And The Beat goes on….online!

As many of you may know, The Beat Magazine ceased publication at the end of the summer. From our first issue in September 2009 to our last in August 2013, being Beat editor was a wonderful professional and personal adventure. But as the saying goes: all good things must come to an end.

The Beat

The Beat ended on a high note with our 2013 Summer issue.

As it turns out, some good things are harder to kill than others, and after an outpouring of support from readers and the local arts community, Beat publisher Richard Young decided to keep our website up and running.

While this means I’m out of a job as a magazine editor, I do get to continue doing one of my favourite things – interviewing and writing stories about the local classical music scene.

Most recently, I chatted with the always charming and very knowledgeable Renee Silberman of Serenata Music, who is presenting an evening of music banned by the Nazis in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Renee Silberman

Serenata Music’s Renee Silberman.

The November 9 concert, co-sponsored by the London Jewish Community Centre, features music by composers who were persecuted and often murdered by the Nazi regime.

Writing the story got me thinking about music as a political force. And while it’s somewhat difficult for us to imagine the arts posing any sort of threat to the government, Renee points out that the Nazis were experts in mass manipulation and that culture can indeed play a large role in defining social norms.

(Just look at the ongoing debate about Miley Cyrus’ onstage antics and whether she is a feminist icon celebrating her sexuality or merely another young women exploited by a money-hungry patriarchy. Whatever your opinion on the matter, the fact remains that we’ve come a long way since Elvis’ hip action was considered too risque for television.)

Another ongoing local debate is London’s need for a performing arts venue. To make a long story short, our city is the only one of its size in Canada without a proper venue – but we still can’t seem to convince enough people that this matters.

So when I had the opportunity to interview Orchestra London conductor Alain Trudel about this season’s Opening Night, I couldn’t resist asking him what he thought Londoners were missing out on.

Alain Trudel

Alain Trudel had an unexpected answer for my question about a Performing Arts Centre.

His answer was not about the orchestra’s need for a hall with decent acoustics or site-lines. It was about the need for a place for the community to come together to make music.

I’m looking forward to continuing to share those community stories with Beat readers, both in regular feature stories and in my monthly Classical Q&A columns.  And if you’ve got an arts story that needs to be heard, please drop us a line! You can still reach me at thebeateditor[at]gmail[dot]com.

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Embracing the summer slowdown

Or what I plan to do on my Summer Vacation

Now that summer has officially arrived, the media is full of articles offering advice on how small business owners can make the most of the summer slowdown.

Summer slowdown

The summer slowdown is here!

Network, catch up on your business-related reading, ramp up your social media presence, revamp your website, and reassess your professional goals seem to be the most popular suggestions. They’re all great ideas – but here’s another one:

Turn off the computer, close the office door, and give yourself permission to play hooky from work and have some fun.

And that’s exactly what I plan to do over the next 8 weeks!

A wonderfully-busy work schedule, a tenacious winter cold, and some family health crises (thankfully resolved) have left me feeling tired and emotionally drained.  So I’ve decided to give myself the same kind of complete summer break enjoyed by people with ‘real’ jobs.

Of course, I do plan to catch up with colleagues over lunch, and I do have two feature stories and two websites to write before Labour Day weekend rolls around. But I won’t be spending the short summer months actively looking for my next gig.

Nicole Laidler, writing

I hope to spend plenty of time doing ‘nothing’ this summer!

It’s a scary thought for a freelancer used to living with one eye on the current project and the other on the lookout for the next.

My goal is to hit September refreshed, re-energized, and roaring to go. So here’s to the summer slowdown, and to having faith that my first fall blog won’t be entitled ‘Help – I need to find work!’

What are your thoughts on taking a self-imposed vacation?

To learn more about my writing life, visit www.spilledink.ca

Outside the comfort zone

If anyone had told me 20 years ago that I’d be spending much of my time interviewing scientists, I’d have told them to think again.

