Feminist Conversations: An Interview With Lesbian Icon Ann Bannon

Ann Bannon, in my opinion, is the queen of lesbian pulp fiction. Her books in the Beebo Brinker series served as a roadmap for many lesbians in the 1950s and 1960s. I was introduced to Bannon’s work in a Women’s Studies class at ASU. Bannon’s novels helped me navigate my own coming out process. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I was given the opportunity to interview her.

1. What was your initial inspiration for writing the Beebo Brinker novels?
I began by falling in “fascination” with the first original lesbian pulp novel, Spring Fire, by Vin Packer. It’s a story of two young women who meet in their college sorority house and fall in love—not a terribly original premise these days, but a dangerous and thrilling one then. The consequences of being outed in the 1950s were appalling, and I had been close enough to a similar disaster in my own sorority to empathize with the girls in Packer’s novel. I knew I wanted to write, and it turned out that this little pulp paperback I had found on a newsstand shelf was the creative trigger. [Read more...]

Stone Butches and Lipstick Lesbians: Gender Role Construction in the Works of Ann Bannon

Before the days of Facebook and Twitter, lesbians were largely confined to meeting in bars or in secret, and they had few sources to link them to a broader community. Logging onto the Internet these days, one can literally find thousands of websites and social media groups dedicated to helping lesbians from across the country and around the globe forge a sense of virtual community.

Although we live in an age of hashtags and electronic tablets, many of us still read bound stacks of paper called books. Lesbian pulp fiction still has meaning for both young queers who are just coming out of the closet, as well as with lesbians from an older generation. What is it about these dated stories that both younger lesbians and those who made the journey to Stonewall find compelling?

One explanation is that younger lesbians are turning to these artifacts of the 1940s and 1950s to gain a sense of a separate lesbian history. In particular, what these books teach us about the construction of gender roles within lesbian relationships is a key component in that history. One of the most pervasive questions that helps one to identify her place within the lesbian community is “are you butch or femme?” Although these gender roles are hotly contested (some say they don’t even exist), it is my contention that they still serve an important function for lesbians of all walks of life. Lesbian pulp, then, is a means of tracing the development of butch/femme roles that is difficult to find outside of oral histories. [Read more...]

Twitter Tools That Will Change Your Life

My headline might be a little over-dramatic, but it got your attention, didn’t it?

Twitter is such a powerful social media tool.  At some point, though, it can become overwhelming because of the sheer volume of information you have to look at each time you log into your account.  Here are a few tools that can help you streamline your Twitter account, build traffic, and enable account management collaboration with other team members.

1.  Hootsuite
Hootsuite has been a total game changer for me.  It has helped me manage multiple social media accounts in one location (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook), and I don’t want to remember what my life was like before pre-scheduled tweets.

Hootsuite is a web-based application.  You can use the free version, but there is also a paid version that is especially useful if you have more than one person on your team who will be managing your social media accounts.  The following features make Hootsuite ideal:

  • Scheduling function: Schedule your tweets in advance.  You can use this to post event announcements, links to key sections of your website, quotations, etc.
  • Team management: Hootsuite will tell you who sent/scheduled a tweet, and it will also tell you when a team member has responded to a tweet.
  • View multiple streams at once: Instead of having to click around to view mentions and direct messages, all of these streams are available in one screen.

Hootsuite also offers statistics reports and a whole host of other features – I’ve only listed my top three favorites.  Mashable has a very useful guide for getting the most out of your Hootsuite account. [Read more...]

A Social Media Primer

I recently blogged about the power of social media. Today I want to skim the surface of how you can adopt a social media campaign.

The first step in adopting a social media strategy is to develop a clear goal of what you are trying to accomplish. For example, one of the organizations I help has a three-pronged goal:

  • Promote the organization’s services
  • Educate people about legislative issues that affect the organization’s mission
  • Activate supporters to become donors and volunteers

This straightforward approach is a guide that I refer back to with every blog post that I write, every tweet that I send, and every item I post on Facebook. Having a clearly defined goal helps ensure that social media doesn’t become a time suck, and sticking to your goal also ensures that your messaging is consistent with your organization’s mission. Whether you are a nonprofit, a business, or an independent trying to establish your professional reputation, having a clearly defined social media strategy is a must, especially if you plan on outsourcing the task to someone else (more on that later).

