Way back when (in 2014), when BinderCon was just a twinkle in Leigh Stein and Lux Alptraum’s eyes, there was the first Kickstarter campaign. MailChimp was the first sponsor to jump on board, helping make the very first BinderCon a reality. Thankfully, they have stuck with us through the four conferences we’ve produced since. Once again we’d like to thank MailChimp for furthering the careers of women and gender non-conforming writers across the globe.
We applaud MailChimp’s commitment to diversity and their support of BinderCon.
This LA BinderCon was, dare we say, our best yet and as we continue to learn and grow we hope MailChimp will continue to stay on as one of our founding sponsors.
Follow them on Twitter and Facebook. And if you’re building an email list get started with their email marketing platform for free.
Since it’s inception, BinderCon has had the backing of The Harnisch Foundation. We were honored once again to have their sponsorship support for BinderCon LA 2016. Each conference continues to grow and their generous support helps us to keep improving and expanding this movement.
One of our goals is to help women and gender non-conforming writers wherever they may be on this planet and The Harnisch Foundation stepped up once again to sponsor our livestream. What a livestream it was! This time we had viewing events/parties across the globe, from San Francisco to Jerusalem, Toronto to Florida, and so many more locales. Even better, our livestream viewership quadrupled from our last conference in November!
Yesterday, during the Being a Writer While Having a Life panel, moderator Julia Fierro jokingly asked whether anyone was really watching the livestream. Within seconds Twitter users responded from Berlin & Toronto that they were not only watching, but loved the panel.
The Harnisch Foundation is a stellar supporter of BinderCon, but they also support some pretty amazing initiatives as well, check just a few of them out:
and visit their website for so many more.
Once again, here is the inspiring video, played during our opening remarks on Saturday:
Hi, I’m Leigh Stein and I’m the co-founder of Out of the Binders.
Yes, we are a non-profit organization named for something Mitt Romney said one time.
Before I introduce our incredible keynote speakers, I want to talk to you briefly this morning about the power of stories.
Because the stories we’re exposed to shape our potential. Think of the messages young girls get from so many Disney movies: that our destiny as women hinges on the love of a prince. We are so often defined within the framework of our relationships: a woman is someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s wife.
Who is telling us these stories?
71% of TV writer staff jobs are held by men, and only 13.7% are held by minorities
Only 11.2% of the top grossing films of 2014 had a writing credit by a woman
When women win literary awards, it’s usually for writing from the male perspective or about men. The more prestigious the award, the more likely the subject is to be male. Since 2000, 0 women writing about women have won the Pulitzer Prize.
So what are we gonna do about it? This weekend at BinderCon we are giving women and gender non-conforming writers the tools, strategies, and connections they need to advance their careers, not just so that we can get paid to do what we love, but so that we can fundamentally change the cultural narrative about our own potential.
By showing up today, you are a part of this movement. The movement extends even beyond this room. Right now, as I am speaking, women are watching the livestream at viewing parties around the world from San Francisco to Jerusalem, in Missoula, Spokane, Toronto, Orlando, Cincinnati, and New York City.
The movement extends to our private Facebook community of 34,303 members. One of these members, Stephanie Land, is a single mother of two. A few years ago, she left her abusive partner and moved into a homeless shelter in Port Townsend, Washington, where her youngest daughter learned to take her first steps. Stephanie always knew she wanted to be a writer and, to support herself while going to college, she cleaned houses for a living, often vacuuming children’s bedrooms that were bigger than her own apartment, she says. She wrote about what she learned during the two years she spent cleaning houses in a piece for VOX and it went viral (you might have even read the piece). She also wrote for the New York Times about her daughter’s first steps. She is now able to support her family through her freelance writing career, and a fellowship she has writing for social and economic justice, through the Center for Community Change.
It gets even better: an editor at a major publishing house in New York is currently interested in Stephanie’s memoir, and she signed with a powerful agent just a week or two ago. When Stephanie sent me her book proposal, I saw in it that she credits the binders community—our community—for her writing career. The editor, the agent, the New York Times byline—all of this has only happened since last July.
It was members of the binders community who shared editor contacts and helped Stephanie learn to pitch, and through the binders community that she heard about the writing fellowship opportunity at the Center for Community Change. Stephanie’s incredible career success means economic security for her, but even more importantly, it means providing a narrative of low-income women from the source, and not from some privileged screenwriter’s imagination.
Right now, Stephanie is in Missoula Montana, speaking to the women who have come to attend the viewing party for BinderCon.
The gender disparity and sexism we experience in writing industries: it’s real. It’s not in our heads. But I can’t fix it by myself, and neither can you. So I ask you to think this weekend, not only about what you need to get ahead, but about what resources you have to offer to the community. Can you connect another binder to an editor? Can you offer to give feedback on someone’s pitch in the hallway? Can you smile at someone who is nervous for their turn to meet an agent? Can you connect me to a great sponsor for our next conference?
I opened with Mitt Romney and I’m going to close with a quote from JFK that goes a little something like this: “Ask not what your binder can do for you, ask what you can do for your binder.”
