Some writers are trying to take advantage of these new opportunities. A print feature will still command between a dollar-fifty and two dollars per word, sometimes more. By that metric, print pays better. Print newspapers are losing advertising at a similar rate. Many print stories also require a slightly different skill set than the one possessed by a generation raised on, and used to writing for, the internet. The web traditionally rewards writers who use their unique tone to stand out, while print traditionally offers more opportunity for reported pieces, especially at the length of a three-thousand-word-and-up feature.
If you put it all together, at the very least, freelance online work can be a significant part of a viable freelancer success story, the connective tissue in a career supplemented by occasional print work. Break your writing down on an hourly wage rather than a per-word basis, which is math that any smart freelancer does, and you learn that the five-hundred-dollar opinion piece you write for a website that took three hours makes more financial sense than the six-thousand-dollar piece you spent sixty hours reporting, writing, and re-writing over the course of a month for a national magazine.
The question is, how long will the relative good times of getting paid to write on the web last? Even venture dollars are exhaustible. Everybody in this world of internet publications is essentially providing content for them one way or another for free. Does that encourage writers to take risks in language, subject matter, or approach? Does it encourage editors to edit those stories or to edit those things out?
Does it encourage anybody to take financial or aesthetic risks? Does it impress anybody outside this world with the power, independence, and influence of any of these publications? SayMedia burned through a hundred million dollars.
Mic pivoted. The Dissolve disappeared.
Grantland is in flux. The Huffington Post could get sold for spare parts. A good summary here. And then there is a whole class of indie sites, outlets like this one, The Toast , and other media-world darlings that are struggling in a different way. A site needs a least twenty million unique visitors a month before most major advertising agencies will consider adding it as part of its media buy. Those networks continue to see falling CPM rates. Even a site with the best intentions can struggle to find solid financial footing.
I asked for three hundred and fifty dollars, arguing that it had a chance to find a massive audience. Because this piece is about what writers are paid, in the interest of doing something unusual and putting some skin in the game, as a one-time, one-off experiment, the Awl ultimately counter-proposed a base rate of two hundred dollars plus an additional dollar per thousand pageviews, which I accepted. The piece will be updated with the results in a month. You have to bet on yourself. The New York Times said goodbye to roughly a hundred editorial staffers , with a similar number gone from the Wall Street Journal.
Conde Nast might be shuttering Details and Self and will possibly unleash a bloodbath in the fall. Time Inc. In addition to creating a lack of outlets for writers, the hollowing out of the editor pool at most publications alters the details. Huge amounts of institutional knowledge and experience has been laid off or moved into new professions. How much can you learn by writing slideshows for ten dollars a slide? There are 58 pieces of varying lengths in this, her third collection of prose essays. Having only read her poetry prior to this year, I was surprised by the range of interests on display here.
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The material is organized into six main categories, ranging from the general to the particular and to the very personal. She also spends some time on Vancouver Island. She still gets around, on vacations, to do readings as in her trip to the Yukon in the spring , trips to seek out her roots in Ireland, memories of youthful excursions to various parts of Central and South America.
The latter took place during one of her first two marriages, this one to a fellow who turned out to be a drug smuggler. In March she told me that she never knows, when she starts writing, just exactly where the piece is going to go. Most lives are a bit like that; perhaps hers has been a bit more so than others. We get some of the love story, which began when she was asked to look at the manuscript for his novel, Jackrabbit Parole.
There are reflections on life in prison, family visits, and the regular indignities that go with all of that.
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Near the end are eulogies to three Canadian writers, two of whom I have been privileged to meet in the Yukon, and a sort of daily journal for the month of August, , which references a number of things that have been covered elsewhere in the book, ties up some loose ends, and gives some insight into the daily life of the writer.
Given the length of many of the essays, it was a handy book to have on hand when I had just a short space to pass while marking time for an appointment or waiting for a plane. Confession time. I have been a Cockburn fan since the early s, which puts me pretty close to the beginning of his solo career.
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I have Bruce copied on cassette tapes borrowed from friends in those days. Cockburn starts with the guitar. His devotion to the instrument is what launched him on the path he has followed throughout his career. Prior to going solo, he was in a number of groups, from rock to folk, and those influences have showed up in his playing all through his career.
They did, however, insist that he take guitar lessons. I learned some standard tunes and lot of basic guitar techniques.
