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