Hello from Chiang Mai!
Just before I expatriated, Joseph Campbell said, ‘Doors open when you follow your bliss. People appear who do similar work and who walk the same kind of path.’ It was true then and it’s still true. I thought a ‘professional platform’ would be boring. But everyday you surprise me, and coincidences fly thick in the air…
Yesterday I reminded you: A rule of thumb is to write what they want. Don’t write an expose when they want facts and scenes. Don’t write about political turmoil when the publication publishes stories about train travel.
Minutes after posting these words, an editor sent me a frantic letter. I’d submitted a piece, and she’d sent me notes twice, asking me to re-write it to a different length. She said she’d read my piece and liked it just fine.
I did the re-writes and kept things essentially the same. I’d meticulously followed the guidelines (or so I thought) but hadn’t read the magazine–and that was my mistake. Being overseas, I couldn’t get a copy to see the kind of stories they actually printed. Their guidelines sounded quite liberal and accepting.
Whoo! Yesterday she was bewildered and insulted. She was professional, though. She said to send the piece to a different market, one that specialized in ‘creative’ work. She said creative writing had standards of ‘clarity’ that differed from their publication’s. She sounded haggard and I wanted to apologize.
I’d therefore advise that you read a couple of current issues of a publication before considering a query or submitting anything to them.
One. Read the guidelines in a hardcopy manual or online book like Writers Market.
Two. Find the web-site to make sure the magazine/publishing house is still in business and accepting submissions. Send them a brief e-mail (do they pay, ask for guidelines if you need to).
Three. Read through a current issue and another recent one. Notice the kind of advertising they do, look at the photos, the mast head, the editor and contributing writers (no kidding), notice the age groups they slant toward, the tone and language (slangy, prissy, etc.), if it’s a regional publication, if they accept fillers and short pieces. Notice everything.
By the way: to ‘get ink’ (get published/get started in print) shorter works best. My first published piece in an international trade magazine came about as a short piece. I threw a yoga class handout I’d written into an envelope, sent it to a trade magazine. I offered it as a stress management piece. They bought it immediately and used it as a half-page ‘filler’ with artwork. The word count was about 250 words, I think, no higher. (What good luck!)
Not all editors are that flexible, though. It’s best to know what they want and what you’re sending them. Here is ‘creative’ writing.
“Ganesh and I had all these bags of shoes for his granny but we got up from breakfast—have you ever had a good Newari breakfast? When my visa expired I was crushed. He always seemed a little…you know…That no good ended up stealing my bicycle and do you know he even phoned me in Denver asking me to talk to the cops? Oh, la, that breakfast though! We spent the last cool hours but finally it wasn’t so hot going to Swayambuth, not the temple the normal people’s houses. Do you think it’s fun all those hills? Maybe so. It is nice in Kathmandu. That air, oh that air. Walking is great exercise but I like bikes a lot more. So we walked up and down all over Kathmandu it seemed to me; to Swayambuth and we ate Newari food but his mother was from the Terai and do you know where his village is? The bus I rode in 97 yes, last century! had all these people standing in the aisle holding their chickens and those chickens squawked! Where was I? Oh! The food! Ganesh’s half-sister (you know the Nepali for that? Do you read Newari script? How did you learn?…)”
Scroll down to June 20, 2012 (How to Write an Impersonal Essay) or follow the link: https://mdaviswrites.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/how-to-write-an-impersonal-essay/ to see quite a different kind of writing, one that you can easily master. To see what I’ve described, YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_OUrKSVaQU.
Back to You. Always scan your work for clarity and continuity before sending it. Write so that people can follow you easily and understand you. Control the urge to use long sentences or choppy short ones. Break into paragraphs that guide readers through your essay in a logical way.
More particulars tomorrow. OK?
And you will be writing creatively, no matter what the labels say; and you’ll be making people happy. The descriptive essay on June 20, 2012 brought a note from a Nepalese doctor in China, who said I’d perfectly described Boudha and it was ‘touching.’ He missed his home badly.
Keep writing me! You’re making me happy!