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Four themes — the music, relationships, Christianity and human rights — chase themselves back and forth through this book. There are quite a few song lyrics in the text, preceded by his accounts of where they came from and what he was attempting to do with them. Cockburn can play blistering leads, and has done so on albums from his middle period on, but his basic fingering style is something that he calls a collision between the fingering patterns of his right hand and the somewhat jazz oriented chords that he learned to love with his left hand during his incomplete stay at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, which began when he as Relationships are a thorny subject for Cockburn.
It would be years before he would marry again, though he had a number of long term relationships including that one with Madame X, the married woman prior to finally marrying M. Hannett and embarking once more on parenthood. Some of the relationships he ended, others were ended for him as partners burned out bumping up against what he calls his own reclusiveness. Since then our relationship, like most relationships, has ebbed and flowed.
I have tried to keep Jesus the compassionate activist close to my heart, along with Jesus as portal to the cosmos, but I have long been leery of the dogma and doctrine that so many have attached to Christianity as well as to most other religions. About those guns. Cockburn took up shooting as a hobby sport after losing most of the sight in one eye.
In the case of the following two books I interviewed the writers and prepared profiles of them for the Star this past fall. His crimes caught up with the family after they moved to Vancouver and had a tremendous impact on their lives after that. This delightful book works on a number of levels.
It is a memoir about growing up in rural Yukon. For all the pain and stigma that Gerry Priest inflicted on his family, the parts of the book about life in Elsa are full of joy and happiness and bring to life the late s and early s in a very real way. It is also a mystery story, as Priest, the journalist, tries to piece together the somewhat fragmentary evidence and figure out just how her father and his partner in crime pulled it off. They were caught almost by accident and, as she says, the methods that were used to catch them, as well as the way in which the evidence vanished, would probably have made it impossible to convict them if the same thing were to have happened a few years later.
Priest was pushed to finish this book, on which she had already been working for a year, when she was diagnosed with ALS, By the time of the book launch in Whitehorse last fall she was no longer able to speak and her husband, Ben, had to handle all the public chores. She is active in the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, and has served as its president. I met Metcalfe-Chenail during her stint as writer-in-residence at Berton House, where she had come with the express purpose of researching this book.
Many writers come to Dawson with a specific project in mind. Some of them get completed; some get pushed to the side as the Klondike takes hold of the writers and inspires new ideas. Along with the residency she had scored an unrelated Canada Council grant, and the combination of the two gave her the luxury to use Dawson as a home base from which to travel all over the Yukon in search of materials for what she believes is the first detailed history of flying in the Canadian North.
There are lots of books about flying in the North, but most seem to focus on bush pilots or the life of a particular individual. Metcalfe-Chenail went well beyond that, fleshing out the military and police experiences, telling a few of he harrowing stories of the North and also giving a glimpse at what could be the very routine life of a pilot. As much as the book is about flying, it is also about the impact that the fliers had on the places they visited and how they knit the North together.
She set out to produce a Northern book. Bookends: How to survive a death sentence with a lot of help from your friends. After several novels dealing with life on the Indian subcontinent, he had decided to write a book about the immigrant experience.
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Since he himself had been shipped off to school in England in his teens he had a lot off personal perspective to bring to the questions of cultural dislocation that people from his home country have experienced after such transitions. The two central characters are Indians of a Muslim background who are trying extra hard to fit into British society. They are involved in a plane crash from which they are magically rescued and, after that, their lives take strange paths.
Both of them take on supernatural characteristics; one is angelic, the other devilish.
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The book was well received and was runner-up for the Booker Prize, but trouble soon began as conservative Muslims began to attack it as blasphemous. The book was burned. Rushdie was threatened and in February the Ayatollah Khomeini who is transparently referenced in the novel declared a fatwa, or death sentence, on the writer and his publishers. At one point the bounty offered for his death was in the millions of dollars. Over the next few years his Japanese translator was murdered and his Italian translator stabbed. His Norwegian publisher was shot three times and a plot against his Turkish translator led to the massacre of 37 people in Turkey.
Rushdie was placed under the protection of the British security service. They provided the operatives and vehicles, but he had to bear the cost and the chore of finding safe houses in which to live and, of course, cover his own living expenses during the decade. It is indeed fortunate that he was able to generate enough income to do so in spite of the constraints and turmoil in his life.