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Blog

Applying for Writing Jobs – My Experience

I should probably have covered this before interview prep, but what’s done is done. So, here are a few things I do while applying for writing jobs.

For the last few months, I have been applying for 4-5 jobs every day, on an average. I take a break over weekends, as someone once told me that emails received over the weekends have a greater chance of getting lost in the recruiters’ mailbox.

I had mentioned in a previous post that I mostly use LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter for submitting job applications, as they have the option of easy/1-click apply, which I find quite useful. However, you have to make sure that your profile is up-to-date and thorough so that you can make the most of this option. It is a good idea to even ask your potential references to leave recommendations or reviews of your work (both platforms have this option), as that makes your application way more effective.

Tips for Filling Out Job Applications

  1. Resume – Pay attention to your resume. It is like your advertisement. Whether you get the chance to show them your potential in an interview or not, depends on this, to a certain extent. My resume includes these sections, in particular- A brief summary, highlights/achievements, strengths, relevant experience, education. The achievements should be relevant and, if possible, measurable. The strengths should include soft skills, as most recruiters in the interviews I sat for recently emphasized on this aspect. The resume should not be too long – mine is 2 pages long. The experience included should be relevant to the job – I usually take off some if they are not relevant to the job posting. I also have a bullet list of specific tasks performed in a particular role. Make sure the list is consistent – so, if one point starts with “Wrote copy…”, the next should say “Performed proofreading…” not “Performing proofreading…”
  2. Customization – I went to a career counselling service when I first started applying for jobs in Toronto. They told me that a lot of times, resumes go through software to help recruiters save time and choose applicants with experience matching the requirements of the job. So, every time I apply for a job, I change the wording on my resume to match the job descriptions. Please note that I do not cheat or add things I haven’t done before. I just use synonyms or different explanations for the same thing to make it closer to the posting.

    These days, I do not have a lot of time to do that (#mommyoftwo), so I make sure I apply to similar jobs (mostly copywriting jobs in Toronto), so I don’t have to spend a lot of time working on the resume.
  3. Creativity – Have an interesting “About me” prepared. For writing jobs, creativity is more important than anything else. So, I usually attach the poem I have written about my writing journey in that section. Some recruiters have told me that that’s what made my application stand out for them, and the reason why I got called for the interview.
  4. Online Writing Portfolio – A link to an online portfolio is something that a lot of recruiters have asked me for, at the first stage of the application process. You can create one for free using WordPress.
  5. Document for Common Questions – Sometimes, job postings require you to fill out a detailed application form. They usually need summary of experience, education, and other things included in your resume. They also usually have “a message for the recruiter.” I have all these listed on a Word document, so that I can just copy and paste it all. I started doing this recently, after I did something really silly.
    I was applying for a job after a rather long, exhausting day (Bad Idea!). So, I filled out all the sections, attached resume and cover letter. When I reached “message for the recruiter”, my mind was blank. I couldn’t think of anything to write. So, I just said, “Hello! Please hire me. Thanks.”

    It is embarrassing to even think about this, so I’ll end the subject here. So, since then, I have written a short message listing why I would make a good match for any copywriting job along with a generic closing line. I just copy and paste it if I face this question while filling out an application now.
  6. Proofreading – This step is so important for writing jobs. Grammatical errors, inconsistencies in your resume can instantly create the wrong impression, right, if proofreading is going to be an important part of your job. So proofread the resume and cover letter, or have someone else do it for you.
  7. Cover Letter – I also have a cover letter – complete, concise, clear and clean – that I send with every application.

Recently, I have also started making a list of all jobs I apply to, as I don’t want to keep applying for the same jobs over and over again. When I receive notice they have moved on to other candidates, I just cross it out, to keep a record of it.

With all the competition out there, I think it is imperative for us to be meticulous, especially at the first stage of the application process.

Let me know if you find these tips helpful, or if you feel like they are missing something. If you need resume writing or proofreading services, send me a message to discuss the assignment. If you’re looking for a job, good luck! Hope you find the perfect match soon.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

My New Project – Words Matter

Hello! Happy Monday. I like Mondays. I like that I can leave the mistakes, moods and meltdowns of the previous week behind and make a fresh start every week. So, I feel like Monday is the perfect day to introduce you to my new project. It’s called Words Matter.

