The Student Loan Debacle

The topic of student loans generates a lot of reaction. It remains one of the biggest debts for any household today, and it is crippling millennials, particularly those who sought out useless degrees.

Although student loans are horrific in Canada today, it is much worse south of the border in the United States. A student loan is the biggest form of non-mortgage debt: $1.3 trillion, and there are no signs of it slowing down (it has gone up for 18 straight years).

You can thank the government and its intervention into the education sector for this mess.

Over at Liberty Nation, I went into the basic economics behind the student loans mess.

Here is an excerpt from the piece:

For eighteen consecutive years, U.S. student loan debt has risen, and there are no signs of it slowing down. Since the financial crisis nearly a decade ago, student loan debt has surged 170% to $1.3 trillion, according to a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Student loan debt is now greater than auto loans ($1.2 trillion) and credit card debt ($1.0004 trillion).

But the numbers are even more terrifying when you begin to dig beneath the surface.

Forty-four million Americans have some type of student debt, and eight million of those borrowers are in default. Today’s default rate remains higher than before the Great Recession. It is expected to get worse as college education prices continue to soar; tuition and fee prices have jumped between 9% and 13% in 2016.

The study found that the average graduate leaves school $34,000 in the red, up 70% from ten years ago. Meanwhile, 10% of borrowers are at least ninety days behind in debt repayment, and this is causing the credit scores of numerous graduates to tumble.

The present financial situation of college graduates is leading many to delay adulthood and is also having a significant effect on the overall economy.

You can read more here.

Infographic: 21 famous night writers

Every writer has his or her favourite time or place to write. Legendary author Agatha Christie liked to write in the bathtub eating apples, Earnest Hemingway wrote standing up, Marcel Proust wrote in bed and Vladimir Nabokov had to write in silence.

I particularly like to write my fictional works in the morning at a coffee shop or late evenings at home when it is raining outside.

This infographic takes a look at 21 famous writers who liked to pen their work in the evening. There is something magical about writing in the evening: typing on your typewriter as the smoke rises from your tobacco pipe with the sounds of Miles Davis simmering in the background. This is heaven.

Here is the infographic:

https://www.authorspublish.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/night-writers.png

When do you like to write? Let me know in the comments section!

‘All About Eve’ (1950) – 10 Greatest Screenplays Ever Written

Legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock once said, “To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.”

I have watched a lot of motion pictures in my time. My wife and I watch at least 10 films a month, and we’re constantly finding little gems. Recently, we watched a sublime movie called “Sons and Lovers,” a film based on a D.H. Lawrence novel.

Over the years, some pictures are the best because of the directing, while other pictures are superb because of the writing. A great actor can make a mediocre script good (just ask Claude Rains), but a bad actor can make a good script terrible (I’m looking at you Lizabeth Scott). This has been going on since the dawn of cinema.

For the average moviewatcher, he is just looking to be entertained. For the moviebuff, the cinephile, every aspect of the film is honed in on, whether it’s the angles or the pacing. In a writer’s case, the screenplay is what makes or breaks a viewing experience.

Here are 10 of the greatest screenplays ever written, whether they’re original or adapted (in no particular order):

“The Sweet Smell of Success” (1957)

“Annie Hall” (1977)

“Casablanca” (1942)

“Breathless” (1960)

“All About Eve” (1950)

“Network” (1976)

“Pulp Fiction” (1994)

“The Thin Man” (1934)

“Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

“Citizen Kane” (1941)

Here are some honourable mentions:

“Reservoir Dogs” (1992)

“Cool Hand Luke” (1967)

“The Apartment” (1960)

“His Girl Friday” (1940)

“Memento” (2000)

Indeed, there are just so many great screenplays that have been produced since the invention of talkies, but these are screenplays that stand out in my mind as well as my wife’s. I would also recommend checking out Writer’s Guild of America (WGA)’s list, too.

What are your favourite screenplays? Let me know in the comments section!

#FlashFictionFriday: The Case of the Torn Trousers

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The Case of the Torn Trousers

“Walter Tracy did it,” said Auguste Hercule Sherlock in his usual confident manner. “I know it.”

Stunned and shocked by this revelation, the detectives from Boulevard Yard demanded to know how exactly the world-famous private investigator came to that conclusion without fully examining all of the facts of the case, posing questions to witnesses, and seeking out motives.

One was so taken aback that his half-smoked cigar had fallen out of his mouth.

“It is simple,” he started, “just take a look at his trousers.”

Taking his gold-covered pen out of his blue shirt’s front pocket and bending down in front of the primary witness, Auguste pointed at the man’s knees and alluded to tears. Additional rips were also found around the suspect’s thighs.

