Hockey Night on Ossington Avenue

To celebrate the Toronto Maple Leafs (finally) making the playoffs, I present my short story Hockey Night on Ossington Avenue from Rebel in the Back Seat … and other short stories

Hockey Night on Ossington Avenue

by Paul Lima

Johnny Bower was my hero. He led the Leafs to victory.

In 1967, the year he turned forty-three, the craggy-faced goal­tender backstopped the Toronto Maple Leafs to their third straight Stanley Cup triumph. Watching him on the CBC, I cheered as he hoisted the silver trophy above his head and I laughed when the cameras caught him in the dressing room after the game, wearing nothing but a toothless grin and champagne-soaked underwear.

Throughout the 1960s, I dreamt of being Bower, of stopping pucks for the Leafs, of being named first star on Hockey Night in Canada, of skating around Maple Leaf Gardens with Lord Stanley’s mug held high.

In 1967, the year I turned eight, I got to wear skates for the very first time …

*          *            *

The Leafs are playing the Canadiens tonight. “Les Pepsi de Mont-real,” Pa calls them. He hates the Frenchmen almost as much as I do. He’s asleep on the couch in the living room. His pre-game nap, he calls it. All the players nap before games, he’s explained to me. Even Bower.

Ma’s at the kitchen table patching holes in the corduroy trousers that my brother, Vito, no longer wears. Lucky me. I get to wear them next. Although I’m six years younger than Vito and a foot shorter, I weigh as much as he does. Ma’s become an expert at shortening the legs and letting out the waists of his old pants.

Vito’s out shooting pool at De Santo’s Billiards on College Street. If Pa asks where he is, I’m supposed to say he’s at the library studying, otherwise he’ll get heck when he comes home. Vito says if I scratch his back, he won’t kick my butt. But my brother’s okay. He pays me back when he can. Mostly by protecting me from my old man’s temper and the way he lashes out at whoever happens to be closest to him when something’s pissed him off. And he gets pissed off easily.

I’m in my bedroom, building a house of hockey cards on my orange-crate nightstand. The cards cost a nickel a pack. You get five player cards and a thin piece of sugar-coated gum that tastes like card­board. I can’t afford to buy cards often because I hardly get any allowance. But I’ve got one hundred and fifty-seven cards. I won most of them playing closies, flipsies, topsies and other card games in the schoolyard. Dewson School is on Ossington Avenue, right across from our house. But there’s a lot of traffic on Ossington and I’m only in grade three, so my mom makes me walk a block south to College, cross at the lights and then walk a block north to get to school. What a drag.

My most valuable cards are my five Johnny Bowers. I don’t play games with them. I got three of them buying cards. I traded four dupli­cates—Keon, Howe, Hull and Beliveau—for one. And I found the other under a heap of yellowing newspapers in the laneway behind our garage while fishing for a tennis ball that Vito shot wide of my net.

I’m a pretty good laneway goalie, for a chubby kid. If you look at Bower, you’ve got to figure he was once chubby too. I flop a lot and throw my boots, arms, chest and stick in front of every shot. That’s why Vito calls me “Kamikaze.” Everybody calls Vito “Stick” because he’s almost as thin as the shaft of a hockey stick. He keeps his black hair slicked back in Brylcreem-coated waves. If I do anything dumb, like let in a soft goal, he shakes his waves and glares at me. It’s like a storm warning. I just hope he doesn’t start to thunder.

I had to play goal with a broom until Vito swiped a hockey stick for me from Danny’s Variety next to De Santo’s. I wish I could’ve seen him shove the shaft down his pants and slip the blade under his arm. Even though I have a stick, I still get stuck hacking in the laneway with the little kids whenever Vito and his buddies play pick-up on Grenadier Pond in High Park. That’s because I don’t have skates.

 

I’ve got the walls of my card house stacked three-high when the phone rings and wakes Pa. I hold a glass against the bedroom wall, like Vito taught me to do, so I can eavesdrop on my father.

