Give ‘Em What They Want By Barbra Annino

Browsing through an edition of on my lunch hour, I spotted an ad for an advice columnist for Illinois Magazine. My corporate writing job paid the bills, but I always wanted to write creatively. The ad stated the editor was looking for someone who could write in a “witty, insightful, humorous tone.” I had never written a column or was even published before, but I felt like this was right up my alley. I fired off a letter to the editor that outlined my background as a writer, bartender (who better to give advice?), and lifelong Illinoisan. I crafted the letter and two samples in the tone that she was looking for, but kept my own voice.

A week later I received a note from the editor. She enjoyed the samples and requested two more. I gave her three. A few days later, she responded, saying that it was between myself and two others. I didn’t hesitate to put together a list of the top 10 reasons I should get the job. Since it was for a humor column, this worked well. She even used some of the notes from that list in her letter from the editor to introduce me to readers.

Showing the editor that I could deliver what she needed and more pushed me to the top of her list. Perseverance helped me land the job.

After a few months of writing the column, I got a call from the publisher asking me to write three short humor pieces for the Christmas issue and could I get it to him in a week? No problem. The next month, he requested a lengthy feature. I remember I had the flu when that call came in, but I delivered.

Eventually, my workload swelled to 6000 words/month for this magazine. Why? Because writers failed to meet deadlines or deliver what they promised and the publisher had a hard time keeping good staff. I was on time and never argued about content. And I never, ever said no. If he needed it tomorrow, it was there. If he liked my suggestions, great! If not, it was his magazine.

Unfortunately the publication folded after two years, but the lessons I learned are invaluable. The bottom line? Give ’em what they want and they’ll be coming back for more.

Barbra Annino is a full-time freelance writer from Illinois. Her columns can be seen at Drop her a note at freelancewriter (at)