Janice’s Review Blog

Archive for May 2009

"Getting Started as a Freelance Writer"

"Getting Started as a Freelance Writer"

I always enjoy reading Robert W. Bly’s books and articles about writing.  He gets to the point and makes a lot of sense, and since he earns a cool $600,000 a year, I figure he knows the writing business.

His expanded and revised version of “Getting Started as a Freelance Writer”gives a freelance writer all the information needed to set up and maintain a successful freelance writing business.  Bly begins by examining why someone wants to be a writer; he lists the 10 secrets of success; he examines what it takes to be a writer; and he lists three things-read, write and take courses-to improve writing skills.

The book contains a  list of items needed to maintain an efficient office and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of leasing an office or setting up a home office.  Throughout the book, Bly includes other writers’ opinions and tips on subjects. 

Bly discusses every type of writing a freelancer can pursue and gives income rages for each one.  He gives examples of how to market writing services and makes suggestions on how to make the best use of time.  The book encompasses every aspect of freelance writing and is well worth the $19.95 purchase price.  I recommend it as one of those reference books to keep close at hand.

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"The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd"

"The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd"

Jana Bommersbach arrived in Phoenix in 1972 from North Dakota to work for the Arizona Republic.  She purchased a book on Winnie Ruth Judd and found a lot of unanswered questions about the so-called “Trunk Murderess.”

When Bommersbach became an investigative reporter and editor for the New Times, she decided in 1987 to dig around and find out more about Winnie Ruth Judd. 

Bommersbach writes, “In May 1990, I wrote a two-part series on my investigation for New Times.  The series unleashed a flood of new information.”

In Bommersbach’s book, “The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd,” she describes the environment in Phoenix during the 1930s.  At that time, everyone knew everyone else in Phoenix unlike today.  This case also brought to light a Phoenix tradition of “summer bachelors” where prominent business men sent their wives and children by train to the cooler communities up north and brought in their “summer wives” to take care of their needs during the work week.  Winnie Ruth Judd and the two murdered women, Anne LeRoi and Hedvig Samuelson, filled those roles.

Bommersbach dug through archives and files located at the State Archives Office, the Maricopa County Court Records Office and the Pinal County Historical Society.  She worked with experts to get their takes on the information she uncovered.  She arranged interviews with witnesses and others who remember the details leading up to the murders on Friday, Oct. 16, 1931 and the trial that followed.  And finally in 1990, Bommersbach arranged an interview with Winnie Ruth Judd, who was then known as Marian Lane.

The book presents an unknown history of Phoenix at that time and shows what lengths powerful people used to cover up their dirty secrets.

"Bones in the Desert"

"Bones in the Desert"

The news story hit the airwaves in December 2004, Loretta Bowersock was missing under unusual circumstances.  Her daughter, Terri, owner of a multimillion-dollar Tempe, Ariz. business, put out fliers and set up interviews with the news media to find her missing mother.  In the meantime, Taw Benderly, Loretta’s companion, tried to prove his brilliance by making up one story after another about Loretta’s disappearance.

The story continues with Terri’s acceptance that her mother is dead at the hands of Benderly and buried somewhere in the desert.  Before she can get Benderly to reveal her mother’s whereabouts, Benderly takes his life, and Terri turns to psychics and the public to find her mother’s remains. 

In her book, “Bones in the Desert,” Jana Bommersbach uses all her investigative and writing talents to disclose the events that led up to Loretta Bowersock’s death.  Through interviews with friends, family and Loretta’s journals, Bommersbach tells how a beautiful, confident, independent business woman undergoes the sinister, calculating abuse of the man she loves-details the media never take the time to reveal and circumstances most people would never know.

With the same drive Terri exercises to find her mother’s body, Bommersbach also leaves no stone unturned as she writes every detail leading up to the murder, burial and search for Loretta.  Better than any fiction mystery thriller, you won’t be able to put this book down until you find out every detail leading up to this tragedy.  Although the two most important people in the story can’t answer interview questions, Bommersbach tenaciously investigates every avenue until she  completes Loretta’s story.

I first met Jana Bommersbach at the 2007 Phoenix College MicroBurst Writer’s Conference.  She autographed her book, “The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd,” for me.  In the afternoon, she spoke to us about her adventures as she gathered research material for the book and met and interviewed Winnie Ruth Judd.  We all became so engrossed in her talk that the conference coordinators came to get us for the closing event of the day.

Jana Bommersbach arrived in her metallic green, Mustang convertible recently to speak at an event sponsored by the Arizona Press Women.  I listened to Bommersbach speak about “My Secret Writing Tips.” 

During her talk, the award-winning journalist, broadcaster, author and speaker shared tips for better writing.  She used an analogy of the trees and the forest and said writers should tell the whole story and make sure all of the pieces are there.  She encouraged writers to find a different perspective on a story or use a story already in the media, but show inside stories associated with it: show the trees for the forest.

After researching and gathering information, says Bommersbach, I have boxes of information.  I could write a book for each story. 

Bommersbach obtains some of the information from public records.  She goes through everything and listens to videos and tapes and reads reports and documents in their entirety to discover information.

Bommersbach plans her story by asking what is the lead, and how do I find it and how do I express it?  She makes a list of salacious things she knows, otherwise, she gets lost in the inventory of research information.  She makes a list of important things and then asks, “How do I tell that story?”  First she writes a lead and a kicker, so she knows exactly were she starts and exactly where she goes.  She lays out all of the evidence.  In determining the best way to tell the story, Bommersbach wants the reader to feel a sensory reaction to the story. 

Other tactics Bommersbach uses include writing simple, declarative sentences, even long sentences; limiting the use of metaphors; and using valid analogies that make sense.  As important as the lead and the kicker are to the story, Bommersbach emphasizes that the story should also end with an exclamation of a good summation or an emotional quote so the reader feels the story is done. 

These were a few of the “secret writing tips” Bommersbach shared with the audience.  After the talk, I purchased her newest book, “Bones in the Desert,” and requested her autograph.