Auguste, satisfied with his deductions, mildly chuckled and explained further:

“Let’s assess two important facts: one, the deceased was found buried in a shallow grave somewhere in the woods, something that comes with a lot of dirt and requires strenuous effort, particularly around the knees. Two, why would Mr. Tracy, a wealthy man, be sporting torn attire? He isn’t a homeless man. He can afford clothes perfectly sewn together.”

He returned to the upright position, massaging his lower back and slapping off the dust of his white pants and long black coat that traveled down to his own knees.

Everyone in the room muttered among themselves, stroking their chins.

“Is that how you came to that conclusion, sir?” discreetly inquired a novice detective.

“Indubitably, young man,” Augustine responded in his typical sanguine tone, one that dates back to the days when he was just starting out. “I have come across these types of cases before. Years ago, a foolish but impoverished old man repeatedly fibbed that he was nowhere near the crime scene, but a quick glance at his trousers suggested otherwise. It is rudimentary, gents.”

Looking at one another for a nod of agreement, followed by a brief moment of silence, several policemen, the three detectives, and Walter Tracy suddenly bursted out laughing. Slapping their knees, with tears streaming down their cheeks, the home of the suspected perpetrator morphed into a comedy club.

Augustine, confounded by the ordeal, demanded to know what was so funny. This was the first time that anybody had the audacity to laugh at his expense.

“Should I tell him or will one of you blokes?” a policeman, in the background, having a hard time containing his cackling, asked his superior.

“You can go right ahead!”

“You see, Mr. Sherlock…” the young policeman disrupting his own explanation from the giggles.

“Yes, yes, what is it? Go on, spit it out!”

“Trousers with tears at the knees are the fashion of today!”

“What the devil are you talking about?” Augustine was unamused.

Another police officer, also in hysterics by Augustine’s ostensible simplification of the murder, chimed in: “All of the kids nowadays wear trousers with ‘oles in them! That’s why ‘e ‘as those rips, sir! ‘E is of the modern type, ‘ou know, sir? Those pants cost two-’undred-dollars. Walter didn’t commit the murder, ‘e didn’t. Even if ‘e did, it wasn’t because of the pants!”

The detective in charge of the case walked up to Augustine and asked circumspectly:

“Are you the old-fashioned, out-of-the-loop type man, Mr. Sherlock?”

“I’m afraid so.”

The entire outfit was still laughing, while Augustine excused himself to visit the bathroom. In the meantime, Walter, still handcuffed, vanished from the scene. The police unit was too distracted by the laughing that they neglected to pay attention to the suspect.

One of the detectives knocked on the bathroom door and informed Augustine that the suspect had escaped.

The turn of events, making the policemen blush, prompted Augustine to chuckle and gloat.

“Always listen to your elders, gentlemen.” Augustine, drying his wet hands with a towel and wagging his right index finger, grinned from ear to ear. “Now let’s catch that killer.”

“Wait a minute!” A detective stopped everyone, noticing something odd about the item the Quebecois private investigator was holding. “Mr. Sherlock, that towel you’re holding…”

“Yes?”

“It is covered in blood. That’s evidence. You’ve now tampered with evidence.”

“Could this case become any more embarrassing for us?”

Augustine, who put the towel in his pocket, and the police squad, who were still wiping away their tears, fled from the premise and chased down Walter Tracy.

41 Tips to be a Successful Freelancer

Freelancing is becoming a career choice for many across North America.

It was reported last year that approximately one-third of the workforce in the United States is comprised of freelancers.  In Canada, one-fifth of Canadian workers are freelancing.

The numbers are only getting bigger. As young professionals decide to ditch the tie and the 9-to-5 lifestyle, a great number of millennial and Generation Z workers are deciding to freelance and be their own boss. This is commendable because it takes a lot of temerity to attempt to be successful in this tough business.

Whether you are choosing to freelance as a way to supplement your income or if you want to freelance full-time, there are numerous things that you must know in order to survive and thrive. Before you plunge head first in this realm, you will need to plan, research and prepare yourself for this kind of lifestyle. It won’t be easy at first.

Here are 41 tips to be a successful freelancer:

1. Have state-of-the-art equipment, a reliable Internet connection and the necessary software.

2. Launch your own blog and show off your skills, past experience and services.

3. If you don’t have any examples of your work then produce something that you specialize in, such as writing articles on a subject you’re passionate about or creating some sort of graphic design.

4. Do some pro-bono work at first in order to build your portfolio and expand your clientele.

5. Establish social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and others.

6. Always conduct yourself in a professional manner; refrain from swearing online,  and be sure to always be polite to everyone you meet.

7. When you start out freelancing, you have to offer your work at discounted rates.

8. Constantly search for work all across the web (Freelance Writing Gigs, Upwork, ProBlogger Job Board, Craigslist and many others). This should be done every day.

9. Be ready for downtime, but don’t panic. When you have free time on, for example, a Wednesday then work on your personal website, hone your skills or look for work (see tip No. 8).

