Tiger pitcher, summer wedding, solo work, and famous folks: Literary Rambles blog poster and hoster, Natalie Aguirre
Thanks for inviting me to The Mitten, Charlie. I really appreciate it. My name is pronounced Ah-gaar-ee, like Hank Aguirre’s (from the 1958-1967 Detroit Tigers Major League baseball team ) name is pronounced.
You’re an attorney for UAW Services Plan, which just shut down (according to your post on Linked In.) I did the math: you started in 1988 and you’ve been at it 35 years and 6 months, which adds up to June 2023. After 35 years, could you retire? Are you looking for another job?
I actually was laid off from my job at the end of November 2014. The UAW Legal Services Plan lost its contract with the Ford, Chrysler, GM, and the UAW in 2011 after we went through the great recession with the UAW workers and was under a four-year shut plan to close in 2015. I got my layoff notice six months after my husband suddenly died, which made the process that much harder.
Fortunately, we’d been very frugal our whole marriage, so I did not go through the financial crisis I would have otherwise gone through, which I’m really grateful for. I retired from practicing law when I was laid off. I got a job as a writer on contract for a web marketing firm that creates websites for attorneys in February 2015. I write articles for lawyers in their practice areas.
When I started this new job, I had to try to work full-time, which was hard as a low-paid writer on a contract with no benefits. It was a financial struggle because I was putting my daughter through college nine months after I started the job. Sound familiar?
A few years later, I moved my mom to independent and then assisted living nearby and started taking widow social benefits so I could work part-time, have a more stable income, and have more time to take care of my mom. I enjoy writing, and I get a paycheck every month. Even though it’s not as fun writing as creating stories and I never get a raise, I have made over $100,000 writing since I started this job. I could retire, but I like the income and structure my job gives to my life.
|Natalie and her daughter,|
The wedding was on August 25th. It was a beautiful wedding. I’m so happy for my daughter and son-in-law. And it was fun planning the wedding with my daughter.
Casey McCormick started Literary Rambles in 2008. How did she lure you aboard in 2011?
It was the heyday of blogging back then, and agents told everything they needed to a blog. I was reading a lot of blogs and had a lot of blogger friends but hadn’t taken the plunge. I secretly wanted to be Casey’s blog partner, but I was too afraid to ask her if she’d been open to the idea. Then she put out a request for a blog partner, and I told her I was interested right away. Thankfully, she said yes.
How did you feel when she left in 2015? How hard is it to run an active, popular blog like this by yourself?
Casey had already cut back over the years after I joined the blog because she was going through a lot of life changes. It was hard having her leave in 2015, about a year after my husband died. I was earlier in the grieving process and didn’t really care about much of anything back then.
|One of Natalie's|
I’ve definitely thought of quitting many times earlier on. I lost my husband, then my career, and then became an empty nester within 18 months. My life was turned upside down, and I had to recreate a new life that I didn’t want. So, like I said above, I didn’t care about much for a long time and just went through the steps of maintaining the blog without being very excited about it.
On the Literary Rambles website, you announce your mission “to help aspiring writers and authors on their path to publication.” And apparently throughout the comments section, grateful followers sing their praises to the work you do.
My question: Has Literary Rambles helped you, an aspiring MG and YA fantasy novelist, on your path to publication?
I’ve made a lot of connections with authors and agents through my author and agent spotlight interviews. I’ve also learned a lot about the craft of writing, how to find an agent, and marketing from all the debut and already published authors I’ve had on the blog.
My own writing has gotten a lot stronger in part because of this and also from the help of my critique group. Now, I’m not really sure if I’m writing for myself or trying to get published. I’m not sure I want another career. I just take it day-by-day for now and enjoy the process of creating stories.
|Agent Mary Kole|
photo by Sarah Scoop
I send agents I’m interested in spotlighting an email or fill out a contact form on the agency website. I look for agents who represent more than one age group and genre so that their spotlight is helpful to more followers.
Yes, some agents contact me to request that I feature them. I always say yes, even if they have a narrow focus on what they’re looking for.
Your goal is to publish at least one Agent Spotlight a month. Have you been able to do it?
Yes, I schedule out my agent spotlight interviews four to five months out. I keep a big list of agents I’d be interested in featuring, so it makes it easy to schedule one to two spotlights every month.
|Shadow and Bone|
Casey was the tech person and designed the blog. Given the big database, I don’t want to redesign the blog. I have had to learn some tech things since she left the blog. Blogger friends are a great resource when I get stuck. Next year I want to hire someone to help me change the header so that I can swap out book covers every year.
This running-the-blog-thing is all volunteer, right? No stipends or grants or salaries. Why do you keep putting out Literary Rambles year after lonely year? What’s your reward?
|Workspace: kitchen counter|
Yes, Literary Rambles is a completely volunteer effort. I don’t make any money from it and don’t put ads on the blog. The thing that keeps me going is that Literary Rambles is a service to the children’s publishing industry. Many of the debut authors I interview or have written a guest post have told me that Literary Rambles helped them find their agent and get published.
As a lawyer, I was a service provider and practiced a lot in consumer law. I’m realizing that being of service to the world through my blog means more to me than getting published. Knowing that I’m helping authors and promoting books keeps me motivated to continue the blog.
I feature two authors most months. I’d feature more authors, but not as many followers are interested in these author interviews and guest posts as they were in the past. So, I don’t feel I should feature more authors because I wouldn’t be able to help them like I want.
I have been reaching out to the debut authors I interviewed. Some authors reach out to me, and I give them a spot if it’s available and they have a book my followers would be interested in.
I’m changing the blog focus slightly because it’s getting too hard to find the debut authors, and there are many already-published authors I’d love to interview. Next year I’m planning more interviews with authors who have established a good career and will be reaching out to more publicists and publicists at the publishing houses to set my schedule.
In your 12 years’ experience, who is the most famous author you debuted? Which author or agent were you most excited to interact with?
I can’t pick just one person. Here’s a list of some people I’ve been most excited to work with:
· Jennifer Nielson (one of my favorite authors)
· Marie Lu
You mentioned your widow status right in your website bio. How, as a single parent, have you been able to find the strength and endurance to raise a family, work full-time and keep an essential children’s writer website running, by yourself, for almost a decade?
Knowing I’m doing something that is of service helps keep me excited about Literary Rambles. It gives me a purpose in life, especially now that my daughter is an adult and doesn’t need me to parent her like I did when she was a kid.
Can we have some pitches for some of the MG and YA fantasy novels you’ve worked on?
I don’t really have pitches because I never had anything I felt was ready enough to query. I started out writing two short picture books for my daughter. Then I wrote a middle grade fantasy about an adopted girl who found a door to a magical world where her adoptive great-grandmother was from and must save that world, which I revised for ten years and had to put in a drawer. Recently, I completed the first draft of a contemporary YA fantasy about an adopted Mexican-American teen who finds a weird button in her garden that turns out to be a magical implement that claims her.
Please supply any social media contacts you wish to share.
Literary Rambles: http://literaryrambles.com
Bio: Natalie Aguirre is the blog host of Literary Rambles. She joined Casey McCormick as a blog partner on March 7, 2011 and took over as blog host in 2015. She is an aspiring middle grade and YA author and a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She is a retired attorney and part-time writer on contract. Natalie is also a widow and mother of a wonderful young adult daughter.
Natalie's mission is to help aspiring writers and authors on their path to publication whether as a traditionally published, hybrid, or self-published author and to share her love of books with readers.