By Laura Bridgwater
When I was a new writer, I flirted with many kinds of writing before I met the genre of my dreams. Unfortunately, there was no online dating service to match me with compatible writing, so I went on a number of blind dates.
First I dated children’s books. I figured that since I dragged a diaper bag and a book bag to the library three times a week, I could write stories that appealed to the Sesame Street crowd. Plus, I had years of experience reading aloud to first graders as a teacher. Despite these qualifications, I learned that it is surprisingly hard to write a bad children’s book and even harder to write a good one. It wasn’t a match made in heaven and we broke up.
Next, I dated poetry, mostly because I fancy Shel Silverstein. My best poem started like this: Hurray! Hurray!/ The flowers are dead/ No more pollen/ Cloggin’ up my head. After I combed through Poet’s Market and discovered that many small publishers had folded or were on vacation indefinitely, I settled for reciting Silverstein to my children instead of publishing my own verse.
Then I had an affair with a 1,500-words-or-fewer short story and entered The Writer’s Digest Annual Short Short Story Competition. My wonderfully supportive and encouraging writing group giggled at what were supposed to be my serious passages. Short short story writing was a short short fling.
I was starting to tire of these courtships. I now had a history of serial monogamy with bad children’s books, embarrassing poetry, and laughable fiction. Was there a genre out there for me, or would I die a spinster alone with my orphan words?
Naturally, when I was poised to throw in the pen and join a cloister, I met my first published clip: a humorous personal essay about what happens when you combine a cranky two year old and a cheap tent in the middle of nowhere. We went on a second date that was quickly followed by spending all of our time together. I started writing articles for newspapers and magazines and won awards from the Colorado Press Women. It was a labor of love.
The dating game was over! I entered a long-term relationship with nonfiction. I announced our engagement with business cards printed with the title freelance writer.
After I married nonfiction, I shopped for a home for my writing. In my search for more markets, I submitted essays to my local public radio station KUNC. I broke into radio because I was in the right place at the right time after being in the wrong place for a long time.
My advice to writers who want to break into any genre, including radio, is to keep dating. After all, even J.K. Rowling had to kiss a lot of frogs before she found her prince.
Laura Bridgwater is an award-winning writer, teacher, and radio commentator who loves to pen funny essays, bad poetry, and grocery lists. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her husband and Tax Deduction #1 and #2. When she isn’t busy driving Mom’s Yellow Taxi Service, she freelances for newspapers, magazines, blogs, and online publications. Laura can be found as an active member of Northern Colorado Writers and commentating at KUNC. In 2008, she won first place for humorous personal essay writing from the National Federation of Press Women.