On Freelance Writing: A Discussion with Rachel Monroe

On Monday, writer Rachel Monroe came to Haverford to talk to students about being a freelance writer, volunteer firefighter, and occasional radio host based in Marfa, TX. She writes about things like crime, books, border issues, and utopian experiments for the New York Times, New York, Oxford American, Texas Monthly, Guardian, The Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, and host of other places.

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Rachel Monroe attended Pomona for undergrad, majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. After college, she traveled to Morocco on a Fulbright Fellowship before enrolling in the MFA in creative writing program at Johns Hopkins. She wrote a lot of short stories and fiction until she realized she didn’t like writing short stories. Now she writes “creative non-fiction.”

Q   &   A

If you could go back to college, what would you do differently?

Monroe: If I could go back to college, I would challenge myself more with history classes. I had a tendency of taking classes in things I knew I was good at.

What are your favorite websites to read?

Monroe: The All, LA Review of Books, Pacific Standard, LongForm.org, Twitter, Avidly.org…

What do you think of blog writing?

Monroe: It’s not my personality to blog daily or regularly, but I know people who do. Some people believe you should never write online for free, others don’t.

How do you publicize?

Monroe: Twitter, sometimes Facebook. Sometimes I email my pieces/upcoming pieces to people once a year. I like to call it “polite networking.” And yes, I do read the internet comments.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Monroe:

  • Write with a particular website in mind
  • Think “What’s the point of me exposing this?”
  • Find a personal connection to send an email to the editor on your behalf
  • No one will be offended if you ask what they will pay for your writing
  • Take a risk by mentioning where you’ve already been published
  • Find a good mentor who can call you out
  • Make writer friends on the internet. If I like a piece, I sometimes email the writer saying I liked it
  • Make peer mentors/internet friends
  • Make sure you do something to make enough money to live, then concentrate on what you like. I sometimes write anonymously for the Bank of America newsletter, but it’s only for the money. I know people who only freelance, and they have to hustle so hard, write so quickly. I think through this method, the quality suffers.

Thank you to Haverford Assistant Professor of English Lindsay Reckson for organizing this event! Sponsored by the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Center for Career and Professional Advising, and the Creative Writing Program.

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