Where the bartenders meet

Is a cocktail convention for getting drunk or professional development? I’ve attended many events in the beer, wine and spirits category that focus solely on serving people copious amounts of alcohol. I spoke with a few industry insiders that are offering professional bartenders, servers and restaurant owners a different cocktail convention model.

You can read the full PDF version of my piece, “Tapping the Local Network” featured in the September 2016 issue of Market Watch: mw0916_bartalk


A frose by any other name

I’ve been pretty lucky this year in that I’ve had a chance to write more than a few stories on fun and interesting subjects. This piece for the July/August 2016 issue of Market Watch magazine was no exception. After a long, dark New England winter, getting an assignment to write about highly crafted frozen cocktails was like a boozy, slushy dream come true. This piece taught me that the key to a successful frozen drink is fresh out of the blender (hence the giant blending machines at these establishments), just in case you were thinking of trying any of these at home.

Read a PDF version of the article here: mw0716_bartalk-frose



Talking about Her Story


Back row, from left, “Her Story” cast members Laura Waleryszak, Christian Ochoa, executive producer Kater Fisher, and Fawzia Mirza; front row, from left, Angelica Ross and Jen Richards

One of the things I love about doing interviews is the interesting things you end up talking about that don’t always make it into the story. I had a great chat with Laura Waleryszak about making art, making a living at making art, finding a supportive collaborative community, and being true to yourself as an artist. You’ll find some of that in my piece below, but I only wish I could have fit it all.

If you haven’t seen the fantastic “Her Story,” you should. It’s short, but packs a lot of emotion and humor into a little package. You can also learn more about the show in my interview with Waleryszak, which I’ve included some of below.

Exeter native’s show earns Emmy nod

Laura Waleryszak crafts authentic LGBTQ characters for an online TV drama

Weekend Work

I always tell people the key to being a successful freelance writer is never say no to a project (unless it doesn’t pay, or doesn’t pay well). I realized the other day I don’t actually have much evidence to prove this, since I haven’t said no to an assignment in a really long time. This might explain why I was out the door early on a Saturday morning to be in Manchester to cover the 2016 Aspirations in Computing Awards.

This event was fun and easy to cover, and featured a crew of talented and smart young women trying to figure out what to do with their lives — plus a trip to Whole Foods right down the road made this worth giving up my Saturday morning.

Aspirations in Computing Awards Celebrate Young Women in Tech

It’s 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and instead of sleeping in, fifteen young women were in the lobby of the University of New Hampshire at Manchester trying to figure out how to build the tallest tower they could out of few pieces of dried spaghetti, a marshmallow, a strip of masking tape and string.

The activity was an icebreaker for the recipients of the 2016 National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) Award for Aspirations in Computing, a national initiative to honor young women at the middle and  high-school level for their computing-related achievements and interests. The Aspirations in Computing Awards Event, held on May 14, was a half day of activities that provided an opportunity for young women from New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont to interact with students faculty and industry members in the field of technology. The awardees are selected for their computing and IT aptitude, leadership ability, academic history, and plans for post-secondary education. The program provides opportunities for young women to find internships and earn scholarships, including a $1,500 award to UNH Manchester for NCWIT awardees and a $1,000 award to NCWIT participants.

To read more go to UNH Manchester Campus News.

The Other Portland

Winter in Portland, just as nice.

Winter in Portland, just as nice.

I’ve loved Portland, Maine for a long time. It’s where I got engaged and where I’ve spent nearly every birthday since. It’s a city I visit with friends and go to visit friends. I walk the waterfront and the Eastern Promenade. I eat and drink and repeat. It’s almost criminal how many great places there are to get a beer, a cocktail you’ve never tried before or a dish that will leave you licking the plate. When my friend and editor of Market Watch magazine asked if I wanted to write a profile about the city’s beer, wine and cocktail scene, I didn’t have to think about it for long.

I contacted dozens of restaurants, bars, distilleries and breweries. The ones featured are places I love, but I easily could have included more. It’s a story that helped me make some great contacts in Portland and one I hope leads to more profiles of the city.

“The Other Portland” is only available in PDF form, so please click through if you’d like to read the rest.

The Other Portland

Craft beer and an emerging cocktail culture define Maine’s largest city

Walk into Pai Men Miyake, a noodle bar in Portland, Maine’s Longfellow Square, and one of the first things you see is the craft beer list. On a prominently displayed chalkboard adjacent to the front door, guests can scan the list of 12 draft beers when they walk in. Half of the venue’s taps and six of its 12 bottles are reserved for regional craft beers, which are regularly rotated, offering patrons an opportunity to try the latest local expressions.

Steaming bowls of ramen, such as the Kimchee Beef with braised short rib ($13), are commonly ordered with a Mainebrewed draft like Bissell Brothers’ The Substance ale ($7 a 16-ounce pour) or Oxbow Farmhouse pale ale ($6 a 12-ounce pour), says bar manager Jack Van Paepeghem. The menu also includes Japanese beers, such as Sapporo, which is $3 a 16-ounce pour during happy hour.

