A year in beer

Portsmouth Brewery Royal Impy and California Common

Portsmouth Brewery Royal Impy Stout and California Common

It’s been more than a year since I toured the new Smuttynose Brewing Co., facility with Peter Egelston. I got a look at the plant just before they began production and way before the new restaurant, Hayseed, had opened. This research resulted in the article below, featured in the industry magazine, Market Watch. I was impressed with Egelston’s openness and the facility’s high-tech approach to beer making. We discussed how technique and technology influence the beer’s flavor, other endeavors like the Portsmouth Brewery, as well as some business philosophy. The story is only available to me in PDF, so make sure to click through to read the rest.

Brewing Balance

With the opening of a new facility in Hampton, New Hampshire, Smuttynose Brewing Co. aims big while maintaining its craft character

When Smuttynose Brewing Co. finished the first of-the-art brewery in Hampton, New Hampshire, at the end of February, it wasn’t just an inaugural run on new equipment. This batch had been nearly 10 years in the making. Smuttynose founder and president Peter Egelston began searching for a new location in 2004 to replace the original 25,000-square-foot Portsmouth brewing facility, an inefficient, dark and cramped space tucked away in the depths of a light industrial development. Egelston’s first choice was a crumbling riverside mill building in nearby Newmarket, a popular off-campus hub for college students attending the University of New Hampshire. He approached the town leaders and was welcomed with open arms—at first.

Read the rest of the story in PDF form here: MW0414_smuttynose

When something new comes along

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Opening night in the gallery at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth

 

Sometimes I’m inspired to write about a subject because I think editors will love  the idea, or that it will gain lots of reader interest. But sometimes I write about a subject because I am legitimately curious. Last winter, I toyed with the idea of starting a non-profit that would support creative freelancers like myself throughout the northern Boston-metro area. What better way to fund my research than to write a story about the risks and rewards of launching a non-profit?

I learned there are many dedicated people in this state giving their time and gallons of sweat equity to do things that no sane business owner would touch. That includes 3S Artspace, a newly opened gallery, performance space and restaurant in Portsmouth, which I used to open my article. I also learned I don’t have the patience, political capital or connections it takes to start my non-profit idea, which means I’ll be freelancing in my home office for a little while longer.

Here’s my latest piece, featured in New Hampshire Business Review’s March 5 issue.

Navigating a non-profit

The learning curve is daunting for those launching a nonprofit organization

“My mom would tell you that I’ve been talking about 3S – in one iteration or another – since I was about 15 years old,” says Chris Greiner, executive director of 3S Artspace, a performance space and gallery now under construction in Portsmouth. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of establishing a gathering space and cultural hub of some sort, whether it was an arts center for teens, a bookstore cafe, or the multidisciplinary arts space that I eventually landed on.”

The idea started in 2005, and by 2009 Greiner had organized a group of friends and mentors to serve as a fledging board of directors, including an architect, an attorney and a local business owner. Greiner left his job to pursue 3S Artspace full-time, and by March 2011 it was incorporated as a New Hampshire nonprofit with federal 501(c)(3) status. This spring, 3S Artspace will complete construction and open its performance space, art gallery and restaurant in the city’s rapidly changing Northern Tier.”

To read more, please go to the New Hampshire Business Review website.

 

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.

First ever March Pitch-a-Thon

Is there anything worse than a blind pitch? Whether you’re writing one or getting one, pitches can be a painful process. To new writers, the successful pitch formula is an enigma never to be mastered. To editors, poorly written pitch letters litter their inbox like grocery store plastic bags. After five years of on-again-off-again freelancing, I still have trouble creating a pitch editors will bite on, at least when it comes to the blind pitch.

Each April, I teach a half-day freelance writing workshop at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications in Manchester. A big segment of the seminar is spent on pitching. My advice is to get to know some editors first and find out what kind of stories they are looking for. Do they want you to submit a completed story first, or do they want a short pitch to consider first? How long are their pieces? Will taking a few photos improve your chances of landing a story? What parts of the publication are easiest to break into? Etc…

Eventually I get to the blind pitch – a.k.a. pitching an editor whom you’ve never met or spoken with before, typically at a larger, national publication. Really that’s what everyone is there to hear, getting their byline in Real Simple or Field and Stream. It may be my lack of confidence in front of a crowd, but when I explain to them that the best I’ve ever been able to get out of blind pitch are a few emails back from an associate editor, followed by silence, I can see disappointment flash across their faces.

Next month, I am slated to teach my Freelance Writing Workshop again, this time for a full day. For this extended seminar, I’d like to come armed with new and useful information, and if what they’re really want are tips on blind pitches, I figured I better get some together.

Hence my self-imposed first ever March Pitch-a-Thon. For the month of March I will focus at least one day a week and all additional down time to pitching as many publications as possible. The emphasis will be on publications where I don’t know the editor and where I’ve never pitched before – blind pitches. I’ll provide updates here, as well as some samples of my writing and pitches, as a resource for my future seminar students. It’s also one of those public shaming, deadline-driven initiatives to ensure I actually get things done.