The second thing you need to ask yourself is “who is my target audience?”  You can answer that question several ways (i.e. potential customers, voters, legislators, media), and you may have several answers to the same question.  However, your answer will help give you a clue about the best social media outlet you should be using.  I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of social media demographics, but in a nutshell, aim for blogs, Facebook, and Twitter as your primary social media outlets, since they have the broadest reach.  [Read more...]

Why You Need to Get on the Social Media Bandwagon

This past weekend I presented a workshop to social activists in Phoenix about how to incorporate social media into their activism strategy. I knew even before the workshop that this was going to get a mixed reception, since this particular organization doesn’t have a website, let alone social media accounts. However, I fully believe in the power of social media, both for businesses and nonprofits to be able to connect with their target audiences. So when I received the invitation to speak to this group, I accepted.

Before the discussion even got started, one audience member stated her concern about internet privacy and said that she would never get on Facebook because she’s concerned about identity theft. I politely redirected the focus and kept my rants about the intrusion on civil liberties to myself. But here’s some info to chew on: you have no privacy. Every phone call you make, every e-mail you send, and every book you check out from the library is being monitored by the government thanks to the USA PATRIOT Act. Google it – and bear in mind that Google will store a record of your search.  Next time you see a photo radar camera, think about your lack of privacy. Whether you get involved with social media or not, you don’t have any expectation of privacy. So unless you want to wear a tinfoil hat and live in your basement for the rest of your days, you may as well get over your fear of government intrusion. Because let’s face it . . . even after your corpse is buried under six feet of dirt, the government probably has ways to intrude upon your rest in peace, too.

Now . . . back to the discussion of why you need to get on board with social media, and what you can do to start cracking that nut. [Read more...]

Freelancing Tips: How to Write a Query Letter

One of the things I enjoy the most about freelance work is the thrill of the chase. I might have a great idea for an article, but unless I’m willing to get out there and sell my wares, those ideas don’t amount to much. That’s where a good query letter comes in handy.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to write a query letter, we need to talk about a very important item: Does the publication you want to write for accept submissions from freelancers?  If they don’t, you’ll be wasting you time, as well as the editor’s, if you send them a pitch.  Most publications have information on their websites about the submissions process.  You should also be able to find out if the publication pays for submissions, and what their standard pay rate is.  So be sure to look on the website before you draft the letter.

Think of your query letter as a sales pitch. You are essentially selling your skills to a potential buyer. You will need to capture the person’s attention, pitch what you are selling, and give the buyer a sense that you’re the most qualified person to be selling this product. Here’s a basic outline that will help you sell your ideas. [Read more...]

Freelancing Tips: Will You Work for Free?

Do you ever feel like people don’t respect your time, or that you’ve been duped into providing a client consult under the guise of a social visit? I know I do! Let me give you an example.

Last week I went over to a friend’s house for beers and chit chat. My friend works for a local nonprofit that is looking for ways to raise visibility about the agency. Since I’m a writer, my friend asked me how I typically find writing gigs, and how much I typically get paid for work. I told her about some freelancing job boards, and told that in general, good gigs pay about 10 cents a word. Everything depends on the publication, and the length of the article. I got the feeling that she was trying to assess if I would pitch some articles about the nonprofit to different publications, with the hopes that the newspaper or magazine would pick up the tab. And while I support my friend’s effort to employ every medium to pinch a penny, I also know that I need to protect my own bottom line as a freelancer.

What can we learn from this case study? [Read more...]

Freelancing Tips: Effective Time Management

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.
~Benjamin Franklin

Time is money.
~Bejamin Franklin

One of the best things about freelance work is that you set your own schedule, and you work at your own pace. Some of us are early birds, while some of us are night owls. If you prefer to spend your time burning the midnight oil, that is totally up to you. At the end of the day (or night), however, freelancers need to be very diligent about budgeting their time in order to ensure that they get paid. Here are a few tips to help you manage your time wisely.