Bene, Antonio. E tu?”

Pa’s talking to his younger brother, Tony, who owns Capelli’s Garments on Spadina. Pa’s worked there since he got laid off from his construction job a couple of years ago. I think he cuts material for socks and underwear. Socks and underwear are the only clothes I don’t get as hand-me-downs.

“Stasera?” Pa asks as I press my ear firmly against the glass. “Con Pietro.”

This evening? With Peter. Peter’s my pain-in-the-ass cousin who’s only twelve but thinks he’s a grown-up and acts just as dumb. Vito only lets our stuck-up cousin hang around us because he always has money for smokes and Cokes. He has skates too and he plays hockey on Grenadier Pond. Vito says Peter’s pretty good, but he hardly ever scores on me when we play in the laneway.

Va bene, Antonio. Un minuto,” Pa says, then calls my mother.

Turns out a supplier is taking Tony and Peter to the hockey game; Tony has two extra tickets—for the freaking ballet. He wants me and Ma to go to the ballet with his wife, Emilia. To the ballet. Not to the hockey game!

“Nicky!” Ma bursts into my room like a tornado. Shirts, pants, socks and underwear fly everywhere as she scrounges through my closet. “We’re going to The Nutcracker. What a treat. Put on your Sunday best. Clean underwear too.”

I turn my back on her and knock over my house of cards. It’s Satur­day night. Hockey Night in Canada is on tonight. Leafs versus Montreal. And I’m going to be at the ballet. Not if I can help it.

While Ma’s in the bathroom getting all powdered up, I plead with Pa to let me stay home. I even speak Italian to him.

Per favore, Papà.”

He shakes his head and cracks open a beer.

“But Pa …”

He chops air with his free hand and says “Nicky!” in the deep voice he usually reserves for when Vito gets home late. I’m not brave like Vito, who would just stand there without blinking. I’m not stupid either. I scramble out of the living room.

In the taxi, I ask Ma why we have to go to the ballet.

“It’s a Christmas tradition here,” she says. “In Italy, when I was your age, I went to ballet and opera whenever I could. How I miss Figaro.”

I don’t ask who Figaro is.

The taxi pulls into a driveway where my aunt is waiting, wearing her long fur coat. Ma straightens my polka-dot bow tie as Emilia squeezes in beside me and almost knocks me out with her perfume.

The Nutcracker is held at the O’Keefe Centre, a huge auditorium named after the beer Pa drinks. The ballet is as dull as I figured it would be, although the Mouse King is neat, especially when he fights the Nutcracker.

Things really get boring when a ton of frilly snowflakes start to prance around, so I close my eyes and pretend that I’m at Maple Leaf Gardens watching Bower take on the Canadiens.

Beliveau shoots. Bower’s gloved hand flicks out, catches the puck quick as a cat captures a mouse. Richard’s in on a breakaway. Poke check—Bower’s master move—leaves the Pocket Rocket shaking his head and cussing the maskless wonder. Toe save. Chest save. Splits. Bower’s ballet gives the Canadiens fits …

I hear applause and open my eyes. The dancers take their final bows and we head for the exit.

“What did you think, Nicky?” Ma asks.

“I wonder who won the game?”

“Hockey.” She sighs.

That night, as she tucks me into bed, she says, “At church tomor­row, remember to thank Uncle Tony for the ballet tickets.”

I thank Tony but keep my fingers crossed behind my back because I’m not feeling thankful. After all, the Leafs beat the Canadiens two to one, even though they were outshot by the Canadiens forty-two to twenty-one. First star? Bower, of course. And guess who brings an offi­cial Maple Leafs hockey program to church? Peter. On the cover, mak­ing a perfect poke check, is Johnny Bower. And scribbled across the cover is Bower’s real-life autograph.