Why?

I started this project because every single day, I see warriors on Instagram and Facebook, and in “real life” too, if that distinction exists anymore. I see people who are facing, fighting and overcoming new challenges on an ongoing basis. I find them inspiring and I find the support and encouragement they receive overwhelming.

However, I am appalled by the hate that they receive, and they do receive quite a lot of it, for no apparent reason. I feel like this is one of the pitfalls of social media, isn’t it? With our screens as a cover, we set out to pile on our insecurities on people who have nothing to do with them, without responsibility, without accountability.

I’m afraid I cannot argue with anyone through chats – yes, I have shortcomings, too! So, I have to ignore any negativity I come across, especially on social media. At the same time, I have to do something about something. That’s what writers and thinkers do, right?

Since words are all I have, I use them to play my part in the larger scheme of things. Hence the project. It is my belief that words can heal as much as they can hurt. So, I send out uplifting scrolls with personalized poems to some of the warriors I come across. I send one or two scrolls every week. So far, I have sent 4 to cancer warriors who I met through Instagram.


What next?

If you know of a warrior who can benefit from this project, please follow pebbleintheocean2021 on Instagram, send me a message, and we can take it from there. If you would like to contribute to the project or help out, send me an email, and I’ll be happy to discuss the details with you.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

How I Prepare For an Interview

Before I begin, let me tell you that I have received three calls for interview since I created my online writing portfolio using WordPress. That being said, the competition is fierce. Two of the interviewers told me that they received hundreds of applications for the position, out of which around 20 were called for interviews and out of those 20, they would select one candidate to fill the position.

So, I feel happy that despite a five-year gap on my resume, I made it to the interview stage, but I can never be too confident I would get the job. Still, you have to give your best to every opportunity you get, right? Here are a few things I do to prepare for an interview.

Personal Prep

My first task on the night before an interview is to put my kids to bed and clean my toddler’s artwork in crayon off at least one wall. This wall would make my background since most interviews are virtual these days. Since crayon is hard to get off, there are always a few spots left. I cover those up with scrolls from my Etsy shop. I always choose the brown or black and white ones, because I don’t want my background to be too colourful and distracting. If you don’t like anything on my Etsy shop (aren’t my marketing skills smooth? *wink wink), just type a quote or phrase on MS Word with a thin border, take a black and white print on an A4 sheet and tape that to the wall – if you are in a similar situation. It’s funny how I just presumed everyone has crayon-stained walls, isn’t it?

Next morning, right before the interview, I clean up my eyebrows – Toronto has been in lockdown way too long, so don’t blame me. I apply foundation to the dark circles around my eyes – #mommyoftwo! And I just work on my overall presentation. It is so important for me to dress up for virtual interviews, as one it gives me confidence and two – well, it just gives me confidence. So, I wear formals, apply light makeup, tidy up my hair, just little stuff like that. Just before my last interview, I even wore a mask! I’m so used to wearing it every time I dress up – it was hilarious. Thankfully, I remembered to remove it before the meeting started.

Professional Prep

Professionally, there are lots of things that I do, to prepare for an interview.

