You Go, Girl (published in Travelife Magazine)

Ana Santos, Nikka Sarthou and Nina Terol-Zialcita, of Writer’s Block Philippines, contribute to this issue’s Survival Guide (You Go, Girl) a very practical take on girls traveling solo. Mostly borne of painful experience, we hope it helps spare you trouble. Yes, guys, too.

Here are some excerpts from the contributors page of Travelife and some unpublished tips on traveling solo.

Ana Santos, Nikka Sarthou and Nina Terol-Zialcita, of Writer’s Block Philippines, contribute to this issue’s Survival Guide (You Go, Girl) a very practical take on girls traveling solo. Mostly borne of painful experience, we hope it helps spare you trouble. Yes, guys, too.

Here are some excerpts from the contributors page of Travelife and some unpublished tips on traveling solo.

What for you is the holiday destination?

Ana: Amsterdam! I want to see the infamous red light district and learn why Amsterdam is considered the world’s most sexually liberated city. As a journalist and sexual health advocate, part of my trip is documenting attitudes toward sexuality and women’s issues, traced back to a nation’s history or religion.

Nikka: That would be Amanpulo where I can bask under the sun, frolic in the sand, and cool in clear, blue waters. I just want to immerse myself in one of the Philippines’ most beautiful destinations. Nothing spells holiday like your own private paradise.

Nina: Greece, because I would love to see the birthplace of democracy and philosophy, where empires rose and fell, and the Mediterranean Sea. Besides, I can imagine the great photo opportunities!

You Go, Girl

More (unpublished) travel tips about flying solo and surviving the experience:

  • Since you’re traveling alone, make sure that someone else knows your itinerary and check in with them frequently to let them know that you’re safe–especially when traveling cross-country or moving from one destination to another.
  • Check your hotel for free WiFi, and maximize Skype whenever you need to get in touch with family and friends from another part of the world.
  • Try not to draw too much attention to yourself through your clothes or expressions. You never really know what can provoke someone else to pose a threat to you. And when someone DOES cross the line, keep your cool and DO NOT engage them–especially if you cannot speak their language. While in the Paris metro, a small bald man rushed up to me and whacked my head with a rolled-up newspaper or magazine. I didn’t know why, since I didn’t even notice him during the trip, but I chose to not engage him and just let him walk away (after making sure that I didn’t get pickpocketed or violated). I didn’t want to provoke any more hostility on his part, and since I came out of it pretty much unscathed, I just charged it to experience–and a good story to tell. ~Nina, during her side trip to Paris when she went to the European Journalism Institute in Prague for a scholarship
  • Allot a budget for your trip, including shopping money and emergency cash, just in case. The first time I went back to the States after ten years, I realized that I forgot to bring a camera. Since I wanted to document my trip, it was necessary for me to purchase one there. Good thing I had extra money with me so I can do so. Having a credit card would also be helpful for emergencies, but keep in mind the conversion rates before you make that first swipe. ~ Nikka, during her vacation in the U.S.A.
  • Always carry some loose change. You’ll never know when you’ll need it for emergency phone calls, metro or bus tickets, vendo snacks and drinks, and others.
  • It is important to list down the toll-free numbers of your credit card issuers and keep them handy. In Rome, on the way to the Vatican, I was pickpocketed and had to call my two bank issuers to report the loss using their landline number. I could have saved on roaming charges if I had known the toll free numbers. ~ Ana, during her European tour
  • Always bring a medicine kit wherever you go.
  • Adjust your beauty practices depending on your destination.
  • Your hand carry should always always have your basic toiletries, night clothes, underwear and an extra set of clothes because you never know if you baggage would be delayed or lost.

Food Writing Tips: Earn Some Cash in Between Bites (featured in OurAwesomePlanet.com)

Excerpt from “Food Writing Tips: Earn Some Cash in Between Bites,” published in Anton Diaz’s Our Awesome Planet.

Here are some pro-food writing tips from my friends from Writer’s Block Philippines:

How do you cross over from being a passionate foodie to a credible and published food writer? Try these tips from the writing experts:

Excerpt from “Food Writing Tips: Earn Some Cash in Between Bites,” published in Anton Diaz’s Our Awesome Planet.

Here are some pro-food writing tips from my friends from Writer’s Block Philippines:

How do you cross over from being a passionate foodie to a credible and published food writer? Try these tips from the writing experts:

1. Select an interesting subject that has not yet been featured in other websites or magazines

Food features can be more than just about food. Aside from the food itself, other possible features may include new restaurants, chefs, and recipes. Just make sure that the topic is unique or that’s you’re presenting it in a different angle.

