January 2018 Writing Life: My new year has kind of hit a snag [#yearofwriting]

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It’s the start of the year and it felt like a really exciting time when I wrote down all of my writing goals for 2018 recently. One of the things I didn’t consider at the time, though, is that I’d still like to continue doing these #yearofwriting posts because they have been a really good for me. I really enjoy keeping myself accountable with all of my work and still putting all of my clips on here. It’s very encouraging, and I hope to keep encouraging myself. So without further ado…

What was published: 

HipLatina, specifically: 

Look at all of that! Definitely a great way to start the year, I think. However, there IS a big change from the way I tracked #yearofwriting last year to the way I want to track it this year… Last year, I tracked the number of pitches (and assignments) that I received and I also tracked my word count. It turned out that I was able to write 277,889 words and sent out 92 pitches (with 16 acceptances). Although it was great to track all of that, it also took a LOT of work and that’s just not my focus this year.

Instead, I am focusing more on growing my business as a freelance writer and editor, and I want to primarily track my income. This month was really good for me because I spent 70% of my time (and had my earnings come from) my Freelance Editor gig at Brit+Co (more on that later) and the rest came from my steady freelance writing gigs (HipLatina and MamásLatinas), which is great.

How much I made: $5650

So all of that is great… EXCEPT that this is my last month as a Freelance Editor at Brit+Co. Unfortunately, I heard about a week ago that my position was being eliminated due to some budgeting issues. That’s a huge bummer and, honestly, I am kind of freaking out… But I am also still kind of processing and will likely have more to say about this in a bit. In the meantime, I’m still writing and… Trying to look forward to starting February on a less-than-stellar-but-hopefully-still-nice note.

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November Writer’s Life: Finally hit my financial goals! [#yearofwriting]

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Last month, I wrote about a serious lack of motivation after a very crazy and busy September (due to Hurricane Irma and a 2-week vacation). I had recently updated my writing goals for 2017 and was hoping that November would go much better… And guess what, it did!

One of my BIG goals for the end of the year was to finish my memoir book proposal, which I did with one month to spare! That’s right, the Moscow Chica: How Growing Up in Russia and Cuba Made Me an American book proposal has been written and is now safely in the hands of some trusted editor friends. It feels absolutely incredible to have gotten this far with the book, even though I know there is still a ways to go. Right now, my big goal is to get the proposal back from friends and edit it again, before I can get it ready to actually seek agents and a publisher. So stay tuned!

What was published: 

HipLatina, specifically: 

The other big goal I had for the end of 2017 was to make $2,000 in freelance income a month. Although I didn’t quite get there in October (which I figured I wouldn’t due to the previously mentioned motivation issues), I was pleasantly surprised that I just made it in November. I honestly had no idea I was so close! So to see me back to my earning potential felt GREAT.

How much I wrote: 32,603 words

How much I made: $2025

In terms of my writing, I not only made my financial goals but I also wrote quite a bit. Most of that was for work, of course, but I also spent time working on the memoir. In fact, for my memoir, I wrote 10,341 words. That’s basically 1/3 of my writing productivity for the month of November and that feels SO good. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I can’t even begin to describe how good it feels to get this far on something I have been dreaming about for over six years.

Pitches sent out in November: 6
Pitch rejections: 2
Pitch non-replies: 4
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 3
Pitch rejections: 3

When it came time for pitches for November, I didn’t get very far. But then again, I didn’t really intend to. I basically took a “meh, if I have something really good” approach. Since I was confident that I would fulfill my financial goals just on my current regular work at HipLatina and  MamásLatinas , I only pitched when I *really* wanted to. It’s a strategy that served me well, in term of the time I spent, but I didn’t actually get any acceptances (yet) so I may changed my thinking for the last month of the year.

All in all, I think this has been a great month. I am truly excited to see what the last month of the year will bring. Having my writing goals for the year, along with writing these blog posts, has really taken my career to the next level. That’s not the only thing that’s done it, of course, but I  feel like I am slowly figuring out more and more about my work style, preferences, talents, etc. There’s a long road to go (I hope!) but, well… so far, so good!

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March 2017 Writer’s Life: My piece for VICE and Q1 totals [#yearofwriting]

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If you’ve been following my #yearofwriting post here for the months of January and February, then you know that I am determined to do a LOT more writing this year and I’m also determined to track everything.