  1. I always check the meeting link before the meeting. Check and install any app that you need for the interview beforehand. This will avoid last-minute panic and delays.
  2. I always read the job description and jot down any examples from my previous experience that would make me succeed in the role that I have applied for. Since I apply to so many jobs every day, it also helps me recall which one I’m interviewing for and answer questions accordingly.
  3. I prepare a brief “about me” highlighting all relevant skills and experiences in under two minutes. I even practise it in front of the mirror a few times.
  4. I always research the company, visit their website, social media profiles, etc. This gives me an idea about what the company culture and values are, and gauge my own expectations with respect to those. I was recently called for an interview for a digital marketing role. I researched current trends and practices on Google and went through the company website, in detail. I found certain areas of improvement and wrote them down. On the morning of the interview, I received an email that they already found the perfect match and were cancelling the interview. I was quite disappointed, but I just emailed them and thanked them for letting me know. I wished the hired candidate luck and gave them the suggestions I had written down about their website as bullet points. They emailed me that evening saying they would like to schedule that interview again to listen to what I had to say. They had already hired someone, so obviously I wasn’t even hoping to get the job anymore, but it was nice to see that my point of view meant something and created an impression.
  5. I go through my resume thoroughly. Sometimes, I forget roles that I filled long back, where I may have developed skills necessary for this particular role. So, this is an important step for me as it is a kind of a revision of my experience.
  6. All the interviews that I have been in, these last few weeks, have posited these questions to me – Why do you want to work in our organization?
    What are your expectations from this role?
    What is your process like?
    I had never thought about these questions to be honest. I was just looking for a job that matched my skill set and experience. I never thought about why I want to join that particular company or what I expected to get from the role, other than more experience and a steady pay. So, research about the role and company come in handy when I am trying to answer these questions. It gives me a fair idea of what is out there and what my expectations are, and if the two can go hand in hand.
  7. After an interview, I always thank the interviewer via email. I keep the message short and sweet and if they need me to complete a task or an exercise (most writing roles require that), I submit it promptly, before the end of day, if possible. With my mommy brain at work, all the time, I don’t want to let it slip out of my mind and miss deadlines (unfortunately, that has happened, too).

If you are applying for copywriting jobs, there are a lot of free courses out there that can help you stay up to date with current trends and best practices and show employers you’re proactive in upgrading your skills and knowledge.

How do you prepare for an interview? Let me know through comments or my contact page. Good luck!

©️ Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog, Tutorial

How I Write a Poem – A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Before I start this post, let me tell you a bit about myself. I am Deepti, a writer since the age of 5. That is when I wrote my first poem. Since then, I completed my Ph.D. in English, taught English, worked as a copywriter, started a website, shut it down, worked as a freelancer, started another website and opened an Etsy shop, not particularly in that order. During this time, I kept writing short stories and poems, and got them published in online magazines, literary journals, websites, and several other platforms (yes, I love the Oxford comma).

A few years ago, I started writing poems for special occasions like milestone birthdays, anniversaries and more, and making posters out of them. Everyone I gave them to, loved the gift as it was unique, as gifting words hasn’t really picked up as a trend for some reason. When the pandemic started, I realized that it became even more important to change that, because when we don’t get to see each other, when we are living life between lockdowns, the soothing effect of words begins to seem more comforting than any thing we may buy or get. If you think that words matter, and that now is the time to declare our feelings for each other, visit my Etsy shop.

Now, even though I have been writing across forms and styles, writing poems continues to be my favourite. I like writing free verse better as I find that I have more freedom that way, but rhyme is equally my cup of (Poe)t(r)ea! Did you see what I did there? With my cup of poetry? Okay, I agree it wasn’t as funny as it seemed when I came up with it. So, moving on. Here’s how I write a poem.

The Process

Step 1 – Choose a topic

These days, I have been seeing a lot of people without a home. I see them on the streets, in the lobby of office buildings, and any place they can find to protect themselves from the harshness of the cold weather here. That has made me feel even more grateful that I have a roof over my head, a place to keep me warm and safe from the sometimes cruel weather. So, I decided I want to express this gratitude by writing a poem about my home.

So, I choose home as the topic of my poem.

Step 2 – Let the topic brew in your mind

Now, after I have the topic ready, I need to choose the direction in which I can take my poem. My idea is to express my gratitude for my home. So, I think about all the things I’m grateful for, related to my home. I let the topic brew in my head for a few days, even making up lines as I go. If I am using rhyme, I usually consult a thesaurus to have access to synonyms that either sound better or rhyme with the words I have in mind.

So, coming back to my topic. The things I am thankful for are:

  1. My house is my home.
  2. It is my safe haven.
  3. It brings me warmth.
  4. It brings me light from the moon.
  5. I make memories here with people I love.
  6. It is the vessel where I receive everything my universe has to offer.

Step 3 – Start forming lines in your mind

Now that I know what ideas I want to include, I can start writing my poem. As I said, I have a thesaurus close by, to make sure I can find rhyming words easily. I write the poem in my mind first, and sit down to write when I have at least five lines ready.

Step 4 – Read aloud and revise

After writing down my first draft, I read it aloud to check flow, to see how the poem sounds (that is the most important thing to me while writing, and especially while writing poetry). While writing the first draft, I decided I want to write it as a prayer that can be given as a housewarming present. You can find the final version on my Etsy shop.

