise might have been!


A Date for John

     Cassie Sorenson smoothed the worn fleece blanket over her thighs and leaned back against the pillow pressing between her shoulder blades and the living room couch. This is how she spent her days — stretched out, re-reading Jane Eyre and Little Women and listlessly flipping through Home and Garden and Canadian Living magazines. She loved to garden and she loved to cook and since she accepted she could no longer manage either, she vowed to commit to memory as many classic narratives, gardening tips, and recipes she possibly could.
“How was your day?” Cassie’s husband John asked her from the front foyer, shrugging off his coat and placing his briefcase on the hardwood floor.
“Oh, it was fine.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Okay.”
“Did you remember to take your medication this afternoon?”
“John, you called to remind me to take my medication an hour ago. How could I possibly forget?”
Acting as if he hadn’t heard her, John walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge door, peering inside at the contents. 
“Are you hungry?”
“Not really.” Cassie looked up from her magazine in time to see him frown.
“But I could eat, I guess.” She said quickly. “What were you thinking for supper?”
“How about chicken, rice, and vegetables? Or beans instead of vegetables? Dr. Phillips said we should increase your protein intake to help you retain muscle.” 
“Mmm..”
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.”
“Well, why did you say, Mmm?” 
“No reason.”
“Cassie, Doctor Phillips said-”
“I don’t care what Doctor Phillips said!” Cassie said, closing her magazine abruptly. She felt her cheeks warm and she immediately felt bad for being so sharp. 
“I’m sorry. It’s just that I really don’t care about chicken or rice or protein.”
It hurt her to see the stunned look that crossed his face but she needed to tell him what was on her mind.  
“I’m bored John. I’m so very, very bored and I just want to have some fun for once. I can’t stand spending all day moving from the bed to the couch to the bathroom.”
     John regarded her silently from where he stood behind the stove in the open-concept kitchen they had saved for years to remodel. His eyes traced over Cassie’s small frame, hidden under her favorite blanket. She was getting so small. He just wanted her to eat more.
The silence stretched between them until John turned and opened the freezer, taking out some frozen chicken which he set in the microwave to thaw.
“Would you like to see a movie tomorrow night?” He finally said. 
Cassie looked up from her lap where she had been tracing shapes on top of the fuzzy blanket and smiled. 
“Are you asking me on a date Mr. Sorenson?” She asked trying to sound coy.
“Yes, Mrs. Sorenson.” John replied and Cassie saw him crack a smile.
*******

     Cassie stirred awake to the sound of John opening the front door and closing it behind him softly. She kept her eyes closed as she listened to John take off his shoes, remove his coat, and place it on a hanger in the hall closet. His sock feet moved quietly over the hardwood floors and the plush carpet in the living room as he walked toward the couch where he had tucked Cassie in that morning. She breathed in his familiar smell and snuggled in to the warmth of his arms as they moved around either side of her. 
“Hi” he whispered.
“Hi.”
“Did you sleep well?”
“Mmm..it was more of a doze than a sleep, but yes thank you.”
“Are you hungry?” He asked hopefully.
“Not really” she said and immediately regretted disappointing him. 
“Okay. It’s six o’clock.”
“Okay.”
“The movie starts at seven...Do you still want to go because we can—”
“Yes, yes, I want to go.” Cassie said, her voice hoarse.
“If you’re not feeling—”
“Please, John. I want to go. I feel okay enough to go.”
John studied her for a moment deciding whether to believe her.
“Okay.” He said after a few moments.
Cassie smiled and was surprised to feel the unfamiliar prickle of excitement. 
“I got you something.” John said suddenly.
“Okay...” Cassie said, immediately curious.
     John stood up and crossed the room to where his briefcase sat on the floor. He picked it up by the handle and brought it over to Cassie, placing it gently in her lap on top of the fleece blanket. John popped open the brass clasps holding the briefcase closed and pushed the lid open wide as far as it would go, revealing what was inside. 
“It’s made from real hair almost exactly the same colour as yours.”
Cassie stomach churned but she remained still, staring blankly at the dirty blonde hair wrapped in clear cellophane plastic resting inside the briefcase. 
“Cassie?” John asked when she didn’t say anything.
“Cassie? Are you going to be sick?” John placed his hand on her back and moved it around in gentle circles.
“Why did you buy this?” Cassie finally whispered.
“I thought it might help you feel more comfortable in public. It might take some getting used to but...” 
“Some getting used to? John, I’m terminal.”
Although they weren’t touching Cassie felt John’s whole body tense.
“John...” She began carefully, “we both know my diagnosis. I’m not going to get better. No matter how much I sleep or how much I eat.”
“I know.” John said in a defeated voice. “It’s stupid of me, but I just thought...we could pretend.”
  Cassie’s heart surged with love for her husband; for her kind, caring John who could not accept what was happening to them. Her John, who she would soon leave behind to pick up the pieces and carry on with life without her while she was set free. She leaned forward and kissed him with all the spirit and energy that remained inside her and he responded, wrapping his arms around her and squeezing her tighter than he had allowed himself to do so in months. Skin against skin, they gasped for breath as they moved together, salty tears stinging each other’s cheeks and hearts thumping loudly in their chests.
Breathless and invigorated, Cassie untangled herself from John and stood up.
“Where are you going?”
Cassie walked toward the wig that now lay strewn on the floor and bent down to pick it up.
“I’m going to get ready for our date.”


The End


Here is the writing exercise I used to write this story and one you might want to try as well: 

Part 1: Head to your local thrift store. Buy an item that you find interesting. It can be anything from a flashy belt to a vase — anything will work for this story, you just have to be creative! This is what we did in our creative writing class, but choosing an item from home will also work. Just make sure to have the item present because it helps to have a visual when you're writing.

Part 2: Write a story about two characters who have some sort of relationship — a married couple, boyfriend and girlfriend, best friends, siblings, co-workers etc. In the story, one of the characters must give the other a gift (the item you chose). The gifted item should symbolize or reveal to the reader that something is not quite right about the character's relationship. Miscommunication, conflict, and/or a breakdown in the relationship should be symbolized or initiated by the gifted item.  

I bought I wig when I went with my class to the Goodwill thrift store and I really didn't know what to do with it until I started writing. I eventually got the idea to use the wig to convey a husband's struggle to accept that his wife has a terminal illness.

I found this exercise useful in helping me form an idea for a story. I also think the exercise helped me stay on track while writing the story as I had to keep the item in mind at all times, which in turn helped me to write all the important moments in the story such as the rising action and climax.

What are some writing exercises you have tried? Were they useful? Share your comments!








Sawdust is Bad, Asbestos is Worse

13.10.12

If you are a homeowner in Windsor Park, chances are good your attic is full of sawdust.

Don't believe me? Before you go ahead and rip down those old wood soffits to find out, read on for my word of caution.

I have found home renovations to be an excellent way to learn about the inner workings of a home. As we embarked on our home renovations, we discovered quite a few things about our 1950's bungalow. Mainly, that the floors weren't level, the walls weren't straight, wallpaper was hidden under several coats of paint throughout the entire house (even inside closets), and our attic was insulated with sawdust.

Now, having an attic full of sawdust is not such a terrible thing. It could be much, much worse. Let me explain.

Like most young couples on a budget, we had decided to save money by doing home renovations ourselves and for the most part, everything went well. With practice and patience we mastered the art and science of stripping wallpaper, mudding and sanding, painting walls and ceilings, leveling a floor, and cutting and painting trim and baseboards. By spring, the interior of our home was looking pretty good but our eavestroughs needed to be replaced and with quotes from exterior renovation companies ranging from $2,000.00 - $6,000.00, we moved outside to tackle our next project.

A quick consultation with YouTube and The Home Depot staff told us all we needed know — or so we thought — about replacing eavestroughs, soffits, and fascia, and we set to work pulling down the old, rusty leaf-filled eavestroughs. Next we tore down the first of several plywood soffits to be removed, and that's when we knew we were in trouble. There was none of the pink insulation we had expected to see in the attic. Instead, it was packed with sawdust.

There was so much sawdust (18+ extra-large garbage bags full in the end) that it began spilling out of the attic, covering the ground and us. Shocked that our attic was "insulated" with nothing but sawdust and at a loss about what to do about it, we called Nisby Home Renovations. Wayne, a contractor from Nisby, came to our home to discuss our options.

"Just be thankful that it was sawdust in there and not asbestos" Wayne said. "A lot of houses in this area have sawdust, but many have asbestos for insulation."

Asbestos? A known carcinogen? I had heard of asbestos before but I had not thought for a minute that the stuff might be in the insulation in our home. I wanted to learn more.

A quick Google search pulls up various articles detailing the use of asbestos roof insulation in residential and commercial buildings throughout Canada and confirms what Wayne told us. While the use of asbestos building materials including insulation has decreased significantly in the recent decades, homes built in Canada before the 1980's that have not undergone extensive renovations are likely to still have insulation containing asbestos. Asbestos poses a low health risk when left alone but if disturbed, asbestos material releases hazardous fibres into the air that when inhaled can lead to lung cancer and other diseases.

