Freelance Writing Outside the Library World

My path to publication

While I’ve always considered myself a writer in some form, most of my output has been confined to my rapidly filling Google Drive for the past decade or so. I spent several years as a reviewer for School Library Journal, and eventually wrote longer articles for SLJ after making contact with an editor who liked my work.

Strangely enough, it took a life pivot for me to embrace writing in a real way in my life. When I went on maternity leave with my son two years ago, I found that the late night feedings were oddly creative times for me (in the beginning at least). I’d come up with ideas for essays, sentence fragments, and tap them into my notes app with one hand. In the morning I’d change the baby into his daytime pajamas and try to decipher what I’d written the night before. Then while he napped (or watched Sesame Street) I’d try to shape what I’d written into something resembling an essay.

My best writer friend then suggested that I join the Binders, a Facebook group of women writers. There other women shared editors, pitches, rates, and anything you might need to know to make the leap to published author. I sent my first pitch to Romper and when it was accepted, the editor read my bio and suggested I pitch something for a series on children’s books.

While most of my published essays have centered around parenting, librarianship definitely informs what I write. Whether it’s knowing how to find sources for a piece on body image or giving me the cultural context to approach issues of diversity with sensitivity, my “day job” is deeply ingrained in my side hustle. I’m sure my credentials helped when I pitched LitHub last year to respond to an Atlantic article about diverse books. I feel like librarians are writers every day in some form, and I have just decided to continue honing my craft.

Something I’ve taken away from writing for the past few years is that fortune truly favors the bold. If I hadn’t reached out to the editor at School Library Journal to ask if there were any opportunities to write in longer form, I wouldn’t have begun to get paid publishing opportunities there. And if I didn’t shoot the moon and pitch the New York Times (for the sixth time) in December, I wouldn’t have been published there. There is a lot of self-advocacy in freelance writing, and tooting your own horn–both things I learned while working in libraries for the past ten years. 

To anyone who is interested in developing this side of themselves, the publications group can help you find opportunities in more library-specific venues. If you’re interested in other areas of writing, it’s often as easy as googling the “masthead” where editors are listed on their websites, checking twitter for “calls for pitches”, or reaching out to me, ebsalge@gmail.com if you think you have a good idea and you’re not sure where to send it. How to write a pitch that sells is its own entry–but I have some helpful tips if you’re interested.

Freelance writing has expanded my life beyond the walls of my school, and it’s shown me that many of my feelings around parenting (and librarianship!) are actually quite universal. You never know who needs to read what you’ve written. And while conventional wisdom will tell you to never read the comments, if you’ve been working with middle and high school students for long enough, your skin is much thicker than you’d think. 

2 thoughts on “Freelance Writing Outside the Library World

  1. So proud to have you in our profession and to see what you do next! I love that you reflected on the process as well as the final result.

  2. Your article is a beautiful segue to the latest Publications Group blog focused on journals outside the library world. Thank you for sharing your publication expertise.

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