Archive for the 'Sue Fagalde Lick' Category

Nov/Dec Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Writing Holiday Articles

Sue Fagalde LickBy Sue Fagalde Lick
The holidays will soon be here and writing holiday articles may be on your mind. For magazines, which have long lead times, it’s already too late to submit for this year, but there still may be time for you to approach daily or weekly newspapers. Every newspaper must come up with articles related to the holidays and it gets hard for editors to come up with new ideas year after year, so a freelancer who can offer something original is a great early present for Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or . . . Remember that everyone is not Christian. I once wrote a piece for Bay Area Parent detailing the traditions of three different ethnic groups. Other standard pieces include how to pick out a Christmas tree, how to find or make inexpensive gifts, and special foods and drinks for the holidays.

How-to pieces are popular. How many of us groan at the thought of all the extra tasks we face at this time of year? Anything that will make it easier is welcome by readers and by editors. But how-tos aren’t the only way to go. Profiles of people who do something special during the holidays, business trends, opinion pieces, holiday lore, reviews of seasonal books, recordings or performances, personal memories of holidays past, or histories of holiday traditions are all possibilities. New Year’s stories are welcome, too, because of all those staffers taking the holidays off.

Editors want something different from the standard fare. For example, with people so busy and postage up to 42 cents, do folks still send Christmas cards? Is an e-card sufficient? In this time of tight money, are people doing the holidays differently this year? How do families who live far apart, don’t get along or are divided by divorce deal with the challenges of their situations?

If you’ve got a holiday idea buzzing in your head, write that query and email it this week. If you don’t have an idea yet, put on your stocking cap and start brainstorming.

YOUR CHALLENGE THIS MONTH: Come up with three ideas for holiday season story that you have not already read. Pick the best one and send a query to the most appropriate market. Don’t forget all those specialized newspapers for kids, seniors, religious groups, dog lovers, etc. Can you smell the pine needles? Start typing.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

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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.

Books for your library by Writers on the Rise Contributors

Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz


By Christina Katz
For Writer’s Digest Books

The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters

Coming in December!
By Wendy Burt Thomas
For Writer’s Digest Books

Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen

Coming in March 2009!
By Sage Cohen
For Writer’s Digest Books

Writing for Newspapers by Sue Fagalde Lick

By Sue Fagalde Lick
For Quill Driver Books

October 2007 Family Fun Magazine
By C. Hope Clark
For Funds for Writers


Writer Mama by Christina Katz

By Christina Katz
For Writer’s Digest Books

October Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Writing a Column

Sue Fagalde Lick By Christina Katz

Most nonfiction writers dream of writing a column. We all want to be the next Erma Bombeck or Dave Barry. We want the fame, the books, the speaking engagements, the coffee mugs with our pictures on them. If we just shower editors with anecdotes from our everyday lives, surely they’ll recognize our genius and make a space in the paper for us.

Right? Unfortunately, no.

A successful column has to be about something more than our own lives. It must offer something that keeps the readers coming back. Columns come in various forms, covering everything from cars to kids. They can be straight prose, opinion pieces, questions and answers, short tidbits, or lists. What sets them apart from other newspaper articles is that they appear every day, every week or every month in the same place, same format, same length.

The challenge is to find a suitable market and a reader-friendly subject for which you can keep coming up with ideas. Think hard before you commit to a column. You might have enough material for an article or two, but can you keep writing 500- to 700-word pieces about this subject for years?

You can sell columns to just one paper, to a syndicate, or self-syndicate them to many newspapers. Look for likely markets that aren’t already running something similar. Query with several samples and suggestions for additional columns. For more information on marketing columns, read You Can Write a Column by Monica McCabe Cardoza or Successful Syndication by Michael Sedge. Also check Writer’s Market http://www.writersmarket.com or visit the Erma Bombeck humor writers website http://www.humorwriters.org.

YOUR CHALLENGE THIS MONTH: Let your muse loose and start making lists of things that you know and care a lot about. Consider jobs, hobbies, volunteer activities, education, and family issues. What is the most important thing in your life? Can you write a column about it? Make lists until you find a subject that seems to have legs, then come up with a market, a title and ideas for at least 10 columns.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

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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.

Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Business Pieces

Sue Fagalde Lick By Sue Fagalde Lick

For many of us, the idea of writing about business sounds dull. But before you scroll down to the next column, let me change your mind. Yes, business can involve numbers and a corporate mindset that we might not share, but businesses are made up of people pursuing their dreams, and that’s where the real stories lie.

Major metro dailies all have business sections. Community newspapers are filled with tales of individuals setting up shop, moving or expanding their businesses. Specialty newspapers run countless features on people with interesting jobs–for example, a modern-day blacksmith or the owner of a doggie boutique.

More than 40 major American cities have localized editions of The Business Journal (bizjournal.com), which use lots of freelance articles. And of course, there are plenty of specialized trade publications looking for good writers.

Business stories come in many forms. If you can write about technology, stocks, insurance or mortgages, editors will love you. While not sexy, these pieces can be very useful to the readers.

Business sections also thrive on news about corporate leaders and their companies, advice for people looking to improve their careers, reviews of new technology, and trends in the various industries. Now would be a good time to write about anything being done to reduce the use of gas, for example. How are the gas prices affecting the tourist industry? What are they doing to auto sales? Are companies cutting back on business-related travel? What is it like for Joe Smith, who owns the Shell station on the corner?
You see? Business isn’t boring at all.

Your challenge: Come up with a list of business ideas and draft queries for the ones that grab your interest.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

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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.

July/August Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Op-Ed Pieces

Sue Fagalde Lick By Sue Fagalde Lick

Does the latest news drive you crazy? Is there an issue you’re dying to spout off about? Maybe you should write an op-ed piece. Op-ed pieces are the opinion essays that appear on the page opposite the editorial page of most newspapers. Some are written by syndicated columnists or local VIPs, but there’s also space for freelance writers. Look for pieces tagged commentary, perspectives, guest editorial, first person, other voices, my turn, etc.

Op-ed pieces are written in the first person, and they include the author’s opinion, backed up with evidence from life experience and research. They usually have a connection to current events. The best pieces use personal stories to make a point that everyone can relate to.

These pieces generally range from 500 to 750 words, although some are much shorter or longer. Visit the Communications Consortium Media Center for guidelines from most U.S. papers or go to the individual newspaper’s site. Queries are not necessary. Send the whole piece, preferably by email, noting clearly what it is in the subject line. Include a brief note explaining the purpose of your piece and who you are.

Good opinion pieces include: a catchy title, a strong opening that grabs the readers, a clear thesis, an original slant, a connection to current events, logical arguments, facts and examples and a focused conclusion. Don’t leave the reader guessing as to what you’re trying to say.

Sometimes you’ll get paid; other times it’s a freebie. Either way, op-ed pieces offer fabulous exposure, an opportunity for a great clip, and a chance to vent.

Your challenge this month: Free-write for 300-500 words on something that really ticks you off. Alternatively, write a counter argument to a recently published op-ed piece or staff editorial. Share the lead with us, and, for extra credit, polish it up and send it to a newspaper-or to several non-competing papers.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

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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.
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Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Travel Stories Part Two

Sue Fagalde LickBy Sue Fagalde Lick

We often read travel articles about adventurous adults rafting the rapids, hiking to the top of Diamond Head, touring the wine country, or exploring galleries full of delicate artworks. That’s great, but how many of us are so blissfully unfettered? Where can we take the kids, the grandparents or our favorite canine companions? Those exotic trips we read about are not accessible for us or for many of the other people who read newspaper travel sections.

Solve this problem by offering articles about destinations for travelers with special needs. For example, small children would be bored silly-and dangerously-in the gallery, but they might love to visit a zoo, hike an easy trail where they can chase after squirrels and birds, or play on a wooden climbing apparatus filled with kid-sized steps, slides and tunnels. In addition to keeping the children amused, parents will bless the travel writer who lists affordable motels and restaurants where everyone can sleep and eat in comfort.

