Friday, November 30, 2007

Writing Something Nice

One of my new favorite writing blogs is Freelance Writing Jobs. Today, Deb Ng challenged everyone to say something nice this weekend. I think it's a great idea -- because too many times I come across writers being mean to each other in the blogosphere. What's up with that? I have a lot of nice things to say, and here's a few of them!

1. I've got a lot of great friends and acquaintances who always come through for me when I need sources. I swear my friend Christi needs to start up her own public relations firm in Lake Norman -- that woman knows everybody!

2. I've got a lot of great editors who toss fun assignments my way and then constructively critique me so I turn in my best work. I'm trying to improve my skills, really!

3. Lately I've been corresponding with a few other writers asking me for advice about the business. Really, little old me. It's very flattering and they probably didn't realize that when I start talking about writing, it's hard to get me to shut up. Thanks for listening, even when I probably gave you way too much information (is there such a thing)?

4. I'm always so impressed at how friendly the baristas over at Starbucks are. I once overheard one of them complaining because she had just made a drink for a guy who wouldn't get off his cellphone or acknowledge her during the entire transaction. Those people are my heroes. Ever since then I go out of my way to smile and be friendly. How much time does that really take? If I could do what they do I wouldn't be in there everyday. Give a little credit where credit is due. I know this isn't related to writing, really, but I wouldn't be able to write without coffee and I know I'm not alone in that!

Pay it forward. Say (or write) something nice this weekend. I dare you! Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Introducing My Writing Space

It's actually more like a haven. This used to be a formal living room in our house that didn't have any french doors closing it off. I always envisioned turning it into our home office, but about six months ago I began imagining it as a writing study. After I started bringing in more work consistently, my dream was realized. My husband did some framing and drywalling, we had the doors hung and painted, we ordered the furniture, painted the room, and voila! Here you have it!

I think it's so important for writers (published or not) to have their own writing space. It doesn't have to be a home office, per se, but these days it's easy to be creative. You can work virtually from a coffee shop (free WiFi is always a necessity for me -- I promise I'll make up for it with the amount of coffee I consume) and I've also seen neat spaces that take up half a guest bedroom or a set-up in a butler's pantry. Whatever the case, I didn't feel like I was taken seriously until I had a honest to goodness desk that was all mine. It may sound silly, but that's me. I took these photos because I had just cleaned off my desk and moved the toys that had mysteriously appeared in front of my desk out of the room. I don't know when it will look this clean again anytime soon and I had to record the moment for posterity!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Start With the Locals

Publications, that is. I've received e-mails recently from women in my area who are hoping to break into freelancing. I could write a book on how to I guess, but a few other writers already have and they did a good job of it. Right off the bat I'd have to recommend "How To Make A Real Living As a Freelance Writer" by Jenna Glatzer and "Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids" by Christina Katz. I have an article that Christina wrote that I'd like to share with you:

Build Up Your Clips Writing For Local Publications
By Christina Katz

When I decided to start writing articles, all I had in my clip file was articles I’d published in student publications. So when a local writing teacher, who was also the editor of a local business journal, invited me to write for her publication, I jumped at the chance. The result was “Hollywood Rx for the Holidays,” an article I have reprinted several times and continue to submit today.

A common mistake beginning writers make is to overlook local markets as a source of publication. Maybe this is because we dream of seeing our byline in The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated or, one of my secret fantasies, O magazine. While there is nothing wrong with setting lofty goals, the path to getting from unpublished status to a glossy national publication is most often right in front of our very noses… in other words right where we live.

Writing for local publications is a good idea for several reasons:

1) It’s often easier to get an assignment from a local publication, than a national publication.

2) Contact with a local editor can lead to future writing assignments.

3) You can compile clips more quickly writing locally than you can pitching publications with larger audiences and longer lead times.

Well, that’s fine advice, you may be thinking, but how should I go about contacting local editors? The answer is the same way you contact any editor. First, familiarize yourself with their publication. Then generate a list of story ideas you can pitch. Then pick your best idea and write the actual article or draft a query letter to the appropriate editor.

If you are wondering if you should send your inquiry by mail or by email, I suggest you send it by mail with any clips you already have, as well as a resume, if you have a writing background. If you don’t have a writing background, skip the resume, unless your professional experience is pertinent to the idea you are proposing. Be sure to let the editor know that you are open for assignments, if that is the case.

An initial contact by “snail mail” will make a stronger impression than email, but email works well once the editor knows who you are. If you don’t hear back in two weeks, a polite phone follow-up is the logical next step. Don’t be too nervous, you’re simply letting this local editor know that you are available to serve them. Without groveling, this is pretty much the appropriate attitude, if you want to get an assignment.

When I assigned writers articles for American Northwest Vintage Homes online magazine, I was generally looking for a few important qualities. I want to know that the writer would work conscientiously, get the assignment done on time and write with enough of a unique style to set our magazine apart from competing publications. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that an article for a local publication will be any less work than an article for a national publication. Besides, you want to write an article strong enough to appeal to a national audience, so it will serve you well as a clip later.

Whether you are a beginning writer who needs to build up a portfolio of clips, or an experienced writer who wants to develop new clips in different genres – what are you waiting for? Contact those local editors and get writing!

Christina Katz is the author of Writer Mama, How To Raise A Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (February, 2007, Writer’s Digest Books). She has been doing just that for the past five years and has published over 200 articles in magazines, newspapers, and online publications. She teaches eight nonfiction-writing classes a year and is publisher and editor of the online monthly zine, Writers On The Rise, voted by Writer’s Digest as one of the “101 Top Web Sites” for writers. Christina is a graduate of Dartmouth College and has an MFA in Fiction from Columbia College, Chicago. Visit or or for the latest about Christina.

Copyright © 2003 Christina Katz
Article originally appeared in Writers On The Rise.

I completely agree with Christina. I think a lot of times aspiring writers are quick to jump the gun and submit queries straight to national magazines. I have been guilty of that myself. But I can honestly say that while I have yet to have an idea accepted by a national publication, I write regularly for local publications that have become my "bread and butter" so to speak. I have a consistent stream of income from them and have the opportunity to write on a variety of topics, which I hope will one day catapult me into one of those women's service magazines. I'm very grateful for my local editors who are comfortable doling out big assignments to me, and I hope to maintain those relationships for a long time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Call For Sources!

I'm swamped these days. And I need help! Would you like to see your name in an online article? I'm working on a few things for iParenting Media that I need sources for:

Pregnancy Doctor's Office Visit Primer:
The article will include a breakdown of all those darned office visits and why you have to submit a urine sample and have your blood pressure taken each time. What exactly are they looking for? At what point can you expect to be at the doctor's office once a week? When does the ultrasound and glucose testing occur? I'd love to include some anecdotes from some moms who remember those days, or who may be going through them right now! What was your least favorite part of the visits? Were any surprise medical conditions discovered during this time period?

Parents of Twins
The first year of a baby's life is a joyous and often harrowing experience for new parents. But what about the parents of multiples? Did you have the frightful experience of having two children on two different schedules during that first year? When did it happen and how did you get through it? Did you seek the help of your pediatrician?

Speech Development in Second, Third, Etc. Children
The idea for this article was inspired by my son's lack of speech development so far. His sister was talking non-stop at this age and he's very choosey about what he says. I've often heard second children (especially boys) begin talking later than their siblings. Have you had an experience like this? How did you deal with it? What kind of advice did your pediatrician or child care provider give you? I'd love to hear your stories!

If you can help me with any of these topics, please e-mail me by Nov. 25 at Include your full name and city and state of residence. Thank you!