Q & A with Cara Peterson

Cara Peterson is an aspiring author and a freelance journalist. She is the curator of the DukeJournos Monthly Newsletter.


Q: Why did you decide to highlight yourself in the DukeJournos Newsletter?

A: Sometimes, the lovely world of journalism puts you in a pinch, like having your original plan to highlight a fantastic writer and thought leader fall through in the last minute. In the end, you think on your toes and remember that you have some great personal things to share with your fellow journalists, as well.

Learn More about DukeJournos

Q: As a young freelance writer and aspiring author, how do you stay motivated in the face of all the rejection that is often par for the course?

A: I have two thoughts here. The first is that you find other members in the creative fields who understand what you are going through and turn them into your “accountabili-buddies.” My two amazing buddies include Duke alum ’12 Afftene Taylor (voice actress in the drama podcast “Mercury: A Broadcast of Hope” and a web developer) and Duke alum ’15 Yohana Zecarias (writer, cultural producer and strategist). Check them out! They do incredible work and they help me keep my head straight by checking in when the going gets rough. I strive to do an adequate job when returning the favor.

“Over time, you realize the key to success is persistence more than anything else.”

My second thought is that, over time, you realize the key to success is persistence more than anything else. To reach a long term goal like writing a book, you go through a lot of rejections from agents and publishers and you experience a lot of anxiety about how big of an undertaking you are attempting. To quote a fantastic email from Afftene:

“Motivation comes and goes. Just like inspiration. And the reason it comes and goes is because we LIVE IN THE REAL WORLD. We have regular responsibilities like going to work, getting gas, paying bills, etc….Discipline is where it is at. And not that media-spun version of discipline where a person just works and works and works, because that ain’t realistic either. Work, rest. Work, rest. Work, rest. Completing a task is a lot easier when you know you don’t climb Mount Olympus in a day and you can give your mind (or body) a break.”

Click Here to Read The Effortless Perfection Myth by Peterson

Q: Are there any recent works you are proud of?

A: I recently published a piece called “The Myth of Effortless Perfection” with Inside Higher Ed thanks to the help of Duke alum ’72 Sarah Hardesty Bray. It was exciting for several reasons, including the fact that the site receives two million unique viewers a month.

Q: Do you have any advice for fellow freelance writers starting off?

A: The most important thing I’ve learned this past year is that you shouldn’t just be writing a fantastic piece and then sending it off to the general submissions email of a publication. Those can be a back hole. Sometimes this works, but a lot of times it doesn’t. Each piece you write needs to be treated like a job application. Check LinkedIn for connections, figure out who the best editor to reach out is and do your research. I also enrolled in a weekend seminar with The OpEd Project in September that I found super helpful and would recommend to fellow freelancers who did not take any formal journalism classes in college.

Q & A with Marc Lieberman of 60 Minutes on CBS News