Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Teresa Bitler at a luncheon at the St. Francis. The gathering was for the International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association and Arizona writers, which was sponsored by the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau. I’m quite pleased that Teresa was willing to be interviewed.
Maralyn: Teresa, can you provide us with some background on how you got started?
Teresa: I always knew I was meant to write. I wrote my first “novel” when I was eight or nine, worked on the school newspaper in high school, and began submitting poems to literary journals. Although I studied journalism in college, life kind of took over. I married a few years after graduation, and we started a family. It wasn’t until my youngest entered kindergarten that I had the opportunity to write freelance articles for a real estate investment magazine.
From there, my career evolved. I branched out and began writing for local magazines on other topics. Now, I write for regional and national publications. I have written a travel guide for Countryman Press, Great Escapes Arizona, and I’m currently working on a second guidebook, Backroads & Byways of Indian Country.
Maralyn: I’ve discovered, many writers do not realize the importance of marketing. Can you share your thoughts on that as well as how to go about getting assignments?
Teresa: You have to market yourself. Introduce yourself to publications. Ask for assignments. Develop relationships with other writers who will encourage and support you. The market is very competitive today, but there is work out there, paying work.
I want to point out that you don’t need to write for free. I’ve run across far too many aspiring writers who are willing to sign up for a “content mill” so they can accumulate “clips.” You don’t need to go that route. Offer to write for a local newspaper or magazine. Pitch the editor story ideas, find sources and go through the editing process. You’ll gain much more valuable experience that way and maybe even collect a small paycheck.
Maralyn: Did you start out writing about your own interests?
Teresa: I know this is cliché, but write about what you know. I got into freelancing because, at the time, my husband and I were investing in real estate. Was I passionate about real estate investing? No, but I understood it in a way that other, even more experienced writers could not. I approached the publisher and began compiling clips. You don’t have to have a talent for or burning interest in a particular field. You just have to know about it.
Maralyn: Do you have a preference for what type of writing you prefer?
Teresa: Although I write on a variety of topics, including real estate investing, I prefer to write about travel. I’ve always loved traveling. In my mind, who wouldn’t want to be a travel writer? But, I never really thought I could be a travel writer. I thought it was too competitive. I stumbled into travel writing, really. I saw a post (on Craigslist of all places!) requesting book proposals for Arizona travel. I’ve been hooked every since.
Maralyn: Do you write on speculation or query for assignments?
Teresa: I never write an article without an assignment. You don’t know for sure what your word count will be, what sources the publication may want you to include, or what angle they may want you to take. Chances are you’ll end up rewriting or revising an already completed article.
Maralyn: What part of a writer’s life do you find the most difficult?
Teresa: For me, the most difficult part of my job is staying motivated. Rejection is not easy. Some days, I feel like giving up. What really helps is having the support of other writers who know what I’m going through and who encourage me to “get back on the horse.” You just need to realize that this is part of the game. You can’t get assignments if you don’t repeatedly put yourself and your ideas out there.
Maralyn: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers or those venturing into new areas?
Teresa: I’m not sure there are tips to pass along. Freelancing and nonfiction writing is about hard work. You get what you put into it. If you want the assignment or the book contract, you have to put in the effort to make it happen. Study the magazine or the publisher’s books to get a sense of what they’re buying, and then pitch them ideas. Attend writers’ conferences so you can meet editors, publishers and literary agents. Network and give up on the notion of being “discovered.”
Maralyn: Teresa, where can our readers learn more about you?
Teresa Bitler — Writer / Author / Adventurer
Author of Great Escapes Arizona
PHOTO BLOG: http://queencreekdailyphoto.blogspot.com/
TRAVEL BLOG: www.arizonatravelandadventure.com
FOLLOW ME: www.twitter.com/TheAZTraveler
FRIEND ME: www.facebook.com/teresa.bitler
CONNECT WITH ME: www.linkedin.com/teresa.bitler
Thank you Teresa for the insightful interview. I looking forward to seeing Backroads & Byways of Indian Country and would be happy to review it when it is available.
Authors, writers, bloggers, if you would like to be interviewed, please send me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and list Author/Writer, Writer/Blogger in the subject line.
International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association
Books By Hills Success With Writing Where & What in the World
Member: Society of Professional Journalists
Finalist in the Writing and Publishing category of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, “$uccess, Your Path to a Successful Book,”