Web Hosting Buzz, as a fix for Bluehost

web-hosting-buzz-logoI like, and am moving to Web Hosting Buzz for hosting sites of mine, or to answer the needs of my clients.

I have been with Bluehost and others for many years, but am eager to change, and I will tell you why.

When I first got Bluehost, in like 2008, it was much more of an issue then to have the right hosting provider for your sites. As it is now, there are many languages to achieve any specific thing…but these languages, coding and platforms used to fight a lot more back then than they do today. It polarized hosts to be one team or the other. And things like cPanel and even Linux for a while were not universal, like it is today.

So at the time, Bluehost made things I needed simple and cheap…I could get stacked Windows or Linux hosting, with an uncluttered cPanel, and not worry on it to much- so I did.

I financed it, by becoming an affiliated sales rep- I sold it, as soon as I embarked. My first sales paved my way for years-of-hosting, and it continued to pay for itself, and a little more.

I truly liked it for a while, too – it was a clean, quick host, uncluttered.

Yet over time, the things I liked about Bluehost were replaced by examples of corporate bloat. The service and support I liked on entering, were eventually melted into a 3rd world, phone-it-in kind of thing, every time. Got to where I always knew more than the support person, which sucked.

As they grew bigger, their customer support became weaker overall but it was always kind of nebulous… you might find great help or nothing- no telling which-and all of it took more time to deliver in the years progressing, every time I had to tap support for anything.

I was also experiencing some technical issues, like slow speeds, hacked sites, and down time – none of it explained to me. Ever. No central feeling here, whatsoever- every call was a new walk in the park. There was even a day when all of my sites went down for about 5 hours with only a very feeble explanation as to why.

Things were getting pretty nutty out there, but I had questions about what was happening in hosting and only one guy was constant, always, with the goods- a guy in a forum I knew named Matt Russell.

Dedicated Servers

Every time there was a burble in hosting services, Matt (who runs Web Hosting Buzz, as well as Namecheap and god knows what else) would tell us all (in the forum) what happened- while Bluehost remained mute. Remember when I mentioned where all my sites in there went down for about a half day, and I was freaked? Matt privately said to me what was happening, and after a short time, it proved exactly true. Did not fix it, or assuage my freaking out then (they had to fix the servers), but it helped knowing why, and I even emailed Bluehost to fix it…and it made me realize I was getting the shaft in my hosting…I was a number to Bluehost. Everyone is.

I wanted service that was smart and dependable- like what Matt always offered. Like what I used to get from Bluehost, but saw less and less of as time went by.

I think Bluehost SUCKS.

I started moving things over to Web Hosting Buzz, and I will actively support them as my new and improved hosting option.

Immediately, the interface is SOOOOO much faster, and uncluttered by sales pitches. I also had a support thing already (I signed up like an idiot) and they answered me within an hour, and solved it for me, immediately. They also offer a service – free – to move over cPanel accounts.

Let that sink in.

Yep – they will move all your Bluehost sites out, free.

I have a bunch in Bluehost, so I am going to take them up on it. [LATER NOTE: did, it was amazing…so nice for a host to offer this-ml]

I will round out any obligations to Bluehost without seeking refunds, but I am not impressed by what growth did to a company I liked. I no longer like Bluehost, and will stop offering it as a reliable, cheap option.It may be these things for other folks, but to me, it has been a cheapie-PIA, that always seems to get worse. I quit, as an affiliate.

My needs, though kind of demanding at times, are small. I am willing to put my money on the fact a guy like Matt only does business one way…I think his company answers my needs much better than Bluehost has been doing in the last 3 years or so. Absolutely held true so far.

Web Hosting Buzz is a reliable, trustworthy and safe host, fast and easy to work with. Cheap, too. Their support rules so far.

I felt for a long time, griping was not the thing to do – either do it, or change it. But I had prepaid for 5 years at Bluehost, so was simply letting it be.

I don’t like Bluehost anymore though, not at all, and I want professional distance. In the past couple weeks, an issue occurred where automatic updates to WP installs (which is a preset in most updated sites) had a conflict with a folder permission default, so it whitescreened the sites. I had 6 of them go – but by the 3rd one, I started doing a quick update, which turned out to fix it every time. It took me hours – and I mean hours – on the phone with BH support finding the issue, and fixing it in one site – and it was me who suggested the fix. The tech was simply doing his job, but he didn’t have enough in the toolkit to help me. I helped him instead- and that is silly.

