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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Off the Page...
July 2003 Column

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Get Published--Today!
by Tama Westman



All right, it really is not that difficult to get published. Like any other task in life that seems insurmountable, you start with one step at a time. Let’s take a look at a few break-in markets.

 

Stir up the hornet’s nest – create a buzz
A reader’s response to an article - especially one that expresses a differing or opposing viewpoint or an unusual stance – almost always gets the gleeful attention of an editor. Most editors thrive on controversy, if you provide it, you’ll be published.

A letter to the editor might also center on a topic of interest to the community. You don’t have to write about major issues like whether you are pro-life or pro-choice. Why not comment on city politics or the subject of bullying in the public schools? If it will interest the readers, the editor will print it. 

At a maximum of 500 words, letters to the editor should include contact information so the publication can verify that you are a member of the community and/or readership.

Opinion pieces get paid
If your feelings are stronger than what the word count of a letter to the editor allows, consider doubling the word count to approximately 1000 words and sending it in to a newspaper as an OP-ED [opinion/editorial]. While it is a bigger gamble whether or not an OP-ED gets published, odds are that if it is, you’ll be paid.

Local leads the way
Yes, you have probably heard it before, but this is so important, it bears repeating. Local newspapers lead the way for encouraging new writers - especially if the paper is a small town press. Always on the hunt for new blood, editors of weeklies are more willing to work with new writers who may have little experience, but great effort.

Don’t knock the ‘Net
Another overlooked break-in market is the Internet. There are poetry sites, parenting boards, home and decorating sites, and e-zines galore that genuinely need writers. With more and more people relying on the Web as a main source for news and information, this is a vast arena for writers of all genres. When surfing the Net, check out writer’s guidelines on your favorite sites. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can start seeing your byline.

Freebies for clips
Last but not least, if you are just getting started in your writing vocation, check out the host of poetry publications, writing contests, church bulletins, community publications and group newsletters that need content. Get creative – widen your vision. While a clip from Newsweek is more impressive than one from Grandma Eddy’s Pickles and Pots Newsletter, still, someone has to write for Grandma Eddy, right?

There is a lot of debate as to whether a writer should work for free. But, we all have to start somewhere. Unless you write prize-winning material, it is nearly impossible to get published with a paying market until you have a handful of clips [published works]. It is the old double standard: “you’ve got to have experience to get experience.”
 

I think it is worth writing for free publications when you are establishing yourself. Once established, however, you need to realize and respect your own worth and talents and  -- if you want to be a career writer, not a hobby writer -- make the transition to “paid” gigs only.
 

I would like to add that there is nothing wrong with enjoying a hobby writer status. Your writing should be what you want it to be. It can be your interpretation of the world, a source of information, entertainment or escape. The most wonderful thing about writing however is that it can be your own private realm, a gift exclusively for you, where you delve into the trappings of your mind and discover more about yourself.

It can happen
If you are interested in getting published, start with what you can do. You can find a publication that will publish you today – if not today, tomorrow. If not tomorrow, this week. If not this week, this month. You can make it happen. Set a goal, educate yourself, write something interesting and charge ahead.

Be a stickler for carefully developed, creatively crafted and carefully edited pieces prior to submission. Your edge will be your professionalism in a world gone mad with e-mail writers – those who have forgotten grammar and punctuation rules in favor of the simpler writing style.
 

You can begin adding clips to your portfolio simply by taking that first step. Once in motion, the rest will follow. You will start to see new opportunities to write everywhere. Impressed with your writing abilities, editors will call you for assignments. Your experience will broaden, your writing skills sharpen and your income will rise.
 

What are you waiting for? Write on!


Tama Westman writes the Off the Page column for Write From Home. As a correspondent and columnist, she publishes news articles, feature stories and her column, Cuppa Thoughts, regularly with her local paper, the Chaska Herald. She has served as the editor of the award-winning literary and arts magazine, Haute Dish. As a freelancer, her articles appear in several local newspapers and, nationally in The Gathering and Light & Life Magazine.

She teaches creative writing and poetry classes with the AHEAD program (Achieving Higher Education and Dreams) at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN, mentors high school journalism students and helps to edit the column of her 18-year old, British-bred cat on coolpetsites.com, Purrfect Gypsy – The Cat’s Eye View. She is married with two college-enrolled children, and keeps her balance with a cup of tea taken in the afternoon in her English garden. Her published clips can be viewed via her Web site, http://www.tamawestman.com and she can be reached at tamajoy@earthlink.net.


 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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