In this installment of the Coaching4Lesbians interview series I am pleased to present Kathy Belge. Kathy is the expert behind About.com’s official guide to Lesbian Life as well as the “Dipstick” half of the punchy advice giving team of Lipstick & Dipstick seen in Curve Magazine. I first discovered her writing via these avenues but Kathy is a talented freelance writer with a diverse portfolio and a passion to make a difference in the world.
1) What were some of your professional experiences before becoming a full time freelance writer? How have these experiences informed and influenced your writing?
Actually, I was a social worker for fifteen years before I became a full time freelance writer. Right out of college I started working at a small women’s organization in New York State. I went on to work for Planned Parenthood and started volunteering with lesbian & gay youth. After a few years, I realized my true passion was the work with youth. I moved to Oregon in 1993 and from 1995-2003 worked with LGBT youth. When I left social services, I was director of the largest LGBT youth organization in Oregon. I loved that work, but just decided it was time to do something different. I had reached the pinnacle of that career for myself.
2) How did you first discover writing was a talent and passion for you ?
I loved writing from an early age, pretty much from when I learned to read. Books were a way for me to escape my hectic family life. (I grew up with seven siblings.) I took every writing course I could in high school and was editor of my high school paper. I was encouraged by my teachers and I actually went to journalism school. After I graduated from college, I decided I wanted to make more of a difference working directly with people.
3) About.com is one of the biggest sources of information on the web. You’re
the official guide to lesbian life on the site. How do you choose what topics fall into (or out of) the “Lesbian Life” category given as lesbians we are such a diverse group and pretty much defy any attempts to be pinned down? How do you keep your motivation along the way?
I tell you, it’s hard. Sometimes breaking news is important to cover, but I try to stick to evergreen content. People write to me with a lot of basic questions, so I use those sometimes to come up with article ideas. I also try to think about what people are searching for on the web. Like right now Rosie O’Donnell is hot. So I try to get conversations going about Rosie and her role on The View. I have a notebook that I jot down in whenever I come up with an idea for an article. I have literally hundreds of article ideas. I will never run out of things to write about on About.com. It’s not hard for me to stay motivated. I love what I do!
4) Have you experienced any challenges in your professional life because you
are a lesbian?
Not that I can recall. I call myself the professional lesbian. Every career I’ve been in has pretty much been ABOUT me being a lesbian.
5) What keeps you going on the tough days?
The beauty of working for yourself is you can take the tough days off! Seriously, I don’t have many tough days in this job. I love it!
6) You do a wide variety of writing. What is your favorite types of writing/assignments and why?
I love the type of writing where I’m helping someone out. When people write in and I can tell they’re so desperate, they don’t know where else to turn. I enjoy giving those people support and information.
I also love the work I do with Lipstick & Dipstick. Lipstick & Dipstick is an advice column that I write for Curve magazine with my writing partner Gina Daggett. The thing I love about that is we get to be campy and funny, but also help women out. It’s entertainment and social services all wrapped in one. Plus, I love collaborating with Gina. She’s a great inspiration to me.
7) What are your top three measures of success?
1. That I’m happy with what I’m doing.
2. That I make a difference in the world.
3. That I get paid to do the above.
8) What is the wildest success story you can imagine for your future?
That I have a TV show and a best-selling book – all things that help lesbians live happier and fuller lives.
9) What was your experience collaborating on the book “Reading The L Word:
Outing Contemporary Television” like? What advice would you give to aspiring writers when it comes to finding meaningful work and making a sustainable living?
Writing for Reading for The L Word was fun, but I didn’t make any money off that! When I wanted to quit my job and start writing full time, I started to write for my local gay paper. That is a great place to start! I also read everything I could about starting a freelance career, joined the local gay business organization, took classes at the community college. It took me a few years before I was able to make a living off my writing, but I am doing it now. My best advice is to find your niche and write to it. But certainly, I had to take on some jobs and clients that were outside that to pay the bills. I also experimented with different kinds to writing to see where I excelled.
10) What brings you the most joy personally or professionally?
I love spending time with my partner of 15 years and my two Alaskan malamutes. I’m an avid biker and just started running this year. I live in the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful part of the country, so I have to get myself away from this computer screen from time to time and enjoy nature’s bounty.