So while seeing sawdust in our attic and all over our yard was a shock and a mess to clean up, in the end we are very thankful that asbestos was nowhere in sight.

If you suspect there might be asbestos present in your home, try to avoid disturbing the asbestos material and visit It's Your Health - Vermiculite Insulation Containing Asbestos for more information on asbestos and minimizing your risk of asbestos exposure.














Keeping in Touch By Photograph

6.10.12

Living far away from my parents and my little sister is sometimes difficult and lonely. My parents live 2,000 kilometres away in Peterborough, Ontario and my sister, Heather lives in Saskatoon where she is a first-year law student. I've always considered myself to have good communication skills and as a communications student whose world revolves around writing, presentations, and group work, one would think I would be quite good at keeping in touch with people. In reality, I fail miserably when it comes to calling my family members regularly.

If you still live with your parents or live in the same city as them, you probably don't realize how much your relationship with them is shaped and dependent upon many small moments you share together. Take for example, a Saturday afternoon spent grocery shopping with your mom. In between deciding what ingredients you'll need to make dinner or what snacks to buy for the upcoming week's lunches, you might talk about your busy week at school or work, rehashing something funny or even trying that happened to you and she might do the same. Even if you don't talk about anything like that, by being in the same physical space at the same time, you are sharing an experience together that will help shape your relationship.

Since moving to Winnipeg there have been countless times I've been shopping, watching TV, or cooking dinner when something funny or memorable happened and I wished Heather and my parents were there to share the experience with me. So why don't I just text or call them and tell them what happened? I believe there is a reason the saying "you had to be there" exists. Because sometimes it's true. There are just some moments in life that can never be captured in an email, text, or told in quite the same way as how it actually happened, no matter how good of a storyteller you are. Also, most people including myself lead busy, fast paced lives. Juggling the demands of school, work, home, and friends does not leave much free time these days. It is often the case that I feel inspired to call or text my family but by the time I reach for my phone or computer, some other obligation is pulling me in another direction.   

While I admit I have not done the best job of keeping my family up to date on my life since starting school, I would like to take this opportunity to try and change that by trying something new. We have all heard that photographs are one of the best ways to capture a moment in time without words. I want to share with my family and my readers some photographs I've taken of some obviously beautiful spots in Winnipeg and some less obvious ones. It's perhaps one way I can communicate my love for this city and photography to all of you.






B.C. Prawns & Salmon

22.9.12

Prawns and Salmon caught off Moresby Island, B.C.



After a long week of school and work, it was finally time to relax! I can’t think of a better way to relax than with friends, food, and wine and that’s exactly how I spent my Friday night.

My good friend Sheldon just got back from a three week fishing trip in B.C. and brought home with him more prawns, salmon, crab, and cod than he and his roommate could ever hope to eat by themselves. He invited my boyfriend and I over for a seafood feast and take it from me, it was delicious!




Prawns



Salmon


Sheldon and his Grandpa made the 40 hour drive from Winnipeg to B.C in just four days. The longest stretch they managed without stopping was 22 hours; the drive from Roblin to Kamloops. In Kamloops, they met up with the rest of their party, Sheldon's uncle and cousins. The group then made their way to Prince Rupert where they took the first of two ferry rides to Moresby. They spent the majority of their trip fishing off the sheltered island of Moresby, where it was safe to drive their 14 foot aluminum boat.  



View Larger Map

I am a huge seafood fan (I was born in Newfoundland after all!) and prawns and salmon are my first choice of seafood when ordering at a restaurant. The salmon and prawns Sheldon prepared for us last night were absolutely mouth-watering and in my opinion, rival the seafood served at any restaurant in town, not to mention the bags of frozen stuff sold at grocery stores. 

Thank you for the wonderful meal Sheldon!
   



So You Want to Be a Freelancer?

15.9.12

So, you're a creative professional who thinks you might also have what it takes to become an entrepreneur. You've heard of freelance writers, designers, and photographers and perhaps it's something you're considering, but what is it really like to be a freelancer in a creative industry in Winnipeg?

Robin Hamilton is a freelance motion graphics designer/animator in Winnipeg and knows first-hand about the challenges and advantages of working for yourself. He just finished wrapping up a promotional video for RVSN Media Group's launch of the first ever 46 inch Android OS touchscreen device, and although quite sleep deprived, he was happy to weigh in on some of the good, and the not so good parts of freelancing.

