On March 27th, the Children’s Media Association hosted a panel of seasoned writers consisting of freelance writer Stacey Greenberger, Emmy-nominated writer Melinda LaRose, and Butterbean’s Cafe Story Editor Caitlin Hodson. Throughout the conversation, the speakers shared and built upon each others’ stories. They spoke on their love of storytelling and gave advice about writing for kids, focusing on the staff versus freelance writing experiences.
Staff writing has the benefit of offering a social environment that has a major impact on the writing process while freelance writing is often a more solitary experience. This social environment helps to build close connections between the writers fostering a more cohesive and unified story-line than what is generally seen in freelance driven shows. Staff writing also differs from freelance writing in that writers are working within an established hierarchy. This means that there is a constant flow of communication and feedback between the writers and their supervisors/execs, which helps with time management and the maintaining of a unified mindset during a project. However, this can also be seen as a negative due to the high frequency of back and forth information and strict deadlines, which can lead to stress that isn’t typically experienced by freelancers. Another major consideration is that staff writers receive consistent and reliable paychecks, unlike the uncertain and inconsistent pay-times faced by freelancers.
A positive for freelance writing is that it can harbor a much more flexible schedule. For Melinda, this allows her to spend more time with her husband and children, who often act as a direct line of inspiration for her writing! Freelancing also provides a varied workload where writers can work on projects they really want to at a pace they feel comfortable with. However, the drawback of these aspects is that sometimes there are lengthy periods of time between projects creating a higher need for contacts and networking.
Eventually, the attendees joined in for a final Q&A segment. Most of the questions were focused on practical advice such as how to deal with meetings, emailing writing samples, and handling work on big teams versus independently. However, some attendees probed the speakers on the topic of their individuality and creative process. The speakers responded passionately to this by emphasizing the importance of finding your own path through the writing process and the fundamental concept of maintaining your voice in everything you write.
As a writer myself, a major takeaway I had is that writing allows us to share our own creativity and perspective to the world in a way only we can. Everyone has their own way of viewing the world and it is not fair to yourself to try and solidify who you are before joining a project, but rather that writing will be an integral part of figuring it all out.