For instance, when writing about family recipes (sometimes called “heirloom recipes”), mention its unique history, what makes the family behind it special, any unique innovations that have been passed on through the generations, and so on. Magazine editors value writers who can present ideas from a perspective that sets the publication apart from the rest of the pack.

2. Practice your keen observation skills

Use all your senses when describing the food.

How’s was the dish presented?
How does it taste—too sweet maybe or a bit salty?
What flavors and aromas does it remind you of?
What is its texture?

Describe all these in a way that make the dishes come alive, such as “its sweet, nutty taste and earthy, organic texture made one feel closer to nature.”

Describe its “star ingredients” and what makes the dish special–especially if it’s a popular or well-loved dish such as adobo, sinigang, paella, pasta, or steak.

Be very detailed when you explain your eating experience so your reader would want to experience it, too.

3. Accentuate the positive

Doing a restaurant review could be a bit tricky if you’re not happy with your dining experience. As much as possible, focus on the positive aspect of the food or place when writing a review. If something is not to your liking, say it in a nice way—in the form of constructive criticism. A bad review is not worth the time and effort you’ll put into it, not to mention the space you need to allot for it. Also, editors might be uneasy publishing a piece that reads more like glorified bashing.

READ MORE TIPS HERE.

Travelife Magazine’s Suitcase Tales: Everyone’s Dream: To Foodtrip for a Living

Excerpt from “Travelife Magazine’s Suitcase Tales: Everyone’s Dream: To Foodtrip for a Living,” published in Travelife Magazine blog.

Excerpt from “Travelife Magazine’s Suitcase Tales: Everyone’s Dream: To Foodtrip for a Living,” published in Travelife Magazine blog.

Writers’ Block Philippines, a group designed to bind and inspire the writing community, is once again organizing a very interesting activity for potential writers, and we at Travelife Magazine are very happy to support it. Travel and food go together, after all!

Niña Terol-Zialcita, one of the group’s founders and a lifestyle journalist, agrees. “Food is a common denominator among those who enjoy culture, travelling, and adventure.”

Eat, Write, Love

The food writing workshop, entitled, “Eat, Write, Love,” will be held on Saturday, October 16, 2010 at Adarna Food and Culture Restaurant inQuezon City. Like their other trademark experiential workshops, “Eat, Write, Love” will combine the gastronomic experience of eating and the equally satisfying activity of writing about it. Adarna Executive Chef Giney Villar will also talk about the history behind her food creations for Adarna, while popular food writer Lori Baltazar of DessertComesFirst.com will talk about building a career from food writing.

Incidentally, NiñaAna Santos, and Nikka Sarthou, the three ladies behind Writer’s Block Philippines, have also contributed a great article on travel survival tips in the latest issue of Travelife Magazine (October-November 2011). The issue is on sale now, so read about their adventures and advice in our magazine.

READ MORE HERE.

Eat. Write. Love. (featured in Yummy.ph)

The passion for food and writing come together in this workshop from Writer’s Block Philippines.

By: Minnette Gamez-Aquino

The passion for food and writing come together in this workshop from Writer’s Block Philippines.

By: Minnette Gamez-Aquino

Are you an aspiring writer with a passion for food? Jumpstart your writing career with eat. write. love., a half-dayfood writing workshop from Writer’s Block Philippines on October 16 (Saturday) at the Adarna Food and Culture Restaurant on Kalayaan Ave in Quezon City. Prepare for an afternoon that fuses Filipino food, history, culture, writing and a sumptuous culinary experience while listening to talks by Adarna Food and Culture Restaurant Chef Giney Villar and food writer Lori Baltazar of Dessert Comes First

Sign up now because slots are limited to 25 participants.  The fee is  P2,500 per head, inclusive of lunch. You can sign up or reserve a slot at Writer’s Block Philippines in the workshop page

eat. write. love. is brought to you by Writer’s Block Philippines and Adarna Food and Culture Restaurant with the support of Yummy magazine, Travelife magazine, Mentos and Berocca.

“Jumpstarting a freelance writing career” in the Philippine Star

What do the names Nikka Sarthou, Niña Terol-Zialcita and Ana Santos have in common? For one, they are all freelance writers, whose pieces have been published in various newspapers, magazines and even on websites. All three have their own forte ranging from lifestyle to investigative news. It was during a writing class that they got together and realized that there weren’t many groups that cater to the need of freelance writers who want to learn other forms of writing style. Thus, Writer’s Block Philippines (WBP) was born.

Excerpt from “Jumpstarting a writing career”, published in Philippine Star on July 19, 2010.