This month, to be honest, hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as the rest. I had a pretty big spurt of pitching in the very beginning of the month, which was VERY exciting… and then my birthday came. Now, don’t judge, but I am one of those people who LOVES their birthdays and so of course that distracted me during the end of the month. But oh well! Moving on.

What was published: 

My proudest moment BY FAR this month was the publication of How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out on VICE. In fact, one of the coolest things that happened on the day of the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that my piece appeared on the front page of VICE and remained there all day. That’s a HUGE deal, trust me!

Otherwise, I had fun writing a couple of freelance pieces that will be published next month. It’s too bad that I can’t brag about them yet… That’s honestly the most frustrating part of being a freelance writer. Sometimes you’re waiting for weeks and sometimes even MONTHS before your stories are published.

And I’m talking about digital, where things typically move quickly. I can’t even imagine how magazine writers or book authors deal with the wait. Needless to say, I’m not the most patient person and that’s served me very well as a digital-focused freelance writer and editor. But anyway, you probably also want to know how much I got done this month, right?

How much I wrote: 12,982 words

How much I made: $1000

Funnily enough, I wrote almost 1000 words more this month than last month but made a bit less money. Primarily that’s because I wrote a couple more blog posts (which don’t cost any money, but up my total word count) and wrote a high priced story (that was the same word count as I usually do, but the pay was better). January remains my best month, and I’m sure it had a lot to do with being deep in working with my writing coach to push my career forward.

Pitches sent out in March: 28
Pitch rejections: 14
Pitch non-replies: 10
Pitch acceptances: 4
Pitch reply with question: 1

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 6
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 4
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 1

Following up on old pitches is always a bit of a crap-shoot, but I might as well keep going, right? I don’t feel discouraged by my results and it’s nice to see what is happening. In fact, I wanted to total it all up…

Quarter 1 totals: 

How much I wrote: 41,495 words
How much I made: $3550*
Pitches sent out: 66
Pitch acceptances: 10**

*I wrote two pieces on spec in the month of January, and they weren’t ultimately accepted… so that’s $300 I didn’t get, but one of those stories turned into another piece that got published and the other piece I am still hopeful will get published soon as well.

**I’m not counting pitch rejections or non-replies here, because I think the math is pretty simple. Plus, some of those may still materialize… so well shall see! But, you know, I have to say: Having a 15% success rate isn’t too terrible. I’m definitely learning a lot in this process, and I feel confident that things will get better and better as I do more freelancing.

The truth really does seem to be that the more pitches you send out, the more acceptances you will get. And while I haven’t mastered everything that I hope to master in the freelance world, I’m feeling pretty good about my results so far.

Besides, when VICE puts your story on the front page… Well, that’s definitely something to be excited about!

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January 2017 Writer’s Life: Published pieces, money talk, pitches & more [#yearofwriting]

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At the start of the year, I wrote about the 7 fearless things I am doing for my career in 2017 and exactly why I am signing up for the #52essays2017 challenge. I also committed to making 2017 my #yearofwriting… my theme for the year, if you will.

I’ve had a few small successes here and there: Mainly that I am now officially a contributor at Mom.me (yay!) and am getting serious about working on my memoir, Moscow Chica: How Growing Up Cuban and Russian Made Me an American.

But I also wanted to talk about what a writer’s life is really like… Mainly, I wanted to talk about the solid numbers.

So here’s the deal: Starting this month, I am going to get real and tell the truth about how my freelancing has gone this month. I’ll talk about what went well, what didn’t and what it all meant. So here goes!

What was published: 

Some of these pieces were written before this month, and some were written more recently. Obviously, all of my Mom.me work is news stories and the repeal of “wet foot, dry foot” was recent too. But all in all, I also wanted to show what freelancing I did. Other than my part-time food editor job at Brit.co, here are the solid numbers:

How much I wrote: 16,475 words

How much I made: $1725*

*I am including two pieces that were accepted on spec (meaning that the editor wanted to see a full draft before they could finally say “yes”) that have been submitted but I haven’t officially heard back on. Also: This ONLY includes my freelance writing income.

