Writer Q&A: Kris Bordessa

Recently I wrote a guest post for Jesaka Long at AKA Writer about balancing motherhood, full-time work and the writing life. In response to that post, I received a nice comment from a freelance writer, Kris Bordessa. After some research about Kris’ work, a visit to her website and a few e-mail exchanges, I asked Kris if she’d be willing to join me for a Q&A at Motherlogue. I’m happy to report that she agreed.

Like many of us, Kris is a mother who started writing while her kids were young and she’s continued to develop her freelance career. In 2009 Kris, along with tow other writers Teri Cettina and Jeannette Moninger,  published an e-book, Cash In On Your Kids: Parenting Queries That Worked. This e-book contains advice and examples of query letters that these writer mamas sent to national magazines and which landed them assignments at publications such as Real Simple, Parenting and Pregnancy Magazine. I’m thrilled to have made Kris’ acquaintance through the blogsphere and to share her thoughts about writing with you.

What was your background before you started freelance writing? Did you study journalism or English or have a 9 to 5 career in communications?

I actually spent years working in the field of Landscape Architecture, but writing has always been a way for me to process through events. Publication was a natural – if slow in coming – next step!

How long have you been a freelance writer? What prompted you to begin this career?

I’ve been writing professionally for nearly ten years, now. I started out as I think many writing moms do: squeezing writing time in between the care and feeding of baby. In my case, I’d write an essay, get busy with laundry, and forget about it for months at a time. I did submit to a few markets, but I was haphazard in doing so at best. One of those haphazard submissions caught the eye of an editor at FamilyFun – two years after I’d submitted it! I realized two things with that acceptance: 1. This business is crazy slow and 2. If I was ever going to take this writing business seriously, the time to do it was when I had a fresh publication credit to my name.

What was the first article you sold? How does that piece differ from what you write today?

It was a first person personal essay based on my own experience as a parent and becoming the tooth fairy. I’ve sold various essays over the years, but frankly I don’t write as many any more. I like to write them – but they’re a hard sell. Magazines publish so few personal accounts these days and competition is fierce. Most of what I write today is either service driven or related to travel, and of those two, there’s definitely more demand for service pieces!

What suggestions do you have for writers who want to move from queries to getting assignments?

Follow up. Follow up. Follow up! Really. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had no response to a query and found out with a follow up that the message had gotten lost in a spam folder, or the editor liked it but it quickly moved off her radar. Editors are busy. Don’t hound them, but definitely take a minute to touch base 2-3 weeks after your initial contact. If you still don’t get a response, turn that query around and immediately submit to the next magazine on your list. Keep them circulating!

Please tell us about your ebook, Cash In On Your Kids, and how you partnered with two other writers to create this fabulous resource.

I’ve known Teri and Jeannette via an internet writer’s group for years. We met a couple of years ago at a conference and talked about the possibility of a book geared specifically toward parents who want to break into writing. We discussed the information that we wished we’d had when we started writing and how it took us years to figure some of this stuff out. From our own experiences, we answered typical beginner questions — like what in the world is a query letter anyway?? But we didn’t stop there. One thing that we all agreed on was that as beginners we wanted to know what an actual query looked like. So we gathered 16 of the queries that have netted us assignments of up to $3600 from publications like Real Simple, Parenting, Parents, Redbook, FamilyFun and more, and included those in the book. We share queries for both short articles and features, for an even broader look at how best to tackle a subject.

How did you find an online writer’s group? Any advice for someone who might want to start one?

There are a good number of writer’s groups online, whether in the form of a yahoo group or an open forum. I highly recommend Freelance Success . It’s a paid service, but in my opinion totally worth it. The forums are populated by successful freelancers and authors who are amazingly helpful and willing to share advice.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to writers who are sending articles to Regional Parenting Publications?

What I’ve found is that these publications really like to have local writers contribute. If there’s a regional parenting magazine available in your area, look through it and see what you think you can add. Then write a query letter explaining why it’s a story that suits their readers – and why you’re the person to write it.

What piece of advice would you give to writers who are trying to break into national magazines?

I know it’s not what people want to hear, but be persistent. New writers CAN break into national magazines, but unfortunately without any publication credits they’re a risk for editors. Editors would rather assign a story to a writer who has a proven track record in turning in assignments on time and on topic. If you’re pitching a national magazine without any published clips, you’re an unknown quantity. Make sure they know why they should take that risk on you. Do you know 500 ways to reuse baby food jars? Have you eliminated the need to clean up the bathroom after your little boy missed the potty again? You need to suggest a story that only you can write.