Check out his demo reel below and online portfolio at: www.rhmedia.ca




















The Good

1. You Are Your Own Boss

"When you first start out as a freelancer it’s a good idea to take almost every job that comes your way, but once you’ve made a name for yourself you can be more selective with the work you accept. Having the freedom to pick and choose projects that interest me is why I love freelancing.”

“Working out of your own home is a big perk to being a freelancer. There’s no need to rent an expensive space because the internet is primarily where communication with existing and potential clients happen. I will meet with clients in person during the initial stages of a project and at the end, but as I work on a project I will send stills and clips for clients to view via email, Vimeo, and even text message.”

“Being a freelancer means there is no layer of bureaucracy separating you and the client. This is different from working for a company in that there is often an account manager handling most communication with the client and a producer overseeing the job. I prefer to ask my client directly what they are looking to achieve with a video or animation and to be the one working out the kinks with them as the job progresses so there is no miscommunication. It also doesn’t hurt that they get to know me throughout the process and then there’s always the possibility they will hire me again in the future.”

2. Flexible Hours

"I've always had trouble doing the nine to five thing because creativity doesn't work on a nine to five schedule. Plus, I happen to be a night hawk. Freelancing allows me the freedom to complete my work when I feel inspired, even if it happens to be in the middle of the night."

3. Creative Freedom

"As a freelancer, I have considerable control over the type and scope of my work. There's nobody telling me to take certain jobs and not others or looking over my shoulder at my work. I have complete creative control and this allows me to take risks, which is often how I am able to design something great.

4. Variety

"Freelancing works especially well for me because I don't have a structured personality. I dislike routine and I thrive on not knowing what's going to come next. I really enjoy the extreme diversity of handling multiple projects at once and learning as I go."

5. Recognition/Achievement

"There's no better feeling then when I've poured everything I’ve got into a project and when it's finally done, the client is ecstatic about it. I recently did a video for two Winnipeg police officers who invented a device for stress-innoculation police training. I spent many sleepless nights working on the video but it was a lot of fun. When the clients viewed the video for the first time I was really surprised, they were literally jumping up and down they were so happy with it. That made all the work worth it to me.”


The Not-So-Good


1. You Are Your Own Boss - and also the Marketing Manager, HR personnel, Bookkeeper, Receptionist, Administrative Assistant, and Creative Talent

“You don't have a boss telling you what to do but you also don't have a boss that is going to protect you when the going gets tough. If you don’t have any work lined up, you're not making any money whereas at most regular jobs, you are paid for the hours you spend at work while the marketing and sales departments worry about how to get more business.”

“Similarly, if a client isn’t happy, you better be prepared to answer to them because nobody else is going to answer for you. In fact, while you may not have a boss in the traditional sense, clients are like bosses in a way and every client will have a unique set of needs and expectations. In the end you actually have several bosses at any given time, all wanting different things from you.”

2. Staying Motivated

“For me, freelancing is a lifestyle. I’ve had to teach myself a lot of discipline and force myself into good habits such as getting down to work, even when I don’t feel like it. I think everyone procrastinates to a certain degree in their daily life and it’s very easy to put off working on a job, but procrastination only leads to falling behind on your work. I think the worst thing you can do as a freelancer is fail to deliver on time or up to the standard you promised a client. That client will simply never hire you again.”

"In the back of my mind is always the fact that as a freelancer, time is currency. If I take a few days off, I am not making any money. I've spent the last three Christmas's working fourteen hour days and even lugged a 17 inch laptop, 24 inch monitor, and external 4 bay RAID with me on the plane to Toronto so I could work while visiting family for a week."


3. Drumming up Business

“Unfortunately, you can be the most talented person in your field and unless people know about you and what you can do for them, you’ll never get work. I am still working on this one but having a presence on social media is key to landing new business.”

“If your not a people person, it’s a good idea to try and become one. Clients won’t come knocking at your door with fantastic job offers without you doing a lot of leg work. I’m constantly stepping outside my comfort zone, trying to network with other professionals and promote my services.”

"I don't actually sell a tangible product, so it's sometimes difficult to demonstrate to a potential client what I can do for them. My service is creative and customized to the specific needs of every single client I meet with."

4. Budgeting

“The costs associated with running a business are higher than most people realize. Having to replace hardware, upgrade software, pay business registration fees and for an accountant and a lawyer, costs a lot of money. Budgeting your resources and charging high enough prices for your services ensures you can cover these costs.”