 

On Christmas morning, Uncle Tony almost makes up for stiffing me with the ballet ticket. He gives me a pair of black skates with steel toes, ankle supports and smooth laces with plastic-tipped ends for easy threading. My folks give me hockey socks they bought at Honest Ed’s on Bloor. And Vito gives me—I don’t believe it—a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey sweater. It’s so new it smells like a warehouse full of fresh un­derwear. On the back of the sweater, there’s a big number one. Bower’s number.

As I slip my new sweater over my head Vito says, “You got skates just in time, Kamikaze. We need a goalie tomorrow.”

“You want me to play? At High Park?”

“I’m on any team you’re not on,” Peter says, “so I can whip your butt.”

I shove a fist in his face.

“Hey,” Vito says, making like a referee and separating us. “Save it for the game.”

I sleep in my Maple Leafs hockey sweater and dream of poke checking the Canadiens at Maple Leaf Gardens while Bower sits in the stands, a huge grin on his face, watching over me. In the morning, Vito, Peter and I ride the College streetcar to High Park. The ice covering Grenadier Pond gleams in the sunshine like our kitchen floor shines right after Ma has waxed it. Clustered around a picnic table near the pond are some familiar faces from laneway hockey and a few older guys I don’t recognize.

“Hey,” Vito calls out.

“Did you find us a goalie?” somebody asks.

“Kamikaze,” Vito says.

He pats the back of my Johnny Bower sweater and I shiver. Holy crap, I’m going to play goal on the ice of Grenadier Pond.

Vito and Ernst, an older guy who is smoking a cigarette, are chosen as team captains. “I get Charlie,” Ernst says. “You keep your brother and pick first.” Charlie is the other goalie. His stocky build is exagger­ated by the shoulder pads under his New York Rangers’ sweater.

Vito picks Alex, a guy who lives a few doors up from us. Ernst points to Peter. I’m shocked that anybody would pick my idiot cousin first. As Vito and Ernst continue to pick, I take off my rubber boots, un­tangle my skate laces and force my feet into my new skates. I tie my laces as best I can and stand up. My ankles buckle and I almost fall.

“It’s Johnny Bow-legged,” Peter says as he skates to shore and breaks, sending a shower of ice shavings in my direction. Of course he’s wearing a Canadien’s sweater. I think he does it just to piss me off.

Once he’s through selecting his team, Vito sits me down, pulls my laces tighter and ties them in a double-bow. I stand, keeping my knees stiff, and take a hesitant step forward. My ankles hold. I shuffle closer to the edge of the pond and stare at the frozen surface.

“Go for a skate,” Vito says. “We’ll build your posts.”

With an effortless push, he glides away while I take my first step on ice. I wobble like a ballerina with a sprained ankle. Thud! I hit the ice. Vito swoops around me like a hawk.

“You gotta stay on your feet, Kamikaze.”

“I’ll be great, Stick.”

Ignoring my bravado, Vito guides me to what feels like the centre of the universe. As teammates drop boots on either side of me to mark my posts, I try to glide forward. Thud. My teammates snicker and skate away.

Peter cuts through my crease. “No fair,” he says. “You’re fat enough to block anything.” He takes off and I stick out my tongue at the back of his Canadiens’ sweater.

Down ice, Charlie dances between his posts as players pepper him with shots. He catches pucks with his webbed glove, knocks them away with his blocker and kicks them out with his shin pads. I pluck woollen mittens from my coat pockets and slip them on over cold, red hands.

As I get up, Peter stick-handles towards me and takes a shot. I tumble back and land on my seat as the puck dribbles just wide of my net.

“I’m gonna have a field day,” Peter says.

“Suck eggs.”

“Calm down, Nicky,” Vito says as Peter streaks away. “It’s just a game.”

Just a game? How can my brother say that? It’s Hockey Night in Canada. I’m on skates. I’ve got a goalie stick and I’m wearing my Maple Leafs sweater with Johnny Bower’s number on my back. It’s not just a game. It’s the Stanley Cup finals. It’s life and sudden-death. It’s every­thing I’ve always wanted, and now all I want to do is throw up.

