When you’ve spent years writing and researching essays while reading some of the world’s best literature, for an English major, the post-graduation moment is a double-whammy of relief and weightlessness. No longer pressed for grades and working to other people’s deadlines, the freedom to write about your passions is a special kind of liberation; though many folks will blog, journal, or consider self-publishing, for those of us who aren’t independently wealthy, garnering a livable income has to be priority.
While working a day job, I studied the steps it would take to build my portfolio of published work. The number of times I was encouraged to submit work for free, or to apply as an intern with the hopes of eventual paid employment at a magazine or newspaper, was infuriating. I wouldn’t work at a grocery store checkout counter for less than minimum wage, and I certainly wouldn’t devalue my intellectual labor either. So I practiced writing queries, and boldly sent them. The worst thing that could happen, I figured, was rejection. Over time I knew I would at least learn to, in Beckett’s immortal words, “Fail Better.”
Being myself was key. My first letter to a locally-based, niche publication was met with support and enthusiasm. The editor wanted to meet me in person, and discuss my interest in joining the paper’s roster of freelancers. I showed them how willing I was to take advice and rewrite, and how seriously I took their need for accurate and well-researched work. My first assignment was to make the results of a dry government statistical report relevant and interesting to readers – a type of interpretation that requires both accuracy and creativity.
This approach has developed my eye for a story where others simply see numbers, and has helped secure numerous assignments.
P. Comeau is a rebellious freelancer based in the rural upper Appalachians.
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"A real page turner. I can't wait to read the next installment."
-Debbie Martindale Behrends, The Elburn Herald
Nic Pappas, a reporter with the Palatine Star newspaper, is assigned to cover a cold murder case known as The Brown's Chicken Massacre. Pappas meets, and falls in love with, Mary Jane Santos, who lost her brother, Roland, Jr., in the tragedy, tempting Pappas to violate the ethics of the reporter-source relationship. Believing the only way to end his dilemma is to solve the case, Pappas and Santos make a pledge to catch the killers...