Monday, December 26, 2016

Make More Time for Writing

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

I just read the article “Make (More) Time for Writing” by Amy Sue Nathan in the Writer’s Digest Yearbook Fall 2016. She quotes author David Abrams who gave up blogging to write more fiction. “…it was the kudzu of my writing life…I had to sacrifice the blog to make more room for the work-in-progress.”

When I started this blog, it tapped into a creative vein. Thoughts and ideas appeared on the page every time I sat down to write a post about writing. I loved blogging! I also wanted to share some of my favorite books with other writers so "Reads for Writers" were fun to write, too.

After four years and four months, blogging now feels more like a chore than a creative outlet. I have other writing projects to work on; therefore, I’m changing things up.

Instead of weekly, I’m going to write one post published on the last Monday of each month.

Thank you for reading my blog posts to this point. I hope you will continue to do so.

Cheryl and I started this blog to encourage writers to write. I hope we succeeded. I also hope you continue working on your own creative projects.

Next post will appear on January 30th.   

Changed my mind. Still writing weekly posts.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Reads for Writers: A Jane Austen Christmas by Carlo DeVito

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          If you love Jane Austen’s novels, you will love A Jane Austen Christmas: Celebrating the Season of Romance, Ribbons, and Mistletoe by Carlo DeVito. In the six Christmases described in this book, readers learn about Jane’s early writings, her first love, and Austen family traditions.

Literary Background:

          “Reading aloud in the family circle—fiction and non-fiction—was a favorite amusement of the time and practiced regularly by the Austens,”…Reverend Austen had a rich library filled with books of all kinds. From the time that Jane and Cassy [Jane’s sister] could read well enough, their father’s library was open to them with little editing. (page 34)

          It was with this generosity of spirit and a love for his youngest daughter that George Austen indulged Jane in her passion. He and she shared a love of books, but Reverend Austen was much taken with his daughter’s desire to write. He intended to encourage it. (page 51)

          “For her nineteenth birthday [December 16th], Mr. Austen bought Jane ‘a small mahogany writing desk with 1 long drawer and glass ink stand compleat’ which he purchased…for 12 [shillings],”. (page 51)…This desk was to have immense importance in her life, and it marked a significant shift in her writing and attitude. Jane would begin many of her great works writing on this very desk. (page 53)

Christmas Happenings:

          Christmastide of 1795 was a highlight for the twenty-year-old Jane Austen not only because it heralded the start of the ball season, but because it was the meeting of the first great love of her life. (page 67)

          The highlight of the Christmastide season for adults, especially young adults, was a series of dances and balls…(page 69)

          “Modern readers are sometimes puzzled as to why dance scenes have so prominent a place in Jane Austen’s novels; but in her lifetime the dance floor was the best, and indeed the only place, where marriage partners could be identified and courtship could flourish,”…(page 70)

          Jane was an enthusiastic participant. One December she wrote to Cassandra that she had danced twenty dances “without any fatigue—I was glad to find myself capable of being able to dance so much & with so much satisfaction as I did…” (page 73)

          In the Christmastide of 1795, Tom Lefroy went to the country to spend the holiday with his aunt, Madame Lefroy. During the course of that season, and during four balls given in that time, a romance took place that would mark Austen’s writings for the rest of her life. And Lefroy himself would become a character who would be recycled and reinvented several times over. (page 80) [All the heartbreaking details follow on pp. 81-89.]

          The text is rounded out with many details about entertaining throughout the Christmas season, recipes, and mores of the time. Jane’s letters as well as paintings and illustrations of various people in her life are blended in to give this book depth—a great gift for any fan of Jane Austen.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Quote to Live By

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          In the midst of fun/exhausting holiday festivities while still meeting deadlines, I came across a New Year’s card that I will be sending to all my friends and family members.

          Pictured on the front are two Labs, one yellow and one black, running all out in the snow straight toward the reader—pure joy in motion.

Along the top it says:

If we are ever to enjoy life, now is the time, not tomorrow or next year…Today should always be our most wonderful day.                 --Thomas Dreier

Inside the card, it says:

Wishing you a year filled with wonderful days.
          Happy New Year!

I’m not waiting until New Year’s to send these cards. Everyone should start having their most wonderful days right now!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Book Shopping Time is Now Writing Time

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

(I had grand plans for my December blog posts, but illness has changed everything. I love the Backpack Literature course I'm auditing. I shouldn't have scheduled it during the holidays. Rather than rush it, I'm moving my next Backpack Literature review to January 30th.

I've moved up posts I wrote in advance so I can rest up and recover. Hope to be back on track with book reviews soon.)

          Not buying any more books for a year as discussed in my November 14th post has already freed up a lot more time for writing. I didn’t realize how often I visited online book-selling sites. Some people facebook. I just book.
         Almost daily, I used to check out new titles and titles-new-to-me. Between recommendations from friends, family, and coworkers and book reviews, something always piqued my interest. Sometimes I would buy, sometimes just put it in the cart.

I confess I buy more books than I delete. If you are a voracious reader who likes to make books her own with underlining and marginalia, it’s hard not to buy books. Since most of my friends and family give me bookstore certificates for gifts and I give myself a book budget, it's easy to buy books.

Also, I read every day. I read more than I do anything else—except writing on deadline.

Yes, this means I get up very early so I can read an hour or two before my day’s responsibilities start. I read while I watch TV and when waiting in lines or waiting for someone. I do my chores and run my errands as efficiently as possible so I have more time to read.

My jobs require reading so even when I’m working, I’m reading.

I need a steady stream of incoming books so I never have to scramble for books to review and so I’m never bored. However, I created a backlog for myself (buying ten more books than I read each year for a decade adds up); hence, the no buying of books for a year.

I’ve changed my habits. I’m not visiting online sites that sell books so I’m not tempted to browse or buy. If I hear about an interesting book, I look it up. If interested, I put it in my shopping cart and leave the web site. If I visit my local bookstore, I’m buying only a writing magazine or two.

Now I have more time to write. With the holiday season here, I’m trying to write my posts and book reviews in advance so I can enjoy all the festivities.

A big upside to my new way of life, I’m saving money. Since there are always bills to pay, a retirement to fund as well as opportunities for family fun, this money will be well spent or saved.

I never have and never will consider buying books a waste of money or reading a waste of time. I’m reading the same amount of time. I’ve merely narrowed down the book choices to those already in my home. 

Once I’ve caught up, I’ll go back to buying books. There will always be a backlog, but I’ll never let it build up to the point I have to stop buying books for a year—maybe only a month or two.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Best Bookmarks: Gifts for Readers and Writers

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I like to look at pretty and clever bookmarks, but I don’t use them—mostly because I can never find them when I need them. If I’m reading my own books either I turn the books over and leave them splayed where I left off or I use a ripped scrap of paper from a nearby magazine or note pad. This is also what I use when marking a page in a friend’s book.

I know there are sticky page marker tabs. They are perfect bookmarks if you take one and stick it to the book cover. Whenever you need it, there it is. Peel it off and stick it to a page. When you start reading the book again, peel it off and stick it back on the cover. But the pads are so small, I can’t always find them either.

Then some neon page markers caught my eye. The bright pink, orange, yellow, green, and blue translucent tabs are stuck to a clear sheet of plastic. Between the neon colors and the size of the backing, they are easy to find in a drawer, on a desk, or a bedside table.

I love the colors so much I have given up folding the bottom corners of pages to denote favorite sentences and passages. I now put a neon sticky tab on each of those pages. Since they are translucent, I don’t have to move them to reread a page.

I stagger the tabs and colors. Sticking up about a quarter of an inch, they look like confetti—a party in a book—which makes me smile every time I see them.

If you are looking for a gift or stocking stuffer for a reader or writer, these neon sticky page markers are a fun choice!

Due to illness, Backpack Literature post will run next week.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Reads for Writers: Why We Write About Ourselves edited by Meredith Maran

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I write first person essays for several outlets so when I discovered Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature edited by Meredith Maran, I had to read it. Another selling point, several of my favorite memoirists are in the book including Anne Lamott, Sue Monk Kidd, and Cheryl Strayed. After reading the book, I have many more memoirists’ work I want to read.

Each chapter begins with an introduction of the memoirist, vital stats, a list of published works, then his or her answer to: Why I write about myself? The rest of the chapter subheadings are different as each author discusses his or her writing process and beliefs. At the end of each chapter, there are Words of Wisdom for Memoirists.

