JORDAN E. ROSENFELD is a freelance journalist, editor, and fiction writer. She is a contributing editor & columnist to Writer’s Digest (WD) magazine. Her journalism has appeared in such publications as AlterNet.org, the Marin magazine, the North Bay Bohemian, The Pacific Sun, Seattle Conscious Choice, The San Francisco Chronicle, The St. Petersburg Times, Times, The Writer and more.
She is the author of two books, Make A Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books) and Write Free! Attracting the Creative Life, with Rebecca Lawton (BeijaFlor Books).
I became interested in Jordan’s most recent book, Write Free, because the concept of attracting the elements of a creative life appealed to me, and because I am always looking for ways to encourage writers and artists to follow their hearts deeply into the path of their craft. As I learned more about Jordan, I was impressed both by her early success and her positive attitudes toward life and art. She responded warmly to my request for a blog interview, which follows.
AS: When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer? And who influenced and supported you in your decision to pursue writing as a career?
JR: I’m one of those irritating, knew-from-birth that I wanted to write types. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do. My parents were incredibly nurturing of this in me (even when they weren’t very nurturing in other ways), and in reflecting on my career, I realize that so were my teachers, friends, mentors and just about anyone in my life. I can’t help but wonder if they were keeping the criticism back, because I got so much encouragement I never even thought to doubt I was on the right path. I never really “decided” to pursue a career—it was just the path I always walked. I leaned toward those things that fed my soul as a writer and they led to opportunities, to which I always said yes. Saying “yes” is a big part of success…I’ve led literary salons, hosted/produced a literary radio program, started a women’s magazine, all for no money, but love.
AS: Did you have a mentor or someone who you feel played a big part in your success as a writer? If so, who was it (or they) — teacher, friend, etc.? And how did you originally make contact?
JR: Oh, I’ve really been lucky. I’ve had so many mentors. My parents ran with some intellectual/artistic types as a child so there were always people asking me about my writing and buying me Rilke and blank journals. In college—both undergraduate, and my grad degree from the Bennington Writing Seminars—I absorbed all the advice that published writers could give me. But I take inspiration and advice from anyone who has it to give. I believe that success comes from staying open to all sources. I do also really love social networking now. I wish I’d had it like it exists now ten years ago, though!
AS: How did you break into publishing and how did you get involved with Writer’s Digest magazine?
JR: Gosh, how did I break in? I co-edited/published a women’s magazine just out of college that gave me some clips. From there I heard of an opportunity to freelance write for my local paper. That was probably my most distinct break-in moment because I didn’t have a journalism degree. It was sort of a jump in and prove myself moment. From there I just kept expanding my freelance writing circle to the regional and to the national. I’m a big proponent of “what do I have to lose by trying?” I pitched Writer’s Digest cold, like all their writers, and happened to get a lucky pitch plucked from the slush. Then I kept pitching like mad, and my editor (Maria Schneider, who has since left), rather than being irritated, apparently saw a workhorse in me and offered me a position as a contributing editor. I was just burning up with ideas at the time, and she let me run with them. Ah, the glory days.
AS: You’ve published two books—Make a Scene: Crafting A Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, and Write Free with co-author Becca Lawton, both published within a year of each other, which must be a story all its own. Were you working on both books at the same time? Or did you complete one before the other and it just happened that they were published in the same year?
JR: Hmmm. Well, Becca and I were doing Write Free workshops at the time that I sold the proposal for Make a Scene to Writer’s Digest Books. And yes, I was definitely working on both at one point. But Write Free was this gorgeously effortless collaboration that sprang out of this wonderful work we were doing together; it never felt like I was writing two books at once. Make a Scene was a very intense process, one I’m grateful for, but it was like being back in graduate school, in a way.
AS: Regarding Write Free! Attracting the Creating Life: the title of this book..well..attracted me, and I’d like to know more about it. What’s your story behind writing it, and how did you and Becca Lawton decide to work together as co-authors?
JR: The basic concept of the book is: your feelings are your guides to what is and isn’t working in your life. Feeling sad/discouraged/bummed about your writing? Your writing life probably reflects that, for example. And where you place your attention, so you focus the events and opportunities that come your way. Start to focus your feelings differently (through various exercises) and open yourself to opportunities. It’s simple, but super powerful.
Becca is someone I knew through writing friends when I lived in Sonoma County. I hosted a literary salon, LiveWire, and a mutual dear friend, Susan Bono, brought Becca in to read from her book of essays, Reading Water. I instantly adored her. I was also looking for a job at the time and she pretty much got me hired at a wonderful environmental organization. We both discovered on our lunch breaks that we were feeling “stale” around our writing and got together, bringing our shared ideas to “juice up” our writing lives. We got turned on to The Law of Attraction (long before The Secret even existed), and realized there was no book out there that helped writers look at how to create a thriving writing life with this set of concepts. We held an amazing retreat in Philo, California at the Wellspring Renewals Center one weekend, and the response was so profound we knew we were onto something. Becca’s publisher of several of her other books, Arthur Dawson of Kulupi Press, believed in us, and we knew not to turn down this wonderful chance. We still co-edit the Write Free e-newsletter together, too, (it’s free to subscribe), which offers tips, insights, and resources on how to attract the writing life you desire.
