A Peek Behind the Scenes …

If there’s one thing I love about twitter, it’s how engaged the writing community is … and Dahlia Adler, uber-supportive blogger, editor, and author of the just released BEHIND THE SCENES (a contemp young adult novel, published by Spencer Hill Contemporary), is no exception. While I was querying, and going through offer decisions, and dealing with submission woes and highs, she was there to respond whenever I sent a message that usually started with something like, “So, now what do I do?”

So as part of helping her celebrate her book’s birthday this week, I’m participating in a blog hop where we each go “behind the scenes” about some aspect of our life … but first, here’s the blurb for Dahlia’s book, and where you can purchase your own copy:

High school senior Ally Duncan’s best friend may be the Vanessa Park – star of TV’s hottest new teen drama – but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.

 Goodreads | Amazon | B & N | The Book Depository | Indiebound

As for a behind the scenes of my life, I had a few ideas — but then decided to skip the confessions of true love for alien-themed, angst-filled teen dramas, cheesy medical thriller novels, and hiding vegetables in everything I cook or bake — and will offer a brief glimpse into (my) life as a freelance journalist and writer.

I am not one of those writers who always wanted to be a writer, even if I have been writing since I was a child (haven’t we all, to some degree?). In journalism school I laughed when it was assumed by most that after graduation I’d set myself up at a newspaper as a reporter. I wanted to do television, and for a brief time really wanted to be a war correspondent. But then life took an interesting turn, as it often does, and though that’s a story for another day, I am now a writer. Specifically, I freelance — which essentially means I never get a regular paycheque, but I get to write about all kinds of cool things.

Most of my work is for magazines — though I do have some corporate clients — and generally speaking every story I write is a story I’ve pitched to an editor. Sure, some writers probably get assigned stories more often than I do … but essentially if you’re a freelance writer, you are your own rainmaker. So I spend a lot of my non-writing time — when I’m at my daughter’s swimming or gymnastics lessons, when I’m out for a run, or doing laundry, making dinner, walking the dog, etc. etc. — thinking up story ideas.

It’s been a fantastically fun career so far. It’s nowhere near lucrative, or even “pay all the bills” kind of stuff, but I’ve won a coveted award for a story that meant a lot to me, have written about everything from luxury resorts in Jamaica (now that was a press trip I wish I could do again!), to self-leveling concrete, to the state of frozen embryos in Canada, to going sugar-free for a month (an experiment my poor family was dragged into with me), to raising altruistic kids, to advocating for your own health, to onesie-style pjs for grownups, to how to make the perfect pie crust.

Every day is different, and I love what I do — especially because it offers flexibility to be home with our young daughter. Most days you’ll find me at my kitchen table or at the local coffee shop, on my MacBook Air that has been so well loved the keys have worn off, and drinking far too much coffee (though the secret is to switch to decaf after noon).

And being a freelancer has helped me so much with my novel writing. For one, I am very tuned into and disciplined about deadlines. Whether from a magazine editor, my agent, my book editor, or self-imposed, I treat all deadlines as non-negotiable. I get up every day at 5am (or at least most days) and write. I ALWAYS file pieces at least a day ahead of schedule. And I can honestly say I’ve never (ever) missed a deadline. There have been times when I’m panicked and stressed because life has thrown a curve ball and I have to move heaven and earth to get to my computer. Like that one time when my daughter had the stomach flu, and I was holding a bucket for her in one hand and typing with the other (at 3 am), trying to make sure I didn’t miss my deadline …

But that’s life, as they say. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

For the love of writing …

When I was in journalism school I heard a lot of this: “Oh, so you want to be a writer?”

Um, no. I do not want to be a writer, I’d say. Television’s my thing. I had dreams of anchoring the news, or maybe becoming a producer. “I’ll never be a writer. Never,” I vowed.

Well, seems I was wrong.

Writing sort of snuck up on me while I was busy doing other things, including marketing, consulting, and (oh yeah) kicking cancer to the curb. After I was cancer-free, I took a good long look at the state of my life and priorities. I realized being in TV was not ideal for the life I envisioned. It didn’t allow the flexibility I wanted, and couldn’t accommodate the roots I hoped to put down.

So I put the title ‘writer’ on my business card and off I went. At first, it was all corporate work. A lot of marketing copy. (Like, A LOT). That was good, but I wanted to write for magazines. So I started researching and pitching, and eventually (when I say ‘eventually’, I’m talking about a year) I got a break. I met the editor-in-chief of Canadian Family Magazine (Jen Reynolds, who has now moved to Canadian Living as EIC) at a blogging conference, and we chatted. Over the next year we chatted more, here and there (mostly on Twitter), and then I pitched her a story. Which she bought. Then I pitched another one. She took that one too. Then I was published, and I checked that box off my living life bucket list. All the while I was writing fiction, too, but my book was hiding on my laptop, not quite ready to face anyone.

This week something exciting happened in my little writer’s world. I got a National Magazine Award nomination for a piece I wrote for Canadian Family last year, called ‘Frozen in Time‘. It was supposed to be a 500-word story, cooked up with Jen one day over lunch. Then I did some research and realized there was a lot more to it. So Jen gave me a whole bunch of words and a nice big space to do it right. Have I mentioned she’s a rock star editor? Well, she is.

You know when people say the first thing they’d do is quit their jobs if they won the lottery? I wouldn’t. I’d keep writing … just in a fancier space, maybe overlooking the ocean on the Amalfi Coast. Sigh. (Oh, could I write all the words with this view …)

Turns out I love writing. It’s creative, challenging, and offers a glimpse into nooks and crannies of the world I maybe wouldn’t get to see or experience otherwise. It’s an escape. It’s grounding. It’s humbling, and refreshing. It’s fun. And what it lacks in terms of security and a (regular/big/fat) paycheque, it makes up for with soul-filling satisfaction.

I guess ‘never’ really meant ‘later’ — good thing.