A couple years after creating my garden service, I spent a long, dormant winter crafting and conniving an effective means of training my clientele to eventually take over my job one day. What better way to insert my opinion and unsolicited advice than a complimentary newsletter? It was brimming with the most basic, practical information.
I studied the grand old dames of the genre: Gertrude Jekyll, and Mirabel Osler, but Vita Sackville West’s no-nonsense attitude inspired me. It was she who said “Be pitiless, be ruthless in the garden.” And, her style of writing was just that. She was obviously aghast at the basic things gardeners did not know, or were conditioned to think they do know, but she had a forthright way of explaining things that held them captive until the next column.
Take care on naming your newsletter. It must be specific, but not limiting. I carefully chose the name Earth Nurture to encourage people to connect with the planet and nature. The subtitle clarifies the audience; and I will admit mine transited right along with my life and differing pages through the years, finally settling on A Quarterly Journal for Gardeners, Farmers, and Off-grid Enthusiasts in the Northern Intermountain West. It has been my mission to offer my examples, those of clients and to suggest alternative (natural as opposed to chemical) gardening methods.
When you know your subject intimately, you write more and research less. My credibility was augmented by some volitional training. I am thrice a Master Gardener, and am a Certified Plant Professional. I have worked in the plant nursery business throughout my life. When I was a child full of questions, one of my mother’s favorite things to say was “Look it up!” So, research is something I learned how to do early on. We used books back then. Today, the Internet makes it easy.
Most people who are long passionate about something have enough knowledge to expound on it. If you have any flair for writing, creating a newsletter to tell your story and give advice is not difficult.
Nowadays there are built-in formats and easy-to-insert clip art files already in your computer. The trick to writing content is cultivating the ability to explain the most basic things that you do instinctively to someone who doesn’t, in plain, easy-to-understand, clear language.
Earth Nurture used to cause me all kinds of anxiety. Could I write content that others would find interesting? Why on Earth would they care? How could I find time to write even four pages, let alone get it to print, update the subscriber mail list, and ship it out? Practice makes perfect and a bit of dedication helps. That first time you receive positive feedback makes all worthwhile.
I set my own publication deadlines – quarterly – by change of seasons makes perfect sense for a garden newsletter. I find ample content in everyday tasks performed in various gardens, including my own. Gardening is meditative, and contemplative. While working, I think how I could explain it plainly, and there an article presents itself. In the old days, I carried a small notebook in my pocket to jot down ideas. Now, I use phone apps like Note Everything, or Rich Note, for tickler files. By the time the next deadline rolls around, the new issue is practically written!
If writing a newsletter is beyond what you can wrap your otherwise occupied brain around, trade services with someone who can. I did this for a few issues in the initial volumes because my little fingers were too tired from scratching in the dirt to bang away on my 1952 Smith Corona manual typewriter. That was how determined I was to provide a newsletter to my clients! It was not until about year five that I acquired my own laptop, and spent another dormant winter teaching myself how to layout copy and insert graphics.
There is no excuse you could give me for not trying your hand at this. Here are 10 things to consider before you write Volume 1, Number 1:
- Research newsletters of your genre, study styles.
- Know your audience, who is interested in what you say?
- What exactly are you teaching people to do?
- Hard copy or email? Charge extra for shipping/packaging.
- How many pages/words can you find time to write, and your audience find time to read?
- Have a theme, a habitual layout, find art and fonts to embellish it, then stick to it.
- How often is it issued to keep your reader’s attention?
- How much can you charge them to subscribe and how do they pay you?
- Make lists of potential subscribers, then send them complimentary copies.
- How many years will you publish it?
Word of mouth and clients sharing with their green-thumbed friends propelled mine into something I get paid to do. I no longer maintain gardens yet I have a following, a platform and growing number of subscribers. Hard copy, sent by pony express since its inception, Earth Nurture recently went electronic, which saves immense amounts of resources, labeling, envelope stuffing, and all that time. I strive to convince those who prefer hardcopy to print it themselves. Soon I will now be paid solely for writing and not processing.
I print extra copies to carry with me. I give them to old friends, new acquaintances, and every time I give a presentation. Sometimes I scour my email lists, and send it to those who might be interested. Now that it is digitized, I tend to go viral!
A number of potential books (more ways for me to make money writing) have sprouted from 18 volumes. The new one I’m most excited about is One Gardener’s Dirt; a maintenance gardener confides.
Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Lori Parr moved to Missoula, Montana in 1993 where she married, and started a garden maintenance service; Kinship Gardens. This transitioned into a consulting and design business and sprouted a self-published quarterly newsletter; Earth Nurture, now in year 18 of circulation. In 2001, Lori’s second entrepreneurial adventure; Rocky Mountain Lavender, was launched. Lavender farming, product design, marketing, and essential oil distilling have made for a fragrant life. Just having begun the second half of her 100 years, she divorced, and moved out of the town, into the country and calls a 77-square foot off-grid cabin home. She still dabbles in both businesses, but is turning to a long kindled passion, the writing life. Lori is a writer in residence for Ruby Jewel Jamboree, a bluegrass concert series, is freelancing, and is at work on her first book, Lavender Farming Montana Style.