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Know the Difference Between Being “Busy” and Being “Productive”

Alice Osborn
RALEIGH—At the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2021 Fall Conference, November 19-21, at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Durham/RTP, Alice Osborn—author, editor, book coach, and secretary for the NC Writers’ Network Board of Trustees—will lead the business of books session “How to Get Paid Without Anyone Getting Hurt.”

Conference registration is open.

Alice Osborn’s past educational and work experience is unusually varied, and it now feeds her work as an author, book editor, and musician. In the past 15 years, Alice has coached and edited writers at all levels and genres both locally and around the world. Searching for Paradise is her most-recent CD featuring crowd-pleasing originals about history, heroes, and hope, and Heroes without Capes is her most recent collection of poetry. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her previous poetry collections are After the Steaming Stops and Unfinished Projects. Alice is the recipient of a United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County 2019 Professional Development Grant; she is the President of the NC Songwriters’ Co-op; and has served for eight years on the NC Writers’ Network’s Board of Trustees. She’s currently working on a novel and CD about the ill-fated Donner Party of 1846-1847. When she’s not writing or performing, Alice teaches guitar, fiddle, and banjo. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, two children, and four birds all named after musicians. Visit Alice’s website at and check out her music at

This year, NCWN is asking authors for “one good piece of advice,” either something they were once told that they never forgot, or something they wished they could go back and tell their younger selves. Here’s what Alice has to say about the power of saying “no”:

“When my writing career was first taking off, I should have said ‘no’ more often so I would have had more time to write. Sometimes we use busyness and volunteer activities as a way for others to see how busy we are or as a way to procrastinate from performing the real creative work or deep thinking. Guilty as charged! Over a decade ago, I organized an open mic, a book club, a women’s networking group, and a writers’ morning out. Because it was the Great Recession and I was a new writing and editing professional, I felt I needed to volunteer and spend time working on unpaid projects, but what that led to a lot of sleep deprivation, stress, and rushing out client projects. I was busy, but I wasn’t productive.

“My now 8th-grade daughter was a toddler, and I was constantly shuttling her from part-time daycare to part-time preschool, using day hours for meetings and my night hours for writing and client projects. Weekends? I worked late into the night on Friday and Saturday, as well as during the day when I didn’t have family duties. Fortunately, I stopped this cycle of workaholism and madness when my work quality suffered and several of my clients weren’t shy in telling me about my sloppy work. After I wiped the tears, I had a good look at myself and made changes. Yes, I disappointed people because I wasn’t organizing events they had once enjoyed, but I had to stop disappointing clients.

“Today I only take on editing projects that I know I will love and refer other projects to my steadfast referral partner who’s more than happy to have new clients. I also weigh every single opportunity: am I doing it out of love or out of fear? Love equals looking forward to the event or project. Fear equals being afraid I won’t get additional opportunities or income if I say ‘no.’ It works every time!”

We writers are introverts and it’s sometimes tough asking clients to pay us what we are worth. But, my friends, you ARE worth it and the writing and communication skills you bring to the world are invaluable. In “How to Get Paid Without Anyone Getting Hurt,” you’ll learn how to arrive at the money conversation with ease by building that muscle, just like we go to the gym to keep fit. No more undercharging! We will discuss payment systems and how contracts can help prevent job creep with the necessary boundaries so that you are paid more if you do more work; we’ll also cover how to make sure your procrastinating client pays you without resorting to unsavory tactics. Writing can be emotional, but negotiating a proper fee should never be. Alice Osborn’s writing and editing business of 15 years has survived a recession, a pandemic, and a few toxic clients—come to this workshop with your questions and come away from it feeling empowered.

Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green will give the Keynote Address. Other sessions that address the business side of writing include “For Love and Money: Business Professionalism for Writers” with Karin Wiberg; “Nerd Cool 101: Making Your Book Shine Online” with Ellen C. Bush and Phillip Loken of UNC Press; and “Pathways to Publishing: Know ALL Your Options” with Tracy Crow of Tracy Crow Literary Agency.

Register here.

The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers, in all genres, at all stages of development. For additional information, visit