Here are some of my favorite passages:        

“Don’t be afraid of writing into the heart of what you’re most afraid of. The story of life lives in what you would rather not admit or say.”
--Kate Christensen (page 20)

“…I firmly believe that there are things we already know and spend a lot of time resisting. You can try, but the amount of energy you spend trying not to know what you already know will be exhausting.”                     
--A. M. Homes (page 102)

“The reason to write memoir is to put something important out into the collective consciousness, to distill one human life as you’ve come to understand it…”
--Anne Lamott (page 140)

“Know that the writing will lead you to places you can’t imagine you will go…writing comes from a place beneath intellectual consciousness. The only way to get to that place is by writing. Trust the magic of that process.”
--James McBride (page 164)

“My work doesn’t hinge on shock value. I tell only what needs to be told for the work to reach its full potential. I’m not interested in confession. I’m interested in revelation.
--Cheryl Strayed (page 212)

“If you’re not uncomfortable and scared while you’re writing, you’re not writing close enough to the bone.”
--Ayelet Waldman (page 230)

“You get the most powerful material when you write toward whatever hurts. Don’t avoid it. Don’t run from it. Don’t write toward what’s easy. We recognize our humanity in those most difficult moments that people share.
--Jesmyn Ward (page 242)

 I want to read many of the books listed by the authors in Why We Write About Ourselves including Ayelet Waldman’s Love and Other Impossible Pursuits which sounded interesting and familiar. Searching through my unread books, I found it—a future book review.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Year Without New Books

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          About five months ago I reviewed Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill. In this memoir, Hill goes looking for her copy of Howards End on her landing, but it isn’t in that bookcase or in the many other bookcases in several other rooms. By the time she finds it, Hill comes across about 200 books she hadn’t read yet. Deciding to read these books, Hill decides she will not buy any new books, unless required by her publishing job, for a year.
         I’ve been reorganizing some of my books and realized I have a few hundred of my own that I haven’t read or started but haven’t finished.

How does this happen?

It’s easy. While I read every book I received as a gift or bought through the Scholastic catalog in school when a child, as an adult I can buy or borrow more books than I have time to read. As I’m a voracious reader, most friends and family members give me gift certificates to bookstores for birthdays and holidays and it doesn’t take long to fill a shopping cart/basket.

Although I read and write for a living, I have to read most books on deadline. When looking for novels to review, I have to read two or three to find one to I’d like to review. For non-fiction, I don’t have to finish reading the book before I decide if it is review-worthy so I save a little time there, but end up with a lot of partially read books.

I don’t get rid of them because sometimes these books are review-worthy, but I can’t complete reading them with enough time to write the review by deadline so I save them for the future. Sometimes I need to digest books so a few months after I read them I decide to review them. No wonder books pile up.

Not surprisingly, I have decided not to buy any books for a year. This moratorium started on November 1st.

So far so good! All these unread books caught my interest or they wouldn’t be piled up in my home so it’s not painful to concentrate on them. As I read and review them, I’ll lend or give them to friends or donate them—unless I truly love them. These books will grace the shelves of my personal library.

Unfortunately, the pain will come when I hear or read about fantastic new books or favorite authors have new releases. Luckily, I can make a list or pile these books in an online shopping cart. In only fifty weeks, I’ll have room to pile them up at home again!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Reads for Writers: Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

         I believe in supporting writers of all ages so I’m recommending Word After Word After Word by Newbery Medal-winning author Patricia MacLachlan. While written for children ages 8-12, this book is inspirational for writers of all ages.  

In summation: Miss Cash’s fourth grade class welcomes Ms. Mirabel, a writer who will be speaking to them for six weeks about how writer’s work. On her first day with the children, Ms. Mirabel was asked if what she wrote was real or unreal. She replied, “Real or unreal. They’re just about the same…They are both all about magical words!” (page 16)

Later Ms. Mirabel whispers to a student named Lucy who isn’t sure she has anything to say, “You have a story in there…Or a character, a place, a poem, a moment in time. When you find it, you will write it. Word after word after word.” (pp. 20 & 21)

“Remember this if you remember anything from our time together,” said Ms. Mirabel. “Writing…is…brave. You are brave.” (page 114)

Great advice for writers of any age!