I get up without help and slap my stick on the ice just like Bower does. The game begins.

Vito wins the face-off and passes the puck to Alex, who feeds a player breaking down left wing. Vito cuts for the slot and receives the return pass. He shoots. Charlie makes the save, robbing Vito point-blank, and smothers the rebound. I manage to stay on my feet as the play remains in the opposition zone.

I haven’t faced a shot on net and already goaltending on skates is a heck of a lot tougher than Bower makes it look.

Peter gets the puck and doodles around several of our players be­fore passing it to Ernst, who breaks in on right wing. I step out to cut down the angle and fall to my knees. Ernst laughs so hard he fans on his shot. The puck dribbles by me.

Please dear God let it be wide.

“He shoots. He scores!” Peter’s voice rings in my ears. “Beliveau on a picture-perfect pass from Richard.”

Vito helps me up. “Do you want to wear your boots instead?”

“No,” I spit through clenched teeth.

“Be cool. I’ll play back.”

Except in goal, the teams are even. We score next—Alex on a wrist shot on a pinpoint pass from Vito. By accident, I belly-flop on a loose puck during a scramble in front of my net. When I get up, Vito smiles and taps my shins with his stick just like in the big leagues.

On the next play, a long shot hits my stick and knocks me off bal-ance. As I spin around like an awkward ballerina, Peter snaps the rebound at my net but the puck hits my ass. I topple over and land on the puck.

“All right,” Vito says. “We’ve got ourselves a goalie.” My team­mates cheer.

“Dumb luck,” says Peter. “Dumb, fat-assed luck.”

Because of my two saves, Stick gets daring and doesn’t play back as much. He gets caught up ice as Ernst feeds Peter a long pass. Breakaway!

Peter’s eyes are as black as two tiny pucks as he moves in on me. I’m frozen in place. How close is he going to skate before he puts me out of my misery? He dekes right. What would Johnny Bower do?

I dive forward and thrust out my stick—poke check—as Peter shoots. The puck ricochets up off the blade of my stick and strikes me in one of the places a goalie really does not want to get hit. I groan and sprawl face-first on the ice.

“Nutcracker,” Peter shouts as I writhe in pain.

Where am I? My face is pressed against something cold and smooth. The Mouse King has my head gripped in his claws and is trying to twist it off. I can’t breathe.

A distant voice calls. “Get up. Skate it off.”

“Protect my net, Stick.”

“He’s delirious,” Peter says.

“He doesn’t have a cup,” Vito says.

“Who won the Stanley Cup?”

Peter snorts.

“You gotta skate it off.” Vito rubs snow across my forehead. “Help him up,” he says.

Strong arms help me to my feet. But standing only intensifies the pain in the place where—evidently—I should be wearing something called a cup. The arms move me towards the shore. I sit in a snow bank and let the cold dampness seep through my corduroys. It relieves some of the pain.

Vito removes one of my mittens and wipes icicle tears off my cheeks and snot from my nose. He could desert me on the shore and go back to the game, but he doesn’t. He waits for my sobs to subside, helps me remove my skates and put on my boots, then takes me home and helps me into bed.

Vito? Vieni quì.” My father’s deep voice rumbles in from the living room.

I look at Stick who shrugs. “Sleep it off,” he says. Then he leaves to answer my father’s call.

Although the pain makes it difficult for me to move, I grab my list-ening glass and place it against the bedroom wall. I don’t hear my father speak. Instead, I hear Uncle Tony.

“Vito,” he says, “the Maple Leafs hockey sweater you gave to Nicky. Where’d you get it?”

Stick doesn’t answer.

“An expensive hockey sweater was stolen from Danny’s Variety,” Tony continues. “Danny è il mio amico, Vito. And he’s very upset.”

My brother says nothing. I imagine him standing before the men, staring them down.

Then Pa’s voice erupts in my glass. “Stupido! Bastardo!” I hear a loud smack, like the sound of a Frank Mahovlich slapshot bruising the backboards.

