The Assignment for Day 19 of 2015 October Platform Challenge was to “Contact an Expert for an Interview Post”. I contacted two experts; one over the phone and one via email. I was fortunate to get an interview with both of them. One of the experts was available the same day so I interviewed him over the telephone and published the interview the same day of the challenge.
The second interview was with our very own Robert Lee Brewer, Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, and the organizer of 2015 October Platform Challenge. He is a poet, writer, and an editor who joined Writer’s Digest in January 2000 as an intern.
Visit http://www.robertleebrewer.com/ to know more about him. Though his presence is on several websites, if we Google his name. MY NAME IS NOT BOB is my favorite website of his. The reason being that throughout my life my name has been mispronounced or shortened by different people in different countries and I always had to correct them. To get a taste of Mr. Brewer’s poetry visit Escape into Life.
I would like to share his answers to the interview questions.
What does your current job entail?
It involves creating Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market books each year, managing our listing database for all our Market Books, writing a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, creating 150+ blog posts per year, editing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter, recording online tutorials, speaking at various live events, and a lot of other fun, writing- and publishing-related stuff.
How and why did you choose writing as a career?
I’ve loved writing since high school. I have boxes filled with my writing. So I’d be doing that regardless of my occupation. Writing is just something I have to do. As far as it matching up with my career as an editor, which allows me to write a lot, that is pretty much just luck. That said, I suppose that I would’ve ended up in some sort of position that allowed me to write and educate. Looking back on my life decisions, it’s obvious that I continue—without consciously trying—to put myself into those kind of situations.
What or who inspires you to write poetry?
The world around me constantly inspires me to write poetry. Whether I’m trying to woo someone who’s knocked me off my feet or capture a specific image, my poetry is almost always some sort of response (and invitation) to the world around me.
Besides prioritizing, what’s been the most effective tool in creating a balance between your writing, family and a full time job?
To-do lists. I break goals down by the day, and I try to set specific time deadlines to finish tasks each day. This helps me stay focused.
What factors affected your success?
Taking chances when opportunities present themselves. Just do it.
What advice would you give to writers who are aspiring to be successful?
Always put the writing first, but also take chances. Submit your writing. Go to live events. Make connections with writers and publications you love. If you’re offered an opportunity to speak, be interviewed, etc., take advantage of that opportunity. Eventually, you’ll have so many opportunities that you’ll even have to turn some down. But you have to be brave and take chances in the beginning to get to that point.
What would be the next step once a writer has finished writing?
Assuming you’ve already revised the work, then submitting your writing would be the next best step. I would suggest getting a copy of Writer’s Market to help with that, and not only because I’m the editor. Writer’s Market lists thousands of publishing opportunities, which is helpful, but it also includes articles on how to submit work, build a writing career, and more.
What points would you tell writers to consider when writing a query or a pitch for their book or article?
First, get the essence of the writing down to a one-sentence hook. Something that will make agents, editors, and readers want to know more. Then, figure out 2-4 sentences worth of extra details that are the most essential that will make people want to know more.
The purpose of a query is not to explain everything; rather, it’s to get people excited to see more, whether that’s the actual story, a book proposal, etc.
What’s the best way to market a nicely written polished piece?
The best way is to find markets that align with your writing. Submitting a sonnet to a haiku magazine isn’t a good fit. Submitting a how-to book on parenting won’t be a good fit for a publisher of art books. Most writers significantly improve their odds of success when they can discern a viable market from one that has no chance of being a good fit.
Knowing what you know now what would you have done differently with regards to your writing career?
I would’ve written a 7-part novel series about a boy wizard. Just kidding, just kidding.
Probably, I wouldn’t do anything different, because it’s all a process. Like anything, writers have to make mistakes to learn how to avoid them in the future. I almost thought to say that I would tell myself to be patient, but I think impatience is sometimes a good thing that keeps us from getting complacent. So just write-write-write and read-read-read. The rest will take care of itself.
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