Archive for November, 2009

Understanding Personal Essays: Get Your Essays Into Print

Abigail GreenBy Abigail Green
So you’ve chosen the perfect topic, crafted a solid lead and conclusion, and revised (and revised and revised) your essay until it shines. Now what? Now you need to find a place to publish it. First the bad news: finding markets for personal essays (especially ones that pay well) can be tough. Now the good news: finding potential markets has never been easier, thanks to a plethora of online and print market guides, not to mention blogs, web forums and e-zines for writers, such as this one.
While I subscribe to several market guides and find them immensely helpful for such insider info as Q and A’s with editors, contact information and rates, these guides are no shortcut to studying a publication in-depth on your own. In fact, I have never sold any of my essays to a market I didn’t read first. When you have a magazine in hand, for example, it’s easier to flip back and forth between the writers’ bylines and the masthead to determine whether a certain piece is staff-written or open to freelancers.
Once you’ve targeted and researched an essay market, you should have the name and contact info of an editor in hand. If not, pick up the phone. You’ll usually find the editorial phone number below the masthead in print publications. Tell the receptionist you’re a freelance writer who wishes to submit an essay for publication and ask who handles that department. Most times you’ll get a name and e-mail address this way.
The most common way to submit an essay is “on spec”-meaning, you write it first and submit it in its entirety with no guarantee of publication. This bothers some writers, but look at it this way: it’s hard to convince an editor of a statement like, “My essay will be a poignant/thoughtful/humorous account of adopting an ornery Siamese cat” without enclosing the completed piece.
Next, you should write a compelling cover letter similar to a query letter. Reel in the editor with an attention-grabbing lead and say why you think your essay would be a good fit. Do you have to write a cover letter? Especially since you’re enclosing the whole essay? No, but if you were an editor, which would compel you to keep reading?
1.     “Enclosed is my 500-word essay, ‘The Cat Chronicles.’ Thanks for your consideration.”
2.     Or, “I knew I had my hands full the morning after I brought Svetlana home when my living room looked like the inside of a snow globe. That was my first clue that perhaps adopting a cat wasn’t as simple as I’d thought.
My enclosed essay, ‘The Cat Chronicles,’ discusses the adjustment period after welcoming a new pet. I hope you’ll find my 500-word piece a good fit for your essay department.”
Then, after you’ve spell-checked everything (especially the editor’s name!), send that baby out. And, just like when you pitch an article, follow up after a couple of weeks and start looking for back-up markets in case your essay’s not a fit for your first choice.
It may take one try or 20, but if you’ve got a solid personal essay and a strong desire to get it published, you will. I have years of personal experience-and numerous student success stories-to prove it.
Abigail Green has published more than 150 articles and essays in regional and national publications including American Baby, Baltimore Magazine, Bride’s, Cooking Light, and Health. Her work also appears in the new book, “A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers.” (Adams Media, 2009). Abby holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. in publishing from the University of Baltimore. She writes the “Crib Notes” column for The Writer Mama e-zine and the “Understanding Personal Essays” column for Writers on the Rise. A mother of two boys, she blogs about parenting, publishing and more at

Christina’s Calendar


Digital Book World
New York, NY

January 26 – 27
Panelist: “Get Noticed! Earn Attention for Every Book”
More info

Private Workshop: Power Up Your Platform for the Internet Age
Sunday, February 28th
Location: TBA
Time: 1 – 4 p.m.
Cost for 3-hour workshop: $75.00
Increase your visibility and influence based on your personal strengths and balancing offline and online strategies.
E-mail me to get on the list.

Ask Wendy: Your Writing and Publishing Questions Answered

By Wendy Burt-ThomasWendy Burt
Q: Some publications’ guidelines say, “send clips with query.” I have a few published pieces, but how do I choose which ones to send?
A: My first preference as a magazine editor would be to see clips that are relevant to the topic you’re pitching-no matter how small the publication that printed them. While clips from well-known, national publications can be impressive, they’re not always relevant. After all, if you’re pitching an article maintaining your faith to “Today’s Christian Woman,” you would probably be better off just mentioning in your query that you were published in “Men’s Health”-not including the clip on “25 Ways to Please Your Man.” If you don’t have a clip that’s relevant to the article you’re pitching, choose the clips that show off your best writing. 
 The Writer's Digest Guide to Query LettersWendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as,, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at or her blog,

New Classes For 2010

Writing and Publishing The Short Stuff
Especially For Moms (But Not Only for Moms!)
With Christina Katz
Now includes both regional and national markets!
Class Begins January 13th
Prerequisites: None
Finally, a writing workshop that fits into the busy lives of moms! You will learn how to create short, easy-to-write articles-a skill that will make it easier to move up to longer, more time-consuming articles when you’re ready. Try your pen at tips, fillers, short interviews, list articles, how-tos, and short personal essays-all within six weeks.
Cost: $250.00
More/Register at

Personal Essays that Get Published
With Abigail Green

Class Begins January 13th
Prerequisites: None
The popularity of reality shows, blogs, and tell-all books proves that it pays to get personal these days. Whether you want to write introspective essays, short humor pieces, or first-person reported stories, your life is a goldmine of rich material that all kinds of publications are pining for. Personal Essays that Get Published will teach you how to get your personal experiences down on the page and get them published. Students will learn how to find ideas, hone their voice, craft solid leads and endings, reslant their work for different markets, and submit their essays for publication.
Cost: $250.00
More/Register at

Updated and Improved!
Turn Your Specialty Into Course Curriculum
With Christina Katz

Class Begins on January 13th
Prerequisites: Former student or Permission from Instructor. Recommended before CSNBP.
I bet you have worked long and hard to discover your specialty, narrow the focus of your expertise, and build your credibility, so shouldn’t you also develop a course curriculum that you can use as the starting point for years of teaching and learning from your students? I have been doing this for eight years and in this six-week class, I will share all of the insights I have learned so you can create your own class, including strategies for cultivating a following of students who succeed. This is probably the most important class I teach because it helps writers develop curriculum they can use to create multiple income streams.
Cost: $399
Register at

Coming Classes:

Pitching Practice: Write Six Queries in Six Weeks
With Christina Katz

Class Begins May 12th
Prerequisites: WPSS with published clips or permission from the instructor.
In this writing class, pitching is all you do. Each week, you will study a successful writer’s query and create your own list of steps to follow. You will receive a three-page worksheet weekly, which will provide helpful ideas and checklists to help you systematize your query writing process and increase your productivity.
Cost: $250.00
More/Register at

Updated and Improved!
Craft A Saleable Nonfiction Book Proposal
With Christina Katz

Class Begins on March 3rd
Prerequisites: Former student or Permission from Instructor.
Most writers underestimate the comprehensiveness needed to craft a saleable book proposal that will garner the interest of agents and editors. They also mistake the definition of platform and importance of aligning their proposal to a solid track record. A two-time author, Christina has helped hundreds of nonfiction writers succeed over the past seven years. Now she’s making her proposal-writing advice available in a six-week e-mail course to aspiring authors who want to nail the proposal the first time around. The best way to craft a short, tight proposal that will impress agents and editors is with the help of a seasoned professional.
Cost: $399.00
Register at

Invest In Your Writing Career Today & Reap Greater Rewards Tomorrow!

Happy Holidays Writers! The November-December Issue of Writers on the Rise Begins Here

Christina KatzThank you so much for subscribing to Writers on the Rise in 2009. This was our sixth year. And we are kicking off our seventh with some changes!

I told you last month that I would be prioritizing certain activities in the New Year and I’ve been working hard to bring those intentions into reality.

I’ve transferred my hosting for (my old web host was sold about a year ago) and built a brand new site using and Thesis.

See what you think of the all new As of January 1st, this is where I’ll be posting everything, including the 2010 Writers on the Rise posts.

I hope you will add to your blog reader today, since this is the last issue of Writers on the Rise for 2009. (The archive of this issue will be posted in the same blog as always.)

Effective immediately at my new blog, you can stay up to date on my upcoming classes, dream teams, publications, appearances, freebies, and more (and more coming soon!).

