What’s Your Favorite Writing Song?

“Paperback Writer” by the Beatles seems obvious but 4 Non Blonde’s “What’s Up” has always struck me as the most powerful song about creativity desperately trying to express itself:

And so I cry sometimes
When I’m lying in bed just to get it all out
What’s in my head
And I, I am feeling a little peculiar

Writing is so limited. It can’t offer what music can: writing and instruments and vocals. And then add film. This video of the Rolling Stones gives me fits of elation and depression. Through words, music, and images they convey more fully through film and sound than any writing alone can. When Jagger sings “The sunshine bores the daylights out of me”, along with his band’s accompaniment, I want to give up writing. What’s the point?

Someone asked George Thorogood why he covered so many Bo Diddley songs instead of writing his own rock and roll numbers. “Why?” he said. “Bo Diddley has written them all.”

“I walked forty-seven miles of barbed wire, I got a cobra snake for a necktie
A brand new house on the road side, and it’s a-made out of rattlesnake hide
Got a brand new chimney put on top, and it’s a-made out of human skull
Come on take a little walk with me baby, and tell me who do you love?
Who do you love?”

“Who do you love?”

Magazine article Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

Feeling Humble Today

Got the latest issue of Outdoor California (external link) yesterday and I am feeling both pride and humility. I enjoyed seeing my two articles in the issue, of course, but there is something more than that. I am proud of being in the pages of such a visually stunning and well written magazine. It reminds me very much of Audubon Magazine that I read while I was growing up.

As I write my next article for the title, I am keeping humble thoughts in mind, aware that I am in the company of some truly great writers and photographers. Also, the editor did a tremendous job with my writing; the piece is far better now than when I submitted it.

Featured in the current issue is a major photography contest. Co-winners of Overall First Place in the 2017 Wildlife Photo of The Year Contest are these two photographers. You can see their work at these pages. Shravan won for his bobcat photo and Beth won for her sunflower with bee photo. Congratulations!

Shravan Sundaram

Beth Savidge

Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

Where Do They Get The Time?

From Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories:

Sandy Bates: But shouldn’t I stop making movies and do something that counts, like-like helping blind people or becoming a missionary or something?

Voice of Martian: Let me tell you, you’re not the missionary type. You’d never last. And, and incidentally, you’re also not Superman; you’re a comedian. You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.

That quote comes to mind after reading most of a long winded New Yorker article entitled What Julio Cortázar Might Teach Us About Teaching Writing (external link). In it, the conventional teaching writing model, advice on improving your craft, is supplemented or replaced by the idea that you should use your writing to improve society. Pasha Malla quotes Viet Thanh Nguyen:

“As a young aspiring writer, I was troubled by how these workshops, aside from the ‘art’ of writing, did not have anything to say about the matters that concerned me: politics, history, theory, philosophy, ideology.”

Malla writes a little by himself in this selection and quotes Cortázar again, “As Cortázar’s social awareness developed, he decided that the purpose of writing was to ‘counteract as much as possible the propaganda of those in power.’ This project required not only engagement in the present moment but an awareness of social context and historical precedent.” And that as writers, “‘[W]e should have the fundamental obligation to analyze and, in some cases, to criticize, and, if really necessary, to destroy.'”

I don’t get it. I struggle with every sentence and every paragraph I write. I work under deadline. I’m lucky to finish six 2,000 word articles a year, my slowness due to perfectionism, research, internet writing, and handling the demands that life requires of us all: grocery shopping, talking to friends, dealing with money, cleaning my apartment, getting my truck serviced, going to the dentist, and so on. I cannot begin to think how I am supposed to enlarge my mission beyond the requirements my editors set and the deadlines imposed by them.

Where in a story to appear in Rock&Gem Magazine am I going to war against the establishment? And if I am going to write like Rage Against The Machine, who is going to pay for that drivel? Who wants to hear it? Where is the market? I’m politically aware and I contribute when I can to certain causes. But don’t ask me to politicize my writing. I’m here to inform on the subjects my editor and I have agreed upon. I’m not a politician. To paraphrase Woody Allen, I’ll make the world better by being a better writer.