I also had a site that was having issues, so I logged into the cPanel to see what I could see – and the files literally started to disappear on me…until the entire site was gone. We (me and 2 support techs) fished a copy off a mirrored backup, but I never saw anything like that in all the years I have hosted sites. No explanation, apology or otherwise- but I spent good hours fixing that mess which turned out to be 100% on them.

Just shaky service, overdone sales pitches, and all kinds of crap I don’t want to sidestep every time I admin my accounts.

Conversely, Web Hosting Buzz seems to be a great fit—all of the service and scale-ready technology I want, at a price point I can readily afford. Love it, so far.

In.

[NOTE: Later add: loving WHB, still, months later. -ml]

Bluehost White Screen of Death on WP: Simple Fix

I have hosted sites for over 13 years. I went to Bluehost in like 2009 I think, because I needed a simple service, offering me a cheap option for Linux.

This week, at least 5 sites I have hosted there got hit by the white screen of death.

I have fixed all but one- which had deeper issues…but all the rest, turned out to be due to a Bluehost thing.

The default permissions on a critical folder, are set to not write – so an update happening, would hit this folder and not update the files it holds. They will point out I could change the permissions here- but it is not something you do, unless very intentionally directed.

So the WordPress site, set to automatic upgrades, tried to upgrade, and did it, about 9/10ths of the way-  but one file in particular on Bluehost, does not update for sure: wp-includes/formatting.php

This makes the whole site white out, and makes it impossible to admin thru WordPress.

I found, if you take the formatting.php file from a clean version of WordPress 4.0 and overwrite the local on your whited-out site (there are no unique identifiers in this file, it is a core wp file), you are gold.

Sometimes, it may be a plugin issue- but in the sites I put back online this week, all of them were on Bluehost, got whitecreened by a WP upgrade to 4.0, and all of them needed this file update.

Happily, after the first one, which took a couple hours to find and fix, this makes it fast and easy. At least to rule it out.

But God- Bluehost can suck it: I am done with these losers. Sorry for steering anyone that way, ever. They made simple muddy, and ruined the things that made them good.

Maui Beach Fishing

Being spoiled, I just got back from 2 weeks in Maui on Kaanapali Beach.  Being me, I of course fished a lot of it: pretty much in fact every day there. Saw multiple sunrises and saw sunset every day I was there. Rod in hand, as is my M.O.


zach-sunset-fishingWhile I have never fished so far south, I had a general idea of what I’d find and got a lot of help from this one great thread about Maui fishing…yet artificial was not happening for me. Or rather, frozen squid was hitting for us every cast, so why argue with what works.

zach-fish-tinyYep- everyday was a pretty little postcard here – it is truly paradise as far as I could see. But beach fishing is different everywhere and our first plunk in, we lost so many rigs (like every other cast) on the reefs and rocks and the fish we did catch, were tiny and often weird to us. Cool to see in this regard…but not quite what we were expecting. They were all toothy and spiny, so hard for us novices to grab safely.

Not so easy to capture the beauty of some of the little fish either. But it was fun. When I finally did catch something bigger, it was a very nasty eel who had wrapped the steel leader around his own neck and made it really hard to grab him.

 

I tried to get him safely behind the head but he coiled around and tried to bite me a few times and was full-body-strong, like a shark. His jaws were pretty terrifying–coming at me with a clearly audible snapping noise that suggested a very powerful bite indeed. He was like a dinosaur that made it. Not that he made it past our encounter, but I’ll spare you the details.

And so thru trial and error and a few days of trying various things (which tended to result in losing a lot of stuff on reefs and rocks),  we found an egg slip sinker and pinch weight with a small hook holding frozen squid strips was perfect. Kind of like a pegged Carolina rig, but using egg weights pegged with a pinch weight, not bullet weights.

