Pro Bono Writing and Editing

Maryland Writers’ Association

www.marylandwriters.org

Editor and designer, Pen in Hand. Sample clips:

  • Spring 2012 (PDF)
  • Winter 2012 (PDF)
  • Fall 2011 (PDF)
  • Summer 2011 (PDF)
  • Spring 2011 (PDF)
  • Winter 2011 (PDF) (plus Special Bylaws Supplement (PDF))

Editor, Keyboard in Hand, the MWA newsblog

Canton Community Association

www.cantoncommunity.org

Acting webmaster; features/news editor and writer, Canton Connection Online community newsblog (now defunct) ; Editor, The Canton Connection. Sample clips:

  • Summer 2006 (PDF)
  • Spring 2006 (PDF)
  • Winter 2006 (PDF)
  • Fall 2005 (PDF)
  • Summer 2005 (PDF)
  • Spring 2005 (PDF)

Friends of the Canton Library

www.cantoncommunity.org/content/friends-canton-library

As Secretary, drafted meeting minutes, updated and maintained Friends webpage, created marketing materials, and wrote ad copy for fundraising events.

Takoma Park-Silver Spring Food Co-op

www.tpss.coop

Editor, TPSS Cooperative Effort News. Ghostwrote the regular “Comment Corner” and “Featured Employees” columns, plus “Upcoming Events” and other sidebars. Sample clips:

  • August/September 2004 (PDF)
  • Special Issue, June 2004 (PDF)
  • April/May 2004 (PDF)
  • February/March 2004 PDF)
  • December 2003/January 2004 (PDF)
  • October/November 2003 (PDF)
  • Special Bylaws Issue, October 2003 (PDF)
  • August/September 2003 (PDF)

Paul Lagasse has also been published in Artella: The Waltz of Words and Art, As the Eraser Burns . . . , Aviation History, Bay Weekly, Boys’ Quest, Encyclopedia of American Business History (2005 ed.), HAIlights, HAIpoints, Library Matters (University of Maryland), and Pen in Hand. He has had reviews published on H-Net and The Potomac.

Working Writers Profiles Paul Lagasse

When Tom Chandler of The Writer Underground offered to profile me for his new series, “Working Writers,” at first I was honored and thrilled — and then I got nervous.

When was the last time I actually stopped to think about things like my workflow, my tools, my preferences? Or even the reasons why I chose them in the first place? I am a creature not so much of habit, but of efficiency; when something doesn’t work, I find something that does, and then I use it until it doesn’t, at which time I find something else that does. How do you make that process sound even remotely interesting?

In a sense, I am a fanatic about the tools I use. But in another sense, I’m not really. I don’t have to have the best, or the newest, or the most powerful. Instead, I look for the most reliable, the most dependable, the most well-designed. And then I work the hell out of it.

I’m a nut about efficient design. My tools are all like Charles Emerson Winchester III: they do one thing, they do it very well, and then they move on. I’m one of those people who takes it personally when a tool stops working.

And because of that, I don’t have a lot of new things to share. Everything I have to say about Rollabind, for example, I’ve already written on this blog. I still use the system every day and I rely on it as much as ever, but how many times can I say, “Yep, still usin’ it!” and still be interesting?

So I really thank Tom for the opportunity to sit and look at my systems and my processes, to see if the original logics still hold. Check out the interview here: “Working Writers: Paul Lagasse.”

Oh, and one thing has changed since the interview — I recently stopped using Path Finder. The search for alternatives was a very instructive lesson in workflow management. I will write about that here soon.

If I have anything interesting to say about it, that is.

“Don’t Quit Your Day Job”

Ten years ago, in January 2001, I hung out my shingle as a freelance writer and editor. I decided to leave a comfortable middle-management position in a small research firm because I wanted to take a chance on myself and my writing and business abilities.

When I announced in October 2000 that I would be departing at year’s end, I had sold all of one article and didn’t have any other prospects. Though I spent the next couple months hunting pretty aggressively, by the time Christmas vacation rolled around I still didn’t have anything lined up.

I broke the cardinal rule of writing: “Don’t quit your day job.” I felt like I had just jumped out of a plane while still stitching my parachute together.

A day or two after Christmas, I got a call from an editorial services firm where I had taken a pretty intensive writing test. They called to say that I had passed and, oh by the way, they had just had a big project come in that needed a writer, would I be interested?

Every writer needs a break when starting out. Quinn McDonald gave me mine. It was a privilege to work with Quinn for several years, and a pleasure to be able to call her a friend and colleague still. Every writer should be so lucky to have such a top-flight mentor. (It also seems cosmically appropriate that she had known and worked with my college advisor, Dr. Anne Millbrooke, who had had an equally profound influence on my academic trajectory.) Thank you, Quinn! Thank you, Anne!

When I started out, the deal I made with my wife Mary Jo was that I could do this as long as I made enough money to pay my share of the bills each month plus something for retirement at year’s end. Plus the occasional dinner out and presents, of course. If I couldn’t hold that end up, I’d stop and get another job. So far, so good. Thank you, Mary Jo!

I’ve worked for a lot of really terrific clients along the way, met some amazingly intelligent, smart, creative, and dedicated people, worked on an incredible array of projects, and learned something new on each one. Thank you, my wonderful clients!

