Holiday Gift Guide for the Musician in Your Life

I thought it’d be neat to follow up my Holiday Gift Guide for Freelance Writers for one geared towards musicians! From history, inspiration, and songwriting craft, this is a well-rounded guide for those of you who are stuck on what to get for your musician friends and loved ones!

(Just like for my last gift guide, this post uses Amazon Associates links. That means if you end up buying from these links, I get a small percentage of the sales. Enough of those, and I might be able to buy myself lunch! Thanks guys!)

Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad

Our Band Could Be Your Life

When we read the list of bands interviewed and profiled for this book, I had to pick it up. It’s a thorough history of the indie music scene in the 80s that starts with Black Flag and moves its way through the decade, covering many of the movers in the indie record label and music scene. Dinosaur Jr., Fugazi, Minor Threat, and Sonic Youth are just some of the bands featured in this book.

Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

Writing Better Lyrics

For some people, lyrics is an intuitive process. But like any other craft, it can be learned. I grabbed this book as part of the free Songwriting class offered by the author and Coursera (which I also recommend).

The book is easy-to-read, well-organized, and breaks down songwriting in understandable chunks. From creating vivid imagery, developing a story, and effective structuring, this book is a great start to develop lyricwriting skills. Exercises follow each chapter so you can actually practice what you’re learning.

Journals by Kurt Cobain

Journals by Kurt Cobain

At times poignant and insightful, this collection of Kurt Cobain’s journals and letters uses reproductions of the actual notebook pages and is an intimate look into his head. Even if you’re not into Nirvana, this book is an important way to see how a musician sees the world, thinks, and works.

Scarlett Focusrite 2i2

Focusrite 2i2

I bought this for myself and my boyfriend last Christmas and we’ve been using it ever since. Affordable and portable, this USB audio interface works with all the major DAWs out there. It comes with Ableton Live Lite, which is fun to play with, but we mainly use it with GarageBand on our Macbooks. (And our roommate has used it with Logic.) If you’re just getting recording your own music, this is the perfect audio interface — it doesn’t have too many features where you’re overwhelmed, but has the basics of what you need.

Thanks for reading guys!

Holiday Gift Guide for the Freelance Writer in Your Life

I’m sick of reading gift guides for writers that tell you to buy us our “favorite pen” or “more notebooks.” No. Fuck that. If you know me, you know I have a shelf full of empty notebooks that I’ve impulsively and compulsively bought. I have boxes and boxes of pens because I love buying pens. I don’t need you to buy me those things.

Who am I kidding? I love getting more notebooks. But if you want to help a writer friend or family member out, consider these following items instead. Some of the following are especially useful for a new freelancer, but I think all freelance writers can benefit from these.

Are you a freelance writer? What do YOU want from this holiday season? Comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(I’ve included Amazon Associates links when possible. That means if you buy through these links, you’ll be helping me buy myself a meal! Thanks.)

The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed ($12)

The Money Book for FreelancersI’m listing this book first because IT SAVED ME. And if you know a struggling freelancer, it will save them too! I wish I had read this before I quit my full-time job so I was fully prepared for what was to come.

It is so, so important for freelancers and self-employed peeps to get their finances in order. Freelancers don’t have a steady paycheck so they HAVE to strategize their savings. This book is a great resource that talks about how to save, where to save, and why. We don’t have employers holding our hands and contributing to our 401(k)s anymore. We have to do it ourselves! And we can’t put ourselves into debt doing so.

This book will kick your freelancer friend in the ass and tell them to get their shit together. I would pair this with a good bottle of craft beer or wine because if they’re like me, they probably can’t afford good bottles of craft beer or wine.

Ulysses (Mac $45) or Scrivener (Windows $40, Mac $45)

Good writing software is a must, and these two are on the top of the list. Pick one of these depending on the type of writer your friend is.

Scrivener has a TON of features that mimics how a pen-and-paper novelist might have brainstormed back in the day: corkboard with movable elements, storyboards, outlines, project organization, and more. The novel (or research paper or feature article or whatever) can be broken up into smaller parts (like chapters) and be edited together or separately, and you can include all of your research into the app as well. Scrivener also allows you to prepare your finished manuscript for printing — whether to send off to an agent or for self-publishing.

Ulysses, my personal favorite, has less features than Scrivener, but that’s why I like it. There’s no storyboarding or outlines, but damn, what it does offer, it does well. It’s perfect for writers who self-publish. Formatting is super easy with Markup and you can easily export to ePub, PDF, HTML, or even plaintext. And if you do publish to PDF or ePub, you can guarantee it’s going to look pretty. Ulysses, like Scrivener, also allows for project organization — so you can have different chapters or scenes glued together. Markup also makes it easy to annotate, link, and structure your work as well.