The huma huma nuka nuka apua’a bites back

humahumanukanukaapuaaIn no time, we met with the huma huma nuka nuka apua’a- a cool looking little bastard that is everywhere- and is Hawaii’s state fish. One of these guys I caught (and there were many of them) was about 3 pounds, so a fattie- I was rubbing his bottom lip to ease his mouth open and get the hook out, and  he bit me on the index finger. Hard.

red goatfish Maui beach fishingI yelled-I swore at him, shouting “You little f-bomb!” much louder than I had intended. Some old leather-skinned guy in cheap mirrored aviators and a faded bathing suit that I could sense, much like his baked alligator skin, reeked of cigarettes, said to me with disgust: “You know its the state fish and you can’t eat him, right? You gonna throw him back, right?” I mumbled something and tried to stop the bleeding- wanting more to club the old wallet built man with the stupid state fish who bit harder than a motherhummer. But of course he, like all the fish I caught on the beach except the eel, made it back into the water, unharmed. He drew blood and my finger hurt for days, so don’t take any of these dudes for granted. Because they eat off rocks and reefs they have super strong bites, and most have teeth, though more like molars than sharp ones.

All my other encounters with this fish, which were many, were very good. Made me learn how to say and spell it- and they get to be a few pounds and will hit quickly and fight, hard. I got to a point where I could feel them pick it up opposed to other fish- so catching one was something I did a lot. I saw this guy as Maui’s bluegill, and some squid would pull one out even if nothing else was anywhere close. If you beach fish in Maui/Kaanapali, you will catch the huma huma nuka nuka apua’a…it is a sure safe bet, and other than not keeping him (if you are looking for fish to eat) worth it for sure to catch a bunch. Made me popular with the tourists, who were happy to see me catching them a lot.

picasso triggerfish beach fishing MauiA close relative, is the Picasso triggerfish, whose stripes certainly had different shades working underwater. This little guy was pretty common, and super pretty underwater. The belly stripes on some, either reflect color or are colored differently- hard to say, but you can see it in a variety of the same fish.

Triggerfish, plain looking ones, are also really common little bait-stealers. I laughed, because the guy in the thread I linked up top, calls triggerfish “Hate” and I didn’t get it until after I fished there. But they eat your bait a lot, and compared to the excellent stuff you land are more of a junk fish down here.

And though I tried local jigs, it was frozen squid all the way, that really worked. The guys at All About Fish offered some great tips and inexpensive lures to try, but artificial was not happening for me.

The gear going down and what worked for me

Being a vacationing angler always presents interesting challenges in gear. You don’t quite know what to bring, what will work, and it can be very expensive for a thing like this…extra baggage on airplanes (like rods) cost now and we were already bringing a bunch of stuff for the long stay. So my wife and I figured out the smart thing to do, was pack a smaller tackle box and some reels and buy rods on the island. We did just that, going to Costco on the way in where I found 2 cheap Shimanos for about $18 each, which seemed perfect.

spotted fish in Maui beach fishingThis actually was a great way to handle it, though most of the lures I brought, I stopped throwing (and losing) pretty quickly. All my hooks and stuff were much larger than what I was using – there were hilariously small hooks down there, because a lot of these fish have tiny mouths. I hit All About Fish as a local bait shop on the first day there and the guy there helped me pick out a bunch of weights and rigs. But we had 3 reels and 2 new cheap rods to allow us to get lines in the water the first night.

maui goatfishI had a spool of 15 pound test, some braided line, and some 50 pound leader. I also had a lot of coated, pre-rigged steel leaders, hooks and weights from shark fishing in Hilton Head. However, the way they suggested to fish here used a 3 way swivel- which was a way I lost a lot of rigs. In trying different things, we came up with tying a steel leader straight on the 15 pound test, and using a large egg sinker over the leader. We added in a pinch weight to peg off the egg- so your bait (conceptually) would float the length you pegged…a few feet off the bottom was working for us. This rig did not catch up as often, and allowed us to get the bait in front of different fish.

We tried variations with the braided line, but it was very hard to use compared to the mono even as leader. When you pull on a snag with braid, the braid locks down where mono has a bit more give, and you are gonna hook up a ton here. Rocks and reefs are where the fish are, so you gotta figure out how to hit them and not shred or tangle everything doing it. Plus, the waves push things around so braid getting all twisty is a pain in the butt, comparatively.

