On Saturday I went to the AWN (All Write Now) conference. The first session I went to was with Sue Bradford Edwards. In a session that was an hour or so long, she shared lots of information. Here are some of the points/advice she shared:
- When an editor asks, "Can you do this?" (such as "Can you write an article about camel poop?") you say "Yes. Definitely." And then you rush around doing research...
- Once you set your sights on a magazine to write for, read the last 6 months' to a year's worth, so you aren't pitching something they published a few months ago.
- Sue's first draft is full of notes to herself in all-caps. (For example: LOOK UP THE DATE WHEN KOKO THE GORILLA WAS BORN.) This way, your writing is not slowed down and also, you won't forget that a key detail needs to be inserted there.
- Sue does expert interviews to verify information, and she's never had anyone turn her down when she tells them she's writing an article for children.
- Make your information kid-friendly. Sue once did an article on horses (or was it the poop on poop?) and she discovered that a horse produces so many cubic yards of manure every week. Well, what does a cubic yard mean to a kid? Nothing, so Sue found out how much poop fits into a typical backpack and put it in those terms. Now that's something a child can understand: A horse produces 25 backpacks of manure every week (or however many they can fill up).
- Make sure the slant is appropriate for the age level. One of Sue's friends wrote a piece about Jimi Hendrix... for eight-year olds. Is this the audience that needs to hear of his drug use? His overdose? This writer wrote about Hendrix's early years--when Jimi was a kid, he painted and drew. The author connected his artistry during his childhood with how he later painted with music.
- Hook the reader with a great beginning. If you can find an oddball fact that contradicts what most people think they know about a subject, the reader cannot resist reading more.
- Magazine editors want their readers to continue to think about the subject even after they've finished reading the article. Make sure the ending is well-crafted.
- Research a magazine before you query them.
---Who's the audience?
---What's the tone? Academic? Casual?
---Make a log of the articles they've published in the last year. If
the authors' names appear on the magazine's masthead or
if they're editors, that's not the sort of thing you can pitch.
It was a great conference. Many of the St. Louis writers impressed the agents and the editors. Donna Volkenannt--they want to see her whole manuscript. Pat Wahler--they want to see hers. Kathy Cureton (Val)--they want her proposal (she's working on a nonfiction book). And moi? One editor wanted to see my manuscript. Another wanted to see 50 pages.
Stay cool, and keep your keyboard running hot with regular drafting and submissions.