How do you get published for the first time in the New York Times?
Where do you go from there with your goals for being published?
What professional opportunities await a successful freelance writer that are not necessarily writing?
Estelle Erasmus shares all this and more in this Q&A!
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Q: You last talked to BYB back in November 2014 about how you had transitioned from your high profile editing positions in NYC to freelance writing after your daughter was born. A LOT has happened in your career over the last 2 years. Can you catch us up?
A: Wow. It’s been that long? Seems like yesterday. Yes, a lot has happened since 2014. I have been publishing a ton of reported articles and personal essays for bigger, more prestigious publications and sites. Since then, I’ve been published in the Washington Post multiple times (including in print). I’ve also written for over 50 outlets, including the New York Times, Vox, Salon, Vice, Next Avenue/PBS, Your Teen, and parenting.com. Due to lots of requests from people to “learn what I do to get published so prolifically” I became a writing coach in 2015, and now have national and international clients. My clients say I’m “publishing on steroids” because once they start working with me, they get published fast and furiously. I’ve contributed chapters to several anthologies, including most recently How Does That Make You Feel? True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch (Seal Press, September 2016). I’ve also spoken about editing, writing and publishing at several conferences, including BlogHer15, BlogU15, ASJA2016 and the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Conference EBWW2016.
Q: I was so excited to see your piece recently published in the New York Times’ Metropolitan Diary. You wrote a great piece about how you did it as a kind of formula for other writers to follow. Can you share some of your key tips here?
A: Yes, I wrote a piece on my blog (which is now more focused on writing and publishing tips and tricks) and spoke about every aspect of the process I followed to get published. Here are some key tips:
- I read many examples of the column, to get a sense of what worked and the wide variety of pieces chosen. Metropolitan Diary is the longest running column of the New York Times and captures ‘odd, fleeting moments from New Yorkers in the city.
- I listened to a podcast on Beyond the Prose, where a writer detailed how she cut down her piece to the maximum 300 words allowed for the column. Believe me as a longtime editor, I know that it’s harder to cut than to add, but I actually enjoy cutting pieces down.
- I realized that the most popular pieces emphasized the kindness of New Yorkers, plus had a celebrity angle and it made me think of a story from my life, when I was working in promotions for a children’s television show that featured Thomas the Tank Engine.
- I wrote my story, read it to my husband and best friend and then submitted it via the site. I sent it the Thursday before July 4th and in an unheard of experience, was notified that it had been accepted on July 4th. It then took about a month and a half for it to run online and in print, because of the back log.
Q: For those of us who don’t have your editorial connections based on your years as a magazine editor, how and where do you recommend digging to find contact information for editors at places like The New York Times and comparable publications?
A: Actually, I really don’t have any editorial connections left from those days, because most editors from back then retired, became authors or freelance writers themselves. Like most writers, I’ve had to be resourceful and make new connections. I find twitter can be enormously useful in terms of finding editors connected to publications. Many editors don’t have their name as a twitter handle, but in their bios will often say the publication they work for. Often they will also include an email address. I sometimes sign up for notifications from editors, so I receive their calls for articles. I was recently verified on Twitter, and I think it gives me that extra cache with editors and publications.
Q: You are also a writing coach. What qualities do you look for in someone’s writing before you direct them to start reaching for top tier publications for their submissions?
A: I’m an extremely hard worker, and I look for that trait in people that I take on as coaching clients. I am here to support, inspire and push them to their highest potentials. However, before I decide to take on new clients, I ask them to submit samples of their writing, because I only want to work with writers that I believe I can help. When I work with someone, I brainstorm ideas with them, help them structure their articles or essays, polish their prose, tighten the flow of the pieces, and get a good publication strategy going. I prefer that kind of work, to quick stints tightening and honing someone’s essays, although I still do that with former clients. I’m so proud that some of my students/clients are published in Quartz, The Atlantic, Dame, The Washington Post, Brain, Child, the Guardian and more. Because I’ve published a lot in the Washington Post, I’ve been able to shepherd quite a few of my clients to their first publications there. I also have a knack for putting pitches together, and knowing how to sell them because of my background as an assigning editor for magazines.
Q: Now that you have been published in The New York Times, what other publications are on your personal bucket list?
A: I still want to publish in other sections of The New York Times, including the Modern Love column. I recently took a course with the Op-Ed project, and I’d like to publish more op-eds in newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and LA Times. I’d also like to be published in The Cut, The Atlantic, NPR, and before print dies completely, I’d love to appear in several more glossies.
Q: Your freelance career is going strong, what else can you tell us about your future projects?
I have several that I’m very excited about. Next month I’m going to be teaching an online six-week personal essay class for Writer’sDigest. My agent is shopping an anthology I put together, including some fabulous, well-published writers (that was one of my goals back when you first interviewed me in 2014).
An amazing opportunity came along as a result of pitching the Freelancer after listening to Beyond Your Blog’s podcast with Managing Editor Dillon Baker. I got an assignment based on my pitch, and that article came to the attention of the American Society of Journalists and Authors board. I was subsequently offered the role as Chair of the 2017 ASJA Conference, May 5-6th at the Roosevelt Hotel in NYC.
The theme is Pivot. Publish. Prosper and I’ve already secured some fabulous keynote speakers, including Jenny Blake , author of PIVOT: The Only Move that Matters is Your Next One (Portfolio/Penguin Random House) and Lane Shefter Bishop, CEO of Vast Entertainment, author of Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence; Advice from the Front Lines of Hollywood (W.W. Norton), who makes books into films. You can find out more on the website and also answer our call for speakers (open until November 1st). My blog has become more of a site for my writing tips and tricks and advice, and if people sign up for my newsletter they can get information the minute it comes out, plus sign up for the webinars I plan to offer.
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