Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Being Brave

In Getting started, Writing & Motherhood on October 27, 2009 at 9:38 pm

I had someone comment on a previous blog post about how intimidating it can be to launch a freelance career.  I couldn’t agree with her more.  Some days it seems like I’ll be stuck in this “beginner’s limbo” forever.  Most days the only way I can get anything done is to pull some ridiculously late nights wiritng after the little one and my husband are both in bed, and then wake up to perform my motherly and wifely duties.  It can be demanding, to say the least.

Up until now none of my writing experience has awarded me a pay check.  And it seems like I’ve filled my plate with so many other writing tasks in hopes of building my portfolio and credibility that I have no time to move into the realm of writing for pay.  So what’s a writing mama to do?  Follow my own advice and stay the course.  It can be done.  Or else there would be no writers.  Right?

A fellow writer friend of mine (recently featured in a Q&A here) commented on the amount of rejection in the writing industry and a mentor of her’s encouraging her to “get out their and pitch, pitch, pitch!”  I think that’s all there is to it.  Resilience.  The determination to keep going.  Because unless you’re famous, or know someone famous it won’t be easy – you just have to want it.

Some thoughts to part with: if you just get out there and do it, one day you’ll look up and you won’t be a beginner anymore.

Wrangling Interviews

In Learn from my mistakes. on October 20, 2009 at 11:52 am

Just as deadlines are a fact of life for a writer – in most cases so are interviews.  I can’t imagine that any successful writer has gone their entire career without having to do at least a few interviews.  Which brings me to today’s lesson learned the hard way: make sure the bulk of your work is done before you begin soliciting interviews, or t the very least be able to give your interviewees a realistic finish date.

I have been working on an article to be featured on my web zine for a couple months now.  I put the horse before the carriage a bit and started contacting people for interviews before I even had a complete list of people I’d like to interview.  As a result I landed the first interview in August expecting to be finished in a couple weeks, and wasn’t. 

It’s taken longer than expected to get the interviews I wanted for this piece.  Just finding the right people for my needs has been harder than I expected, and then a  few people weren’t interested or didn’t have the time to participate. 

Why is this so important?  Your interviewees may want to see the finished product, and you don’t want to seem unprofessional by delivering it late (in my opinion it’s good form to offer to send the finished product or notify them after publication – preferably the former).  If that’s not reason enough, you want to be reasonably certain that this article is going to happen.  Imagine taking the time to participate in an interview with the expectation you’d be quoted in an article, only to find out that your time had been wasted.  That’s exactly the situation you want to avoid with your interviewees.

Finally, If you conduct your interview in a professional manner from beginning to end and the turn out a well-written article that provides your interviewees with some promotion you may build a worthwhile business relationship.  If you don’t conduct your interview professionally, well…you won’t.

What do you do if you find yourself in my position – with one or more interviews under your belt but behind schedule to meet the date you’ve given your interviewees, or even worse the finish date you’ve given them already passed?  Do what I did.  Be sincere, and apologetic.  Remember, they are doing you a favor and their time is precious.  I sent an e-mail to the person I interviewed explaining that I fully expected o be finished by now but it;s taken longer than expected to complete the interview process for my article.  I let her know I was still moving forward with the piece and would notify as soon as I was finished.

It’s a lot easier said than done.  But to avoid this situation altogether try taking these steps:

  • Do your research and compile a list of possible interviewees.
  • Write out a list of juicy questions considering what kind of quotes you’d like to include in your article.  You may even want to consider slighly varrying the questions for each person on your list.
  • Consider how many interviews you think you’ll need and then add a few, just in case some decline.  (as a general rule interviewing 1 person only works if it’s an article about that person)
  • Create your outline and write as much of the article as possible before hand so you can insert quotes in some places.  You can probably get your introduction written if nothing else.  Getting started can be the hardest part.

Phase 1 Step 3

In Step-by-Step on October 16, 2009 at 11:06 pm

This is the third installment of my “Step-by-Step” series.  I hope you’re all enjoying it.  A quick recap: phase one is the research phase.  Step 1 was researching the freelancing industry to figure out if it’s a good fit for you.  Step 2 was examining your interests to figure out what you would write.

Step 3 is figuring out where your writing will go.

