WMBTSG Day Nine (Comment to this post to enter today’s drawing)

Welcome to day nine of the annual Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway. One lucky winner will walk away with a brand, spankin’ new copy of Freelancing for Newspapers by Sue Lick.

Celebrity siting! If you subscribe to the other e-zine I publish, Writers on the Rise, then you know that Sue Lick writes the awesome monthly column: Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge. Read them all for great ideas on how to break into newspapers. By the time you are done, I’m guessing that you will really wish that you had a copy of Freelancing for Newspapers: Writing for an Overlooked Market (Quill Driver Books, 2007).

Here’s the description:

Ever wonder how any newspaper staff can produce so many stories every day, every week, every month of the year and keep up with breaking news, too? They can’t. They use freelancers. This book serves as a guide to newspaper freelancing, both for beginners and for more experienced writers who want to expand their markets. Topics include: the newspaper market, ideas, queries, research, interviews, writing, revisions, and the business side of freelancing.

Sue Fagalde Lick, author of Freelancing for Newspapers, worked as a staff writer, photographer and editor for newspapers in California and Oregon for many years before moving into full-time freelancing. In addition to countless newspaper and magazine articles, she has published three books on Portuguese Americans. She has taught workshops at Oregon Coast Community College, online for Writing-world.com and for Willamette Writers and California Writers Club. She offers an online course on reviews as well as individual coaching. See her website and visit her blog.

Today’s question: Have you ever been published in a newspaper? Have you ever been published on a newspaper’s website? Have you ever drummed up the nerve to pitch the editor of your favorite newspaper section? Have you ever wanted to but chickened out? Whether you dared or dream, tell us all about it (in 50-200 words, of course).

If this is your first post in the giveaway, please read “Da Rules.”

Post comment until midnight on September 9th to enter today’s drawing.

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32 Responses to “WMBTSG Day Nine (Comment to this post to enter today’s drawing)”


  1. 1 rowena September 9, 2008 at 7:00 am

    I actually HAVE written for a newspaper. I summoned up the gumption to talk to the arts editor when someone at a gallery heard that I was both an artist and a writer and gave me the lead. I was big into taking challenges at that point, and it paid off… the editor asked me to do gallery reviews. It was a lot of fun and I went out to look at new art and wrote my reviews. I even got fan mail. Someone said that what I had written was how art reviews should be done. I didn’t get paid. It was just a neighborhood free paper (even if it was in the glamorous and urban neighborhood of Williamsburg Brooklyn) but because of those articles, I can now call myself a published writer, and I have at least a few clips for my portfolio.

  2. 2 Amie H September 9, 2008 at 7:08 am

    I love newspapers. In college I interned at a magazine housed in the Washington Times building and loved looking down over the hustle and bustle of the newsroom floor. All the energy of events happening all around the world converging in that one place. Now as I write from the hustle and bustle of home, I still enjoy reading newspapers and getting the scoop on what’s happening outside my four walls. Checking the newspaper’s calendar section and upcoming events has led to one publication success.
    I found out that the Cirque du Soleil – a famous circus based in Montreal where I live was going to be performing in my hometown in the US on Valentines Day. I was going to be visiting then and my family had tickets. I had just gone to take trapeze lessons in Montreal, so I decided to pitch a story about the experience and my love of the circus.
    The first sentence was “I am going to jump.” Sometimes in trapeze and in writing its best to take a leap of faith.

  3. 3 delia boylan September 9, 2008 at 7:12 am

    I live in London and subscribe to the International Herald Tribune. My
    favorite section in this paper is something called “At Home Abroad” which recounts first person–and reported feature–accounts by expatriates (not just Americans) living abroad. I had written a very funny, very personal piece about what it’s like to join the PTA in a foreign country and submitted it to them, sure that they would turn it
    down as not being “serious” enough (this is the New York Times abroad, basically). And to my great surprise, the editor loved it! Since then (a bit less than a year ago), I’ve written several other essays for this column and they also approached me to cover the Democratic expat primaries when they were held in London early this year. Which is all to say, it’s always worth a shot to pitch to your favorite outlet. Let them say “NO” to you-don’t say it yourself ahead of time
    or you might miss out on a great opportunity.

  4. 4 Christine Silva September 9, 2008 at 8:00 am

    I have never been published in a newspaper but I’d like to! I once had my picture in the local paper as child. I’ve been interviewed and had my responses included in articles. I’ve had ideas for articles and been irritated enough by Letters to the Editor that I have mentally written my responses. But never had my own article published. In fact, until recently, I imagined paid staff of the newspapers wrote all articles. The idea that freelance journalists might find opportunities to be published is an intriguing and fun idea to me. Certainly my local paper might be an ideal spot for some parenting related or local family resource related articles. It might be a quick way to get clips as well, since newspapers print with such frequency. I’m excited to hear about other mama’s experiences.