“Some people choose to pay their taxes in a lump sum at the end of the year rather than throughout the year. If you choose not to pay taxes throughout the year and fail to budget enough each month for taxes, YOU WILL GET DINGED COME TAX TIME. It’s an incredibly sobering experience to think you've saved enough to cover taxes and then to find out you owe the government "X" amount of money. Take it from me, pay taxes throughout the year.”

5. Free Time

"If you're a freelancer, you are IT. You're running the show and nothing can get done without you. That means that if you’ve got a deadline first thing Monday morning and the work isn’t finished, you are not going to your Grandmother’s 88th birthday Sunday night even though your entire extended family will be there and you missed her birthday last year because you were working.”

Robin's Tips

1. Know the Industry

“It’s probably not the best idea to base your sole income on freelancing right out of school. My advice would be to gain some experience working in your field and network with as many people as you can before setting out on your own.”

“Research, research, research. Know what other local freelancers are doing. The software they use, the fees they charge, and the kind of work they go after. This information will help you make business decisions that ensure you remain competitive.”

2. Don't Sell Yourself Short

"It is my opinion that a lot of new freelancers breaking into the industry undercut their prices in order to get work. While I realize the need to land jobs, many people fall into the trap of charging low prices in the beginning and then find it difficult to increase their prices later on. It’s easier said then done, but try to trust that if you are a hard working and talented individual that clients will pay for timely and quality work.”

3. Take Advantage of What is Available to You

“New Media Manitoba is just one organization that has been a support network for me throughout my career. They offer free workshops and advice for those working in media related industries and I would highly suggest checking out their website for upcoming events and information.”

New Media Manitoba website

"There are tons of government grants available to people working in the arts and it doesn't hurt to apply for them. It is also true that you can write off a portion of your bills if you work from home.”

4. Put Yourself Out There

“Again, social media is a great way to market your business. Being active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites only increases the chance that people and businesses in need of your services will come across your information. Having a polished website up and running and business cards handy at events is also important.”

5. Have a Solid Portfolio

“Your work should speak for itself. Include in your portfolio the work you are most proud of and that show your versatility as a writer, designer, photographer, or artist. From my experience, impressing clients with quality work is the best way to get hired. ”


What are your thoughts on the life of a freelancer? Do you think freelancing would be a good fit for you? Are you able to manage stress fairly well? Are you ambitious enough to motivate yourself or do you need external motivation? Tell me your thoughts, I'd love to hear them!





Creative Communications

4.9.12

As some of you know, I am enrolled in Creative Communications at Red River College. So far, college has been a vastly different experience for me than university and after being out of school and in the work force for almost three years, it feels strange to be completing assignments and preparing for tests again. But I am excited and positive about what the next two years will bring in terms of furthering my education in the communications field and making new friends. Over the next several months I plan to blog about life as a communications student, fashion, art, writing, and creativity and also to post the odd school assignment for my classmates to read and anyone else that might find my assignments interesting. I hope you check back from time to time to see what I'm writing about and I encourage your comments and constructive criticism with everything I publish. Well, bye for now and wish me luck on my crazy adventure as a student yet again - I'll need it!

22 Things Creative Change Challenge - My List

28.3.12





The brilliant and talented Angie Richmond has done it again — inspired myself and countless others, that is. Writer, blogger, artist, and social media guru, Angie is working to add something else to her repertoire — Life Coach — and her first assignment is for anyone out there wishing to make some changes to their life, no matter how small. In fact, small goals are welcome and she encourages you to brainstorm 22 of them!

Now don’t let the number 22 freak you out because take it from me, once you get started it’s pretty easy to come up with a long list of small steps forward. If you are thinking about a career change, going back to school, starting a family, moving to a new city, taking a vacation, improving your fitness regimen, writing a novel, starting a business, or anything in between, sign up for Angie’s 22 Things Challenge today and get started on the path to making your big goals a reality by setting a few small, manageable goals first.

My long-term goal is to become a skilled and successful communications professional and here is my list of 22 Things!


1. Experiment more with photography.
2. Read more.
3. Volunteer with an organization I am passionate about.
4. Finish one of my many creative writing works in progress.
5. Go to yoga.
6. Blog more.
7. Utilize Twitter and Pinterest more often.
8. Live in the moment.
9. Try not to be such a worry-wort!
10. Research places and opportunities I may not have thought about in the past.
11. Organize/decorate my creative space.
12. Be more positive.
13. Have fun with my craft.
14. Watch more “writers” movies.
15. Read a book about public relations and communications.
16. Network.
17. Work on my patience.
18. Work on my writing portfolio.
19. Get out and attend all the free workshops, information sessions, and events related to my field that I can!
20. Save money for the future.
21. Take Risks.
22. Believe in myself.