A Last Thought

Orwell is my favorite writer. A completely political writer. I don’t know how he supported his writing. I think he had sponsors with money. His finances are a mystery but at different times he packed off to France and once to Spain to fight in Catalonia.  His career was successful from the start and he often got editing gigs and for a long time worked for the BBC. Perhaps you can be a political writer if that is what you specialize in and you are brilliant. As for the rest of us pedestrian writers, there will always be a need for someone to describe a duck refuge or where to look for garnets.

job application tips Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

Poll: Would You Consider LinkedIn For Seeking Freelance Work?

LinkedIn starts at $24.95 a month. Would you consider it for seeking freelance work? If you are using it right now, and you’ve been successful, vote yes.

Magazine article Photography Uncategorized

A Few Photography Tips On Storing And Reviewing Files

I’m a reluctant professional photographer. I say that because I am paid for the photographs I take to go along with the articles I write. But I  don’t have the patience or temperament that a true professional has, someone who makes their money solely from photography. Mostly, I am overwhelmed by the amount of photos I produce and by the task of keeping track of them. A few hints.

Review and Delete Unneeded Photos Before Storing Them

Ideally, you should review all your images on your camera before going through the hassle of transferring and then backing up these files. Delete photos on your camera first that are obviously no good and not worth keeping. This is a little easier said than done because your camera’s tiny screen often makes reviewing difficult.

Transfer and Back up your photos

Once you’ve deleted as many files as you can, transfer them to your computer and back them up. I’ve set up my Mac and Dropbox account to automatically store my photos. As soon as I connect my camera to my Mac, files are saved to its hard drive and to Dropbox . I once lost some .cr2 files at Dropbox but that was last year and I haven’t had a problem since. At this point I have my files stored in three places: the memory card in the camera, my hard drive, and at Dropbox. What’s next?

Format Your Memory Card to Prepare for Your Next Photo Session

Everything I’ve read and heard says that you should format your camera’s memory card after each session. To remove extraneous file information that might corrupt the next photos you take. Perhaps that’s good practice. But I wince every time I do this, even though I have my files backed up. It seems to me that if you have really valuable photographs, ones that can’t be taken again, you may want to retire that memory stick and take your next photos with a new one. At least until you’ve processed the images from that last session.

Logically Select Files to Be Put Into a Logically Named Folder Names

When I upload to Dropbox I am left with individual files, all needing a folder. My Mac lets me create a new folder of my naming with a group of files . Yes, that command is under the “File” tab.

Rename Files So You Can Find Them

My camera produces file names with dates and strange numbers. Can’t find anything that way. Review every file at this point to determine if you want to keep it, and if so, to rename it so you can find it. So, instead of this file name:

2017-10-21 11.13.49.cr2

We now have something like this:


Always keep the file extension. And if you are really paranoid, and I am, make sure file names have these symbols between words in a file name: “-” or “_”. In the case of a multi-word possum file name, we would have:


For reasons I can’t explain, multi-word files on the internet do poorly when not connected with a dash or underline symbol. Some servers and programs insert symbols like “&” when they see a blank space in a file name. Without them, your file name may become different and often unreadable. If this seems strange, somewhat unbearable, and tiring, yes, I agree. I am a reluctant professional.

One last word!

Divided file names work better with the internal search engine of most computers. Possum_in_the_dark.cr2 is more likely searched than, say Possuminthedark.cr2.

Photography Uncategorized

The Mojave Desert In One Picture

My road trip through the Mojave proved successful but I’ll be going back soon. Just one picture from my trip. This is the Mojave Trail Road, along the Mojave River, some miles outside of Newberry Springs. Click here for a bigger picture. (internal link)


Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

News and Notes

I’m happy to report I’m working on another outdoor magazine assignment. I’ll be traveling soon to the Mojave Desert to start taking photographs and to conduct interviews. Looks like the weather will be good.