Frozen squid was cheap enough, and the hooks we got there were smaller than what I have used for crappie or trout. The hooks and egg weights were cheap, and we broke more than one hook on rocks and reef- but they were better than what I brought down and worked more than not. I still went thru a lot of them- and tying them onto a 50 pound leader was not happening…the diameter of that leader was too much for the small hooks.Maui Beach fishing from shore

It is also important to note, we kept it to daylight shore fishing, and nights in Maui (as like most places) do bring in bigger stuff…I was unsure how our little Shimano rods would survive any true test. I have broken many rods, and besides- we konked-out early there every night after long days soaking it all up. But if you are after bigger fish, no doubt some of the same approaches in the right spots at night would pull out much bigger boys. I would suggest getting your lures there- the ones I had for stuff up here on the mainland, were not as applicable…but I am going to Florida soon, and the same box will be perfect down in the Gulf of Mexico.

What I did need, was a knife to cut squid, 15 pound test was good, egg weights and hooks by the score. Never used the bobbers I had, because the fish were down deeper than anything I wanted to put together with a float. Pre-rigged, coated leads were quick and easy, and avoided teethy cut-offs. Hit barracuda a couple times, and they simply bite off whatever was there- but I don’t think we had steel on, when we lost stuff to the barracuda. No fishing licenses needed here, which is super cool.

Maui Beach fishI found that a tide would affect the bite- and a faster incoming one, was better than others as it is in most places. I learned waves were pretty unpredictable, and could directly affect you- same for wind. Constant tension on the line helped a lot…had to feel the bite and set it, or risk some of them swallowing the hook pretty quickly or just missing them. The cheap, whippy rods were good for this…bigger stuff would have had less feel to it.

Lures, simply did not have the pull for me they typically do- squid brought everything out to play while lures never got me anything, so I did not stay with them too long.


I found places where rocks and reefs were, and fished them all up and down Kaanapali beach (can easily see them on clear days)…and caught fish, pretty much everywhere. If nothing else was there, a huma huma etc. would come and get it after a while. But the closer I could get to clearish sandy paths between rocks and reefs, the better the payoffs.

Our best day, we went to Kapalua on the suggestion of the guy in All About Fish. These were rocky cliff points about 20 feet over 20 feet of water more than offshore fishing, but they proved to be awesome to us and well worth the trip. The guy at the store circled where to park and where to go, and in Kapalua the fish were bigger and more varied- we caught them on pretty much every cast, too. Plus, there we saw some sea turtles swimming around, including a little baby one no bigger than a manhole cover…a huge plus to me.

The beach was great in the mornings and at sunset, but the Kapalua rocky cliffs were much more productive and exciting for daylight fishing.

Chartered fun

Maui charter fishingIn addition to beach fishing daily, we tend to hit a guided trip in many places we visit, and Maui definitely had some awesome charters to consider. They are expensive for sure, costing us about $200+ a man each time…but considering the opportunity to tie into really monster fish, it is what it is.

maui start me up charterWe went out on 2 of them, one being the Start Me Up out of Lahaina for a 6 hour effort. Leaving at 5:30 in the morning, we saw perfect, glass-like water as the sun rose over the volcano- which I did not realize was as rare as it was, until later. Made a very smooth ride, and we trolled about 30 miles out for pelagic fish- Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Tuna and Marlin.

On a trolling trip, you put out huge lures on huge reels with crazy heavy line: but it is a lot of waiting, if you have never been. We got some mahi mahi a few hours in- a double hook up first, where one was landed but the other swam into the prop…and later, I got to fight a third one in. There were 6 of us on the boat, everyone with a number and if you got called, you fought the fish.Maui Mahi Mahi

Mine was a very jumpy 30-40 pound mahi, which was exhausting but fun as hell to land. My left arm was sore for 2 days because I choked up on the pole too much- I have landed much bigger fish that were not as strong and determined. It was totally awesome.
I just loaded the video of the catch- we boat him at 5:23 or so, if you want to skip to it).

