Writers find success, host conference

In today’s sluggish economy, people are turning to alternative means of replacing a job or supplementing their income. Some have turned to freelance writing to hedge against tough times, and those with previous writing experience are parlaying their talent into a new career – and paycheck.

To that end, Triangle Area Freelancers will host WRITE NOW! 2011, its fourth annual nonfiction writing symposium, at Wake Tech’s Northern Campus on Saturday. The conference is an opportunity for perspective writers without industry contacts to learn how to get their work noticed. 

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“The writing profession is undergoing dramatic changes right now, but there are still great opportunities for freelance writers in both traditional print journalism and, increasingly, on the web,” said Donald Vaughan, a professional freelance writer and TAF founder. “Depending upon the kind of writing you do and the markets for which you write, it can actually be fairly lucrative. The key to success is coming up with unique ideas and being able to follow through on them.”


Philip Gerard, chairman of the Department of Creative Writing at UNC-Wilmington and author of “Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life and “Writing a Book That Makes a Difference,” will deliver the keynote address.

Veteran New York literary agent Rita Rosenkranz will be there to conduct a workshop on writing effective book proposals and finding the right agent. Additional sessions also will be offered.

Raleigh’s Dan Bain worked in corporate communications for 16 years before being laid off in October 2008. He found temporary contract work for a nine month stretch, but was again unemployed after that.

“During that time, freelancing helped immensely,” Bain said.

He picked up assignments from local publications and also was able to use the time to complete a humor book that is still boosting his income.

As a college English major, Bain wrote for years, but never for publication. In 2006, however, he started submitting humor pieces to contests and was encouraged by a few wins. He reached out to The News & Observer and scored a one-year rotation as a community correspondent with a monthly humor column. A colleague then recommended Bain to a local magazine where he again landed a coveted spot.

“I have attended at least one writers’ conference per year since 1995,” Bain said, “and I’ve learned a lot from other writers; there’s no better training ground.”

Wake Forest’s Mark Cantrell started a successful freelance career 11 years ago. Never a fan of learning about a subject in which he had little interest, writing helped Cantrell enjoy the learning process.

“Today it has become one of the greatest joys of my life; I always look forward to what the next assignment will bring,” said Cantrell, who now writes regularly for national publications. “There is a deep satisfaction that comes with communicating ideas clearly and concisely, bringing new information to readers, perhaps even stirring them to action or moving them emotionally.”

Anita Stone, a retired teacher in Raleigh, wanted to continue to teach through writing. She broke into freelancing to supplement her bottom line.

“It’s difficult finding stories that editors grab onto, but with perseverance it can be done,” she said. “When you find a good angle, keep moving forward regardless of rejections.”

Nonfiction freelance writing gives writers the opportunity to do interesting things, go interesting places and meet interesting people – “and actually get paid for the privilege,” Vaughan said.

“TAF’s goal is to help conference attendees realize their publishing dream,” he said.

The News & Observer
Mar 2011

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