Home Sweet Home

May your house become your home

And safe haven, too.

May it bring to you warmth from the sun

And soft glow from the moon.


May you find true happiness here,

With love, laughter and cheer.

May you make happy memories, too,

With those you hold dear.


May your house bring you all these joys

And perhaps a million more.

May it bring you all the good fortune

The universe has in store.

So, if you’re new to writing poetry and you write something following these steps, please share your work with me by email. If you have your own process, and would like to share it with others, please write your comment below, or get in touch through my contact page.

I also offer one-on-one writing workshops, as well as editing services. Contact me for details.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog, Poetry

What I Mean When I say I’m a Writer by Birth

So, if you’ve read my bio, you know I’ve been writing since the age of 5. What exactly does that mean, though? Did I scribble a few words on the page? Or was it an actual poem? See for yourself:

A Rough Translation of the Poem I wrote at Age 5

I wrote these lines in Hindi on the last page of my notebook. I remember this distinctly. I’m still amazed I didn’t use rhyme for this, but it was probably because it seemed too hard at that age. The poem went something like this:

Once upon a time, in a village,

There was a king, who was like a step-king (Cinderella was my favourite story, at the time).

He was extravagant, but did not share anything with his people.

One day, the king died.

All his soldiers cried for him. (Deep and moving, don’t you think? My thoughts were always on the negative side, I guess.)

The queen said, “I should die, too.

My husband is no more, so I don’t have

Any purpose in life anymore.” (Hmmm, Patriarchal much!?)

Smile

This one is in English. I wrote it when I was in Grade 6. It is more positive, kid-friendly and…it rhymes!

A smile is something lovely,

It is indeed very cute,

It is as sweet as someone

Playing on a flute. (I was BIG on rhyme at the time, did I mention that?)

It looks very good

On children’s face,

When they have an adventure

To some exciting place. (I was big on adventure, too, it seems.)

Smile, smile, smile, (I still love repetition – excellent device)

It is a lovely word.

It is present on children’s face

All over the world. (how marvellous!)

Work of Life

I wrote this in Grade 8. It is in English, too, and it rhymes. This and Smile were published in a local newspaper- big achievement for me.

Mother says, Study all the time,

Book of math or book of rhyme,

Brother says, What’s the time?

Brother, Brother 2 o’clock.

Sister says, Give grains to cock!
(It seems like I just let my imagination run wild on this one. I have no brother and we had no poultry in the house, except what was in the fridge, so I have no idea what I’m talking about here. My mother was always asking me to study, though, so that part is accurate.)

Father says, Polish my shoes. (Papa used to polish my shoes, at this age, so imagination at work again.)

Food is ready for the goose. (Nope, no goose either.)

Mother, Father, Husband, Wife,

This is the only work of life. (My priorities were always set, I guess. Also, is it really deep or am I just conceited?)

The Carefree River

I wrote this one in middle school, too, but it was in Hindi. This is a rough translation.

I am a carefree river,

I flow and flow all day long,

Morning or evening,

Day or night.

Even when I see a beautiful sight,

I can’t stop to admire it.

I see everything, I absorb everything,

Then, I go and find my destination

In the deep blue ocean.

I narrate everything I’ve seen on the way to him.

He tries to make me understand,

That my life is nothing more than

Flowing endlessly. (When my family read this one, they knew I was going to be a writer.)

I love that my parents always encouraged me to realize and work on developing my passion for writing. They always took me to book fairs, got me pens, notebooks, cute stationery – to indulge in my love for writing. We were always reading literature, discussing it – and that really helped me grow as a writer and as a person. I’m proud of my journey and I’m proud of the role my family has played in that journey.

Would you like to tell me about your journey? Comment below or contact me through my Contact page. You can find prints of my poems on my Etsy shop, and a few downloads on the Free Downloads page.

Blog, Tutorial

How to Turn Kids’ Art into Posters

I am really excited about sharing this post, as I really liked the results of this task. I have been using Canva for some time now, especially for personal projects, and I love it. After finishing up with painting with my kids, I sat down on Canva and turned their art into posters.

