September 26, 2023
Note From Rochelle
You’ve got just a day or so to sign up for the writing accountability group. It’s a small group dedicated to helping you set writing goals and overcome the obstacles that typically get in the way. Previous members have credited the group with helping them develop the habits they need to get their work done on their own.
Today’s tip is an interview with my friend and fellow writer, Elise Seyfried about her brand new book, Nanamorphosis and her success as a freelance writer. Once you’re done reading the newsletter, check out the video trailer for her new book.
Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
A Freelance Success Story
An Interview with Elise Seyfried
Tell us about your new book, Nanamorphosis.
Since my first collection of what I call humorous spiritual essays, Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life, in 2010, I wrote three more books in a similar vein. The subjects of the essays are usually my family and my faith (and I do try to make many of them funny). After In Discovery was published in 2019, I thought I’d said all I had to say. But then came the pandemic, my retirement from church, my growing grandsons, etc. It soon became clear that there was another book in there somewhere. The essays cover subjects ranging from backyard fireflies and my children’s sermons, to my misadventures as a runner, and my younger daughter’s Zoom wedding.
Nanamorphosis the title, came from my love for butterflies and their miraculous metamorphoses. My grandkids call me “Nana.” What is life if not a whole series of transformations, right? So: “Nanamorphosis.”
You’re now writing full time. Can you talk about how you organize your time to stay productive?
During the past few years, I have become a real early bird (is 4 AM early? I think it is!) That is the quiet time in our household of six people, two of whom are under age 10. So I grab that first cup of coffee and take it into my tiny home office, and get going. I was doing this even when I was still working at church, but now I don’t have to stop and prepare for another job! It’s great! By 2 PM I’m done, creatively speaking, so I try to make the most of my more alert hours. Two things that help me:
#1 I am a member of the London Writers Salon, (www.londonwriterssalon.com), a terrific international group begun during lockdown in 2020. Hundreds of us log on to Zoom at 8 AM Eastern time, greet the group and share our writing goal for the next hour, then mute ourselves and write! We keep our cameras on for accountability. A bit before 9 we “return” to the space and share what we accomplished. I imagine I could have just as productive an hour without my LWS friends, but I really enjoy being part of a large group of writers, all focused at the same time.
#2 I also use a tomato! That is, in Italian, “pomodoro.” The Pomodoro Method consists of 25 minutes of writing, followed by a five-minute break. Rinse and repeat. I even have a pomodoro timer that looks like a tomato!
You’ve had such great success as a freelancer. How do you come up with new ideas and find new opportunities?
I think of it as an overnight success that took 17 years! That was when I sold my first article, to Guideposts Magazine.
As for as ideas go, quite honestly, I do better writing to a specific prompt (such as an editor’s call for pitches that spells out exactly what they want). For several years I wrote regularly for The Independent, a UK-based newspaper with a US edition. Their editor would ask for a piece, say, on having lots of children, tied to actor Alec Baldwin and his large family. I could get these done within an hour, they’d be posted on their site within two hours, and I’d be paid the same week. For publications like Living Lutheran, I take my time to think, and then send them five or six pitches for possible pieces, from which they select the ones they want me to write.
As for new opportunities, I subscribe to several newsletters, such as Write Jobs+, that comb the internet (Twitter especially) every day, and share editor calls and their contact info. These newsletters cost a few dollars a month, but I’ve gotten a lot of work from them. As someone who identifies as female, I also belong to several women-only Facebook “Binders” groups (Binders Full of Op-Ed Writers, Binders Full of Creative Non-Fiction, Binders Full of Comedy Writers, Travel Writers of the Binder, etc.) which are wonderful sources of opportunities.
You started a Substack newsletter. Can you talk about the platform and how it works. Has it been a helpful tool for growing your audience?
Sure. I’ve been reading other writers’ Substack newsletters for quite a while, and I love the way they look, so when I finally decided to start my own weekly newsletter “E Musings,” I went with Substack. It’s extremely user-friendly, and easy to add videos, photos, links, etc. There’s also the opportunity to monetize your subscriptions (most suggest $5 a month). I have been writing my newsletter since March and have set a goal of 200 free subscribers before I offer paid subscriptions (I’ll always keep “free” as an option, though). I figure if I get even 20 paid subscribers (10%) that’s $100 extra per month. In the meantime, people can (and do) pledge money to support the newsletter, and that money will be credited to my account when I start offering the “paid” option.
As far as growing my audience, it was a slow start, but now I’m noticing many new subscribers whose emails I do not recognize, so that’s exciting!!
What are you reading now?
I do my best reading down here at the Delaware shore every summer (we’re here for six weeks a year—my husband produces the Rehoboth Summer Children’s Theatre). In my beach bag currently: The Violin Conspiracy, West with Giraffes, Lessons in Chemistry and Life Worth Living. I just finished reading poet Maggie Smith’s lovely memoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful.
About the author. Elise Seyfried is the author of five collections of humorous spiritual essays. Her essays have also appeared in a wide variety of publications including HuffPost, Insider, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Independent, Modern Loss, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Living Lutheran and many more. Elise recently retired after 20 years as Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland, PA. She is the mom of five grown kids, and “Nana” to Aiden and Peter.