In this book, five of the students meet under a lilac bush to discuss writing and the happenings in their lives. True to real life, the children are experiencing happiness, tragedy, and changes they have no control over. As words come to them, they write poems and stories.
         When I was a child, I dreamed of being a writer. I had stories and songs and poems inside me that I jotted down. Yet, as I’ve grown older, I only write essays and articles. Where are the songs and poems and stories that poured out of me in the beginning?
         This book inspired me to grab a notebook and pen, sit under my favorite tree, and write songs, poems, and stories about life and love—word after word after word.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Magazine Timing

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          For anyone who wonders what it’s like to be the editor of a monthly magazine, here’s one aspect that takes getting used to:

          I always find this time of year a bit confusing. Halloween hasn’t even arrived and I’ve been doing nothing but think about Thanksgiving for weeks as I just sent the November issues of the magazines to the printer on October 24th. The next day, I started planning the December issues.

          Trick-or-Treaters will arrive even as I sort through emails about December events and plan holiday covers. One year I asked a friend how her children’s Halloween Party went three days before the party date. In my mind, Halloween had come and gone as Santa is now making his list and checking it twice.

          With my work schedule blurring timelines, I have to be really organized when it comes to the holiday season. I shop early. I actually try to have my Christmas shopping done before I buy Halloween candy and my gift wrapping done before Thanksgiving because when others are preparing for Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or any other December holiday, I’m wrapping up the January issue and planning for Valentine’s Day.

          Happy…whatever holiday is closest!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Masterclass: Backpack Literature Chapters 4-5

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          In continuation of my post on September 26th, I’ve completed chapters 4 and 5 of the textbook Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing 4th edition by XJ Kennedy and Dana Gioia. It’s as informative and engaging as the authors promised.
          I love this textbook! I’m so glad I’m auditing this class.

          I had planned on finishing a chapter a week, but my editing schedule only allowed me to complete chapters 4 and 5 this month.

          Chapter 4 covered elements of setting. After reading pieces by Kate Chopin, Jorge Luis Borges, Jack London, and Amy Tan, settings are part of the experience for readers, but writers use them in different ways from mimicking characters’ moods to plot points.  The setting in Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” captured freezing cold perfectly.

          To learn to write about settings, I choose to write all the details about a place I like to visit then write a paragraph about what sort of mood is suggested by it. As often is the case, the mood wasn’t exactly what I thought before I completed the assignment. Writing is the best way to discover what you really think!

          Chapter 5 covered tone and style with short stories by Hemingway and Faulkner. Irony in its many guises was discussed then highlighted in pieces by O. Henry and Kate Chopin. I loved the inner dialogue of Mrs. Mallard in “The Story of an Hour” by Chopin which, of course, had an ironic ending.

          For the writing exercise, I chose to describe a city street as seen through three different characters in different moods and stages of life. The moods and ages are part of the exercise. I loved this assignment. It’s so freeing to step outside of yourself and see things through someone else’s eyes. The same street isn’t seen the same way. Fascinating to discover different actions taken because of a mood can make you oblivious or obvious.

          I recommend this textbook to all writers.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Editorial Advice from an Editor to an Intern: What it Takes to Become an Editor

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

This is the second part of my post started on October 3, 2016 where I gave writing advice to an intern who also wants to be an editor.

I didn’t set out to become an editor. I wanted to be a successful writer working from home. I became both by writing for years then taking a writing class where I met the woman who just bought one of the magazines I now write for and edit.

I started out as an unpaid intern for the magazines. I wrote articles as well as learned about copyediting (turning press releases and items sent in by the public about meetings and events into style copy for the magazine issue), layouts (placing texts, ads, pull quotes, photos, and captions on each page), proofreading (using the correct proofreaders’ marks), and the myriad of little things to check in an effort to publish an almost perfect issue (something always goes wrong).

A few years later, I became the editor of two magazines—a job I love. Now I’m working with an intern who wants to be a writer and an editor. I’m happy to share my knowledge and experience with her; however, writing skills are more straightforward to discuss than editing skills.

Here is my editing advice:

Reading is the most important editing skill. The more you read, the more you build up your sense of words—their rhythm, flow, and tone—and expand your vocabulary. You absorb grammar and punctuation rules. Even reading poorly written books teaches you what doesn’t work.

Reading widely gives you a feel for grammar, but also read grammar books like Words Fail Me and Woe is I by Patricia T. O’Conner and/or the Grammar Girl series by Mignon Fogarty then keep them for reference. Do the same for punctuation. I like the Merriam Webster’s Guide to Punctuation and Style. Refer to these books often.