AS: As noted earlier, you’ve been a radio host, editor, journalist and book author. How has your career progressed and what are you working on currently?
JR: I give this talk I call my “Wild and Wooly, Stumble and Bumble My Way To Success Story.” My career is completely a result of taking every opportunity, creating them where there were none (the literary salon, the radio show) and not believing the myth that if you’re “nobody,” nobody wants to publish you. I throw myself at things. I don’t take rejection personally. I persist, and when I hit low points, I turn to my writer friends who prop up my ego until I can go on.
AS: What’s your favorite type or genre of writing?
JR: Hands down, fiction. I’m a novelist at heart. It’s work that I both loathe and love. It tests me, challenges me, and makes me feel alive. I’ve written many novels, had one come very close to being published, and am at work on a new one right now, called Little Alien, that I’m very dedicated to and am determined to publish.
AS: What does a typical day look like for you?
JR: Well, I have a nearly two-year-old son, which changes everything. This new life looks like: Drive him to daycare at 8:00 a.m., and from 8-12, edit and critique manuscripts (this is what I mainly do for a living), respond to student assignments for my online classes, and any other business, such as putting together the Write Free newsletter, writing articles, blog posts, etc. One day a week I ONLY write fiction, and in between the cracks of the week, as well. That’s all I really have: from 8-12 every day, and occasionally his naps, though I tend to take “down time” then, and of course the weekends, when my husband is home, though I tend to engage in more family time then. This is a marked difference from before, when I had all the time in the world to myself.
AS: I’m personally amazed and inspired by your ability to get so much done in such a short amount of time. How do you do it?
JR: My secret is simple: Waste no time. Prioritize projects. I have to work far more efficiently than I used to, so it means no time dawdling on email or Facebook (though I do dawdle other times of the day); know what projects I am going to work on every day, and for approximately how long. So if I have two large edits, I’ll give each one an hour per day, for instance. I also make my commitments based on how long it takes me to do something. So my contract with new editing clients makes it clear how much time I need, and that I may need to ask for an extension should anything come up. “Anything” being that my son gets sick and can’t go to daycare.
And I also secretly think I have a guardian angel who turns back time for me, because sometimes I’m amazed at what I can get done in four hours that I couldn’t get done in eight before.
Also, the way I motivate myself to work extra hard is that I give myself one whole writing day, usually Thursdays, so I have to get my work done Mondays through Wednesdays (and Friday), or I don’t earn that day to write fiction.
AS: Your combination of focus, discipline, and motivation is a model of encouragement for those of us who struggle with time. What do you enjoy most about your life as an artist and what do you enjoy least?
JR: I love my life. I have this great freedom and I’m my own boss. My work never gets boring because it’s always transforming. I love teaching lately. I’ve been teaching my own online classes for about a year through www.jordanrosenfeld.net, as well as starting with Writer’s Digest University last month, and I love how much I learn from my students. I also have a deep love of analysis—I love breaking down the elements of craft into digestible parts.
But personally, I’m furiously working on my novel, and hoping to pitch another writing book to WD shortly.
AS: If you had the opportunity to do anything over again what would you do differently?
JR: My only one major regret is that I didn’t work harder on the novel my agent attempted to sell. Even though she loved it, I sort of knew deep down that it could use another pass, but I rode the bandwagon of her enthusiasm…and it didn’t sell (not her fault, by the way, if it sounds like that). The book wasn’t ready, and then it was too late—22 publishers had seen it and said things like, “I loved it, but…” Those buts did me in.
AS: If you could only offer one piece of advice to aspiring writers and artists, what would it be?
JR: Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up. At every turn in this business there is a chance to feel as though you are just one among millions all trying to break into the same game. Writing is a craft. You can only get better at it if you read and study and practice, which you must do.
AS: What are you attracting into your life right now?
JR: I’m attracting a host of enthusiastic students/writers who want to do what it takes to get published and wonderful support for helping me revise my novel.
AS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JR: Yes: If you want to write or publish, then WRITE. Don’t wait, don’t save it for someday. Don’t let the competition overwhelm you. Write what you have to write and do EVERYTHING you can to get better. Revise your work. Take feedback. Stay open. Network. I get a little bit tired of hearing about people who shelve their dreams and then find themselves looking back with regret. Have no regrets!
AS: Jordan, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day for this interview.
Now, for our readers, we have a special offer and BUZZ CONTEST: WIN a copy of Write Free or Make A Scene! Here’s how:
- Write a comment below, share this blog on your Facebook and Twitter pages, blog about attracting the creative life, and share the URL for this interview with as many of your friends as possible. (Tag your blogs with “Write Free” and “Writing Through Life”)
- Send me the links to your blogs, social network pages and places where you’ve made comments about this interview.
- The FIRST PLACE prize (your choice of Write Free or Make a Scene) will be awarded to the person who creates the biggest buzz about this interview and the concept of attracting a creative life.
- The SECOND PLACE prize (the other book) will be awarded to the person who creates the next biggest buzz …
- Deadline for all buzz submissions is Tuesday, May 18th. Remember, to participate, start by writing a comment below, then send me the links to all your social networking buzz about Write Free and Writing Through Life.