I recently read on someone’s blog that parents shouldn’t write about their kids or about being parents. Obviously, for anyone who has read what I write, I don’t agree. I’m curious what your response would be to someone who feels that kids shouldn’t be part of their parent’s writing career.

I’ve written about my kids in essays. When they were little, it wasn’t much of a concern. Now they’re older and would be horrified if I revealed certain information, so I definitely check with them for permission to share details. Of course, an awful lot of what I write doesn’t require me to include the kids in the story at all.

Thanks to Kris for joining us at Motherlogue to share her experience and insight! If you want to stay connected to Kris, you can become a fan of Cash In On Your Kids on Facebook.

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17 Responses to Writer Q&A: Kris Bordessa

  1. Jan Udlock says:

    Liz, what a great interview and so very helpful!

    I would love to ask Kris at what point does a newbie ask a question on Freelance Success? I’ve been told to “not ask questions…” until when?

  2. Jenni says:

    Great interview, Liz! And Kris, congratulations on all your success! It’s helpful to hear–persistently–that the writer needs to be persistent. The “it’s not for us” responses to the first queries can be pretty disheartening. I’ll check out your book–it looks like it’s full of great information.

  3. Kris says:

    Jan, I think it’s important to do your research before asking a question on any forum! It’s not that the members don’t want to include you or you have to pass a certain landmark before asking. It’s that oftentimes the same question is repeated by beginners over and over. New members often barrel in and start asking basic (basic!) questions that are answered in every book about breaking into writing. Do your research. Search the archives using a variety of search terms to see if your question has been asked. If you can’t find the answer on the forum or with Google, ask. And make sure to mention that you’ve tried searching the forum – that effort is appreciated. It sounds like you’re being cautious and aware about barging in with silly questions – that alone will endear you to the writers on the board!

    Jenni, I know a writer whose New Year resolution is to get more rejections. Her theory is that if she’s getting lots of them, that means she’s putting out a good number of queries and some will surely stick. Keep at it. Really!

  4. Jesaka Long says:

    Liz & Kris ~ I really enjoyed this Q&A! It’s nice to learn about how you got your start, Kris.

    I also second (highly!) the recommendation for Freelance Success. It’s so worth the money. If I could only renew one membership in 2011, it would be this one.

  5. marthaandme says:

    Great interview! I didn’t know Kris had a background in landscape architecture. How fascinating.

  6. Thanks for a great interview. Here’s another +1 for Freelance Succcess. FLX is one of the best investments I’ve ever made in my career. I can’t even count the number of wonderful people I’ve met through that list who have been instrumental in my success!

  7. Liz says:

    Thanks for the great discussion, everyone. I enjoy continuing to learn through comments and resposnes!

  8. Excellent interview — especially as it focuses on changing personal life (with the addition of kids) and the changing publishing world. Well done!

  9. Great advice top to bottom. I went to a pet blogger conference this weekend, and I got to have lunch with a very successful mom-site blogger who pointed out that many of the things that work for parenting writers would work for pet writers as well. As far as she is concerned, we’re parents too … just of the furry variety of kids. :o)

    So, I would add that pets also provide much writing fodder.

  10. childrenraisethevillage says:

    Thanks for the great Q&A, Liz and Kris!

  11. sarah says:

    Thanks, Liz and Kris, for this very enlightening interview!

  12. Interesting interview. I remember the best piece of advice that I got at my very first writer’s conference–keep a journal. The seasoned writer went on to say that often when your kids are little you won’t have time to write up an article/essay. But, once you are looking for ideas–and have time for them–that your journal can be an invaluable resource.

  13. fabulous interview! I’m writing with children and find it’s a great way to be at home while doing something I love. I do write about my daughter, but I write about food more and, besides, why limit yourself?

  14. Liz says:

    I’m thinking I need to get back to a journal, too. I have too many moments that I *think* I’ll remember that I soon forget and therefore can’t include in my writing. Thanks for stopping by, MyKidsEatSquid!

  15. Liz says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Sarah! I always appreciate your vistis.

  16. Liz says:

    You’re right Almost Slowfood…why limit ourselves? If one limits in one way or another, I think the creative flow could be interrupted, too.

  17. Kris is a terrific writer and along with her wonderful co-authors have created a great resource. People who purchase this book are getting the benefit of insight and experience from seasoned and professional writers who have written for most of the top publications around.

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