GrubWrites

[Another entry in the ongoing blog "Would We Lie To You?: News from the Non-Fiction Career Lab"]

by Deborah L. Blicher

The Non-Fiction Career Lab ended with a class reading on May 29th, so I am writing this post-graduation.

After a year of meeting weekly with my intelligent, talented lab partners and teachers, I feel inspired to set myself up as a freelancer. I'll write feature stories! Pitch paying markets! Write essays! Submit to literary magazines I'd only dreamed about! But where to start?

Following my usual instinct, I've been organizing stuff. Ethan Gilsdorf, one of my Career Lab teachers, once asked me a marketing question to help me figure out where to put my energies. The question was, "Deborah L. Blicher is the writer who writes about....what?" So I decided to launch my post-Lab career by answering it.

So far, I've come up with, "Deborah L. Blicher writes about sound, language, and communication." This, um, "brand" wouldn't suit every writer (or every reader), but I think it's a good first try for me. I've noticed that thinking about myself this way makes me look forward to Monday mornings.

Next, tech nerd that I am, I built a website that should be easy for me to maintain, since I'm too impatient to rely on someone else. I ordered business cards with the URL. Then I found an online project management tool that I'm trying as a pitch-and-submission manager. I've begun using it for lists of ideas, markets, and so on, and to track my progress. Finally, I've been aiming to make at least one pitch or submission per week. I know this pace is slow for some people, but it's a lot for me, a hockey-and-soccer mom whose husband works 80-hour weeks. I feel organized, and it's giving me the sense of control I badly wanted.

"What about the writing?" you wonder. Funny you should ask.

Now that the Career Lab is over, I'm more motivated than I've ever been. I don't feel alone when I stare down a blank page; instead I feel nine classmates and two teachers backing me. Ideas usually come slowly to me, but now they're bubbling up; and now that I've got a year's intense study under my belt, I've got better intuition about each idea's potential. I can take an educated guess about, say, what will become a literary essay and what will be a glossy magazine piece. I never had this intuition before. So the writing is going well, thank you.

"Are you in touch with your classmates?" you ask. Yes. As I write this, we're having an email conversation about setting up an ongoing writers group. Not whether to set it up, but how to set it up. I'm going to a classmate's reading this week, and I devour my classmates' blog posts and other work as soon as I find out about it. I feel I'm part of a growing, breathing community that we all made as lab partners. Perhaps I should put on safety goggles and yell, "It's alive!"

Ahem.

After my M.F.A., I taught for a year, did a one-month residency, then quit the literary life for a career in software. I didn't know what else to do. Now I know, or at least where to start.

Thank you, Non-Fiction Career Lab. Thank you, Grub Street.

Deborah L. Blicher is a former speech scientist. After earning her MFA from Emerson College, she decided to pursue a career in software, of all things. She has since settled down in Metrowest Boston with her husband and children. When she can, she teaches writing and tutors English as a foreign language. She is the founder of the blog Two Adopt Two and contributes to Boston Mamas.

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