How I Went From Being the “Vibrator Queen” to Being the Senior Writer of a Sexual Health Organization

sexysexcollageThirteen years ago, I set out for an interview at the Boston Phoenix. I was up for an editorial internship in their new media department and, upon my arrival, I was ushered into the private office of the man who would eventually become my supervisor. He sat before me, rifling through my clips and pointing out weaknesses he perceived, leaving me wondering if I stood a chance. I uncrossed and re-crossed my legs. I twirled my hair nervously.

And then: “Do you feel comfortable working with adult content?”

I wasn’t expecting that and, honestly, wasn’t even sure what constituted “adult content.” So of course, I answered in the affirmative.

“Great!” he said, slapping his desk with a decisiveness that startled me. “Come around here and have a look at what you’ll be working on!” I rose slowly from my chair, inched my way around his desk, and came to stand behind him. I leaned slightly over his shoulder, squinting at his computer screen.

The site I saw wasn’t the Phoenix. In the left-hand sidebar was a bare cartoon ass. He hovered his mouse over it, and slapping sounds rang out from the computer’s speakers. He chuckled. “Gets me every time!”

He then proceeded to tell me about the two personals sites owned by the Phoenix Media/Communications Group — one of them pretty standard; the other more risqué — and explained what his interns would be expected to do. I was hired on the spot.

This is how I became the Vibrator Queen.

Today, I’m the Senior Writer / Editor for a sexual health organization, and the social media manager for another social services organizations.

How the hell did I get from there to here? It was all very uncalculated. [Read more…]

One Quick Tip for Revitalizing Your Writing Life

creative nonfictionThose who have been reading this blog for the past, um, forever know I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump.

I’ve been feeling burnt out on the same old same old, lusting after lit mag credits, and wondering how to find a balance between the two.

As a result, I just slowly… stopped… trying. I maintained the work I already had, but stopped looking for something new. This has led to terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bank account balances.

Then, like flicking a switch, the ASJA conference sparked something in me.

Suddenly, I felt inspired. I felt motivated. And, almost like magic, things started picking up again. [Read more…]

Is It Worth It To Drop Several Hundred Dollars on a Writing Conference?

I am a cheap bastard. Instead of spending money on pricey project management systems, I run my life through Google and GQueues. I avoid paid teleclasses and webinars in favor of business books that I dog-ear and pore through over and over again. I even married a web developer so I could get him to build all of my websites for me. (Okay. I married him for other reasons, too.)

And just a few weeks ago, I was out at a restaurant when I realized there was a massive hole in the crotch area of my only pair of jeans.

My mom proceeded to make fun of me for being too poor to buy new pants.

(Then she pity-bought me new pants so, really, who wins here?)

Still, back in 2012, I vowed that I would start investing in my business instead of cutting corners all the damn time. In the spirit of that, I hired designers to pretty up my Starter Kit, and to create a color palette and a logo for a side project. I became a paying member of ASJA. I re-joined Freelance Success and started subscribing to a slew of literary magazines (Poets & Writers, The Sun, Creative Nonfiction, Oxford American), educational organizations (Toastmasters), and freelance services (Duotrope). I plonked down a couple thousand dollars for yoga teacher training.

And just last week, I went to a professional writer’s conference, for which I dropped $338.  [Read more…]

Where the Magic Doesn’t Happen

mynewofficeinspirationboard

My husband and I have been in our new house now for just over three months. And though the boxes have been unpacked, and the items inside (mostly) put away, things are not… quite… there yet.

Almost every room needs to be repainted (and, at the moment, the walls sport splotchy blobs of spackle). We need to de-texturize the ceilings in the living room, dining room, and family room. We need up rip up carpet and get the floors beneath sanded and re-finished. We need to replace the front door (which sits askew in its frame, lets in ALL the winter air, and pops open on its own when it’s not locked) and, in fact, need to eventually replace all the doors in the house. We need to get a hot water heater and extend the gas line, because 95 percent of our showers since we’ve moved in have been lukewarm to ice cold. And the list goes on.

In contrast, my new home office is fucking awesome. My dad helped me re-paint the walls a soothing gray. I singlehandedly ripped up the carpet, and then hired someone to sand and re-finish the floors the very next day. I bought a gorgeous, new desk, a matching filing cabinet, and a bookcase I lovingly caress at least once a day. I brought in my mother’s old typewriter, a globe covered in dragons, and other doo-dads and gee-gaws to make the room my own. I even hung a bulletin board / inspiration board. The only thing that’s missing is a purple, velvet, tufted chaise lounge for my “reading corner.”

When I had a housewarming party earlier this month, I told all of my guests that this was “the most important room in the house.”

“Have you been more productive in here?” they asked me, remembering my previous setup.

Well… no. [Read more…]

What Kind of Writer Are You?

My stock photo doppelganger, obvs.

My stock photo doppelganger, obvs.

My writing partner once told me I was the most business-y writer she knew.