A casual Japanese restaurant may not be the first place Portland visitors look to find a robust craft beer program, but Pai Men Miyake is considered a top spot for sampling local beer and was on Eater.com’s 2013 list of “14 Essential Maine Craft Beer Bars.” Van Paepeghem says customers usually look for locally made beers, whether it’s a Pilsner or a darker brew. “My responsibility is to keep a balance,” he says. “I could have 10 IPAs if I wanted, but that’s not my style.”

Heather Sanborn, co-owner of Rising Tide Brewing Co. and president of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, says Portland residents expect a well-curated craft beer menu stocked with Maine products at local bars and restaurants. “New places in the Portland area need to have a significant beer program,” Sanborn says. “They’re not so much putting Bud Light on tap, but instead building a strong regional craft beer plan. It’s become as important as having a good wine list—or maybe more important.”

To read more, go to: Market Watch, “The Other Portland”

Beer into Spring

Spring beers come out when we're all still wearing these.

Spring beers emerge when we’re wearing these.

If you lived in the Boston area during the first three months of 2015, you surely weren’t drinking “spring beers.” Buried in more than six feet of snow left most of us New Englanders sucking down heavy winter beers deep into the season, despite what the seasonal beer calendar said. I’m sure spring happened somewhere in the United States and I hope they enjoyed my take on the role spring seasonals play in craft brewing industry — which I wrote last fall.

Spring Forward

Brewers use spring seasonals to audition innovative beers

Winter may mean snow and ice for the northern half of the country, but in the world of seasonal craft beer, spring has begun. Typically launched in January, spring beers have the poorest sales performance of the seasonals, but brewers say that’s no reason to ignore the opportunities they offer. Craft beer producers often use spring to come up with interesting and innovative brews.

Beer drinkers have become accustomed to expecting certain products during the year. The end of summer brings pumpkin beers and malty Oktoberfest brews. Winter and the holiday season highlight darker, flavorful beers, and when the days are warm, drinkers can choose from a wide selection of lighter summer beers. But there are no expectations with spring beer styles, which may be part of the reason for sluggish sales. Craft beer sales dip during the first three months of the year, rebounding just as summer beers hit the shelves, according to Nielsen Scantrack data.

“Historically, brewers would make lighter beers in the summer and heartier ones for sustenance in the winter,” says Jennifer Glanville, brewer and manager of the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston. “They also used seasonal ingredients they had on hand, such as fruit, herbs and spices, to enhance their brews. Although nowadays we have the ability to make beers with a variety of ingredients year-round, there’s still something special about celebrating a certain time of year using seasonal ingredients.”

To read more, go to: Market Watch, “Spring Forward”

In the weeds

When I started this project, I thought I’d have all this time to keep notes of my progress. I was going to create this testament to freelance struggles I could offer up as a reference to those who came after me. What I forgot is how time consuming it can be. Fortunately, I’m at a place where most of my work comes from editors I already know, or from networking with clients who need a writer for their website or annual report. I don’t do a lot of blind pitches. Obviously.

A big part is the editing. Editing your own writing is hard work. It seems like it shouldn’t take that long…just read through what you wrote, clean up the typos, make sure what you are saying is clear and precise. Sounds easy. That took me an entire afternoon. Next comes writing the pitch letters, getting the formula right, obsessing over every word. That’s an entire evening of work. Then there’s trying to find the right editor to send the pitch. It’s a fruitless Google search at every turn.

Last week’s March Pitch-a-Thon goal was to edit one previously written piece I had yet to publish and write a pitch letter for said piece. This week’s goal: to send it out and start researching my next project. I did want to note that I found two resources especially helpful last week: This piece on the Billfold, especially in regards to pitch length and whether to include the essay.

If personal essays are your thing, I would also recommend Jessica Olien’s Personal Essay Writing Workshop, an online course offered by media website Mediabistro. There are writing tips and exercises, which I found to be some of the best I’ve ever received, but she also has a wealth of information about pitching to publications that will save you lots of time learning the hard way.

Where do freelancers find ideas? Sometimes it’s a shot in the dark

I wasn’t covering the UNH Career Fair last October for anyone. There was no story due in the hours that followed and I certainly wasn’t getting paid. So why did I spend 3 hours out of my day and a couple bucks in parking to attend? I needed some business story ideas.

Finding story ideas is one of the hardest parts of being a freelance writer. I’ve been getting better at it, largely by focusing on publications I’ve worked with in the past. I ask them straight up — what are you looking for? Editors always have a wish list of stories they’d like to publish but don’t have the staff to do it. Simply asking them to share that wish list with you is a huge step toward landing a story with them.

Attending networking and trade events is a tool I’ve used lately in better meeting editor’s expectations. I’m not pitching the event as the story, but instead am contacting the editor before I go and asking him or her — if I were to go looking for story ideas, what should I keep an eye out for? This gives me a list of questions to ask people at the event and helps get me closer to finding a subject worth writing about.

