I’ve been meaning to write this post for weeks, but I keep getting sidetracked. Since my first article for MTV was published almost two months ago, it’s a tad anticlimactic to post this now, but I did want to share how the job came about. Plus, I’m so proud of my application that I want to show it off!
Back in late July, my friend Jillian Utley
sent a freelance job listing she'd run across to several of us who write YA. Here’s what the listing said:
MTV News is looking for a freelance writer focusing on Books!
We're looking for someone who knows their John Greens from their Rainbow Rowells, their Hunger Games from their Divergents, and is able to find the next 14-year-old writer who just launched her own novel, as well as freak out about the next installment of the "Maze Runner" series.
You should be knowledgeable about current books and nostalgia; able to do interviews, but also write fun lists and throwback articles that speak directly to the MTV audience of predominantly young, female readers.
Before applying, please take a look at MTV News to get a sense of the type of editorial - not just Books - that we're generating on the site. The MTV voice is fun, personal, and specific - no pitches of "5 YA Books You Should Read," please. We want to get a sense of you through your application, not just a resume, a list of credits, and pitches that could be online anywhere.
Note: this is not a full-time position. It is freelance, and will work remotely, though you'll work directly with our Entertainment Team in NYC.
I got butterflies in my stomach as I read it. How awesome would it be to write about YA books for MTV?!? It sounded like a dream job for me.
But that tiny voice in my head full of doubt and insecurity immediately chimed in telling me I wasn’t qualified – I’d never done freelance writing before, I didn’t know enough about current YA books, it was a waste of time to try. So being a dummy, I admitted the voice was right and decided not to apply.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about the job, it kept whirling round and round in my brain, so two days later I decided to go for it anyway. But what should my application look like? They didn’t want the normal resume and pitches, and when I started writing ‘interesting’ cover letters in my head, they were either boring or made me sound like a crazy person. As I looked at the articles on MTV, I realized most of them had gifs. And that’s when I realized an application told through gifs was the way to go and got busy. Scroll to the bottom to see the gif-tastic application I sent to MTV.
On August 1st, I got an email from an editor at MTV saying he liked my creative application and wanted me to do a writing test. He asked me to write an example article (topic of my choosing), plus submit five more pitches for additional articles. Both excitement and terror flowed through me as I read the email again and again.
After I finished happy-dancing around the house, I got busy again. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I’m a perfectionist, so it was a lot of work to finally get something ready to turn in. I pressed the send button with trembling fingers.
Two days later, I was at my brother’s house with my family and doing that rude thing where you check your phone every five minutes for emails. And then, one of the times I checked, there was an email from the editor. HE OFFERED ME THE JOB!!!!
This is the photo of me trying not to cry with excitement as I show my family the email. I was beyond thrilled.
It’s been a lot of fun so far. Although it has been more work than I anticipated. Even though the articles are mostly fluffy fun, it’s still a lot of research to make sure I get things right. But I’m learning a lot as I go, and I’m finding a rhythm. Plus, finally getting paid for my writing is a pretty awesome feeling, and I can’t even explain how exciting it is to see my byline on the MTV website.
If you’re interested, here are the articles I’ve written so far:
And now here’s my application for the job:
Dear Fabulous Folks at MTV News,
I was excited when I saw MTV News is looking for a Freelance Books Writer. Very excited. And obviously the only way to deal with such excitement was to craft my application out of gifs from movies and TV shows based on YA novels.
The Lying Game
My earliest memory of MTV is begging my mom to stay up until midnight for the historic premiere of the Michael Jackson Thriller video, and because my mom is awesome, she let me.
Pretty Little Liars
From watching MJ’s thrilling masterpiece, to spending hours dancing and reenacting various videos with my friends, to getting sucked into reality TV with the groundbreaking launch of The Real World, to being ridiculously entertained by current scripted shows like Teen Wolf and Faking It, MTV has long been part of my television life.
Having been around for the early MTV landmarks might make some of the current viewers think of me like this:
But when it comes to my passion for YA novels, I really look like this:
My love of YA started when I was an actual young adult reading Christopher Pike, L.J. Smith, Sweet Dreams, and Sweet Valley High.
As I got older, I read adult books, but I returned again and again to the heart and emotional truth of YA. When I walk into the YA section of a bookstore and see the incredible variety of books available, I feel like this:
The Book Thief
But just because I love YA novels doesn’t make me qualified for this position. So why do I think I’m a strong candidate?
I worked at a software development company for ten years in the quality assurance department, where I tested the software, identified bugs, and wrote reports. I started as an entry-level tester and worked my way up to the manager of the team, and through the years learned many skills, especially how to meet insane deadlines.
While a lot of the time it was fun figuring out creative ways to break the software …
… after ten years in cubicle land, it began to feel more like this …
… so I decided it was time to run toward my real passion …
... writing for young adults!
The Vampire Diaries
I’ve taken classes through the Institute of Children’s Literature, participated in the Chautauqua Writers Workshop, and attended conferences through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
I’ve been fortunate to have short stories published in Highlights magazine and the Post and Courier. I also won the 2008 South Carolina Fiction Project, the 2009 Highlights Fiction contest, and the 2013 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators novel work-in-progress grant. I even won two different grants to turn my short stories into short films. All of these things made me feel like this:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
It also reassured my parents I hadn’t ruined my life by chucking my ‘real’ job to be a writer.
As part of the writer cliché, I have a blog where I sometimes talk about YA books and their authors. Examples posts are:
In addition, I am the Interview Coordinator for Adventures in YA Publishing, which has been a Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past three years. Every Saturday and Sunday I post interviews with YA authors who released books that week from the major publishers.
Example posts are:
Now I’d like to share a few of my pitches for the MTV News site:
Howling for a YA Character – Two Teen Wolf cast members have already played characters from YA novels. Dylan O’Brien is playing Thomas in The Maze Runner movies, and Shelley Hennig played Diana Meade in The Secret Circle TV series. Which characters from YA novels were the other Teen Wolf actors born to play?
Then and Now – Some topics in YA novels are always popular, like vampires and the mean girl stealing your boyfriend. So if your mom liked reading a certain novel when she was a teen, which comparable novel should you be reading now?
Avenging YA – We know adults love to read YA as much as teens do, so which YA novels would the characters from The Avengers have sitting on their nightstand tables?
From Screen to Book – How twenty-year-old Paige McKenzie turned her successful YouTube series into the YA novel The Haunting of Sunshine Girl.
With my passion for YA, awards for writing, and contacts in publishing, I believe I would make an excellent Freelance Books Writer for MTV News. And if you were to hire me, I would definitely feel like this:
Thank you for your time and consideration,