Write From Home
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610
E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com
July 2003 Column
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
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
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.”
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?
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
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
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.
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
and she can be reached at
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