Thursday, September 30, 2010

Adopt-A-Dog Book giveaway

October is National Adopt-A-Dog Month, and to celebrate, Hatchette have kindly offered a delightful book pack including the following doggie themed books:

Katie Up and Down the Hall By Glenn Plaskin
Oogy By Larry Levin
GoD and DoG By Wendy Francisco
Dog Tags By David Rosenfelt
How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend By The Monks of New Skete

This giveaway is open to the US and Canada addresses only (sorry dog lovers in other parts of the world - I'll get something for you soon) and no PO Boxes. I'll choose a winner with my famous random selection tool on the 10th of November.  To enter, just send me an email with your postal address and the subject line "adopt-a-dog giveaway."  You can also enter by commenting on this post, but you might like to keep your postal address private (I'll delete all emails once I've chosen a winner).

Happy doggie month all you dog lovers.  With all the chickens and bunnies running around my place, a dog wouldn't be such a good idea, but I send dog wishes to you nonetheless, and also recommend that you celebrate by reading Paul Auster's terrific Timbuktoo if you haven't already.  Mr Bones is the perfect literary dog protagonist.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bookless Library - terrifying or visionary?

I don't quite know why, but I'm just a little creeped out by the idea of a bookless library.  Silly I know, as it's probably the way of the future -- online library facilities like the one I use at the Uni of Newcastle are mega convenient, and have saved me many hours and provided me with resources I could never access in the past without access to a large city facility.  The 16 story National Library of Singapore is a classic example, with its use of radio-frequency identification (RFID), and the use of electronic borrowing.  It's visionary, and without doubt, the future of libraries and a smart way to bring in more readers and service a global population.

The world is changing, and I'm something of an IT geek myself, yet...

I just love visiting our little local library.  The librarians all know me, and my kids just like to browse through the books, the DVDs, the CDs, and talking books to find gems they didn't know they wanted.  You can't do that so easily online.  The librarian sometimes tells me about books he knows I'll love.  They get all excited when I come and read from my books.  They visit local schools and talk to the schoolchildren.  They have storytime and 'books and bickies', and exhibit local artwork, and help people jobseek and it's just so nice and warm - a place that I can walk into anytime, even if I don't plan on taking something out, and sit at one of the tables and just read, relax, and feel utterly, invariably, at home.  I'd so miss it if it became a virtual space rather than a real place. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Interview with Brigitte A. Thompson

Today's guest is Brigitte A. Thompson, founder and President of Datamaster Accounting Services, LLC. She has been active in the field of accounting since 1986 and is a member of the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers and the Vermont Tax Practitioners Association. A prolific writer, Brigitte is the author of several business books, contributing author and freelance writer specializing in accounting topics. Her business has been featured in best selling book by Paul & Sarah Edwards, The Entrepreneurial Parent, and in Mompreneurs Online by Patricia Cobe & Ellen Parlapiano. Brigitte lives in the Green Mountains of Vermont with her husband and three children, and drops by today to talk about her book Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers.

Tell us what Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers is about.

Writers have many important questions to ask about income and expenses, but no single source for answers. I created this book, Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers, to be that source. It is an easy-to-understand guide to organizing a writer’s financial life.

This book addresses issues writers face daily such as how to deduct travel expenses, determine taxable writing income, and claim home office deductions. Navigating through the recordkeeping required for a small business owner can be difficult. This book is written exclusively for those of us who earn money by writing.

Readers will also find that each part of this book works together to assist in forming an overall business plan. The chapters take the writer through a comprehensive process that works as a building block towards a successful writing business.

Have you found that freelance writers require a different set of bookkeeping rules?

Many bookkeeping rules are universal such as the requirement to record income, but there are some areas of the tax law that are of more interest to freelance writers. This includes dealing with royalty payments, bartering, personal property and agent fees. My book addresses the universal tax rules as well as the infrequently discussed rules that apply specifically to freelance writers.

Learning how to document expenses and how to track income will give writers the best chance at overall business success.

What are some tax deductions that freelance writers might not be aware of?

There are many tax deductions available to writers. Some expenses are common, such as the cost of purchasing a case of paper or paying for a computer software upgrade. Other costs incurred in the operation of your writing business may not jump out at you as expenses when they could be. For example, consider the following accounts.

Mileage: Trips made in your vehicle to pick up office supplies can be counted as a business deduction if you record the proper information to support it.

Meals: Treating your agent to a restaurant meal with the discussion focusing on your next book can also generate a tax deduction when properly documented.

Shipping: UPS charges and postage used to mail a query or review copy of your book can be a small expense, but it should still be tracked. Those small deductions add up and every penny spent as a qualified business expense will reduce the amount of income tax you owe.

Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers devotes an entire chapter to expenses including a comprehensive listing of expenses and detailed information regarding what documentation is required to support each one.

