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Category Archives: Business of Writing

2016: Lessons in Freelancing

This blog has been neglected for nearly all of 2016: 51 weeks of it, to be precise. That wasn’t unintentional, entirely. One of my specific goals for 2016 was to find and place my writing and editing advice—the kinds of posts I used to publish here—with paying outlets. I did that, publishing four industry-focused articles with Contently’s The Freelancer, and I parlayed the rest of what I’d normally write about here into two new classes I designed and started teaching at Pitch Like a Honey Badger (credit for the class name goes to its originator, Amanda Castleman) and Nuts & Bolts of the Freelance Lifestyle. There, I enjoyed working with smart, motivated students whose successes I enjoy celebrating.

In addition to writing for The Freelancer and teaching, I’ve been plenty busy. I wrote for lots of outlets, including three big print features (one of which still hasn’t been published) that pushed me in terms of my research and reporting skills. I did a lot of behind-the-scenes editing work for custom and branded content clients, including AFAR, Eater, Avocados from Mexico, and Microsoft. I did much more translation and fact-checking work than ever, completing highly technical translations (English-Spanish and Spanish-English) for international NGOs and private institutions and digging deep into fascinating features written by other folks, where my language skills and cultural competence were useful beyond measure. Fact-checking clients included Audubon Magazine, California Sunday Magazine, journalists writing for The New York Times, and private book clients, as well as guidebook publishers, DK Eyewitness and Michelin.

2016 was the most lucrative year of my decade-plus freelancing career to date, and I don’t mean that solely in the financial sense. I worked harder than ever (something that, frankly, I didn’t think was possible), and in the process, I learned more than ever, too. Some of those lessons were assignment specific, picking up a new term or concept in a translation or fact-check project that I hadn’t been familiar with previously, or learning about a complex medical issue after hours of interviews and research. But some of those lessons—the most valuable, enduring ones, I suspect—were more universal, and I want to share them here as I wait for the ball to drop on 2017.

1. Social media is not a waste of time…

A considerable amount of my work this year—more than 50% of it, and probably closer to 70%–came from editors and clients who follow me on social media. By consistently sharing who I am, what I care about, what I’m reading, what I’m thinking, and what I’m working on—and being authentic about all of those—I’ve had an incredible amount of work referred to me, and most of that work has been both big dollar work and personally or professionally significant to me in some major way, either because it was a new client, a particularly prestigious client, or a project that was perfectly suited for me and stretched my skills and knowledge to new limits. Interestingly, a lot of the referrals came from colleagues and editors who don’t necessarily “like” or comment on any of my posts. But when a job that was perfect for me presented itself to them, they thought of me and shared my name with the powers that be. In short: social media is not a waste of time. AT ALL.

2. … BUT my bandwidth for online drama is increasingly limited.
The above notwithstanding, it was only late in the year, after a November trip to Havana when Internet access was especially poor, that I realized my mental, emotional, and social bandwidth for online debates and arguments is increasingly limited. I’m a big believer in the importance of supporting colleagues (more on that momentarily) and sharing knowledge, contacts, and leads with other writers—especially those who have traditionally been pushed to the margins of this profession, or neglected by it altogether. But in a number of online spaces where this kind of support occurs, there are endless debates about nearly every aspect of the profession of freelance writing. I always tried to participate respectfully and thoughtfully, but it became clearer to me over time that the energy I was investing into many of these conversations could be better spent in other ways. A number of people live for online debates and seek validation/confirmation of their opinions or beliefs—especially (paradoxically, perhaps) the ones that limit them the most. I’m here if and when they’re ready to delimit. Until then, I’m choosing to direct my energy and time in ways that will be of greater, more powerful, and more immediate benefit to others.

3. The rising tide will always lift more boats…
I have ALWAYS believed that the rising tide lifts all boats: that conditions or circumstances improving for one person can be of benefit to many more people. My experiences this year continued to prove this clichéd phrase to be true.

4. … BUT there are plenty of colleagues and collaborators who don’t understand that.

