All Things KHG

Kristen Hall-Geisler has been a freelance writer and book editor since 2006. As a writer for print and web, she specializes in explaining difficult and technical subjects to people without boring them silly. As an editor, she helps authors do the same with their books. She’s also the author of Take the Wheel: A Woman’s Guide to Buying a Car Her Own Damn Self. 

If you’d like some of this clever clarity for your own project, click on Contact in the header above.

The Bottom Line Is Not Just a Figure of Speech

I’ve been a freelance writer and editor years longer than I’ve had proper accounting software. (A quick hat tip to Freshbooks for making the switch from home-brewed spreadsheets to software not so painful.) While the basics are easy (invoice! expense! bam!), and I have a brilliant freelance-friendly tax accountant, I’m still learning a lot about the business part of my freelance business.

It’s the end of the year, so I needed to clean up expense reports and I wanted to donate a huge pile of money to charity because I’d had a good year. I wanted to share. I used the profits and loss report to see where expenses had been categorized or entered incorrectly, then flipped back to the expenses to fix it all. Et voila! Profits!

But not much.

This is where I learned what exactly the profit and loss report reports. Sure, it tells you if you profited or lost money over the year; I knew that. But I didn’t really get the difference between my gross income, which was pretty good, with my net profit, which was paltry. I pay myself a monthly wage, so that took a huge chunk out of the profits. And I pay for all my own travel to automotive shows and conferences, so that was a lot too. And there’s utilities, and subscriptions to tools like Merriam-Webster Unabridged online, and the few bucks I paid for contract templates with better language than the ones I’d used for years. It ate away at that net profit line in big bites and small nibbles until I had just a little pile of virtual money in bold font at the bottom of the report. Oh, I thought, this is that bottom line everyone talks about. 

I was disappointed. I wasn’t going to be donating a big chunk of money after all. I was not going to make it rain up in here, or anywhere else. But I followed through with my original intent, though it was more than a bit diminished, and donated 10% of that net profit to the Malala Fund to help girls around the world achieve 12 years of education. And I’d like to do it again next year. So I’m going to pay more attention to the literal bottom line and, I hope, have a bigger pile to share in 2016.

How to Write a Nonfiction Book

  1. Procrastinate by proofreading a friend’s novel because I am all about giving back to the writing community.
  2. Play some video games.
  3. Open up all the notes and outlines. Despair. I thought I had better notes. This isn’t an outline; it’s a list of facts. I’m supposed to make a story out of this? Shit shit shit.
  4. Strap on headphones and dig into writing anyway, though the draft is beyond terrible. It is embarrassing.
  5. Come up for air an hour and a half later when the dog nudges you for the afternoon walk and dinner. Guess the writing started going well at some point.
  6. Walk and feed the dog, feed the cats and the rat, and grab an apple for yourself. Writing needs fuel!
  7. Finish up a not so bad 2000-word draft of chapter 3 that includes two racing crashes from the early 1900s and an all-caps New York Times headline (“VICTIMS TOSSED IN THE AIR”).
  8. Achievement unlocked: not cooking dinner and dibs on the beer in the fridge.

Next Event: CES 2016

I’ll be at CES in Las Vegas the first week of January, along with all the other nerds and geeks. I’ll be there specifically to report on all the latest in automotive tech for Popular Science and How Stuff Works, but I’ll also be testing out every gadget they’ll let me get my grubby paws on. Very much looking forward to the big reveal from Faraday Future, the company that fancies itself a competitor of Tesla Motors.

Next Event: LA Auto Show

I’ll be flying down to Los Angeles to see all the shiny cars and shiny people at the automotive press days Nov. 18-19. The Connected Car Expo takes place the day before in the convention center, and I’ll be there too, reporting on the latest automotive tech. Fingers crossed Nissan brings in the fancy grilled cheese food cart again this year! I’ll be posting about all the coolest, shiniest stuff I find on my Take the Wheel Facebook page and on Twitter, where I’m @kristenhg. Follow me to find out if grilled cheese dreams come true!

The Research Rabbit Hole

Running down the research rabbit hole is one of my favorite activities. I know other people hate it; that’s why they pay me to do it. And I am so happy to do it.

If you are not happy down in the hole with the information bunnies but you find yourself having to throw yourself into it anyway for your project, I shared four of the research tools I use just about every day in the Indigo newsletter this month. These will help you find what you need while you’re searching and keep track of what you find so you can actually use it later.

Good luck with your project! And wave if you see me when you land at the bottom of the research rabbit hole. I kind of live down here.

Next Up: Oregon Trail Rally

I love rally racing! It can be frustrating as a spectator since you can only see a piece of a stage as all the racers come through, and some stages don’t even have spectator access, but what you can see is so very cool. Rooster tails of dirt flying up behind a car as it comes around a curve; water splashing as the driver powers through a puddle. Maybe the wheel will come off. Maybe someone will end up in a ditch. Maybe your friend, who’s running in the local race, will win a stage!

Last year, I got to interview Chrissie Beavis for Subaru’s Drive Performance magazine. We’ll see what opportunities arise in 2015! Check the clips for any published articles.

Next Up: The SUV Competition Formerly Known as Mudfest

Though it is now officially known as the NWAPA Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year extravaganza, it will always be Mudfest in our rainy, Pacific-Northwest hearts. In mid-April, I’ll be driving up to Washington to test a couple dozen SUVs, CUVs, and pickups on pavement and dirt to see which deliver on their promises. There are a few categories, from off-road beasts to luxury SUVs more suited for ridin’ dirty than actually getting dirty. And of course there’s the big overall winner. Check back to see who wins, and check the Clips page to see where my coverage is published.

Next Event: Formula e in Long Beach, CA

I’m headed south in April for the second North American race in the all-electric series put on by everyone’s friends at the FIA. Now that the inaugural season is about halfway through, I’m really curious to talk to teams and fans to find out how they think it’s going and what the future might hold for electric racing.

Next Up: Portland Auto Show

I’ll be at the Oregon Convention Center for the Portland Auto Show’s press day on February 4. There’s usually an emphasis on green cars and vehicles that can get you to the slopes, the coast, and the trailhead on the weekend. Any car that can do all of that — and keep your dog safe — will rule this city. I’ll let you know if I find it.