  5. 5 Cathy September 9, 2008 at 8:15 am

    I’ve had guest columns published in a pretty big metro newspaper. I worked up the nerve to send a column in for my metro section’s opinions and the editor liked my style. A few times, she even asked me if I had anything she could run. That was a boost, even if it wasn’t a paid writing gig. And, honestly, I think if you submitted a column, the editor tried to get you in 🙂 My stuff’s online, though, and I love using that as a clip…it sounds much more impressive than it actually is.

  6. 6 Abbey September 9, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Yes – one of my regular writing gigs is for a series of monthly newspapers. I pitch the editor ideas, as well as receive assignments. As a trained journalist, writing for the newspaper is very comfortable for me. I primarily write profiles of people or organizations, but also cover events from time to time. I enjoy the diversity of topics!

  7. 7 Cara September 9, 2008 at 9:10 am

    My five minutes of fame and glory came when I had my letter to the editor published last year in the Oregonian. It was kind of tough to decide to send it, because in questioning their coverage of cancer survivors, I felt like I was going against mom and apple pie. I just wanted them to know that cancer is not a celebrity disease, reserved for Tour de France winners or White House aspirants.

    I recently tried again, this time submitting a paragraph for their special Komen Race for the Cure section this weekend. That was even harder because it was so much more personal, concerning my own battle with cancer. I guess why I hesitate to submit to the newspaper, even though it would be my dream to have a column published now and then is that so far, I’ve successfully compartmentalized my “real life” from my “writing life”, and have stuck with the relative anonymity of the internet. I think newspaper writing is something I just need to ease into, like entering a very cold swimming pool. My next goal is to submit a guest column for “My Turn”. It’s time to take the plunge!

  8. 8 krysk September 9, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I would love to be published in a newspaper. I have sent numerous Op-Ed pieces to the New York Times (which for better or worse happens to be one of my “hometown” papers). Unfortunately, I have never been published – although I must say competition is fierce. Although I am disappointed as the stated aim of that section is to “give writers a voice that wouldn’t otherwise be heard” – but most of the pieces published are definitely written by “somebodies” – but I will still keep trying!

    I toy all the time with querying other papers – haven’t got around to doing it yet. There are some small papers in the Adirondacks, where we spend the summers, but I haven’t got the courage up yet!

  9. 9 Christ Clark September 9, 2008 at 9:28 am

    I have written for a news paper before. I used to be a journalist so I did it every day. I can say though, there was one freelancer that wrote for the local paper all the time. And if he got breaking news before us, boy were we in trouble with our editors! There were also several freelance columnists. We had one about gardening and one about food and one for around the town stuff. I think smaller newspapers might be easier to get into because they will have a smaller staff so be stretched more thin. Of course, they may also have a much smaller budget. If you’re trying for a larger paper, you have to bring something unique to the table, or fill a void they have. So, just like a magazine, look over the website, see what they write about and then figured out what you can give them that fits in, but that they are missing.

  10. 10 Cheryl M September 9, 2008 at 10:25 am

    I have not really thought seriously about writing for a newspaper. I have been an avid reader of newspapers since my teens and don’t feel like the day is really started until I read the local paper.

    I have submitted many letters to the editor on local issues. It seems to be a leap from there to writing on a regular basis. And, I am a bit nervous about how quick their deadlines must come up.

    It is a interesting thought. Maybe once my kids are both in school full-time I’ll look into writing for some local weekly papers.

  11. 11 marnini September 9, 2008 at 10:40 am

    I am secretary of our school’s PTO, so my newsletter is published weekly in the local Sunday paper. I met the editor once and pitched him an idea. We played phone tag back and forth and he asked that I put a packet together for him and drop it off. I did, so hopefully I will get a call from him one day.
    I always thought I would love to be a columnist (I loved Ermba Bombeck) and imagine my column in newspapers.

  12. 12 Kathy September 9, 2008 at 11:24 am

    This happened to me. It started with me approaching a woman who was our local papers’ reporter. Turns out, she attended my church. So one day, I approached her like a stalker, pouring out my admiration for her writing. Ever generous, she suggested we meet for coffee and talk writing.

    We did. For almost 18 months. Then, both our parents were sick. My father died. Life got crazy.

    One year later, the phone rang. Brigid had stopped writing for the paper, but given the editor my name as her replacement! Although flattered, I had no interest in front page reporting. I wanted to focus on my own writing. “But I’d love to write the “People” column” (profiles on people in town), I said. “They don’t do that,” she said, “but try.