Here’s my to-do list as I open my first ever Pitch-a-Thon:

  1. Make a list of stories you can rewrite or re-purpose for a national publication.
  2. Conduct additional research or editing to get these pieces ready for submission.
  3. Write those pitches.
  4. Find the right editor to send my pieces and get those pitches out the door.
  5. Come up with a list of stories I’m going to research and write from scratch, and a list of possible publications to send them.
  6. Gather sources, photos and other important information editors would want to see with my pitch.
  7. Write and submit the pitches.

While I tackle #1-4 this week, I threw this little Eat Pray Love-style pep talk to watch (at the top of the page).

 

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.

Summer Holiday

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I was barely a teenage when I fell in love with the White Mountains. It was my first time at camp, the last summer before liking boys and caring what other people thought about me. We did a lot of hiking and the trail almost always ended with a spectacular view of those rocky peaks and the tiny towns in the valley below. My memories of this place and time are hazy, like the blue-hued ridge line in the final hours of  the day. I can’t remember the trails I took or the people I met, but I’ll always remember how at peace these mountains made me feel.

This summer, I got painfully homesick for the mountains. It had been a few years since I’d visited. After the birth of our daughter we stayed pretty close to home. Knowing my husband shares my fondness for the hills and peaks just a few hours north of us, I booked a quick Labor Day vacation for the family at the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa. It looked beautiful on website and the reviews screamed family friendly, but because this is the White Mountains and you never know what you’re going to get up there, I worried it wouldn’t meet our expectations.

I vastly underestimated this place.

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The yellow clapboards pop from behind the trees as you round the final twist in the road to the hotel. Pulling up for check-in, a bell hop grabs your bags and helps you up the tall staircase to the Veranda. Don’t worry about them again. Staff whisks them of to your room in good time. This is old-school hotel service for a very old hotel.

The Sunday evening we arrived was rainy and miserable. The expansive porch and lobby bustled with families wrapping up their trip. We took a seat by a picture window, looking at only fog. My husband and I sipped cocktails while my daughter danced to jazz standards and Disney ballads played by an older gentleman at a baby grand piano. For a wash-out kind of night, it was pretty fantastic.

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Plenty to look at at Santas Village.

I envisioned Santa’s Village as one-part fun, one-part scary and two-parts depressing. I was happy to find it’s a clean, well-run, quirky and creative place to take young children for the day. We went on Labor Day and had plenty of elbow room; we waited in line for a ride twice. The food was surprisingly good, with plenty of kid favorites and healthy options. Admission includes the new water park, which we didn’t try but looked like a blast.

I rode the carousel with my daughter for the last ride of the day. She waved to my husband as we rode round and round, and I realized this was one of those moments parents of grown children talk about – you just never want to forget it.

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The dining options at the Mountain View are somewhat limited in the off-season, but largely good. Our first night, my daughter enjoyed chicken fingers, fruit and French fries from the free kid’s buffet. I had a seafood-stuffed baked haddock that was that good. Breakfast dishes included the regular favorites, and all that we tried was fresh and tasty. On a breakfast menu, fare like oatmeal can be tasteless afterthoughts, but my oatmeal was topped with nuts and fruit and real maple syrup. The table service overall was a little lacking, mostly just slow really, but we were on vacation. I sipped my coffee, looked out as the sun crossed over the mountains and was patient.

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Relaxing before dinner

The rooms are neat and clean, but the standard king we booked felt a little cramped. They were not designed for hanging out, but for crashing after a fun-filled day. This wasn’t really a problem for us. My daughter wanted to run around the grounds and my husband and I were drawing all we could from the last days of summer.

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The Mountain View’s onsite farm has a large barn with hens, rabbits, llamas, goats and cows. You can visit most days and the farmers welcome kids to pet animals when appropriate. My two-year-old showed no fear, walking right into the goat pen. The farmer guiding the tour said the goats must like her. They usually aren’t that nice to kids, she said.

Turning 37 isn’t one of those birthdays you’re texting friends about. It’s not a milestone. It’s just one day closer to 40. I could tell my husband wasn’t feeling the one-year-older thing, so when I saw there was an ax-throwing class the morning of his birthday, I pushed him to try it. He landed one. Not quite a bulls-eye, but close.

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Taking in the view

The Veranda is by far the Mountain View Grand’s best asset and where we spent the bulk of our time each afternoon. The long, wide porch has rocking chairs and sitting areas for taking in the expansive view of the White Mountains. In the summer, they serve drinks and small snacks on the Veranda, but in the off-season you must grab your own drinks at the tavern.

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Looking down the Veranda

When it came time to pack up the car, I took my daughter to the playground. A little exercise and distraction would help with the ride home. As I pushed her on the swing, I reminded her we would be leaving soon. “I don’t want to go,” she cried.

“I don’t want to go either,” I said.

