Mom Interviews

Joni B. Cole

Author of "Water Cooler Diaries"

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You've also written another book, Toxic Feedback. How is feedback potentially toxic for a writer, and can it be that way for non-writers, too?

Oh gosh, yes. There's not a writer in the world -- probably not a person in the world -- who hasn't experienced toxic feedback. But with the smallest step, we can rid the world of it. In the writing world, toxic feedback refers to comments about someone's work that really sets them (the writer) back or really trashed their ego and made them feel lousy. This model that we have for offering commenting or feedback is really a negative model. It's all about "I didn't like this" or "this didn't work" and it's the wrong model to teach writing or provide feedback to anything. It's not just a matter of "let's be nice" or "let's be positive" instead -- it's just counterproductive.

It's not that people don't want to hear anything bad. What they want is specific commentary that gives them insight. With that, a person can revisit her writing -- or her homework if she's a kid, or her job performance -- and they can go back and actually improve their performance in a way that feels great to them.

In addition to writing, you work as a professional editor and writing workshop instructor. What advice can you give to a working mom who wants to become a freelance writer?

I would say to ... there's a lot of advice! It's so important to start getting clips. I work for regional magazines, and there are often little articles and I'm very willing and interested in trying out new writers, so start perhaps with the smaller stories in local or regional magazines. The more writing and feedback you get on your writing, the better. Obviously, be persistent. To really pay attention to whom you are pitching your story -- you want it to match the publication and their needs. I feel, too, that really, if you can, as much as you can, tether the topic of what you're writing about to what you're interested in. That's going to make a better story right there.

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