Text and photo by Alexa Villano

Carlos Celdran talk with the audience during his Walk This Way tour, the second workshop of Writer’s Block Philippines. Photo by Alexa Villano
Carlos Celdran talk with the audience during his Walk This Way tour, the second workshop of Writer’s Block Philippines. Photo by Alexa Villano

MANILA, Philippines – What do the names Nikka Sarthou, Niña Terol-Zialcita and Ana Santos have in common? For one, they are all freelance writers, whose pieces have been published in various newspapers, magazines and even on websites. All three have their own forte ranging from lifestyle to investigative news. It was during a writing class that they got together and realized that there weren’t many groups that cater to the need of freelance writers who want to learn other forms of writing style. Thus, Writer’s Block Philippines (WBP) was born.

Established only this year, Nikka said that they decided to put up the group writing workshop because of their passion for writing.

“We discovered that we were all writers. The three of us were doing freelance writing. We naturally gravitated towards each other because we have the same passion. We also want to create a group and realized that when we want to look for an outlet, there were not many opportunities. So we decided to form our own group,” Nikka said.

“Many writers have to be educated with issues. When I met Nikka and Ana we saw there was an opportunity beyond teaching and imparting knowledge. It is one to write and write creatively, it’s another thing to do as a source of livelihood,” Nina said.

Their first workshop, “Jumpstarting Your Freelance Writing Career,” got them a huge response. With only a limited slot, the group was surprised that a number of interested participants signed up for the workshop. It was soon followed by the “Walk This Way” tour with Carlos Celdran where writers had the opportunity to explore Intramuros.

“We never expected this reception from the writing community. We were surprised that a number of people were looking for something like this,” Nikka said.

“It was a validation. Before we started WBP, the three of us were all soloists of sorts. The warm reception that we’ve gotten from the writing community has shown us that there are other writers like us who feel the same way,” added Ana.

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READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE.

10 common mistakes every freelance writer should avoid (featured in Our Awesome Planet)

Like any other business, you need to organize a working system to manage your own freelance career – all three of us found that out the hard way. We want to share with you what we have learned from our personal experiences, so you’ll know what mistakes to steer clear of and what to do about it. Here are 10 tips to help you become more successful as a freelance writer.

Excerpt from “10 common mistakes freelance writers should avoid”, published in Anton Diaz’s Our Awesome Planet.

Writer's Block Philippines!

10 Common Mistakes Freelance Writers Should Avoid
by Writer’s Block Philippines — Ana Santos (SexandSensibilities.com), Nikka Sarthou &
Nina Terol-Zialcita (TheArtofChangeMaking.com)

Like any other business, you need to organize a working system to manage your own freelance career – all three of us found that out the hard way. We want to share with you what we have learned from our personal experiences, so you’ll know what mistakes to steer clear of and what to do about it. Here are 10 tips to help you become more successful as a freelance writer.

1. Never take contracts for granted. As a freelancer, the only person who can ensure your financial and professional security is yourself. Pay special attention to contracts and terms of reference, and don’t be satisfied with simple verbal agreements. Learn to operate like a small business and keep yourself protected from abusive colleagues or from lawsuits from clients.

2. Be clear about the scope of work. It’s easy to assume your scope of work when you’re simply writing an article for a publication. However, the minute you start taking on larger projects with more tasks and more coordination work (managing a publication, for example), be clear about your scope of work and expectations from both your clients and team mates. Never assume anything and always put terms, conditions, and payment agreements in black-and-white.

3. Even when dealing with friends, be professional. It’s easy to cross professional boundaries when dealing with friends whom you’ve known for a long time and whom you trust. However, when it comes to freelancing and managing your own micro-enterprise, you need to draw professional lines. Let friends sign contracts and agreements, prepare payment vouchers, mind your paperwork, do everything professionally.

4. Know your limits. As a freelancer, it’s tempting to take on more projects than you can handle because it will bring in more cash. DON’T. Know your limits and respect your own boundaries. Remember that when you spread yourself too thinly, your productivity will suffer as well. Avoid getting to the point where you will disappoint your clients, your editors, and yourself. Learn how to manage priorities and decline projects politely. If you turn in consistently good work every time, you will never run out of projects and clients.

5. Take note of your deadlines. You are your own boss so you have to manage all your projects and list down your deadlines so you can easily keep track of them. It would be bad for your reputation if you don’t submit your assignments on schedule.

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READ TIPS 6 to 10 HERE.

Philippine Daily Inquirer features travel writing tips from Writer’s Block Philippines

AS YOU GEAR UP FOR THE rest of summer, fret not about your vacation expenses. Instead, find ways to monetize your travel passions and turn your holiday adventures into sources of extra cash.

How? By writing travel features.

