Amanda is a freelance writer living in Toronto.
What is your morning routine?
My internal clock always wakes me up sometime between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. From there, I’ll have a look at my calendar, check my emails and see what I have going on for the day, usually under the comfort of my warm blanket while trying to convince myself to get up. Then I’ll get ready – brush my teeth, wash my face, do my makeup and get dressed – head out the door and stop somewhere for coffee and breakfast. I can’t start the day without breakfast or else I get super hangry and awful to be around. If I don’t have an event that day, I’ll always head out to my co-working space MakeWorks because I find working around people extraordinarily helpful.
Tell us about your career path.
My career path has been anything but straight and narrow. I guess I’ll start at the beginning when I headed off to college. I was torn between a career in public relations or journalism and ultimately got accepted into both. I ended up taking an offer from Humber College’s public relations diploma program. From there, I’ve worked in everything from agency life to event planning to social media, always keeping up a side hustle writing for various online publications.
In 2013, a partner and I launched a blog called “Fat Girl Food Squad” and it became a huge hit. We were asked to speak on panels and appeared on the cover of NOW Magazine‘s first ever “Love Your Body” issue. As things with the blog started to progress and I started doing more freelancing, I realized I needed to go out and follow my passion, which was becoming writing. By December 2015, the “Fat Girl Food Squad” chapter of my life was coming to a close and I was ready to step out on my own. I ended up quitting my senior position on the digital side of Postmedia and decided to freelance full time.
Now it’s been nearly nine months, and in that time I’ve achieved some really incredible things. I was commissioned to write a Toronto-focused travel book, which is being released in May 2017. I helped with social strategy for a television show appearing on SyFy and CHCH. I have a Canadian Living feature cover story on heart and stroke coming out in February 2017, and I’m also waiting for the piece I wrote for The Walrus on building online communities to be released in the new year. It’s been a wild ride, and quitting my full-time job was scary but ultimately the most satisfying thing I could have possibly done. Would I ever go back to a full-time position? It’s entirely possible, but for now I’m having such an incredible time exploring all my opportunities and working with a variety of clients and people.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
Being a woman is hard on the Internet. If you have opinions that challenge others, more often than not you’ll be met with harassment, threats and sexual violence. In the summer I wrote about a plus-size clothing line and was harassed (and nearly doxxed) by followers of Breitbart and “Nero” (Milo Yiannopoulos). It was a scary time for me, one that came quite unexpectedly.
Besides that, there has always been a bit of a glass ceiling for women and gender-fluid writers in the media, with most opportunities or assignments going to cis-gendered white men. Women in media also tend to be paid worse than their male colleagues. I think as women and gender non-binary folks we have to learn to stick together in these instances and support one another. I’m part of many Facebook groups for women and non-binary folks. I attend Broadsheet Toronto’s bi-monthly events for women in media and check in regularly with sites like Who Pays Writers. I think it’s important to be informed and to stand up for yourself – online and offline.
At the end of the day, I want to write and share great stories. I’m super thankful to all the editors who’ve given me that chance.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
If you don’t have it figured out by the time you’re 30 years old (like I thought I would) – don’t panic. Things change, opportunities change and well, life changes. Just remember that with hard work, skill, persistence and luck, opportunities will come your way and you’ll be greatly rewarded. You are valued and you’re doing important work. Never forget it.
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
I have an incredibly supportive partner who doesn’t mind being involved in my work life. We’ve done interviews together, we attend events together (although I don’t take him to all, just some) and he’s probably one of the most understanding and supportive people of my work and schedule I’ve ever met. Whenever I’m feeling down or stressed out, he’s there for me. I think the best thing about us is we communicate about everything, which is healthy and important.
Beyond that – besides reading my phone in bed – I try my best to not be all about work 24/7, which I’ve gotten MUCH better at. I use some tools to keep myself organized, like Google calendar (if it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t exist) and the notes app. I also have an updated Google document with all the pitches I’ve sent out. These tools keep me on-track.
What inspires you?
I love people who are passionate and doing what they love. More often that not, I find this in a lot of the other women and non-binary folks I encounter online and offline. They are so inspiring to me with the work they do and the hustle and drive they have. It keeps me going. I’m also inspired by people who share their stories, both failures and successes. I think it’s important to remember life isn’t always perfect, so when folks can keep it real and be honest about how they’ve achieved what they have, that really inspires me.