Drinking Coffee with Writers - Katarina Hybenova - 2

Photo by Maya Harsaniova

One day, while I was walking down the street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, I witnessed a building go up in flames.

I was close to the fire, and my millennial brain propelled me to whip out my camera and snap away. I didn’t just want to post them on social media, though, so I emailed them to a local news website called Bushwick Daily.

Editor-in-chief Katarina Hybenova responded, publishing my photos within minutes.

No one was hurt in the fire, so I felt slightly less guilty about the process of witnessing and reporting on something. In the end, I thought, “why not give local journalism a try?”

I submitted myself as a contributor, and a week later I was sipping cocktails on a sun-soaked patio with 10 other writers and Katarina herself.

Immediately, I knew she’d be a blast to work with. She’s was a platinum blonde boss babe with an amazing sense of humor, and she called me Mishka, which I appreciated—it’s one of my nicknames, yanno.

I soon learned that she’s also a stellar content manager, thoughtful editor, and natural leader.

Her resume includes positions as digital editor at massive local news website QNS, as well as founder and editorial director of Bushwick Daily. She was also a 2014 fellow at Tow Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism.

…oh, and she used to be a lawyer. How badass is this gal?

I thought she would be the perfect person to interview for the launch of our brand new series, Drinking Coffee with Writers.

Below, check out her top tips for writers and discover how she spends a typical day (hint: it involves getting up at 5:30AM to write).

First things first: Favorite coffee?

I actually stopped drinking coffee about 2 years ago! I can’t believe it’s been that long.

I stopped after I realized that caffeine is making me and my work a little bit too frantic.

Also, I want to listen to my intuition as much as I can, and I felt like being all caffeinated prevented me from doing so.

Now I drink plenty of water and sometimes decaf chai.

Walk us through a typical day in your life. 

These days I wake up between 5:30 and 6 a.m. to feed my cats, meditate, feed myself, and work on the manuscript of my memoir.

Very newly, I also work on videos for my writing/reading Youtube channel.

At about 8:30 a.m. I set off for work.

I work as digital editor-in-chief at QNS.com*. While on my commute I communicate with Emilie Ruscoe, Bushwick Daily’s fab managing editor, about daily whereabouts of Bushwick Daily.

After I am done with work, I come home and work out.

Whether it’s playing tennis with my husband at Highland Park or doing workouts with Sweat with Kayla app.

Afterward, I prepare my meals for the next day while listening to an audiobook.

I try to be in bed by 10 p.m.

You have a clear talent for local reporting. How did you get into local journalism, and what made it stick?

Thank you! I feel a strong desire to explore neighborhoods and share my cool finds with a larger audience.

I love how local journalism really impacts people and how passionate they get about their immediate surroundings.

That’s what keeps me going.

I got into local journalism because of my love and fascination for Bushwick where I moved to in 2010.

I simply had to share what I’d learned about it.

Tell us a little bit about your getting-up-at-5AM-to-write routine. How has it helped your work?

I realized that if I don’t want to wait to write my books until I am retired, I had to find time to write.

I took a good look at my day and how I spend it and I realized that my evenings were rarely used in a productive way.

I was usually only watching TV and staying up pretty late, which in turn made me want to sleep longer the next day.

I decided to change that and create that morning time for myself to work on my writing projects.

I read this short book by Laura Vanderkam and that got me going.

Writing daily for just an hour or two brings huge results over time and in less than a year I was able to write a 100,000-word-long manuscript and edit it three times.

How do you keep organized with multiple writing projects?

I plan a lot, especially because planning is not my strong suit. I create daily goals and fill in my calendar with accomplishments.

Finally, what would be your #1 piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Write! Start right now.

Don’t wait until your dream publication knocks on your door. Create a blog and start getting really good in your selected niche.

Nothing beats experience and thanks to the internet you can get it right now.

Just the sole act of starting to write will set you on a journey you can’t even imagine.

All the people you’ll meet, all the contacts you create might just get you where you wanted to be in the first place.

*Since giving this interview, Katarina left her position at QNS to return to Bushwick Daily full time.

Want to hang with other writers like you? Join us in our Facebook group, Wi-Fi Writers Club

Freelance Writing Tips - Day Job Optional Newsletter

Michelle Christina Larsen is the Co-founder of Day Job Optional. Strong coffee, strong wi-fi, and absurd inside jokes are some of her favorite things. While a self-proclaimed side project addict, writing remains the ultimate focus of her life. After a decade of freelance writing in the fashion industry, she's teaching fellow freelancers how to dominate their niches and make full-time incomes online.

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