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Dear Binders,

This week, we’re bringing you career-building tips, pitching advice, and inspiration from one of our community’s most spectacular success stories: Stephanie Land. Stephanie is a single mom who, just a few years ago, was living in a shelter with her children after she left her abusive partner. Stephanie used to clean houses for a living, but now supports her family as a freelance writer, with help and support from the Binders community. Best of all? She recently sold her memoir, MAID, to Hachette. Nickel and Dimed author Barbara Ehrenreich says, "Stephanie Land has something to teach us about both sides of the inequality divide. Neither is what you are expecting."

Bindercon News

Binder Success Story

Last month at NYC BinderCon, Stephanie Land spoke about her journey to supporting her family through writing. In only a few years, Stephanie went from living in a shelter to publishing in the New York Times to selling her memoir in a pre-empt to Hachette. Stephanie says, “The support I've received from the Binders community has been the backbone of my freelancing career. To be immersed in a supportive atmosphere takes all the fear out of the leap to making a living off of pitching, writing, and publishing.” In her speech, she spoke about not only her individual hard work, but also our shared need for empowerment and mentorship.

In the spirit of community empowerment, Stephanie shares her top three tips for essayists and journalists who are just starting out – plus the pitch for the essay that went viral and turned into her memoir. She says:
  1. Don’t be afraid to nudge. “I think 75% of my job as a freelancer is learning how to be charming and annoying at the same time. It's okay, and sometimes appreciated, to nudge an editor you pitched and didn't receive a reply from after a week or two.”
  2. Build your relationships. “When I was first starting out, I not only thanked editors for giving me a rejection (which would free me up to pitch it somewhere else), I asked them if they knew anyone who might be interested in it! Or I'd sometimes turn right around and pitch them another idea. Everything was an opportunity to form relationships and introduce myself as a potential writer for their publication.”
  3. Don’t read the comments. Or at least don’t take them personally! When looking at the comment section, Stephanie reminds herself that commenters are “reacting to not only the click-bait title, but their idea of me.” Commenters are only seeing a sliver of who you are, so their perspective is limited
And here is Stephanie’s pitch – her first ever! – for the Vox essay that went viral and landed her a book deal:
Hello Editor,

I wrote an essay titled "The Confessions of the Housekeeper" a couple of years ago. In its current state, it's over 4,000 words. The essay details what it was like to get to know people through cleaning their houses. I thought it might interest you for your publication. 

I worked for several cleaning companies and on my own full-time while putting myself through college as a single mom. The job was mindless, so I started naming houses...and snooping. The wealthy's lives took on a whole new character. Here is a sample paragraph:

"From what I could tell, the man ate pastries and sandwiches from the deli at the local grocery store, and drank coffee with a lot of Kahlua. He liked to golf and gamble at the Indian casinos in the area. They had a really nice boat in the garage, along with a CJ Jeep that I saw a picture with his wife standing in front of it, in sunglasses and smiling. The top was down. He smoked unfiltered Camels out of his bedroom sliding glass door, or on his front porch when the weather was decent. He watched old VHS movies of family holidays, surrounded by open photo albums, on his recliner in the living room. The toilet often had a lot of piss on the seat and a floor with drops of blood which weren’t easy to remove. His neighbors at The Porn House seemed to look after him, but his younger son, who lived in the same state, didn’t visit much."

Let me know if this would be of interest to you, and I can work on editing it to something that would fit your purposes (I didn't see a length requirement on your site).

Thank you so much!

Stephanie Land

Recommended Reading

Stephanie recommends Rebecca Solnit’s article “How to Be a Writer.” In it, Solnit says: “Listen to what makes your hair stand on end, your heart melt, and your eyes go wide, what stops you in your tracks and makes you want to live, wherever it comes from, and hope that your writing can do all those things for other people.”

Out of the Binders

Last week, we asked for your stories of how you're paying it forward to another Binder. Meryl Williams says, “Here's a binder-in-action story for you: Earlier this week, I completed an assignment for an editor I love working with. She asked me to do a second, similar article from a different perspective, and I knew of a woman writer in Chicago (Rosamund Lannin) who would probably be better suited for the piece. I recommended Rosamund to my editor, who offered her the work right away. Thanks to the Binders for encouraging women to help and support each other. It's such an amazing network and I'm thankful for it every week.” What are you thankful for? Reply to this email with your own story of Binder gratitude, and we may include it in our next newsletter.

BinderCon Out of the Binders is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the careers of women and gender non-conforming writers. We organize bicoastal conferences called BinderCon, and administrate a private Facebook community of writers. We rely on volunteers to make our work possible; currently, we operate without an office or paid staff.

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