Tag Archives: editor

An embarrassing moment: you’re not the genius you supposed

There’s nothing like being asked to write stories for a reputable newspaper.  The idea of turning out news that is pure, well-written journalism is exhilarating, and getting your first job as a full-time reporter is one of those unforgettable moments.  Picture it… you’ve been sending out clip after clip, racing to interview after interview, and on occasion, sharing a Skype moment with editor after editor in hopes of landing that perfect job.   You are convinced that it’s only a question of time, before someone discovers your genius!

Since you were hired because of your experience as a feature writer, you can hardly wait to strut your stuff, so you pitch an idea to the publisher for a feature, and he says, “Great idea… run with it!”  Wow!  You have barely come aboard, and already you’re in full swing!  This is going to be good!  You are fully convinced that you’ll be getting the “two thumbs up” sign soon.  He says, “So, can you have that to me in about a week?”  No problem… you have been used to much tighter deadlines.

You are doing all you can do to contain your excitement, and don’t want to brag to other reporters… but…

You are on the project like a bat out of hell, and really go all out with this article.  Heck, you even show off your photographic skills and  grab photos to turn in with your article (normally, this impresses an editor).

You are on a roll, and finish the article two days ahead of schedule.  Being the responsible and conscientious reporter that you are, you send off an email to the publisher, letting him know that you’ll be emailing the article with photos the next morning.  You are so happy… that night you go to bed with a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

The next morning, you email the article with the photos as planned.  You are, after-all, a man/woman of your word, but by the time nighttime falls, you begin to wonder why he hasn’t acknowledge receiving your article.  Day two comes and goes, and then day three does the same.  By day four, you are beginning to wonder why he hasn’t even acknowledged receiving it.  You have a dozen explanations in your head.  “It was so perfect that it doesn’t have to be edited.”  “The guy is probably so busy that he hasn’t gotten to it yet.”  “Perhaps he has been away from his desk (oh right… a publisher avoiding emails, and staying unreachable to his reporters?) That is almost laughable!

By the middle of day five you decide to look at your sent box, to make certain that it actually went out.  Of course it did.  You sit at your desk sulking, and staring at the sent mail box when suddenly something happens… You decide to look at an old email from the publisher about submissions.  So far, everything is fine, however, you notice in an older email sent by him that you have mistakingly reversed two letters in his name.  In seconds, you can feel heat rising to your head, and your breathing is restricted, but you immediately calm your self with the thought, “There’s no way I did this with the out mail I sent to him.”   You take a close look at the email address that you sent the article to, and it’s WRONG!  You are mortified!  Suddenly, you realize that you sent your article somewhere else.  This fully explains why he has not responded!  He NEVER RECEIVED IT!  You no longer are two days early, but three days LATE!!!!  Basically, you look like a serious flake.

There simply are no words to express how stupid you feel in that moment, especially because you will undoubtedly have to tell him what happened. There’s not going to be any way around it.

Just imagine your embarrassment.

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Travel writing: making money while on vacation?

It is certain that writing is not an easy field, and with the current economic slump, challenges in this field are being emphasized even more. However, I don’t want to discuss the economy.  There is enough chatter about that already.

It’s 1:25 a.m., and I feel like discussing magazine writing.  Now there’s a broad topic!  The possibilities are endless, right?

Sitting on your perch (favorite office-type chair), you ponder the possibilities. Perhaps you are a travel enthusiast, and you cannot imagine doing anything finer.  This might really work well, especially with all the frequent flyer mile incentives that many of the airlines offer.

When researching your options,  Hawaii is always a good idea.  You log onto cheaptickets.com, find a great rate, locate a package deal… three nights, four days, and you are as good as gone!  Think of it… a vacation while earning (potential) money!  This is going to be golden!

The flight over is fantastic.  There is very little turbulence and you are eager introduce yourself as a “travel writer” to anyone who asks. Admittedly, it does sound grand, and every time you utter the words, “travel writer,” the oo’s and ahh’s are hard to contain.  You will get comments like, “Oh, that sounds fabulous! A vacation while you work,”  or, “I wish I could write.  I am so bad with words,” or, “I am so envious…I always wanted to be a writer.”  You feel a deep sense of pride well up as you grin and happily agree.

After the airport madness, you finally make your way to the hotel with the taxi cab driver from hell, and just when you are ready to scream, you pull up to this amazing seaside resort. Oh yeah, this resort far surpasses your wildest fantasies, and the view balcony is nothing short of stunning.  What a career!  Most people only dream about having a job like this.

