For our Freelance Writer Spotlight this May, we’re so pleased to highlight writer, artist, Navy veteran, and mother, Sarah Black.
As a Verblio Freelance Writer
Here’s a quick snapshot of Sarah’s Verblio (formerly BlogMutt) stats:
- Time with Verblio: 2 years
- Total posts sold: 761
- Top industries: Art, legal, health, home
- Expertise: Painting, restoration, nursing, military, poetry, fiction, photography
Sarah becam a freelance writer for Verblio in 2016. Over the past two years, she has sold over 700 posts and 95% of her customer-rated posts have received 4 or 5 stars. Sarah is also a preferred writer for 19 different customers who absolutely love her work.
Here at Verblio, some of Sarah’s most loyal customers include:
- A high-end art and furniture restoration service
- A preventative health technology firm
- An architect
- A law firm supporting veterans with disabilities
- A software company that builds financial systems to support micro-finance initiatives in the developing world.
At first glance, these companies may not appear to be intimately related. They span different industries and offer radically different services.
But not only does Sarah’s career and life experience cover many of these same industries; these five customers also have one very important thing in common: they’re purpose-driven and working in their own ways to make the world a better and brighter place. And to Sarah, that matters:
I only write for clients with businesses I believe in, and who do work I support and think is important. I write for [Client A], for instance, because I am a passionate supporter of micro-finance in the developing world.
Outside of Verblio
However, Sarah also understands the audiences that these clients are speaking to. She holds a BS and an MS in nursing, for example, and is also herself a veteran of the U.S. Navy. She has traveled around the world and lived in 15 different U.S. states, not to mention a stint in Italy and a time living in the Navajo Nation in Rough Rock.
Today, after retiring from the military, Sarah is a full-time writer and artist. She lives with her son in beautiful Roanoke, VA alongside the Blue Ridge Mountains. She calls writing her “retirement career”; Sarah retired early to pursue her creative work and care for her son, who is unable to work due to developmental challenges.
The stunning Blue Ridge Parkway has inspired some of Sarah’s art, including encaustic paintings which use molten beeswax blended with pigment and resin, like this one:
Beyond painting, Sarah’s art also includes photography and sometimes a blend of the two:
The last few years I have wanted to work more with images, and found that combining media, such as painting and photography, was able to give work an interesting narrative drive, the same story element that keeps people reading.
Story is important to Sarah’s writing, as well as her art. In the rush for SEO and “cutting through the noise” of content overload, we too often forget that the most basic ingredient of good content is really quite simple: compelling and well-crafted writing.
The amount of information demanding a piece of our increasingly fragmented attention is of concern to me as a writer,” says Sarah. “…repeating the same formula writing… is not going to bring to the community of readers the ideas, presented with clarity and precision, that could change the world, or change one person, or make a customer for life.
Instead, Sarah argues, we should be bringing the best parts of fiction writing into the world of non-fiction: “narrative drive, characterization, and unique descriptive language.”
Craft is critical,” she says, “and so is the unique idea… What our readers deserve, and our Verblio clients, is unique and interesting ideas, presented in the most perfectly crafted ways.
As a Writer
Before she became a content writer, Sarah had been writing fiction for over a decade. She has found success as a writer, publishing work in several categories from short stories, novels, and novellas, to flash fiction and even poetry.
Sarah’s military tenure offered her the opportunity to take classes in literature and poetry and hone her writing craft. A highlight: while taking a poetry course in Patuxent River, MD, she had the opportunity to hear a poetry reading from award-winning poet Lucille Clifton.
For the past ten years, Sarah has also written gay love stories for Dreamspinner Press where she has a new novella, “War Paint” coming out this week. But fiction doesn’t exactly pay the bills. “A person could make more money selling plasma than writing fiction,” she quips.
Sarah began seeking out nonfiction writing, like at Verblio as a freelance writer, in order to lessen the isolation of being a full-time artist and also to support her creative goals. But she has found that the structure and process of researching and writing business content has also improved her creative practices in art, fiction, and poetry.
For visual art and for creative writing,” Sarah explains, “the idea is the important foundation. The idea can develop during the process of the work, but meaning is the foundation.
New ideas bubble up through Sarah’s writing and it’s almost as if projects and passions are building momentum as she types. And this potency in her own writing is, I think, well represented in her reading list (Sarah loves the Beats: “I’m crazy about Kerouac”) and her poetry preferences, too (TS Eliot, Billy Collins, & Allen Ginsberg, among others). Sarah clearly reads broadly and voraciously and says that she is especially fond of the sci-fi/fantasy genre sometimes referred to as the “New Weird” which includes writers like China Miéville and William Gibson.
As for current projects? Sarah recently re-opened a shop for digital art downloads on Etsy (Black and Blue Fine Art) and has been further exploring the world as seen through a lens. She says she has been “roaming around the alleyways of downtown, taking pictures of abandoned buildings.”
Here’s a snapshot from downtown Roanoke:
Thank you so much to Sarah for taking the time to send along thoughtful and beautifully written replies to my many questions. We are so thrilled to have you as part of our freelance writer community!