Crib Notes: Magazines — Trick or Treat?

By Abigail Green

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved magazines. I devoured Elle and Vogue and the New York Times‘ Sunday magazine as a kid, even though (or perhaps because) the outlandish fashions and exotic-looking models had absolutely nothing to do with my unglamorous suburban life. I read my mom’s Family Circle and my brother’s skateboarding magazines with equal ardor. I coveted my friend’s subscription to Teen.

I suppose it’s not surprising, then, that I grew up to write for magazines. My first clip in a glossy, color publication sent my heart soaring. Getting my first national magazine assignment was more exciting than winning the lottery.

But then something happened. My love affair with periodicals hit a rough patch. I would walk past a newsstand and feel a surge of frustration: “All those magazines, and none of them want my articles!” I’d pick up a publication and think, “These are the jerks that didn’t even have the decency to reply to my query.” I’d read an article irritatingly similar to one I’d pitched, or thought about pitching, and feel defeated. Sometimes, if I had written for a particular magazine and had a less-than-wonderful experience — or was still waiting for payment — I couldn’t even bear to look at the cover.

It was bad. Previously a source of enjoyment, magazines had become my nemesis. Would I ever look at Cooking Light the same way again? Could I ever crack open the new Wondertime and not wonder, “what if?”

So here’s what happened: I took a break from pitching magazines. I had a baby, went on maternity leave, picked up some corporate work, and accepted assignments from regional publications. I still send out essays and queries sometimes; I haven’t thrown in the towel completely. But I’m a lot less invested in every submission these days. It’s not going to make or break me if O magazine ignores my pitch. I won’t cancel my subscription if Health doesn’t buy my essay. That’s because I’ve got plenty of other stuff going on, work-wise and otherwise.

My advice is, if something stops being fun, figure out why. Take a break from it if possible, or try another tack. Launching a blog allowed me to experience the parts of writing I do like (connecting with an audience, for example), while cutting out some of what I don’t like (the months-long review process at many magazines). Pitching timely reported stories doesn’t fit into my current lifestyle at the moment, so I’m focusing more on essays.

Reassess and readjust your writing life as necessary. Hopefully, like me, in doing so you’ll recapture some of the joy that led you to writing in the first place. I’m happy to say that magazines and I are back on good terms. I now eagerly await my subscriptions each month, except for a certain women’s magazine that killed my story that one time. You know who you are.
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Abigail Green is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 10 years, she has written for national, regional and online publications including AOL, AAA World, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. Her latest project is raising her first child, which she chronicles in her blog Diary of a New Mom http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com/. Abby teaches the class, Personal Essays that Get Published for Writers on the Rise.
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5 Responses to “Crib Notes: Magazines — Trick or Treat?”


  1. 1 Luci October 9, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Abigail, great piece! Its so encouraging to me, a newbie, to hear of your perserverance. I agree, when the fun is missing, things go south real fast! Looking forward to more!

  2. 2 Laura October 10, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Wow. I admire your perserverance too. I also like that you are finding a way to keep the fun in your writing. The idea of reassessing and readjusting your writing life is something I have recently been doing. I am still writing and submitting essays, but have recently started writing short short stories. I’ve been much happier since I have started doing so. So, thanks for the encouragement!

  3. 3 Lisa Romeo October 10, 2008 at 9:03 am

    I think everyone feels that way from time to time about whatever industry we work in, but for writers it’s especially cruel when the publications we long to work for are in our faces all the time, on the newsstand, in our mailbox, at the doctor’s office, a friend’s coffee table, etc. Fortunately, the world of magazines is so wide, one can also take a hiatus from the pursuit of the top tier titles for a while and write for niche & specialty publications.

  4. 4 Karen Leland October 12, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Abagail;

    I loved this post. I have been an established business book writer for the past ten years and started doing freelance for magazines about a year and a half ago. It is an intense process and defiantly requires a break from time to time.

    I particularly appreciated what you said about if it stops being fun, take a break.

    I just recently started two separate blogs on examiner.com One on work-life balance and one on cookbook reviews. I did it because I wanted to write about what I wanted to write about, without having to be influenced by which publication might buy what.

    So thanks for joining my twitter account and thanks for your great blog. Best, Karen Leland

  5. 5 Mocha Dad October 13, 2008 at 8:58 am

    I can relate to your love/hate relationship with magazines. I am also a freelance writer who has published a few pieces in magazines, but I have been rejected a lot more. I remain persistent and do not allow the rejections to discourage me.


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