I must thank our generous sponsors who made this magical weekend possible. Thank you to the Harnisch Foundation who sponsored our livestream, making the work we do even more accessible to those who can’t afford to attend in person. Thank you to MailChimp, who totally gets what we’re doing, and has supported our work since our very first event in October 2014. Thank you to the Stephens College low res MFA in TV and screenwriting program, whose mission perfectly aligns with ours: they want to get more women writing for TV and film. And finally, we are very thankful for a grant from Amazon Literary Partnerships, which has helped us support our scholarship recipients this year with travel and childcare stipends.
Now, please enjoy a brief video from our wonderful friends at the Harnisch Foundation.
Women and gender non-conforming writers all over the world are attracted to BinderCon, drawn in by the community, the professional development, and the craft workshops. Thanks to the Harnisch Foundation, even those who are unable to travel to New York City or Los Angeles to attend the bicoastal conference in person can access keynotes and select panels via the free livestream. This is one of the ways BinderCon boasts of helping writers like Charli Mills from Idaho to build writing communities around and beyond the conference through shared remote access.
Charli attended the 2015 BinderCon LA conference with a scholarship. “I was thrilled, especially as a rural writer. Nothing ever happens for writers in my area.” She was excited about the emphasis on professional development rather than craft-only sessions.
“BinderCon really takes seriously the woman who wants to be a career writer.” As we all know, the path does not seem to be getting easier, but more complicated, so BinderCon is becoming increasingly valuable.
It could be unnerving, being at conference with so many writers, and feeling like your own work doesn’t matter. Charli remembers being shy about telling people she writes and loves flash fiction. By the end of the conference, she found herself standing around with a group of women, long after the last session had ended. She felt fortunate to share the space with other people so much like her, but so different from her.
“We stayed because we were talking, connecting, bonding, and there was a woman with us who was in a wheelchair and most of the women standing in our group were women of color. It wasn’t that we were all different, but that we were connected by the passion that drives us to write. I walked away feeling so much more a writer than I had arrived.”
The sessions are BinderCon are enriching, motivating, and practical. There is something for everyone to take away, even from panels around themes that don’t necessarily fit your specific beat. Charli recalls sitting in a session with panelists who write for television, and taking away tips for pitching. “Who better to learn from than people who have to do it everyday?”
“To have guides along the way who are women in the industry who have more experience and exposure, and to learn from those women, is invaluable.”
In 2015, Charli decided to bring BinderCon to the women and gender non-conforming writers who could not get to New York City. Her area in Idaho only had satellite internet, so she hunted for venues that had better service and had no luck. After troubleshooting with Leigh, she decided to show DVDs of two panels – Owning a Complex Beat and Writers Who Mom and Moms Who Write. In January 2016, she hosted a repeat event for the “closet writers” as they are known by the local library. Both events were small, and Charli felt there was potential to get more people out. Leigh worked her magic again, reaching out to other writers in the area, connecting them with Charli.
“What’s going on in Montana is amazing, and that’s why we’re having this event in Missoula.” Teaming up with New York Times bestselling author Laura Munson from Whitefish, Stephanie Land, Rachel Mindell, Chelsia Rice, and Molly Priddy, Charli has organized a livestream of BinderCon at Shakespeare and Company, a local independent bookstore. Student writers from University of Montana are expected to attend, and writers will drive from three hours away in every direction this weekend to meet in Missoula and share the experience.
BinderCon LA will be streaming all day on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 10am PST and ending at 5pm PST. On Saturday, Charli will lead the group in a flash fiction exercise. During a break between panels on Sunday, Laura Munson will talk to writers.
“Her passion is to help other writers, and help other people connect with their own voice. She’ll talk about the myth of failure and success, and there’ll be a book signing.”
At the end of the day, all writers are welcome to attend an optional dinner at The Iron House where there will be readings.
The planning has been almost as much fun as Charli expects to have on BinderCon LA weekend. The group of women have been communicating for weeks, often multiple times in one day. The growth of the livestream idea from the small group in rural Idaho has grown beyond initial plans. Charli credits Leigh with giving phenomenal support and making coonnections with others in the area.
“Throw a couple of Binders in the mix, and you’ve got something dynamic. It gives me great hope for building something in Northern Idaho, and how well it’s working in Montana, and what a robust, diverse writing community looks like.”
Charli’s dream is to build a network of rural writers, all owning their voices. “I want them to know that they don’t have to sit at home. Even if there is not a writers community where you are, look for the closest community to you. Come on, and be a writer out loud.”
We write because we love it, but we pitch because we must. Our masterpieces deserve attention. They exist to be read by the audiences we imagine for them, but first we have to convince the gatekeepers. What do we say? How can we get editors to read and publish our work?
We’ve put together a few tips from the writers in our upcoming LA BinderCon session Women Who Pitch: Freelancing in the Digital Age
Report Before You Pitch
Erika Hayasaki, former national correspondent at the Los Angeles Times, recommends getting out there to find answers to the questions your pitch needs to satisfy. “Make some calls, visit some people in person, hang out to get some scenes.” Erika says, “You can even open your pitch with a scene.” She says you need to know who your characters will be, and answers “Why should I care?”
