Wednesday’s WiP: My “Success Story”–and Quite Possibly Yours

If you follow the “Monday Markets” posts here, you know that I recently shared another call from for “Success Stories.” As indicated in the guidelines, these particular “freelance success stories should, through your personal story, offer advice to other writers on how they, too, can succeed. Please note we do not publish ‘one-shot’ success stories – meaning we don’t publish stories on how a writer sold one story to one publication. We prefer to focus on actions the writer took to become a successful freelancer or a successful author. Please note that we do not publish success stories that detail the writer writing for free.” For a 300-word piece that involves minimal (if any) research, a writer is paid $40.

When I saw the most recent call for success stories, I’d just sold a piece that seemed to me to fit within a pattern that has emerged in my writing practice. A little bit of thinking and a little bit of writing later, I had a new success story to submit.

Here’s the text of that article, “Converting Coursework into (Publishing) Credits–and Cash,” which was published last week.

Each year about this time, a new set of graduates with fresh, new academic degrees embarks on post-academic life. Especially among those who majored in a humanities field, or who earned advanced degrees in creative writing or literature, the road to graduation was likely paved with plenty of course papers and presentations. I’m not sure how many new graduates (or, for that matter, those with degrees earned in years past) realize that this work needn’t simply gather dust – literal or virtual. Sometimes, it can be transformed for publication and payment.

I’ve had good luck converting coursework (and the occasional academic or professional conference paper) into an article or essay for another audience. My earliest such success came more than a decade ago, when, with an editor’s help, I adapted a paper that I’d written for a literature class some years earlier for publication by an online magazine. (Neither the magazine nor even the adjective “online” had existed back when I took the class.)

As an MFA student, I knew I was on to something with a short seminar paper I’d written; a print publication bought an expanded version. Then, I received acceptance letters and paychecks for two articles that originated as academic conference presentations. Most recently, an editor has offered to purchase and publish the text of remarks that I delivered at a writing conference in Boston in early May. That piece should be out later this summer.

So before you relegate the fruits of your academic labor to the past, consider polishing a piece or two. If you’ve written with style as well as substance, with vitality and voice notwithstanding “academic” writing’s unfortunate reputation for deadly dullness, the work may well serve a new – and profitable – purpose.

Now I’ll add a list of (paying) publications that seem to me particularly prime possibilities for work that may originate as an MFA course paper or a conference presentation.

(This list includes some venues that have published my own such writing.)

Any of you have this experience already? Do you have other (paying) venues to suggest to your fellow practicing writers? Please share!

4 thoughts on “Wednesday’s WiP: My “Success Story”–and Quite Possibly Yours

  1. Recycle, recycle, recycle. If it doesn’t fit, or sell, in one area, there are always other possibilities.

    On the fiction side of things, I’ve repurposed a plot intended mostly for younger readers. The result turned out to be one of my favorite stories, now aimed at the more mature readers of slam-bang action stories.

    1. Erika Dreifus says:

      Yes, “recycling” is the name of the game here. Or one of the names, anyway.

  2. R Klempner says:

    This is SOOOOO interesting. I’m totally going to have to share this after I write this comment.

    While I can’t say that my course assignments have converted into any articles or stories that sold, I do find that a lot of the course reading I did for my Master’s in Applied Anthropology has contributed to my writing. Just today I turned in a rewrite of something that drew on one of those reading assignments that ended up having a profound effect on me.

    1. Erika Dreifus says:

      Yes, that’s definitely another piece of it. Glad that you liked the post, Becca!

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