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!

How did your March go with freelance writing? What did you learn this month that wasn’t true last month?

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

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!

How did your 2017 start? What lesson did you learn in January that you’ll be taking with you for the rest of the year?

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Dose & OMGFacts: December 2016

What I Learned Struggling To Get Sober

Guys, Don’t Talk To Women Working In Coffee Shops

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The 5 best stories & essays I wrote in 2016

Well, it’s the end of the year… A time that most people take to reflect on what has happened in the past and what you’re looking forward to in the future.

I’ll be doing a few posts along those themes, starting with a classic: A roundup of my best work in 2016! Since I split my writing in between journalism-style pieces and personal essays, I thought I would do the same thing here. Below are my top 5 stories and top 5 essays. Enjoy!

Stories: 

1. The 6 Healthy Food Trends You Should Be Trying Right Now (via Brit.co): The best part of this story is that I got to interview a good chunk of fabulous food writer and blogger friends. There’s TONS of great info here, and it’s still relevant to today. And for 2017, too!

2. 10 Reasons why getting older is actually a GREAT thing (via MamasLatinas): With my Map Your 30s project in full swing this year, I learned a lot about turning 30 and getting older… And some of those fun lessons are all here. And you don’t have to be as old (or young) as I am to enjoy this one.

3. 14 Traditional Cuban Recipes That Will Wow Your Tastebuds (via Brit.co): I’m Cuban, so is there any wonder why this was such a FUN piece to write? It’s a collection of some of my favorite foods, and easy recipes for everyone who’s willing to give this food a try. Empanadas are going to be big in 2017, so go ahead!

4. 14 Spanish-language movies (with subtitles!) to watch on Netflix with your love (via MamasLatinas): This actually took a LOT of research. I ended up basically falling in love with each movie as I slowly went through my list, and added all of them to my own Netflix account too. Still waiting to finish watching these, but working on it…

5. Recipe: Cuban Meaty Potato Stuffing (via The Kitchn): This is probably my proudest piece of the year in terms of finally breaking into a publication that I have admired for years. If you’re not familiar, The Kitchn is one of the best sites out there for home cooks and I was absolutely thrilled to have my Thanksgiving recipe featured.

Essays: 

1. What I Learned Struggling to Get Sober (via Dose): This was probably by far the scariest piece I wrote this year, and it was first born right here when I finally confessed that I have been in recovery for just over a year. It was terrifying to hit the “publish” button, but received tremendous (and positive) response.

2. The Difficulty of Accepting Generosity When We Date (via Dose): This is a piece that I first wrote here too, actually… And came about during a particularly encouraging and inspiring moment in my then-early relationship with Adam (more about that below). My editors loved the piece, so they reposted it.

3. I’m a Bisexual Latina Immigrant. I Can’t Wait to Vote. (via Dose): This is probably the most important piece I wrote this year, in terms of what is going on in the larger world and how it is affecting people like me. I also wrote a response after the election, which wasn’t quite so optimistic at all. But I’m just doing what I can to give voice to marginalized communities.

4. My life turned into a rom-com cliché and I’m okay with it: This is likely the most fun piece I have written all year, and it’s one that I have come back to over and over and happily re-read. It’s a sweet piece about how I moved out of New York City thinking that I would take a yearlong “break” to figure out my next step, and instead met the love of my life.

5. Here is the full story of my 100+ pound weight loss (plus some resources): I’ve written about my weight loss before, but it’s primarily been in bits and pieces. This blog post is a full account of how I lost weight, along with some resources for others. There’s still more to say on this topic, so don’t be surprised if you hear more about it.

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How do you find motivation when your mind is freaking out?

I am having an extremely hard time doing anything this past week.

It’s not like I am lying in bed sick or depressed or feeling lazy or something like that. Nope. My problem today is my mind, and its utter inability to quiet the F down at the moment.

Here’s the scenario: I came home last week after my third trip in a month and quickly realized just how exhausted I felt. I couldn’t write anything last week, but I did do my regular editing and also spent some time just reading other writers’ works and focusing on my freelancing. Yes, I didn’t produce words, but I still felt like I did *something*.

