Article title page, Wilfrid Laurier Campus Magazine, Spring 2013.
Printed newspapers around the world might be floundering, but glossy magazines have retained their popularity and continue to attract a new audience.
The trouble with writing for a lifestyle magazine is you only reach a limited audience with every article: decorating divas one month, swashbuckling sailors the next. Rarely both.
As writers, we always want to expand our audience. The more people who read our work, the more opportunities will present themselves.
Alumni magazines for universities, colleges, and even high schools are the ideal fodder for writers looking to reach a broad audience of decorators, sailors, nurses, accountants, CEOs, and electricians.
When you write a profile for an alumni magazine, you aren't limited by subject matter when pitching stories; all you need is to find a story-worthy person. Their background can - and should - be unique, interesting. Once you've found a subject, find out which university she attended, and voila! There may even be a few magazine options open to you; if the person went to a high school with a magazine or attended several universities, pitch to each school.
The first person whose story I pitched to an alumni magazine was Melissa Schaak, a violinist I knew growing up. Melissa's career had steered her in a fascinating direction: she is a "show violinist" with the Exclusive Strings Quartet, based in Belgium. Now that's a story I want to read (and write) about!
What's a show violinist? How did she get to Belgium? Read the article in Wilfrid Laurier's Campus Magazine to find out!
If you're wondering if alumni magazines pay their writers, the answer is YES (or the ones I have written for, anyway). Like with any writing job, make sure you negotiate a contract in advance so there are no surprises.
Alumni magazines offer you a great opportunity to get your writing out to a broad audience. Who knows, your article might be read by another magazine editor or a CEO of a company looking for your skill set.
Another advantage is that alumni magazine editors are not bombarded with story pitches like editors of glossy magazines. You are more likely to get a response with feedback on your pitch and what you can improve for next time.
Find your story subject, and then start pitching university/college magazines. You'll be glad you did.
Whether you're in a book club or you enjoy chatting over a cup of Earl Grey about the book on your bedside table, you've probably, at some point, read a book someone has recommended.
Maybe it was your high school English teacher forcing you to read a 1000-page Dickens classic, or your mom buying you a "7 Steps to a Highly Inspired Future" self help sizzler. Either way, most of us enjoy sharing our thoughts on books, and also enjoy hearing about a book someone else is reading.
That's why I think the English Department of the University of Victoria chose the best way to celebrate their 50-year anniversary: by asking 50 special friends of the department to share their favourite book on the "50 Special Books" website.
While I was a student of English Literature, first at Laurentian University in my undergrad, and later at UVic in the graduate program, the focus on writing, analyzing, and researching, not to mention reading multiple texts at the same time, sometimes overshadowed what drove me to study post-secondary English Literature in the first place: a love of reading.
The English Department's celebration of reading reminded me – and all in attendance at this evening's website launch – that we were all called to study English first and foremost because we love books.
I was truly honoured to have been selected to share with the Department – and the world – a book that has meant something special to me. I chose Canadian writer George Elliott Clarke's unique novel, Whylah Falls.
In the write-up I submitted to the 50 Special Books site, you can read at what time in my life I read the book and what one line in it means to me (“Numbers reveal truth. Words always have something to hide.”). But what you can't read is why I chose the book.
To the best of my remembrance, Whylah Falls is the first book I read by a black Canadian writer. I studied black American literature extensively in university, but never black Canadian. The book introduced me to an entire new culture in my country, a new community and experience. Many in the book are sad experiences, but many are joyful and full of love, family, and music.
The book remains to this day the most beautiful piece of writing I have ever held in my two hands. Clarke plays with words in a way I had never experienced. If you thought there couldn't possibly be any way for a writer to string together words in a new, never-seen order, give this book a try. You'll be amazed at what a bit of rearranging can do.
I hesitate when I call this book a novel. It's a series of poems, letters, songs, put together like a novel. The influence of music pervades every line he writes. You can practically hear how these words would be sung. Clarke makes you want to sing them, to put them to your own music. I've been lucky enough to hear him read from it. His voice and tone is such that he seems to be singing the words he utters. But he's not.
Whylah Falls made me want to play with words, that's why this book has meant so much to me. The book makes me want to arrange and rearrange words until I create a sentence that makes someone feel. Something. Anything. If in my life, I string together one sentence as musically and beautifully as Clarke, I will feel peace.
Now I've recommended this book to you, I hope you'll consider picking it up. If I haven't convinced you to read it, check out the other 49 Special Books other friends of the UVic English Department recommend. There is something for every taste and every age. Sure, there's Shakespeare and Austen and Kafka represented. But there's also C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and authors I've never heard of. You are bound to find something to keep you up late at night. I can't wait to work my way through them all, maybe over the next 50 years. I invite you to, too! Enjoy.
What a year for writing! I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had these past few months, but seeing my first feature article printed in Victoria's esteemed Boulevard Magazine takes the cake. (Yes, cake, even though my article is in the Health and Wellness department!)
You can find my story, "A Social Running Club Brews a Little Fun with Fitness," on page 76 of the September 2012 issue (pictured left).
The article features the forays of the Victoria chapter of the Hash House Harriers and highlights a few of the characters that make up the off-the-wall group as well as their philosophy, which balances getting in shape with drinking beer—and being politically incorrect. They are a great bunch! I had so much fun researching the story, I'm going to continue running with them.
If you recall, last summer I posted that I was determined to get an article in Boulevard before the end of 2011. Well, I overshot my goal slightly, but that doesn't at all dull the excitement of seeing my byline! --------------------that's me!----------------------------->
I would be so appreciative if you could please read my story about the Hash House Harriers and share your comments with me here on my blog. I'm looking forward to publishing more articles with Boulevard and will rely on your feedback to learn what is working and what isn't! Thanks for celebrating this exciting news with me. On on!
More information on the worldwide phenomenon that is the Hash House Harriers.
More information on the Victoria chapter.
I am pleased to announce that one of my stories has been published in a new book, The Beginner's Guide to Chick Night, written by my dear friend and award-winning writer, Colleen Kleven.
Six years ago, Colleen approached me about an idea she had for a book—a collection of stories celebrating the time women spend together and emphasizing how important it is to get out and enjoy life with friends, and specifically, your girl friends.
In the very early days of my writing career, I wrote a version of the my story "Up with Fun," which appears in the book. Thankfully, Colleen gave me the chance to edit it last year—the story benefited from a few more years of experience (both writing and personal)!
The book is now available in hard and soft covers on Amazon and Chapters or from the publisher, IUniverse, where an E-book is also available. The collection of inspiring stories speaks to the importance of friendship, having fun, and taking time for yourself. It offers insight into relationships; inspiration for rainy days; and a healthy dose of comedy to put life in perspective. Chick Night will make life better!
Since starting the book, Colleen has founded Chick Night International, devoted to inspiring women to get out and play with their girl friends, which she sees as an integral part of a healthy life. Chick Night is run in a monthly club format, much like Toastmasters—only it's dedicated to having fun, not public speaking. (Although—having fun increases self-confidence, which can ultimately lead to ease while public speaking... Interesting.) No doubt, Chick Night chapters will pop up all over the nation!
My sincerest congratulations to Colleen! What an accomplishment!
Now, enough reading my blog—go curl up with a copy of Chick Night and prepare to laugh, cry, and crave chocolate.
Jessica Woollard, freelance writer in beautiful Victoria, B.C.