How Janet Ruth Heller Propelled Her Passion for Writing to the Next Level
Janet Ruth Heller is president of the Michigan College English Association. She has published three poetry books: Exodus, Folk Concert: Changing Times, and Traffic Stop. The University of Missouri Press published her scholarly book, Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama. Fictive Press published Heller?s middle-grade chapter book about sibling rivalry, The Passover Surprise. Her children?s book about bullying, How the Moon Regained Her Shape, has won four national awards.
1) How did you get started working from home?
When I retired from college teaching, I had published many individual poems, stories, and essays, and I had published two books: a fiction picture book for children about bullying and a scholarly book about drama criticism. I wanted to publish more short works and books. I decided to become a full-time writer. Because I no longer had to spend a lot of time grading students’ papers and meeting with students and other faculty members, I had more time to revise my manuscripts of poetry and prose, to research possible publishers, and to market my work to editors. I also started my own website to publicize my writing and ideas.
2) How did you choose the work-at-home career you do?
I have always loved writing both prose and poetry. Since first grade, my teachers had encouraged me to write and had copied my work to show my classes. I started publishing poems, essays, and scholarly articles in the 1970s. In 1990, the University of Missouri Press published my doctoral dissertation that I wrote for the University of Chicago’s Department of English Language and Literature. In 2006, I published How the Moon Regained Her Shape, a picture book story for children about bullying that won a Book Sense Pick (2006), a Children?s Choices selection (2007), a Benjamin Franklin Award (2007), and a Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children?s Book Awards (2007). This success emboldened me to try a career as a writer.
3) How did you get started (basic initial steps)?
I set up a website to showcase my published work, and I wrote blog essays on many different subjects from sports to spelling bees. I thoroughly revised my manuscripts, weeding out weaker poems and paragraphs and adding new poems and prose. I wrote many more pieces for publication. I started two writers’ groups, one for my work for children and one for my work for adults. The people in these groups gave me helpful feedback on my poetry and prose. I sent manuscripts out to some contests and to many editors and publishers. I also contacted schools, bookstores, conferences, and libraries about speaking for them about bullying, leading creative writing workshops, doing readings of my work, and doing book signings. I also go to many book fairs.
4) How did you get your first client or customer or job?
I sent a poetry chapbook manuscript to contest run by Finishing Line Press, and I was a semi-finalist. The press offered me a contract to publish my poetry chapbook. This was my first published book of poetry, Traffic Stop.
5) How do you market your business?
I use my website, send proposals to Help a Reporter Out, speak at many conferences, libraries, bookstores, and schools. I also started a Facebook page for my books, and I became active on LinkedIn, posting essays and news items.
6) What does your usual day look like?
I begin by doing some writing for a few hours. Then, I check correspondence about manuscripts that I have submitted. If a manuscript gets rejected, I immediately send it out to another publisher. I also keep submitting conference proposals and asking bookstores and libraries and schools for speaking engagements.
7) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
I used to think that having a website was difficult. However, once I learned how to post essays and news items, I realized that running a website was rather easy.
8) What advice would you give someone who wants to work from home?
Do not allow your other interests to distract you too much from your central mission and work.
LinkedIn: Janet Ruth Heller
Amazon: Janet Ruth Heller
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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