As a child, Beth Mulkins drew inspiration from Farley Mowat, Rachel Carson and David Suzuki. Moved by accounts of resistance fighters in World War II, the Holocaust and a Time magazine piece on Children of War, she decided that she wanted to be an overseas war correspondent. Following that dream, she enrolled in Ryerson University’s journalism program, intending to specialize in magazine journalism. When she learned how the program was structured, however, and how newspaper and broadcast journalism took up the first two years, she decided she “did not want to wait until the third year of the program to get to the meat and potatoes of my interest.”
Instead, she transferred to the University of Toronto for their undergraduate program in English and Anthropology, so that she could jump right into studying other cultures. “My interest in writing about First Nations and other cultures intensified while at U of T,” she explains.
From there, she went on to complete her Masters in Social Anthropological Analysis at the University of Cambridge, and afterwards decided to focus her writing on international development, women’s and children’s health, HIV/AIDS, international conflict and human rights issues around the world, finding that “the perspective of a social sciences background opens up more avenues for making connections between people and facets of culture through writing.”
She got her start as a freelance writer in 2007, writing a piece about special needs children for Helium. Having always been drawn to writing in one form or another, she’s worked on everything from “short stories, children’s stories, essays on world issues, applied anthropological analyses [and] archaeology,” and has continued freelancing part-time for about four years now.
She enjoys the flexibility that freelancing brings to her schedule, as well as the variety of assignments. She does, however, sometimes find the lack of consistent work to be a challenge at times, as can balancing deadlines. “I also miss coffee breaks socializing with colleagues,” she admits.
One of her favourite jobs so far took her to South Korea to teach English. While there, she was also able to pick up some freelance writing and editing work for educational and corporate institutions in Asia. These days, she’s currently doing freelance editing for Cambridge Language Consultants and offering her services as a social researcher. She’d also like to focus more on human rights and food security issues, and write and illustrate more children’s stories.
For those just getting started in the freelance writing business, she suggests that “it is better to suss out a decent contract at a good living wage than to sign something that pays too little, in return for a huge amount of effort that is not appreciated.”
You can learn more about Beth and read about her family’s time spent in South Korea on her blog. She also maintains another blog, The First World War Diaries and Correspondence of Reginald Mulkins, which contains scans of her grandfather’s war diaries, letters and sketches.