I did some really good reading over the weekend and have even established a new morning routine that I am pretty proud of (so far). So, basically, this week was going better until last night, when I was reading something about the different ways that writers can make money (short ebooks, podcasting, seminars, consulting, etc) and started to have an absolute mind meltdown.

Here’s what it looked like: Oh! Okay, I can do all of these new other things. But wait, which ones do I want to do? Do I want to do consulting? I do like giving advice… But is this thing what I want to give advice on for the rest of my life? And what about books? I still haven’t been working on my memoir, but maybe I should do an ebook on this other similar but unrelated topic? Or wait, what if I get bored of writing about this thing just like I got bored of writing about that thing? How am I ever going to build a personal brand or author platform if I can’t find focus? OH GOD, what if I am an unfocused mess? How do I find motivation? What’s wrong with me that I have so many ideas and can’t seem to commit to one for more than a day or two? Am I ever going to finish anything? Am I ever going to be a success? Oh nooooooo… What if in 20 years, I am still here and doing the exact same thing that I am doing right now? It’s not like I don’t love what I am doing right now, I really do, but I want my career to *go somewhere*. How do I figure out where it should go? Or how I should help it get there? What do I do? What do I do? How do I get there? WHAT DO I DO?

This went on in silence for about an hour while Adam and I were watching the Cubs vs. Giants game, until I finally spoke up. It was probably another two hours of intermittent word vomit on my poor awesome, incredibly supportive boyfriend who listened but admitted at the end of the night that he was a bit overstimulated with all of my crap. (He didn’t say “crap”, that’s my word for what was going on.)

I also took some time to re-read my favorite career-ish book, StrengthsFinder2.0. I took the assessment four years ago and it’s still something I go back to constantly because I find it such an inspiring reminder of what I am naturally good at: futuristic (meaning that I am constantly looking to improve and grow or help others or the world do the same), communication (I’m a writer, duh!), competition (guilty, but in a good way?), input (because I love to collect things and information, and this section even recommends an “output” which to me means writing about the things I learn about) and woo (which stands for “winning others over” because, as they say, there are no strangers in the world, only friends I haven’t met yet).

Reading through all of that last night was not as comforting as usual, however, and I went to sleep with the same confusing thoughts running around in my head. What do I do? What do I do? WHAT DO I DO?

I am still having that mind meltdown and trying to figure out where I want my career to go and how I want to get there.

I know the truth: That you can’t know the right path. That there actually is NO right path, especially not for a writer. There’s no guarantee that I’ll ever be famous (I wish!) or that I’ll even be regarded as someone halfway decent in my field. Sure, nobody can ever know that about anything that they do, but I am currently filled with this need to feel as if I am putting my best foot forward and doing everything that I can be to ensure my success.

And I’m okay with failing (I think). I know that I have failed in the past, and I can pick myself up and keep going. And I know that success may take much longer than I wish, and that it may not look like what I think it will look like. I also know that I may change my mind and want to go after something else later on, or that I can change my strategy at any point if I find that what I am doing isn’t quite working.

But currently, I am paralyzed in my writing efforts because I want some sort of direction, and I don’t know in which direction to go.

The funny thing is that I have no problem committing to a single person for the rest of my life. Cause, well, that was a pretty easy choice since he’s the best person I’ve ever met. But why is that SO MUCH HARDER in my career? Why can’t I commit to a writing project or idea or some sort of direction?

Instead, I’m sitting here and word vomiting some more and just at a loss of where to go. And I know that I’m not the only writer to suffer from this. I know that I’ll get over it, feel better and move on. I know that tomorrow or maybe the next day things will be back to normal and I’ll be feeling hopeful or accomplished or maybe even have some sort of idea about where I want to go and how I want to get there.

Then maybe in a week or a month or seven months, I might be back here again… With my brain feeling like it’s melting and freaking out and just no idea of what My Path is, even though I honestly don’t even believe that there is a single path for anyone. But I still want one, damnit!

Where’s my path? How do I find it? And in the meantime, how do I tell my brain to calm the F down because I need to actually do some work now?

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