I’ve also been asked to submit a complete book proposal to a local publisher. He and I are on good terms, although every idea I have sent to him has been deemed non-commercial. In fact, we are on such good terms that I was able to send him a book pitch that took only twenty minutes to write and was just four paragraphs. I sent that short pitch to him, knowing there was no reason to send a complete pitch if he didn’t like my idea to begin with. Well, he does like my current idea so he’s asking for the following:

  • A cover letter, including: a brief summary of the book, the approximate length (word count) of your manuscript, and why you think your book is a good fit for us.
  • A table of contents or outline of the book’s contents
  • Two sample chapters
  • Any photographs or illustrations you believe might assist us in evaluating your proposal (do not send originals!)
  • A brief list of similar or competitive books, including title, author, publisher, ISBN number, and date of publication. (These are all available on and other online booksellers.) Tell us what makes your book unique. How does it differ from your competition? (This is vitally important information — please take the time to research thoroughly and think about it carefully.)
  • Marketing and publicity plans or ideas
  • A description of your book’s target audience (Please be as specific as possible.)
  • A brief autobiographical summary or résumé. What do you, as the author, bring to the project?
  • Your mailing address, daytime phone number, and e-mail address

Whoo! Quite a list. But very typical for a book proposal. I am now starting to think about how to do all of this. Two sample chapters. Tough. But the door is open. Now, I have to walk through it.

Wonderful site on the Mojave here (external link) Picture from their website.

Magazine article Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

My Outdoor California Article is Going to Print!

It’s always a wonderful feeling when an article nears publication. I’ve been sent a .pdf of my most recent magazine article to review and to submit corrections. The article is on the Yolo Bypass which is near Sacramento. Entitled High Water Legacy, it chronicles the role the bypass plays in providing wildlife habitat and flood control. The magazine is hard copy only, so I can’t point you to any online presence. The photograph below isn’t the issue I am appearing in, it’s just a typical cover. What’s the magazine about? As they put it,

Outdoor California Magazine

The Official California Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Magazine

Each issue offers California at its best—compelling stories on the state’s native species and habitat, presented with page after page of beautiful photographs. All of this plus the Thin Green Line, which chronicles California’s war against poachers!

How did I get my bypass article query letter accepted? Although some of it is luck, because you never know what an editor needs at any given moment, some it is not luck.

I had previously written on the bypass for the West Sacramento News-Ledger. I became an occasional reporter for that paper by doing my first two articles for free. After that, I did a number of stories, all for $25 an article. But the money wasn’t really the issue. I got paid, something, I got a byline, and I got published. Look at my story titles below.

Can you see yourself working for a weekly or a community newspaper? Query the editor with pitches and see where it leads. The idea is that one door leads to another. Years ago, writing about telecom on the web lead me to be accepted by several magazines and then I eventually landed an appearance on the History Channel. Can you think how the articles below might lead me to other articles? Keep writing!

The Outdoors Next Door: Exploring the Yolo Bypass 

The Port of West Sacramento is on a Path to Profitability 

West Sacramento’s CERT: Educate, Prepare and Assist

The TBD Fest: West Sacramento Hosts the Area’s Largest Music Festival

West Sacramento Reacts to TBD 

The West Sacramento Historical Society: Looking Forward and Back 

The Yolo Education Center: Helping Students Achieve Success

All Politics are Local

Retired Assistant City Manager Carol Richardson Looks Back

A Historic Firehouse Reborn

The Sail Inn is Back In Port

Artwork for Joey Lopes Park

West Sacramento Waterfront Stories

Chando’s Tacos Expands to West Sacramento

The California Highway Patrol Academy

The Sail Inn

Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Should You Market Yourself As A Niche Writer?

Is there any advantage in selling your writing by specialty? In other words, instead of advertising yourself as a freelance writer, would it be better to emphasize the work you do best or most often?

As an example, my biggest income stream comes from blogging for trial lawyers. I do this through my Vancouver employer. Mostly, I write posts about traffic accidents. But I don’t pursue similar work. Should I? Since websites are so cheap these days, should I have a website dedicated to my writing in that space?