My head throbs. I can barely keep my eyes open. The glass slips from my hand and I crawl back into bed.

I am naked, playing goal at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Canadiens, in tights and ballet slippers, score and score at will. Johnny Bower, seated in the stands, scowls and pulls his sweater over his face.

“Nicky?” Vito’s whisper rouses me from my dream. I crack open my eyes. “Are you okay?” he asks.

I nod. My head hurts. The rest of me doesn’t feel so hot either. “How ’bout you?”

Pa’s hand print, blazing red, is branded on his cheek. He sits on the bed beside me. “I’m grounded and banned from Danny’s.”

“You’re grounded? For how long, Stick?”

“Two months. Tony’s pissed off at me and that means Pa’s mad too. He wanted to call the cops, the son-of-a-bitch. But Tony talked him down. He’s gonna let you keep the sweater too. I’m gonna pay for it by working at his factory after school and on weekends for the next couple of months.”

“But you gotta play hockey, Stick. And you gotta teach me how to skate.” I tug at the sleeve of my sweater. “Will they let you out if we give it back?”

Vito holds a finger to his lips. “You don’t ever gotta give it back.” My brother fishes my hockey cards off my night stand and shuffles them.

I grab the collar of my Maple Leafs jersey and jerk it over my head. “Tell ’em you gotta play, Stick.” I shove my Johnny Bower sweater at my brother. “I don’t want it if you can’t play.”

He folds it neatly on his lap.

“Sorry I was such a lousy goalie,” I say.

“Are you kidding?” he says. “It was a great save you made. You left Peter shaking his head in disbelief.”

I giggle, which hurts like hell.

Vito tosses the sweater back at me. “It’s yours,” he says. “I’m pay­ing for it. And then we’re gonna play hockey.”

“Poke check,” I say. “I poke checked the snot outta Peter.”

“Poke check,” he says. “A Johnny Bower poke check all the way.”

 

18 books for the writer in you

Looking for a book for the writer in you or a writer you know? Here is where you can find 18 books on business and promotional writing, article, book, web and social media writing, self-publishing and the business of freelance writing. Most are available in print, Kindle and epub (Kobo) versions: paullima.com/books

  • How To Write A Non-Fiction Book in 60 Days. Ideal for those who want to write a non-fiction book.
  • Produce, Price and Promote Your Self-Published Fiction or Non-fiction Book and eBook. “Painstakingly lays out all the information one needs to self-publish a book, including options, pros and cons and caveats.”
  • Say it Right: How to Write Speeches and Presentations 
  • Harness the Business Writing Process: E-mail, Letters, Proposals, Reports, Media Releases, Web Content – Used by University of Toronto adult education business writing students.
  • Harness the Email Writing Process: How to Become a More Effective and Efficient Email Writer 
  • Fundamentals of Writing: How to Write Articles, Media Releases, Case Studies, Blog Posts and Social Media Content  
  • How to Write Web Copy and Social Media Content: Spruce up Your Website Copy, Blog Posts and Social Media Content 
  • Copywriting That Works: Bright ideas to Help You Inform, Persuade, Motivate and Sell! Used by University of Toronto and George Brown College.
  • How to Write Sales Letters and Email: Write direct response marketing material to inform, persuade and sell!  
  • Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing – Find, Price, Manage Corporate Writing Assignments & Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines.
  • Six-Figure Freelancer: How to Find, Price and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments
  • Business of Freelance Writing: How to Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines, Conduct Interviews and Write Article Leads
  • The Query Letter: How to Sell Article Ideas to Newspapers and Magazines
  • Unblock Writer’s Block: How to face it, deal with it and overcome it. With over 70 writing exercises to get you started and keep you writing.
  • (re)Discover the Joy of Creative Writing. Over 50 exercises to get you started and keep you writing.
  • How to Write Media Releases to Promote Your Business, Organization or Event 
  • Are You Ready For Your Interview? How to Prepare for Media Interviews. Prepare for interviews with print and broadcast reporters.
  • Rebel in the Back Seat and other short stories

5 Lessons I Learned Tracking My Pitches for a Year

Excerpt from The Freelancer:

By Anna Cat Brigida

When I first started freelancing, I saw pitching as an unpredictable part of the job. The pitch itself mattered, of course, but I always felt that I was more lucky than smart when one was accepted. But now I know that’s not true—pitching is just as much science as art.