For some folks, it doesn’t matter how many times the rising tide lifts their boat… they still believe they’re the only ones who deserve to be lifted. I had more experiences than I cared for this year where my success could have been someone else’s success, but my performance or competence threatened their sense of self and, by extension, threatened our collaboration. I continue to be baffled by this approach to life and work, but it reminds me that…

5. I have to know when to walk away AND be prepared to do it.
In the most vexing example of a collaboration where a partner felt threatened by my work rather than viewing my contributions as leading to a win-win for both of us, I started to get really frustrated. My husband became my job counselor on more than one occasion, as I complained about the fact that I feared one of my most important anchor gigs would vaporize because this other person only wanted their boat to rise. He reminded me, as he always does, that it’s possible she’ll sink my boat, and that would suck, but I’d be okay. He held out the mirror to remind me of my skills and abilities, as well as my history: When a door closes, another opens. And he reminded me, too, never to get too attached to or dependent upon a single project or client.

6. It’s really never too late to reach out.

I’m pretty good about staying on top of notifications of gigs and assignments, and I tend to jump on those right away. But there came a point in this year where I had so much work that I just let those notifications go to their own gmail folders, piling up for the last quarter. When I finally started to catch up on them, I saw there were a couple of gigs that were perfect for me. I hovered over “Reply”: It was a week or a month later: Should I throw my hat in the ring? “What do I have to lose?” I asked, typing to the editors, “It may be that you’ve already found someone for this assignment, but if that’s not the case, please feel free to get in touch,” adding, of course my name and bona fides. In both cases where I did this, I landed major assignments at new-to-me publications AND for one of them, an offer of a recurring contributing writer role. Unless you really have something to lose, you have nothing to lose.

7. Relationships really ARE everything.

Sometimes, I’ll agree to go to a deskside or event for which I have no assignment (and, if I’m honest, I might not even have a particular specific interest), just so I can keep an ear to the ground on certain subjects or groups. I know lots of writers who think these things are a waste of time, but this year was recurring proof for me that they often yield fruit, even if it’s far in the future. Cultivating relationships at these types of encounters and activities may not have immediate benefit, but they often will at some point down the road. And even when they don’t, they can be a good “Let’s have human contact time” for a writer who spends too much time at her computer. In fact, I’m scheduling Friday morning coffee into every week in 2017. I need more time with other writers, and if I make an obligatory appointment in my calendar, I’ll keep it.

I’m sure there are other lessons I learned this year (“Always follow up” and “There’s no shame in getting your money” are two that I learned—again—in 2016), but these are the ones that are top of mind as my kids buzz around the living room (STILL AWAKE) as we wait for the ball to drop on 2017. I’d love to hear what you learned in 2017 – share your lessons in the comments below.

Take a Class with Me in 2016

I’m pleased to announce that I am now an instructor at, and I have two classes coming up:

Pitch Like a Honey Badger


The Nuts and Bolts of the Freelancing Lifestyle.

Pitch Like a Honey Badger” is intended for freelancers who want to improve their pitching skills and, by extension, their rate of acceptance and number of assignments. The class starts January 20 and is asynchronous, meaning there’s no set meeting time; you can work through it at your own pace.

In “The Nuts & Bolts of the Freelancing Lifestyle,” I’ll be teaching something almost no other writing course teaches: the finances of freelance writing. This course is designed to help you define what financial success looks like for you as a freelancer and to assist you with developing a concrete, practical plan for achieving it. It starts March 9 and is also asynchronous.

If you’ve ever worked with me before, you know that I’m very hands-on with students and colleagues, offering honest, useful feedback and support that’s rooted in the values of transparency and giving.

I hope you’ll consider registering for one (or both!) of these classes. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly at writingjulie [AT] gmail [dot] com.

How to Get over Impostor Syndrome

I wasn’t familiar with the term “impostor syndrome” until I joined a group of women writers.

Comprised of several thousand accomplished journalists and authors in a variety of genres, many of them quite successful by any objective measure, there was also a contingent that frequently expressed doubts about their knowledge/skills/abilities/quantity and quality of work, and on and on. Among them were writers who spoke of challenges they faced in dealing with “impostor syndrome,” the sense that they were really just posing as writers, that somehow they simply weren’t good enough.

Here’s the best definition of impostor syndrome I’ve found:

… a term coined in the 1970’s by psychologists and researchers to informally describe people who are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women. (Wikipedia… of all places)

Although I felt glad they had a safe space to express their feelings and receive support from the rest of us, I also felt astonished and troubled by the number of women who felt this way, how acutely, and how much it was affecting their work– not only what they were doing, but all that they weren’t doing because they were occasionally paralyzed by self-doubt.

There’s a lot of advice offered to women who experience impostor syndrome, but I think most of it isn’t very useful. It tends to fall into one of two categories: (1) Think or act “like a man,” which, frankly, is insulting to men and women, and/or (2) “Fake it ’til you make it,” which suggests that if one merely pretends to be confident, assertive, and self-assured, those qualities will magically develop over time.

Neither category of advice offers concrete actions or a permanent fix that will help a woman writer kick impostor syndrome to the curb. With that precise goal in mind, I offer the following:

1. Do a professional self-inventory.
If you don’t know, objectively, what your skills and worth are, it’s time to sit down and do a self-assessment. What do you know really well– inside-out? What can you reasonably claim as your area of expertise? When you’re doing this, think only of yourself: the goal isn’t to compare yourself against anyone else. It’s to become as self-aware as you can.

2. Fill in the gaps.
Maybe your self-inventory revealed that, hey, you ARE an impostor and you’ve got no business being a writer. But I doubt it. In any case, though, it likely helped you identify areas where you need to shore up some skills or knowledge. There’s no shame in that and it doesn’t mean you’re an impostor. It means you’re a person and professional who understands that we are all always growing, learning, and changing, and that we can all always learn more.

Not sure where to go to fill in your gaps? Poynter, Dart Center, and EdX are just a few organizations that offer a number of free courses online. Prefer one-on-one coaching? There are lots of talented journalists and writers who offer personalized sessions and/or ongoing small-group workshops. I recommend Jordan Rosenfeld for fiction writers; Faith Adiele for memoir; Christine Gilbert for blogging; and myself for journalism and general non-fiction (you can contact me at writingjulie[at]gmail).

3. Identify and cultivate your sources.
In some respects, a writer is only as good as her sources. Do you already have a go-to list of experts and stakeholders in your particular niche or beat? If not, identify a few and start cultivating contacts. Listen to them carefully. Learn from them. Live in a state of constant curiosity.

4. Keep up with developments– not the Joneses.
It always boggles the mind when I talk to writers who don’t read every single day. You must read. Your goal should never be to compare yourself against another writer, but to know who’s covering what, how they’re covering it, where it’s being covered, and how you might be able to cover it in your own way. I keep a hand-lettered sign above my computer: “What’s the story not being told?” Whether I’m thinking about writing a feature or a quick Q&A or profile piece, and whether I’m covering someone who’s famous or someone who’s unknown, that’s usually the question that drives my approach.

5. Gather your tribe.
There’s a lot about the writing life that is solitary. The extrinsic validation so many writers crave isn’t always accessible, particularly when there are people who live to troll in the comments section of online publications. If you really struggle mightily with nurturing your own intrinsic motivation (and even if you don’t), identify a small core group of colleagues who will help buoy you during your bouts with self-doubt. Choose people who know your work and respect it, who will give you concrete reminders–not just vacuous pep talks–about why your work is good and important. Lean on them when you need it and reciprocate in kind.

6. Work on your monkey mind.
All that mental chatter rattling on about how you’re not worthy, you’re not worthy, you’re not worthy? You know it’s not going to go away magically on its own, right?

You have to work on your monkey mind, all the self-talk that undermines your self-esteem and your good, productive work. And I’m sorry to say that that work isn’t easy. As a former psychotherapist, I’ve worked with several hundred people actively working to change a habit or behavior that was what therapists call “maladaptive” (ie: not good for them); only a tiny fraction of them successfully broke the old habit and replaced it with one that was more adaptive.

Change is hard. Really really hard. But it’s not impossible and it’s worth working–constantly–on contesting the negative self-talk that makes you feel like an impostor. Though my own clinical orientation was oriented more toward psychodynamic psychotherapy and the creative arts therapies, there is a great deal of value in the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which anyone can use at any time. Basically, CBT involves practicing changing your “negative scripts” (ie: crap self-talk). There are loads of resources online where you can read more about CBT. I recommend The Beck Institute as a good point of departure if you’re interested in learning more.

Struggling with impostor syndrome or have a kick-ass way to deal with it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Dispirited but not defeated

I don’t know about you, fellow freelancers, but the past eight weeks have felt like “The Twilight Zone” when it comes to getting paid.

