The Fragilities of February
Guest Post by Tami Kamin Meyer
I write this essay cozy on my couch with my three dogs. Mother Nature coats our streets, cars and powerlines with layers of freezing rain. Several inches of snow are expected in the next day, wreaking havoc on people’s ability to drive, travel and even walk safely.
Although I am not a winter lover, I admit this unfriendly weather is ideal for my work as a freelance writer. Being temporarily quarantined at home, this time due to sleet and snow, affords me the delicious opportunity to read articles I’ve bookmarked, conduct research on story ideas I’m working on and even dally in Thesaurus.com.
In my mind, February is winter’s last attempt to make our Midwestern lives miserable. If the gray skies and frigid temperatures of January didn’t cause you to lose your mind’s last marble, February’s hostility seeks to finish the job.
February acts like a bridge
But one of the greatest joys of February, which acts like a bridge between the cold of January and the increasing mildness of March, is that it is the shortest month. February is like the stuffing of an awkwardly-flavored Oreo. You don’t want to eat it, but it gets forced down your throat, anyway.
Likewise, those delightful writing-related tasks I enjoy but don’t often have the time for are akin to being the Oreo of my freelance life. One side of the cookie represents the creating, thinking, researching and writing I do. The other half is comprised of the marketing, hustling and self-promotion I do to acquire opportunities to create, think, research, and write. Finally, the stuffing is composed of the activities I undertake to expand my knowledge base or sharpen my brain, such as crossword puzzles or researching pending legislation on a matter of interest to me.
When I write, I bring all those experiences and knowledge together. I create what I hope is a delicious, captivating and unique ‘cookie’ of creative expression.
In the meantime, I will make more coffee and heat the oven. It’s time to ‘get baking.’
WORD is the Word
Guest post by Tami Kamin Meyer
As I type this, I (Tami) am beginning my second week of Omicron. At least I think it’s Omicron. Despite “enjoying” a myriad of symptoms for at least a week, the results of my pharmaceutically-administered COVID test read “negative.”
Despite the uncertainty of the test, something “positive” did happen to me in December, something writing-related. I’m extremely proud to share it, so I appreciate this venue for spreading the news.
A bit of background
I have been involved with The Nest, an improv comedy theatre in Columbus for nearly three years. My wonderful, longtime boyfriend and I used to attend shows there, and we created many fond memories. It was his Christmas gift in December 2018 of the first level of improv comedy classes at The Nest that led me to me to become a part of that incredible community. It has since become a huge part of me, too.
Unfortunately, just two weeks after I began my first class, in May 2019, I found my dear Brad dead in the shower of our Manhattan hotel room. We had traveled to NYC to celebrate our sixth anniversary of meeting (and dating, because ours was that rare ‘Love at First Sight’ story that began the moment we met).
Despite the unspeakable shock I was in following Brad’s untimely death, I returned to my improv class its next meeting. It was incredibly difficult to open the same entrance door to the Nest that Brad and I had walked through multiple times to see improv shows, but I persevered. I had to. Brad would have wanted me to.
Heads turned when I walked into the theater turned classroom. Everyone knew what had happened in my life just a week before. Our teacher, who happened to be someone from the local improv scene Brad and I adored, embraced me deeply. I cried. He cried. Others came up and touched my shoulders in a show of support. It was a deeply touching moment forever etched in my heart.
Fast forward to December 2021, and the exciting news I received from The Nest.
One of the longest running shows at The Nest is actually not improv-based. It is WORD Live Literature & True Tales. As a writer, WORD is one of my favorite performances at The Nest because it focuses on real stories. Storytellers are invited to share a true story with audience members based on the show’s theme. I myself have presented at WORD three times, so I know it both as a presenter and attendee.
And, in 2022, I will be producing its quarterly incarnations! Just as exciting is the woman chosen to host the show is my closest “Nesty,” as we improvisers at the theatre are lovingly referred to. Brad would have been so happy for me and proud of me, so this means just that much more to me.
In the February issue of WNC, I’ll reveal the theme of WORD’s March show. Storytellers will be invited to volunteer to present at the event. Hopefully, so many folks will volunteer that Jodie and I will have to narrow down the number of storytellers chosen to perform (storytellers will know well in advance if they are being asked to participate).
If you have any questions about WORD, or The Nest, or writing, or even Omicron, please feel free to email me at email@example.com. I’ll be happy to hear from you!
In the meantime, here’s to a sparkly, exciting, productive, joyful and HEALTHY y2K22.
Dancing into December: My Favorite Writing Tools—Guest Post by Tami Kamin Meyer
Write Now Columbus editor and freelance writer Tami Kamin Meyer pays homage to her favorite writing tools.
I am proud to be a freelance writer. For me, the term evokes a romantic vision of hours tapping away on a dusty typewriter with stubborn, round, porcelain, green keys as cigarette after cigarette slow burn in an ash-filled Diet Coke can on my desk. Coffee mugs with various levels and temperatures of java, one hawking a local sports team, another boasting how The Queen takes her coffee (immediately!) litter my work area, and I am blissfully happy.
Reality, however, could not be further from the truth. For one, I don’t smoke, and when I tried to create a mysterious, smoky workplace, I gagged from the intensity of the incense I had lit.
Note to self: The scent of musk is so 1970’s.
While it is true that java fuels my creativity, and I can drink it anytime of day or night without incident, I prefer it fresh and hot. And, my coffee tastes best in my favorite mug…one featuring a 3D rendering of midtown Manhattan. Sure, my beverage of choice ‘usually’ tastes just as good in a different mug, but it is that vessel that triggers my brain into work mode.
I sometimes think of not using my favorite mug, lest it gets cracked, or worse, the ‘B’ word. But the Old Faithful in me yearns for that mug every day. If I had thought of buying a second one that sunny day in Manhattan several years ago when I first laid eyes on the next Starbucks rendition of its NYC mug, I would have. Maybe even three. Two to break and one to keep in storage, never to be stained by standing coffee, forever.
We writers must have our favorite writing tools.
Another practice of mine when I’m writing is to keep sharpened pencils nearby. While I don’t recall when my love affair with a fresh, razor-sharp, yellow No. 2 lead pencil began, I know it was many moons ago.
Writing with pencil allows me to make mistakes, as we all do in life, but with the added benefit of being empowered to fully erase my errors as if they never occurred. Meanwhile, there have been times I erased my words, only to later realize the verbiage I had wiped away had expressed my thought perfectly.
Writing notes in pencil also reminds me of simpler, bygone days. I recall the pencils we used in elementary school. Their thick shafts of wood barely fit the silver hand-cranked pencil sharpener that hung loosely by a nail on the classroom wall.
They didn’t have erasers, either.
So, I always had a well-used, oddly disfigured pink eraser laying nearby. “If I could just remember where I put that thing….,” I recall thinking many times, “I would be in business.”
Despite owning a laptop and a PC, I continue to write interview questions and responses in pencil. Meanwhile, my personal planner features scribbled notes, random story ideas I wrote down when they came to me lest they be lost forever, phone numbers, some accompanied by the owner’s name and some not (if I never called, now you know why), email addresses, scribbles and more, all created in pencil. Yes, the calendar’s pages can get messy and difficult to read. But, just as with life, nothing’s perfect. Sometimes I actually enjoy the challenge of trying to decipher just what in the world I had written in my planner.
It’s those little things in life, ya know?
Ultimately, I relish the simplicity of a pencil. I don’t have to worry about it exploding its colorful ink in my purse like a Fourth of July firework. I don’t have to shake my pencil to make certain its lead is ‘flowing,” something ink pens beg for at times. My pencil is always ready to write when I am ready to, too.
Except when I hear the teeny albeit woeful sound created when my beautiful, sharp pencil tip breaks.
Anybody got a pen?
(c)Tami Kamin Meyer, 2021, all rights reserved
The Opulence of October: Where to find writing ideas—Guest post by Tami Kamin Meyer
Write Now Columbus editor Tami Kamin Meyer shares how she comes up with ideas for writing her articles and stories
I spent much of September traveling this great and beautiful country. I was blessed with a week in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains and a week soaking in the sun and waves on Tybee Island, Georgia. While in Breckenridge, Colorado, I literally spent an entire day staring at the majesty of Baldy Mountain, an enormous peak, 12,441 feet high. It stood like a beacon of the mountains. I could not take my eyes off of her.
After a brief respite at home for laundry and dog kisses, I drove 1,700 miles to Tybee, then Atlanta, then home. This unique situation afforded me time to ponder a myriad of topics and listen to an excellent book on CD.
I don’t recall everything my mind touched during that long drive, but I am certain about one thing: I thought often about writing.
As my hands gripped the leather steering wheel of my convertible, I recalled articles I had written and ones that were due. I reminisced on how I conjured some of the ideas for articles I eventually wrote, and about the many more stories I’d like to have published when I find them a home. I also smiled when I recalled a question people ask often of me and other writers.
“How do you come up with story ideas?”
That question really perplexes people, which is understandable. Methods for generating story ideas are as unique as the writer who creates them.
I don’t have a formula for conjuring story ideas. I know some writers who brainstorm for suggestions by writing a word, then brainstorming every concept or word relating to it. Out of those scribblings, the writer hopes to piece together an idea about what to write about.
I don’t work that way.
I think of ideas organically. Story suggestions come to me from an article or book I am reading, or from something I hear on the TV or radio. Recently, a friend mentioned how the Holocaust led to the meeting of his parents, and eventually his birth. His unique attitude about how he owes his very life to the vagary of the Holocaust shocked me at first. I had never considered a point of view like his before. However, after the initial surprise of his tale wore off, a story idea came to mind.
And that’s how I come up with article writing ideas.