For the past year, I’ve kept a log of all the queries I’ve sent and editors’ responses (I have to give credit to fellow Contently contributor Julie Schwietert Collazo for suggesting the idea during her pitch class). With this data, I now better understand my own habits. Best of all, I’m using the information to plan out my future freelancing goals.

A pitch log can be simple. Mine is a Google spreadsheet. Every time I send a pitch, I open the spreadsheet and write the outlet name, story title, date I sent the pitch, and mark the status as “waiting.”

When an editor gives a definitive response, I mark the pitch as “accepted” or “rejected.” I mark pitches as “some interest” when an editor responds positively to the idea but doesn’t assign it in the end. If I don’t hear back after a follow-up, the pitch gets marked as “no response.” In the few cases where I’ve sold a story elsewhere or could no longer work on it, I marked the pitch as “withdrawn.”

In the past year, I sent out 148 pitches to 47 publications. In total, I had work published in 20 of these publications, including The Daily Beast, Vice’s Broadly, Al Jazeera, Roads & Kingdoms, Fusion, BBC, and others. My overall acceptance rate was about 26 percent…

You can read the full blog post here.

Is the Internet Stealing Your Precious Time?

 

To become a successful freelance writer or editor, you need solid technical skills. However, you also need to dedicate a certain amount of time each day to the marketing tasks required to develop your business. At least you do if you are not earning the money you want to earn.

Let’s say you want to work 20 (or more) billable hours per week (billable hours are hours when you are working on paid assignments; they do not include the time spent issuing invoices, writing pitch letters or sorting files). And let’s say you are currently working zero to ten billable hours. I suggest that you dedicate the difference (at minimum) between the number of billable hours you are working and the number of billable hours you want to work to marketing your services and developing your business.

Do you feel yourself resisting? “I am a born procrastinator. I do not know how to manage my time.” If that’s what you are thinking, then you should understand such resistance is natural. But it is your job to make resistance futile. Start by taking a deep breath. There. Doesn’t that feel better? (If it doesn’t, it may be because you forgot to exhale!)

Unless you manage your time effectively, you will have difficulty developing your business, or meeting deadlines when you land gigs. Your business priorities should be based on billable tasks that editor or clients are willing to pay for and on non-billable tasks that generate billable work. Your productive but non-billable tasks can be found in your Marketing Plan, which you should have if you want to succeed in any business.

If you don’t have a Marketing Plan—a road map for generating work—you may find that the Internet, email in particular, will become (has become) a great time waster.

Do you, like many freelancers, turn on your computer at the beginning of day and spend considerable time reading and replying to personal email, reading electronic newsletters and online newspapers and surfing the Web? If not, congratulations. The Internet is not stealing your precious time. However, if you start your day reading non-business e-mail and other material (do you really need to read three newspapers every morning?), allow me to ask you a simple question:

Why are you allowing others to steal your time?

Many freelancers (website designers, graphic artists, consultants and small-business owners) start their day wasting time because they do not know how they should spend their time. They may have some vague idea of what they aspire to, but they do not have a road map to lead them to that destination. They do not have a business vision. They have no goals. They do not have a marketing plan.

Such people fritter away valuable hours hoping that work will find them and that assignments will fall like manna from heaven. If you have been a freelancer or an independent practitioner for a number of years, occasionally a former editor or client might call. But can you afford to sit back and wait for that to happen as you read newspapers, watch TV, play computer games, surf the Web or read personal e-mails?

If not, start your day doing marketing tasks (developing ideas, pitching editors or prospective clients) that will generate billable hours.