Five Sentence Fiction

22.3.12

Yearning

He stands among the crowd nodding his head and tapping his foot steadily to the beat of the music. His date sways her hips suggestively next to him but he only has eyes for the colourful notes floating through the air, falling softly in his ears and littering the stage in front of him. What I wouldn't give to be up there with the band, adrenaline flowing and blood pumping through my veins, he thinks. What he didn't give to his music over the years, escapes him. So he stands among the crowd, nodding his head to the beat of the music, wishing, dreaming, yearning — for stardom.

Finding Skin Solace with Di Erbe Skin Care Products

3.3.12










I've always had extremely sensitive and easily irritated skin and by that I mean that I can't count on two hands the number of full-blown skin reactions I've had to soaps, moisturizers, sun screen, and makeup.

This is why I was so thankful to find a product two years ago that not only didn't cause my skin to flare up but soothed existing redness and irritation in my skin. You may have heard of Biotherm products, sold only in departments stores like The Bay and Sears and select Shoppers Drug Marts, and you would be right to assume that their 100% alcohol free, perfume free, dye free, and mild PH formula does not come cheap. At $19.00 for a bottle of cleanser, another $19.00 for toner, and $45.00 for daily moisturizer, I was spending approximately $83.00 a month on my skin care regimen; a necessity given the problems I had encountered in the past with nearly every other product is what I kept telling myself, but eventually my wallet started to disagree.

That's when I decided to go back to the drawing board and experiment with some less expensive brands I'd seen advertising non-irritating skin care products. To make a long story short, none of them agreed with my skin. From Cetaphil's gentle skin cleanser to Neutrogena's most basic facial cleansing bar to Cliniderm, a specialized skin care line for those with allergic, sensitive, reactive or dry skin who's daily facial cleanser left my skin so dry it began to peel, not one product proved even close in quality or comfort to Biotherm. Then I discovered Di Erbe.

One day at work I was discussing my skin woes with a co-worker when she told me about Di Erbe, a Winnipeg company that makes and sells certified organic and vegan skin care products. She raved about their bestselling bar of soap called the "healing neem" and encouraged me to check out the store. After hearing her account of the miraculous soap I was hopeful it might just work for me as well and I headed straight there on my way home from work.






Located on Marion street approximately five minutes from where I live, I had driven by the modest-sized and elegantly decorated store numerous times but had never thought to stop and go in. As soon as I set foot in the store however, I immediately felt as if I had discovered a place that I would be coming back to visit on a regular basis. After just a few minutes of browsing I was sure that even if I didn't find something there for myself, delicately packaged soaps tied with ribbon, red clover tea and vanilla fusion scented lotions, and handcrafted candles would make for thoughtful gifts for my family and friends. I was actually becoming quite sidetracked with all the different products on display when a friendly sales representative approached me and asked what brought me into the store. I briefly described my problem skin and she right away recommended the healing neem facial bar along with another product: Argan oil. At first I was leery about applying oil directly to my face as a moisturizer but as the sales representative described the many benefits of Argan oil, including the naturally high level of vitamin E contained in the oil, several anti-aging related benefits, and even went on to explain how the oil can be applied directly to a breakout area to improve the condition of the skin, I decided I had to give it a try. After all, with the healing neem facial bar a whopping $6.99 and the Argan oil $19.99, the grand total for my new skin cleansing system was a far cry from what I was already accustomed to spending each month.

It has now been approximately three weeks since I became a Di Erbe customer and I've been using the healing neem and the Argan oil twice daily and couldn't be more pleased with the results. My skin feels absolutely amazing and I have experienced no dryness or irritation whatsoever. Taking off my makeup at night is a breeze and neither makeup remover nor toner is required as the heeling neem cleanses thoroughly on its own. Argan oil has turned out to be an incredibly impressive product as well, leaving my skin feeling soft and looking radiant after each use. Although I can't yet speak to the long-term benefits of either product, I can say that so far I am thrilled to have healthy, great looking skin again thanks to local, all-natural, certified organic, and vegan products at a reasonable price!