A couple of things you won’t want to miss:

  • I’ve posted my round up of holiday gifts for writers with an eye towards health, thrift, and cheer. I hope you enjoy it.
  • The week of December 7th, I will be accepting applications for The Writer Mama Scholarship.
  •  Registration is now open for Writing & Publishing the Short Stuff, Turn Your Specialty Into Course Curriculum, and three levels of five-month accountability groups (AKA Dream Teams). TYSICC is now recommended before Craft a Saleable Nonfiction Book Proposal, which will be offered in March.
  • We are so lucky that Abigail Green is once again offering her Personal Essays That Get Published class. If you’ve not had a chance to take it, I highly recommend it.
  • And starting January 1st, I’ll be posting student and reader success stories at the rate of one per day until we run out! Stay tuned to my blog for the request for your 2009 success stories!
Last issue, I asked for your suggestions. One person wrote in and said she would be helped if I expanded the number of ways I worked with writers and offered a wider range of prices. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. Come January 1, 2010, you will find an array of ways to work with me that will fit all budgets.

I will be sending out gifts and cards to formally thank our wonderful 2009 contributors, managing editor Cindy Hudson, and my administrative intern Judy Miller. If you would like to thank them too, I suggest that you “favorite” their web sites and blogs so you won’t miss a single one of their exciting upcoming offers.

I’ll also be announcing new contributors and new new topics for 2010 in the January issue. Stay tuned. 2010 is going to be our best year yet!

Christina Katz
Publisher and Editor

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Christina’s Calendar: Fall Gigs

The Northwest Author Series: Third Season!

2009-2010 Northwest Author Series

Next up: Memoirist, Melissa Hart 
“Memoir that Sells”

More info

Writing for Radio: Universality in Radio Stories

Laura BridgwaterBy Laura Bridgwater
Whether you call it universality or theme or destination, all stories need it. Universality is the big payoff, the take-away, The Point. Think love, suffering, redemption. The Big Ideas.
If you don’t have universality, your story falls flat. Your reader stops reading, your listener stops listening, and both ask, “So what? What’s in it for me?”
If you’re a writer, especially a new one, you’ve probably written your share of non-universal stories. I have files of them.
So here are some ideas on what universality looks like in a radio story by one of the best on the airwaves, Ira Glass. Glass is the host of the radio and television show This American Life. He describes universality in his Radio Manifesto on this way: 
“Students often want to spend time with Hells Angels, or people who collect Beanie Babies, or ham radio operators, or knitters. But it’s not enough to just visit with these people. The story has to have more in it than ‘here’s what they do.’ They need to be putting them in categories, comparing them with other things, attaching them to bigger ideas. They need to always be thinking ‘this is like this, ‘ ‘this means that,’ ‘this little thing is an example of this bigger thing.’ ”
Another Internet resource that shares in-depth advice from Glass is the article “Mo’ Better Radio” at, the newspaper and website about public TV and radio. I was relieved to read in the article how hard Glass and his staff work to find universality in a story. If universality is elusive for the Pied Piper of Radio, then no wonder sometimes we struggle with it as writers.
A final resource is an insightful essay by Hillary Frank. Frank, who started as an intern at This American Life and became a contributor, wrote an essay called “How To Get On This American Life“.
Here’s how Frank characterizes universality:
“Without some bigger point, some moment of reflection, these stories come off like a private joke that the listener isn’t in on. That’s what a lot of the submissions seem like. I wonder if we all hear people like David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell on the air, and get fooled into thinking that the personal stories they tell are just that-personal stories-without noticing how often they jump to big universal ideas anyone can relate to.”
I like Frank’s observations because she uses the very universal experience of the inside joke to explain universality. I get that!
Ultimately, finding universality is worth the work. When I look through my files, the stories in my Acceptance Folder have universality. The stories in my Rejection Folder don’t. Universality is not only your reader’s pay off. It is also the writer’s paycheck. 
(Ira Glass is currently touring the lecture circuit. For his 2009 and 2010 schedule, check the Steven Barclay Agency website.) 

Laura Bridgwater is a writer, teacher, and radio commentator. To listen to or read a transcript of her commentary, visit KUNC FM 91.5. She can be reached at

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  • This Blog Moving to 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: And while we’re both thinking of it, […]
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