You’re going to love my Featured Guest today. Laura Purdie Salas is a busy and talented lady. I’ve enjoyed my opportunities to work with her and always look forward to hearing what she has to say. Her original guest spot took two days to get it all in but this time I’m posting it together. Not only that but Laura has provided some new thoughts to add and I’m going to go with them first. So sit back and relax for a few minutes. You’ll be glad you did. Laura?
I continue to be super-busy and have been doing new stuff lately, too. I’m on my third e-picture book, which is my first fiction for hire experience, and I just completed a big freelance copyediting project. Lisa Bullard and I have started an hourly mentoring service for children’s and ya called Mentors for Rent (www.MentorsForRent.com ). We’re getting great feedback from clients, and it’s really satisfying work.
Most exciting of all, my next poetry collection with Clarion comes out this fall. BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS will publish in October–yay!
(See it on Amazon here:
I hope everyone has a summer filled with fun and great writing work.
Thank you, Laura! And now I’ll share your remarks from your original featured spots.
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 (http://laurasalas.livejournal.com/109047.html and http://laurasalas.livejournal.com/167313.html) 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.!
6 a.m.: Sleep in until 6! Blog about my horrific Mall of America event (which ate up 7 hours of event/driving time and about 15-20 hours of prep time—I sold 2 books. Yes, 2.). I try to keep my blog positive 90% of the time, but I don’t want to be a Polyana, either.
7:15-7:45: Make my blocked-out schedule for the week. I print out my weekly calendar and block off specific times for specific projects. Otherwise, I hugely overestimate what I can get done in a week.
7:45-8:15: Doing hourly PR work. Prepping for phone consultations with web designers. I hate phone calls.
8:15-9:00: A little bit of trade writing—yay! Randy takes Annabelle to the doctor this morning (sinus infection). Appts usually fall to me, since my schedule is more flexible. But I’m tired, and I don’t even protest once when he says he’ll take her. Start a rough draft of a rhyming picture book. I was trying a naptime topic as a collection of poems, but I wasn’t loving it. So today I try it as a zany rhyming picture book.
9-11: Aqua class at the gym. I don’t work out often during business hours, but my Mon. morning class gets me going. During class, I mentally write two lines for my naptime book. Woohoo!
11:30-12: Emails regarding school visits, a guest blog post interview I’m conducting, and a few other misc biz emails.
12-3:30: Hourly PR work. Two long phone consultations with web designers.
3:30-4:30: Freelance web updating work. I’m glad I do this work for Children’s Literature Network and Winding Oak. This means all the emails I send back and forth are with children’s writers and illustrators, or at the very least, children’s lit lovers!
5:30: Blog about One Book I Love.
7:15-9:30: Meeting at school plus two quick errands.
9:30-10: 30 minutes is all I get for trade writing today. Dang.
10-10:30: Order Christmas gifts.
10:30-11: Return my new Clarion editor’s phone call to talk about my book that he’s taking over. SO happy to see it moving forward after a long hiatus.
11:35-12:40: Work on Christmas ABCs. Shortened my work for hire time by an hour because of school meeting & Christmas stuff. But this book is going faster than the Zoo ABCs one. Yay!
12:45-2:15: Freelance PR work. Another phone consultation re web design. Did I mention I hate phone calls?
2:15-3:15: Web editing.
3:15-4: Wrapping the front door with one daughter. Making dinner for the other daughter, who’s going to work at 4.
4-5:15: Web editing.
7-7:30: Work on Napping book.
8:30-9: Work on Napping book.
9-10: Finish rough draft of letter text for Christmas ABCs.
10-11: Visit nearby school to drop off donated books in hopes this will spur book orders ahead of my January school visit. And stop by grocery store for soup ingredients. (The soup turns out awful. Might as well not have bothered.)
11-12: Hourly PR work. This wasn’t on my schedule, but something has come up, so I’ve stolen some time from my Christmas ABC block for today. Call me Scrooge.
12:30-1:15: Answering emails. Where do they all come from? I get close to 100 emails a day that require actions or responses. I wonder how overflowing the inboxes are for famous writers?
1:15-1:45: Working on lesson plan for January young authors conference.
1:45-4:00: Winding Oak web editor work.
6:15-6:30: Make a few changes on my Napping ms from good ideas people shared on my blog. Flying jellybeans. Love it!
7:30-8:15: Frantically change and reorder a photo album Christmas gift. Crap.
9-1: Downtown Minneapolis for my crit group meeting, then lunch with Randy. With windchill it’s 11 below zero, the roads are a mess, and I’m exhausted! On the way home, I brainstorm image ideas for my PR client.
1-1:30: Household stuff/phone calls.
1:30-2: PR work.
2-2:30: Clear the worst of the main level clutter for someone coming over to the house that night. The house is always a mess.
2:30: Leave for weekly dr’s appt.
I usually try not to do writing work at night and on weekends. But when things get too crazy, I have to. Tonight, while sitting at Barnes & Noble, I work about 45 minutes on Christmas ABC to make up a little bit for not getting to the hour and a half of it I was supposed to do this morning.
5:15: Blog an original poem. I’m so behind on blog reading and commenting. Because Dec. is so busy, I’ve changed my morning routine, and I kind of post and run. The rest of the year, I get up and do my morning pages. Then I post on my blog, read and comment on some other blogs. Then I read five poems and I also write a daily poem. This is kind of my morning routine and none of it counts toward my “work” time. But December is really stressful to me, and I usually need extra morning time to do stuff like start dinner in the crockpot, make artichoke dip for a get-together (today), or wrap some gifts (this coming Monday morning before my crit group meeting that day).
7:45-8:40: Work on Christmas ABC. Also reply to editor re revisions of Zoo ABCs. They want LESS zoo info and more animal info. Ack.
9-12:45: At aqua class and then holiday get-together. Ack again. I had planned to be home by 12. I am SO behind.
12:45-1:15: Writing 10 Things You Don’t Know About Me for a table piece for an author event in February. It’s hard to come up with things you don’t know about me that you might want to know about me. Two totally different things!
1:15-2:30: Write glossary and citations and then polish Christmas ABCs. Turn in to editor. Yay!
2:30-3:10: Daughter’s home. Catching up after school and opening mail.
3:10-3:40: Web editing phone call.
3:40-4:05: Biz emails.
Done with work for the day. Looking at my week’s calendar/schedule and my to-do list, I definitely didn’t get to everything because of my extra social outings and school appointment. So…I’ll probably need to do 3-5 hours of work this weekend to stay on schedule. Next week is just as filled with distractions:>)
And there you have it. Way more than you wanted to know about a week in the life of a working writer. I love writing for kids, but I must admit I’d like to mix in a few more days with long writing sessions at coffee shops or by those elusive rushing streams. Ah well. Something to add to my 2010 Writing Goals List.
Thanks, Laura. I don’t know how you manage to stay on your feet. But I’m glad you do!