New Member Profile: Glynis Ratcliffe – It’s All about the Transition

With bylines in the Washington Post, Chatelaine, the Walrus, and Opera Canada; as a former editor-in-chief of two contributor websites; and covering mental health, parenting,  personal and humorous topics such as “Yes, That’s a Placenta in My Freezer,” not surprisingly, Glynis Ratcliffe transitioned from Associate to Professional member a few months after joining ASJA. Oh, and she was also a professional opera singer, a dramatic career shift if there ever was one. Today a full-time freelancer who also does content and copy writing, she is married with two young children and based in Toronto, Canada where it’s generally colder but the political climate is far more moderate.

The top-of-mind question: Why did you switch from opera singer to freelance writer?

Opera was what I did for the first half of my life; I went to school for it and trained professionally. Yet during that time, I also wrote poetry, short stories and essays for fun, not really knowing I could market them. Then I had my first child at age 35 and every time I sang, she would scream and after she learned to talk, said things like, “Mommy please stop making that sound!” It grew more and more challenging to find uninterrupted time to practice.

 I still planned on getting my Doctorate in voice and was in the middle of filling out applications and auditions, when I had a surprise, my son, who fortunately did love my singing. After he was born, however, I had postpartum depression and anxiety which pretty much put everything on hold. Then a friend referred me to an advertising firm which was looking for someone to do listsicles for a specific marketing campaign. That was in 2014.

How did you go about making the change?

Fortunately the agency really liked my work and kept me on for other projects. I also started a humorous blog on dealing with postpartum depression and started submitting stories to websites, all the while expanding my content marketing clients. Then I got a staff writing job for Romper [a website focusing on millennial moms], helping them with their launch. I had to write three articles a day, so that really helped sharpen my skills. A year later I left Romper and around that time I landed a personal essay and a reported piece for the Washington Post.

Where do you get your ideas from? And since many of the topics are personal, how do you maintain objectivity?

Often the topics I choose are related to some ongoing interest. I’ve always been really interested in mental health and science and was just a course or two away from getting a minor in psychology. So I was used to doing research and reading studies. When I was younger, I worked at a health food store. So after I started writing professionally, I did white papers on ingredients in body care products. And naturally there’s music…I contribute regularly to Opera Canada.

I’ve received many messages from readers thanking me for writing about hard topics, it’s been really rewarding. I try to weave my own story into the research-based facts, giving readers an easier way to put those facts in context. I tend to compartmentalize facts and personal experience, so that allows me to write more objectively.

How did you find ASJA?

Some people in my writing group belong to ASJA. I am also a huge fan of [member] Jennifer Goforth Gregory’s content marketing blog, so I took a cue from her. And from what I’ve heard of the New York writer’s conference, it’s supposed to be amazing, with excellent professional connections and opportunities. I joined as an Associate Member at the end of 2017 but was not approved as a Professional member in time to take full advantage of the conference, so I’m planning on attending next year.

How is freelancing in Canada different from the US?

There aren’t as many outlets or opportunities. In the US, you can make a living only writing for American publications and websites. In Canada, you’ll need to go international to get consistent freelance work. The good news is that we’ve got a similar tax and incorporation structures, so that makes it easier.

Where do you see yourself headed professionally — What are your writing goals?

Right now I’m personally obsessed with three beats – climate; the intersection of mental health and technology; and how the brain works so I’m working on expanding my writing into those topics.  Recently I came across an unpublished manuscript written by my grandfather who has been dead for 25 years. Nobody in our family even knew he was a writer!

The book was about his escape from Nazi Germany and he actually submitted it for publication.

While it was never accepted, got some wonderful feedback from editors. Unfortunately, however, the last 100 pages were lost, so the challenge is, whether to make it part of a personal memoir or try to finish it as a novel.