Archive for March, 2010

How I Got Started: Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

In this new series for Writer’s Residence, established writers tell us about how they got started and continue to succeed as a professional writer.

RuthEThalerCarter.pngToday we talk to the “queen of networking,” Ruth E. Thaler-Carter. Ruth has been writing for pay since high school, and became a fulltime freelance writer and editor in 1985.

There’s no question that Ruth epitomizes “freelance success”. She runs a thriving international writing and editing business out of Rochester, New York, and has numerous awards to her credit, including Communicator of the Year for her contributions to the International Association of Business Communicators.

In addition to writing, Ruth is also an exceptional public speaker and has run seminars on a variety of topics, primarily newsletters and freelancing, but also starting a nonprofit organization and general organizational communications.

Ruth was kind enough to share some of her wisdom about how to succeed as a freelance writer. Read on for Ruth’s thoughts on getting started, staying in business and the importance of networking.

How did you get started as a freelance writer?

I sold my first freelance work while in high school, which was a great lesson in life’s possibilities, and found that freelance work was a lifesaver when I was in one of those “I quit/You’re fired” situations at a full-time job, which was an even better lesson in survival. Freelancing gave me ways to use all my interests and skills while working full-time in jobs that focused only on one topic.

What do you think has been the key to your success?

Topnotch writing skills and a lively interest in the world around me.

What do you like most about being a freelance writer?

The variety in topics I get to write about and people I get to “meet” through my work. And the freedom to work as, when, how much and on what I please!

How do you use your website to promote your writing?

My website serves as both a way to be found for those who haven’t met me or heard of me yet, and an online portfolio for prospective clients, especially those outside my geographic area. I get inquiries from prospective clients thanks to being present on the Internet through my site, and I can point people to it when they want examples of my work – I don’t have to rely on in-person meetings to show clients what kinds of work I’ve done, or that I’m really published as I claim to be.

You are the “queen of networking” – what is the first step writers should take to network with others in their field?

Learn from your colleagues and give back to, as well as get from, them. Networking is a two-way process. People can tell when someone is just trying to use them for personal advancement; don’t be that person! Be visible and active in any organization you join – contribute to its publications, join a committee, participate in a discussion list, etc.

What is your top tip for people who want to get started as a freelance writer?

Never give up!

Thanks to Ruth for this encouraging interview. She is a bounty of advice. If you’re an aspiring freelance writer and would like to learn more, check out Ruth’s nifty guide: Get Paid to Write! Getting Started as a Freelance Writer.

Five Minutes with The Editor: Claire Jones

Friday, March 5th, 2010

In an ongoing series for Writer’s Residence, editors talk to us about what they look for in pitches and queries.

skitched-20100225-144151.jpgClaire Jones, Editor of the popular women’s history magazine, HerStoria, spent several years as a freelance writer and edited an academic magazine prior to launching HerStoria. She has written widely on women’s history and her book, Femininity, Mathematics and Science, 1880-1914, has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Claire has a PhD in women’s history and is an associate lecturer at the University of Liverpool. She is currently working on a biography of the nineteenth-century scientist and suffragette Hertha Ayrton.

Claire took some time from her busy schedule to speak to us about what she looks for in pitches to HerStoria magazine.

What process do you follow between receiving a pitch and commissioning (or not commissioning) an article?

I consider if the article will fit in with the profile of HerStoria Magazine, which is women’s history. After that, the key thing is the writer’s qualifications for a commission. Our articles have to be authoritative from an academic/research point of view so I look especially at the CV. Most of our contributors are university historians/researchers, or published history authors. I have sometimes commissioned freelancers who have an interest and higher degree in a history-related subject and a good research track record. Thirdly, of course, writers have to have an engaging, accessible style, so I look closely at any examples of their work.

What makes a pitch easy to deal with?

It is much easier (and more likely to be commissioned) if writers have read HerStoria and have a clear idea of the type of articles we feature. I find many writers don’t tailor their pitch to the publication they are approaching – I get a lot of ‘family history’ pieces and that is not what HerStoria is about at all.

How do you like to receive writing samples and how should they be displayed – as an attachment, text in the email, a link to their website, a jpeg scan of a clipping, something else?

Attachment, link to website or jpeg are all fine.

If a writer sends you a link to their website with their pitch, do you visit it? How much does this weigh on your decision to commission them for an article?

Yes, I always visit as this allows me to get a better feel for the writer’s style, and to see if they he or she has covered historical subjects before.

What qualities do the best pitches share? What about the worst pitches?

The best pitches are direct and to the point, they tell me straight away why the pitcher is qualified to write for HerStoria, they contain a small abstract (no more than 200 words) of the proposed article, including the historical sources used, and they include a sample of the writer’s work.

Many thanks to Claire Jones for her wonderful interview. Don’t forget to visit her magazine, HerStoria, which has just released its Spring edition.