Roxanne Fequiere is a New York City based writer. After working for eBay for six years, she made the switch from a traditional 9-to-5 to becoming a freelance writer, having published personal essays along with copy writing. Her work has appeared in Girls At Library, Lenny, and Damn Joan. I spoke with Roxanne to learn more about her passion for writing, how she’s navigating her career change, and reading a book a week for a year.
What made you want to become a writer?
It came naturally to me from a young age, and for several years I was encouraged to write but not to pursue it as a career. I was told that I was good at it, but according to my parents it wasn’t the sort of thing that was a reliable career, which is kind of true. They are immigrants, they came from Haiti, and their thing was you should go for something that will secure a steady paycheck, and for them that was either to become a doctor or a lawyer. I toyed with those ideas on a surface level, and then I got to college and realized what goes into Pre-Med or Pre-Law and I thought “No, this is not going to work!” To be fair to my parents I said I could do one of these things that you want me to do poorly, or I can do the thing that I can do well and I’ll figure it out. I made it very clear that I wasn’t going to rely on them after I graduated college, but that I was going to make a go out of it.
What’s the first thing you read that inspired you to write?
I would say Harriet the Spy— it didn’t necessarily make me think to myself “I can write a book!” but the way Harriet was so observant about the people in her life and the way she had eyes on everybody, and how she paid attention to what was going on, I identified with that and the way that I would write to myself in my journal. That really resonated with me.
What was your work life prior to becoming a freelance writer?
I was a Marketing Copywriter for eBay for six years. I worked from home, my whole team was in San Jose, and they would have me come out and visit every now and then if there was a special project going on or sometimes to have face time with the team. It was a lot of phone and video conferencing. It was sales and events mostly that I was writing copy for, with the occasional print ad or a cool campaign that might relate to something different. It was fine, it wasn’t very captivating I would say. I did some side projects while I was doing copywriting—I launched a print magazine and put out three issues of that. I did the odd freelance assignment here and there but I never really dedicated myself to it as much as I said I was going to. Around the time I decided it was time for me to leave eBay I decided I was going to make a real go of it and try to make the full time freelance thing happen.
How are you managing the transition?
It’s been going well so far. I’ve been taking classes at Catapult to help perfect my craft at the same time that I’m pitching myself to people. I used to have a lot of anxiety about sending pitches, so I would never pitch anybody—I would only accept assignments if somebody I knew offered it to me. One day I had this revelation that nothing will happen if somebody rejects my pitch. I tied up a lot of my self-worth in that and now I don’t have that issue. I wish I had a secret to how that happened, but if someone rejects a pitch I can send it someplace else. I kind of have a newfound confidence—not even a confidence, a willingness to roll with the punches.
What is your writing practice/process?
I truly wish I had one! I guess it depends on what I’m writing. Sometimes an essay will be really clear in my head and I’ll know exactly what it is that I want to write and in what order, so I’ll jot down a loose sketch so that sequence doesn’t leave my mind. Otherwise I’ll start writing about something and once I have a couple of paragraphs I’ll have a better idea of where I want the piece to go. There is a difference whether I’m doing something with days to spare or with hours to spare. I’m still trying to find a rhythm.
What are some of the publications you’ve worked with?
I work regularly with Girls At Library, which is a website about women who read by women who read. This year I’ve been doing a weekly book column where I read a book a week and write about it. That’s my most frequent assignment. I’ve written for Lenny twice and I have another piece in the works with them. I wrote a piece for Damn Joan back in January. There’s a website called On Our Moon that I’ve written a piece for and I really enjoyed working with them and am looking forward to pitching to them in the future. I’m also still doing freelance copy work but more for agencies and their clients, so I’m splitting my time between pitching and doing branding work.
What is your pitching process like?
Because I’m splitting my time between copy and editorial, I have the luxury of waiting for ideas to start stewing. If there is an idea that I keep thinking about or keep playing with I’ll write it down and format it and then start to think about a publication, either one that I already have a relationship with or one that I think happens to be a good place for the piece. I’ll start scoping out the work that they do, the way that they write, the topics they cover. By the time I’ve zeroed in on the outlet I want to pitch, if it's not one that I have a relationship with, I’ll do a search to make sure there hasn’t been a piece written about my idea recently. Then I’ll start hunting down a contact and the last step is where I refine the pitch and send it out.