Only you know that the problem won’t end after a 30-minute episode.

At first, I chalked it up to The August Doldrums: you know, editors and publishers going on that elusive thing called “vacation” while you continue to sit, fingers to keyboard, filing assignments and checking accounts to see if those outstanding invoices have been paid.

Once the calendar flipped its page to September, I was ready to follow up. With nearly $9,000 of unpaid invoices, most of which represented work filed months ago, I set aside time in my hectic reporting and writing schedule marked “INVOICE F/U.”

That “F/U” is for “follow-up,” in case you were wondering. I know- the temptation to read a double entendre into that is real.

I always feel resentful about spending time chasing down money I’m owed. It’s time for which I’m not getting paid, spent on work for which I’m owed, taking time away from new work that could be getting done, asking for something I shouldn’t have to ask for because I’ve followed all the rules and have honored my end of contractual agreements. But I suck it up, send out inquiries, pull up and reattach invoices “for your quick reference and convenience,” and look at what kind of crazy mathematics I have to pull off to cover my own obligations while I wait to get paid.

But this September has, thus far, been particularly bad. A publisher who owed $3,200, separated into two invoices, paid one invoice but not the other. When I followed up, they were surprised. There was another invoice? Well, yes. Yes, there was. Another publisher lost my invoices: could I send them again? And a third promised, repeatedly, that “payment was being processed this week,” only this week turned into three weeks, and no, I still haven’t been paid.

The kicker came today, when, after filing an assignment for a reputable outlet for which I’ve written a couple times (and have two more commissions in the pipeline), I wrote accounts payable to check on the status of an invoice filed at the beginning of August. I double-checked our contract: net 30. They were past it. Where was my money? I wrote, politely, to inquire.

What ensued has been an exchange of emails that has left me dispirited and disgusted, but not at all defeated. Many freelancers don’t follow up on payments; others apologize for doing so (“Sorry to be a pest, but I just wanted to check on my invoice, dated months and months ago!”). After the series of exchanges below, I am, more than ever, determined to be both diligent and dogged in pursuit of compensation for my work.

I hope you will feel the same. I also hope you will share this widely. Don’t let others devalue your work. Don’t continue to contribute to a system that doesn’t compensate you for your product; I can think of no other profession that permits this. Feel free to lift any of the language of my own emails and edit them to fit your own situation as you seek the payment you are owed.
Email One: From Me to the Accounts Payable Department of the Publisher


My name is Julie Schwietert Collazo and I’m writing to check on the status of an invoice that was filed on or around August 5. The project was [description of project], which was assigned by [name of editor]. The total due was [$xxx.00]. I have not yet received payment for this project; could you please advise regarding the status and when payment can be expected?


Email Two: From Someone in Accounts Payable Who Did Not Indicate His Position/Title

“Hi Julie: We are currently have a backlog with our freelance payments, we will get payment out as soon as we can. Please be patient and we’ll get you paid. Thank you!”

Upon receiving this, I stepped away from the computer to think. Would I write a “Ok, thanks!” email or would I let him know that no, this wasn’t okay? I thought about it for about 20 minutes and then responded:

Email Three: From Me to Untitled Guy #1 in Accounts Payable

“Hi, [name redacted]. Thank you for the update. Do you have an estimate of when the invoice will be paid?”

Email Four: From Untitled Guy #1 in Accounts Payable

“Not at this time. Sorry.”

Email Five: From Me to Untitled Guy #1 in Accounts Payable

“Dear [name redacted]-

This is an utterly unacceptable response, and one that I find disrespectful and unprofessional. I am not writing for a hobby; this is my profession. Like [name of publisher], I have bills to pay and not a single one of the people or companies waiting for payments from me would accept this type of response.

According to the contract with [name of publisher], it is clearly articulated that your obligation is to pay within 30 days of receiving the invoice. Please see the contract here, if there is any doubt as to that fact.

[I inserted a link to the contract, signed by both parties.]

If I do not receive payment by the close of business on Monday, September 21, I will pursue legal action.