The process is quite simple actually.

  1. Just sign up for Canva. I use the free version, and I do it on the Canva app on my iPad, so that’s what I will be talking about here.

2. Once you’re logged in, choose Create a Design on top of the page. I usually choose poster or A4 document, but you can choose whichever design you wish to create.

3. Next, find Camera Roll. On my iPad, it appears under More on the sidebar towards the left of the page. (Before this step, click a picture of your kid’s artwork and make the necessary edits to it. Then, save it on the device on which you plan to use Canva.)

4. After clicking on Camera Roll, choose the picture you wish to turn into a poster. It will appear on the design page. Crop it and adjust the size to suit your purpose and clear out any unwanted spots or marks.

5. Next, click on Filter and choose whichever filter you like for the painting. I chose Peony because it gave it a pink tinge and made the colours pop. I used full intensity for the filter. You can easily change it if you want it to be less intense.

6. Next, I clicked on the ellipsis next to effects and changed the transparency of the painting. I adjusted it to make sure the text I was about to write was visible clearly on the poster.

7. Next, click on Text on the sidebar, and choose Add a heading and whichever font style and size you like. I chose the text to match my 2-year old’s personality.

I made two posters with two paintings made by my kids. This is what they look like.


Let me know if you try doing this with your kid’s artwork. It’s a whole lot of fun and a great way to preserve your kids’ creative creations.

Blog

Life around COVID-19: Kids’ Activities

Happy Women’s Day, everyone! I celebrate Women’s Day, even if I don’t celebrate any of the other popular Days, because this is the day when it strikes me that beneath all the layers – mother, wife, daughter, writer, teacher and so on, I am a woman. That being said, some days, my life is wrapped around my kids to such an extent, that I think I am only a mother, and nothing else. I don’t know how it sounds to everyone else, but I quite enjoy such days, and I feel thankful for them.

Taking Hand Prints

Sunday was one such day. My 5-year old, my 2-year old and I sat down with a Crayola washable paint kit and just went wild with it. We started out by taking their hand prints. These are the steps we followed:

  1. We took an A-4 sheet and rubbed a crayon all over it.
  2. We rubbed a paper towel all over it to make it smooth.
  3. We cleaned their hands, dipped a thick brush in a lot of water and a little paint and applied it all over their palm lightly.
  4. Then, we held their hands and, very slowly, placed it firmly at the centre of the sheet.
  5. I took a thin brush and wrote their name and Sunday’s date on the bottom of the sheet.

I thought it would get messy and take a lot of tries, but thankfully we got it right the first time. I framed my 2-year old’s prints and taped the 5-year old’s prints to the wall, because that’s what he wanted to do with it. Like their birthday posters, this is another thing I plan to do every year, going forward, and save it in a folder or their memory book, to see how they’ve grown each year.

Abstract Artists in the House

My kids enjoyed the activity so much that my 5-year old suggested he wanted to make abstract paintings and my 2-year old joined in. Here is their artwork:

This was my 5-year old’s artwork. For the picture with the rainbow, I told my kid, I wanted to try a spray painting trick I learned in school. I took a toothbrush, dipped it in paint and gently rubbed my thumb across the bristles on top of the paper. My kid said we should do it the “old-fashioned way” and just brushed the paper like we brush teeth, with the paint. It was hilarious, but it turned out quite well actually, didn’t it?

This is my 2-year old’s work. I drew the rainbow, but for 2-year olds, the rainbow is apparently not colourful enough. So, my kid just added the extra burst of colour to my rainbow. It looks amazing, I think.

Posters for Kids

When we were done, I took their paintings and turned them into posters for kids, using Canva. See my next post for a tutorial on that and for before-and-after pics.

Poetry

The Circle of Life

The circle of a woman’s life

Has turns at every corner,

Pointed, piercing ones at that.

At every turn, she encounters

Her past welded into her present;

The seams of her guarded future

Slowly sneaking away;

The entrances and exits miraculously merged;

Speed bumps and roadblocks strewn along the way.

Although the baffling maze

Makes her feel lost every now and then,

She can see the light

At the end of the sharp twists and dark tunnels,

Deceptive like a mirage –

Always in sight,

Yet never quite within reach.

