Thursday, December 11, 2008

Doing It Kinda Wrong

OK – I haven’t been doing it write lately. But I’ll cut myself a bit of slack – I’m visiting my mom with my 16-month old. When we arrived three and a half weeks ago, my son would not be separated from me for a second. Literally. I would go to the bathroom and he would stand outside the door, sobbing and flinging himself against it while crying “Mama! Mama!” as if just he’d seen the Gestapo drag me away. Even while in the same room, I had to be within a five-foot radius – and visible. If I leaned over to look in the refrigerator and the door blocked his view of me? Panic and hysteria. If needed to leave the room for a second to get a pen? He was right on my heels. This fevered attachment lasted….oh, say… two and a half weeks. Which means that it has only been in the last week that I’ve had some breathing space and, ostensibly, time to write.

But here, I run out of excuses. I haven’t been as diligent as I should have been. But I did manage to follow-up on another query and send out a recently rejected query to another magazine. On that recently rejected query – can I say that I’m proud of this rejection as it was my first “nice” one from an unknown editor? I sent it to a national bridal magazine and when I followed-up the editor actually apologized for having not responded earlier (I laughed – most editors I’ve sent queries either respond affirmatively or don’t respond at all!) She rejected my idea for not meeting “their editorial needs at this time,” but said she’d welcome more ideas from me in the future! This might not seem like much to a newbie or someone not in the business, but in the freelance world, a response like that is a really good thing. It means that while my query didn’t meet their needs, it still hit the mark in some way. I’m on the editor’s radar – maybe way at the periphery, but I’m there. I need to send another query soon so that I can stay there.

Now, here’s a question for any readers out there: at what point do you give up on a "query in the wild" (to borrow a term from the estimable Jenna Glatzer )? The query that I followed-up on a few days ago was for a national pregnancy magazine that I would love to write for…but I don’t want to wait forever for their response. It’s been a month since I sent it out and – despite it being a totally kick-ass, thoroughly researched and excellently written query – I’m now seriously doubting that I’m going to hear back from them. Should I give up now? Hold out another few weeks? I think it’s a great idea that some mag would nab, even if not this magazine. And if I do give up, should I formally withdraw it from consideration? (i.e., send yet another email withdrawing it, even though I haven’t heard peep from them). Or would that be perceived as a kind of haughty or wounded act? I’m not sure. Hmm.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Where the Real People Are

Before I got into freelancing, I would read a magazine article about people who cheat, or gamble too much, or have some sexual dysfunction and wonder idly how the writers found these “real people” to talk about such intimate or obscure subjects. Then, when I began to freelance, I wondered the same thing with a kind of desperation: who are these people and where can I find them?

Well, now I have the answer: HARO -Help A Reporter Out. This très cool service, started by Peter Shankman, allows journalists searching for sources to funnel their specific queries through him to send out to the more than 37,000 people in the HARO network. It’s pretty amazing that he’s pulled this all together, and that it works so efficiently. Last night I submitted a query to Shankman, this afternoon the email was sent out to the network, and by this evening I had about a dozen responses, most of them quite on-target and helpful. If have an urgent request, Shankman will send out a special flash email notifying the network of your need.

This is such an invaluable service. Previously (like, um, two days ago), I’d post on appropriate online forums to find sources and just cross my fingers that my post wouldn’t get deleted as “spam.” And even if the post survived, the response rate often wasn’t very good. But this HARO….well, I’m impressed. At least so far. I’ll keep you posted.

You can check HARO out for yourself at Even if you’re not a journalist, you can sign up to be a source. You’ll get up to 3 emails a day with a list of queries, and you simply respond to any one for which you have an appropriate answer. Go ahead and do it! How else will the writers for Cosmo find out “101 sex tricks that will make your man beg for more!”?