I have seen varied stories on captains with the catch afterwards- but for us, it was incredible…we got over 10 pounds of fresh Mahi, which fed us all (4 of us) multiple times. I do know the other 3 folks also got all they asked for…and the captain still had a completely untouched, beautiful Mahi to sell to a restaurant, slightly bigger than the one we fileted.

At the cleaning station, we saw two 7-8 foot Galapagos sharks cruising about 12 inches under the surface–it was actually a little unnerving for us landlubbers. I did not like standing over them, even though it was no big deal- their bite radius was bigger than my head, so I was not getting any closer. The captain was super careful to ensure nothing went into the water from the fish carcasses- this is why the sharks are a problem in this docking area. But cool to see- I should have grabbed a pic.

Know that if you go out on a charter like this, there is much more waiting than anything. The scenery is awesome, and it is relaxing as hell- made better, if the folks you share the time with are fun to talk to (which worked out very well for us, indeed). If you catch a couple, it makes it seem all OK- catching nothing, will make you leave the boat angry, so try to avoid that by knowing it is coming.zach lamers eats sushi

My son and our pal Trey did not get a chance to catch anything, so we took another charter the next week where it was reef fishing. On the reefs, we caught a Soldier Fish, trevally, blue lined snapper, and more – you troll out to the reef (looking for big boys) hit the reefs for definite fish, then troll back in…no big boys here, but fun stuff on the reefs.

They hooked into a 30-40 pound grey snapper that got eaten by a shark right up close to the boat – then later caught the shark, which was about a 5-6 footer that they got up close to see, then broke it off to save any risk. All our fish were fileted by the time we docked (I caught 5, Trey caught 2-3 Zach caught 1), so no pix- but we ate like champions, and out-fished the other folks on this boat. Trey says to always get the back of a party boat, which worked here.

Summing Up

If you are going to vacation in Maui and are a fishing type, you are going to be in heaven. Beach fishing is awesome, and charter presents world class experiences (but it is a gamble: these fish are not always so easy to find).

I found, bringing reels and buying cheapie rods worked well. Need a bait knife, 15-or-so pound test and you can get hooks and weights there…when you get frozen squid. Leaders were a plus…their locally popular 3 way rig was not so good for me, but a Carolina-style pegged weight was great. The number of different types of fish caught, was stunning: one of the best I have ever seen.

 

 

Clay Cooker Pork Loin Recipe

Clay Cooker Pork Loin

soaking a clay cookerThis week, a nice lady named Pam commented on a post in here somewhere, where I talk about making brisket and we talked about using the Romertopf clay cooker. I said I was a huge fan of mine, and had it now for about 20 years I think – but Pam said, she never cooked meats in hers. I was amazed–I think that is the thing these cookers do best, so I was inspired to make something in it.

I had a pork loin thawed, so rather than grill it as I was going to do, I aimed it for the clay cooker. pork loin

The Pork Loin was about 2 1/2 pounds, and they called it “extra lean” and it was in fact, very well trimmed so I didn’t have to do more to it.

While I got the meat ready, I soaked the clay cooker in the sink in cool water. You have to do this with a cooker, or they may crack on you in the oven. When you’re prepping stuff, a good 10-20 minute soak will do you well.

pork loin prepI dropped these into a hotel half-pan. As you can see, it is two nice pieces there- I could have tied it up, but leaving them flopping solo was fine by me.

For seasoning them, pork rubyou could do whatever you like to do with pork. I love playing around with spice blends and rubs– and had some of my own mix, a pork rub I made for a butt roast a few weeks ago. I keep empty spice jars, so when I have excess doing a rub, I can use it again.

This one had dry cumin, some cinnamon, allspice and brown sugar, salt and pepper, fresh ground sage & tarragon, chili powder and god knows what else. I can get a little nutty, trying to build really complex seasoning…but I did not coat it real heavy, just very consistently.

Layering it Up

One thing I like in clay cooking meats, is to layer up veggies under the meat. What it does is soak up, and add to flavors and texture of the cooking meat – it is a wonderfully self-contained meal when you’re done, too.

veggies I suppose I could have been more deliberate in which veggies I picked, but I was simply going with whatever I had here. I had some zucchini, so that was chopped up. I like the basic soup stock veggies, but did not have any celery–no worries, I used carrots and red onion anyway.