Julie Schwietert Collazo”

Email Six: From Untitled Guy #2 in Accounts Payable

“Hi Julie,

My apology for the delay in payment. Please understand that the AP team was in no way trying to be rude or disrespectful and we do appreciate the service you provide to our Company. I’d like to talk to you live if you are available this afternoon so we can discuss your invoice and payment. Please let me know if you are available after 2pm PST and if [my phone number, redacted] is still a valid number to reach you at.

[name of guy #2 from Accounts Payable, who also doesn’t indicate his title]”

Email Seven: From Me to Untitled Guy #2

“Dear [name redacted]-

Thank you for your prompt reply. I’d rather receive explanation and next steps/payment schedule via email so that we have mutual documentation.

Julie Schwietert Collazo”

Email Eight: From CFO of Publishing Company to Me


[Name redacted] forwarded your email to me. I’m happy to jump on a call to discuss, but we will not discuss via email. Sorry if that is an inconvenience for you, but I’ve found email insufficient to discuss payment matters. Please let me know a good day/time/number to call you.

[Name redacted]”

Email Nine: From Me to CFO

“Dear [Name redacted]-

I’m not sure why you find email ‘insufficient’ for discussing payment matters; as far as I’m concerned, I only want to know when you intend to process payment and whether this problem with paying freelancers will continue, as I have another invoice I’ll be submitting for a work filed yesterday and I have two more assignments pending. If you are insistent that you must call, please be aware that I will record the conversation, which is legal under New York State law.

You are welcome to call me at [number redacted] anytime after 8 AM tomorrow. After tomorrow, I will be out of the country on assignment and without phone and Internet for 10 days, so I ask that this issue be resolved as quickly as possible.

Thank you.”

Email Ten: From CFO to Me


I’m sorry, we will not consent to being recorded. If you’d like to discuss payment without recording, please let me know; otherwise, we’ll tender payment when able.

[Name redacted]”

Email Eleven: From Me to CFO

“[Name redacted]-

I’m not asking for your consent. New York law clearly indicates I’m within my rights to record a call, with or without your consent.

It’s clear to me that you and your colleagues don’t intend to act honorably; you’ve made a clear-cut situation far more complicated than necessary, and your contract is absolutely clear about the terms of payment. If I do not near from you by tomorrow, whether by email or phone, with a specific plan of action and timeline for payment, I will initiate legal action.

Julie Schwietert Collazo”

Email Twelve: From CFO to Me


I understand your frustration on payment (I would be frustrated if I were in your position). I would like to discuss it with you. Payment issues happen in business from time to time. When they occur, they are not necessarily (and absolutely not in this case) a function of dishonorable behavior or deceit. We had a significant partner file bankruptcy, which has created this issue. We are working through it. You will be paid in full. If you would like to discuss the timing of this, I am very happy to call you to do so. But, I am in California, which does not allow recording conversations without consent. I do not consent to being recorded. If you want to discuss your payment without recording, I am standing by to do so. If you do not want to do that, you will still be paid in full.”

Email Thirteen: From Me to CFO

“[Name redacted]-

I certainly understand that ‘payment issues happen in business from time to time.’ I’ve been a business owner and, of course, as a freelancer, I’m frequently in the unfair position of being put at the mercy of a publisher’s ‘payment issues’… though I doubt you or others on staff absorb the similar–and very real– tangible, literal costs of such issues. Nor does your landlord, electric company, or Internet service provider, I’m sure, wait until issues resolve for you to pay them. Yet [name of publisher redacted], like too many publishers, expects freelancers to bear the brunt of the effects of problems they didn’t create. And, unfortunately, too many freelancers don’t assert themselves because they’re afraid they’ll never get paid, or that they’ll ‘burn bridges,’ a ridiculous notion, considering that they’re not the one who caused the problem.

It’s not unreasonable to want to be paid according to the contract we both signed. In addition, what continues to confound is: (1) why you would feel it is at all ethical to allow editors to continue commissioning freelance content in the midst of such problems (which clearly don’t have a resolution), and (2) why you wouldn’t inform freelancers who are due money what the generalities of the problem are, detail how it affects them, and present them with a reasonable resolution, one that has a timeframe attached to it. That’s fair and professional business.

I am not willing to have an off-the-record phone conversation. You can expect to hear from my lawyer.

Julie Schwietert Collazo”

and his final reply, which will not be met with a response from me, other than the one I’ve clearly indicated is my recourse:

“Understood. Please put him or her in touch with me. Happy to discuss with them.