All knowledge makes you a better writer and editor. I read all genres as good writers make any genre interesting. I also read books about science and art as well as classic novels and bestsellers.

For writers and editors, words are our medium. Spend as much time as possible reading and writing.

Poetry is essential. Ray Bradbury makes this recommendation to writers on page 36 of Zen in the Art of Writing:

Read poetry every day of your life…it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough…it expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition.

Editors use these muscles more often than writers. Read any poet who appeals to you then branch out.

Read every book by Diane Ackerman, Bill Bryson, Joseph Campbell, and their ilk, like The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt, for broad-ranging knowledge.

Read memoirs. Read philosophy. Read the classics.

“…a good editor reads omnivorously and is interested in everything.” –from page 128 of Editing Fact and Fiction.

This is true so it’s also essential to stay on top of the news, pop culture, and have a wide array of interests. Articles and essays you edit (or write on assignment) can include references to anything.

The more information you take in through books, magazines, news outlets, TV, the internet, movies, and conversations, the more you have in your arsenal to help you catch errors when editing as well as to connect with readers when writing your articles, essays, and posts.

While the internet offers access to almost every piece of information, I also like to dip into reference books like The New York Public Library Desk Reference; The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy by E D Hirsch, Jr., Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil; and An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn’t by Judy Jones & William Wilson to learn something new every day.

TV shows I recommend include CBS Sunday Morning at 9am as it covers a multitude of topics that are timely, interesting, useful, and fun. Writers and authors are often profiled. Also watch Charlie Rose and Tavis Smiley on PBS as they interview many writers as well as cover a variety of topics. Book TV on C-SPAN2 offers weekends full of author discussions. Super Soul Sundays includes many authors talking to Oprah on OWN. Authors are interviewed on Well Read on PBS. BBC America has many shows about writers and the arts as does the Ovation channel. I also watch NOVA, Nature, and Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. I occasionally watch shows on the Discovery channel, Smithsonian channel, and History channel. Also, don’t overlook the knowledge shared on Jeopardy.

Yes, to be a good editor you need to read and watch TV as well as view movies and listen to all kinds of music—dream job!

As a freelance editor and writer, I never know what topics might come up. For example, I was the editor of a Boating & Fishing magazine for years. I don’t boat or fish so editing took more work to assign articles. Then I had to double check facts and spellings. You don’t have to know a topic to edit, but you need to put in the extra work to make sure errors don’t get into print.

A magazine issue does not exist without an editor tracking down article ideas, contacting people to be interviewed, assigning articles to writers with word counts and deadlines. Appropriate topics depend on the magazine. Columnists decide on their topics independently.

As these are monthly magazines, I decide and assign articles by, for example, October 25th that are due by November 15th for the December issues. There is no room for procrastination!

In the same time frame, I copyedit all press releases and information sent in by the public for each issue. I also write captions for photos with people's names left to right.

          Editors have to be prepared for articles to fall through at the last minute. Be prepared to write the articles yourself or have non-timely articles ready to go like profiles of artists. If you have a specific interest, like reading, be prepared with book reviews. 

Deadline is the 15th of every month. I have to edit everything by the end of day on the 18th and send it to the Production Department. Three days is not enough time for perfection. Hopefully, I catch most of the errors I missed earlier during proofing on the 21st and final proof on the 22nd. However, I do not get to see that changes were made correctly on the 22nd. If I didn't write clearly or the Production person missed a correction or made the change incorrectly, then there will be errors in the issue. We are all human so I just hope none of the mistakes are embarrassing misspellings.

For actual editing skills, train yourself by editing what you read, especially newspapers and magazines, using proofreaders’ marks. No publication is perfect. Also, editing is in part subjective. Cut articles you read by 50-100 words or more without losing any content. Look for repetition, wordiness, and filler as “every word should tell” (Strunk & White, page 23). Be concise and precise. Most importantly, let the writer’s voice stay true; however, clarity is essential. Please note, clarity does not mean only simple sentences.

An internship with an editor is the easiest way to see what editors do as well as ask why they make specific corrections and changes to pieces. Different editors make different changes sometimes due to the style of the publication, sometimes due to editing style.

Editors are required to check every fact. Check spelling. Look up definitions. When in doubt, double check.

