Someone asked on Quora: When was the first time you got paid for your writing? How much did you make? Here’s my story:
When I was in graduate school I was also working at a coffee shop, because I was broke (never go to graduate school unless they want you enough to pay you, by the way, which is a lesson I learned the hard way). This was back in the 90s.
Anyway, this super smart guy named Jerry William Cullum would come into the coffee shop sometimes or maybe he would come into the Mexican restaurant where I also worked, or the record store where I also worked — anyway. He was an editor at a non-profit arts magazine called Art Papers.
One day, upon learning that I was working toward a degree in Art History, he asked me if I’d want to contribute something to the magazine, as they were always looking for writers. If I recall correctly, I first contributed a review of an exhibition of graffiti artists, and I got paid $70. I still have a Xerox copy of the check somewhere; it’s a handwritten check and in the “memo” section it reads: Writer’s Pay.
I’m not someone who has managed to attract a lot of mentors — I hope just because I’m so introverted and shy, not because I suck as a person or something. Anyway, that’s one reason why Jerry really stands out in my mind.
He’s still very active in the Atlanta scene as a poet and as an art critic, and is a really cool and intelligent person and an excellent writer. He was the first person who ever really gave me a chance to do something interesting. And I continued to contribute to Art Papers for years and years — it lasted longer than any other job I ever had.
And of course, it is always cool to get a check that says Writer’s Pay.