Here’s something I’ve been keeping a lid on for some months, but am super excited to finally share! I sold a story to The Walrus! For my international readers, The Walrus is a Canadian magazine that could easily be likened to The New Yorker – a highly-curated arts and culture magazine with some amazing critical thinkers writing for and creating the magazine. It’s a national magazine, available across the country.
My essay, published today, is about the time last year when I found a roll of film on the curb and set out to find the lost photographer. It’s a really quirky story that involves a lot of six-degrees-of-kevin-bacon but also about expectations v reality. I may or may not mention Amélie once or twice within this piece. Check it out and share it with your friends!
So here’s something funny about this process of being a freelance writer that is related to this story – last year, another magazine (which shall remain nameless) bought this story. They sat on this story for 7 months. They edited it so it stripped out all the colour, flare, style, and tone of my writing. They were absolutely unreachable at times, and it was a super frustrating experience working with them. Finally, a publication date for this past January was set. They paid me in full in anticipation of the publication date. Then, ON THE DAY it was set to be published, I received an email from the editor, saying that they were killing the story because it was “too local” and not something that would appeal to people across the country.
What the shizz?
Not once in the 7 months that they had the story was the concern that it was “too local” ever raised. Also, that’s a bullshit criticism, you guys have read the story, do you find this story unappealing to people outside of Toronto? Rhetorical question.
And worst of all, before that publication had bought the story, I had pitched it elsewhere, & some places only got back to me after said-publication bought it. So I had turned down other publications for them! For those of you outside of the publishing world, you should know this kind of behaviour and practice is all SUPER UNPROFESSIONAL. I’ve had stories killed before, but not on the DAY it was to be published, for such a lame excuse, after paying me in full. Most writers I know have had similar experiences with them, and warned me about them. So in my reply, I told them exactly what I thought. May the bridges I burn light the way.
I subsequently erased ALL the edits they did on my piece, and went back to my true voice that they tried to strip from the piece. Sometimes editors try to “trim the fat” of a story, but any chef will tell you that the fat has all the flavour. Good writing requires a style and a voice, and I wasn’t going to let them convince me my voice needed to be trimmed.
Fast forward to this past autumn, The Walrus bought the story (and frankly, The Walrus is a much better publication, with a helluva lot more respect), and the process of fashioning and editing the piece with them has been light years ahead and beyond what said-shizz-publication was like. And I’m super proud of this end result. Because above all, I found a publication that nurtured and encouraged my voice and style.
There are a lot of shady things publications try to do to freelance writers . . . and most of the time, they get away with it. Being freelance means you don’t get the support of HR and you’re in this legal gray area most of the time. So I’ve learned that you have to be your best advocate in this business . . . because the world doesn’t owe you any favours. Hustle and work hard, and it will all sort itself out in the end.
And maybe, if you’re really lucky, you’ll get paid twice for the same story 😉
(Yes that was tacky of me, but I’m not deleting it.)
Don’t forget to check out the official Christine Estima dot com for more of my published essays, stories, and more!