A little over a month ago, I said to my then-fiance (with a grin on my face), “Guess what, babe? I got another non-paying job!”
“Um, congratulations?” he said. This is a running joke with us. He’s not a writer, so he can’t quite fathom that in this line of work, especially early on in one’s career, a writer rarely gets paid. (And if they do, it’s a check like this one:)
A few years ago now, I flew, on my own dime, to Mexico to teach a workshop at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference 2013. Did I get paid for teaching the class? Well, no. I was just happy they accepted my proposal and gave me a free place to stay. Besides, I thought it might look good on my resume.
In 2014, I accepted an internship as a blogger for Carve Magazine. “How much are they going to pay you?” Paul asked. I laughed and told him nothing. But again, I figured it would be a good experience.
And recently, I became the Features Editor for Compose Journal. Yet another non-paying job that I am (to Paul’s befuddlement) excited about.
Then, something amazing happened…
It was a week ago — the day after Paul and I got back from our wedding in Virginia. I checked my email while eating breakfast and was dumbfounded by what I saw. Without even applying for it, I was being offered a writer-in-residence position for five weeks this summer in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
The specifics are this: I will be put up in a beautiful house with two other artists and given a small food stipend. I can spend most of my time writing and having adventures, but I will also get paid for teaching a three-hour fiction workshop once a week. The pay depends on how many students sign up for my class, but even if no one signs up, I’ll still get $650, which is enough to cover my airfare.
Of course, I was slightly conflicted. I literally just got married, and now I was going to say, “peace out, Paul, I’m going to Mexico for five weeks.” On the other hand, how could I turn down the opportunity to get paid to write? It didn’t take long to decide that my answer was yes. (And hopefully Paul will be able to use frequent flier miles to come down and visit me while I’m there.) My class is open for registration, so check out the website.
I don’t think I would have gotten this offer were it not for all the non-paying writing-related jobs I’ve had. I put in a good word for myself with the San Miguel writing community when I taught the workshop down there in 2013. And it certainly doesn’t hurt my reputation that I’m a regular contributor to a prominent magazine (Carve) as well as an editor for a lovely journal (Compose). Plus, I now have an agent for my novel. Heck, I sound downright qualified to teach a fiction class and get paid to write!
But honestly, I think the number one reason why Nate (who is in one of the fine people running the San Miguel Artists in Residency Program) thought of me is that he’s always been impressed by the number of pieces I’ve had published in various journals and literary magazines. And that — reading and submitting to literary magazines — is a whole other non-paying job that I have slaved away at for years. My list of publications may look impressive now, but trust me, it was born of spreadsheets and submission fees and hundreds of rejections.
If I haven’t made my point clear, it’s because I have several, and here they are in numbered form…
1.) You have to write because you love it, not because you think you’re going to get paid.
2.) But sometimes, all that hard work you did for free might end up paying off.
3.) You should really consider coming to San Miguel this summer. Take a fiction class with me, a creative non-fiction class with David Ramsey, and/or a photography class with Marcio Fayre. It’s going to be a fun and productive time.