Those who don’t have kids at home might be interested in articles about traveling with elderly or disabled companions, or they might be looking for places to take their dogs. Article ideas that cater to any of these travelers offer endless possibilities for publication, both in general-interest newspapers and the many specialized papers for each group. Perhaps that child-friendly park is also a good place to take the dogs, or that easy trail is wheelchair-accessible. If you hold on to your reprint rights, you can resell the same article to non-competing newspapers. You can also re-slant the same basic information for different audiences to hit even more markets.

For marketing ideas, visit The Society of American Travel Writers site (www.satw.org). To see what papers are looking for, check Parenting Publications of America (www.parentingpublications.org), Google “senior newspapers” and look for dog-lover’s rags at your local pet-supplies store or veterinarian’s waiting room.

YOUR CHALLENGE: Brainstorm ideas for good places to take kids, seniors or pets. Write down as many possibilities as you can think of or discover with a little research. Pick one, find a likely market, and start working on your query.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

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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.
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Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Travel Writing Close to Home

Sue Fagalde Lick By Sue Fagalde Lick

When we think about travel writing, most of us assume we have to fly to Europe, take a cruise, go rafting or climb a mountain. Those could all yield great stories, but if you can’t go that far, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a travel writer. In fact, some of the best stories are close to home, and you have the advantage of easy access. I’m blessed to live on the beautiful Oregon Coast where there’s something wonderful to see and do in every direction. But no matter where you live, there’s something to write about.

When company comes from out of town, where do you take them? When you need a break, where do you go? Do you know of special places that are not in the guidebooks? Perhaps there’s a historical site, a unique restaurant, a glass-blowing shop, or a nature trail that lends itself to pictures and a story. For example, not far from where I live, an elderly gentleman has set up an amazing model railroad museum in his garage. It’s not in the guidebooks; you have to look for the sign, but it would make a good article.

Take another look at your hometown. See it with the eyes of someone who has never been there before. What grabs your attention? What would you want to photograph? Always think photos when you look for travel article ideas. Good pictures will sell the story.

Look at newspapers’ websites or travel writers’ websites such as The Society of American Travel Writers to see what papers are looking for. Many newspaper travel sections focus on seasonal or geographical themes. If you are among the first to query on a subject that fits the theme, you have a much better chance of selling the story.

A list of travel writer resources can be found at Transitions Abroad.com.

Newspaper travel articles can be sold to multiple papers. Just make sure you don’t give up all rights and don’t approach papers with the same readership.

YOUR CHALLENGE: Find a place within a half hour’s drive that you can write about and sell to multiple newspapers. Do a little research, take a few notes and pictures and start working on your query.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

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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.

Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Draft a Profile Query

Sue Fagalde Lick By Sue Fagalde Lick

Profiles, features which paint word portraits of interesting people, are among the easiest types of articles to sell. Nearly every publication uses them, and you can often write them with just a little bit of research and one interview. The people you profile need not be celebrities; many people who are not famous have fascinating stories to tell. Examples: the woman who runs a soup kitchen for the homeless, a dog trainer who gets incorrigible mutts to behave, a favorite teacher at the local high school, or a cancer survivor who runs marathons.

Everyone has a story. Look for people with interesting jobs, hobbies, charitable activities, unusual experiences, or special talents. People in the arts and public officials are natural subjects, but you’ll have more luck proposing a story about someone who hasn’t already been overexposed in the media. You never know where you might find a worthy profile. One night at dinner, our waiter happened to mention that he would be gone next month doing research in Saudi Arabia. By the time dessert was served, we had an interview scheduled.

When seeking profile possibilities, consider the mission of the paper for which you want to write. Community newspapers require that profiles be about local residents. A church paper would want someone from that denomination, and an arts publication would not be interested in your dog-training story, unless the trainer can teach the pups to paint.

If someone sounds intriguing, find out as much as you can about who they are and what they do, then craft your query, starting with a lead sentence that will make the editor as interested in this person as you are. Describe what you want to write, why the readers would be interested, and why you are the person to write the story.

