Like any decent Clark, Rowling, Morrison wannabe, I started my illustrious writing career creating books. I would go to sleep nightly with visions of sugarplums and book signings dancing in my head. However, when I woke up, only rejections came true. Discouraged, I abandoned my two best friends- pen and paper. I had every intention of never seeing them again, but they kept calling, beckoning me back.
I knew I would not be able to resist the sultry temptation. However, I also knew rejections gave me writer’s block. I could only reconcile if I found a way to get acceptance, validation and see my pearls of wisdom in print. Exit books…enter press.
The Catch 22 of writing success is, you need experience to get a job, but you can’t get a job without experience. Whew, sounds impossible, but it’s not.
Everybody wants something for nothing, and editors are no exception. However, many publications will accept samples of “unpublished” works. These got me in the door at my first job, a temporary columnist gig for a small, local newspaper, The Bay Voice. This provided “published” material for me to take to my big-time job…doing restaurant reviews for The City Magazine. Not exactly Pulitzer Prize material, but hey, it paid more than The Bay Voice. The Highland Newspaper picked up on my reviews and offered me a part-time reporter position.
Next, came one of my favorite assignments, writing for The Chronicle Newspaper. It was a local, but paid pretty well. Unlike the ground floor at a huge paper, where I’d start with obituaries, I was allowed to write about anything and everything, From Soup to Nuts, which turned out to be the name of my column. Don’t think I didn’t parlay this into the most I could, including covering the TV Emmy Awards.
Interviewing red carpet celebrities got me on the merry-go-round. I headed for the rich freelance soil of teen magazines, interviewing Backstreet Boys, N-SYNC, Nine Days, and others. That gave me confidence to go onto the likes of General Colin Powell, and Maya Angelou. Of course, there’s not a big market for them in teen magazines, so I tried mature mags. The taste of variety in genre was delicious, so I pursued all sorts, including business, women’s, in-flights, and on and on.
Brand new and on-line publications offer many opportunities, too. I found info on these in the writing trades. Books for writers are also helpful. But the most valuable tool is PERSISTENCE and FLEXIBILITY. If you get a “no” on a query, see if you can adjust it to meet an editor’s needs. If you still get “no” try a different publication. What doesn’t work for one, may work for another.
As for books, I turned one I was writing into a screenplay. A Hollywood producer liked it and is now shopping it around to the studios. Talk about persistence and flexibility!
Mary Jekielek Insprucker has been a writer for 15 years, writing everything from hard news to fluff, newspapers to magazines.