Grace Bello is a staff writer for Columbia University and interviews editor for Guernica. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, New York Magazine's The Cut, PAPER magazine, Publishers Weekly, Bitch Magazine, Jezebel, The Christian Science Monitor, McSweeney’s, The Hairpin, The Awl, The Toast, and others. Follow her on Twitter aT @GRACE_LAND or visit grace-bello.com
Grace Bello! Do you ever publish your work without compensation or for a nominal fee? If so, why, and how do you feel about doing it?
I do a fair amount of unpaid writing and editing. Most notably, I'm the Interviews Editor for Guernica, which is a nonprofit magazine of art and politics with an all-volunteer staff. In an ideal world, I'd be compensated for every word I wrote (including the answers to these questions!). However, that's not quite the way that publishing works. Certain unpaid endeavors are passion projects, like Guernica. Others are investments, like articles I wrote for free that ultimately caught the attention of editors who could afford to pay me. I try to strike a balance between the projects I do for love and the projects I do for money. I'm getting to a sweet spot where those projects are beginning to converge.
Does your craft alone provide you with a livelihood?
Yes. I have an editorial day job at Columbia University, so I write and edit articles by day and by night. It's not a bad way to make a living.
If you have to hold a day job to supplement your income, or just make a living at all, do you feel you have as much time as you need to write?
I do have enough time to write. However, I don't have time to, say, go on vacation as much as I'd like. If anything, perhaps I need to write less. There's more to life than work.
How do you know for sure when something in your work still needs another revision?
As a general rule, everything could use some revision. Flabby sentences could be excised, wording could be refined, structure could be tweaked. I write the way I used to run – I keep going until I start jittering from exhaustion.
When revising something in your work, how do you know for sure when it’s truly time to stop?
When I've arrived at my deadline (see also: jitters).
Do you feel that being a writer was a choice or a calling for you?
It was a choice. With the way that journalism and publishing are going, perhaps I won't be a writer forever. But I try to think of the big picture: If writing as a career is no longer sustainable, then is there another way for me to engage with ideas and explore other worlds beyond my own? Personally, I'm not interested in writing for writing's sake. Writing is just one medium for my curiosity. There are, and there will be, many, many others.