    I talked to the editor. She agreed to let me freelance for 1-3 months until she found a full-time reporter. She kept me on for seven months! I ended up with almost 30 bylines, one feature (on an idea I pitched), a great editor to learn from, a steady, though small paycheck, and confidence to sign “writer” at tax time.

    Lesson learned: just ask.

  13. 13 nathalie September 9, 2008 at 11:27 am

    I love writing for community newspapers! I worked as a reporter for a few years before deciding to start freelancing. After I got pregnant, I decided to take a page out of Anna Quindlen’s book and “use my beat” so I pitched a column idea to my local paper and “Baby on Board” was born six months after I delivered my son! I love writing the monthly column and hope to generate enough positive feedback to turn it into a weekly column.

  14. 14 Judy September 9, 2008 at 11:42 am

    I’ve only been published in a newsletter, never a newspaper – only written about and interviewed several times. In the busy household of Millers I have not had the time to pursue the paper, much less read it. I have just been trying to set up connections with people via friends who know those people. Indianapolis, despite being over one million lives, is still at its heart, a small town, and it is who you know that counts…

  15. 15 Erika September 9, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    My first clip was for a newspaper. I made the initial connection by visiting an Open House hosted by The Seattle Times. It was open to the public and the ad said “Come meet our writers and editors…” so I figured I would just take a risk and go. I didn’t ask for a job or assignment, just said I was a new freelancer and worked up the courage to talk to total strangers. I ended up meeting the editor of the local section who encouraged me to take his writing class. It was $45 for 8 weeks with a total of 3 students and an experienced editor – how could I resist?? I worked on one particular story for most of the class. Two months after the class ended, my story on an orca whale named Lolita was published. I didn’t sleep at all the night before it was to come out and almost fell over when I went out to get the newspaper from the driveway at 4:30 am and saw my story on the cover of the paper!

  16. 16 Lisa September 9, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I haven’t been published in a newspaper. But I am a news junkie, I feel like I haven’t started my day if I don’t read the Chicago Tribune and drink coffee. I find it very intriguing that newspapers use freelancers. I had no idea that they did – I thought they only used staff reporters. I loved working on newspapers in high school and college. But my interest in journalism got pushed aside for the excitement of electronic media. I’d love to consider freelancing for newspapers and I definitely want to explore the possibilities.

  17. 17 Renee September 9, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    I have been published in a newspaper. I actually wrote a weekly newcomers column and a dining column for the neighbors section of our metro newspaper. The section editor liked my work, and he had me fill in when the reporter who wrote the popular traffic column went on maternity leave, and I covered her section stories. It was a great experience, and one I never would have had the chance at if I hadn’t struck up a conversation with the assistant editor of the section at a Bunco game when they were desperate for freelancers. I sent her my resume the next day, and my resume got a great boost from it! I’d love to learn how to break into other newspapers where I don’t know anyone!

  18. 18 Celestial Goldfish September 9, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    My day hasn’t started until I have my morning paper. As for being published in one? Well, does the junior high newspaper count? I was co-editor and even won a Quill & Scroll Award for my monthly Super Nintendo column. Back then, I used to think of how great it would be to see it expand to my small hometown newspaper, but that never happened. The reason is pretty simple: I don’t have the gumption.

  19. 19 Heidi September 9, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    As I read the Sunday paper (the only day I have much time to read it), I often think I should get up the gumption to call the business or family editors and ask about opportunities. Then my brain buzzes with wild what-ifs — what if my ideas aren’t cutting edge or newsy enough, what if they think my background too academic, what if my politics aren’t popular with this editor. Even if I talk myself over Whatif Mountain by Monday, I’ve moved on to other projects and the urge to call has passed. I’d love to someday have a column in a newspaper, and I dream of my blog as my column-in-the-making. What if someday this dream came true? Stranger things have happened.

  20. 20 Aurora September 9, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    I have never written for a newspaper, but always thought it would be a great job (and FUN) to have a column such as Dear Abby’s or Erma Bombeck. Alas I’m still trying to figure out my own problems much less answer someone else’s nor do I have the entertaining wit of the late, great Erma (may she rest in peace). I love reading the food section and trying out the different recipes. then moving on to the Bridal section and Book reviews. Perhaps my next attempt will be to the local paper on a family custom, treasured recipe or review of the latest book….it would be great to have a local, regular freelancing writing gig…

  21. 21 Jenni September 9, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    The first letter to the editor I ever wrote to The New York Times was printed, to my great delight! Other than that, I have not been published. I did contact our local newspaper last month with a general inquiry about freelance writers and unsolicited manuscripts. I was told they solicit articles from a small number of freelancers when needed. To get that gig I was told to apply for it, like a job. I didn’t ask but I’m assuming they want (the much coveted) clips. It is a corporately owned newspaper so most of their articles outside local staff I think are from out-of-towners. Ah, well.