I got the idea for this piece for New Hampshire Business Review after attending the UNH Career Fair last fall. I didn’t pitch the event as the piece, but instead called the editor beforehand letting him know I would be attending and talked about some potential stories that could come out of it — who’s hiring, who’s growing, what majors are in high demand? I got some suggestions from the editor and headed over.

As is often the case when walking into a room blind, what you expect to find and what you actually find when you get there don’t always line up. I spoke with plenty of representatives from out-of-state companies, but didn’t find many local, innovative companies. And then I came across On Call International, a swiftly growing company with a unique business model based in Salem, N.H. I pitched a story based on the editor’s recommendations and landed an assignment.

Attending these events can sometimes be a gamble and don’t always pay off, but I’ve more often than not, I can come up with something an editor is willing to bite on if I look hard enough. You can read a portion of the piece below.

Traveling? The last number you call may be in Salem

Keeping cool heads during a crisis has been On Call International’s mission since its inception nearly 20 years ago. It’s a trait that has served its customers well, helping them navigate their way out of foreign jams big and small. It’s also a trait that has helped the company through some rocky times, bringing On Call International from the brink to recognition as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country.

The travel risk management firm provides a wide range of services for travelers both in the United States and abroad. Whether it’s a medical emergency, an arrest or a lost passport, On Call works with officials and medical staff on the ground wherever the client is located to resolve the situation, sometimes traveling to the customer to bring him home.

Last year, On Call International fielded 500,000 incoming and outbound client calls, and 300,000 emails to and from clients. The company brought home the remains of more than 300 people and sent 400 private jets and air ambulances – equipped with a rescue nurse and medical equipment – to locations around the world to bring clients home.

For the rest of the story, go to NHBR.com.

Finding the hook


Sometimes a news hook is part of the pitch. Sometimes it’s inserted by an assigning editor. Other times it happens to present itself organically in a seemingly evergreen story. In this piece, it was the latter. Having a news hook will certainly boost your chances of landing a pitch, but it’s important to try not to force the newsiness of a story. 

Psychology Program Expands to Include Neuropsychology

The troubling long-term effects from concussions and head injuries to athletes have been a subject of national debate for more than a year, and the tragic suicide of Robin Williams this summer prompted a discussion about the challenges those with depression face.

Across the country, matters of the brain and behavior are playing a larger role in health care, education and public policy. At the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, interest in studying these subjects has increased. The Psychology program is one of the fastest growing programs on campus.

UNH Manchester recently added to its faculty and expanded course offerings to provide students with classes in these growing areas of study. The university has four full-time faculty professors who are focused in a wide variety of fields of expertise, including developmental psychology, experimental sensory psychology, personality psychology and neuroscience.

Although psychology isn’t the first major a student might think of when looking for a “hands-on” college experience, the UNH Manchester Psychology program has been designed to do just that, whether in the lab or in the field. This fall, students had even more opportunities to get that important hands-on experience.

The university’s most recent hire is Daniel Seichepine, lecturer of psychology, who has done extensive research on the impact of concussions and was a co-author of the first published article on the impacts of brain injuries on behavior among NFL players. Seichepine said he hopes to continue studying concussions and how they affect mood behaviors and plans to expand UNH Manchester’s course offering in neuropsychology.

“Neuropsychology is a growing field,” said Seichepine. “It kind of grew in big cities first but now the Elliot Hospital in Manchester has hired two new neuroscientists.”

You can read the full article on UNH Manchester Campus News here.

What the kids are up to


When I was an undergrad, I took some digital media classes. This was before Web 2.0 and the term “social media” when blogs were confessional, not a means to making money. Hopefully this intro, and this story’s lead, don’t make me sound 100 years old. I just wanted to note that this was a fun assignment, seeing how colleges are beefing up their digital curricula in the arts.

Communication Arts Goes High-Tech with Two New Options

Whether it’s creating their own website or recording a short video for class on their smartphones, today’s students are looking for ways to integrate technology into their studies. University of New Hampshire at Manchester faculty members have seen the increased use of digital technology in a wide range of fields and are responding by adding digital elements to their classes.

Communications Arts is one such program. With two new options focused on getting technology into students’ hands, as well as a new and expanded audio and video studio in the 88 Commercial Street building, UNH Manchester students now have more access than ever to the technology being used in the media and communications industries today.

Beginning this year, Communication Arts students can enroll in two new “options,” allowing them to take five classes specifically focused on the digital, film and audio side of communications. The options also show up on students transcripts and better describe to graduate schools and future employers the student’s expertise, said Associate Professor of Communications Jeffrey Klenotic.

“Alumni already describe what they did at UNH Manchester,” Klenotic said. “They got a major in Communication Arts, but on LinkedIn, they’re talking about studying digital media.”

Read the rest of the story on UNH Manchester Campus News here.