#BEYOUROWN MEETS ALEXIS BARAD-CUTLER
Alexis Barad-Cutler is a freelance writer, content creator, published children’s book author, and publishing-world veteran. This Brooklyn-based mom of two approaches writing about the motherhood experience with raw honesty and humour, and questions romanticised notions of what it means to be a mother in today’s social-media-driven world. You can find her work at sites like Well Rounded, Fatherly, Hey Mama, and other sites that cater to the parenting demographic. Alexis’s interests include building authentic connections with women who aren’t afraid to be real, reading to her two boys, watching her husband cook, and performing aerial tricks on silks apparatuses.
Can you share your journey with us so far and your background so far Alexis?
My background originated in children’s books. I was a children’s book editor at major publishing houses in New York City for over ten years, before I decided to become a full-time writer. My editorial job was not traditional, in the way that a lot of editors seek out new authors and manuscripts. For the majority of my career, I worked with toy licenses and brands to create the book extensions of those brands.
I also created new book formats for novelty books for babies and preschoolers. It was an extremely creative job, and I had my hands in a lot of different areas of the publishing process.
What motivated you and inspired you to become a children’s book author?
A lot of my job required coming up with the editorial concept for my books, and sometimes writing them. After a while, writing books for young children became second nature.
When I left my publishing job, I became a ghostwriter for a couple of publishing companies, and eventually pitched my own ideas and titles that got published under my name.
You are also a content creator for sites that cater to expecting and new parents how did this concept come about?
After I had my first son, I created a website with another mom friend that was aimed at new parents. The site was all about helping new moms find ways to take advantage of all that NYC has to offer while having a young infant in tow. While the website eventually became defunct, I had made a lot of great connections along the way and ended up pitching ideas to some of my contacts at other parenting-targeted websites.
You break down and explore the ideology of what it means to be a mother in today’s social-media-heavy world, can you take us through your perception based on your experience in motherhood so far?
Motherhood is messy, confusing, beautiful, ugly, heartbreaking, raw, and inspiring. It is so many contradicting things, and yet, in the small squares on Instagram, we are bombarded with picture-perfect depictions of what motherhood should look like. While the medium of Instagram is meant to showcase beautiful images, I think there is also space for truth.
That’s where a writer can be helpful. My goal is to disrupt the idea that motherhood should be filtered down and glowey, and to talk about what makes us feel vulnerable and scared, too. There can be nice-looking pictures, too, but underneath them (or behind them), honest writing and truth-telling.
What was the process of getting started as a writer?
For as long as I can remember being able to write, I’ve been writing. When I was seven, I thought I was going to be a songwriter, and had notebooks filled with original songs (which, P.S. are awful). To get started as a professional writer, I recommend writing a lot and getting to know the genre in which you aim to write professionally extremely well. Before I started pitching children’s books, I had worked in the field of children’s books for almost ten years. That’s probably excessive, I am sure you get the point.
In terms of the writing, I do now-which is mostly a personal essay, I’ve been honing that skill for about seventeen years. I love personal narrative and have been writing in this form as a hobby long before I ever attempted getting paid for it.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Don’t wait until everything is “perfect” before starting something new. Throw it at the wall and see how it sticks, and then you can always refine it.
What is a good article or book you could recommend to us?
A great book on writing is Stephen King’s, “On Writing.”
What podcasts or Youtube channels are currently great for motivation? If any?
I start my day with NPR’s “Up First” and The NYT’s “The Daily”, then move into “The Savage Lovecast” or “Stuff Mom Never Told You.” For writing inspiration, I listen to “The Moth” or “The Longest Shortest Time.”
What are you currently learning about as a professional writer?
How to pitch stories better, how to find placement in new media outlets, and how to have an angle that’s unique from everyone else’s. There’s really no new story, just a different way of looking at things or describing your own experience of them.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
I’m trying to be more disciplined about my writing schedule. I’ve been making sure I have a certain number of pieces to write per month – having editors relying on me for a piece is better than having my own personal deadlines.
I’m also reaching out to other people to collaborate more, instead of working alone. Again, this makes me more committed to meeting a goal when I know someone else is waiting for me at an action point. I’m good at letting myself down, but won’t ever let someone else down if they’re waiting for something from me.
What about any challenging times you have had to overcome?
There have been a few. Having a newborn definitely throws a wrench into the work equation – especially when you’re working “from home” or doing freelance. When I had my first son, it was really difficult to figure out how to create a work schedule around my responsibilities of being a mom. I don’t like to use the expression “finding balance” because I don’t think that’s a realistic thing. Every day feels pretty imbalanced. If I’m working really hard on my work, I feel like I’ve done a disservice to my kids. If I’m spending real quality time with my kids, I feel like I’ve let my work down. It’s a struggle. The challenge is finding some way to just be ok with the imbalance.
Best moment so far?
There is no one moment, but if we are talking about best moments as a writer, it is whenever someone reaches out to tell me that something I’ve written has reached them or helped them feel like they are not alone in their experience.
My favourite feeling is knowing that my writing made another person feel better, or less isolated, or like there’s someone out there who is feeling something similar and that they’re not crazy.
What does success look like in your eyes?
Professional success is having an outlet for my writing that can reach the most people, and forge the most connections. I’d eventually like my work to turn into something bigger – some kind of larger collective that is a reflection of my writing’s ethos (acceptance, the vulnerability in motherhood, humour, honesty).
I’m not sure what the real-world manifestation of this is yet.
What does it mean to you to truly #BEYOUROWN?
It means to have an authentic voice, to be consistent in your message, to admit you are human and flawed, and to do work that – even if it isn’t seemingly life-changing or earth-shattering by nature – can help make a positive impact in the world.
I hope that in my own small way, I make people feel more accepting of themselves by showing my own vulnerabilities.
Lastly, what is on the horizon for 2018 for you?
Writing for more media outlets, collaborating with more female-empowering organisations and brands, and launching my idea/website that’s been percolating for a while. Also, hopefully, another children’s book.
Pinterest @alexisbarad | Twitter @alexisbcutler | Instagram @alexisbaradcutler
Pinterest @alexisbarad | Twitter @alexisbcutler