Written By Amber Arlene
I have heard of many stay at home mom's that decide to combine motherhood with business. I have even helped a few on their way through their newfound side careers. I played hostess to Mary Kay and Pampered Chef parties. I have been the one invited to the jewelry, picture frame, and interior decorating gatherings. I have even dared to inquire into stuffing envelopes for some extra cash. My husband usually suggests, when I start thinking of ideas, that I should baby-sit children and make that my full time profession.
Finding a job is more than just making the income. It is about separating my identity from being a mom and maintaining who I was before I had children. I think that is important in every woman's life. For me, it isn't so much the money; it is about pursuing a passion. That is why I chose to indulge myself into freelance writing. I love it. I love being able to express myself and escape into the unknown each day. I never know what I will write about next. It is exciting and exhilarating. The rewards can be endless. I like the way I feel when I know I wrote an article that is really worth reading. I like the satisfaction when an editor contacts me and request I write more.
It is hard to be become as successful as I would like to be. I spend countless hours researching writer's markets. Utilizing the Internet, visiting the local library and bookstores. There are many favorite web sites that any writer who surfs the web is probably already familiar with. Like writersmarket.com writersdigest.com or writerswrite.com. It goes way beyond that. From newspapers, magazines, online publications, etc., anyone seriously interested in having their work published, has to research every possible lead in the writing world.
I started out submitting articles to anyone who would print them. It was an excitement just having my name in bold print underneath the title of the article. Someone else was appreciating words that I created. A person actually thought what I wrote was good. That was an ego boost all in its self. The scenario changed though, when my first contract was signed and I was actually getting paid for something I loved to do. How awesome of a feeling is that? For me, overwhelming.
The key to successful writing is a lot of patience.
Every writer has his or her own style. Submit your work everywhere your article will fit the guidelines. Don't be disappointed when you receive rejection letters. Trust me, this can be discouraging. You have to look at the bigger picture. Read your rejection responses thoroughly because you can learn from your critic. View them with humor and acceptance. I have learned in the pile of rejection letters or emails that usually there is always at least one market willing to publish the work that so many other editors might have turned down. If there isn't anyone willing to accept your material, keep trying. Maybe it just needs a rewrite. Persistence and determination are other characteristics that will carry your talent of writing where you want it to go. Being a stay at home mother and trying to accomplish being a famous author, is even a more difficult task. I have to hand peck each word I write with a one year old in my lap, a toddler seeking my undivided attention, while she sings a new song she learned in her preschool class, and a kid in middle school needing help with his homework. That is on a good day. I know what it is like to be in the middle of a story and have to get up ten times to pour a drink for a child, change a diaper, or rush off to a scheduled playgroup. I can relate to the mother who waits until all of her children are asleep, before she can be alone with her thoughts.
If you can conquer the art of juggling being a full time mom and writing as a career, half your work is complete. The other half of being successful will eventually come and be well worth the struggle to get there.
The Life of a Writer
I’ve always said - “I did not choose to be a writer, writing chose me." I have been writing all of my life. I cannot remember a time when I did not carry around pen and paper, jotting down catchy lines, interesting stories or wonderfully rhymed poetry. My mother, a published poet, recognized my skill at a young age and invested in books, magazine subscriptions, an electric typewriter, envelopes and as many stamps as my little heart desired. She told me to start with the small press markets, rather than hit the big magazines right off the bat. It worked and at 14 I was published in several small journals. By the time I was 17 my poetry was in Scholastic Scope, Seventeen Magazine and other various teen magazines. I soon started in the non-fiction department, writing a column for teenagers in the local newspaper and several articles for small teen presses. At 18 I was in my second year working as Editor/Writer of our school newspaper and I had lectured at local Junior High Schools to kids who wanted to know how to get published.
I was - an established writer.
Now, 14 years after my first publication, I am a full-fledged writer. I publish several of my own national niche’ newsletters and I am working on 2 book projects and a booklet series. I work via assignments from editors of various national and world-wide magazines such as The World and I and Energy Times - which means that I am well-known enough so that editors will call me directly to ask me to take an assignment. It is not unusual for me to have 20+ articles assigned at one time. I also have columns on several web sites and work as a consultant to up-and-coming writers.
I know that writing is a tough business with stiff competition and deadlines, deadlines, and more deadlines. But, for some, the problem starts with just getting your foot in the door - or knowing which door to knock on. I have a few words of wisdom to get you started as you venture out to pound the pavement - here’s some advice from a 14 year veteran:
1. Purchase a Writer’s Market (book) - otherwise called the ‘Writers Bible’. It is chalked full of information - from thousands of addresses and needs of magazines, journals and book publishers to how-to info on writing a query and contests for new writer’s. It comes out every year and is in the $30 range. It’s an excellent investment.
2. Learn the lingo - a SASE is a self-addressed stamped envelope. A ms is a manuscript. A query is a proposal letter stating what you can write, by when and why they should publish you. A byline is when your name is included in the article, noting you as the author.