[Name redacted]”

How to Sell a “Cold Case” Article

“What do you do,” a colleague asked recently, “when you have a piece you just can’t seem to sell?”

It happens. It’s frustrating when an idea or article you’ve worked on so hard becomes the journalistic equivalent of a cold case, but that doesn’t mean all the work you’ve put into an assignment is for naught. Here are a few strategies worth trying before giving up on a piece.

1. Use your running pitch list to your advantage.
If you don’t know what I mean by running pitch list, read this post and take a close look at the visual. A running pitch list allows you to track the progress of a piece continually, and if you get in the habit of scheduling one day a week on which you dedicate an hour or two to pitch follow ups, you’ll whittle away at your cold case rate.

Every time you pitch an article, be sure to fill out the field on your pitch list that indicates the other outlets and editors you’ll try if your Plan A publication doesn’t pan out. I put that information in the “Other” field. If you haven’t heard from Plan A, move on and pitch the back-up publication. Exhaust all possibilities.

2. Turn to colleagues.
Tell your colleagues where you’ve pitched and ask for other suggestions. They may have outlets you haven’t considered or ones you don’t even know.

3. Call in a favor.
Ask a trusted colleague to read a pitch that’s gotten nowhere and request her input. Is there something you’re missing that a second set of eyes might help identify and correct to strengthen the idea that hasn’t yet found a home?

4. Take feedback to heart.
Sometimes we’re too close to our ideas and stories to understand what may be missing for a more general audience. If your trusted colleague gives feedback, take it into consideration and rework your pitch accordingly.

5. Relax– sometimes it’s all about the timing.
You may have an incredible article idea, but if no editor’s picking it up, consider the possibility that the timing just isn’t good for some reason… and there can be lots of reasons why it might not be. That doesn’t mean the idea or the resulting story will never sell; it may just mean that you need to sit with it for a while and wait for the timing to be better. For an example of this, check out my guest post on Jordan Rosenfeld’s blog; it’s about a story idea I sat with for seven years.

Hold it until it’s sellable and peg it, if you can, to a timely event or news.

6. Rework the angle.
Let’s say the story idea you’ve been sitting on has suddenly been done to death. Maybe you had a story about the famous chef Rene Redzepi, but it feels like you’ve been seeing stories about him everywhere and maybe your idea has been played out.

In these situations, see if you can tweak your angle. The question to always ask yourself about a person, place, or phenomenon that’s been hyped ad infinitum is this: What’s the story that hasn’t been told? How can you offer a fresh take? In our Redzepi example, can you focus less on the food and more on his family? Some new entrepreneurial venture that’s underreported? His right-hand man (or woman)? Tell the story no one else is telling.

7. Put it into a package.
If you’re having a hard time selling a piece as a stand-alone, figure out a way to put it into a bigger package. Using our Redzepi example again, turn what you intended to be a profile of him (done. tired.) into a package. This isn’t always ideal, of course– none of us wants to kill off our darlings, the original ideas we had about how we wanted to frame a story–but if your goal is to sell, then you have to consider this as an option.

How do you do it? Consider all the material you have and pull out pieces that can be rolled up into another package. It may be a single sentence or idea that then gets pulled into a round-up style piece. You may need to do a little more reporting to fill out the new article.

Have some other tips about how to give new life to cold cases? Please share them in the comments.

Typical Days? A Look at My Busiest Week Ever: Monday

People often ask, when I’m sitting on panels or giving workshops or talks, what a “typical” day is like as a freelancer. The great thing–for me, at least; for some people, it can be maddening–is that there’s no consistent structure. There’s always researching, writing, reading, taking care of my kids, and, hopefully, taking a shower, but outside of that, all bets are off and the ratios of some of these things against others shift from one day to the next.

A few weeks ago, some friends said they’d like a peek at my daily schedule, such as it is. I decided, what better time to indulge them than during the busiest week of my life?

Here’s how Monday went down:

7:00 AM:
Wake up. Make oatmeal for oldest child, pack her lunch, and help her get ready for school. Take a quick shower, dress, pack my own backpack (laptop, agenda, book to read on train, journal, pens, press card, business cards, wallet, iPhone).

7:40 AM: Leave home and walk to school.