If you need to, or want to, make more money (or, quite frankly, if you want to write the next great Canadian novel or accomplish anything else your heart desires), set a plan and stick to it. Don’t let the Internet thwart your efforts. Don’t sacrifice your time on the altar of email when you have work to do or a business to develop.

Paul Lima is a freelance writer, writing trainer, and author of The Six-Figure Freelance: How to Find, Price, and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments and other books and short reports on the business of freelance writing and business and promotional writing. Visit him online at www.paullima.com/books.

Free PDF book giveaway: Books on writing and business of freelance writing

To kick off the New Year, I am giving away PDFS of my books–any of my books that might be of interest to you.

In short, if you are interested in books on business, promotional, article or non-fiction book writing, or the business of freelance writing, or even my book of short stories, go to http://www.paullima.com/books/, pick the book that is of interest to you and email paullima.com@gmail.com and request a free PDF of the book of your choice.

That is all you have to do.

You will receive the PDF and NO spam or promotional email. You will not be put on an email list that you have to opt off. Scout’s honor!

So if you want a PDF of one of my books, email me–but you have to email me by the end of the week (Jan. 8) to get your free PDF book.

Happy New Year!

Book helps aspiring writers keep their New Year’s resolution: to write daily

From my experience over the last decade, there is no real accounting for book sales. Or perhaps there is. My books How To Write A Non-Fiction Book in 60 DaysEverything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing and Say it Right: How to Write Speeches and Presentations tend to sell well year ’round. I presume that is because there is a year ’round demand for them from people who want to write, of finish, their non-fiction books, from those who want to start, or elevate, their freelance writing career and from those who have to give speeches and presentations at any time of the year.

However, sales of Unblock Writer’s Block: How to face it, deal with it and overcome it tend to be dormant, until this time of year and in early January. I guess this is the time of year when writers who feel that they are stuck resolve to overcome their barriers and blocks and get on with writing, especially creative writing.

With over 70 writing exercises to get you started and keep you writing,  Unblock Writer’s Block must feel like a New Year’s resolution, or the book that will help writers keep their New Year’s resolutions — to overcome blocks and to write on a daily basis.

Or as the book promotion says:

If you feel as if you are stuck in a prisoner’s block, then consider this book a set of tools baked in a cake and delivered to your cell. They will help you break out of the block, so you will be free to write again.

So it is interesting to watch sales of this book spike as we approach the new year. Like gym memberships. Only this book is a workout for the writer’s mind! And let’s face it, almost every writer can use a little help now and then to get into shape…. May 2017 be a get fit and break through writing year for you!

Indie Publishing Pot of Gold for Some, Work in Progress for Many

Marie Force is a New York Times best selling contemporary romance author. She is also a self-published author who is very active in the self-publishing community. She recently surveyed self-published authors and has post the extensive results of the survey on her blog. Here is an excerpt and a link to the full results.

Survey responses from nearly 2,000 indie authors, half of them entirely indie published, give insight into the industry and advice on how indie authors can make a better success of their business. Marie Force, the New York Times-bestselling hybrid author of more than 30 indie-published titles, conducted the survey through Survey Monkey with questions developed by Marie with input from many other indie authors. It was widely publicized through indie author groups and social media. Nearly 90 percent of responding authors were female, the majority between the ages of 41 and 50. More than 60 percent of respondents identified a subgenre of romance as their primary genre. Five percent were science fiction authors, five percent were mystery/thriller authors and four percent were fantasy authors. The survey was live from Oct. 8 to Nov. 8, 2016.

When asked the reason for taking the indie publishing path, authors cited greater revenue as their primary reason followed by greater product control. Conversely, their greatest frustrations with being indie authors are the perceived lack of a level playing field on the retail platforms and industry instability. However, 29 percent reported they are indie authors because the frustrations are minimal. More than half the respondents say the biggest benefit to being an indie author is agility and the ability to pivot when needed.

Read the full results here.