A new one for me on this one, was kale- I had a bag of frozen kale, shredded, so thought it would be perfect: pork loin and southern greens.pork loin stuff The way the cooker works greens like kale are really nice, because cooking them longer only makes them more tender.

I also like having veggies between the meat and the cooker, because I have had meats bake into the side of the cooker, then fall apart on me as I try to get it free. Not always a bad thing, but the veggies don’t stick like that for me, so it helps.

Plus, like I said, I was going for something here–so I put red onion and portobello mushrooms as my root layer. Then, the chopped veggies. Then, a bunch of kale. I figured the lower veggies would quickly cook down into a stock-ish blend, adding a ton of body to the pork and greens.

clay cooker pork loinOnce I had all the layers in place, I laid the two pork loins on top of it. Those little renegade zuke chunks, were because I had to roll it into place. But this was a nice, full cooker- ready to go in the oven.

Baking in the Clay Cooker

clay cooker porkThe key with the clay cooker, other than the pre-soak, is to put it in the oven, cold- and turn on the temp you want. You don’t want to pre-heat the oven: again, that may cause damage to the cooker.

Instead, the heat comes up in it gradually- and it steams, and bakes at the same time.

In this case, I set a low temp, because I was aiming it for when my wife got home from work…so with the 2.5 pound size, I gave it about 2 1/2 hours, at 325 degrees. an hour per pound, low temp- erring on the side of a little longer, likely is better (or a little more heat). It is a thing to learn, how to time and heat these things, so the meats come out as you want.

The beauty of clay cookers, is once it goes in the oven, you really are about done until you eat…it works better, if you never open it or have to mess with it. If your heat is too high, or you go too long, you basically turn everything in it into soup–it may taste wonderful, but it tend to lose a lot of color and body.

Oops

done pork loin clay cookerSo remember in that last paragraph, when I was talking about going a bit too long? Well, my wife was a hour late from work this night, so rather than stop it, I simply let it go another extra hour…same temp. Oops.

Not that I minded one little bit…the pictures do not do this justice, as it was really beautiful. You can see, compared to when the kale was uncooked, how it went down a few inches in there…and the aroma, was pure heaven–for hours, the house smelled simply fantastic, it was a very comforting thing. Actually (I made this 2 nights ago) this morning, there were still traces of the scent in my stairwell to the basement–yesterday, it was still very strong. Very cool side effect.

pork clay cookerSo looking at it, done, it seemed a silly amount of food for just the two of us…even with leftovers, this was a lot of dinner. No worries: I just lifted out one of the pork loins, shredded it, and immediately put it into the freezer for this weekend. I am gonna take it out, frozen, and cube it – then heat it up in a homemade BBQ so we get to love on it again.

pork loin dinner clay cookerFor dinner that night, I made some Basmati rice (1 cup rice, 1 3/4 cup water and a splash of olive oil. bring to boil, cover, lower heat- simmering for 15 minutes or so. Turn off heat, and leave covered to absorb water- perfect, every time), knowing it would be perfect with the greens and pork.

I did have thoughts about slicing it into roulades- but as soon as I touched the one to move it, I knew I was not going to cut anything. If I would have removed it when I planned to, I could have- but the extra hour really made this guy soft.

OK- I fork-split it up (eating all kinds of taste samples): both the one I froze, and the one for dinner. Took me one minute to mash the meat into the greens, so it was like a pork loin stew.

pork loin plated, clay cookerWhen I plated it, like the redneck I am, I added salsa and sour cream to it- but it needed nothing. I think I just wanted some red color, and I am a redneck, so salsa and sour cream make everything better.

The pork loin was wonderous though–super moist (clay cooking RULES!!!), the rub came thru with some great flavors and scents, and the greens were perfect. The non-freezer leftovers did not even make it past lunchtime yesterday…I may be getting into that freezer bag a little sooner than expected.

But that is a very simple, easy to replicate recipe for some really, really delicious pork loin in a clay cooker. Pam said her family was still in the throes of a well-cooked brisket: but I am betting, her clay cooker starts seeing a lot more meats. I thank her for the inspiration to do this anyway–any excuse, is a good one to bust out the clay cooker.

