Ailey: Poet, Editor, Contributing Writer

Name: Ailey O’Toole

Age: 23

City: Morrisville, North Carolina

Main Hustle: Bartender

Side Hustle: Poet, editor, contributing writer

How did you get started?: I took an Introduction to Poetry class for a general literature requirement my freshman year of college (when I was majoring in Pre-Med!), and my professor pulled me aside at the end of the semester and told me I had a real talent for poetry and I should consider switching my major. I went home that day and changed it!

When/where do you work on your Side Hustle?: Any time I’m not working as a bartender. Some days I bartend in the morning, and some days in the evening, so timing is flexible. However, I’m almost always plugging away on my writing from 12-2 am. Something about the night brings out my muse. I split my work environment between my bedroom and the Starbucks near my house. I love a good Americano!

What are the challenges of your Side Hustle?: I feel most myself when writing/editing, and I want to be able to do it all the time, but I’m not making enough money off of it to quit my main hustle. I’d like to make a career out of writing and editing, but I haven’t gotten to that place yet. When I’m behind the bar, all I want to do is get home to my books and my journals and my submissions. It’s hard to not be able to focus on that full-time because it’s so fulfilling. Hopefully I’ll be able to focus all my time and energy on it one day!

What are the rewards of your Side Hustle?:

I write a lot about my experience with mental health and suicide, and so many people have reached out to me that they’ve found solace in my work. Most of my author bios mention that I hope anyone who reads my work feels less alone in their struggle, so when I get those messages, it’s euphoric. I also read/edit for journals focusing on mental health, queer folks, POC ,and those with diverse abilities, and it is such an honor to be able to elevate voices that have been ignored for so long.

Who is your greatest supporter?: My boyfriend, John! He is the best. He’s not artistically inclined whatsoever, but he’s become really well-versed in pobiz lingo and in all the things I’m having to work on to prepare for the release of my first poetry collection. He also posts about all my accomplishments on Facebook. He’s so supportive and caring.

Who/what is your greatest source of inspiration?: Christine Adams, my professor who encouraged me to pursue poetry. I may never have started seriously writing without her encouragement, and she’s helped me a great deal along the way. I strive to make her proud with everything I do. She’s also an incredibly talented writer herself; she’s been featured in Best New Poets twice!

Have you received recognition for your work?: I was a featured writer for the God Is In The TV webzine (, one of my poems was selected as editor’s pick for an issue of Rhythm and Bones Lit Mag (, and the wonderful people at Peculiars Magazine interviewed me about my mental health and its intersection with my writing ( Also, my debut book of poetry “Grief, and What Comes After” is due out from Rhythm and Bones Lit this December!

What is your dream for your Side Hustle?: I’d like to go back to school for my MFA and then become a professor. I’d also like to start my own journal at some point. However, I am incredibly lucky to have as many opportunities as I’ve had.

Do you have any advice for others working on a Side Hustle?:

Don’t give up on it! Even if you can only work an hour a day in between jobs, keep at it. If it’s important to you, it’s a valuable pursuit. And the more you keep at it, the more you’ll benefit.

To learn more about Ailey’s Side Hustles, visit her website, follow along on Instagram and Twitter, or reach out via email to connect tor collaborate.

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