Sometimes, an idea is related to a topic at hand. Or, a story suggestion simply enters my mind without warning or impetus. Suddenly, they’re just there. I keep a pen and paper by the side of my bed and next to my favorite seat on my living room couch, just in case the mood strikes.
Some of my ideas are founded in my personal interests, while others highlight topics that pique my attention. I never know when an idea will come to mind. I also sheepishly admit to forgetting many more ideas than I’ve ever researched or written about. If I don’t make myself commit the suggestion to paper when it comes to mind, I usually forget it. It’s gone forever. Even if I write an idea down, I may not be able to decipher my handwriting or unscramble my hieroglyphics when I try to read my scribblings.
That bums me out, of course, but it’s all part of the creative process.
This month I will finalize an article for a well-known publication, researching and writing about a one-time Ohio State athlete and, of course, mining my world for ideas for what to write about next.
(c)Tami Kamin Meyer, 2021, all rights reserved
This essay originally appeared in Write Now Columbus, a free, monthly email newsletter for central Ohio writers and readers. SUBSCRIBE HERE.
THE SERENDIPITY OF SEPTEMBER – GUEST POST BY TAMI KAMIN MEYER
When I think of September, I think yellow school busses, football and cooler weather. I throw open my screen porch door and house windows to allow the fresh, crisp air to waft through my house like a welcome friend. I also adore the renewed energy of Fall that seems to radiate everywhere, although admittedly, it is muted due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, something happened to me recently that conjured up that same sense of excitement, although this occurrence relates to my life as a freelance writer.
With time on my hands during the quarantine, I often found myself perusing LinkedIn for something interesting to read. A few months back, I happened upon a post about a non-profit organization, headquartered in Johnstown, Ohio, just east of Columbus. The message’s author was John Mennell, the founder of the Ohio Literacy Bank (OLB). The mission of his non-profit is ending illiteracy by providing new and recycled magazines to at-risk readers in locations easily accessible to them, such as food banks.
I immediately invited John to connect with me, and he obliged. We exchanged several messages about his group and how I wanted to volunteer at some point. We share a love of magazines, and it was fun to discuss how the industry has evolved over the years. Thankfully for my professional endeavors, print magazines are not a dying breed, as evidenced by an article in Forbes. New titles, such as Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia, are replacing defunct hardcopy publications such as Marie Claire.
I feel an extra dose of pride when one of my pieces appears in a print publication
I am incredibly grateful for technology and the Internet, because they expose freelance writers to a large, diverse and information-hungry audience and online publications for whom to write. However, I must admit I feel an extra dose of pride when one of my pieces appears in a print publication versus online only. In my mind, there is something poetic, even romantic, about opening a magazine and flipping through its colorful pages. People carry magazines from room to room and keep them stacked on their bedside table. Some read magazines cover-to-cover and others, sadly, are left in the plastic in which they arrived until it’s time they are recycled. No matter their journey, magazines are ubiquitous and I am supremely thankful for that.
Back to John. After two aborted attempts to meet face-to-face to further discuss our professional commonalities, we recently met in-person for coffee and a chat.
John regaled me with interesting stories how his small-but-mighty non-profit is attacking illiteracy. To hear him discuss the various magazines the OLB has received and distributed as well as the numerous unselfish acts of volunteerism performed by supporters across the country that have ensured that publications get in the hands of those who would benefit is like listening to a well-tuned orchestra. As John’s zeal and pride about his organization’s mission grew, so did my interest in hearing more.
And that’s when my moment of serendipity hit.
I felt a surge of excitement as story ideas based on the OLB’s successes flooded my brain. Intuitively, I began brainstorming about which publications might be interested in those ideas and why John’s story might appeal to the demographics of particular outlets. John and his mission are compelling and I was thrilled to be learning more about him and his organization’s efforts. All of that and they’re right here in central Ohio, too.
I scribbled notes in my characteristically messy handwriting as he spoke, careful to understand the gravity of his non-profit’s efforts and achievements. I peppered him with questions, all of which he answered with positivity and specificity. Meeting in person, over a cup of coffee, just like I would have pre-COVID-19, was refreshing. It was also vaguely familiar as an activity I enjoyed immensely prior to COVID-19. Meeting face-to-face made the experience that much richer, and I realized how much I missed the social aspect of being a freelance writer.
My heart pumped with adrenaline while meeting with John because after so long of not interacting with people face-to-face, I was gifted with that experience again. Speaking with him at arm’s length rather than through a square box on my laptop monitor, ala Zoom, reminded me of one of my favorite aspects of being a freelancer that I truly missed: social interaction. That experience reignited my zeal for writing, which honestly had waned during the long, hot summer and the even longer and seemingly unending worldwide pandemic.
Thankfully, it’s back and so am I. Hope you enjoy a serendipitous September, too.
(c)Tami Kamin Meyer, 2021, all rights reserved
This essay first appeared in the September 2021 issue of Write Now Columbus. Subscribe here.