American Society of Journalists and Authors PNW

Newsletter 2022-09

From the Prez, Writing Rhythms, M. Carolyn Miller,
ASJA PNW President
Take Charge to Meet Your Income Goals, Fred Gebhart
Producing Weekly Political Columns—For Two States,
Randy Stapilus
Cleaning Your Computer, Bruce Miller
Member News and Announcements

From the President

by M. Carolyn Miller

ASJA PNW Chapter President

Writing Rhythms

I found The Sun, a literary magazine, years ago when I dreamed of being a literary fiction writer. One of its writers, Brian Doyle, now deceased, wrote wonderful essays, only one published page in length, which offered snapshots of the human condition.

Prior to moving to Portland, I contacted Brian, who lived in Portland, to see if we could meet on my next visit. He agreed. We met at the University of Portland, where he was editor of its alumnae magazine. His office was strewn with all the décor of an old-time newspaper office, including rejection slips from name publications tacked up everywhere. He gave me a tour through them.

Later, as we sat across from each other, I asked him about his own practice, including why he wrote such short pieces. It happened by accident, he said. I only had an hour a day to write before work and this is what I could fit in. And so, the habit stuck.

I think about his words now as I refine my own writing practice. Like Brian, I write first thing in the morning, when the world is quiet and my mind fresh. But unlike the early days, I can barely last two hours before my body longs for yoga and breakfast. And then the spell is broken. I pick it up again in the afternoon, ideally at a coffee house.

That is, until the pandemic. Coffee houses close early now at least in my part of the world. And without them, I’ve been adrift. I’ve also not been very productive. So, one afternoon I got in my car, laptop in hand, carrying only my intention and intuition.

My first find was Marco’s, a family-owned restaurant on the edge of the Multnomah Village shopping district, billed as a “small town in a city.” Five minutes from my house, it offered parking, outdoor seating, a waiter, between-meals quiet, and an espresso drink replete with cup and saucer, all for the price of $3.

Marco’s Café and Espresso Bar, Multnomah Village, Portland 
© M. Carolyn Miller

My second find was a realization: if I shifted my schedule by an hour, the choices expanded to include a coffee house near me, complete with sit/stand tables, and a view of the outside world. Duh.
Sometimes it seems so much of what I want has been there all along, waiting for me to discover it. So it has been with writing, then and now.

M. Carolyn Miller, MA, spent her career designing narrative- and game-based learning. Today, she writes about the role of narrative in our lives and world, the inextricable link between the two, and the role of self-awareness in transforming both.

Take Charge to Meet Your Income Goals

by Fred Gebhart

Are you making your freelance income goals? Or are you feeling like the Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking-Glass, running as fast as she can just to stay in the same place? You don’t need more assignments to get ahead or even more clients. You just need to manage them.
Once upon a time, I was looking for ways to leverage the information I got from writing daily publications at medical association meetings. It wasn’t poorly paid, but there had to be ways to boost the return on the time I spent away from home—without adding more research or interviews.
Choosing a client or an assignment is a choice. My choice. Your choice.
Taking on a new gig is a lot like picking a new computer, a new office chair, or a new car. They come in different makes, models and versions, with colors, features, and benefits that meet different needs and expectations. The key is remembering that your needs and expectations come first.
If you’re not getting what you need out of the deal, be it money, time, reputation, a new market, or feeling warm and fuzzy, it’s better to keep looking than to settle for something that doesn’t meet your goals.
One approach that had worked for me in the past was to spin the same information in different ways for diverse markets. I had reworked an assignment for Popular Science on an underwater volcano off the coast of Hawaii into stories for Ranger RickThe Illustrated London NewsScience & Mechanics, inflight magazines and newspapers around the globe. Why not rework the latest on colonoscopies, heart attack prevention and hepatitis C treatment for the medical trade and consumer markets?
The medical trade side was a breeze. I spun the same interviews, meeting presentations and medical jargon targeted for pharmacists, nurses, family practitioners, cardiologists and other specialists. Each spinoff took more time for marketing and writing, but no extra research was needed.
The consumer side was a bust. I found that it took too many hours and rewrites to translate medical speak into real people speak. Too many additional interviews were needed to transform medical information into stories about real people whose lives were changed.
So, I went to Plan B and raised my rates for meeting coverage by 30%.
Not all at once! I didn’t want to shock anyone into looking for a new writer. But I knew that my clients routinely raised their rates every year or two and expected their vendors to do the same.
I had absolutely no quibbles from anyone. And while meeting coverage came to a crashing halt with COVID-19, there were no client hints to reduce my rates as meetings moved to virtual platforms during 2020 and returned to in-person this year.
Fred Gebhart has spent 40 years trying to turn “starving writer” into an oxymoron.

Producing Weekly Political Columns—For Two States

by Randy Stapilus

Each week I produce two political columns, one about Oregon and the other about Idaho. 

Following two states in that way is a little unusual on its own. (If there are other people writing two regular weekly columns about two different states, I’m unaware of them.) And if you know about the politics of those two places – one deep red and the other solidly blue – this may sound like a recipe for crazymaking. 

In fact, it helps me order my thoughts about each. 
As to how it happened: I worked for years as a reporter and editor in Idaho and wrote a column on Idaho politics for much of that time. After I left the newspapers, I kept writing the column because a (varying over time) number of newspapers opted to keep publishing it. Though I haven’t lived in Idaho for years – albeit keeping in touch with developments there – I continue to supply it, as well as post it on my website. Papers in Lewiston, Nampa, Twin Falls, Pocatello and sometimes one or two others run it.

