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Santiago Times to Publish my work on HidroAysen!

Twenty kilometers south of Puerto Montt, Steve Anderson runs a sizable camping ground, WWOOFing operation, and the Patagonia branch of The Santiago Times, Chile’s first English-language newspaper. His office is a small, many windowed tower at the top of his house, with an uninterrupted view of a sheltered, salty bay. Buoys in neat geometric lines mark mussel farms off the green coast. Afternoon sun blazes through the glass, and as Steve and I sit and talk, the office heats up, becoming a mini greenhouse, incubating my young dreams of being a published writer.

Steve’s paper is short-staffed, but needs more coverage on HidroAysen; I’m writing about the topic, and need publishing clips to flesh out my resume. “I’ll publish whatever you write,” he tells me, “and the more you write the better.” Great! I’m thinking. I’ll have an outlet for my articles, an editor and sounding board and resource who can help me sort through my research and develop my story. But there’s a catch. “I can’t pay you. There’s absolutely no budget. I’m sorry.” I’m too excited about getting published to be terribly upset by this. I need his help, he needs my story, and the potential synergy appeals to me. I agreed, happily. Life is good!

Last night, however, I couldn’t sleep. An email I’d received from a friend and mentor ran around in my head, poking at my new excitement and confidence. She’s a freelance writer, a very successful one, and I trust the advice she gives me. I wrote to tell her about my project, and about my fundraising website. “Bravo!” she responded at first. “You’re an excellent writer, you WILL get where you’re going.” Picture me patting myself on the back. But, her tone shifted, “treat your writing like a business, not a charity. Turn your hand from palm up (for a hand out) to palm down (tapping away at your computer sending proposals).” This woman has given me a lot of advice over the past year that I’ve known her, but the title theme has always been Get PAID. Anyone can write for free, and accepting unpaid assignments devalues the quality of my work and lessens my legitimacy as a professional writer. Deep sigh.

She’s right, ultimately. I need to spend my time writing and presenting pitches if I want to get published. And I’m not going to be able to ask for donations from friends for every writing project I undertake. Nor do I intend to. This project is the start of my career, and I feel okay about asking for financial help as a kick-off, not as a long term income. The good news is that I AM pitching. The bad is that so far Steve-who-can’t-pay-me is the only one who has responded. What’s a professional to do? The exasperating truth of freelance writing is that you need to be published in order to get published, and although I agree with and appreciate my mentor’s advice, I feel like I need to take the opportunities that are presented to me. And keep pushing forward for bigger and better opportunities. The truth is that I am new at this. I feel like I need the practice and experience working with a newspaper, and with Steve, I’ll have one-on-one attention and guidance that I’m not sure another publication would be able to give me. And because he won’t be paying me, I retain the copyright to my work, and can send the finished products to other publications.

I am faking it til I start making it, stumbling along the best I can. Continuing to move forward, following my instincts and the advice of others as best I can. Hoping (and working!) for the best. So. EXCITED to be making progress on the publishing front. My first story should be appearing in tomorrow’s Santiago Times, about a group of cyclists I’m going to be following along the Carretera Austral! I’m also celebrating 51% raised on my fundraising site!! THANK YOU to Leland Thompson, Ryan Mortimer, Beth Wellington, and Myriah Pahl! Here’s how I’m choosing to look at this. Those of you who are contributing funds aren’t giving me charity. You’re paying me for the work that I’m doing for Steve, which I will put on my publishing resume as I continue to approach other magazines and newspapers, and eventually get a PAID assignment!

And…mentor friend, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU for the kick in the pants. I hear you. I’m working on it. Thanks for sticking with me.

2 comments to Santiago Times to Publish my work on HidroAysen!

  • Dan

    Susan, I consider my contribution to your efforts not really a charity, but essentially what you said: payment for your efforts to research this story and for you to keep posting on your fantastic journeys. I’ve been excited to read them and don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t get paid for entertaining and enlightening your readers. Stay positive!!!

  • Brett

    So very excited for you on getting your work published. Keep up the hard work and enjoy the beauty of Patagonia. Looking forward to reading your articles!


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