I'm sure you've observed other freelance writers making accounting missteps that cost them time and money. What are some of the most common issues and how can we avoid them?

The most common misstep I’ve seen with writers is not taking themselves seriously as business owners. This can lead to financial pitfalls. Many writers have been honing their craft for years so it’s hard to identify an official starting date for their self-employment. Without this point to mark the beginning, it is easy to put off tracking income and expenses. This can be an unfortunate mistake.

The IRS will consider you to be in business when you are actively pursuing projects intended to generate income and expenses. This means they will expect you to file a tax return to report those transactions. Keeping track of your income and expenses from day one will enable you to pay the least amount of income taxes on the money you earn.

Many people find numbers, especially when related to bookkeeping and taxes, intimidating. Will this book make these things easier to understand"?

Yes, my book breaks down complicated number crunching into easy to follow steps. By reading the book, readers will understand why it's important to keep certain receipts and how those pieces of paper factor into the overall success of their writing business. Sometimes knowing the reasoning behind a task makes it easier to complete.

Writers can take advantage of some wonderful tax deductions, but only when they are aware of the possibility and know how to accurately document the expenses. My book explains it all in a reader friendly format.

What are some of the challenges readers face with regards to bookkeeping?

I found the most common challenge writers face revolves around what they can claim as income and what counts as a tax deduction. For example, if their first job is writing the school newsletter, is the money received really income? Do they need to do something with the Internal Revenue Service before they can be considered a business? How do they handle self- employment tax?

The second most common concern for the freelance writers is related to proper documentation. What receipts did they need to save? How should they be kept? What information needs to be recorded to prove the expense? These are all great questions and they are addressed in the book.

Why is it important for writers to understand bookkeeping?

Writers are earning money and this money needs to be reported as income on their income tax return. If writers do not have any expenses to claim, their taxable income will be higher and they will owe more income tax.

Understanding what can be claimed as business expenses when you are a writer and how to properly document these expenses will help ensure the success of your business.

The most important thing you can do as a writer is to become organized. There are many books available on how to organize your writing, but this is the best book available about how to organize the financial side of your writing business.

Obviously, your book is a great place for writers to get information on bookkeeping. Are there are any other resources you recommend?

Yes, I recommend writers visit the IRS web site ( to research specific tax issues and the Small Business Administration ( for general business information.

I also recommend joining professional associations for writers such as American Society of Journalists and Authors (, The Authors Guild ( and National Writers Union ( There are many groups to choose from so consider the benefits of membership before joining.

I was interviewed recently by Freelance Success ( which offers an insightful newsletter for their members. There are also online groups for writers such as MomWriters ( offering networking opportunities as well as camaraderie.

How can we purchase your book?

Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers is available through and my publisher ( Any local bookstore can order my book by ISBN-10: 0963212389 or ISBN-13: 978-0963212382. List price is $17.95.

Brigitte is also teaching an online class Sept 29th through the Freelancers Union and I'd love to have it included.  It's called Bookkeeping Basics and here is the link:

Brigitte and I are part of the VBT Writers on the Move Group. Continue on with the VBT by visiting Virginia S Grenier's blog for an interview with author Karen Cioffi.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A very global Father's Day

It's an odd thing but, while Mother's Day is the same worldwide, Father's Day differs everywhere.  It's June in a lot of places (including the US, where my own father lives), but Sept in the Antipodes (where I am), March in Italy, and Dec in Bulgaria - just to pick a few places at random.  Wherever you are, it's never a bad time to give your dad a little nudge and wave, and maybe even a hug if you're in proximity.  This Father's Day, I'd like to honor my grandfather, who is no longer alive, but with whom I had a kind of special affinity.  He wasn't a particularly easy man to get along with, but I always found his company pleasurable, his stories rich, and his energy well aligned with my own.  Here's a little poem I wrote for him. 

Grandpa’s Birds

In the stark reflection of his blue eyes,
bluer than the cloud filled sky (no clouds – even the cataracts are gone)
which opens out above his grave
there are pigeons.

Pigeons emerging from their cardboard box
a surprise gift of joy and youth
filling the otherwise world-weary air
from one grandparent to the other
from one village to the next
their homing instinct
so different from mine
so sure.

I stood there, a child frozen in time
small, awestruck
watching them disappear.

He watched them arrive
as he knew they would
his faithful pigeons
my message on their legs
safe in their coops on the roof
he took one out, stroked its wing muscles
cooing his deepest secrets
those inarticulate dreams English couldn’t handle
the broken heart, that eventually stopped his own flight.

In his sightless eyes
the birds still fly
a freedom he knew, instinctively
even when utterly grounded
a man of the sky
returning always to his home.

Imagining the Future: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparitions (Volume 1)"Grandpa's Birds" is reprinted from the book Imagining the Future: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparations, written in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson.  It forms part of our celebration series.   The poem also won the Lake Macquarie Literary Awards local poet prize.