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“This looks great... Nice editing job! Best, Moira”

 

20 Questions (by Beryl Hall Bray) excerpt from WOW WomenOnWriting.com


 

Moira Allen


Moira is the founder of WRITING-WORLD.COM (www.writing-world.com). Her site offers more than 650 articles and columns for writers of all interests and every level of expertise. Their free monthly e-mail newsletter offers articles, contest information, and publishing industry news. It is edited by Moira Allen, author of "Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer," "How to Write for Magazines," and "The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals."

 

WOW: You are a writer/editor/publisher. Which was your career of choice? Which was the scariest to embrace?

 

MORIA: My original "career goal" was to be a "writer," to finish the novel that I'd been working on for about 15 years! When I applied to Dog Fancy, I wasn't thinking of becoming "the editor"—I was thinking more in terms of a position as a columnist. I love the process of pulling together a bunch of different elements—different articles, images, etc.—and creating something worthwhile and beautiful. (You'll see more of that in my travel website, TimeTravel-Britain.com.)

I don't really consider myself a "publisher," even though I am in the technical sense. I have self-published a book, and I am now titling myself the "publisher" of www.Writing-World.com to avoid confusion with Dawn Copeman, who is now the site's official "editor." Overall, I consider myself an editor.

      Writing is by far the scariest of the three options; it always has been and I suspect it always will be. It's not even so much an issue of external rejection; most of us are our own worst critics. The question I deal with as a writer isn't so much "Is this good enough for YOU?" but "Is this good enough for ME?"


WOW: Would you recommend setting aside time to read trade books, no matter how long you've been in the business? Or is that only for beginners?


This was a tough question, because I realized that I hardly ever read "trade books" (by which I assume we mean "how-to books for writers"). I asked myself WHY I don't read "trade books"—and the answer came as a bit of a surprise: Because there AREN'T any, to speak of, for non-beginners! The vast majority of writing books are written for beginners. About the only niche where you can find more advanced books is in the category of self-publishing or book promotion.
     The word "beginner" can also apply to someone making, or trying to make, a transition in a writing career, and here's where I find the lack of "advanced" books a bit frustrating. One of these days, I hope to write a romance novel, and/or a mystery. However, when I pick up a "how-to" book on one of these topics, I find that as much as half the book is devoted to the same information I find in every OTHER book on writing: How to format a manuscript, write a query, etc. I feel as if I've wasted half my money.

     Obviously, publishers of writing books know the big market IS the beginners. One reason for this is that there is no "one size fits all" niche for more advanced writers; if you gathered a hundred freelancers into a room you'd find we were all writing very different things and earning our income in very different ways. So it's hard to come up with trade books that are going to achieve any type of sales at the advanced level, because THIS writer may be writing advertising copy and THAT writer may be writing for trade magazines, etc.

     I think this is why, at the more advanced level, writers tend to gain more information through organizations that focus on their specific area or genre, from articles online, and from other writers. The romance community online is huge, for example, and absolutely packed with how-to articles that are helpful to all levels of writers. So it's not so much a matter of whether advanced writers still search for information; it’s more a matter of WHERE they look for it.

 

Freelancing must be approached as a business for one to succeed. Yet the field invites creative-types. You've combined your flourishing creativity with the attributes of an astute businesswoman successfully. What advice do you have for women desiring to take on "full-time freelancing?"


First, let's rephrase that first line. It's not just that freelancing should be "approached" as a business. It IS a business. Freelancing is a business, just like plumbing or making shoes or running a store.

      Creativity is your business ASSET. It is what makes it possible for you to choose THIS business as opposed to something else. Creativity is the source of the product you create and/or the service that you sell. But you cannot market the results of your creativity without mastering some aspects of "running a business."

I suspect many people (male and female) harbor the notion that "creativity" and "business sense" are mutually exclusive; how can you be a brilliant, daring, creative thinker AND a cold, calculating bean-counter at the same time?

     First, being a good businesswoman and being a creative person are NOT mutually exclusive. You CAN be both. If you truly want to make a career out of writing, you HAVE to be both.

     Second, yes, you DO have a head for business. Business isn't a mystical gift bestowed on a chosen few. It's a learned skill, and you can, in fact, learn most of the things you need to know about the "business" of freelancing by picking up one or two good books on the subject. (I do, of course, recommend mine: "Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer.") The ability to learn effective business skills isn't linked to a particular chromosome. If you want to do it, you can learn how.
    The key is to determine exactly what you want to gain from a "career" in writing. If you want to earn an income (or a living, which is not necessarily the same thing), then it will be essential to learn the business side of this career. But it is also important to remember if you DO choose a freelancing career, you ARE choosing "business" as well as "creativity." You are choosing to direct your creativity toward business ventures that will earn income. These may not always be the type of writing you have dreamed about, and at times you may not even find them terribly creative. However, even at its least creative, freelance writing can still be a far more rewarding career than most "day jobs”!

 

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Photo Credit to Tony Fabris

Writer
Illustrator
Photographer
Musician
and self-acclaimed Chocolaholic.