Four years ago, I launched this blog. In that time, I’ve written about writing, reading, and editing; about managing your records and your goals; about paper, pens, and Circa planners. I’ve enjoyed corresponding with readers in the comments, on their blogs, and in other forums — and occasionally even in person. Thank you, my dedicated readers!

Occasionally when I tell people about how I got started, they ask me whether, if I had to do it again, would I take the same chance.

Absolutely.

I wouldn’t trade a minute of the past ten years. It has been the most exhilarating, challenging, exciting thing I’ve done (professionally, that is) in my life. The daily balancing game of freedom and responsibility never gets old. Sure I’ve gotten tired many times, burned out more than once, stressed out quite a few more times than I’d like to admit. But I am a better writer, a better editor, and a better person for having taken the chance.

Yesterday, beginning my eleventh year as a self-employed writer/editor, I woke up feeling excited about what the day would bring. The morning that I wake up feeling otherwise, I’ll stop. Until then, let’s see what the next decade brings.

Image: iStockPhoto.com

Ultimate Office is Back!

Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the good folks at Ultimate Office, the company behind the Jotz Refillable Notebooks that are the backbone of my freelance writing and editing business.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share with them and with other customers how much I have come to rely on their quality office products. The story of how Ultimate Office is starting up again after being forced to close by the Meltdown of 2008 is inspiring.

Be sure to read to the end of the interview to learn about some great new Rollabind-based products that we can expect to see from the fiendishly creative minds behind Ultimate Office’s signature products! Their gear isn’t for sale yet (we’ll post it here when it happens), but in the meantime you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Welcome back, Ultimate Office! We kept the light on for ya.

Hello Annapolis!

Active Voice announces its move from Baltimore to Annapolis, Maryland. I’ll continue to offer the same range of quality writing and editing services to clients in the DC-Baltimore region (and beyond); I’ll just be doing so from downtown Annapolis, just down the street from State Circle (I can see the State House dome when I run out to the corner mailbox). My e-mail address remains the same, but my phone number has changed; see the footer.

I’m hoping to start adding some Annapolis clients soon, so keep an eye on my Clients page over the next few months as I settle in and get to know my new base of operations. In addition to exploring the great dining and shopping options in the heart of Annapolis, my wife and I are also looking forward to visiting the St. John’s College campus (I attended the Santa Fe campus for a year, way back when), checking out the new museum on the Naval Academy campus, and attending lots of plays and hearing lots of music. Recommendations for can’t-miss venues are most welcome!

Paul Lagasse Interviewed on “Write Out Loud”

I recently had the pleasure of being the subject of a weekly interview for Write Out Loud, a blog for and about writers by Baltimore-based freelance writer Ami Spencer. Ami asked me to discuss how an academically-trained archivist ended up with a freelancing career, the benefits of participating in local writing organizations like the Baltimore chapter of the MWA, how I find clients, and my biggest vice (writing-wise, that is).

The interview went live today. You can find it here. Thanks again, Ami! It was fun.

solecism for november 13

I don’t mean to keep writing about solecisms, but as long as writers keep creating them, I feel obligated.

From “That story you read in the publication you just purchased may be bought and paid for,” by by Jonathan Trenn, on the Marketing Conversation blog:

“10% of senior marketers have developed implicit agreements with editors or reporters to get favorable coverage. That’s about 1 in 10.”

We can’t be sure, though.

paperjamming podcast

PaperJamming CardLast week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Stephanie Diamond of the Marketing Message Blog for her podcast about PaperJamming. It was a pleasure chatting with her beforehand about how to apply PJ to business files, as well as during our relaxed, conversational interview. Thanks, Stephanie!

The podcast is now available on Stephanie’s blog here. In it, I talk about the ideas behind PaperJamming and describe the basic elements of Types and Stages for organizing, storing, and disposing paper and electronic files simply and easily . It’s a good introduction to the philosophy and principles behind the PaperJamming approach to personalized file management made fun.

Stephanie wrote that she finds PaperJamming to be a “brilliant conceptual idea. . . . Simple, elegant.” I hope you’ll give the podcast a listen and then head on over to the free downloadable templates and give PaperJamming a try for managing your business files.

Remember, just because your files have a life of their own doesn’t mean they have to run yours.

introducing cardnets

CardNet Blank FrameShortly after I introduced the latest round of Active Voice productivity templates for the Hipster PDA (hPDA — available as free downloads here), I started to think about what the next round of templates would look like.

I wanted them to be different — not just in terms of content, but also in terms of the way they actually worked.

I took a look at how hPDA cards are designed, and how people use them. Most cards are designed to be used either as stand-alone units or together in sequence. But in life, few good ideas unfold in a steady linear direction over time — they tend to go off in many different directions at once.

So, I asked, what would cards look like that were designed to be used, not in straight lines, but in nonlinear networks? What if they could capture the multidimensional, interrelated nature of our ideas as they happen? CardNets are my answer. Maybe they can be yours, too.

Continue reading “introducing cardnets”

“no comment!”

TumbleweedI just found out that my blog’s captcha (the dialog box below the comment field that requires you to type in two words) has been malfunctioning, and as a result comments have been flung into the ether instead of being submitted for review. So if you recently posted a comment and are wondering why it hasn’t appeared on the blog, that’s why.

My apologies! I’ve turned the captcha off until I can correct the problem, so if you’d like to try leaving a comment again, it should get through to me now.

Image: iStockPhoto.com