Besides that, there’s also pitching… It’s what us writer have to do in order to write, yes? This month has been by FAR my most successful month of pitching and reaching out to new editors. To be honest, in 2016 I was feeling pretty cushy with my PT food editor gig and my contributing writer roles, and never looked to expand my resume.

Well, one of the things that I am doing for my writing career in 2017 is that I hired a writing coach. Her name is Mridu Khullar Relph and she runs TheInternationalFreelancer.com, and is basically FANTASTIC. The truth is that I needed a big kick to get my career to the next level, which is precisely why I hired her. It’s gone incredibly well so far! Here’s all of the numbers:

Pitches sent out in January: 27
Pitch rejections: 9
Pitch non-replies: 12
Pitch acceptances: 4
Pitch acceptances on spec: 2

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 5
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 1
Pitch acceptances: 1
Pitch acceptances on spec: 2

I admit: The 27 pitches isn’t an exact number, primarily because one pitch went out on 6 simultaneous submissions and a couple of editors received more than one pitch from me in one email. But that’s basically it.

To be honest, considering that this is the FIRST month of my #yearofwriting and also the first year that I have been seriously going out there and pitching editors, I am feeling pretty good.

The one lesson I learned, for sure, is that there comes a time when you just have to get out there and do it. And I’m happy that I’m finally doing that!

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How to set (realistic) food resolutions for 2017

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Last year, I wrote a piece for Brit+Co on easy-to-make food resolutions. As I look back at 2016 and the personal happiness it brought me and look ahead at some of my big goals for 2017, I am also remembering some of the ways I improved my health and eating habits this past year.

One of the simplest ways was becoming semi-vegetarian thanks to my boyfriend.  The other ways were following some of the food resolutions that I set forth. But here’s the trick: They weren’t about losing weight. My food resolutions were about other goals that filled me and fulfilled me in a much healthier way. (And I actually lost weight anyway.)

Last year I made the commitment to embrace eating healthy fats, to sneak in more veggies and fruits, to not be afraid to cook new foods, to get better at planning my meals, to start my mornings without sugar and to make food more fun, period.

Here’s how I did:

1. Embrace Eating Healthy Fats: When I embraced eating mostly vegetarian, I also started  to have more olive oil, avocado and (occasionally) salmon. This was surprisingly easy!

2. Sneak in More Veggies (+ Fruits): Of course, it was easy to sneak in more fruits and veggies once I started really focusing on the whole vegetarian thing too. I started also freezing fruit that started to go bad (we’re all guilty of letting things stay in the fridge a bit too long, aren’t we?), then adding it to smoothies later on.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Cook New Food: I’ve started to take on new challenges with my cooking. Primarily, I started to occasionally use Blue Apron or Hello Fresh to introduce me to new foods and cooking methods. I also started using my slow cooker a whole lot more, and that is continuing to introduce me to new flavors every week.

4. Get Better at Planning Your Meals: Well, as I mentioned above, using the slow cooker has been WONDERFUL for my cooking. Not only is it easy but it’s also allowing me to prep lunch ahead of time. I now spend most of my Sunday cooking ahead for the week, and kinda loving it honestly.

5. Start Your Mornings Without Sugar: With the exception of still having a little bit of sugar in my morning cup of Earl Grey, I have done pretty well on this resolution too. I’ve had no cereal, I’ve had no honey in my yogurt and I’ve mostly stayed away from pancakes and the subsequent syrup that comes with them. Of course, brunch on the weekends is another story…

6. Make Food More Fun, Period: I’m still struggling with this one sometimes to be honest, but I’ve found that adding spices to my meals has dramatically helped with this. I definitely still have some room to grow here, in particular with experimenting a bit more, but I’m in a pretty good place anyway.

The thing about these food resolutions is that they weren’t really resolutions at all. Instead, they were goals and ideas on how to eat healthier and make my meals better. They allowed me to grow in my eating habits and to do better for my body.

I would say that these “resolutions” were SO successful that these days I am feeling great. As a bonus, going mostly vegetarian (as in, I have meat or fish maybe 2-3 times a week max) has also stabilized my weight. These resolutions were so easy to follow, in fact, that I’m easily keeping up with them this year too. And why? Because they were realistic… AND they were kind of fun, really.

So what’s better than an easy-to-follow plan to eat healthier? Nothing, I think.

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