10. Never panic when you don’t have enough work to fill your day.

11. Always save your money. Whether you are inundated with work every day for months at a time or you are spending more time hitting F5 on job boards, you have to live within your means at all times. The recommended number for freelancers is 20 to 25 percent, which does not include what you have to put away for taxes.

12. At the end of a three-month job, remember to ask for a reference or a testimonial to put on your website for future clients.

13. Be active on social media by sharing insightful news, updating your network that you are available for work or connecting with others in your industry.

14. Look after your health. This is sometimes difficult because you could be chained to your desk from 8 a.m. to noon without even realizing it. When you’re freelancing, time is money, and every time you’re not working you’re not earning money.

15. When you are working, do not wear your pajamas or beach attire. Instead, you should definitely be wearing your professional clothing.

16. Concentrate on quality rather than quantity. If you are working on 50 blog posts for a client in a two-week time span, it can be easy to sacrifice the quality. But you must never get stuck in this rut because you risk losing a client or eroding your reputation.

17. Never outsource or sub-contract your work. Your clients have hired you and only you. Plus, you are risking losing precious dollars and you are perhaps sacrificing quality.

18. Change your scenery once in a while. If you are freelancing on a full-time basis then it can be pretty boring to work at the same desk in the same part of your home every day. Moving forward, every once in a while take your laptop and work at a coffee shop.

19. If you are accepting payment through PayPal then you will have to factor in the fees in how much you charge.

20. Throughout your newfound career, take the time to either update your skills or learn something new. When bitcoin became a trending topic, I taught myself as much as I could in order to garner writing gigs in this field.

21. Before you are finished for the day, take the time to create a plan for the next day. This should essentially consist of a checklist of tasks and chores you need to get done tomorrow.

22. Close the email and social media tabs on your web browser when you are working on an assignment. You should only check email once an hour – if you receive an email from a client then respond to it right away.

23. Be appreciative and grateful for your clients,  especially the ones who pay you on time and respect your work. This means always being courteous, respectful, understanding and accommodating at all times.

24. Speaking of clients…prepare yourself for clients from hell. It is true that 98 percent of the clients you come across will be stupendous, but it is the other two percent that will be difficult for no apparent reason – they will expect the world for $2 an hour.

25. If you worked with a client a couple of months ago, follow up with them and see if they need any tasks to be completed by you.

26. Unless you are writing for an ultra popular website, where articles generate on average 10,000 views per day, only accept a fixed-rate payment. If you have spent an entire afternoon working on a 2,000-word article, you don’t want to risk only earning pennies.

27. Take breaks to rest your eyes, to fill your stomach with healthy food and to get your legs moving.

28. Spend about 15 minutes on Sunday evenings to check your email so you know what is in store for Monday.

29. After your first year or two freelancing, it would be fiscally prudent to start raising your rates to keep up with price inflation. If you charge $10 for a 500-word article then raise it to $12.50.

30. As the years go by, you will be more in demand, and newcomers will want your advice or websites will want to interview you. Whenever you get the chance, share your wisdom with the rest of the world, particularly if it is a video interview.

31. If you’re a freelance writer and your hobby is writing then you should also find another hobby (does reading count?). This could consist of playing an instrument, acting on stage or filling empty gin bottles with tiny boats. Do something other than writing.

32. Check out this list.

33. Use gimmicks to get more clients and make more money. For instance, you can offer clients a five percent discount if they pay within 24 hours or you will offer a flat rate of $100 for a batch of 10 articles related to Christmas.

34. Start a referral program. Let’s say that your client, John Smith, referred you to another client, Jane Doe. If Jane orders a minimum of $100 worth of work then you will give John 10 percent off his next order.

35. You could be a freelance photographer, designer or writer. Whatever field you specialize in, you must be anal when it comes to your spelling and grammar. This is imperative, and it will certainly help you stand out from the crowd in this global economy.

36. Do you speak another language? Offer your freelance services in German, French, Mandarin or Russian.

37. Once you start freelancing full-time, you have to form the best family-friendly schedule. Sometimes 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. doesn’t work, and neither does 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. If you have a husband or wife and kids then maybe you can break up your days: 9 a.m. to noon and then 6 p.m. to 10 p.m, or perhaps a couple of hours on Saturday mornings.

38. Working with editors? Never be at odds with them.

39. Drink plenty of water throughout your day, snack on vegetables when you’re hungry and avoid too much coffee (that’s hard!) and fatty and sugary snacks.

40. Listen to classical music during your day. You will find that you have better concentration when you do. Here is a great compilation:

41. Have fun, be happy and be grateful that you are earning an income working from home as a freelancer. If you practice enough gratitude then you will be rewarded with even more clients down the line (it’s the law of the universe).

Do you have any other tips? Please leave them in the comments section below!