  22. 22 Jaymie September 9, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    I have thought about pitching an idea to our local paper but have never gotten up the nerve. I don’t feel like I understand the ins and outs of newspaper writing – what makes a good “Letter to the Editor?” What do I have to say that my community would care to read? Is there a place in our small newspaper for me?

  23. 23 Laura September 9, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    I have considered writing for a newspaper, especially for the local community paper, The Flushing Observer. I have a great love for the city I live in; it’s a great community. However, I haven’t really known the how of submitting to a newspaper. As silly as it sounds, it was less scary submitting articles to magazines than to my local paper. So, yes, I have chickened out. I’m not proud of it, and hope to change this.

    So, I do dream of being published in the local paper, perhaps the nearby (and bigger) city’s paper. I just have to learn the ‘how’.

  24. 24 Deana Nall September 9, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    I wrote features and a weekly humor column for four years for a smallish newspaper. When we moved to that town, it took about year to get my nerve up to call the newspaper. I still remember staring at the phone before I dialed the number. I’m glad I finally did, because it turned into a very rewarding gig for me. I even became a local celebrity — so much fun!

  25. 25 karen September 9, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    I have written for a couple newspapers, but to qualify them, one is a community paper, and one is a larger paper, but nothing like a times or a post. But, they were both great for experience and exposure. I keep thinking of contacting an editor to do some more, but doubts pop up like weeds, and I just need to get rid of them. Something you said in class keeps resonating with me: Writing for a newspaper is like getting paid to go to writing school. I like that idea!

  26. 26 Beth@MommyComeLately September 9, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    As a college journalism major, my dream was to work for a newspaper.
    As a writer mama, I’ve freelanced for magazines. The dream of a syndicated column still has its allure. But the skills I honed during my college writing years stand me in good stead: Write tight, write clean, write fast. There’s nothing like the demands of a daily newspaper deadline to make you a better writer.

  27. 27 Angie Goodloe September 9, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    I have always thought it would be cool to have a regular column in a newspaper. I remember my mom and I reading ‘Dear Abby’ and saying “Hey we could do a mother daughter column, giving advise from each generation point of view- we could give just as good…… BETTER advise than Dear Abby LOL!” Of course we never had the guts to give it a shot- it was just kitchen table talk.
    I think writing a column in the local paper would be a great tool to bring me closer to the community. I would love to write about the benefits of holistic healing ( I am an herbalist and LMT).I think having to make a deadline would be great practice for future jobs as well.

  28. 28 Rosemary Lombard September 9, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    My first ever publication was in a small-town Idaho newspaper called The Aberdeen Times. I was taking high school English from Miss Giesbrecht, a gray-haired German Mennonite lady who taught the one section of senior English. Our assignment was to write an essay for a contest sponsored by a local ladies’ organization—“ladies,” definitely, in those years—whose reason for being was to protect the young from the dangers of drink. Then and there, requiring students to participate was politically correct, even though we didn’t have the phrase.
    I wrote the essay—was it on the dangers or evils of drink? I don’t recall; and fortunately, since I won the contest and the essay appeared in the paper, there was no website, no digital archive, and my first published article has disappeared forever.
    Did it save me from drink? Well, maybe for a while, but after a time I had to contend with a mischievous father-in-law, who enticed me to try wine and kept filling my wineglass every time I turned around. Sorry, Miss Giesbrecht.

  29. 29 Katrina September 9, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    I’ve never written for a newspaper, although the thought has crossed my mind; I do read Sue’s blog occasionally. For a while, I drooled over the thought of displacing a freelancer who wrote regularly for the Home section of our newspaper. She wrote about the latest and greatest in faucets, countertops, skylights, garden art, downspouts, etc. You name it she wrote about it. Every week. “Oh, if only I could get THAT gig,” I thought to myself. Then one day I realized I have no interest in writing pieces for the Home section. I’d still like to write a piece for a newspaper, but I’m busy enough with assignments right now that it’s been on the backburner.

  30. 30 Sarah September 11, 2008 at 4:30 am

    I have had several letters to the editor published, and two articles/ opinion pieces in my local paper. I actually have a standing invitation/ opening from the editor to submit when I can, but I’ve been fuzzy on expectations, and it’s one of those un-paid gigs that isn’t really my first priority! My first article, however, was right above Garrison Keillor’s column. I thought that was cool!


  1. 1 WMBTSG Day Nine Drawing: And the winner is… « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 10, 2008 at 5:36 pm
  2. 2 WMBTSG Week Two Giveaway Sponsors: Many Thanks! « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 23, 2008 at 10:16 am
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