She may not be wearing the red cape, but that's not fooling anybody. Last month I posted about the Superwoman I met in grad school who, since graduation last year, has gone on to create her own business, speak on life balance, and get published several times over. Most recently, Anne Witkavitch has become the resident expert at Travelingmom.com. She was nice enough to answer some of my questions about how she landed such a mint job:
What drew you to Travelingmom.com?
I was up late one night researching potential markets for my work. Since I write and speak about being a working mother and work/life balance, I was looking for publications, both print and online, that focused on these topics, particularly those that were relatively new. The editors are sometimes more willing to take a chance on a lesser known writer.
I also love to travel. Whether for business or pleasure, I’m a natural explorer. One of my writing goals was to expand into travel writing. So when I discovered TravelingMom.com, it presented the best of both worlds. I liked the look and feel, the articles were well-written, and the writers had impressive backgrounds. I felt like it was a fit for my work.
I submitted an essay called Ah Wilderness, about a camping trip my family took with “sixteen of our closest friends.” It was one of my favorites from the collection of essays about working motherhood I had written for my M.F.A. thesis. I got a note from Kim Orlando, the founder of TravelingMom.com, saying that she wanted to publish it. I was ecstatic!
What steps did you take to turn the article acceptance into a steady position with Travelingmom?
I ended up talking with Kim by phone and we had a great conversation about TravelingMom and her vision going forward. Kim has a lot of energy and tremendous drive. I instantly picked up on her passion and commitment to growing TMOM’s readership and producing a top notch publication.
Months later I was exchanging some digital photos with Kim to accompany the article and she suggested I talk to Cindy Richards, TMOM’s editor. Cindy was looking for ideas to revise the Sanity feature, which at the time featured a clip art “Dr. Cathy.” We both agreed that a sanity expert who was a real person with actual experience achieving balance on the road would add authenticity and offer a greater value for TMOM’s readers. I submitted a proposal to revamp the Sanity feature and got started the beginning of October.
Where in this process do you think most writers get stuck, and how did you avoid it?
A lot of writers think that to be successful and get published, all you have to do is write well and continuously submit your work. While talent and perseverance are important and foundational to your success, they aren’t enough. I think writers get stuck when they stay locked behind their computers or notebooks and mislead themselves by thinking that writing is exclusively an art, not a business.
Like any profession, you have to connect with people, stay on top of trends, do your research, and develop a platform from which you can build your publishing credentials. My years working in the corporate world, and most recently managing my own communications consulting practice, have taught me valuable business skills that I’ve transferred to my writing career as well. I’m used to having to market myself, so I’m also learning how to do it as a writer.
What are your responsibilities at Travelingmom?
I’m TravelingMom.com’s “resident Sanity expert” and a contributing editor. Each week I submit a new Sanity feature, which includes a short introduction to the week’s theme, advice on a particular travel topic, a Q&A, and a featured Tip of the Week from other working moms. I’ll also be one of TMOM’s bloggers in the near future.
What advice would you give to other writers who would like a similar position?
First, understand the commitment. Writing a weekly column means you must be willing to invest time to coming up with fresh ideas every week, interviewing experts, and meeting tight deadlines.
Second, make sure the column supports your broader writing goals and develops your writing platform. For example, TMOM’s focus is right in line with my writing focus on working motherhood, work/life balance, travel, and business.
Third, start a blog. Writing a blog is a lot like writing a column, but even more challenging. You need to write fresh content at least 3-4 times a week, so you really develop the discipline of producing work continuously. You also have a place to link your latest published works and create a presence for your writing online. My blog was one of the best things I did to move my writing career forward.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on getting an agent to represent my essay collection. I’m also starting to write about the recent trip to Lithuania I took with my 87-year-old mother and two sisters. It was a trip-of-a-lifetime as we traveled to the country where my grandparents were born and met relatives we never knew. I’d like to see it evolve as a book-length manuscript, but we’ll see.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes. Despite the flattering post you made about my “superwoman” skills, I want to come clean that I’m a mess when it comes to organizing shoes, closets, or anything else on the home front! I couldn’t sort my footwear by height, much less color!