by Marilyn Friedman
Writing Pad student Courtney Kocak is nearing the end of her 15 article series for xoJane, and we caught up with her to get a glimpse of how the process is going.
How did you come up with the idea for your article series and how did you get it published?
Well, I didn’t have much in terms of writing credits going into this, but I’d gotten the idea for “99 Days at the 99¢ Store” over a year ago. I live across the street from a 99¢ Store and I always think that they sell so many different kinds of items that you could almost live exclusively off those purchases. Every time I was hurting for money, I would think, “Damn, that’s such a good idea.”
I tried to find a home for the project a couple different times, but I was looking in places that weren’t true to my voice as a writer. I wound up taking Margaret Wappler’s one-night query letter class at Writing Pad to really give it another shot. I went in with a really solid draft of the letter and Margaret was able to give me a couple notes to convey the goal of the experiment in the clearest way. She said it sounded like an xoJane piece and boy was she right! I pitched it as a weekly series and that’s what they took – 15 weeks worth.
How soon after the class did you get the gig?
So fast! I sent out the revised pitch letter the morning after the class and I heard back the next day. A week later the paperwork was all finished and I was all set to start the experiment.
What have you learned so far?
The most valuable lesson has been about making myself the center of the experiment. Since I’m the guinea pig, I’ve committed to making a HUGE change in my life for 99 days, which I’m learning is a pretty lengthy period of time. The readers are great, but they also keep you honest and accountable – I think about them literally every time I make a purchase. I’ve been having a blast and am eternally grateful for such a cool opportunity as I’m just kickstarting my freelance career, but next time I might think twice about putting my spending habits and finances on full display.
We wish Courtney the best of luck in surviving the remaining 31 days of her 99 Days at the 99¢ Store experiment. We’re really enjoying all of her wonderfully written articles! Check them out here. If you have a passion project that you’d like Margaret Wappler (Editor of Dame Magazine, Freelance Journalist for LA Times, Rolling Stone, etc.) to help you find a home for, or if you just need a refresher on how best to approach editors with story ideas, Writing Pad is hosting three upcoming classes with Margaret to set you on your way: Getting to “Like”: Crafting a Compelling Blog on February 5th, Query Letter Clinic: Writing The Pitch That Sells Your Story on February 11th, and Hook Ups, Break Ups, And Missed Connections: Writing The Relationship Essay on Tuesday nights starting March 5th.