As graduation season is upon us, I decided to do a post series on Inside Pages with some pointers for new grads interested in a writing or publishing-related career. You can read the 7 Ways to Launch into Publishing starting with this post, but I thought it’d share with you my own story here.
It Began with an Internship
Suffice it to say I feel very blessed to work in my desired field in today’s job climate, and I attribute much of where I am now to an internship. On a professor’s generous recommendation, I applied and was accepted for a marketing and publicity internship at Moody Publishers my senior year in college. The good people at MP showed me the ropes, let me peek over the shoulders of editors, and gave me the privilege of launching their first corporate blog. As an intern, I rapidly acquired knowledge about the inside publishing process by simply observing. The experience of sitting in on author meetings, going through manuscript submissions, and evaluating cover designs is priceless.
Two months into my internship, which was unpaid, the senior publicist approached me to work at a student employee rate on the side of my internship work. So I began a national publicity campaign for one of the publisher’s bestselling authors. I was just beginning to learn at this point, and learned many times through mistakes as well as accomplishments. I find this funny now since I seem to be wired up 24/7, but when I first started my internship, I barely knew what social media was. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way!
Building a Career through Freelancing
Nearing college graduation, the logistics of the future were in question. I was engaged, my fiancé lived in another state, and neither one of us had landed a steady job yet. As my internship came to an end, I was asked to continue working for Moody Publishers as a freelancer—something I could do from my home in Baltimore. This set-up worked for me perfectly, affording me flexibility to work from home and save on living expenses until our wedding, and the schedule allowed me to take an additional part-time job.
Over the next few years I worked my way up from there, establishing a professional business and website, building relationships with clients, and raising my rates so I could make a living. If I was offered a project and didn’t know how to do it, I learned. I asked for references and recommendations from clients who were pleased with my work, and this led to other jobs. I now work full-time from home where I live with my husband in New York, offering writing, editing, book publicity and social media services, and have the privilege of working with various publishers, non-profits, and publications.
The Fire in My Bones
If there’s anything I have learned through establishing my career in the written word, it is that I have to take the initiative in building and becoming. There’s both creative work and drudge work, and I have to choose wisely between projects and balance out the practicality of a paycheck and the joy of following my muse. Moody Publishers was generous enough to give me the opportunity to start out, but a freelancer can never expect their work to be handed to them. You have to intentionally build your business, pursue opportunities or when possible create your own, and be willing to work hard at it.
I often wonder why I wound up wanting to enter an industry that is so steeped in transition right now, as many are claiming “print is dead,” the typewriters have retired, and many print publications are going out of business. I often wonder why I wound up as an independent contractor who willingly signs up for irregular paychecks, often writing for free, and getting annually eaten alive by taxes.
Nevertheless, I am compelled. I love working with words of any format. I am possessed by an impulse to speak.
I imagine the prophet Jeremiah understood the urgency behind speaking truth, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name, his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9).
I do not pretend to bear the divine influence of a prophet, but I do think anyone who’s ever spoken a good word or savored a lyric of truth, us “poet-saints” as Madeleine L’engle calls them, knows what it feels like to have a fire burning in our bones. We’re meant to speak life into the world, we’re not meant to hold it in.
How did you get a foot in the door of your current career? How do you balance the creative life with your 9 to 5?