Five Sentence Fiction - Sacred

14.2.12

Jasmine moved slowly through the dark corridor, her back and shoulders sliding silently against the cold stone wall. She knew if she were caught she would pay with her life but she would risk anything to keep her mother’s secret safe. She felt the weight of the gold pendant in the palm of her hand, wrapped carefully in silk and clutched close to her heart. Its immortal power gave her strength and a certain confidence that she would safely escape the brutal castle walls and stay alive long enough to cross Sisal Mountian and bury the entrusted treausure in her ancestor’s sacred forest on the other side. Peeking out from around the corner at the gaurds and the ruthless weapons hanging from their belts, it was the first time in her life she was thankful for the heavy burqa concealing all but her eyes.

Five Sentence Fiction: Shiver

7.2.12



I usually dread the fifteen minute walk from my parking spot to work at this time of year; what with the inevibility of a frozen face, cold, red nose, and the gradual spread of numbness throughout my hands and feet, a feeling so infiltrating that it often lasts well into the morning. Looking around today at the bright sunlight bouncing off windshields and as I take a deep breath of unseasonably warm air, I am almost nostalgic for snow piled high on either side of the road and glistening patches of ice along my route. Almost. Unzipping my spring jacket with my free hand, intent on the squishy sound my rubber boots make as they slide through ever-melting slush, I nearly step on a squirrel bounding giddily across the sidewalk right in front of me. February, in Winnipeg, Canada and I'm outside without winter clothing and there goes a squirrel, neither one of us feeling so much as a shiver.

From the Ground Up: A Series of Writing Workshops with Jake MacDonald

23.1.12

In February of 2011, I signed up for a series of writing workshops taught by Jake MacDonald, an award-winning Winnipeg author of novels such as Grizzlyville, With the Boys, Houseboat Chronicles, and Juliana and the Medicine Fish, as well as a number of short stories. Each month, I, along with ten to fifteen other aspiring writers, head downtown Winnipeg to Aqua Books, a second-hand bookstore and a building host to a variety of cultural events, to listen to Jake spout writing wisdom. This past Saturday was our last meeting until the end of April as Jake is taking the next few months to focus on writing a novel and I started thinking about how it would be a good time for me to review what I've learned from the workshops so far and to share some of the helpful writing exercises I've learned with you, my fellow readers and writers!

As the workshops covered a great deal of information, I will be writing a series of posts and each post will focus on my experience with a certain concept or topic.

I will begin with discussing what Jake describes as the two key approaches to writing. The first approach is honesty. Writing from a place of honesty means writing about whatever theme, character, or situation is nagging at you, despite the possibility that others will not agree or like what your writing about. Simply put, honest writing is writing about whatever pops into your head without holding back because your worried about how others might interpret your writing. You cannot be a successful writer if you constantly worry about what other people will think of you because just as in life, you cannot please everyone. If your writing is honest, some people will read your writing and think your are weird, crazy, strange, sick, offensive, arrogant, jealous, hurtful etc. This is something we all must learn to get over if we want to be successful writers. Personally, I've always cared deeply about what other people think of me and my work and I have a hard time shaking off the negative opinions of others. If I am going to continue to pursue writing however, I am going to have to learn not to care so much about what other people think of my writing, even close family and friends who may not agree with say, the subject matter I am writing about, what a character says or does in one of my stories, or even the language I may use. So far it has been a difficult task for me to take risks in my writing and to write about what I really want to write about, but I am confident that honest writing gets easier with time!

According to Jake, the second approach to writing is speed. Essentially, writing as fast as you can before the grumpy editor in your head has time to put on his glasses, read what your writing, and kabosh it. Jake reccommends setting a timer for even just five or ten minutes and writing until the timer goes off. This is a bit like wordmongering, a writing exercise that takes place on Twitter wherein friends arrange to write for thirty minutes straight and then they tally up how many words they have written once the thirty minutes are up. I just recently began participating in wordmongering sessions and have found it an extremely helpful exercise, both in terms of getting words down on paper and in terms of receiving support from Twitter's writing community. Writing from my wordmongering sessions are too long for me to post here but below is a passage I wrote during a ten minute writing session in one of Jake's classes. We were asked to write about a book that made an impact on us in our childhood.

Kavik is the most beautiful dog I've ever seen. I see him when I go to bed at night, when I'm sitting at the kitchen table in the morning before school nibbling toast, and in the car on the way to dance and skating. My mom says I should get my nose out of books but my Dad says let her be. He loves reading even more than I do. Today, I flip the pages of the Kavik the Wolf Dog gingerly, sorrowfully. I'm on the last chapter and I'm not ready for the adventure to be over. I can read it again of course, Dad bought me the book on one of our Saturday afternoon trips to Chapters, but never again will the story of Kavik the Wolf Dog be completley original, novel, the words consumed by my mind in quite the same way. Never again will Kavik's northern adventure and great escape unfold as a surprise. On the very last page of the book I decide, Kavik the Wolf Dog is my favorite book of all time and I vow never to forget him, his story, and his character.