“I have to say...WOW! These are great questions. :-)   You've also put a great deal of time doing background research, more than anyone who has ever interviewed me. I'm really enjoying answering your questions!”     Debbie 

Interview  (by Beryl Hall Bray) excerpt from WOW Women On Writing.com.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi

We always want to bring you interviews with the cream-of-the-crop and sometimes it requires a lot of research. Coming upon one of Debbie's web sites was a delight that only got better. I had to shut my door when reading her cartoons and comic strips because no one would believe I was working.
            As you 'listen in', don't forget to pick up on the energy, spirit, and wisdom of this multi-talented woman. There is so much she has to share and you don't have to have many projects going at one time to profit. But if you do enjoy 'multi-careering' you'll simply love what she has to say.
            When we had our phone chat, Angela and I knew that we'd made a friend for life. Read on and you'll feel like you have too.

 

BERYL: Debbie, you had an unlikely beginning for a woman of multi-creative abilities. After graduating from the University of Toronto (Computer Science and Psychology!), you worked for two years as a systems programmer/analyst. What gave you the confidence—let's back up, what even gave you an idea—you could/should make the leap into the arts (writing, teaching piano, and doing freelance art)?

 

DEBBIE: Although I loved computer programming, I found my passion quickly shriveling in a corporate environment. It was my fault, really. After university, I had a choice between a small company with one programmer opening (after interviewing dozens, they chose me) and a huge company who hired about 30 of us "management trainees" at once. I chose the huge company because of the greater financial security it offered.
           
I quickly found, however, that very little creativity was involved in my job, and I was basically a tiny cog in a huge machine. More than half of my time seemed to be spent in meetings and catching up on the intimidating stack of Office Memos piling up in my Inbox.
           
I found myself looking ahead at the long, bleak corridor of my life and asking myself, Is this what I want to do with the rest of my life?
           
My boyfriend (now husband) was the one who encouraged me to resign and move into the arts, where he could see my passion truly lay. He didn't mind supporting me financially while I made the switch; he wanted me to be happy. I was and always will be immensely grateful to him for this.

 

Oh, how wonderful. Debbie, when you look back to that time, what do you wish you had known before you launched your freelancing career?

 
This is a tough question. On the one hand, I could have advised myself NOT to start a Web site for writers but to focus on my own writing. But then I wouldn't have made all the great contacts and friends in the writing community that I have, and I wouldn't have published "The Writer's Online Marketplace". Writer's Digest Books approached me rather than the other way around because of Inkspot; I remember thinking it was prank call at first. (We laugh) I also learned a great deal during the whole Inkspot experience.
           
If anything, I would have told my younger self to have a clearer idea of what my specific goals were, and how I intended to accomplish them. I would have written these on a piece of paper and read them every day, first thing, before doing anything else.
           
But knowing me, I never would have listened to my older self back then. I've never been a huge fan of "what ifs." I am who I am today because of the decisions I've made so far and at this stage in my life, I'm pretty happy with how things are going. Who's to say whether I would have been happier if I had made "wiser" choices back then?

  

That's true, because our secular choices aren't what feed the inner heart. But that is good advice about the goals. And, it wasn't a lofty goal you had in mind when you created Inkspot, a Web resource for writers. It started as a hobby (and like our characters do) it took on a life of its own, and became your fulltime career. You sold it after six years and went back to freelancing. How hard was it for you to part with your 'baby?' Knowing what you know now, would you rethink your decision to sell?

Debbie, laughs:
Whether I would rethink my decision to sell: a very good question. I have asked myself this same question dozens of times since then, though perhaps not in the way most would interpret the question.

     
I could no longer run Inkspot myself. It had indeed become my fulltime career, with most of my time taken up by administrative tasks, managing paid and volunteer staff, and putting out fires. I was multitasking like crazy, working 12-hour days. At first I thrived on the activity and energy, especially the enthusiasm of Inkspot's users. But as time passed, I missed the creative aspect more and more, and especially my own writing. Ironically, there were some out there who assumed that Inkspot was run by a company with dozens of fulltime staff; they had no idea that I was the only fulltime staff member.
     
I felt as if I was being stretched thinner and thinner. I knew Inkspot was successful and could be even more successful, but I needed help. I was getting tired and stressed; Inkspot had grown too big for me to manage on my own. My husband and another person were helping me part-time, but it still wasn't enough. I needed to hire fulltime staff, but lacked the funds to do this. In the end, I knew I had no choice: I needed fulltime help.
     
Meanwhile, I was approached by over a dozen companies, all wanting to acquire Inkspot. Most wanted me to keep managing the site, but promised the funds I needed to hire more people.
    
So in the end, I would have to interpret your question a different way. Knowing what I know now, would I have sold or given away Inkspot, or just shut it down? I suspect I would still have sold it, but I would handled the sale conditions differently, and been much more cynical when it came to any promises that weren't in writing. I have a new appreciation of lawyers.
     
Leaving Inkspot when things fell apart was very difficult in some ways (as you say, it was my 'baby'). But by then, I was stretched so thin that I knew I had no choice; I had to leave to maintain my sanity! I've summarized the experience in my Woodpile Philosophy: electricpenguin.com/ohi/woodpile.html 

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Lissa Warren

Lissa Warren (Click to go to Publicist Interview)

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