I’ve lived in Oregon since 2004 and have occasionally written for various outlets about Oregon government and politics. The column became weekly after, last year, the Oregon Capital Chronicle started operations. It is part of the non-profit States Newsroom, which manages 29 state-level news operations around the country. Last December, I started writing a weekly column for them about Oregon politics and issues. 

Writing two columns, about two very different states, can help the quality of both. There’s the element of compare and contrast – what’s similar, what’s different – and the element of staying honest about making judgements: Am I applying the same standards to both? If I respect this kind of behavior or policy over here, am I maintaining the standard over there?

This relates, maybe, to the debate principle of knowing the other side’s argument as well as your own. There may be a broader view in this: Looking at a situation from two angles probably can help analysis.

Two regular columns rather than one do keep me a little busier, but once your mind is attuned to sifting column ideas it becomes practical.

Randy Stapilus is a writer, editor, and publisher living in Carlton, Oregon. He is a former newspaper reporter and editor and has written several books about the Northwest.

Cleaning Your Computer

by Bruce Miller

Most people clean dishes, floors, walls, even their body’s insides. But home computers and peripherals are frequently overlooked for cleaning.
The single most important reason that computers and electronic equipment should be cleaned is heat. The next most important reason is for mechanical operation


All electronic devices generate heat. Dust buildup on electronic parts adds insulation that prevents heat dissipation. If electronic components get too hot, they can stop working, be damaged, or destroyed. Worst case scenario, an overheated electrical component can start a fire.
Desktop and tower computers are easier to clean than laptops. The basic steps for the big machines are:

Disconnect all cables, including power.
Move the computer to a place where blown dust can go, such as outside or to a different room.
Remove the case cover.
Take a look around, especially at the fan and heat sink – if any – over the CPU. The space between heat sink fins often gets clogged up with dust. Fan blades can also collect dust.

Blow off the dust with compressed air.

Using the narrow plastic tube hose that fits on a normal vacuum cleaner that sucks the dust is not recommended because of the static electricity it could generate, potentially damaging electronic parts. The air flow can also make a fan spin faster than designed. However, a very small vacuum designed for computers should be safe.

A toothpick stuck into the fan fins will prevent the fan from spinning too fast when using compressed air or a battery-powered vacuum.

While the cover is off, take time to blow air over all components.

If your computer has a graphic card, chances are good that the card also has a fan–especially for high-end cards. Blow out any dust in the cards.
Laptops and all-in-one computers are more complicated to clean. All-in-one computers are similar to laptops — difficult to take apart. For some brands, taking a computer apart can void a warranty. Always check if a warranty is active.
There are many videos on YouTube to show how parts can be removed for cleaning access. Here are a few:

Desktop computer:
Laptop computer:
All-in-one computer, Acer:
All-in-one computer, HP:

Mechanical Operation

Computers are moving to fewer mechanical parts, but fans are mechanical and can wear out. Dirt and grime can promote degradation. Keyboards for desktops or on laptops are also mechanical. For a detached keyboard, I disconnect it, take it outside, turn it upside down and then blow compressed air.

Microfiber cloths are good for wiping screens, not for cleaning out dust lodged on electronic parts. Compressed air is the best way to dislodge the dust.

Back by Popular Demand: Negotiating for Writers Workshop at the ASJAVirtual Conference in October

I’ve been saving money with browser plugins to automatically find and try discount coupons. The day before writing this tip, my Opera browser found a coupon to apply to my Walmart order for a Roku LT (streaming device). The price went from $59 to $49. For domain names, I now almost always use the Edge browser, because even a dollar savings can add up over time. Here are links to each

Tells how to turn off (but also how to turn on):


Bruce Miller lives in Seattle and buys too many gadgets, hence every dollar saved allows for more gadgets.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) hen and her three baby poults in August,
Gold Hill, Oregon  © Maxine Cass

Member News and Announcements

by Michelle V. Rafter

Back by Popular Demand:
Negotiating for Writers Workshop
at the ASJA Virtual Conference in October

If the prospect of asking for more money, more rights, more details about a project, or more time to write turns you to mush, you’re not alone. Negotiating is hard. But it’s essential to build and sustain a successful freelance writing career. And it’s empowering!
At the ASJA Virtual Conference, on October 11, from 4-5 pm ET/1-2 pm PT, Michelle Rafter will lead an updated version of a negotiating workshop she first presented at the organization’s 2017 national conference. The workshop is part of the virtual conference’s content marketing track, but is applicable to any writing genre, and to writers at any stage of their careers.
Key takeaways will include:

  • Why it pays (literally) to negotiate
  • How to deal with self-doubt and other self-sabotage
  • How to negotiate fees so everybody wins
  • How to negotiate for things other than money
  • How to avoid common negotiating mistakes
  • How to negotiate with sources, editors, and publishers

ASJA member registration is $25 per session, $85 per track, and $190 for the full conference; non-member prices are slightly higher, and spring 2022 conference attendees receive a 50% discount. See the ASJA virtual conference page for details. Follow ASJA’s Facebook page for news about it and other ASJA events.

Rafter is a long-time ASJA member, and Portland-based business reporter turned ghostwriter who has written extensively about careers, work, and workplace issues, and built a six-figure freelance business based in part on her negotiating skills. Find her on LinkedInTwitter or

Catherine Kolonko wrote about recent legislation related to drug pricing for The Rheumatologist


EDITOR: Maxine Cass
PROOFREADER: Catherine Kolonko

*All stories are copyright by their respective writers.
*All photographs and illustrations are copyright by their creative makers.
*All rights are reserved to each of them for their own material.