An excerpt from “Turn your summer adventures into extra cash by travel writing”, published in Philippine Daily Inquirer on April 17, 2010

By Sofia Y. Ros

Photos by Niña Terol-Zialcita

Il Duomo in Milan, Italy, taken by Niña Terol-Zialcita with a Nokia E90

AS YOU GEAR UP FOR THE rest of summer, fret not about your vacation expenses. Instead, find ways to monetize your travel passions and turn your holiday adventures into sources of extra cash.

How? By writing travel features.

Ana Santos, Nikka Sarthou, and Niña Terol-Zialcita of Writer’s Block Philippines believe that traveling not only helps us unwind and have a great time: It also offers powerful insights that could make great fodder for writing.

“Writing about your travels is another way of imprinting the memory of that place and immortalizing it in your mind,” Santos says. “Traveling is good for the heart and mind, but writing about a place is good for the soul.”

However, if hopping on a plane seems too expensive and too daunting, Sarthou reassures the budget-conscious traveler. “You don’t have to travel far to produce good travel articles. You can simply start in your hometown, and just share what you know about it in a more organized manner.”

To read the rest of the article and get travel writing tips, CLICK HERE.

Writer’s Block Philippines in “The Manila Times”

The texting starts at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

“Hello ladies, I’ll see you in a few minutes. I’ve e-mailed a list of our deliverables for today’s meeting.”

That is the usual text message that signals the start of the weekly meeting of Writer’s Block Philippines, a group formed by Ana Santos, Nikka Sarthou and Nina Terol-Zialcita, three freelance writers.

The Writer’s Block: How to jumpstart that freelance writing career

Text by Veronica Franco
Photos by Ena Terol
Published on April 11, 2010 in The Manila Times

PHOTO - 2010_03_20 Nina,Ana,Nikka Shoot Serendra1

The texting starts at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

“Hello ladies, I’ll see you in a few minutes. I’ve e-mailed a list of our deliverables for today’s meeting.”

That is the usual text message that signals the start of the weekly meeting of Writer’s Block Philippines, a group formed by Ana Santos, Nikka Sarthou and Nina Terol-Zialcita, three freelance writers.

The “see” in the text message is actually a misnomer since they won’t actually see each other. Most Writer’s Block meetings are done through Skype teleconference.

“People think that freelancers have all the time in the world, but that isn’t always the case. Like us, our common availability to meet about the workshop was a few hours on Sunday mornings,” says Sarthou.

Santos, Sarthou and Terol-Zialcita were all taking a professional blogging and Internet marketing techniques class at the Asian Institute of Management under Anton Diaz when they discovered that they were all freelance writers with close to a decade and a half of combined experience.

The three decided to put up a writing workshop because they were always asked how they got started in freelance writing and wanted to share their experience and practical knowledge with the writing community. Entitled, “How to Jumpstart Your Writing Career,” the one day and a half workshop will discuss practical tips on getting started in freelancing, building a network and ultimately establishing a credible byline.

Deciding to put up a writing workshop was easy, it was meeting and putting it together that was the more difficult part because of their schedules. They had no idea how hard it would be to get together during the week mainly because their schedules never aligned. They found only one day—Sunday—when all were available, and as others in the group had family lunch obligations, the meetings had to be done on Sunday mornings. Doing the meetings on Skype allowed them to get up at 8 a.m. and log—on versus waking up more than an hour earlier to make an 8 a.m. meeting.

“I think it’s a testament to the discipline that is needed as a freelance writer. You have to use your time productively, otherwise you’ll starve if you just slack off. So no matter what time we stayed out the Saturday night before, we would all get up and log on for our 8 a.m. Skype telecon. It’s a good thing we could still be in our pajamas for our meeting,” says Terol-Zialcita, who is a poetess, political communicator and changemaker.

Sarthou agrees, “Freelance writing is not as easy as it seems. It actually entails a lot of hard work and sometimes working during weekends, too.” Sarthou’s byline is mostly read in travel magazines like Mabuhay. She also manages corporate accounts, which gives her the flexibility to pursue her passion for traveling.

“When we thought of this workshop, we thought of setting things straight when it comes to freelance writing. Being a freelance writer is like being an entrepreneur. The service that you are marketing is your talent and the brand that you are managing is your byline, which is essentially your name. You need business acumen to complement your writing skills,” says Santos, a sex and relationship columnist and sexual reproductive health advocate. Santos, who also writes about armed conflict in Mindanao, has had her work published in international publications like Integrated Regional Information Networks News under of United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The perspective on freelancing as a combination of creativity and business strategy proposed by Writer’s Block Philippines has gotten the support of other partners like PowerBooks and Lifestyle Network, who are their major partners.

As the three know, it’s not easy to break into freelance writing. It’s a slow process that requires networking, business skills and making the best out of opportunities that come along.

READ THE FULL STORY IN THE MANILA TIMES ONLINE