AP Stylebook (Print $21, Online subscription $26/year)

Have you seen this Onion article on the ongoing dispute between Chicago style and AP style?

Join in on the warfare, and get your writer friend an online subscription to the AP Stylebook. In the U.S., it’s considered one of the standards for style, spelling, and grammar usage in the news-writing world, but its the basis for so much more writing than news. Major blogs and magazines use the AP Stylebook, and even press release writers and web content writers should have this resource handy to help develop a consistent style.

I recommend getting the online subscription because your friend will receive updated styles and tips throughout the year. Or you can buy them the print version that comes out annually. You can find the 2013 version cheap on Amazon or buy the 2014 version directly from the AP Stylebook website. But if you’re going to go there anyway, you may as well get them the online subscription.

Writer’s Market ($23, $34 for Deluxe Edition, $40 for annual online subscription)

2015 Writer's Market

The Writer’s Market is a behemoth that lists nearly every single paying publication that your writer friend can submit to. And it’s not just for fiction writers too, which is what makes this such a great resource. A lot of freelancers have their hands in many different pots. One week they’re writing an article about cars, the next week they’re working on a short story they’d like to get published.

The print edition of Writer’s Market updates every year, but the online version updates throughout the year. And it includes listings from all the other print editions as well like the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.

My recommendation? Get the Deluxe Edition of the Writer’s Market. It INCLUDES a one-year online subscription. Print + online subscription = $36… or online subscription only = $40. What’s the better choice?

150 Screenwriting Challenges (Kindle $5)

150 Screenwriting Challenges by Eric Heisserer

Yes, I know this says screenwriting challenges, but these challenges are great for all kinds of narrative writers. And for $5, it’s kind of like a digital stocking stuffer and totally worth it. Eric Heisserer has been writing for nearly two decades, so he knows how to get his juices flowing. I highly recommend following him on Twitter for his whiskey-fueled writer rants as well, which are both informative and entertaining.

And that’s it!

Thanks for reading the guide. And take care of your writer friends!

GoFundMe, do the right thing and take down the Darren Wilson support page

I wrote GFM a nice message and you should too. Here is what I wrote if you’d like an idea on where to start. I think it’s important to be as polite as possible when dealing with things like this.

Subject: Doing the right thing re: Darren Wilson

Ever since you guys have launched GoFundMe, you’ve helped countless people. In fact, several of my friends have pages on here now to help with living expenses, medical bills, school funds, etc. And because I’ve supported them and believe GFM in general is a site that does GOOD, I’m upset with the treatment of the Darren Wilson support page.

I understand that you may think you are an impartial judge by leaving both the Darren Wilson and Mike Brown support pages up, but unfortunately, because you receive fees from these pages, you are NO LONGER an impartial party. You are benefitting from a page that supports a man that shot another. By leaving this page up, by allowing people to give Darren Wilson — and by extension, GoFundMe — money, you are condoning the actions of a man who murdered another.

I do want to applaud you for taking down hateful comments — calling the people of Ferguson “animals”, etc…. but it’s not enough. Those hateful comments should act as signals to you that the fund to support Darren Wilson is here to promote hate, violence, and racial intolerance, which is against your terms of service.

Please take Darren Wilson’s support page down. Not only is it against the terms of service… IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. It’s completely unethical for your company to be benefitting from hatemongering.

Thank you.

Once you send it, you’ll get an automated message that frankly, made me laugh:

In addition to the report you have submitted to us, we encourage you to contact law enforcement officials in your area if you believe this user is committing fraud or breaking the law in any way.


I think the Ferguson law enforcement is just a tiny bit busy protecting Darren Wilson from his crime.

Things I’ve learned in the past 9 months as a freelance writer…

Some quick thoughts since I haven’t updated in a very long time.