Most books on freelancing touch on this topic, since there would be no writing career without this step.  A book I make reference to very frequently, The Writer Mama by Christina Katz, suggests examining what you read both as a means of generating ideas of what to write and place you might possibly submit some of your material.  This is just to give you an idea – if you love reading Entertainment Weekly perhaps you should set your sites on an entertainment publication, and so on.  (Note: If you’re still in the beginning stages of your career it’s a bit early to submit to national publications, they usually publish only established writers)

Most resources for beginning writers recommend not being afraid to work for free to get your first clips.  Try local businesses and organizations, they may have a newsletter you can write on.  In this case, just call.  The worst they can do is say no.  That first call is the hardest, I promise.  After that you get more and more comfortable calling offices and making inquiries.

Free local papers are also a good place to go fishing for assignments.  There’s usually a contact number in the front of the paper.  Call, introduce yourself, and ask if they accept submissions from freelance writers.  If so who should you submit to?  Do they prefer snail mail or e-mail?  Do they accept full manuscripts or do they prefer a formal query at first?  And last but not least – do they have an editorial calendar and writers’ guidelines and where can you find them?  (Note: Editorial calendars outline the theme for each month’s issue that year.  Writers’ guidelines specify anything and everything editors want you to know before submitting anything to them.  Not all publications will have these things, but it’s worth it to ask.  You’d have a huge advantage if they do offer these materials.)   

For finding places that may accept your work I’d suggest 3 things: the internet of course and a good old-fashioned Google search (using the example above you’d type “entertainment publications”), The Writer’s Market, and (you can sign up for newsletters that have some great opportunities).   

If you’re reading this and looking for a place to submit your work I produce a web zine called Balancing Act and welcome submissions from new writers!

I would love to know how helpful you found this post!  If you learned anything new or simply want to share your own search for freelance success, I’d love to hear from you!

Q&A with published writer Suzanne Reisman

In Q&As on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 pm

How long have you been a writer?

That’s a harder question than it sounds! I think writers are writers all their lives, but in my case, it took me a little while to remember that is what I wanted to do. I found all of these little stories that I wrote back in junior high, and I realized that somewhere in high school or college, I set writing aside for other pursuits. It was only when I started blogging in 2005 that I remembered how much I love writing creative work. 

What are you doing now?

I am doing as much freelance writing as possible, looking for a full-time job in public policy, and also attending the MFA program for creative nonfiction at the New School at night. 

How long did it take you to land your first paid writing job? And what was it?

I took a course at Media Bistro in the fall of 2006 on how to become a freelance writer. It was excellent. I got my first piece accepted by Metro New York a few weeks into the course, and it ran on Oct. 24, 2006. I think I got $400 for a 500 word op-ed piece. I have it framed! 

Before landing your first paid assignment what steps were you taking to advance your writing career?

I took the course at MediaBistro. I also wrote for, which, now that I think about it, might have been my first paid writing gig. Hmmm…. 

If given the chance what would you do differently? the same?

I don’t know that I would do anything differently. I think I would have liked to understand better how much of freelancing is about how you can sell and promote yourself. That’s not my strength. I’d rather put my energy into the work. Still, I think I’ve been very lucky. A lot of people have really helped me along the way, and I am very grateful to them.

Have you participated in any group of writers? If so what role did that play in your success? And how do you choose a writing community (online or face-to-face)?

After the media bistro class, I continued to meet with a group of writers. Their support and encouragement was invaluable, as was their feedback. Both women are incredibly talented, so I am very lucky to have met them! We are all in MFA programs now.

Who’s been your biggest support system as a writer?

My husband! 

Did you have any professional mentors such as more seasoned professional writers in the beggining of your writing career? If so how did you happen upon this connection?

The woman who taught the media bistro class, Liza Monroy, was an amazing mentor. She looked at my ideas and my writing in and out of class. Her encouragement was critical – I didn’t think anyone would want my work, but she really pushed all of her students to get out their and pitch, pitch, pitch!

What would you say is absolutely necessaryfor any writer to have in place?

Support systems – emotional and financial – of some sort. It is hard to make a living as a writer. There’s a lot of rejection. Even when I’m doing well, I’m not earning enough to live on.

What’s been the most helpful tool to you as a writer?

Writing. I know that sounds weird, but one of my teachers said that writing is generative. The more you do it, the better you become. That is very true. 

What’s your best advice for beginning writers?

Hang in there. It’s a wild ride!

You can read Suzanne’s blog over at BlogHer, and to get the real skinny on where to find her, head over to her Blogher profile.