Editors must:
change misused words;
correct misspellings, grammar, and punctuation;
double-check all names, titles, and facts;
find buried leads / reorganize paragraphs when needed;
include smooth transitions;
keep to publication’s Style Sheet;
stay consistent, i.e., U.S. or US; ten or 10;
check everything they are not absolutely sure about,
make writers’ work shine,
ensure clarity,
and meet every deadline without fail.

There is a lot to learn to become an editor and no easy way to teach editing skills. As I mentioned you need a sense of words, but also a discerning eye, an ear for language, and intuition when something is wrong even if you can’t point it out right away plus the tenacity to find and correct these errors.

Editing for magazines doesn’t require discussing changes with writers usually; book editing does.

Editing takes a lot of time, but deadlines are tight generally.

You need to work well under pressure.  

Fresh eyes are essential so take breaks as needed.

Read pieces aloud to catch mistakes.

As the saying goes: “Editors are like goalies. No one remembers all the ones you caught—only the ones that get by you.”
          Some mistakes will always get by you so you must have a thick skin.

          Learn from your mistakes.

          Feedback is sometimes negative.

          Tact and good people skills are important.

          Do your best on every issue or project. 

Reference Books:

Good dictionaries—one everywhere you work and read or use, look up every word you don’t know.
The Copyediting Handbook by Amy Einsohn
Editing Fact and Fiction by Leslie T. Sharpe and Irene Gunther
Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus (reviewed on 6/9/14)
The Synonym Finder by J I Rodale (reviewed on 6/9/14)
The Elements of Style by Strunk & White (reviewed on 12/8/14)
Words Fail Me and Woe is I by Patricia T. O’Conner
Grammar Girl series by Mignon Fogarty
Merriam Webster’s Guide to Punctuation and Style
Style Book (AP or Chicago Manual of Style)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Writing Advice from an Editor to Writers in General

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Last week I wrote about writing advice I gave to an intern. This week, I’m giving advice to more experienced writers.

          I have edited three local monthly magazines as well as a state-wide monthly magazine at the same time. The common challenge is filling all the space between the ads on all the pages.

To accomplish this, every month I have to come up with six to ten topics for articles for each magazine, depending on page counts, a month or two before deadline. Then I assign them to writers who will interview people, write comprehensive and well-organized pieces that meet the word count on deadline. I also have five columnists on staff covering sports, gardening, family life, books, and observations on life. Two columnists also write articles.

Finding good writers is essential which means there are writing opportunities out there. Experienced writers with tear sheets (previously published articles from other publications) are good to work with as they know what to do—although it may turn out these writers have been edited heavily. However, new writers are excited and willing to learn. Their energy is infectious and fun. 

As long as new writers are serious about completing assignments, they should ask for assigned articles submitting writing samples when requested. I often assign new writers articles I need in two months to see if they can meet a two or three week deadline. This gives me time to recover if they fail.

Short Inquiries:

To get published in a magazine, a serious writer should send editors short inquiries about article ideas he or she would like to write (or have already written) that fit a publication’s style. Be familiar with the publication. Make sure your ideas will be compatible. As I mentioned, editors have to generate a lot of story ideas every month so having good ones suggested by writers is helpful.

Put Article Inquiry in the subject line.

These inquiries should be short and sent to the editor by his or her name. If you cannot be bothered to find the editor’s name, you are making a bad impression and, worse yet, you are unfamiliar with the publication.

It’s best to pitch ideas for the future as issues are planned a month or two in advance. (Example: pitch December topics in September. National magazines may have even longer lead times.)

Introduce and discuss your article idea—what it is, why readers will enjoy it, and why you are interested in writing it. Then summarize your expertise and writing experience. If a new writer, offer to submit writing samples. Then end with: Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you. Include your contact information, phone and email address.

Do not expect an immediate response. Give an editor two or three weeks to respond. If no response, send the inquiry again. Editors receive emails from dozens to hundreds of readers, advertisers, the production department, the printer, press releases, compliments, complaints, and established writers so it might take a week or two for the editor to get to inquiries, longer if your email arrives during deadline week.

Once contacted, be prompt in answering an editor’s questions in response to your inquiry.


Once the editor gives you the assignment, a style sheet, word count, and deadline, deliver what you promised—an engaging and professionally written article about the idea you pitched that includes quotes from at least one person.

Interview Tips:

Do not procrastinate. Set up interviews immediately as there are always scheduling conflicts. Also, if interview has to be rescheduled, you have time to do so.