To be honest, it hadn’t occurred to me that there was any other way to be.

That was why, when I sent out an LOI last month in response to a call for book reviewers and learned that the position was unpaid,  I told the editor I’d have to regretfully withdraw my hat from the ring. After all, as a professional writer, I use assignments like these to pay my bills. I couldn’t devalue my work by spinning that word glitter for free.

Only a month later, I’m rethinking my response. [Read more…]

Which Books Have Inspired Your Writing?

When I was a 5-year-old aspiring poet, I devoured books of poetry by Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe, memorizing lines that spoke to the part of me that knew I’d one day work with words.

Later on, as a teenager, I read Bill Ervolino‘s humor column religiously, soaking in his words over breakfast while seated at the brown, Formica table in my parents’ kitchen. I’d turn to the appropriate page in The Record before even glancing at the comics (though I was a die-hard Garfield fan).

From the beginning, what I read informed what I wanted to write.

Last month, I read Lee Gutkind’s You Can’t Make This Stuff Up:  The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction–from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between(Say that one three times fast.) It immediately transported me back about seven years, to when I was taking Cris Beam’s From Pitch to Publish Class at New School. I was focused on the personal essay more than anything else at the time, but when we were required to read Robert Boynton’s The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft, I found myself fascinated by the concept of immersion journalism. [Read more…]

The Circuitous Route from Pitch to Publish

I once took a non-credit, continuing education class at the New School called From Pitch to Publish. It was about developing and pitching personal essays and narrative journalism pieces to print publications, but I feel the simplicity of the name hints at the vision many of us have of the book publishing process, too:

1. Develop idea.

2. Write proposal.

3. Pitch agents.

4. Get agent.

5. Pitch publishers.

6. Get publisher.

7. … or don’t. The End.

In reality, the journey can be far more circuitous.

Awhile back, I shared this story on a pair of authors who got their book published… eventually. As I work on my own book, I’m also finding that the process is not as straightforward as I once expected. Instead of simply facing the possibility of publishing or not publishing my book, I find my book… changing. [Read more…]

Bedazzle It! All the Extras Your Query Letter Needs

Query letters: They’re sort of my thing.

While many of my coaching clients seem to agonize over their query letters, perfectionism and fear keeping them from ever sending the damn things out, I actually enjoy writing them.

This nerd-tastic enjoyment is mostly thanks to some pretty fantastic teachers. Back in college, I took a professional writing class with Burton Klein, an adjunct professor at TCNJ who taught his students how to write cover letters that stood out. Later on, I took several continuing education classes with Susan Shapiro. She taught me everything I know about establishing a connection with editors.

Now, I’m someone who — according to my friends — “gives good email.”

Thank god. I’m pretty hopeless when it comes to in-person interaction.

I even offer a coaching package for those seeking out help with query letters in particular: Cover Letters: Quick, Easy & Awesome.

In the past, I’ve blogged about the basics of query letters: 1. Establish a connection. 2. Lay out your idea. 3. Sell yourself. 4. Wrap it all up. But is it really so simple?

Yes… and no.

To really set yourself apart, you should be adding in some extras. [Read more…]

The Freelance Writing Book That Will Take You From Small Potatoes to Professional

About a month ago, I attended the annual American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference for the first time ever, having snagged a free day pass because I was a panelist.

I had a fantastic time. I popped my public speaking cherry. I took a shit-ton of notes at the other panels I attended. I drank too much wine at the end-of-day cocktail party and met some pretty darn awesome writers. I was so impressed by the strong community of professional freelance writers that I wanted moremoreMORE!

So I applied to be a member and then sat back and waited.

And then I got fidgety and impatient and started reading the copy of The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing I’d picked up the conference. [Read more…]

How To Achieve Full-Time Success with Part-Time Hours

Forget grad school. As most of you know, I’m a huge proponent of learning by doing. Of course, before I do anything, I also typically read a shit-ton of books. (All of the education at a fraction of the cost!)

Back in 2007, it was Michelle Goodman’s The Anti 9-to-5 Guide that got me up and running as a full-time freelancer. Later on, I read My So-Called Freelance Life (also by Goodman) and wished I’d had it from the very beginning.

Last week, I speed-read Kelly James-Enger’s Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success and realized it was the book I should have had when the economy — and my business — first hit the skids. Luckily, no matter how long you’ve been freelancing, there’s always something to learn.

I’ve been reading Kelly’s blog — Dollars and Deadlines — for awhile now, and also recommend her book on ghostwriting and coauthoring — Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks — to just about every writer I come into contact with. So I was thrilled when I heard she had written a new book. In fact, I devoured the entire thing in two days, dog-earing pages on market research, story ideas, reprints, and contract templates.

What struck me the most, however, was that Kelly had created a level of success that allowed her to bring in a full-time income while working part-time hours.

Basically, my idea of perfection.

After the jump, Kelly is generous enough to share how you can do the same. [Read more…]