Of course, before you left you did your homework, and researched the places you would go, and the things you would cover on this trip.  I mean–it is so important to know your market, and to have a solid story that you can pitch to an editor.  Equally important, you must know your magazines voice.  For example, it’s doubtful that Sports Fishing Magazine is going to be interested in the history of poi, nor is Good Housekeeping going to get excited about an article written about the rain forests in Kauai.

None of those topics appeal to you anyway, so you have decided to try your luck with restaurant reviews.  Given the fact you are a food enthusiast, and truly enjoy gourmet cooking, this might prove to be quite rewarding!

There is a world famous chef who runs the restaurant in the resort you are staying at, so you have scored!  Your article will be just what this guy needs to promote his newest creations.  Of course, your disappointment runs deep when you get to this tropical resort only to discover that the National Association of Restaurants is having a week-long convention, and interviewing the head chef or even a bus boy during this busy week will not even be remotely possible.

Game play #2 has to kick in…

You probably want to stay clear of a obscure topics or a story that is simply not relative.  For example, it’s doubtful that you are going to find a magazine back in the mainland that will print a story on Hawaiian antiques at the Waioli Mission House of Kauai. Remember too that while you are doing a story on Hawaii, Hidden Europe, a magazine exploring the cultures and customs of Europe is not going to find your local island discoveries remotely interesting.  In short, don’t waste your time.

Now, given the fact you are giddily exuberant about your travel discoveries, keep in mind that a magazine that usually publishes articles between 1,500 and 2,000 words is not going to share your thrill as you submit a 4,000-word manuscript!

The reality is that if you are going to pursue travel writing, you need to do a lot of research, do all of your homework before embarking on this potentially exciting career, and find your niche.  After all, if you have never held a fishing rod in your life, writing a story like, “North Shores Best-kept Secret:  Ahi, the Yellowfin Jackpot,” will not be very convincing.  Even if you are traveling, it is always the best idea to write about something you are familiar with.  If you were a floral designer in a former career life, you might want to consider doing an article on Hawaiian wedding spots.  When you write about something you have expertise in, then it becomes easy to look for new angles for your story.

When researching, you may want to utilize these resources:  Travel Industry Association of America (www.tia.org), Travelwriters.com, or the World Chamber of Commerce Directory (www.chamberofcommerce.ccom).

… and look at it this way, if all else fails, you have at least enjoyed reveling in paradise while sipping coconut juice on a white sandy beach, listening to palm trees sway and ocean waves break against coral reefs, while racking up your credit card.

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Writing uninteresting journalism: look to the process

Not long ago someone asked me if there is ever a time that my profession is unappealing.  To be more specific, she wanted to know if I am ever asked to write articles that I have absolutely no interest in.  Naturally, the answer is, “YES!”

Suddenly the managing editor gets “inspired,” and hits you up with something completely off the cuff, or there is no one else to cover “this particular story.” Guaranteed this article will never be a feature.  It plays out something like this.  In a series of five brief emails, you are suddenly writing a story that could be your worst creative nightmare:

Editor:  Need you to cover a story about horse manure and waste management.

Writer:  What kind of story?  Can you be a little more specific?

Editor:  Research.  Talk to the derby and take a spin out to the waste management. See what’s going on.

Writer:  The derby?

Editor:  Kentucky?  Hello?  Derby?  We live in Kentucky? Word has it manure is the easiest thing to compost, and now the waste management is planning to work with the derby and surrounding horse boarding facilities.  Get the story.  Need it tomorrow at noon.  We’ll run it this week.

Wow.  Suddenly I am supposed to get inspired.

As completely boring as this kind of story might seem, the excitement is not in the subject matter, but more in the  way you play with the words and unfold the story. While the entire subject matter would normally make me cringe, the process becomes the fire that keeps me on track.  That’s right!  Once again, writers block is hard to find!

Here are some suggestions:

Don’t forget your hook, and a title that will lure the reader in.  The title might read something like this:  “Managing manure:  Kentucky Derby joins ranks with Waste Management,” or, “Waste Management’s horse manure strategies: Compost it!”

In a news-driven article like this you want to make sure that you present a problem and a solution.  If there are no solution(s), a reader will get lost in the problem(s) and rapidly lose interest. Using anecdotes is another way to hook your reader.  Address your reader–make it personal.  “So if YOU have a lot of manure laying around…”

It’s doable.  Just focus on the process and not the subject matter!

(and, NO… I don’t live in Kentucky)

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