Set a billing quota for yourself. One of the best pieces of budgeting advice I ever got came from the novel Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, by Tracy Quan. As you might have guessed, the novel’s protagonist is a call girl named Nancy Chan. Nancy doesn’t understand fellow sex workers who struggle to make ends meet. After all, Nancy sets a quota of the number of clients she needs to service in order to make and invest her money. By sticking to her quota, Nancy lives pretty flush as an escort, who works via referral only – no street walking or internet porn for her! Who knew that a hooker could provide such sound financial advice?

In order for a quota system to work, freelancers need to set a realistic number for themselves. [Read more...]

Freelancing Tips: Get it All in Writing

Let me start out today’s post with another case study in freelancing do’s and don’ts. A friend of mine accepted a freelance job at the beginning of the summer that involved writing press releases, blogging, and social networking, as well as basic admin work like updating contact lists, and designing promotional materials. Although the duties for this particular job were very specific, my friend never got anything in writing. She also had a verbal agreement with her client that she would work a set number of hours per month, but given the work that she was assigned to do, she ended up exceeding that monthly time allotment four months in a row. Since she didn’t have anything in writing about how she was to be compensated for her time, the client ended up majorly underpaying my friend for her work.

There are several lessons to be learned here. [Read more...]

Freelancing Tips: Ask Questions

Like all jobs, freelancing has its pluses and minuses. The biggest advantage about working for yourself is that you set the pace, and you get to determine which jobs you will accept. The biggest downside, however, is that when something goes wrong, you only have yourself to blame.

One of the biggest challenges for new freelancers is knowing how to screen potential clients – but sometimes even seasoned freelancers struggle with this aspect, especially when bills need to be paid. Asking questions is the single most important thing that you can do to assess whether you and a potential client are a good fit for each other. Here’s a case study from my own freelancing career to illustrate the point.

I recently booked my biggest client to date. The job involved redesigning the client’s website, providing ongoing technical support through the end of the year, and ghost writing on the client’s blog. Before I accepted the job, I determined what the client’s deadline was, what all of the components of the project would be, and what our communication process would be like. Completing the initial website build in 30 days seemed like a realistic project, although it meant that I wouldn’t be able to accept any other jobs during that time period, and it also meant that I wouldn’t have time to write my own articles for publication. However, this was a project worth prioritizing, so I gave the client a price quote, and I accepted the job.

The biggest mistake I made when I accepted this job was that I didn’t ask enough questions on the front end. Part of the website design involved consolidating five different blogs into one archive. I should have asked more questions about how many blog articles were involved, since each of them would have to be moved over individually. The blog consolidation was defined as part of the initial website build, so I am not able to bill on an hourly basis for this work – it was all grouped into the flat rate that I billed the client for the website design. As a result, a lot of my time will never be financially compensated. A hard lesson learned.

There were many other questions that I should have asked the client, but I’ll just summarize by saying that freelancers should have a standard checklist of questions that they work from when they are evaluating potential clients. Make sure you have all the information you need in order to a) determine if this is a job you should accept, and b) adequately bill the client for your time.

I would have accepted this job, regardless of how many questions I asked, because this project will be the centerpiece of my work portfolio for a long time to come. Yes, I under-billed the client (and I only have myself to blame for it), but there are many tangible benefits that have resulted from working with this particular client that can’t be quantified in dollars and cents. I will definitely cover all my bases on future projects, though.

Author Michelle Goodman has excellent advice for freelancers in her books The Anti-9-to-5-Guide, andMy So-Called Freelance Life. I highly recommend purchasing both of them, and keeping them at your desk for easy reference. Goodman gives examples of questions that freelancers should ask potential clients, but I’d love to hear from you. How do you feel out potential clients? What tips do you have for making sure you get paid what you’re worth?

I’ll be following up the freelancing series next week with tips for setting up an invoice system that works. And in the coming weeks, I’ll give tips for writing letters of agreement; shaking down deadbeat clients when you don’t get paid; building effective time management for yourself; setting quotas for monthly billing; sending a pitch letter; and determining when it’s a good idea to work for free. I hope you’ll tune in!

Originally posted at Queercents.com.