Go All the Way
Liana Aghajanian encourages writes to apply for grants and fellowships on sites like ICFJ to support your reporting. She also recommends moving away from big cities, and even go international. She says the perspective this kind of change brings can give you an advantage. “You’ll find the living expenses and rent are cheaper, while your perspective and the stories you find will be more unique, and therefore more attractive to editors.” She warns that wanting to write about a subject isn’t enough. Liana says, “Make sure you’re pitching a story, not just an idea – a story contains characters and tension and it has to go somewhere.”
Do your Research
A little extra effort can go a long way. Melissa Chadburn says, “Address your pitch directly to the editor of the column you’re submitting to. You can usually find their names in the masthead.” Since publications want to know you’re familiar with their work, she says, “Reference a previously published piece of the venue that shares your tone or aesthetic.”
Pay Attention to the Details
There’s one mistake Mona Gable doesn’t want you to make. When you’re pitching, depending on someone to put your work out there, check and double check to ensure you have the right name and spelling. “Spell the editor’s name correctly. Seriously.”
Keep the Subject Simple
Senior Features Editor at Bustle Rachel Krantz reads over 100 pitches every day, and she doesn’t want to see PR-like subject lines. “You want to be sure your subject line makes it clear you’re not a PR rep. The main way to do this is not to get too fancy, vague, or cheesy.” She says your subject line could be a potential headline for your article.
How do you craft the perfect pitch? How do you get paid to write the stories you care about? How can you travel around the world to cover a story? Inspired by the Los Angeles-based group “Women Who Submit,” which encourages women writers to gather together and submit their work to magazines, and to celebrate the often intimidating process of sending work out into the world, this award-winning group of panelists will reveal their secrets to becoming successful freelance writers. The will discuss how to tackle a difficult story, how to master the craft of nonfiction storytelling, when a story is a right for longform pitch, which digital outlets pay for travel, expenses and which pay $1 a word vs. $50 for an entire story? Which ones offer the best editing experiences? They will also offer tips on networking with editors, tackling big, ambitious stories, and balancing home, family, and the writing life while trying to pay the bills and follow your passions.
As writers, we are always looking for ways to market our work. Our blogs and social media platforms call attention to our stories, poems, and essays. Blogs serve as great hubs for our work, and Facebook and Twitter are great for sharing links with enticing snippets, but what about email marketing? What better way to direct the audience you’ve built to your latest piece than a special delivery, right to their inbox?
Many of us find it difficult to do the marketing part of the job, even though we know it’s necessary. People often think of emails as an imposition, but remember people have signed up to receive your newsletter. They appreciate your work, they want to hear from you. It’s up to you to fulfill your promise, and design your newsletter in a way that makes them want to stay on your list. We checked with a few writers from our upcoming BinderCon LA session: If You’re Going to Have a Newsletter, Make it a Good One.
Make it Personal
Liz Galvao says, “People will continue to subscribe if they feel a connection with you. Yes, email is where we get spam,…but it’s also where friends and family send us personal letters about what’s going on in their lives, and it can be an intimate format if you let it.
Don’t be afraid to let your subscribers into your life a little, and mention what’s going on with you that day, even if it seems mundane.”
She says she loves Marc Maron’s WTF podcast newsletter because there’s always a personal note to connect her to him as a person, and not just a podcast personality promoting something. She enjoys reading about his awkward trips to his parents’ house and random new food obsessions. “It’s kept me subscribing for years,” she says.
Sulagna Misra says she uses a comfortable, direct style, similar to the way she engages friends who gchat her about pitching, in her email newsletter. “I don’t write Pitching Shark [her email newsletter] expecting people to go to my professional writing, but I do find they get to know of me as a writer because of it, and that might attract them to my other writing naturally.”
It’s not just a marketing tool!
Ann Friedman, who’s email list is in the tens of thousands, warns, “An email is not a marketing tool, it’s a separate piece of work you’re creating. Treat it as such, and people will actually want to read it.”
Think of it as a new opportunity to draw someone in, and get them to read more of your work. Set the hook with personality and style, and make your readers happy they didn’t wait another second to open your email.
The three big take-aways from our panelists Liz, Sulanga, and Ann are:
Email newsletters can be an intimate format if you let it.
- Use your email newsletter to give a sense of your writing style, personality, and interests.
- Treat your email newsletter like writing not marketing.
Everyone seems to agree that as a writer you need to promote yourself, and that you really should be doing that via a newsletter. But is that the right choice for every writer? What are the real-world results of launching a newsletter? How do you create one that subscribers (aside from your mom) will really want to read? And how do you get subscribers, anyway? What about using a newsletter as a platform for original content, not just as a marketing tool? We talk to writers and editors of popular newsletters to learn how they organize and schedule their content, build their subscriber base, and strategically promote their work.