Can you talk about your #ABookishYear project for Girl At Library?
I’m one of those people who has very ambitious New Year's resolutions for myself, or every time I have a birthday I’m thinking about the grand things I’m going to do, so that was kind of the inspiration for the project. At the end of 2017 I spoke to the editor-in-chief and pitched this idea and she was all about it. It wasn’t until I wrote the introductory essay and it went live that I was like “What have you done, there’s no turning back now!” It’s been a challenge but a good one. Even though it’s attached to a deadline, making the time to sit and read has been lovely, even during stressful weeks, maybe more so during stressful weeks.
What does a day in your life look like?
Almost without fail I will tell myself that I’m going to wake up around 6 or 7 am and I don’t—I’ll wake up at 8 or at best 9 or 10 am because I’ve stayed up late the night before. Depending on the day I might have French class, I’ve been going for the past few years on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I might have a doctor’s appointment or something like that. I’m usually doing something that’s not work related until 12 or 1 pm and then if I don’t have another booking I’m catching up on what needs to be done. I could be going back and forth between copy and writing essays or I might be hammering away at one essay. There’s no real routine at this point, which is nice and is kind of what I was looking forward to when I left my steady job.
How do you unwind/practice self-care?
I’m been going to therapy for a few years. I first tried therapy when I was seventeen and I didn’t have a very good go of it, and then I avoided it for ten years after that. I hit a wall one day when I realized that there were cycles I was going through and I could either resign myself to doing those things for the rest of my life or I could try at least to make a difference. Going to therapy these past few years has been really good about teaching me to talk myself down off of ledges that I don’t need to be on. I would say even having anxiety about pitching, a lot of stuff that relates to work and also relationships and personal things, a lot of that I talked through in therapy and it helps me calm down and at least identify what I’m doing when I’m doing it. That’s my number one—another basic self-care thing that I wouldn’t pretend to be on top of yet is making sure that when my calendar is full and when I have a lot of deadlines I don’t let the things I need to do for myself, like eating and sleeping, fall by the wayside. I’m still working on that.
What's some advice you were given or wish someone had given you?
I was a Junior in college, I had already declared myself an English major so I had made that commitment but I didn’t know what I was going to do with writing after I graduated. Summer was approaching and my adviser asked me what I was planning to do with my English major or what I was doing over the summer and I was like “Eh I don’t know, I would like to think that I could do online writing or journalism.” She said “Have you tried it, are you going to do an internship?” and I didn’t have anything lined up, I said "I’m just trying to figure it out." She responded “Well you should do it,” and for some reason that was like a light bulb turning on. I think her saying go do it was what I needed to hear. I can get caught up in my head and then end up sitting on my hands, so having somebody light a fire under my ass helped.
What are you looking forward to in your freelance career?
Now that I’m doing branding with freelance clients I’m excited to see who my next client is, because now I have this rare freedom to say yes to things that excite me. It might be a no but I’m excited for the next client I say yes to because when I do, it will be because I want to spend time thinking about that project. In terms of editorial, I’m excited to share more personal essays but I’m also excited to get into interviewing other people and doing profiles. I’m excited to share other people’s stories.
What's your sign & how do you feel about it?
I’m a Cancer—I was going to say that I feel somewhat persecuted about it but then I was thinking that’s a very Cancer thing to say! People are going to drag me for that. I follow all these Twitter and Instagram accounts where they make jokes and lists about the signs and everytime I get to Cancer I’m like “Did a Cancer hurt you?” because I feel like they're trying to be mean. That said, I’m a Gemini Rising and a Taurus Moon and I’m not exactly sure what that means but I’m figuring it out.
What's the last book you read?
I just finished The Left Hand of Darkness and turned in that essay for the project, which was a trip because I tend to dislike anything that’s Fantasy or Science Fiction based, but that’s the theme that I’m tackling this month, so that’s a brand new experience for me.
What are you listening to?
I’m very slow to listen to new music, it’s rare that an album will come out and I’ll listen to it within the first week, let alone the first month or six months. I’m still very much enamored of A Seat at the Table. I will say, this is cutting edge for me, I have been listening to Cardi B’s new album which is super rare since it came out a few weeks ago.