I spied Writer Mama by Christina Katz at a bookstore in Camden, Maine when I was pregnant with my son over six years ago. After several seasons on my Christmas list, I found it under the tree. And then…it still took me about two years to start reading it. So…if it took me that long just to read the thing, can it possibly tell me the secret to balancing a writing career and child-rearing?
Book Review: Writer Mama
Well, I’m pretty sure the secret is “kindergarten,” but the book has a wealth of good advice. If anything, it is too rich; I’ve been working through it for over a year. However, I have had a few things accepted for publication and have been discussing revisions with an editor over e-mail just this morning, so I’d say that’s progress!
One important thing to realize is that Katz’s focus is on writing for periodicals, not on publishing a book, though she touches on book publishing a little bit. This suits me, but it might not be what everyone is after.
Each chapter contains an exercise to propel you forward towards publication. Some are easy, some are hard. You will brainstorm ideas, you will find suitable magazines, you will learn how to find freelancers in any given publication and where to get editor’s contact information. This is one of the most helpful parts of the book, but also the reason it takes so long!
Each chapter also has a few paragraphs at the end aimed especially at moms. These cover topics from how to take time out of the day for writing, to how to find a good place to do your writing. These sections are what make the book a special resource for women trying to mother and write. This information would be helpful to mom bloggers as well as to freelance writers.
A cautionary tale: using information in this book, I successfully made contact with an editor who was interested in the article I suggested. She asked for my resume, which I sent. I never heard from her again. I’m not sure why, but perhaps I should have read the chapters on professionalism first, or the one that suggested sending all information in the e-mail body because attachments may get caught in the editor’s spam filter. The moral of the story is that the book might get you so motivated that you get ahead of yourself a little bit. It’s okay! I might have blown it with that editor, but even starting the process was progress for me.
Although I love the book, I’d like to see a new updated edition. Technology changes so quickly; almost all the publications I’ve found require online submissions. Some of her advice, such as formatting cover letters, needs updating for use with Submittables, the most common way to submit that I encounter. So many publishing venues now are websites, blogs, and digital magazines that I feel more discussion would be beneficial, especially how to decide which ones are really worth pursuing. She explains about the importance of attaching “clips” (your published work) to resumes, but does not tell you what the procedure is if your clips are all online. Also, using the links provided, I found more opportunities to submit work than I can keep up with, but I also found links that don’t work anymore.
All in all, it’s a very worthwhile book that has made a difference in my fledgling freelance career. I feel prepared to succeed!
Have you read Writer Mama? Do you have a favorite book or resource for freelance writers? Tell us in the comments!