3. Get to know the markets by sending SASE’s to the publications that you are interested in asking for a copy of their writers guidelines. You may also want to purchase a sample copy for a few dollars to get a feel for the theme of the publication. Build up a collection of these magazines, newsletters and guidelines to use as reference guides.
4. If possible, join the writing community. There may be writers groups in your area that you can join. These groups are great places to bounce ideas off of , find a writing partner, or share your latest success or rejection experience. If you are hooked up to the Internet, then look around for writers chat groups. They are everywhere!
5. Learn to write a query and a cover letter. There are books on the market today that focus on these two subjects. I advise you to practice writing the letters because they are two of the most important selling tools that you can have.
6. Go for the small markets and boost yourself up. Start with the small publications (those with low circulation) because they are often more anxious to publish new writers. Be prepared, though, because most will not pay in monetary payment. They generally pay in copies of the newsletter, magazine or journal in which your piece will appear.
7. Start a portfolio of your work. Buy a scrap album and start laying in each and every article, poem, letter to the editor, blurb or story that you have published. Photocopy them and you now have what is called - Published Clips. You will see that many larger publications ask for a query letter and published clips. What they want to see is your writing style.
8. Write, write, write. Write constantly and mail something out every single week. Have something in the mail at all times. I try to send something out every day - even if it is just a query letter or a request for writers guidelines. The point is to write every day - to push ahead and to never give up. (It is also important to keep an accurate journal of what you mail out, when, to whom, and what they pay. Leave a space to note their response.) Keep an idea journal to jot down your theme ideas, half-written poetry and character ideas.
9. Don’t take rejection personally. You will be rejected over and over. It’s normal in this business. What one editor does not like, another editor will love.
10. Don’t forget the Internet. There are a myriad of zines on the Internet that will pay you for your work.
11. Try freelancing in the mundane field while you’re building up the field that you really want to do. For example, if you want to write children’s stories for a living, but are finding a hard time getting published, then try something more technical to help pay the bills. You can advertise to work as a ghost-writer, a direct-mail copywriter, a proofreader, a resume maker or a speech writer. Apply for jobs with your local newspaper and magazines to see if they have a part-time position open. While you will be working on your dream career, you can use the tech work as a way to improve your skills and make some extra cash.
12. Write up a “business plan” for the next year. List your goals for your writing career - realistic goals such as:
1) I will send out a pack of poetry each month or an article a month,
2) I will have at least 3 publications,
3) I will get to know 2 editors,
4) I will build a small work area in my home
5) Join a writing group (or start one)
6) Actually get paid for one gig or assignment,
7) I will run my day as though I was working in an office,
8) I will improve my typing skills and
9) I will complete my book outline.
These are very realistic goals for the first year (the first 3 years will be your most difficult - they are the “breaking in” years).
13. Rewrite your articles or add to your stories so that you can keep reselling the pieces. If you write an article on divorce - rewrite that same article to focus solely on mothers without custody. Send that article out and write another article on fathers with custody. The point is to use the theme over and over until the well of inspiration has run dry.
14. If you work solely from your home as a freelance writer - treat your work as a real business. Have set business times for answering mail and writing letters. Draw up a monthly budget report (stamps, supplies, Internet charge, phone calls etc) and place it into a binder along with monthly progress reports and photocopies of your clippings and your work that was sent out (a binder is a great place to keep a copy of your work, rejection letters, queries and your idea journal). Also have rules for phone, TV and radio - plus dress the part, manage your time accordingly and limit outside disturbances like friends stopping over or soap operas.
15. Take care of your mind and the vessel that it is carried in. Many writers will tell you that eating a diet full of live foods (fruits and veggies), daily exercising or stretching and drinking a lot of water actually helps with their thought process. Yes, a healthy body creates more because the mind is also healthy. If you want the mind to work properly, then work out the body too.
A successful writing career does not happen overnight. It takes a tremendous amount of time and dedication. It is an art form - yet - it is not an occupation for everybody. But for those of you who can handle the job - it is a heck of a gig. Especially when you see your work in print - and you get a check to go along with it.
By Liz Soutar
I became a writer about 21 years ago. My first story was about me, my best friend Michelle, and an imaginary land peopled by talking apes. The apes were being consumed by a ravenous abominable snow giant. We saved the primate people from extinction by introducing the menace to yogurt, a delicious and nutritious dietary substitution. This tale introduced me to the world of writing.
I lucked into getting paid for writing a couple years ago. I wrote a Christmas letter for our annual mass mailing. A friend asked if I thought I could come up with similar essays for a web site. She even suggested I could get paid for them. That Christmas letter became the article "Why I Don't Have a Full Time Job" and Nap Time Notes was born.
Recently, I bought a copy of Writer's Market and hope to be published and paid by a complete stranger soon. We also have plans to compile the Nap Time Notes into a book and sell it at the web site.
You might be thinking "Big deal! This woman's getting paid a pittance for writing some cute stuff." Yeah, I'm not rich and famous. But, I get to stay home and do something I love...watching my girls grow. Oh, and I get paid for writing about it too. That may not be a "big deal" but it sure is a good deal!
Nap Time Notes