G3 went straight to Natalie Davis Miller for this first installment of Sports Jobs. The purpose of Sports Jobs is to pass along some words of wisdom from the experts.
At 53-years old, this Granger, Indiana resident has a very unique resume! Natalie is a former police officer and adjunct professor. Her current role, Director of Faculty Development at Brown Mackie College, demands more than the average 40-hour work week. Not to mention, she is the mother of two school-aged children and volunteer.
So how does this freelance writer and author of three sports biographies for kids (pictured below and available here at Amazon) balance it all?
“I am super busy now. I could do better. But I make it a point and habit to get to writing. Even if it’s only 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. I also send it out to other people to look over.”
And what’s even more intriguing about Natalie’s story is that she never really set out to be a sports journalist. That said, writing has been a constant companion to her since she was a very young girl.
Once a writer, always a writer.
Natalie loved stories. “I would write stories and go read them to my mother. She was usually in the kitchen cooking and she would say, ‘That’s good, go write me another one.’ I don’t even know if I was writing then- probably scribbles on a page- and I would just tell her my story.”
It was that early encouragement that readied her for a brief stint of primetime at the ripe age of 10. Yes, just 10- years old! Natalie and classmate Jolene Merida decided to publish a class newsletter. According to Natalie, this endeavor only lasted for one issue because the girls got tired of writing everything out in longhand.
Natalie jokes: “You know you are a writer if you have ever dreamt of owning a mimeograph machine!” For those that don’t know, a mimeograph machine was used back in the day to make duplicate copies.
Don’t want to miss a thing.
Natalie’s husband, Greg, teases her sometimes because she spends so much time working on her craft.
Part of her interviewing process includes transcribing. She also jots down some notes during the interview with pen and paper instead of using a laptop or computer. A computer would put space between her and the subject. That’s not how she rolls. She wants to be open to the conversation and present during the process.
Transcription adds time on any given project. But that doesn’t matter to Natalie, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I want to capture everything. I don’t ever want to misquote them.”
One time she was interviewing a coach over the phone and she just let him talk and talk and talk. Sometimes, those juicy interview nuggets come out after all the questions have been asked and answered. After the interviewee and interviewer get comfy.
One thing led to another.
Natalie has been in the freelancing game for seventeen years and has written hundreds of articles for online and print resources. Her first book actually began as an article on Cullen Jones for Racing Toward Diversity magazine. But then she pitched it to former classmate, Kim Childress, who worked at Zondervan Publishing at that time.
“The selling point for [Jones] was that he was a super tall African-American athlete not playing basketball. He was often mistaken for a basketball player. What people don’t know is that height gives you tremendous advantage in swimming.”
Next she worked with the queen of snowboarding, Kelly Clark. Clark is a dominant force in snowboarding today not to mention an Olympic Gold medalist. Natalie says that Clark was a pleasure to work with.
Recently, Natalie’s third book was released, Swimming with Faith, The Missy Franklin Story.
“I couldn’t interview Missy Franklin because she was still a college athlete at the time. Her parents were very concerned with protecting her college eligibility and I totally respect that.”
But this did not stop Natalie. With the help of social media and YouTube she was able to mine out the important details of Franklin, the swimming phenom.
“Sometimes people will tell you [writing a biography like this is] easy, but it’s not if you work at it! I was super-super cautious. I had my daughter go through everything again, after I’d been through it thoroughly. I had so many pages of citations, I would never ever want to plagiarize,” she insisted.
Aside from marketing and selling Swimming with Faith, Natalie is now working on a life-long dream.
“I am earnestly trying to break into the young adult and children’s fiction market. Fiction has always been my passion; it was just easier to get published in non-fiction first. You need to have something to show publishers so I worked on building that up first.”
For her, inspiration is everywhere.
Natalie does not have to look very far for inspiration. She says it’s kind of like a moving target when asked who inspires her.
“My kids inspire me when I see how hard they work. They are high achievers in school and in their other projects. My husband inspires me because he is the hardest working, God-loving, take-care-of-family man I know.
Natalie continues: “My mom inspires me – she went to nursing school back in a time when they only allowed two blacks in at a time. She can remember colored-only water fountains. But she went to college and got a degree in nursing. She became an RN – Nurse practitioner. I could go on. There are people who inspire me daily.”
Note to Natalie’s 12-year old self.
In the end, we asked Natalie what advice she’d give to her younger self. She had this to say:
“I would probably tell my 12-year old self, you can do this. You can make a living off of writing. Just keep at it! Having said that, I pursued other things – I got a B.A. in Psychology, an M.A. in Criminal Justice … But I wouldn’t change a thing. That trajectory gave me a lot of knowledge and experience. It also put me on a path to meet my husband. We have two beautiful daughters and a wonderful life. I wouldn’t change that for the world.”
Feeling like a schlub after reading this driven girls story? Stop that (but I totally know what you mean)!
Natalie is an inspiration for us all.
To follow Natalie’s writing adventures on Facebook, go here.