In time for Christmas: Books on business, promotional, article writing and business of freelance writing

Just in time for Christmas for the writer on your gift list: popular print and e-books (for Kindle and Kobo) on business, promotional, book, article,  social media and website writing, self-publishing and the business of freelance writing. Book have been written by Paul Lima, a professional writer for over 30 years and a freelance writer for over 20 years. A number of the books are used at the University of Toronto (and other colleges) by adult education writing students.

See if there is a print or e-book for you or the writer on your Christmas gift list from this list of books:

  • How To Write A Non-Fiction Book in 60 Days: Ideal for those who want to write a non-fiction book.
  • Produce, Price and Promote Your Self-Published Fiction or Non-fiction Book and eBook:  “Painstakingly lays out all the information one needs to self-publish a book, including options, pros and cons and caveats.”
  • Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing – Find, Price, Manage Corporate Writing Assignments & Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines
  • Six-Figure Freelancer: How to Find, Price and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments
  • Business of Freelance Writing: How to Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines, Conduct Interviews and Write Article Leads
  • The Query Letter: How to Sell Article Ideas to Newspapers and Magazines
  • Say it Right: How to Write Speeches and Presentations 
  • (re)Discover the Joy of Creative Writing: Over 50 exercises to get you started and keep you writing
  • Harness the Business Writing Process: E-mail, Letters, Proposals, Reports, Media Releases, Web Content
  • Harness the Email Writing Process: How to Become a More Effective and Efficient Email Writer
  • Fundamentals of Writing: How to Write Articles, Media Releases, Case Studies, Blog Posts and Social Media Content
  • How to Write Web Copy and Social Media Content: Spruce up Your Website Copy, Blog Posts and Social Media Content
  • Copywriting That Works: Bright ideas to Help You Inform, Persuade, Motivate and Sell!
  • How to Write Sales Letters and Email: Write direct response marketing material to inform, persuade and sell!
  • Unblock Writer’s Block: How to face it, deal with it and overcome it: With over 70 writing exercises to get you started and keep you writing
  • How to Write Media Releases to Promote Your Business, Organization or Event
  • Are You Ready For Your Interview? How to Prepare for Media Interviews. Prepare for interviews with print and broadcast reporters

Read more about the books online at paullima.com/books.

How much should I charge per word?

How much should I charge per word?

I don’t mean to smile amusedly when freelance writers, editors and translators ask me that question. There is no right answer to that question. But let me start with a story.

I was conducting a freelance business workshop when someone asked that question. I asked the group if any of them has a fixed per work rate. I was surprised by the number of hands that went up.

One translator said, quite adamantly, that she charge fifteen cents per word.

“No matter what?” I asked.

“No matter what,” she replied.

I then asked her how much she would charge to translate this phrase: “You deserve a break today.”

She didn’t skip a beat. “Seventy-five cents,” she said.

Now “You deserve a break today” is a former McDonald’s advertising slogan. I’m sure the company paid a pretty penny to have it written and a pretty penny to have it translated. After all, the words were going on all McDonald’s advertisement and a lot of other promotional material. I suspect that McDonald’s wanted the strongest slogan and best translation that money could buy.

In short, what you charge per word should depend in large part on the nature and value of the job to the client.

I expect corporate clients to pay more than newspapers and magazines, for the most part because the work you do for corporate clients is intended to make money or add value to the company. Hate to be cynical about this, but most journalism (not all, but most) is intended to fill space between ads. It’s the ads that bring value to the publication and to the advertiser. If you are writing one of those ads, ask more than if you are writing the space filling article.

By the same token, expect to charge less if you are editing a book of straight prose than if you are editing a corporate document, especially if it is a complex shareholder document or marketing material.

So if you charge per word for your work, think hard about your rate and scale it up for work that is more complex, critical and valuable.

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Paul Lima is the author of Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing – Find, Price, Manage Corporate Writing Assignments & Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines and other books on promotional and business writing and the business of freelance writing.