Old Dogs, New Tricks: It Can Work! By Julius Debuschewitz

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My love for writing was established early in life. When I was growing up, my parents did not own a TV. Newspapers and radios were relied upon for news, while reading was the main form of entertainment.

But it was not until I went through university that I realized how much I enjoyed writing. Taking all my courses via distance education, I got a lot of practice writing various papers. One of my history professors was also an editor, and under his tutelage my writing skills improved tremendously. Ensuring that he had no chance to find even the slightest mistake became a game we both enjoyed.

Alas, once I finished university there was not much writing left to do. By this time my wife and I had moved to the Yukon Territory in Canada’s far north, and I began to get bored by a lack of intellectual stimulation. I realized that I missed formalized learning and discussed my woes with my wife. Then I ran across an advertisement for a writing course offered by an institution in the United States. That peaked my interest, and my wife bought me the course for Christmas. It was the best present I have ever received!

It did not take long before I broke into print. Indeed, I sold the first two articles I sent to a magazine in the US. This surprised me, since I was actually just practicing how to write cover and query letters.

In the year since I have completed my writing course I have not looked back. Although I only write part-time, my success rate has been very satisfying. My work has appeared in four magazines and in “The Best of the Magazine Markets.” In March I am finishing off a one-year contract for a monthly column in our local newspaper. In April I begin writing biweekly opinion editorials for the same paper.

I have only received three rejection letters so far. Not one of them was the form letter so feared by writers. So, how did I manage to do this? Simply by studying my intended market. I have also found that it pays to carefully craft a cover letter or query. Indeed, I often revise one of those three or four times before I am totally satisfied with the result. I figure it’s crucial to hook the editor with my letter’s first couple of paragraphs. If they don’t arouse the editor’s curiosity, chances are my manuscript will not get the attention I feel it deserves.

My aim is to eventually make a living as a freelance writer. Until that time comes, there is a lot to learn. That doesn’t bother me in the least. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I disagree. You see, English is not my mother tongue, I was 42 years old when I graduated from university, and I did not finish my writing course until I was 48 years old. Remember that it can be done, no matter how old you are or how many people tell you that it’s impossible or unlikely. Just make sure you find something interesting to write about and have a lot of fun while you are doing it. Pay attention to the basics of good writing and marketing your work, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you succeed.

Julius Debuschewitz is a part-time freelance writer living in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. He has contributed to “Cats & Kittens,” “BackHome,” “The Outdoor Edge,” “Harrowsmith Country Life,” and “The Best of the Magazine Markets” and writes columns for “The Whitehorse Star.” In his other life he works for the Yukon government and is also a community coroner. You can reach him by e-mail at: debuschewitzj@yahoo.com