YOUR CHALLENGE: Make a list of possible profile subjects, match them to the most likely markets, then draft a query for one or more of them.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

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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.

Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Brainstorm Some Ideas for the Food Section

Sue Fagalde LickBy Sue Fagalde Lick 

Newspaper food sections are an often-overlooked market to sell freelance articles. Perhaps you don’t even read the food section because you have more than enough recipes or you don’t like to cook, but you do like to eat, right?

The trick to getting into any food section is to come up with something it’s not already doing. Food is a broader category than you might think. You could come up with delicious ways to cook a ham, find new ways to make fun and exciting cupcakes for your child’s preschool class, or profile outstanding chefs. You could write about ethnic meals that your family enjoys, telling where to buy the ingredients and how to prepare the food.

But think beyond recipes. What’s the difference between all those apples in the produce section? Should you use a Fuji, Granny Smith or Red Delicious for your pie? Or, what’s the latest on pots and pans? Some people believe that aluminum pots and cookware coated with nonstick surfaces are unhealthy, so what are the alternatives? Or, how do you cook when the power goes out?

To crack this section, as with any other, email a query to the editor. Grab her attention with a tantalizing lead, describe what your article will be about, including a few sample recipes or suggestions, and tell a bit about your writing background.

YOUR CHALLENGE: Brainstorm food-section article ideas. List where you would send them and why readers would be interested. Keep in mind that your ideas could be resold to multiple newspapers and might also apply to food-oriented trade papers.

If food writing interests you, check out the Association of Food Journalists or the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

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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.

Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Plan and conduct a practice interview

Sue Fagalde LickBy Sue Lick

No matter what kind of writing you do, you need information. Websites, books and articles are great sources for background material, but interviews will make your story come alive. Look at published articles and nonfiction books and note how often people are quoted. In fact, many newspaper editors require quotes from at least three sources. Even if you’re writing fiction, screenplays or poetry, the personal touch that comes from talking to someone who knows the subject inside out adds insight, information and color to your writing.

An interview is an orchestrated conversation. You ask questions and record the answers, guiding the discussion to gather the information you need. Some people are natural talkers while others on both sides of the notebook struggle with shyness. Here are some suggestions for successful interviews:

  • Find people to interview through doing research, asking around, looking through the phone book and checking online sources such as Profnet and Ask an Expert. Large organizations have press officers who will connect you with people to interview. You can also find spokespeople through the Encyclopedia of Associations in the reference section at your library.
  • Set up the interview well in advance of your deadline. Meeting in person is ideal, but telephone interviews work, and sometimes, if all you need is a few facts, email interviews can be effective.
  • Find out everything you can about the interviewee before you meet and confirm your appointment the day before the interview.
  • Prepare a list of questions and pack a notebook and several pens, a tape or digital recorder, directions and background material.
  • Explain what you’re writing about and ask permission to tape the interview. Most people don’t mind. Take notes, too, just in case the machine fails for some reason.Pin down necessary details, such as the spelling of their name and contact information, then start with the easy questions, working your way to the more controversial ones. Guide the discussion, bringing them back to the subject if they stray—unless what they’re saying is even better than what you were looking for.
  • Thank them for their help. Ask if there’s anything you forgot to ask and whether they know other people you should contact.
  • Type up your notes as soon as possible, adding details about the setting, sights, sounds and smells you observed, as well as how the person looked and acted.
  • Send your subject a thank you note with a copy of the published article.

Your challenge this month is to plan and conduct a practice interview—or a real one if you can use it for a writing project. If you don’t know whom to interview, how about an elderly family member? Ask him about his life when he was your age. Type up your notes and see if you’ve gotten all your questions answered. How did it go? Did you come away with a story to write? We’d love to hear about it.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

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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.


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  • This Blog Moving to ChristinaKatz.com as of December 30, 2009… December 27, 2009
    We’re moving! Writers on the Rise archives have been here for years. I hope that WordPress will let the archive live on for a good long time. However, it’s time to move on, bittersweet as change may be. Please come and find me at my new digs: http://christinakatz.com. And while we’re both thinking of it, […]
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