A typical morning for Leslie Goldman finds her in front of her laptop writing away at eight a.m. Three days a week, she works from home, twice a week she heads to the local coffee shop where she indulges in some liquid refreshment to keep her going. She’s either pitching a story, meeting a deadline or deep in an interview for her next publication. As a freelance writer, Leslie has published articles in O Magazine, Redbook, Health, Runner’s World, Glamour and Ladies Home Journal– and that’s just to name a few.
Leslie didn’t start out with any ambitions to become a writer. At the University of Wisconsin, she planned to take up medicine and become a doctor. In her senior year, Leslie took a mandatory journalism class and discovered that she enjoyed writing for the college newspaper. A professor tried to encourage her to consider switching careers to one that included writing for a living. “I gave the standard answer, ‘I want to be a doctor to help people,'” said Leslie. “The professor knew that I was struggling in organic chemistry and physics– I had to kill myself to get good grades. He was the first person who made me feel that I could take up writing for a living.” After careful consideration, Leslie withdrew her application for medical school, graduated with a degree in Nutritional Science and applied for newspaper and magazine jobs.
Leslie’s first freelance article ended up in Details magazine for men. It was a simple Q and A piece that asked the question, How can I get rid of my hickey? “I had to find a dermatologist who was willing to talk to me about hickeys!” Leslie laughed. “There’s really no way to get rid of hickeys– there’s only prevention.”
A Masters degree in Public Health gave Leslie even more credibility and she began to land freelance assignments on health topics. Leslie’s own struggle with an eating disorder was the inspiration for her book, Locker Room Diaries, which explored the issue of why women are so hard on their own perceptions of their bodies. Leslie spent five years conducting interviews with women of all shapes, ages and sizes– often while clad in nothing but a towel. With her book and personal experience, Leslie began to be known as a body image expert. She has made a dozen appearances on the Today show, including a memorable segment that featured a life-size Barbie doll– whose measurements translated into a 6-foot, 90 pound figure.
“I have changed how I view my body,” said Leslie reflecting on her growth since her college days. “My eating disorder used to rule my life– I would work out every day– and I was barely eating. With therapy and maturity, I came to realize that it wasn’t about my body, it was about other issues that I was trying to deal with. I still have my bad days when I look in the mirror and say, ‘my butt is so big,’ but it doesn’t rule my life like it used to.”
The ultimate freelance accomplishment was starting to write for O magazine. “I just pitched them a few stories and one of them stuck–an article about professional patient advocacy,” said Leslie. “I learned about health advocates from a friend who is a nurse.” Leslie has since published five more articles in the magazine. Her next goal is to see an article in print in Martha Stewart’s Living magazine. Even with all of her experience and years of freelancing, Leslie experiences a twinge of self-doubt every now and then. “I don’t have self-doubt when I’m writing, but it may appear when pitching a story or trying to get an assignment,” Leslie explained. “I might think, ‘Maybe they won’t like me,’ but I just keep trying. If I don’t hear back, then I try again or try another editor. You have to have a thick skin to accept rejection.”
A second and third book are in the works. “Fat and Back,” will be released in January, 2012– the story of Paul James, an Australian personal trainer who was a former underwear model for Calvin Klein and other designers. Paul purposely gained half of his body weight in three months, so that he could experience what his clients were going through with weight issues. “Paul thought he could gain and lose the weight with no problem,” said Leslie. “He wound up struggling with his body image and becoming addicted to junk food–it was harder than he ever imagined. It is part memoir–and part diet and nutrition book.” Leslie third book focuses on a psychotherapist who began a non-profit organization to teach middle-school girls to become agents of social change, using puppy rescue as a backdrop.
A book about struggles with fertility may be on a future list as Leslie plans to drawn on her own journey toward becoming a mom. But for now, she is enjoying the perks that freelance writing brings in the summer: the ability to kick back in the hammock with a good book.
A sampling of Leslie’s articles: