‘Looking Local’ Provides Opportunity and Inspiration in a Pandemic! – By Wendy Hobday Haugh

‘Looking Local’ Provides Opportunity and Inspiration in a Pandemic! – By Wendy Hobday Haugh

Times are tough these days, and many freelancers are feeling the strain. This past year, as the pandemic progressed and many of my go-to markets tightened their belts, I wondered how I was going to continue to be published. Pay scales were inching steadily downward, and — with so many people sequestered at home, writing!— the competition for coveted slots was fierce. More than ever, I needed the escape, pride, and paycheck that freelancing provided. But, increasingly, given all that was happening globally, I also wanted to feel like my writing was helping others.

Fortunately, writing for regional magazines enabled me to achieve both of my pandemic goals: getting published and helping others. Being hunkered down at home gave me the perfect opportunity to ‘look local,’ assessing my community with renewed curiosity. Then, I pitched articles about local people and places to regional publications. Prior to the pandemic, I’d written a dozen stories for Simply Saratoga, a regional magazine in a nearby city. So, I started pitching the editor more stories, showcasing some of the unique businesses and talented craftspeople and musicians in my area. To my surprise, she accepted every pitch.

The pay, admittedly, isn’t terrific: $50 for 500-1000 words. But, the magazine itself is drop-dead gorgeous! With glossy pages, a wide range of stories, tantalizing photographs, and a writers’ bio page to boot, it’s truly a pleasure to see my byline gracing the pages. Better still, the editor is a joy to work with, always eager to find new subjects to inspire and entertain her readers. Over the past year, I’ve written about the oldest 5 & 10 Store in the country, a Victorian eatery, a modern-day blacksmith, blueberry farmers, a quaint covered bridge, our county historian, a passive solar pioneer, a rural antique shop, and many other subjects. The possibilities for regional articles are endless. Just look at your community with fresh eyes and try to see the area as a visitor might. Look for unique activities and niche businesses—or brainstorm a fresh angle on a familiar topic!

Local and regional publications, often free for the taking, can be found at libraries, grocery stores, and bookstores. Inquire about local magazines at any chamber of commerce or tourism agency, or Google nearby cities (for example, “Saratoga, NY + magazines”) to find other publications in need of regular content. Check out social media and events calendars for local organizations. Attending upcoming events, either online or in person, provides a great way to get grist for pitches and articles.

Times are tough, sure, but the COVID-19 pandemic has given me the opportunity to redirect the focus of my writing career from larger to smaller publications. In doing so, I’ve gained far more than I ever expected. At $50 a pop, I haven’t become rich. But, since this publication relies solely on advertising—and garnering ample advertising during a global pandemic has been challenging, to say the least—I feel lucky to be working. The editor responds to pitches promptly, usually positively, and always appreciatively. In fact, her emailed responses are generally so enthusiastic that my own excitement ramps up a notch or two, and I’m able to pass that excitement along to my subjects. Most people are delighted to hear that an editor is eager to feature them. And, being able to pass along positive energy—and give folks something exciting to look forward to!—feels especially awesome in tough times.

Thanks to regional publications, I’ve found fulfilling work and forged meaningful new connections during a pandemic. By having these community-based assignments, I’ve been able to interact with people I might never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. Although most of my interviews have taken place via phone, our conversations have filled my head, heart, and imagination with newfound information, images, and inspiration. Better still, they’ve given struggling business owners and artisans a chance to be showcased. Based on the feedback and thanks I’ve received, I suspect I’ve bolstered my subjects’ spirits at least as much as they’ve bolstered mine. And their appreciation means more to me than the paychecks.

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Holed up in the Adirondack foothills, Wendy Hobday Haugh enjoys writing articles, stories, and poetry for children and adults, working on novels, and watching the deer grazing in the hemlock bog behind her house.

 



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