Sunset behind the White Mountains

Sunset behind the White Mountains

 

Knowing what you don’t know

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There are plenty of skills I picked up as a reporter that have served me well in my freelancing career — aggressive researching, interview timing, writing on tight deadlines, and the ability to quickly know what you previously didn’t know. This last one, probably the most vital.

I’ve learned about Community Development Block Grants, the many challenges of running city government, the ins-and-outs of New England’s energy grid and other esoteric subjects well enough to tell others about them in a 20-inch story written at an eighth-grade level. While I’m not at a daily anymore, I am occasionally called upon to learn and write in a short time frame. Like when I was asked to provide some content for a cloud server service website. Crash course in IT anyone?

 

Family Friendly Brewery

Four-beer flight at Tributary Brewing

Four-beer flight at Tributary Brewing

October in Maine is a bittersweet time of year. The sun is still warm, the trees are at their peak color, but the days are so short you feel like you’re going to cry when you think of the dark winter soon to come. I was feeling a little bittersweet on recent — and perfect — October Maine day when I visited Tributary Brewing for the first time. Sun crashed through the large storefront windows, brightening up the deep, steely blue that covered the place from floor to ceiling. People had told me the room was supposed to feel like you were underwater, but the atmosphere that Saturday was more airy than under-the-sea. It was like sitting lake side, sipping from a fresh beer, flanked by my friends on one side and my daughter on the other. The brew, the room, the band playing jazz standards were slowly curing what ailed me.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve been writing a lot about beer lately. A few freelance assignments headed my way, and a few pitches about craft beer were picked up. The money was good and beer makes a good subject. I was thirsty for more assignments. I just needed to do a little research.

The problem is, visiting breweries is not an easy task for me. As the parent of a two-year-old who is also married to a craft beer lover, trips to a tap room can be tricky. Neither one of us wants to be Those Parents — pounding back pints while their toddler ruins everyone’s day drinking. I could ask my husband to stay home with our child while I sample fresh and interesting beers with friends, but that just seems mean. Instead, I scan news clips and beer blogs for  family friendly pubs where our daughter can stretch her legs without disrupting others in the brewery. Thankfully, there are more and more of those in New England these days.

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Tributary Brewing taproom bar

West Coast breweries figured out long ago that parents need a pint just as much as the childless. Even more so, on some days. Breweries in Portland, Oregon now offer kid’s menus and Hopworks Brewery even features a play area for the tots. As the number of tasting rooms has grown in the Portsmouth/Kittery area, I’ve appreciated their welcoming vibe when my daughter is in tow. Neither the bartenders nor the brewers at Earth Eagle Brewings blinked an eye when we brought our daughter in last winter to fill our growler. When Tributary Brewing opened, I heard former Portsmouth Brewery head brewer Tod Mott was doing great things with beer. I also heard that parents of well-behaved children need not fear the stink-eye from the establishment.

Plenty of room to stretch out at Tributary Brewing's picnic tables

Plenty of room to stretch out at Tributary Brewing’s picnic tables

Mott is best known in beer circles as the master behind the highly-rated stout Kate the Great. He owns and runs Tributary with his wife, Galen Mott, out of a storefront in small shopping plaza two doors down from the Kittery Post Office. Tributary Brewing is not located in the booming Foreside neighborhood, where you’ll find the beer-lover’s mecca, The Black Birch, but the little plaza is home to the summer farmers market and, for many, is on the way home from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

I ordered a four-beer flight, which included 4-ounce pours of all that Tributary had on tap that day. It started with a Pumpkin Ale, not a typical choice for launching a flight, but it’s October, so who cares right? At 5.2% ABV, this delicious ale was light on the pumpkin spice, allowing the hops to shine through. You say you’re not into the pumpkin beer thing? Well if any pumpkin ale is going to convert you, this one will.

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Next was the Oatmeal Stout, a smooth, chocolaty, far-too-drinkable beer. I tend to stay clear of stouts and porters before the snow flies, and then only in moderation, but at 6.2% ABV, I could cozy up with a few of these and a cribbage board on a Friday night and be perfectly happy. The odd-man-out in the flight was Tributary’s Bier De Garde, a bright, bubbly and tart light beer that left your mouth smacking after the first sip. Not my favorite of the bunch, it was the strongest at 6.9% ABV. Following two beers that signal the end of the year, the Bier De Garde seemed more fitting for April than October. My final sample was Tributary’s IPA. At 6.5% ABV, this beer was perfectly balanced and a little bittersweet. Overall a completely drinkable beverage for a Saturday with friends.

I was downing my last gulp of IPA around the time the jazz combo started packing up their gear. It was getting dark and my daughter had eaten all the snacks we had brought. As glasses emptied, we brainstormed about finding dinner across the Piscataqua. Tributary Brewing was an easy weekend meet-up for a group of friends both with and without kids, but now we were on to the hard part — dinner for seven in Portsmouth on a Saturday night.

Finding the hook

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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

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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.