It may not be an example of my best writing but it is an example of how much writing can get done in a short amount of time when you are given a prompt and a time limit.

If you are a writer, or even a reader who might like to start writing, keep these two approaches in mind. Ask yourself, are you writing about what you really want to be writing about? Or, if you were to write something, what would it be and would you be concerned about what others would think of you for writing it? If you've got a few minutes, give a speed writing exercise a try. Writing straight for even five or ten minutes can motivate an hour or more of productive writing.







Five Sentence Fiction - Radiance

22.1.12

Radiance

Philip moved his chair closer to her, careful not to make noise as to disturb her. He reached out his hand and lightly traced the lines on her face with his fingers, leaning forward to breath in her familiar smell of milk and honey. Her thin, pale eyelids fluttered slightly and he waited a moment until they were still again before smoothing her fine white hair and placing a soft kiss on her cheek. He glanced over at the bedside table, at his favorite picture of her; a glowing young woman on her wedding day. Looking down at her now, his beautiful wife and some day very soon an angel, she was as radiant to him as ever.      


Five Sentence Fiction - Secrets

15.1.12



Secrets





She crawled out of bed, brushed her teeth and checked her breath, she’d just die if anyone knew. Grabbed her purse and coat and headed out the door, without breakfast she’d just have to do. While the morning flew by, noon brought that twitch in her left eye and oh, she just knew, she just knew, she just knew. Lunchtime had come and thus so would the rum, yes she’d slip away for a few. Yes, it couldn’t hurt, just a few...

Five Sentence Fiction - Hunger

8.1.12



Hunger




My mouth waters at the display of rich treats; in particular, at the dozen freshly baked muffins placed front and centre, carrot shreds and moistness overflowing the paper cups meant to contain them. I turn my head, out of sight out of mind I say to myself, only to catch out of the corner of my eye a young boy pulling a three-tiered trolley loaded high with a most dangerous delicacy. A beastly growl escapes my throat but I contain a primal urge to rip the boy’s throat out and feast upon the raw flesh in his possession. My breath begins to fog up the glass I am pressed so close up against it as I follow the boy and the precious steaks, tenderloin, and breasts with my eyes as they cross the length of the grocery store and disappear behind the privacy of wide-set double doors. Defeated, I turn my back to the window and rack my brain for a place to curl up and spend the night but it’s hard to concentrate with the loud growl of my stomach in my ears.

A Writing Commitment

7.1.12



Inspired by my good friend and fellow Blogger, Angie Richmond, I’ve decided to make a real commitment — an Unresolution if you will (check out Angie’s blog post on Unresolutions and you’ll get the idea) — to writing. A commitment to writing in general, that is. Whether it’s following through with outlining an idea that comes to me late at night while I’m trying to fall asleep, posting regularly on this blog, or plugging away at my numerous works in progress, I am going to try — no I will — stop making excuses for neglecting my only true hobby (let alone semi-talent if it is true that I have one at all) and get down to writing-business.






To help me keep my word and on Angie’s advice, I’ve enlisted myself to two different writing challenges that require me to — gasp! — write. The first of which was created by Cara Michaels and is called the #WIP500 challenge. Essentially, writers desiring some degree of accountability to themselves and their craft, sign on with the goal of writing at least 500 words per day. Given my track record of writing at random whenever inspiration strikes (and with my day job and the recent holidays, inspiration has seldom managed to slice through the realities of day-to-day life to assist me with writing) 500 words EVERY DAY (and every day is the catch) is a real commitment for me.






The second challenge I’ve committed to is called the Five Sentence Fiction challenge and was created by Lillie McFerrin. Each week, McFerrin posts a new theme on her blog and participants write a five sentence story utilizing that theme. Now, I’ve always been a sprinter. Long-distance or long-term anything be it writing, running, exercising, healthy eating, or heck even organization has posed challenging for me. So naturally, I right away liked the idea of completing an entire story, an entire work of fiction in five sentences! What a great idea I thought to myself when I first heard about it.






Then I actually had to write five sentences. Let’s just say it was a little trickier than I had anticipated.






Check back tomorrow to see how I fared with my first Five Sentence Fiction challenge. The theme? HUNGER.




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