Make sure you spell each person’s name, title, and organization      correctly.

Have at least 10-12 questions prepared before interview.  Ask follow up questions where appropriate.

Make sure some require short or numerical answers to break up all the longer quotes for other questions.

Two questions I always ask:
          What do you like best about your job or the event?
                   (Personality shines through in answers.)

And end of interview ask: Is there anything else you would like the public to know?
(This gives the person a chance to discuss things you might not know about so follow up questions might be needed.)

I write all the questions in the margin of my notepad if it’s an in-person interview.

If emailing questions, double check for spelling errors before sending.

When emailing questions, put the deadline date for answers in the subject line and again before the questions.

Always thank people for their time before the interview or before the written questions in an email.

Listen to answers or read them carefully.

Ask follow up questions as needed.

If handwritten, type up your notes as soon as possible after the interview.

If you can’t read some of your notes or an answer isn’t clear when you are writing your article, contact the person again to get the right answers.


In your first draft, organize your thoughts then include every quote, fact, and point you want to make regardless of word count.

Use the strongest and clearest interview statements as quotes in your article. The rest of what the person said become facts in the text. Weave these facts in with any other researched facts along with the quotes which breathe life into your articles.

Know the correct punctuation for quotes. Also, some publications use said, some use says. Use right style.

Once first draft is written, reread it. Read it aloud. Often you will find you buried your lead (best start to your article) in paragraph two, three, or even six. Reorganize paragraphs as needed.

Then rewrite and polish your article repeatedly until it is the best work you can produce and within the word count.

Look for better choices of words—i.e., one word that can replace a wordy description. (Every writer in my opinion should have and use the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus. Read the Introduction “In Search of the Exact Word” by Richard Goodman, pp. xi-xvii, to see exactly what I mean. )

Check spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

For reference: I spend less than 40% of my time writing and over 60% rewriting my articles for publication.


Submit assignments before or on deadline date. No excuses.

I advise that new writers especially submit their articles well before deadline. Editors will remember you for doing it. This means you can be counted on and will receive future assignments provided you also wrote a good or, better yet, a great article.

What constitutes a great article?

In every article emailed to me, I want to see:

a pertinent, even clever, title,

a byline,

an article with paragraphs,

only one space between sentences,

line spacing of 1.15 or 1.5,

do not start any article with a quote,

people need to be introduced to readers before being quoted,

organized thoughts,

smooth transitions,

quotes woven seamlessly into the text,

an attention-grabbing intro paragraph ,

and an ending paragraph that ties up the article well.

In between the first and last paragraphs, I look for:

proper punctuation especially for quotes,

good grammar,

correct spellings of words, names, and titles,

attention paid to details like dates, times, places, etc.,

true facts, statistics, etc.,

word count (within 100 words under to exact number),

and that the magazine’s style sheet was followed.

Q&A articles begin with an intro paragraph or two.

If submitting a photo, write a caption that includes (left to right) people’s names.

Writers can recommend pull quotes, but editor has final say.

Overall, I look for:

a strong writer’s voice and style,


Is lead paragraph enticing?

Is article fun to read and informative?

Are the facts clear?

Are quotes distributed throughout the article?

Is anything jarring? (bad transitions, out-of-order facts, person quoted without being introduced)

Are the contact phone number, email address, & web site listed if readers want more information?


Corrections are made following rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

The rest of changes are made to fit magazine’s style or the editor’s sense of words and style.

Most articles have excess words so editors tighten up the text by cutting these words or replacing them with more exact words.

Magazine editors do not usually discuss changes with writers unless want total rewrites

Writers may ask about changes, but not during deadline week. If you want feedback, ask the editor beforehand to see if it’s possible. Then turn article in early in case has editor has time before publication. Feedback takes a lot of time so the editor may say no. If that is the case, compare what you turned in to what was published. Changes should result in clearer or tighter writing.    

If a lot of text is missing, space may have been tight on the page so change may have nothing to do with your writing. (I’ve had ads come in very late. They always go in, so text must be cut. It’s a tough business.)

If you see a pattern in the edits, work on that area of your writing.

Once an editor knows you are a professional writer who turns in great work within word count on deadline, you will get more assignments. More assignments lead to tear sheets to use when inquiring about assignments for other magazines which is the start of a writing career.