Upon graduating from Concordia University in Montreal, I had big dreams about how I would put my honours degree in Creative Writing and English Literature to work. I had started my own smut zine as a student, and wanted to write a more interesting version of the sex column for one of the local papers. While I had experience writing about sex, as well as writing under a deadline for the student newspaper, it seemed like I could never get a response from any of my queries.
Worse than a simple rejection, I was getting total silence, which made me wonder whether anyone was even receiving my e-mails, much less reading them. My biggest problem was the fact that there were no direct e-mail addresses listed on the websites; instead, there were general online forms you could use to contact the editors.
Unable to get in touch with anyone specific, I began to wonder if I’d ever be able to get an “in” with the local papers. It seemed unfair since I knew I was a good enough writer, but I just didn’t have the access I needed to bend someone’s ear. I complained about this to my writer friends, who were sympathetic, and finally one of them said, “I know most of the people on staff at the alternative papers. Would you like me to write you a letter of introduction?”
It turns out that a brief letter was all I needed to launch my career. My friend wrote to the arts editor at the _Hour_, mentioning that I was a recent graduate and that I wrote and published my own moderately successful smut zine, and the editor wrote back to ask if I’d like to write a sex column. Would I ever!
I had a degree in writing and experience at the student newspaper, as well as the self-sufficiency to start my own publication, so the editor took me seriously. We had a few meetings about potential column ideas, and she seemed impressed with my suggestions. It took a while to settle all the paperwork and finally get down to the business of writing the column, but ultimately it was that short letter my friend wrote for me that made the difference between getting noticed and getting ignored.
Laura Roberts is the author of “V for Vixen,” a sex column found in Montreal’s alternative newspaper, Hour. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Black Heart Magazine, available online at http://www.blackheartmagazine.com.