7:53 AM: Arrive at school, drop daughter off, make a donation of books to school’s used book drive. Walk to neighborhood coffee shop to work until it’s time to leave for a meeting in Manhattan.

8:05-10:32 AM: Work at coffee shop. Check bank accounts and note paid invoices. Send outstanding April invoices to five clients. Check and respond to email. Send an email to an editor with a list of upcoming articles. Check Facebook and Twitter for my own accounts and for Cultures & Cuisines, a website I’m launching with Christine Gilbert on Friday. Prep rest of the day’s to-do list and make note (mental and otherwise) of article deadlines this week. Read Mexican and Puerto Rican newspapers online. Download most recent version of the outline for the workshop I’m teaching with Conner Gorry at CUNY School of Journalism on Friday and save it on laptop for our 11:30 meeting. (Tickets are still available, by the way!)

10:32 AM: Leave coffee shop and get on subway. Head to Manhattan. Read Chester Himes interviews on the train and marvel how much and yet how little the publishing industry has changed since the 1940s, especially for people of color.

10:49 AM: Get off train in Times Square. Walk to bank to get replacement bank card for Girl Scout account and make a deposit for cookie money!

11:30 AM: Walk to NYPL. Meet Conner. Decide that we should change venues and work in a cafe across the street. Work on refining the outline for our How to Report on Cuba (Responsibly) workshop. Make a list of action items for each of us to follow up on before Friday.

1:15 PM: Leave Manhattan and head home. As I walk home from train, Francisco calls to say that we’re having an unexpected guest coming over for a light lunch at 3 PM. The apartment, he says, is a mess.

1:40 PM: Home. Francisco gets ready to go pick Mariel up from school. I put water on to boil–pasta’s always an easy lunch!–and start straightening up. We change the other kids’ diapers, get them dressed, and I vacuum.

2:00 PM: Francisco straps on his rollerblades and zips off to pick up Mariel. I add the pasta to the water and prep toppings.

2:37 PM: Francisco and Mariel arrive home. Orion falls asleep. I call a PR person to request photos for an article for The Latin Kitchen.

3:00 PM: Guest arrives. Lunch is served.

4:00 PM: Guest leaves. Francisco takes Orion and Mariel to the playground. Olivia naps. I work on action items for the Cuba workshop: finding and sending some photos to Conner; cleaning up our list of resources so that the formatting is consistent; pulling the email list for the participants to send them an update message about materials they should bring. I also draw up an evite for the May 24 dinner for Cultures & Cuisines and start working on the guest list. I follow up on a last-minute article opportunity, sending materials an editor has requested for a time-sensitive piece.

6:00 PM: Francisco and kids return home. Two oldest kids go into bathtub; Francisco starts cooking dinner. Mariel gets out of bath and we start homework. She goes to visit a neighbor. I play with “the littles,” submit the Girl Scout cookie order, and plan pick up with the troop co-leader.

7:10PM: I feed the littles.

7:30 PM: Mariel comes home and eats dinner. I make a cocktail and, of course, drink it.

8:00 PM: Start to get kids ready for bed, helping them brush teeth, choosing books to read, and getting them into bed. Read books. Talk. Do a last round of milk for the two youngest. Lights out by 9:00 PM.

8:20 PM: Francisco leaves to do some errands: grocery store, post office, pick up keys for a friend who needs him to let in guests while she’s out of town.

9:00-10:20 PM: Wait for Orion to fall asleep. I fall asleep in the process, waking up when I hear the wind blowing over a container in the kitchen.

10:20 PM: Wake up. Kids all asleep. I wash bottles and prep them anew, wash dishes, put away food, make Mariel’s lunch for tomorrow, and set out breakfast items for the morning.

10:30 PM: Francisco comes home. We talk and catch up and plan how we’re managing the rest of the week.

11:00 PM- 1:30 AM: I continue working on the Cuba workshop materials. Orion wakes up and has a stuffy nose so fusses. I bring him out to the living room to sleep and fall asleep with him around 2:00 AM.

Last Call! Tickets for “How to Report on Cuba (Responsibly)” Available til Thursday

This Friday, Havana-based journalist Conner Gorry and I will be co-facilitating “How to Report on Cuba (Responsibly)” at CUNY’s School of Journalism. You can register for the full-day workshop here.