Laura Purdie Salas today

What strikes me about these guests on my blog is that they are all so BUSY! Busy in all sorts of ways. Getting things done. Taking care of business. And every one of them has to deal with all manner of interruptions, inconveniences, obligations, and care giving. Yet they all somehow manage to work at their craft no matter what. For a perfect example of what I mean, read on!

No Typical Week

When I worked various office jobs, I always thought it would be so cool to “be a writer.” I’d sit by rushing streams or in coffee shops, dreamily jotting great thoughts.

Hardly. Now I’ve been working full-time as a freelance writer/editor/web editor for a few years and reality has sunk in. The dreamy poet’s life, unconcerned with deadlines and royalty checks, is not going to be mine. Instead, I juggle a million things daily.

So, I thought I’d share my reality with you. I’ve already shared the income side of things ( and for people who are wondering if all writers are rich (to which I say, “Ha!”). But I do manage to earn a somewhat livable income from my writing and related work, and I’ve had lots of people wonder how I structure my days. So I thought I’d share.

The secret is: Juggle. A million different things, if at all possible. In 2009, I wrote 12 books for the educational market, finished three trade books (one of which has an offer in on it, but the other two are unsold at the moment), and worked on five trade books still in progress. I revised a poetry collection several times for my editor, who had already bought the collection. I taught six online multi-week courses and did three weeks’ worth of school visits and young authors conferences. I wrote 10 nonfiction passages and about 25 poems for two different assessment companies. I did 200 hours of web editing on a freelance basis, and 100 hours of hourly public relations work. Add to that the vast numbers of hours I spent marketing my first trade book, Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School, blogging, keeping business records, social networking, keeping my website updated, and answering emails, and you start to see why I feel just a little scattered most of the time. My multi-tasking brain is withering by the day, and sometimes I can’t even find my laptop, let alone produce anything creative on it!

Anyway, I thought I’d share a typical week with you. But first, a few definitions:

Writing books for the trade market. These “trade books” are the kind of books sold at bookstores. I would love to do this full-time! It’s when I come up with the idea, write the book, and then sell it to a publisher. And if a miracle happens, people actually buy it! But it’s incredibly hard to sell trade books. Since this is a small part of my income, it’s a very small part (sob) of my daily schedule. Many weeks, I only get to devote a couple of hours to my trade writing.

Writing books and assessment materials for the educational market. Educational books are ones I write under contract for educational publishers. Publisher’s idea, publisher’s title, publisher’s structure. This is pen-for-hire stuff. It’s still interesting and much better than any office job to me. Educational writing takes up most of my writing time when I have books under deadline.

Web editing work. I maintain and update webpages through both Winding Oak and the Children’s Literature Network. 

Teaching/Speaking: I do most teaching online now. When I started the hourly public relations work for a local company, though, I knew I’d have to choose between teaching and PR due to time limits. In early 2010, I have to evaluate and see which one I plan to continue.

School Visits: I give presentations to K-6 kids about writing. I’m trying to increase this part of my career, since it’s a convergence of connecting with kids, promoting books, and earning income.

Truthfully, I have no typical weeks. From month to month, my schedule changes a lot depending on whether it’s school visit “season” or I have lots of deadlines or sick kids or travel or what. But here’s one week from early December. Time that isn’t covered is non-work time, like family breakfast before everyone leaves for school or work, an occasional shower, etc.!

Many thanks to Laura. I hope you’ll comment or ask questions about today’s blog guest . Our operators are standing by.


11 comments on “Laura Purdie Salas today

  1. I have been doing this kind of juggling for 45 years. It takes multi-tasking to a new level.

    A number of years ago, my husband and I bought a house in Scotland. (Note: a house, not a castle as people seem to have assumed!) It is my haven and the one place where I can concentrate on reading and writing, except for the times when I am playing Hostess and Tour Guide.

    A freelance writer who is not constantly and consistently on the bestseller list and does not also want a day job has to be able to do this, reinventing themselves and their writing every day.


  2. David, It’s fun being here today…but I notice that no part of my typical weekly schedule is in here. Or did I miss it? I see just the definitions, but the diary of my week is missing…

    • Laura,

      I’ll go in search of what I left off. My apologies! I’ve been out of pocket for a few days but will get cracking tomorrow.

      Thanks again for your thought provoking article.


  3. Thanks you Laura and Jane, for reassuring me a writer’s life is not as perfect as I would like it to be. The demands and the balancing act can be overwhelming even on a smaller scale than you two are experiencing. Love your websites filled with helpful information. Thanks again for visiting David’s blog. Mary Nida Smith

  4. Hi Mary–Yeah, I think we tend to idealize what it would be like. And wouldn’t you think that anyone with Jane’s wonderful publishing history and awards would NOT have to juggle like this? It’s both reassuring and terrifying to know that even writers of her stature do this.

    I guess it’s the same way I tend to think a chef, for instance, would get to work all the time on creating fabulous new dishes, but I’m sure that ends up being a small part of their day/week/month, too! All the promotion and business stuff and things to earn income while still having creative time…whew. It’s hard. But on the writing side, anyway, it’s well worth it!

    Keep on writing!

  5. Laura, I guess any job that we are passion about and we want to stand out above the crowd will involve being in overdrive most of the time. You are right, it is worth it. Thank you for all you do to keep us writers informed.

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