Ceiling Tile #56 by Melyssa of

In Guest Blog Posts on October 13, 2009 at 4:15 pm

While taking a break during some necessary sit-ups, I let my eyes wander up and glaze over with the late afternoon sun streaming through my living room.

Ceiling Tile #15 had me dreaming of lottery winnings and easy living. Ah, #15… such an easy Tile.

By the time I pulled out of easy street, I was vacationing on Tile #23 in a beach town very much south of here where foot massages were the island’s specialty. Tile # 31 reminded me that I have another three sets to go. Shut up #31.

Tile traveling can be very relaxing. Drifting, dreaming, floating, moving lazily from tile to tile…and then bam!

Along came Tile #56.

It hit me like a floor tile! Why didn’t I think of this before? Shouldn’t I get moving on this right away? Is this a dream? Should someone wake me?

Here she goes again #37 muttered.

I had a vision. A vision of my dream job coming to daytime (no it wasn’t massage therapy). I tried to capture the full sight of my vision before the illusion escaped back into the ceiling tile grooves.

If I can do what I truly love on whatever Tile I was on, would that not constitute as a real life dream job? Well then why can’t I? Why should I settle for just a paycheck when my passion comes from the payout of writing?

Writing my in- the-closet true love for as long as I could remember.

Couldn’t I write anywhere? About anything? With NO dress code? Could I finally come out and physically produce more than a secret inner pleasure from each piece that I create? Could I actually cultivate my own desired lifestyle by my own head and hand?

Uh, Tile # 45 reminds me that I still have a mortgage and that little thing called electricity that I have grown so accustomed to.

But #56 was having none of it! She was on a roll! Look at her go slamming #45 down with her lofty optimism. Why can’t I start now? Not quit what aids in the eating process but just start? Somewhere! Anywhere!

What do I have to lose if nothing comes of it? What do I have to gain?

Tile # 76 called me an idiot.

I closed my eyes and did another crunch set. Satisfied 31?

Not until your ass stops looking like a potato sack in jeans, he countered.

Each exhale on the way up brought me back to the #56 Dream Tile. I just wasn’t ready to let it go that easily.

But I kept getting these annoying and unwanted popcorn signals in my head.

Remember the time she threw her back out trying to imitate a move on So You Think You Can Dance, sneered #37?

She can’t carry the Ralph Kramden/Fred Flintstone spirit forever, # 44 added snidely

How many times can a person re-invent herself anyway? # 12 wanted to know

Hey! She can do anything she wants to! #56 cheered (was that my mother up there?).

I think that #47 and #12 were going to get into it at any moment as they debated heatedly on this latest dream being the direct result of a lack of sex.

And who will want to read her stuff? An unnumbered thought shot out.

Keep breathing. Okay, eight more crunches and let’s add eight butt lifts while I’m already down here (it’s not just about lifting my spirits these days #31 not-so-kindly reminded me once more).

My hopes refused to be doused. Let’s at least do some research on how I can get started before giving up. If nothing else #56 is practical.

If I can’t put in ten hours a day on my forever-in-progress-novel then why not start with a short blog here and there? An article? A guest post?

Can’t get paid for blogging! #12 rudely announced.

Why not? #56 and I wondered.

O.K., so maybe it won’t be the lottery winnings that Tile #15 was hoping for but getting paid something for doing what I love would be worth it. A personal win if not monetary gain!

That’s right! #56 atta-girled me.

Um, Hello!!!!!…. Realistic Police up here…are you kidding me? #37 screamed down.

I was just about to take a shoe and smash it up #37’s square ass when Tile #25 yelled that he was hungry…oh that was my son.

I gave the Be-Right-There call to the wild and remained flat and unmoving for just a few seconds more. I had to pull my thoughts together.

Other than my labored breathing, there was complete silence in the room and surprisingly from the above ceiling gallery.

I braced myself for the continuing negative onslaught.

Nothing came.

Hmmm….. I guess it is all me now.

I squatted, and rose slowly allowing the positive attitude of ceiling Tile #56 to fill me as I let my head be the last to come up. I took a final cool down moment and came up with a powerful and well resolved exhale.

I was ready.

It felt good to get out of my own way for a minute. I can and will do it.

The result of my efforts may never get to the front page for all to monitor and witness but it will definitely make front-page headlines in my world.

Take that #37!

Long time no blog….

