It started as a way to promote my latest novel, Diamond Life. I decided to hop on the Internets and talk a bit about my book and writing in general. The plan was to do it every week for the month leading up to the release of my novel.
But I’ve never stopped. And now Wednesday nights are one of the highlights of my week. (Does that sound sad? Oh well. It’s true.)
I’ve had people ask me publicly and privately why I’m so willing to share what little I know to folks I don’t know at all. And the answer is the same: Because people did it for me. And I have to pay it forward.
I came into writing relatively late. I didn’t major in journalism, get an MFA or anything like that. I quit my job as a teacher back in 1998 to pursue a career in writing.
Since I was already four years out of college, it was tough to get a toehold in the industry. I was more than willing to intern. But none of the magazines I wanted to write for would accept a college graduate as an intern.
A friend of mine worked at Billboard and told me I could fill in at the front desk while she was on vacation for the holidays. For two weeks, I was the best phone-answerer ever. When my time was up, I met with the Managing Editor and practically pleaded to be considered for a gig. She smiled nicely and shut me down quick. She told me to come back when I had a bit more experience under my belt.
And just how was I supposed to do that when no one would give me a chance? Exactly.
I did what the Managing Editor told me to do. I scraped up a few more small clips and attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course in Cambridge, Massachusetts to learn more about the industry.
When I came home from Cambridge in the summer of 1998, I went on a few interviews at magazines but nothing worked out.
I came thisclose to being Danyel Smith’s assistant at VIBE. Interview went great. Or so I thought. Until I got that call. She’d decided to go with another candidate. (Crushed!) Luckily, she remembered me and encouraged me in many ways (and still does).
I met with the Managing Editor of Billboard again. And lo and behold, she was looking to hire an editorial assistant. I practically tap danced across her desk, giving jazz hands.
I remember her exact words. “I think I’m going to give you a shot.”
I left her office and when I got to the corner of 44th and Broadway, I screamed out loud.
I started at Billboard the next week and I’ve never looked back.
But along the way, so many people have looked out for me, given me words of encouragement and pushed me to continue striving towards the next writing goal.
I am nowhere near an expert. But I do feel like I have a responsibility to share what I do know.
I’ve got selfish reasons too. Interacting with folks in all walks of the publishing industry keeps me in the know and helps my own writing in large and small ways. It’s a win-win.
So tonight at 8PM, I’ll be on Twitter, chatting up a storm.
What do you want to know about writing? Are you struggling to get that novel completed, (or started). Trying to break into freelance magazine writing? Looking for an internship?
Leave your questions in the comments. I’ll be answering this evening at 8PM, EST.
I’d love to hear from you.