Another example. I recently got a second assignment from a respected outdoor magazine. This will be my seventh article in two years about the outdoors. Five articles were for Rock&Gem. There I covered rocks and minerals. Now I am writing about wildlife. Again, would it profit me to set up a small website to highlight outdoor writing?

One would always have to have a general freelancer website. Just recently, for, I completed articles on restoring Mustangs, Buick Regals, and BMWs. No, I am not a mechanic. I also did an article on taking care of custom car covers and one on how to make bedrooms safer for the elderly or the infirm. I’m glad I could write those articles but collectively, none of those topics has a focus.

There are many reasons to specialize and on the net you can find arguments for doing so.  One writer mentions less competition. Read what she says:

“On the other hand, if you have a freelance writing niche like wedding industry blogging, or copywriting for commodity businesses, or ghostwriting for business executives, or home decor writer and you tailor your site accordingly, you’ll have a much, much better chance of ranking on the first page of search results because there are will be far fewer good sites on the internet to compete with yours.”

I don’t like the idea of making my life more complicated by adding more websites and business cards. Perhaps I should rearrange this existing website to have separate pages or chapters to highlight different areas. What do you think? I am just thinking aloud but I find the arguments for specializing compelling.


Stanton Delaplane Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

More from Delaplane

Effortless writing. Notice how many times he contrasts the word soft with the word hard. It’s such an obvious and repeated gimmick that its like being hit with a sledgehammer. A velvet sledgehammer. For more from Delaplane, go here (internal link)

Postcards From Delaplane

September 11, 1956

This is National Soft Water Week. Sponsored by the Water Conditioning Research Council.

The water at my home is hard. If I write the council at 111 W. Washington street, Chicago 2, 111., they will send me “fundamental information on the benefits of softened or conditioned water.”

This is an attractive offer. I am conditioned to unconditioned water. I think what we need around here is a National Soft Life Week. I wonder if you could work that in? With the water?

Life, like our water, has been getting terribly hard lately.

Take a simple thing like warm weather. We had a spell of warm days recently. Like we get in the autumn. I mean the night stayed warm too.

Usually it chills up around here at night. But when it stays warm, we usually give the flowers a good watering. They don’t seem to care whether the water is hard or soft.

Water brings out yellow jackets in the early evening. Mosquitos in the late evening. I don’t intend to make things easier for either of them by softening the water. Let them take it the way it is. Hard.

Speaking of yellow jackets, I sat on one yesterday. It is still painful.

This is how hard life is around here. If you got stung ordinarily, it is a matter of sympathy.

But if you sit on one and get stung, it is comedy. Everybody in the neighborhood had a real good laugh out of this and the dog barked like crazy.

I resented it. I am a serious person, not a comedian, and object to being placed in a slapstick role. Also when everybody else is laughing, you are supposed to laugh too.

If you don’t, you have no sense of humor That is about the worst thing you can say about a person these days. “He has no sense of humor.”

I laughed. But I came within a whisper of braining a few of my fellow men.

It seems a fair extravagance to set up a council on conditioning water. When I am all out of condition myself. And could use a high-powered council to give me “fundamental information” on coping with everyday life.

Keeping one jump ahead of ruin is just about all I can do. And to ask me to think about softening my water when life is so brittle well, it seems frivolous.

“Much water goes by the mill that the miller knoweth not of,” says the proverb.

Kick that one around in a council meeting sometime. It is a sensible way of looking at it.

Whenever we do much watering around here, it brings the deer down from the hills.

You may think that is a rather lovely thing. But that is because you are softening water and not raising petunias. A medium-size doe can barber the flowers off a petunia bed in less than 15 minutes. And loves to do it.

There are a pair of does who come down almost every evening and stand around the yard waiting for a blossom to pop open. They have soft brown eyes and hard white teeth.

They drink out of the dog’s pan and I certainly do not incline to soften the water for them.

This is in no way to bum-rap your council. Or put a knock on soft water. I just wanted you to know what I am up against generally. So you could gear your program to my needs. Send the “fundamental information.” I am ready to be benefitted. Ready to be conditioned.