©️ Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Poetry

A Mother’s Promise

Dearest D and D,

I don’t remember when I took

My place in my mother’s womb.

I have no recollection of how

I grew there, took on the human form,

Getting used to it, day after day.

My childhood and adolescence

Are a blur, as well, of memories

I’d cherish forever, and some

I’d rather forget; Of dreams

Fulfilled and Unfulfilled.

The only vivid memory I have

Is of the day I found out

That two pieces of my heart

Had set out to make a cozy nest

In my womb, only to leave it again,

To find their way into my arms,

And right back into my heart.

I promise that I will treasure all memories

Made since that day – how you grew in my womb,

Took on the human form, and perfected it

Beyond the realm of my imagination,

Day after day.

I will preserve memories of your

Childhood, adolescence, youth –

Of every moment since that blessed day,

When two pieces of my heart

Made their way into my arms

And right back into my grateful heart.

Love always,

Your Mother

I recently wrote this poem for my kids and decided to share it with some of the beautiful mothers around me. You know why? I did it because in running around our kids, getting anxious about their health, safety and comfort, mothers often forget to sit down, look into their hearts and express their unconditional, undying love for their kids through words, not tears or a hopeless smile.


Want to Gift This Poem to a Mama?

If you would like to buy a framed/unframed poster of this poem for yourself, or a mother in your life, please visit my Etsy shop.

©️ Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog, Monologue

From the Gropophobic Girl

I have posted this piece so many times since I first wrote it that I’ve lost count. I just want everyone to acknowledge how traumatic groping can be, and how it can leave a mark on a person’s psyche long after it has happened. Even decades later, gropophobia is still quite real to me. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

It’s been 15 years since we first met. I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was my first day as an undergraduate at Delhi University. I was barely 18 then, filled with excitement and nervousness about embarking on the biggest adventure of my life. I was ready to enjoy the freedom of college, realize my true potential (which was hitherto bottled up, due to the restrictions of school life), and finally spread my wings.

However, before I could do that, I needed to catch the local train, the royal carriage that would transport me to the kingdom of my dreams. Immersed in the enthusiasm and eagerness of starting my new life, I completely forgot the only advice my sister had whispered in my ear when I left home that morning – “No matter what happens, do NOT board the general compartment of the train. Find the Ladies’ coach, and get on it.”

When my train arrived after an hour-long wait, I did not have the patience to locate the Ladies’ coach. The only thought racing through my mind was to not miss the train at any cost; to reach college in time and get in on all the action. After all, who wants to be late on the very first day of college? Not me! Moreover, the moment the train stopped at the station, I lost all touch with gravity, as the swarm of people around me lifted me and threw me into the compartment right in front of me.

I had asked for action that morning, and action I got, when the train left the station two minutes later. Sandwiched in the middle of the crowd, with no room to move, or even breathe, I suddenly felt your hand on my chest. It took me a second to understand that the road to my dreams had unexpectedly catapulted me straight into a perverse nightmare, orchestrated by your filthy mind. You groped me unabashedly until the next station, your face carefully hidden by the faceless bodies that filled up the train to the brim.

I wanted to scream my guts out, but I knew that the noise of the train would drown any sound I could muster up the courage to make. So, I just stood there in complete shock and embarrassment, immobilized by the horror of the shamelessness and cowardice you displayed at that moment, while I tried desperately to catch just a glimpse of your face, something other than your touch to remember you by.

Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the day I met you; the day you forcefully made contact with me; the doomed day you gave me gropophobia. Today, as I sit on another train, a million light years away from the one whose memory you scarred so brutally, I think of you. I think of you and immediately, I am filled with disgust and mistrust, as I make an effort to identify your spineless face in the crowd.

Today, I sit on this train, and I inadvertently clutch my bag tightly in an effort to cover my chest the moment a man dares to come in my vicinity; praying that I reach my destination quietly, without any adventure of any kind. My only dream now is to keep away from nightmares, a gift that you thoughtlessly gave me 15 years ago, on this very day.

This is another one of my Women’s Day special post. Stay tuned for more over the next few days.

If you’d like printable posters, I listed brand-new ones on my Etsy shop. Please take a look, place an order and spread the word, if you like something you

©️ Pebble in the Ocean 2021