Part II: A Q&A with Chris Rodell

This is part II of a two-part Q&A with Chris Rodell. Chris has written for everything from the National Enquirer to Esquire. For Part I see here. For more about Chris see below, check out his blog, Eight Days to Amish, or visit his website.

Jargon Writer: Either what’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome or what has your greatest success been thus fair?

Chris Rodell: The greatest source of my frustration is to hear so many compliments about my writing and my ideas and not being able to earn any money. It’s not from lack of laziness (the only thing more prolific than my blog output is the frequency of the rejection letters I receive). Really, but by now I thought I’d be a big deal. I take comfort in the fact that anything good that’s happened to me in my life has always happened 10 years after it should have.

JW: What changes have taken place in the industry since you first began freelancing?

Chris: The old order is gone and has been replaced by tumult and fog. It’s going to be fascinating to watch how it plays out. The disappearance of newspapers saddens me, but I love the ‘net. I used to be able to sell a generic travel story to ten different Sunday newspapers and earn between $125 to $450 per paper. It was great. Now, I rarely even pitch the papers anymore. That’s a substantial loss of income for a guy like me. But what’s replaced it has allowed me to do what I love — write offbeat features and humor columns — for free. Now if I could only find a way to make money out of it! But that’s what everyone in the publishing industry is trying to figure out, isn’t it?

JW: What was the biggest thing you had to learn?

Chris: One of the greatest things I’ve ever heard said about me was from my 4-year-old daughter in 2004. She and her little circle of friends were going around the table asking what their daddies did. One said, “He builds houses.” One said, “He fixes cars.” And one said, “He sells clothes.” When they got to my daughter, she said. “He plays with me.” Man, I thought, that’s not going to look good on the loan applications. The point is, I learned I was able to carry on with my job, but not let it drive me or ruin my perspective. You need self-discipline to succeed as a freelance writer, but you never want to be a stranger to the ones who matter most. Or the golf course! Or the gang at Happy Hour! Work like crazy when there’s work to be done. And play like crazy when there is not.

JW: Do you have a top tip (or two) for others who want to get into freelancing?

Chris: Again, blogging is key. It’s amazing how many great little lines from old posts I can use to pitch other stories or even book proposals. Also, keep up with industry trends by subscribing — it’s worth it — to sites like www.mediabistro.com and www.writersmarket.com. And never quit. Read a great quote recently that most people give up one yard from the goal line in the final minute of play just as they’re about to score the winning touchdown. Don’t let that happen to you!

Chris Rodell is a Latrobe, Pa., based freelance writer who’s been published by many of the most prestigious magazines in America and been rejected by the rest. He teaches creative non-fiction at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. Check out his blog, Eight Days to Amish, or visit his website.

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