In Getting started on October 11, 2009 at 3:31 pm

  I hadn’t even realized that it had been so long since my last blog post – 13 days, that’s almost 2 weeks.  I guess it’s about time that I gave my valued readers an update!

  So where have I been all this time?  Working.  Of course it goes without saying that the little one has been keeping me on my toes.  And to make matters worse I spent a couple days sick in bed.  Outside of that – I conducted an interview with Suzanne Reisman, both online & in person.  I finished my book review on Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers by Brigitte Thompson; which is a very big deal for me because that was one of the tasks on my list.  And registration for the free online class I’m offering is now closed, I’m excited to see how things go.

  Needless to say, I’m very proud of myself.  What I wanted to share with you folks are the findings from my interview with Ms. Reisman. 

  If any of you reading this are working on a big article and thinking about conducting interviews, plan on it taking a little longer than you’re expecting.  Unless you know the people you plan to interview personally it may take awhile (I’ll expand on this soon). 

  I got in touch with Suzanne thorugh Blogher.  She’s a contributing editor and has an unmistakable presence on the site, so finding her profile page was easy.  She has her writing experience right there on her profile.  She’s written for some publications that I’m familiar with, so I figured she’d be a good person to interview for an article I’m working on.  After sending her a message asking if she’d be willing to do the interview in the first place, I sent her my questions and set something up to meet in person to discuss any follow up questions I had and pick her brain about her professional experience.

  For beginning writers looking to accumulate clips: you may want to consider Metro, a free daily publication based in NYC.  They have a section called “Voices”, in which they run some pieces written by freelance writers. 

  Some other helpful tidbits Suzanne shared with me…I’m working on a book and she has a friend who also wrote a book on similar subject matter, she suggested I try proposing the book to the same publishing house.  How you can use this information and take it one step further: if you’ve read a book on nutrition during pregnancy and you’re thinking of writing a book on fitness during pregnancy, see if the auhor has a web page or an e-mail address, muster up the courage and e-mail them.  Be gracious and unassuming – asking if they be willing to answer some questions about the publishing house they worked with for you, from an insider’s point of view, because you’re thinking of proposing a book to them.  In my case it helps that we have a mutual contact, but I’ve contacted plenty of people with no previous connection (Suzanne was one of them).  Keep in mind that they may say no, and that they may not respond to you at all.  That’s okay – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  Cosider writing for lots of differen residual income sites (such as e-how, info barrel, etc).  You don’t have to write for all of them like a mad person.  Just give different sites a try – then you’ll know which ones you like and which ones you don’t.

  Lastly, if there’s something you’re truly interested in consider proposing a syndicated column to a publication.  If you’re just getting started as a freelancer consider small publications first.  Getting a syndicated column is not easy, but it’s worth a try.

Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers by Brigitte A. Thompson

In Book reviews on October 10, 2009 at 4:54 am

BB_Front  I’ve never been particularly good at math.  Perhaps that’s why writing is my career of choice.  But unfortunately even as a writer it seems my responsiblities include my own bookkeeping.  Apparently until I make it to the big times and can afford an accountant, I am my accountant – who knew?

  The bottom line?  All Americans are required to report their earnings & pay taxes on said earning to the IRS.  By keeping an accurate record of income and expenses, you can reduce your “income tax liability”.  In other words – by going the extra mile to keep accurate financial records you can keep more money in your pocket.

  So now that you know the why of keeping accurate financial records, Thompson’s workbook-style book Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers can help you out with the how.  The book has all sorts of helpful little tidbits, from types of businesses (s-corporation, partnership, etc), to naming your business, to filing your taxes, and then some.

  My suggestions for how to use this book are as follows…number one, beginning writers can use it as a research tool.  It can help you get an idea of some of the work ahead of you as a writer where your finances are concerned.  Number two, more experienced writers will probably get the most use out of the chapter on tax write offs.  Number three, there is an entire chapter dedicated to blank forms for your convenience – make use of them.

  I fancy myself a pretty smart gal, but the first time around even I stumbled across a couple areas that I had to read a couple times over to understadn fully.  But on a whole Ms. Thompson does a lovely job of making the tedious and often complicated process of bookeeping seem simple in a “Ohhhh, so that’s how you do it!” kind of way.  As a budding freelancer, it’s been added to my shelf of resources and filed under “read again”.

Buy Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers by Brigitte A. Thompson