Later Add: To satisfy my own curiosity and make sure I was not messing up, I did one this week in the clay cooker using only a dry rub on it for a bit, about 2 pounds and cooked it at 410 for 1 hour. I pre-soaked the cooker, and did NOT add any extra liquid to it. It cooked beautifully- I took it out, and let it rest in the cooker to finish/cool a bit and temp leveled at a fine 168 for me. Held its shape a lot more, so if you want roulade-type cuts when completed, hotter, less time worked well for me. For shredding/cuban styled pork cook it long and slow- either way, you win.

Careers in Writing

Careers in Writing at KSU I was lucky this week, in that one of my favorite teachers, Dr. Margaret Walters of Kennesaw State University asked me to come and talk to her careers in writing class.

The pic here, shows just how intense I was…we were solving most of the world’s problems. 🙂

They were very nice folks, and I was happy to be able to get out of the cave for a while, and talk.

One thing I loved, was being able to sit in the class and hear Dr. Walters tell the folks what to do, in prepping themselves for a career. I agreed with everything she said- except one thing, regarding samples…

See, when you are young, and/or just starting out you need to collect samples of your work to share. That, with testimonials is how you find new clients and keep going. The problem is, as a student, you aren’t around a ton of “professional” types of writing- so they encourage you to use academic papers until you can swap them out. That is the thing I don’t exactly agree with, but let me explain why.

In my personal experience, I did just what they suggested – I did not have many professional samples after graduation, so I made up some. I did a couple mock articles (this was long before blogging was around), had a story or two, mocked up a couple ads and thought I had a decent little pile to share. I was pretty aggressive, so I was trying to get interviews with the agencies in Atlanta that hired freelancers. I was good at it too, and got in there…landing an interview with a leading agency here.

The agent was warm, and happy to meet me- we hit it off right away. We talked for a little bit, and things were clicking well…then he asked to see my samples. I had them all in a branded folder (I had all my stationary and folders branded, to look the part), so I handed it over to him.

I will never forget it- he opened the folder, looked at my top sample, and looked right up at me with a totally new, not pleasant look on his face. He thumbed thru my samples, and looked at me again, with the same expression (tired, bored) and said: “You’ve never really done any professional work, have you.”

I think I crawled under the table- maybe the rug…he definitely was not interested in me anymore – handing back the folder and standing up…our interview was immediately over. I was saying all the things I thought would help but it did not matter at all to him. I was under qualified, and now I was creating a bad impression in the agency I wanted to get work from. The agent simply eased me out of the office, clutching my folder that would never again see the light of day. It was embarassing, and pretty awful.

Learn from My Mistake(s)

So as you young ‘uns get out there to start hammering the keys for cash, know that people want to see PROFESSIONAL work. It is a lot easier today, than it was  when I got into this simply because of the online options.

If I were doing the same kind of thing today, I would go after professional writing gigs while still in school – not for pay mind you, but to get the clip published. I would do a newsletter article, a feature piece, blog posts – I would be getting posts/pages online, where a link could be shared with a prospective employer. I would donate my time and writing to organizations (on and off campus)I liked, for free, in exchange for the publishing and a testimonial.

I promise you, there are many easy places for you to offer work for free- free, sells. I always suggest to stay with something you love- I went to the Humane Society because I love dogs, so wrote some holiday newsletters for them and that started it all for me. I used the articles and testimonial to get more clients…each time, able to charge a little more, each time ensuring I could get work samples and testimonials.

The good news is, I did eventually work for that agency, too…though the agent who I interviewed with the first time was no longer there. I did a couple gigs for them, and then went my own way because I earned more without them. But I needed to work there a bit, or I would have had that albatross following me around more than I like.

So thanks again to Margaret Walters, and the class that let me come in and babble for a bit. That was a wonderfully influential class to me – so being on the other side of the desk when I can be is very special to me. If any of you guys need anything at all along the way, you have a friend in me. 🙂

P.S. I did ping one of my favorite authors, Dave Eggers, to see if he’d chime in for us- got an email from his assistant today, saying he is sequestered off writing…so we’ll get him next time! But I did an interview with another great writer I know, who self publishes young adult fiction…see my interview with SR Johannes here.