  • Don’t sell myself short. Sure, as a beginner, I had to start with lower rates, but I soon learned that it wasn’t economical for me. So I started to slowly increase my rates between each job I had, each article I wrote.
  • Don’t sell myself short!!! Don’t reduce rates just because someone balks at the proposal. Reduce the scope of work.
  • Networking and referrals are awesome. I heard this a lot when I first started off, and I hated it. I’m a beginner. Of course I can’t get referrals. And networking is all-around terrifying, especially as someone with anxiety. But referrals are like the snowball effect… the more work I did, the bigger the network I had. And referrals go two ways! I just worked with an awesome graphic designer that I think would be a good fit for a record label that I had done work for… so why not shoot them both an e-mail saying, “HEY, in case you need a graphic designer, here’s this awesome one…”
  • I wish I hadn’t quit my job right away. Well… kind of. If I hadn’t quit my job when I did, I don’t think I ever would have started my freelance career, not even part-time on the side. I just didn’t have the mental or emotional energy to take on any projects, personal or otherwise. But financially, I really, really, really wish I had built up a writing portfolio BEFORE I went full-time freelancer. Then I would have started off with higher rates, more of a network, etc.
  • Freelance writing is 20% writing and 80% sending off proposals, writing emails, following up, and waiting. It may even be closer to 10% writing and 90% everything else. It’s really tough. Every day I’m sending off more proposals and pitches. I’ve gone weeks without work.
  • Money is really fucking tight. And of course I’m stressed about it… but I don’t think I made the wrong choice.

Art in North County – Johnny Nguyen’s “Songs of the Green Bird”

North County Food - Johnny Nguyen's opening reception at the Hill Street Country ClubNamed after an open air market in Vietnam, Songs of the Green Bird is a photographic series by local artist Johnny Nguyen, shown at the The Hill Street Country Club. The organization is a non-profit that embarks to cultivate art and culture in the surrounding communities. They previously held pop up art shows before finding their permanent home in Oceanside. Nguyen’s exhibit inaugurated the new gallery with an opening reception held last Saturday on the 18th. You can read the write up on North County Food.

My favorite part of the blog post (besides the drool-worthy food porn) captures the community-driven nature of The Hill Street Country Club and the artist:

While setting up a group of children walked in from a church event across the way to ask what we were doing. Johnny let them in to look at the photos and talked to them about art.

His series will be at the gallery until February 25th. 212D Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA.

International Rescue Committee and Bikes Del Pueblo

On February 13, Bikes Del Pueblo will be holding a “build-a-bike-a-thon” at 2754 Snowdrop St (Google Maps link). Their blog post says 1-4pm, but their Google Calendar event says 3-7pm, so I’m not sure when people should actually arrive. The bikes will be given to refugees in San Diego, who may not have the resources or money to get around the city with a car or public transit.

I just recently became interested in bikes and DIY bike repair.  And when I was in Portland and Seattle, there were so many bike co-ops and community resources, I was sure there had to be something in San Diego too, considering that we have places like Velo Cult and Adams Avenue Bikes.  

Alas, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be, but after some hunting, I came across Bikes Del Pueblo, a co-op which I believe is run out of someone’s home. BDP is at the City Heights Farmers Market every week, fixing bikes and teaching people how to fix bikes. I’ve yet to visit and check it out, but it sounds like a great way to help the community out.

Bikes Del Pueblo from Brian Hedden on Vimeo.

Chef Bands 2010

This event seems to be only mentioned on Twitter and Facebook, and hasn’t been publicized on Voyeur’s event page nor on CCS’s website either. Regardless of the lack of publicity, it seems like something that would be fun to watch, and is for a good cause.

Has anybody else heard about this? Does anybody know what restaurants will be participating? I found it through Urban Solace’s Facebook wall.

From 8pm to midnight this following Monday, October 4, 2010, bands formed by different restaurants’ chefs and cooks will be playing Rock Band at Voyeur, to benefit Center for Community Solutions. CCS offers several services, including a hotline, legal and counseling services, shelters, and educational outreach for domestic violence, sexual assault, and elderly abuse.

Monday, October 4, 2010
@ Voyeur
755 Fifth Ave.

The Art of Agriculture Harvest Festival

If you’d rather not walk around North Park and South Park this Saturday, but still have a hankering for companionship and local food, head over to Suzie’s Farm for The Art of Agriculture Harvest Festival. The event is being put on by the San Diego Roots Sustainable Project. There will be a potluck, live performances, a silent auction, and a raffle. For the kids, there will be arts and activities, and for everybody, farm tours starting at 2pm.

San Diego Roots is a really great organization promoting local food and farming. They are the organization that runs Victory Gardens San Diego, a program that creates food gardens for families in San Diego. They have also just started their own farm at Suzie’s Farm, which I think is great. You can volunteer to be involved in any of the Roots projects, if you’re interested.

Harvest Festival
October 2, 2010, 2pm-9pm
$20 suggested donation
[Facebook event page]
Suzie’s Farm
1856 Saturn Blvd.