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Category: On Writing

When a Mistake Can Be a Blessing

When a Mistake Can Be a Blessing

I walked over to my local coffeehouse yesterday (Mystic Mocha) and on the way home saw a weathered bench that I thought would make an interesting photo. I pulled out my iPhone and snapped. I knew the photo would need cropping and editing, but I was pretty sure I could make something of it. The unedited version is at the top of this page.

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How I Got My First Magazine Assignment – and You Can Too

How I Got My First Magazine Assignment – and You Can Too

It only takes one yes.

After  giving up my childhood dream of being an archaelogist, I turned my attention to writing – specifically writing for magazines.  Here’s what happened:

I went to my first writer’s conference in Phoenix, Arizona where the editor of Arizona Highways  told a story about assigning articles to three freelancers. But, as it turned out, only one of the articles was ever published. That’s because one  was so filled with errors it couldn’t be used and the other came in so far past the deadline the  editor wouldn’t accept it.   I remember him saying, “You don’t have to be the Great American Writer. Just be on time and be accurate.”

I knew my work would be both, so my confidence soared.

At the second writer’s conference I met the editor of a trade magazine. She gave me an assignment to write about “behind the scenes of a doctor’s office”, which  was a slam-dunk for me as my sister owned a medical transcription company and a good friend ran the back office for a neurologist.  We ended up going into the office after hours and setting up a little photo shoot to accompany my article.  That turned out to be my first work ever published in a magazine.

My second was for another trade on catering a wedding. One of my friends was a chef at a local hotel that did a lot of weddings. She got me into the ballroom before a wedding party so I could photograph the tables and all of the decorations, making it possible for me to provide the total package (words and pictures) on that assignment.

My third published piece was for another trade – this time a travel magazine. I wrote about the many jeep tours of Red Rock County, Sedona, Arizona. Again, I knew a man who owned one of the companies and again I took photos to accompany the stories. I knew the town well and knew I could deliver a solid story.

How Can You Use My Experience to Get Your Foot in the Magazine Market

  • Writer’s conferences are a great place for networking, particularly with editors. Go loaded for bear – have several ideas in your back pocket that you can pitch to the appropriate editors.
  • Make a list of all of your friends and the type of job/careers they have. They are some of your best resources for magazine ideas, interviews, and insider tips.
  • Don’t be afraid to say you can provide photographs, as long as you have that capacity. Editors love complete packages.

You have a wealth of experience and an over-abundance of ideas and friends and family who can open doors for you to other resources. Sometimes the key to breaking  into the magazine market is right in your backyard – you don’t have to sail the ocean or live in Paris to be successful in this market.

How To Find the Heart of a Story

How To Find the Heart of a Story

If you’ve read my blog posts: Anatomy of an Article, Parts 1 and 2, you’ll know I’m a great one for note-taking.  Take a minute and read those two posts, then come back and read this .

I recently traveled to Aztec Ruins in northern New Mexico, which was once occupied by what we called Anasazi; today the term “ancestral Puebloans” is considered more appropriate. While there I took notes about the place including:

  • place with many houses
  • wetlands
  • navel of the earth
  • Chaco
  • migrations
  • AD 1100
  • 3 miles from stones
  • 50 miles from timber
  • butterfly dance
  • 5640 ft elevation

While my notes are probably gibberish to you, for me they’re the sign posts to the core of the story, regardless of whether I’m writing an essay or a scene in a novel. The list takes me to an ancient place where modern-day Hopi believe their ancestors still abide; a place that was just one of many on a great migration to the gems of the Southwest:  Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde.

But a list is only a list. The harder part, for me, is to ask myself “What do I think about this? What makes this special to me?” Once I dig down into my own beliefs and thoughts, I begin understanding where to find the story. In this case, my story was why did the Hopi ancestors take the time to build the “many houses”, only to leave a short time later?

I’ve read stories about drought and heard tales of the great migration . . . but my own imagination wonders if there’s another – more hidden – reason behind the coming and the going. That’s the tale I’m looking to tell.

My invitation to you:  Pick a topic and make a list, then drill down and see what’s waiting. Let me know – I can’t wait to hear what you found.

Writing Themes for July

Writing Themes for July

Flag_of_Canada.svgCanada Day is July 1, Independence Day July 4, and Bastille Day July 14.  Canada Day celebrates the merging of three colonies into a country,  July 4 the 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence, and July 14 the beginning of the French Revolution.

Do you think that July has a little something special in the air?

If you’re in need of some dandy words to incorporate into an essay, story, or poem this month (we all need the practice), how about these:

  • fireworks
  • independence
  • freedom
  • celebration
  • spontaneous
  • revolution

I’m giving myself a challenge to write a poem using all of the words in that list. Want to join me? Come flagon . . it’ll be fun 🙂 Post yours in the comment box or email them directly to me.

By the way, if you’re ever in Philadelphia, go to the Christ Church Burial Ground. Buried there are Benjamin Franklin, Francis Hopkinson, Joseph Hewes, George Ross, and Dr. Benjamin Rush – all signers of the Declaration of Independence.


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