Happy Independence Day! We’re excited to return from our sabbatical with a splashy jump into the literary deep end.
July Westhale is a poet and essayist living in Oakland, CA. She is the author of The Cavalcade, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, and has poems in The Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Cimarron, cahoodaloodaling, burntdistrict, and Quarterly West, among others. She has been awarded grants and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, Sewanee, Dickinson House, Tin House and Bread Loaf.
July knows how to hustle, making her living as a freelance writer in the competitive Bay Area. In this episode, we mine her experience for inspiration and practical tips on how to do the same. Join us as we talk “creative cross-training,” “literary citizenship,” “healing from creative energy,” and the role poetry plays in swaying the cultural conversation. Few people we’ve spoken to dig words the way this lady does. Hold on tight as she closes the episode with her poem, “Trailer Trash.”
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a freelance writer?
“I live in the Bay Area, which is affluent, and there are a lots of opportunities. However, I do think that the ‘gig economy’ is moving more toward being remote and there are lots of opportunities online… Craigslist has been really good to me; TaskRabbit has been really good to me.”
“If you have a steady 9-to-5… just decreasing your level of responsibility in your current job and slowly working your way into freelancing is a really great way to go.”
“Be open to constantly trolling the internet for gigs, and then make sure you are a huge self-advocate, because you’re not only your own boss, but your own HR department and your own payroll.”
What do you think about writers working for free?
“I would love to pay my rent in Exposure Bucks!”
“Be selective. Make sure that what you’re giving away is something that a) you’re passionate about and b) does give you exactly the kind of experience and exposure you need in order to get into places that will pay you for your work.”
“It’s a labor of love, but it’s also a way of saying, Look I have extensive experience in these particular fields because I’ve just been doing it for so long.”
“Your work is valuable and you deserve to get paid.”
Resource: Freelancer’s Union
What makes a poem stand out for you?
“I love creative uses of language in narrative. A lot of my favorite poets have really excellent ways of fragmenting story and talking about story and archive and narrative in ways that are interesting not only conceptually but musically.”
“I’m obsessed with thinking about PTSD and trauma, so anytime poets can skilfully render this kind of intersection between personal and national trauma in ways that shed new light on political issues, I’m really interested in.”
What are you working on now?
A nonfiction essay collection called “A Terrible, Far-Away Place,” focusing on relationships between women, especially queer women, that are elevated and nuanced and not considered directly enough in popular culture.
Creative Writing Yahoo Group (Yahoo! login required)
“Tradition and the Individual Talent” by T.S. Eliot
July’s writing for The Establishment
The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells