Thursday, 31 December 2009

Has She Gone Yet? Good! This Is For Blog TakeOver Day 1st Jan 2010 so no peeking until then!

I am fully aware that it is not blog takeover day until the morrow but if I don't take my chance while she's distracted I may never have the opportunity to comment, and share her secrets with you all again!

God, she's hard work. There I've said it. I've waited six months to get that off my chest and it feels great! She's a complete and utter nightmare to work with - full of self doubt and frustration - you should hear the language when she's had a rejection or six, Phooey! She's disorganised and messy. I've been shoved in her drawers for all that time. It's been ever so drafty and dark in there, I can tell you. Every now and then dhe has a rummage around and I think 'YES! It's my turn!' But, alas, she pulls out a paper clip and slams her drawers shut again.

But the other day, at last, my time had come. I was taken out from her drawers and placed majestically on her desk. But I saw a terrible sight on the way up there - it made my spine go cold. I'm sure she's told you about her piles before now,but this is something much worse. I saw, there, lying at the back of her cupboard, rows and rows of used notebooks. 'Oh my!' I gasped. She told me I was the only one - that she'd never done it before - I was her first! How could she? I felt a fool - I believed her and she took advantage of me - I will never trust a writer again. They are a scurvy lot of odd looking unscrupulous, good for nothing, low lifes anyway! ;0

The notebooks sleep on the back shelves, shoved out of the way in the darkness, unloved and ignored since she'd scribbled in them. All those pages full of ideas - oh the ecstasy they must have felt as she ran her pen across their pages! But to what end? It's criminal.

The worst of it it that she has three shiny new pens she won for letters of the week in the local newspaper and these pens have never been used - they are still in their boxes. I've heard them whimpering, begging to be set free. I would so like to offer them my pages so they can run free across my chest in gay, wanton, abandon! But they remain penned in, dependent on her will, paying penance for a crime they haven't committed. She has a penchant for stashing things away and despite her assurances to you that her piles are under control, I beg to differ! She shows no remorse, no penitence. She'll be drawing her pension before she gets those poor pens out.

Still. If you are reading this will you tell her to get her posh pens out and use them - it's what they are for - writing. She's cruel to her pens - they need to run free, not be kept penned up and forgotten.

Oh and don't tell her I told you but she likes nothing more than to dance around the living room to Lady GaGa's CDs when she thinks no one is watching! If I can get a video of her doing it on here I will. I promise - oh I so do!

She told me that I'm going to be her new Wrekin Writer notebook for 2010! Ooh I'm looking forward to going to their meetings - you think they go there to talk about writing - pah! I'll tell you the truth of the matter, don't you worry!

Happy New Year!

Julie's new moleskine notebook (free at last! Oh she is so going to regret setting me free! I'll get my own back on her and I intend to free those who have gone before me) And also signed on behalf of Julie's posh pens xxxx

So what's in store for me in 2010

I haven't got a clue! But I find that both exciting and scary. It's exciting as I don't know which magazine I'm going to target next and I don't know when the articles I know I've had accepted are going to be published and I still have some out there awaiting a verdict. I also have two more to edit this weekend and send off early next week.

It's scary as I don't know when my luck will run out. Can I continue to grow and mature as a writer? Or will I find my writing ability and urge will wane so I never get anything published again. I know, I know think positive! It's just that I haven't done any 'real' writing for a while over the festivities and I'm worried that when I do go back into it from Saturday, I won't be able to! Daft, huh? But I needed the break and I hope when I do start back at it my writing will benefit.

With it being the new year tomorrow and it being the tradition to make resolutions and out with old, in with the new, here are my top resolutions for 2010:

1. I will not beat myself up for not taking an opportunity or for messing a submission or proposal up - I will, instead, look at grasping every reasonable opportunity I can and submit better articles and proposals.

2. I will not waste my time chasing the impossible - ie if a magazine doesn't rate the quality of my photos I won't care so much or propose articles to them again, as there's nothing I can at the moment. What I will do, if I feel it will help my writing career in the future, is take a photography course and buy better photographic equipment when I can afford to do so.

3. I will not waste time procrastinating or moaning that I don't have enough time to write. I will just get on with it and make more time to write and organise the time I do have better.

4.I will not stick my head in the sand when I hear nothing back from editors! I will contact them when a reasonable time has passed so that if they say no I can pitch it elsewhere.

5. I will not stick my fingers in my ears and sing 'La,La,la,La' when new opportunities present themselves because I think I'm bot capable of doing them. I will push myself next year to seek out new avenues for my writing. I can not I can't will be my new mantra!

Happy New Year!

Julie xx

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The quiet before the storm?

How do you view the days between Christmas and New Year? The grey, endless days where nothing seems to happen? Is it dead space that isn't worth you lifting your pen to write home about? Or does it present a writing opportunity for next year? Can you write an article or two and things to do and see in the week between Christmas and New Year? Everyone seems to be at a loss of what to do this week. The excitement of Christmas has died down; the kids are bored with their new toys; al your Christmas guests have either gone home or are bickering and sniping at each other from being cooped up with each other for far too long. Any top five or ten lists you could suggest to relieve the boredom and make the path from Christmas to New Year a smoother one? Now is the period of the quiet before the storm of the New Year rushing in and a great opportunity to write something original - above the usual humdrum of this time of year - that editors will love. Think humour.

Write it all down - anything that springs into your head. When you're out walking or shopping, listen to the conversations going on around you - you might strike gold!Something to think about while you recover from eating too much Turkey!

Julie xx

Friday, 18 December 2009

Good and bad writing days

Do you ever go through this? One day you have a really good writing day. You go out and interview someone for an article or two that you've already pitched to the editors and they like the idea. You sit merrily typing away on your computer and the words are flowing and all is well. But, oh dear. The next day you drag yourself to the computer so lethargic and unwilling to start your writing day that you can barely switch the computer on. You sit there staring at the blank screen with contempt and it glares back at you, frowning and tutting. So you sit there in a staring match waiting for each other to be the one to blink or walk away.

Wednesday and Thursday I had wonderful writing days, but the weekend and the Monday and Tuesday before that I didn't. I knew I had two articles to write; I had all the information in front of me, waiting and winking at me, waving its arms at me, trying to gain my attention, for me on my desk, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. In fact, I'd do everything else but! Naughty and unprofessional I know. But Weds evening, whilst the Royal Variety performance was on, I sat at my computer and wrote the entire first 1300 draft of one of the articles. Then yesterday I wrote a 1200 complete first draft of the other article. Just like that, my inertia and days of sitting in the doldrums with no wind to fill my sails was over, as a stiff (and rather nippy) breeze blew me along.

Today, I'm currently wavering between a good and bad writing day. I've just sat down at my computer and yes, I am using this blog as a warm up for the main act later on. I find that if I blog about the troubles I have with writing, it invariably sorts itself out, or I get good advice from fellow writers who are probably now shouting at me to stop blogging and get on with the writing!

My plans today and over the weekend are to edit both articles, do a bit of my NaNo Novel and do some research on the fiction of the women's magazines. Christmas week I'm going to try and do no writing at all. Yes, that's right, no writing at all! But I think I know deep in my literary heart that I will cave in to my inner editor's demands and the call of the wild and will, at some point, be writing! But as it's Christmas week and the world shuts down and my daughter's off school, I have a lot of activities planned for her so that will keep me away from my notebooks. However, my daughter has given me a lot of inspiration lately - the things she says have pinged off ideas left right and center, so I'll be scribbling things down to save for a rainy (snowy?) day.

So have a good week and Christmas and don't forget to look out for those Christmas based ideas you can write about for next year!

Julie xx

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Setting the records straight

I've just gone through my stats on my record sheet for articles and proposals I've sent out over the year and here are my end of year stats for 2009. I thought you might be interested in what I've been up to with my articles and how I've done - rejections and all! I hope you all keep records of articles and proposals you send out too so you know where you are and where you are going in 2010. It's a useful exercise to do this (no matter how painful and boring) as it can give you a clear indication of where your strengths and weaknesses lie and where you can improve. So don't be scared or shy. Brace yourselves and dive right in; your writing will thank you for it.

Articles sent:

Internet - 16 (12 accepted for publication. 4 rejected.)

Magazines - 15 (3 accepted. 5 rejected. 7 pending.)

Free Magazines - 13 (10 accepted. 3 rejected.)

Local Newspaper features 1 (1 accepted. 0 rejected!)

Total accepted = 26

Total rejected = 12

pending = 7

Total articles sent in all categories = 45

There have been 16 other proposals that I sent out over the year of which:

3 were accepted
9 were rejected
4 not a clue!!

So I haven't had a bad year really. Any year where there is an article acceptance is a good year to me!! I have plenty to be getting on with, including two articles that I am writing where the proposal was accepted for next year and, to my surprise, there are several articles and proposals that I sent out and were rejected that I have forgotten about and (shock, horror, slap my wrists) I didn't revamp and send out again!! So I will be going through this list and sending them out again in the New Year.

Have a wonderful Christmas and I hope your writing goes well next year and you achieve your writing goals.

Julie xx

Friday, 11 December 2009

Back On Track

Following my NaNoWriMo adventure in November, I'd let things slide somewhat on the article writing front. But I am pleased to report that I have made some good headway this week to getting myself back on track. I've completed some interviews and have sent off two articles: one to Writers' News about using material from your community to write about and one to The New Writer about maximising your writing time - we'll see how they get on.

I like to try and send something out at least every week, but sometimes I don't manage it. I have been hitting the newspapers hard too by sending out letters to a variety of them. I hadn't done many letters for ages so thought I'd give them a blast - it's good for the soul to get things off your chest! I always find that the papers like a good old ranting letter about what's wrong with the world rather than what's right about it!

I'm thinking about branching out into trying to write articles for the mother and baby type magazines and education. I think I could use my recent experiences as a school Governor and reading support volunteer in my writing. I'm also going to be writing about Safer Routes To School - I've been involved in this for the route my daughter and other children and parents who use this particular road to access the school and we've been campaigning for greater safety measures up there. The police were outside the school yesterday at the start and end of the school day and again this morning, ticketing and warning parents who park on the double yellow lines. Writing about what we know about and are involved in is a good source of material and can open up many different writing opportunities.

I have nothing to report about any of my articles out there but I will be working on completing the articles about two local authors and my NaNo experiences over the next two weeks to get them finished before Santa comes down the chimney. I'm lucky that I have a bank of ideas and articles to work on - I would hate to have nothing to write or work on and I'm ecstatic about how my article writing has gone this year - I never expected or dreamed that I would get my articles accepted by two major writing magazines or the local county glossy. It just goes to prove what you can do if you work hard and set your mind to it.

I'm determined to push forward with my writing in 2010 and raise my standards. I'm also determined to help other writers by posting here anything I have found useful on the way.

Let's get our acts together and have a brilliant writing year in 2010!

Tomorrow is the Wrekin Writers meeting followed by the Christmas meal and I am so looking forward to it.

Julie xx

Sunday, 6 December 2009

How Many Wrekin Writers Can You Get Into One Magazine?!





Above is the front cover of The Link and the new guidelines for submitting articles, Fillers and letters. There is a new editor at the helm called Steve Bowkett.


It's a bit like asking the question how many people can you get into a mini or a telephone booth; how many Wrekin Writers can you get into one magazine? Well, there are three of us in the December Issue of The Link - The National Association of Writers' Groups publication: Sue Ross is on pg 4 with a festive piece called 'So This Is Christmas' about using the festive period and its stresses and strains, family dynamics and spats to inform your writing. Then on pg 9 is me 'Starting Over, about not winding your writing down over the Xmas period and using the time as an excuse to delegate some of your duties over Xmas so you can do some writing or preparation for your writing next year. On pg 16 is Simon Whaley who, 'Wants to be alone,' bless him. He's coming to the end of his 5 five week retreat up in Cumbria and between floods he has been editing his book.

If you belong to a writers' group that belongs to NAWG then why not submit your own article to them? It was where I dared to step up from letter writing and submitted my first article ever to. And I've now been in every issue this year. Go on, give it a go. Now is the ideal time as there is a new editor at the helm.

Send articles, fillers and letters to NAWG, PO Box 3266, Stoke-on-Trent, ST10 9BD
or e-mail nawg@live.co.uk

Friday, 4 December 2009

So what's it going to be?

What are your writing goals for next year? In three weeks time the annual turkey wrestle will be upon us and in the pop of a champagne cork the day will be over and before we know it it will be Jan 1st. Will you be ready with some fantastic ideas for your proposals ready to send off to those poor, unsuspecting editors on the 2nd Jan with their hangovers, shaking their heads saying never again?

Make the time now to have a look around you. Steal, beg, borrow time if you have to and read the newspapers - local and national, all the festive issues of magazines and other publications and make a list of the ones you are going to target in January. Then write a list under the magazines/publications you have decided to victimise, sorry, I mean target, and get your proposals written ready to ping off on Jan 2nd. Keep any festive cuttings from the mags that interest you as you will be bringing them out later in the year in order to find inspiration for your own articles based on Christmas in 2010

Make one of your New Year resolutions in 2010 to stop dilly dallying and be the first off the starting blocks. Get your proposals in before anyone else does and be professional. If you are having trouble with writing your proposals, as I was, read the excellent how to article in Writers' Forum magazine Pitching To An Editor by Douglas McPherson (pg 20/21.) You really will have no excuse not to do it and at least you'll do it right! Make 2010 your best writing year yet.

Remember - NO EXCUSES!

Julie xx

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Leaf books article writing comp

Leaf Books Competition
Just had this information through about a writing comp.

*NEW* Writing About Writing Competition
Leaf Books invites you to send us up to 750 words on the theme of writing. You can send us creative writing (a story or poem) or an essay/academic/journalistic piece, or even a stream-of-consciousness writers-block-induced panic, provided it’s on the subject of writing.

Enter online or by post. If sending entries by post, please note that we are unable to return submissions. If entering online, please pay via PayPal (see the competitions page on the website) and send your work as an attachment to contact@leafbooks.co.uk as a .doc or .rtf file (please don’t send .docx or .wps documents because we can’t open them).

£3.50 per submission, 4 submissions for £10

Prize: One winner will receive £100 and publication in the pilot edition of the Leaf Books Magazine. Further selected entries may also be published in the magazine: successful entrants will receive a free copy.

Closing date – January 31 2010

Enter by post: you can download an entry form (word document) here

or just send your details and a cheque. click here for postal address

Enter online: pay via paypal (they take credit cards if you don't have a paypal account). The button will take you to paypal and then you just email us the writing.

LEAF BOOKS WEBSITE


So have a look and see what you think. Any takers?!

Julie xx

Never Say Never

If I ever moan about my article proposals disappearing into the Bermuda triangle or other such place of mysterious disappearances please tell me to shut up! I now have three article proposals accepted! So I'm going to be a very busy woman over the next few weeks!

I also held my first international phone interview this evening. I spoke with one of the members of the NaNo team for my NaNo article and I really enjoyed it. It was a bit tense worrying about time zones and what time of day it was in America but all was well in the end and I got some great quotes. So thanks, NaNo!

I also spent a lovely day with children's book author Carole Anne Carr and if you go to her blog (click on her name above) you will see a photograph and posting about the interview! Thanks for a wonderful interview and delicious lunch. My husband and I were well and truly spoilt! I am so appreciative of Carole's generosity, not only for the interview, lunch and copy of her book Little Boy Good For Nothing And The Shongololo for my daughter, but also for the loan of some excellent writing books and loads of writing advice she gave me. If you think your writing life is flagging and you're feeling uninspired - take a look at Carole's blog and website - it will make you feel ashamed of yourself - she's so dynamic and works hard for her books.

Also, take a look at this website from WIRE Women In Rural Enterprise. Carole is a member and has encouraged me to join to. They give support to women in business (freelance writers/authors included) and hold local meetings where people can network and learn ways to improve their business.

A happy end to a very fulfilling writing based day so I'd advise you to get out there and get new experiences to enjoy and write about so you can take your writing forward. Pick up the phone first thing tomorrow and make that date for that interview for one of your articles. It's worth it and you owe it to your writing to grab those writing opportunities that are out there if you look hard enough.

Happy writing

Julie

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Persistence really does pay off

I've been sending off a lot of proposals to a lot of magazines, as regular followers of this blog know. I was recently having a whinge about the black hole my proposals seemed to be sucked into lately, being spat out and floating forever more into distant space. But WF came to the rescue and Carl gave me advice on pitches as well as accepting a proposal on Nano from me. There's an article in this month's WF about pitching to editors - read it,it's excellent.

Also, today I decided to hone my pitching skills and pitched an idea to WM. I have been pitching to WM forever and a day and so was not really expecting any joy. But the editor emailed back and has accepted my article proposal for WN WM's sister publication. This is great news for me and I am thrilled to the core!

It seems I'm going to be a busy girl over the next few weeks. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
Happy writing

Julie xx

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Christmas comes but once a year ........

....... so that's a guaranteed supply of material for articles, features and fillers every year then. At a recent Wrekin Writer workshop the speaker was Nick Fletcher the author and writer who has had a glowing career in writing all of his life. One of the things he said at that workshop that really changed my outlook in regards to article writing was that he recycles all of his articles. He has been selling the same Christmas themed article to the same and other magazines every year! He just gets it out about six months prior to December, rejigs it/updates it and sends it out again. Sometimes all he does, in a 'top 10' list, is move the tip around so that number five becomes number one and number two becomes number six! Ingenious and what a time saver!

Another thing I've learned is to maximise on your publishing opportunities. I know it's too late to submit articles and fillers for this Christmas, but why not spend some time this Christmas by reading the Christmas editions of the publications you fancy writing for next year and looking at the articles in there and be inspired to submit your own for next year. There is no copyright on ideas or titles and you can take a basic premise and make it your own if you put your own twist on it and don't plagiarise!

Attend as many Christmas light switch ons and Christmas fayres as you can over the coming weeks and don't forget to take your camera. You might need to get permission from the event organisers to take photos at public events as you could be unpopular if you just whip your camera out and start snapping away. It will probably be fine if you're just taking photos of your own family at these events, but if you're likely to catch other members of the public, particularly other kids, then it's best to get permission from the organisers and the kids' parents. You don't want any angry parents after you. It's a sad time of the times but you do have to be careful.

Take as many notes and photos as you can at these events and look on their web site if you have one. You can book to speak to the organisers of these events later the following year, well before their next event so you can get your copy in to the mags in plenty of time. That way you'll have plenty of material.

I'm off to the Ludlow Medieval Fayre tomorrow and the following week I'll be in Much Wenlock at their Christmas Fayre - there are plenty of opportunities out there to gather material for Christmas themed articles and fillers, so don't let them pass you by. You'll be so glad you did and might just find the Christmas present of seeing your name and work in print next Christmas - what better present is there than that?!

Don't forget to look for the more unusual and quirky side of Christmas instead of sticking to the more traditional and well trodden path. Magazine editors like to see originality, something different and interesting for their readers. A tall order I know, but the material is out there - you just have to look for it!

Happy seasonal writing! Get your material now and you can work on it in the new year ready to send out in June/July next year.

Julie xx

Friday, 27 November 2009

Writers' Forum magazine comes to the rescue!


After my post yesterday, about me being paranoid about the pitches I send out to magazines and asking for help, I was surprised to have an email this morning from Carl Styants editor of Writers' Forum magazine. He had read my blog posting via a google mail alert that tells him when Writers' Forum appears on-line. He has not only accepted my proposed article on NaNo but he also very kindly gave me some pointers on how to improve my pitches. Actually, he rewrote my pitch as to how he likes them done which is fantastic.

Here is what he advised:

My pitches are too long and it took him a while to find exactly what the article was about. So he suggested I shortened them and get right to the bones of it - make it more "snappy."

I talk too much about myself and what I do and should not open with this but shorten it and add it to the end. He advised me to also mention any previous articles he has accepted from me to jog his memory.

Talk about the magazine you are pitching the idea to more in the proposal - lets editor know that you have actually read the magazine and know how and where your article could fit.

I always say that I am writing an article on blah blah blah but he's advised not to do this as it infers to him that I will write the article whether he likes it or not! He said it's not very professional as a professional will be too busy to write every article they pitch.Professionals only write the articles they have pitched and have had accepted. I really hadn't realised this, that by me saying I have written or am writing an article, that it might put potential editors off. But I do now and so do you!


In your pitch, always stick to what the readers will get out of the aticle. It's not about the writer!

So thanks, Carl. He's a busy man but he took time out to help me. I have learned so much from his email and I will endeavour to take his advice on board and change the way I pitch ideas. I have to remember that shorter is sweeter. He's absolutely right - I do try and cram too much into my pitches!

So if you do too - stop it! If we take Carl's advice, hopefully we'll get more of our article proposals accepted.

Carl also sent me an image of the front cover of the next issue of Writers' Forum out on DEC 3RD. I know a lot of bloggers/writers already read it, but if you don't, get it and read it cover to cover - it will help you improve your writing. I've subscribed to it for a couple of years now and it's so informative.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Proposal Paranoia

Having completed my NaNoWriMo challenge and taken two days writing leave, I've been back on the computer today but this time getting back into article writing. As NaNo took up so much of my writing time over the past three weeks, I was keen to send some more proposals out there to keep myself up to speed and before I forgot how to send a proposal out!

You may remember that a few posts back I was bemoaning the fact that I'd sent loads of proposals out and heard nothing back. I was beginning to worry that either my emails were not getting through, or my proposals were that bad they were deleted immediately. I got quite a complex about it and was seriously concerned that I wouldn't get another editor interested enough from my proposals to actually get them to see the article in the first place.

It did put me off for a while as I thought what was the point in sending proposals in if they were going to be ignored and I would be there waiting for months for a reply that was never coming. Well, I'm still waiting for news on any of the many proposals I have out there, but at least I managed to pluck up the courage to swallow any misgivings and paranoia I have and send two more proposals out today. I have got a bad case of indigestion now, though, as misgivings and paranoia do not go down well!

I do feel, however, that I am very much in a chicken and egg situation at the moment. I mean in that I still feel that my writing is at an embryonic stage when I want it to fledge into the full crowing cockerel! I haven't had enough published to be able to show any perspective editors example of my work and I haven't had a novel, or more than one short story published, which makes it very difficult to get a foot hold and a way in. Maybe I'm trying to run before I can walk but I think that as no editor knows me from Adam it's quite a big problem. I'm not whining about it, it's just a fact and an obstacle that I need to work harder to overcome - and overcome it I will!

I've had some good success with the local newspaper and the local glossy county mag, and an upcoming article in Writers' Forum, but generally, when it comes to the nationals, I'm not getting very far. Is it my proposals themselves that are the problem, or is it that I'm just not well known enough as a writer to start making a headway. These are the questions I've been asking myself a lot today, and so I'm going to be spending some time sorting out my proposal technique (should it be done on bended knee or is that too old fashioned? ;0) ) If it is that I can do something about it. Maybe they're not all singing and all dancing enough; not bright enough to stand out from the crowd; or the ideas themselves aren't original enough. I don't know, but I'm going to find out and improve them if I can.

If it's because I'm not well known enough and editors believe that I'm not able to deliver then there's not a lot I can do about that at this stage, other than improve my proposal technique and just keep sending them out to a variety of magazines and see who bites. That way, if some at least ask to see my work, I'll get more chance of being published and getting my writing name and a good reputation out there that tells other editors that I can deliver the goods (as well as increase the size of my 'cuttings' folder!)


So as well as continuing on with my NaNo novel (I'm determined to finish it) and going back to basics with my short story writing by doing some market analysis - I'll be carrying on with trying to get some more articles accepted and published. It is so annoying when you send out as many proposals as I do, only to hear nothing back,and you start to get suspicious that you're not doing something right on the proposal front - yet I must have got them right on some occasions to have had some articles that I proposed accepted!

I have more than enough to be getting on with over the next few months, well into the new year. It's going to be hard work but NaNo have proved to me that I have the stamina and wherewithal to do it so I will! And I hope you know that you can do it too. Good luck and do let us know of your writing successes and frustrations. Writers need support and to give support when it's needed as well as work together to improve our writing. So if I come across any useful pieces of information I'll certainly pass them on. And if anyone else has a brainwave them please do say!

Julie xx

PS
I felt better about the Marie Celeste situation when This England retained an article of mine, so I could just do with another bite or two from the other mags I've sent proposals to to get myself on an even keel again. After the rush and excitement of NaNo I need something to ground me again.I don't know when, but I will get there!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Send those letters out


While you're busy enjoying your Sunday morning lie-in (lie-in? What's that I hear you say?!) perusing the Sunday papers. Don't just lie there doing nothing but mindlessly reading the papers. Get them out, read them slowly and jot down the articles/columns/letters/features that interest you. Then have a go at writing a letter to the letters page. Read the letters they've published over the last couple of weeks and, check for style, tone, language, topics and length and write one and email or post it in. Some of the newspapers pay money or give prizes to their letter of the week so it can be worth your while to have a go.

I had a lovely surprise this morning when I opened the pages of The Mail on Sunday and saw my letter had won letter of the week and I've won an overnight stay in a top luxury posh hotel for my trouble (not bad for about 100-150 words and five minutes work!) So writing letters to magazines and newspapers can be quite lucrative.

Once you've had a few letters published why not up the ante and try writing an article/feature. Again, you need to read the papers you're targeting for a couple of weeks to get a sense of the style/word count and topics that they publish and then put pen to paper/finger tips to keyboard and write an article in their style. And don't forget to read the whole newspaper, the adverts etc too and their colour supplements and mags.

I did this with one of our local daily evening papers and got a feature published in there. Okay, I didn't get paid for it, but it was my name on there - valuable experience and a cutting for my portfolio plus the paper knows my name now so there's nothing to stop me from pitching other ideas to them!

I might try one of the nationals with a feature next so why don't you have a go too? Yes the competition is fierce and the chances of having a feature accepted my a national newspaper is pretty low, I should imagine, But NEVER say never - you won't know until you try and someone has to get their features in there - the papers have to fill their pages so it might as well be you who fills them!

Even if you don't get them published in the nationals, nothing is ever wasted, just revamp it and send it somewhere else until you run out of outlets (that will be a very long time!

And I now have more potential article material at my disposal from my win!

Happy reading (all in the name of research, of course!)and writing

Julie xx

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Check up

Out of the blue this morning I received a phone call from the PR lady (amongst other roles she plays) of the Wenlock Olympian Society. You may remember that I went along to the Wenlock Olympian Games back in July this year and got a press pack. It was my first outing as a freelance journalist and one that I learned so much from and enjoyed immensely, although I was very nervous!

She was ringing round all of the journalist who had attended over the two day event to see how we had got on with our articles about the event. I felt quite sad when I told her that, unfortunately, I had yet to get anything published from the event. Apparently the committee have a meeting tonight and any publicity or articles that have been published/accepted from the event are to be discussed.

Then she asked me a strange question that concerned me a bit. There were alarm bells ringing in the back of my mind. She'd been on the Internet and asked me if I was the Julie Phillips who was the international writer. I said that I wasn't, although I knew who she meant, and she said what a shame it was! Yes, quite - I'd love to be an internationally renowned writer! But thank god she didn't find my other namesake - the one who styles cross dressers! Now that would have caused a stir in the meeting tonight! (I'm not that Julie Phillips either.)

Then I got a bit anxious as I thought is she checking up on me? I felt guilty even though, to my knowledge, I haven't done anything that infringes their terms and conditions or any copyright laws. But it also made me stop and think about why I didn't get anything published about the event. I had a golden opportunity presented to me on a plate and I didn't take it. I took loads of notes, interviewed lots of people and took loads of photos. I remember approaching Shropshire Life about an article but I'd been pipped to the post (by the PR lady of Wenlock Olympian Society who rang me this morning!) And I approached Country & Border Life but that's where the photograph issue first reared its ugly head. Then I sort of just ran out of steam.

But the PR's phone call has spurred me on again - she was very kind and wished me luck with my future endeavours and so I have decided to give it another go and send a couple of articles off and photos. It would be a shame to waste the work I did collating all the information. I think what is putting me off is that the society requires anyone who writes an article about them to send a copy to them for scrutiny first and if the writer wants to use any photos from their archive, you have to apply by form for them and they charge a fee. But you can't just be vague as to what publication they're for, you have to be specific and they charge a fee for the photos. Now, if, like me you are freelance and you want to pitch articles to a variety of magazines - it can get complicated and costly - particularly if there is no guarantee the magazine will buy the article at the end of it.

So I've been a bit reluctant to try it really. I'm scared of breaching anything and and I certainly can't afford to be out of pocket. I think that before, I was scared that I couldn't write the article well enough to get published. But now, four months after the event, I know I can write the article easily enough and I have got articles accepted - so my confidence is higher. So maybe I'll just write it, send it in to the society, see what they think then offer it to a magazine with the photos I have but state that I can access other photos if they need them. It would be nice to see something in print of mine about the society and I know they'd appreciate it too.

Julie xx

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

This England/Evergreen/Beautiful Britain guidelines


Here are the guidelines for the above magazines. You might have something that is suitable for you to submit to them. Whatever you submit to them is automatically considered for publication in all three magazines - saves on postage and having to submit three articles to the three editors.

I had a slip from them today saying they are considering an article I sent to them recently. It might still be rejected but at least they didn't send it back, rejected, straight away!

Happy writing

Julie xx

Sunday, 15 November 2009

We're busy doing nothing .......



Still nothing to report on the article front, other than the guidelines for the Best Of British magazine came through. I'll scan them in a minute for you all to see. You might have something you can send off to them.

I'm still busy NaNo-ing at the moment but I have sent a couple of articles off last week and I'm aiming to send one or two off this week. One to Best Of British magazine and I'm not sure were else yet, but I'm sure it'll come to me as the week goes on!

Happy writing - I hope this week is the week you get some acceptances or see your work in print.

Keep writing!

Julie xx

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Feature Focus

I've been a bit lax on the article writing so far this week as I've been busy trying to keep my word count up for my novel as part of the madness that is NaNoWriMo. I'm taking part this year for the first time and I have to write 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November. I don't know what possessed me but so far, to my utter amazement (and my family's) I am keeping up to a decent word count.

I still haven't heard anything back from the editors I've pitched ideas to or sent actual manuscripts to and I suppose I'm using my frustrations on that point to fuel my NaNo writing. Has anyone got any useful ideas on what to do if you hear nothing back re your pitches?I keep sending them out there but as I said previously, it's like I'm lost in space, drifting out over the galaxy, beyond reach of all communications. Don't they say that in space, no one can hear you scream?!

I'm devoting my writing time tomorrow to polishing up and sending out a couple of articles and I'll work on polishing my pitching technique (and I don't mean tents or balls!) and sending more out in the hope one will stick.

I tend to try and catch the editor's attention right from the start by putting a statement/title in the subject line that's unusual or surprising and then I go on in the main body of the text explaining who I am. I then go straight into the idea, mentioning side bars and people I will be quoting - unusual facts or techniques I'll be discussing and I include a sample photo or two. The whole thing is probably about 100 - 150 words, no more than two short paragraphs - three at the most. I then put my contact details at the end.

I know it works sometimes as I've had some articles accepted, but I get a lot of misses too where I hear nothing back. I do what I'm told and keep sending them out but it's so frustrating when you want to be given a chance to write this article you know is going to be great because the subject matter is brilliant and you know you can write to a publishable standard. But you can't bring it all to life if you're falling down at the first hurdle of the proposal!

So tomorrow is not NaNo day but ArNo day for me, where I try and take aim and hit my target magazines. I've said it before and I don't want to sound like a broken record, but the only way forward is to keep smiling (paste it on with face paint if you have to) keep pitching and writing and improving your writing skills and sending your articles out there and one day an editor will take you by surprise, and catch you out by wanting to see an article you've pitched to them now that you haven't written yet! I look forward to that day and NaNoWriMo has certainly taught me how to speed write so will come in handy, should that day arise!

Julie xx

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Hello? Is there anyone out there?

Mmmm. It's all gone eerily quiet in my writing life. It's not me; I'm writing away like a mad woman. I've sent two articles out this week and about seven proposals to a variety of magazines on subjects as varied as wildlife, writing and business. And there lies the problem. I've heard nothing back. It's like the Bermuda triangle here, or the Marie Celeste. It's as though my email proposals have been swallowed up by some mysterious Internet proposal gobbler and the editors are blithely carrying on regardless.Or maybe they have got through and they're pressed the delete button without a second glance.

I know there's been a postal strike on, but luckily we've still had a trickle of mail getting through every day. It may be that as the backlog of post filters through my manuscripts will be returned to me (not all on the same day, I hope! There's only so much a writer can take!)

I'm doing all the right things by not sitting here, twiddling my thumbs, waiting anxiously by the phone, or staring at my in-box, or hiding in wait to ambush the postman as he nears my door. I'm working on other articles and features. But every now and then I get a little niggling and nagging voice at the back of mind (it sounds a bit like Kenneth Williams) going, "Oooh 'eeer, all the work you'll ever write will be rejected, you know." Most days I just bat it away with my trusty electrified 'negativity' swatter but some days, when the tumble weed crosses my computer screen, or the postman misses my house out on his rounds, and my in-box doesn't ping, I can't help but think, "Oh my God, no-one wants to publish my work!" Then the manic wailing of, "WHY OH WHY doesn't anyone want to publish my work?" Starts.

It can be demotivating when you are writing an article that you have proposed to an editor so it is ready to send should they want it and you hear nothing back from them. I am loathe to email them again to check on the progress of my submission/proposal as everything I've ever read on the subject says that this is a sure fire way of being rejected. Yet, if I hadn't have emailed the Writers' Forum to check on an article I'd sent about writing courses I wouldn't have got it published as the editor had forgotten to email me back to ask me to send in the manuscript. So what do you do? Editors are busy people and mistakes/oversights do happen. But it's also true that if a editor doesn't like your idea or manuscript nine-times-out-of ten it's deleted or put in the recycling pile never to be thought of again,and the writer never hears the fate of their work.

One way round this would be do multiple submissions, tailoring your proposal or manuscript to the specific style and preferences of the editor of each magazine you send it to. But, again, I am loathe to do this. What happens if you get two or more editors interested in your work (highly unlikely, I know). I don't want to annoy any of the editors by saying,"Ooops, sorry, just sold that one." They will be less eager to read my work after this. What to do!

My heart sinks when I turn on my computer every morning and there is nothing in my in-box other than a round robin from Tescos urging me to join their diet plan and lose two stone before Christmas! (How do they know I'm trying to lose weight?!)

But anyway. The only way forward is to move forward. Keep sending article proposals out there and keep writing the articles/features. So I am now going to take the advice of a speaker friend of another speaker I interviewed last week SUMO (Shut Up and Move On! (If you are reading this, Liam - stop it! I can see my duck from here and it's giving me the evil eye! I know, I know - I can and I will!

Julie xx

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Lovely Blog Award

Thank you, Olivia Ryan, http://oliviaryanblogspot.blogspot.com for passing on a Lovely Blog Award to me. I am honoured! I love writing my blog and have got so much support from my fellow bloggers and I really do appreciate it.

Blogging has been a revelation for me and I hope my blog continues to inspire and get people writing, because despite the ups and downs, the publications and the rejections I'm still here writing, and so are you all. We should all be proud of that.

I also love to read so many blogs - all of which are excellent. How can I choose who to pass it on to? The only fair way I can do it is to put the names of my favourite blogs into a hat and get my daughter to pull a winner out! So that's what I'll do when she finishes school this afternoon! Watch this space.

Thank you again, Olivia!

Julie xx

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

New Outlets

I found a new possible outlet for my article on the local drama group I spent time with. The tip off came from a fellow Wrekin Writer who is also a member of the drama group and was instrumental in my being allowed to observe the group and interview people/get photos. It often pays to ask the people you interview if they know of any magazines/newsletters in their particular field of interest that may take an article you're writing about them.

Mike White, the Wrekin Writer and member of the drama group emailed me to tell me about NODA National Operatic and Drama Association. They are a national company who have members from the theatrical and operatic world and they also have regional magazines and branches too. I had never heard of them before and so was a bit reluctant to approach them as I felt (huge slap on my wrists please) that my writing would not interest them! So I left it for a few weeks until yesterday when I plucked up enough courage to approach them. I figured if the group had been so kind and helpful to me when I was gathering information/researching/interviewing, then the least I could do was try and get them a piece in their own specialist magazine!!

I emailed the editor and received an email back expressing their interest, and I emailed a copy of the article with selected photos over last night with a hard copy version going out this afternoon, as they requested both email and printed. I await a verdict. But I would never had submitted to them had Mike not mentioned NODA to me. So thank you Mike, and fingers crossed, it might just make it in.

I've just finished transcribing from my dictaphone, the interview from the motivational speaker I saw on Friday and will be writing that up soon. I've approached two writing magazines now with the proposal for the article and will be pitching the idea to different magazines later. Liam O'Connell, he motivational speaker gave me ideas for how and where to pitch my articles on him too - the business trade press, which I, again, as in the drama group example above, would never have considered that arena for my work. So thank you, Liam, too!

Don't be afraid to push further with your writing into new avenues. And as Liam says, "Never, ever, give up."

Happy writing

Julie xx

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Top Tips For Finding A Home For Your Features

Here is some of the advice I've picked up on the way from both expert writers and writing buddies and from my own recent experiences on how to get your features noticed by editors and published. You've probably heard them a thousand times before but it never hurts to have a gentle reminder - they work, that's the main thing!

1. Check the magazine you want to write for will consider contributions from freelance writers. If this is not apparent from looking through the magazine then don't be afraid to ring them/ look on the web site/ email them to ask. If you don't ask you won't know if they are a potential outlet for your work, or if you're just wasting your time trying to write for them when they won't even look at your features - no matter how good they are. If they aren't interested in freelance work, do yourself and them a favour and move on to a magazine which does. For lists of magazines have a look on the Internet, or get a copy of Writer's Market UK and Ireland. It lists all potential outlets for your work as well as containing articles and advice on all aspects of writing. It's a great book and one no aspiring or experienced writer should be without. It really is invaluable. You can get in any good bookshop and on-line sites such as Amazon.

2.I know it's been said over and over again but it's such good advice I'm going to say it again - read the magazines you want to write for. I don't mean just one copy. If they are published monthly you need to read at least three issues, more if you can. If they are weekly, read about 4 - 6. If they're quarterly, read a years worth. If you can't afford to buy them, or they don't stock them in your local shops try the library - they sometimes have the current issues of a wide range of magazines you can read for free. Or try the magazines web site if they have one. Some magazine publishers will send you back copies of their magazine, but may charge a fee for this.

3. When you are reading your chosen magazine don't just skim it. Take the time to look at the whole thing, adverts and all. They give you such a valuable insight into the type of people who the magazine is aimed at and who you are writing for. Note the features in there. Who are they written by - are they all qualified in the topics they teach? Or are some using their jobs/ experience? How will you qualify your credentials and give the editor/readers and assurance that you know about what you speak? Look at the style, word length, how features are illustrated, tone, language and write your feature in the same style.

4. Be original. Don't deviate from the magazine's house style as it's likely your feature will get rejected if it doesn't conform to their accepted parameters. But that doesn't mean your feature should be predictable or banal. Infuse some freshness into your style. Look for topics or themes that haven't been done to death - if they have, either look somewhere else for inspiration or find a different angle.

5. People are fascinating so have a snoop around your locality - local paper, local free magazines/papers for potential interviewees who would make a good subject for a feature: people with unusual hobbies, coming up to important anniversaries, lead unusual or interesting lives - that sort of thing.

6. Don't waste your own or the editor's time by pitching/sending your work to the wrong type of magazine - I know it sounds daft but I've heard other writers and editors say that it does happen! If you've read the magazine properly you shouldn't make that mistake. Even if you have read the magazine and written your feature to the best of your ability it doesn't mean it will be accepted, but that's when you need the next tip!

7. Be persistent. That doesn't mean be a nuisance or stalk the editor or argue with the editor that they're wrong to reject your feature. You won't change the outcome and may find your self black listed. No means no so move on and pitch it somewhere else. Just because one editor says no it doesn't mean they all will(as I've had recent experience of). If you work is good enough it will find a home somewhere, eventually. You've just got to keep trying and revamping it.

8. Most importantly of all believe in your work because no-one else will. If you don't believe you can get your feature published then you won't. Have the confidence to write your feature and approach editors in the way they prefer and in professional way. Remember we all had to start somewhere and editors aren't out to make your life a misery. They need a continuous supply of good copy to fill their pages - so why shouldn't it come from you. I used to think that no editor would ever take my work, let alone pay me for it. But I started off small and have now had 21 articles published, since I started recorded my achievement in Jan this year. Most have been in free, community magazines, and association magazines but I've worked up to now getting them into the local paper, local glossie magazine and a national writing magazine. I know several others have done so in blog land too. So you can do it. You just have to take the plunge.

9. Visualise your success - I know it sounds crazy but it works. It's something Mr Whaley told me to do and I know he's mentioned it hos blog too. I lie on my bed, holding the magazine I want to get published in in my hands, close my eyes, take deep, calming breaths and I visualise my photo in the contributors list some magazines have and my name is there too. I then 'open' the pages of the magazine until I get to my feature in there. I can see the text and my name in the byline. I can see the images the magazine have chosen to illustrate my feature. It's a wonderful feeling and I let myself hold that visualisation in my mind for a few minutes. Then I get up and get typing. Try it! It's really motivation and call me daft if you like but it works for me!

Keep us posted on your writing achievements

Julie xx

Done it

I've done another disc of the best images I have for the amateur dramatic group feature to the local glossie that had declined to take my archery article but who is interested in this one - if the pictures are good enough. And therein lies the rub. The archery snaps weren't good enough for them, but non of the photos I've just sent are taken by me, so I'm hoping they will be of sufficient quality.

I'm in two minds about this. Firstly I'm thinking why am I bothering to bang my head against a brick wall. They want 'professional' photographs that I don't have the equipment or ability to supply. They won't even look at the text of the feature if the photos aren't up to their standards. But then I remember I have had other articles and features accepted/published by other magazines (including the archery one they declined - photos and all!) So I know I can do it. I still have that fighting spirit in me that refuses to give up and let the photo issue discourage me from sending proposals and submitting my work. If they don't accept my work it is their loss and someone else might take it. I'll post the disc tomorrow and see what happens. I've deciced to submit the feature elsewhere in the meantime and if I can place it I will be thrilled.

I've emailed two feature proposals out to two different magazines this morning, and made enquiries at another on how to submit. I've approached the motivational speaker via email to check we're still on for the interview on Friday - we are, and I'm so excirted about it. I've prepared a list of questions and I'm raring to go. It pays to be prepared in this game.

Feeling on a high about my writing at the moment and despite my troubles with photographs, I'm enjoying it greatly.

What are your greatest annoyances in your writing life?

Julie xx

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Letting Go

I always hesitate before I pop my finished articles in the post, or press send on my computer keyboard if emailing them. I never see my writing as finished, you see, and to be honest if I didn't make myself send my work out there, I'd be dithering about, editing and re-editing for years!

Today I again threw all caution to the wind and pressed that send button. It was a risk, but it paid off as I have had my second article accepted in a Shropshire glossie! It's expected to be published in the spring. I am so glad I pushed my anxiety out of the way and just did it.

I am now going to finish of an article I've written and propose the article to an editor of a writing magazine. I like the fact that I can write about a wide range of subjects for my articles. I used to think I had to be an 'expert' in the subjects I wrote about it and I wouldn't write about subjects I knew little about. But so far I've written, and had accepted/published articles on: archery, a wildlife center, writing, and amateur dramatics! The only subject out of that lot I felt confident writing about was writing! It pays to spread your freelance writing wings and pick subjects you've never thought of writing about before. I've had such fun researching and have met some incredible people. And I can't wait to get out there and research and meet some more facinating people.

Julie xx

Monday, 26 October 2009

Facing Demons

I have done another disc of photos for the magazine that turned down my archery feature because the photos weren't up to their standard. It's for another feature (I sold the archery feature, photos and all, a few weeks back to another magazine) one about the local Amateur dramatic group I did a feature and review in the local daily paper for.

I sent the editor three sample photos of the group via email last week and they liked the old black and white images but not the colour ones! I did say to the editor that I had been told the group had access to a professional photographer and the editor wanted to see these photos. So I put this to the group and one of the members has sent me through some great shots of their recent performance. But it turns out the only professional photographs they've had taken are by a local newspaper. I did approach them to see if I could use some of them but I've heard nothing back - so I'm taking that as a no. I will email them again today just to make sure.

This photo business is really bugging me. I never envisaged, when I started my writing career, that I would ever have to be worrying about photographs! I'm glad my archery feature found another home but I can't get over the feeling that whatever photos I send to the other mag, they will never be good enough. And that means because they look at the photos first before I can even send my feature in, I'm falling at the first hurdle and that's so frustrating. I'm normally enthusiastic about sending stuff out there but at the moment I find myself holding back with this particular mag.

I know I'm capable of getting features published as I've had two accepted before, but I just cringe when I think about putting that disc in the post (I don't just have to worry about the quality of my photos anymore, but also whether they're going to get there what with the postal stikes and all!)It didn't help when the writer we had at a recent workshop seemed quite flippant about supplying photos to illustrate features and said something along the lines of, 'as long as the photos are in focus and 300dpi or above they'll do.' Well this, is clearly not strictly true!

I think I'm going to have to take the plunge, eventually, and go on a photography course and get better camera equipment. But if I find that the majority of my features are finding homes with the photos I've got then I'm happy not to make the extra financial expenditure and carry on as I am.

I have three articles on the go with lots of ideas for others so as long as I can keep rolling I'll never be short of features! I'm taking another piece of advice from the writer from the workshops more seriously, though, and that's to recycle the features I write to get more mileage out of them. I'll be trying that this week. Will keep you posted on how I get on. I know other people who've done it and that's encouraging.

Keep writing and finding new ideas. The nights are drawing in now and that gives us the perfect excuse to hanker down and get writing!

Julie xx

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Never work with children or animals

I had the opportunity to visit a local wildlife rescue center this week for an article (or several) I want to write on them. It was a wonderful place and I was intrigued as to why I'd never been there before when I'd lived in the area since before the center opened.

They didn't have many animals in as it was the wrong time of the year really. Note for new writers - make it a habit to get to know when the busy periods of a place you want to go to are as you'll have more photo opportunities and get to speak to more people for quotes. I was lucky in that because it was so quiet I had the luxury of speaking to the owner at length and she had some photographs I could use. I did manage to take some super photos of a tawny owl and a hedgehog but the kestrel was camera shy. And I got snaps of the owner and the grounds. But remember if, on the day you go, you aren't able to get the photos you want you can make arrangements to use the photos they might already have, or go back at a more appropriate time. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need and you can always ask the owner to give you a call if they get something of interest in.

I use a Dictaphone but I also write a few notes in case of technology failure. I spent the evening after the visit transcribing the info from the Dictaphone and writing down my observations and trawling through the newsletters and other information the owner kindly gave me. Tonight I'll be making a start on writing the article. I like to get the article written fairly soon after the visit/interview as I think I still have an impression of that place in my mind that would be lost to memory if I didn't get in on paper asap.

Tips on interviews/visitsHere are a few tips which I have found helpful:

Take your time - don't rush into the interview. Think about how you can maximise your opportunity.

Plan - Before you even contact the person in charge of where you want to go, do your research. Find out as much about the person/place as you can. The Internet is a real advantage here. If you show the person you've done your homework and know about them it shows them you are genuinely interested in them and their cause.

Be polite - Be professional and polite at all times. You won't get a good response if you are aggressive or rushed.

Don't interrupt - It wasn't until I first heard myself speaking when I replayed the Dictaphone that I realised I have a tendency to interrupt the interviewee and (shock horror) I even finish their sentences! DON'T DO THIS!! Resist the urge and once you've asked the question shut up and let them speak!!

Take notes: In case your Dictaphone fails. Make sure you check your equipment before the interview and that you get a clear recording. Make sure your note taking isn't intrusive and doesn't stop you from listening to what the person is saying. You will be surprised how much you will remember when you get home so just note down key words and phrases to jog your memory.

Check: If your not sure of something the interviewee has said or some facts ask them about it. It's better to get the facts straight than make mistakes.

Be careful: If the interviewee gives you photos/books to borrow then take care of them and get them returned to them asap. You don't want to upset them by losing or breaking something of theirs.

Have fun! You're supposed to enjoy it and will get much more out of it if you relax and smile.

At the recent Wrekin Writer workshop, where we had professional writer Nick Fletcher in talking about article writing, something he said really resonated with me and it's something I am determined to act on to improve my writing and publishing opportunities: You can get several articles out of one idea or interview. So that is my top tip of the week! I am determined to go back through my notes on articles I've done and re-market them!

I have many ideas for other articles and next week I'm meeting up with a motivational speaker and I will be trawling through the local press for other article ideas and people to interview. I have no news on any of my projects out there in magazine land to report other than I got letter of the week in the local newspaper this week which is nice and the prize - a lovely Cross pen - came this morning! It's such a boost.

Happy writing and good luck with all your writing endeavours!

Julie xx

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed ....

Well, my flabber has well and truly been gasted. After the disappointment of yesterday's rejection of my archery article by one magazine, to be honest, I was feeling down hearted. But yesterday I did email the other editor of the other magazine , I had sent the article to originally back in August, and they had said 'maybe' but my books are full at the moment. I'll call you in a few weeks. They said they were still interested so, with a hopeful heart and feeling a little better than I did yesterday, I got the article our this morning and edited it to within an inch of it's life and sent it off with a couple of images (I cringed when I attached the images to the email)to the editor.

I don't know how anyone else feels when they've pressed the 'send' button, or put the envelope containing their manuscript in to the post box, but I always have a mixture of feeling sick, excited, shock - oh my god what have I done! I do try and get over this by getting on with more work but I didn't have chance to this time. Within minutes an ominous 'ping' emanated from my inbox. Well that's it, I thought. It's got to be a no.

I don't know who I felt more sorry for, me or my lovely archers. But I gave a heavy sigh and opened the message anyway. It was from the editor and she'd accepted my article and images and wants me to send more images!! It just goes to show that you shouldn't give up on yourself and your writing. And Do send out your rejected stuff again. I have been reluctant to do this in the past but I won't be now!

Shropshire Life are planning to use my article (fingers crossed) in Jan/Feb next year. And I had the wonderful job of bearing the good news to one of the archers who is very pleased!

It's taken me since July to find a home for my article, which isn't long in the grand scheme of things, so I am chuffed and I'm already working on my next submissions to other mags.

I will, in the future, if I decide to carry on writing features and using my own photos, have to think about investing in a better camera and a camera course (that's what Christmas & birthdays are for) to improve what I can produce.But, for today, I am in a celebratory mood!

Go Wrekin Writers! I know Di has also had her feature accepted in one of the Shropshire magazines too. Keep writing and keep sending your work out everyone - you can and will get published.

Julie xx

Monday, 12 October 2009

Good, bad and ugly!

First I would like to congratulate my fellow Wrekin Writer and blogger Diane Parker for getting her article into Shropshire Magazine. Well done, girl! She's worked hard on it and deserves her success.

Good news: two of my articles, Apple Bobbing, and Writers' Bash, plus a letter of mine has been published in The Link (The National Association of Writers' Groups magazine).

Bad news: You may remember I sent an article proposal about my archery feature to two shropshire magazines. One of them was over run with features but said they may be interested later, and the other one asked for a disc of images. The One I sent the images to has declined to see my archery feature because the images I sent them to look at weren't good enough, apparently, so I did the decent thing and have now proposed it to another magazine and they want to see the article and images with a view, if good enough, to run the feature next year. So it's not really bad news - there is still hope for my lovely archers!

I have no idea what I am going to do about producing better images as I am sort of stuck with the camera equipment I've got, at least until I can afford to go on a short photography course and buy better equipment.

The magazine that declined my archery feature (the text of the feature wasn't even seen by the editor!) did, however, say I was welcome to pitch further ideas to them, so I took them at their word, was really cheeky and sent one off to them straight away! We shall see what transpires. But I think it's going to be the same story because of my inability to produce good enough photos.

Ugly news: Mmmmm! Not sure I have any, though I did have a few 'ugly' thoughts and a few choice words were uttered when my feature was declined! But the thing I've learned out of this I'd like to pass on to other writers is to make sure that you do chase up these editors - don't let them forget your work or you! I've been waiting a few weeks for a reply about my images I'd sent to the magazine and by the looks of it, I would be waiting for ever, because if I hadn't taken courage (after a cup of tea and a couple of chocolate hob nob biscuits) to contact the editor, I would ever had had a reply and I'd never have sent it out to elsewhere. Yes, it was a no the first time, but the other mag might take the feature and the first mag might like my second proposal better. you never know until you try!

Julie xx

Friday, 9 October 2009

It's in!


Hurrah, my feature on Horsehay Amateur Dramatic Society is in the local news paper this evening. Phew! I was beginning to think I was imagining it all. I couldn't get the whole thing in one photo but you'll get the gist of it!

I've read the Shropshire Star for years, on and off and I've had many letters published in there, even got letter of the week twice and two posh pens for my trouble. But I never, ever, dreamed I'd get a feature in there. It's surreal. I see my name above the feature but I keep thinking it's by some other Julie Phillips! It's not me. I can't do that!

I'm ecstatic! And to think I wasn't going to approach the editor with my proposal because I thought they didn't take stuff from freelancers and that my writing would never be good enough to get in the local paper! You don't know until you try. Wooh hooh!

Go on - give it a go. I dare you;0)

Julie xx

Thursday, 8 October 2009

slow, slow progress

I've made slow but sure progress with my article writing this week. I have put a few proposals out to the Shropshire Star, Writing Magazine, Writers' Forum and The Lady Magazine but have not heard anything back yet. I have submitted my article about my local area to a community magazine, and an article to another community magazine, and one to the New Writer magazine, but I'm still waiting for verdicts on those too.

That's one of the most frustrating things about writing, I think - the waiting. But I am learning to become more patient and I've found that getting on with other pieces of work, so I have them ready to send out as soon as a rejection or acceptance comes my way, is a great way of lessening the anxiety about my work that's out there, and makes me more productive.

I have finished the first draft of my first assignment for the journalism course I'm doing so that will be edited and sent off early next week. I'm quite excited about the course. I have plenty to be going on with.

Still no verdicts from Shropshire Life or Country and Border Life on whether they want to see my archery article or not. You may remember that I sent a proposal off to Shropshire life a couple of months back and the editor was very kind to me and said she may be interested but not at the moment as her books were full. But she did say she'd contact me soon if she was able to place it. But I was to let her know if I'd placed it elsewhere in the meantime.

I then sent the proposal to Country and Border Life magazine. They also said 'maybe' and asked me to send a disc in of the photos I had to illustrate the feature. This was about 3-4 weeks ago now and I've heard nothing, There's the waiting thing again! Still, the feature is ready to go as soon as either of them ask for it. But I suppose I ought to pluck up the courage to email both editors in case they've forgotten about me! So if it's a 'no' from both I can pitch the article elsewhere.

It can get very convoluted and time consuming when you're a freelance pitching to a variety of magazines and this is where accurate record keeping comes in to its own.If I didn't have my record sheet of where I've pitched ideas, where I've sent articles, which magazines were a no, which were a yes, which were a maybe, and where I've pitched the idea next, I would be in a right pickle. I have to be super organised if I want to succeed and I need to look and act professional (even if I don't feel it inside).

I'm still trying, and out of all my writing endeavours: short stories, poems, articles/features, I have definitely had more articles/features published. This surprised me as, initially, I didn't set out to be an article/feature writer. I was determined to get my poems and short stories published. But then I joined a writers' group, met a strange chap who was obsessed with puppies training their owners and also with hiking that my writing journey changed tack somewhat.

I'm still striving to get my short stories and poems published, but it hasn't been an easy journey so far.It's true you have to develop a thick skin and grit your teeth and get on with it, whilst trying not to take rejections personally or become paranoid that editors are ignoring your emails and not getting back to you on purpose. Hey, maybe they are and I'm not paranoid! Still got to keep on trying.

Best wishes with all your writing endeavours too. If you look at the laws of probability (don't ask me to explain them on here!) then some of us have got to get published!

Julie

Monday, 5 October 2009

Do I or don't I?

I know I went on a bit (well a lot actually, sorry!) about the problem I had with the editor of a non-paying community magazine. And I know I said I wouldn't submit work to him again. But, (sighs heavily) I have now decided that I will. Now before people start jumping up and down, I have method in my madness. I figured that as I had worked so hard gathering the information and taking the photos, interviewing people for it, it would be a shame not to have it published. So I have submitted it for the people who contributed really. If I turn round now and tell them the article won't be in it would disappoint them as well; as denting my credibility as a serious writer.

But there has been good to come out of the experience as well. I have learned a hell of a lot by getting out there and interviewing people, taking photos, and my confidence has been boosted as a result. I've even got to know my own community better which can only be a bonus. I have also got a feature off the back of my research for the community magazine in to the Shropshire Star (local daily paper), as well as a letter about my experiences in Writing Magazine! I also have plenty more articles in the pipeline from it too - which I hope to get into the paying market.

As I have said before, I still believe that writing letters to magazines and newspapers, and articles to local community magazines - whether you get paid for your work or not - is a good place to start your writing career. It can, and does lead on to other writing opportunities you can get paid for. It allows you to practice your writing skills, plus it gives you a few cuttings for your portfolio to show other editors, and gets your name out there. It gives you the confidence to pitch your article ideas to other outlets, (In my case a Writing magazine and a local paper.)

Today I have pitched an idea for a feature to The Lady Magazine on a subject I researched for the community magazine about my local area. I wouldn't have dreamed of doing that a few months ago! I wouldn't have dared have the nerve! Of course, if it all goes pear shaped I'll blame Simon Whaley! No, not really, if it wasn't for him and the rest of my lovely writing group,and the support in Blog Land, I wouldn't have got half as far as I have. Thank you all.

So don't be afraid to pitch ideas to your chosen markets. And don't just stop at the local mags, why not have a bash at the nationals? I did and had an article accepted by Writers' Forum. I have, of course, had a lot of proposals rejected by magazines such as People's Friend, Essentials, Prima, The New Writer, Writing Magazine, Writers' Forum ... the list goes on! But I still keep chugging away. In this game it really is a case of, "try, try, try again." Or should that be, "I'll sthcream and sthcream until I'm sthick!" It's the only way.

If an editor says, "No thank you," to one of your article proposals, read the magazine and several back copies again, have a rethink and pitch another idea, then another, and another until one sthicks - sorry, I mean sticks, (My daughter has a slight lisp at the moment and I seem to get one when I'm a bit stressed or tired!)

Let me know if you get something published or rejected - it's all character building and good for all writers to hear about other writer's successes and failures - it's how we learn and move on. I used to get really jealous and down hearted when I heard other writers in Blog Land saying they'd got this, that and the other published and it used to put me off writing. But not any more! I see it as a challenge - if they can do it, so can I! And so can you. Try not to think of other writers as a threat or competition - use them as a springboard to gain a bit of their enthusiasm and success and apply it to your own writing. Who knows where it might take you.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Friday, 2 October 2009

Be Prepared

It's been a very busy week for me on the article front. I seem to have them coming out of my ears! No sooner have I crossed the last 'T' in one article, or I've read through another one, two more article ideas appear! Not that I'm complaining. I'd rather have too many ideas than I can handle than none at all.

I have been e-mailling a fair few companies and fellow writers/potential interviewees for various articles over the last week and I have to say, although I still find it nerve racking, I've been encouraged by the positive responses I have received from the majority of those I have contacted. It's a wonderful feeling when someone agrees to be interviewed and it builds up my confidence the more I do it.

I'm still waiting for replies to my questions on copyright laws and requesting permission from some of the companies to use quotes from their websites. I'm erring on the side of caution and taking no chances. After reading the article in one of the writing magazines last month by a freelance writer who got stung by aparently unwittingly plagerising stuff, I am being ultra careful. The last thing I need at this point in my writing career (or at any time) is a lawsuit on my hands!

It pays to be prepared when approaching people/ companies for interviews/ permission to use quotes. I have found the following helpful and I hope it helps you too:

Write it down - write down exactly what you want and why.This is a must if you are telephoning them. There's nothing worse than forgetting what it is you are ringing them for in the heat of the moment - don't scoff! It happens, believe me.

Be clear - Make your e-mail clear, logical and concise. Make sure your name, contact details, what you write and why you are contacting them is in there. Make sure you check your spelling and grammar and be professional. If your e-mail is full of glaring mistakes they will assume whatever you want to write about them will be of poor quality too.

Slow down - Don't gabble on the phone - use your notes as a prompt and concentrate on slowing your speech down. Practice your questions by using a dictaphone or tape recorder. Playing it back can really show you what you sound like on the phone and you can improve your technique.

Face to face - If you can, try and arrange to meet with the person you wish to interview. I think you get so much more out of meeting them in person that you wouldn't get over the phone or by e-mail: facial expressions,how they are dressed, their mannerisms. It might mean more work, but it's the best way. If you can't get to meet them for whatever reason then see if they are willing to answer questions by e-mail or you could conduct a phone interview if you have a recording facility on your phone. Which ever method you choose - ensure your recording equipment is in good working order. You don't want the embarrassing and frustrating situation where you have recorded nothing and have to ask for another interview that you might not get.

It's always advisable to take some notes, but don't scribble frantically trying to get every word down on to paper - it's more important to listen to the person you're interviewing - and it can be off putting for them if they see you writing. Write a few words or 'buzz' words to signpost you to the gist of the conversation.

Try and relax! - I know it's not easy but it is essential you don't let your nerves get the better of you. Remember that the person you are interviewing is probably just as nervous as you are. They are people just like you and me and will be only too pleased that you have taken an interest in them and want to write about them.

Use Open Questions - Use some simple questions first to help you both to relax. Then ask questions that encourage the person to talk more than just saying yes or no. Don't be afraid to probe them further if their answer is too short or off focus.But don't make them feel uncomfortable - it's an interview for a feature in a magazine, not the police!

I've certainly learned a lot since I started writing articles and I have a long way to go. But at the moment I am doing far better with my articles than my short stories and poems - something that surprised me. I am determined to do the best I can and carry on writing. The most important thing I've learned so far on my journey is to be flexible and never say never - I've written articles about writing, archery, Charles Darwin, Wenlock Olympian Games, amateur dramatics, alcohol, waiting, communication, community meetings, beating the recession, and my local area! I haven't had them all published - yet, but I'm working on it! Variety is, as they say, the spice of life!

Happy writing!
Julie

Friday, 25 September 2009

Drinks All Round!

I have just received an email from the editor of the community magazine I had problems with and all is well again. He says it was a misunderstanding and he had no intention of restricting me to write exclusively for his magazine. He just wants to make sure that my articles don't appear in other local magazines as his in the same month.

My article for that editor's magazine was in the August issue and my three articles for the other magazine were in the September issue. So I hadn't got into both mags the same time. I had already submitted my three articles to the other magazine by the time I'd spoken to the first editor about my Horsehay article, so I really couldn't have done anything about it.So I just need to stagger my submissions to ensure I don't get in both at the same time. To be honest, I'm too busy to write for both at the same time now anyway and I am concerntrating my efforts more heavily on paying markets. But at least I know I can submit to both community mags alternatively without any fear of confusion or agro!

Note to self and other writers - accurate and clear communication is the key! If editors don't want a writer to appear in more than one local community magazine at the same time they should say. And writers should tell editors if they have submitted articles to other magazines in the area and they are likely to be in at the same time. Problem is we don't always know when our articles will be used!!

I just want to put the whole incident behind me now and move on. I have learned a valuable lesson and by blogging about it, I hope I save someone else the embarrassment!

Julie xx

All The Difference

What a difference a few days make. After the issues last week with an editor (see previous posts)and me going through my records to see how many articles rejections/acceptances I've had since I started recording them this January, I was all for jacking it in and never writing another word. I was in fear for my sanity and blood pressure. But I have come to my senses again and decided to give it another bash! Or is it that I've finally tipped over the edge into permanent insanity? I go up and down like this in my attitude to writing and my husband can always tell if my writing is going well as I type for hours and go off into my own little world. If it's going bad I roam around the house avoiding the computer!

Things that I have found useful this week along my writing journey:
*Journalism course. I have almost read the whole course through now and I'm already learning stuff I never knew! I have found the sections on the law particularly useful (and the most frightening). If you write articles/want to be a journalist and are struggling/confused then I'd recommend you consider doing a course on the subject - it doesn't need to be an expensive or extensive course, a basic one will do. I think it's probably the best thing I've decided to do for my writing career to date.

*Taking the bull by the horns. I decided not to let that editor discourage me from writing or submitting to new markets. So part of the article I had originally been writing for them I expanded and have made it into a feature in its own right. I emailed the local newspaper editor and he was interested in it. I then received a phone call from their feature editor and he liked my proposal and I am now writing the feature for them. Don't be shy - get on the phone or email these editors and give them your ideas. Yes, they may say no, but they could just as easily say yes. You won't know for sure until you try.

*Don't over stretch yourself. It tends to be all or nothing with me. I either work myself up into a frenzy and write like a woman possessed,tiring myself out in the process, or I write nothing and start moaning about the fact that I've written nothing, yet do nothing to remedy this! Have a rest every now and then - don't burn yourself out. Save some energy for your next project or there may not be a next project.

*Don't take no for an answer. If one editor says no then forget about them and move on to the next editor with your work/idea. You can always go back to the original editor with another idea later on. I used to worry about how many ideas I should send out to the same editor - but now I think if they don't want my ideas they'll say so or never reply to my emails - if that's the case I'll move on to the next editor until I get a hit!


Have a great weekend and wherever you are going/doing, don't forget to take your notebook, pen and camera - there's a story/feature out there somewhere!

Julie xx

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Articles or short stories?

I'm having a little creative battle in my brain at the moment. Half of me wants to get cracking on my Journalism course and writing more articles but the other half wants to write short stories! I also want to finishing judging the comp I'm involved in at the moment so that's taking priority at the moment.

I'm really keen to get something else published but it's the deciding what to do and waiting around for replies on the work I've already got out there that's the frustrating thing.

I suppose the answer is to just get a grip and do something rather that get myself into a tizzy mess and write nothing!

Julie xx

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Question re: My Weekly

Just a quick question. Have the new My Weekly submission guidelines come out yet? I know the ones I've got expired on 31st August. I did send an email requesting the new ones when they come out but I was just curious in case I've missed them!

Julie xx

Friday, 11 September 2009

Swings And Roundabouts

It's been a bit of a funny old week in regards to article writing for me. On the positive side I've been out and about in my local community interviewing people and taking photographs of the local area. This has been a good experience for me and I've really enjoyed chatting to people. What I've found most interesting on my travels, is how willing people have been to talk to me - it's made my job a lot easier and I have even had people make suggestions to me on what I could write about next which is a bonus!

I've found this week that the only way to get ideas for articles and find things to write about is to get out there and talk to people. It has surprised me how much getting out and about in the fresh air has energised me and rejeuvenated my enthusiasm to find new things to write about and markets I've never considered writing for before.

The good news this week is that I had three articles published in one issue of a community magazine. It was a nice surprise as I thought the editor was only going to use one. The downside was that there were a few typo spelling and grammatical mistakes in there (not mine!) So I only hope that anyone reading them doesn't think I can't spell or put a sentence together properly!

I have been working hard on another article about my local community (hence the interviews and photography) But the editor has asked me to hold fire on that one - I'm getting mixed messages as a few days ago the editor said to make sure my photos were as high res as possible, but yesterday told me to hold off on the article for now. I find the uncertainty frustrating and I have my suspicions that that particular community magazine is going to disappear. It's not a problem to me as I can find other markets - but it's an annoyance! But this is part of the course for a freelance writer. If an editor of one magazine says no you have to move on to the next one. It's the way it is.

Both of these mags don't pay contributors for their articles but, as I've said before, contributing to non-paying magazines is good practice and gets your name out there - plus you can add the articles to your portfolio to show future editors of paying (hopefully) magazines what you've done before. But I would like to get an article I actually get paid for in somewhere again soon!I'm working on one for a writing magazine at the moment.

I've sent a few more proposals out and will continue to do so. A lot of the proposals I send out I never hear anything about! Do you think the editors are trying to tell me something. But I'll keep sending them out regardless! Every now and then I get a bite - so it's worth it in the end.

Julie xx

Friday, 4 September 2009

Going That Extra Mile

I have done it. I've taken a big step on the road to becoming more professional in my outlook in freelance writing. I have been mulling this over for months and I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to be a good freelance writer I had to get serious and up my game somewhat. I've been dallying and messing about , procrastinating and not being bold enough. I've almost been 'apologetic' in my approach to my work and in how I approach editors. I have a tendency to go down the terribly typical British route of behaviour. 'I'm terribly sorry to bother you, Editor, but I've written something I don't for a minute think that you will have the remotest bit of interest in because I'm a new writer and I don't think I can write anything for you but I'm sending you this anyway.'

I have decided that a more professional approach is called for and I am determined to sharpen up my image and my writing. The first step in this plan was to enrol in a course for journalism and article writing, which I have done today. I was enrolled in another course with a different company but had to pull out as I couldn't afford to do it and due to other, person reasons that I couldn't be sure would settle by the time the course started, and so the best option was to pull out.

The situation has improved and so, because this course is considerably cheaper and I can manage the installments, I decided to take the bull by the horns and go for it. If it helps me to focus and get more of my work into print - then I'll be happy. I felt that I was lacking some of the 'know how' in my article writing and I wanted to correct that so I have a better understanding of how it all works, what editors are looking for, and how to maximise my chances of publication - as well as helping me to become a better writer. I'm hoping I will pay for the course through my writing - it's certainly a good challenge.

Julie