You see, I was a typical arts student – someone who quit science as soon as possible, right after Grade 10 Physics. Instead of learning the periodic table, I studied French, Spanish, History, Literature and lots and lots of Music.

I only took Grade 13 Calculus because my economist father insisted. For the record, I got an ‘A,’ although I can’t say that it’s ever come in handy!

Calculus

I got an ‘A’ – but still don’t know what this means!

So I’m pleasantly surprised at how much fun I’ve been having writing stories about some of the cutting-edge research being done at Western University.

In March, I had the opportunity to interview two members of the engineering department – professors Jason Gerhard and Greg Kopp.

Kopp is a wind engineer who works at the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory, where models of some of the world’s most famous skyscrapers and bridges are tested before being built.  I was there to ask him about his research at the “Three Little Pigs” facility – otherwise known as the Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes.

Three Little Pigs

Professor Kopp is working to make sure your home never gets blown down!

In a nutshell, Kopp and his colleagues get to build full-scale houses and then try to blow them down – mimicking and studying the effects of hurricane force winds. The point, of course, is to make recommendations to building code regulations that will make all of our homes safer.

You can read about his work here.

Then, it was time to think about toilets – or the lack of them in most parts of the world.

Professor Jason Gerhard is part of a team that placed third in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Their mission? To develop a cheap and effective toilet that runs without outside electricity or a sewer connection for the estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide who currently don’t have access to safe sanitation.

Toilet bowl

An estimated 2.5 billion people don’t have access to a toilet.

You can read about Gerhard’s contribution to the project here.

Was it scary to interview people who spend their lives working in disciplines that I have always done my best to avoid? A bit. But I did lots of background reading – on the professors, their projects, and the issues at hand.

It was fascinating to learn about their work, and fun to have the opportunity to ask all the ‘dumb’ questions necessary to write stories for a general audience.

And despite being a science neophyte, I guess I got most of my facts straight, because I’ve already accepted my next assignment!

The moral of this blog? That your comfort zone may be bigger than you think!

What’s the scariest story you’ve ever written?

www.spilledink.ca 

5 ways to boost your writing business in 2013

One of the best things about being a member of the Professional Writer’s Association of Canada is the chance to meet other local freelancers. And earlier this month I had the opportunity to host our Chapter’s first writer’s luncheon.

Held upstairs at London, Ontario’s Covent Gardent Market, we used the occasion to share our writing goals for 2013.

The view from the Covent Garden Market mezzanine.

The view from the Covent Garden Market mezzanine.

Here are five great ideas that came out of the discussion:

Write your goals down
Whether you use pen and paper or an electronic spread sheet, you’ll be more likely to achieve your objectives if you take the time to write them down.  Weekly and monthly to-do lists are a great way to stay on track. In the same way, an annual to-do list can reduce distractions in your long term quest for business success.

Write down how you plan to implement your goals
Goals are no good if they’re just pie-in-the-sky. If you want to crack a national publication or land a new corporate client it’s a good idea to come up with some concrete and measurable steps you can take to turn your dream into a reality. It’s even better if you write them down!

Diversify your income stream
While some swear that niche writing is where it’s at, I’ve found taking on a variety of projects is the key to staying busy.  If you’re good with words as a freelance journalist, you can quickly learn the skills needed to cross over to the ‘dark side’ as a copywriter.

Make time for marketing
While you’re earning a living creating compelling copy for your corporate clients don’t forget about crafting your own marketing messages. In this day and age a website is a necessity, not a luxury. A Blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Pinterest are other online tools that can showcase your skills and keep your name out there. And don’t forget to make time for some good old fashioned face-to-face networking!

Make time for the rest of your life
It may sound counter intuitive  but taking regular breaks from your work life can keep you refreshed and ready to write. Some people block out down time during the week. Others set aside weekends for family and friends. Just because you happen to work from home doesn’t mean you should always be home working! Set your boundaries and respect them.

What do you hope to accomplish this year?

Learn more about my writing business at www.spilledink.ca