Thursday, November 30, 2006

Write What You Know

I'd like to break into parenting magazines, but I don't have kids. Is this an automatic strike against me?

Good question, one that I wondered about too before I produced my first spawn. The answer is no, it's not an automatic strike, but frankly, it's probably easier to write for these types of mags if you do have kids. I'll explain.

First of all, do know that the editors aren't going to perform a background check or anything like that on you, so it's not as if they'll be able to assess whether or not you're a parent by your initial query. In fact, I have one writer prolific writer friend who also happens to be a registered dietitian who frequently writes about kids' diets and such.

BUT, as I've mentioned in the past, I think that having access or familiarity with kids helps generate story ideas, as well as assists in writing the stories themselves: I can't tell you how much I've learned in penning parenting pieces, and on the flip side, how easily I can spot bogus or unhelpful expert advice that I choose not to include in the piece. But just because it's easier doesn't mean that a non-parent can't do it. I think you probably have to simply dig deeper for story ideas and prove in your queries that you have as much knowledge and hands-on experience as a parent does. (Again, you wouldn't say, "hey, I don't have kids, but I'm super-duper with my nieces." I just mean you prove yourself by crafting a top-notch query.)

To this end, do know that most magazines aren't exclusionary. (Did I just make that word up?) I've written for a slew of men's magazines, despite the fact that yes, I'm a woman, and if you flip through Glamour and the like, you'll also see male bylines popping up. In fact, I just read a hilarious piece in Women's Health about why men love to cook that was penned by yep, a person with male genitalia. If you're a capable researcher and a savvy writer, you should be able to cover nearly any topic, regardless of your gender, marital or parenting status, etc. you write for magazine at which you don't fit the mold? Want to share how you broke in or why you write for 'em?


Anonymous said...

I write for a Jewish magazine, and I'm a born and bred Catholic girl. I'd been recommended to the magazine by another writer, and I write the lifestyle stuff. The only time my editor brought up the religion difference was when I was doing a piece about a restaurant. He said "don't order the shellfish," and we had a good laugh about it.

Anonymous said...

I've just been having an email exchange with an editor about whether I could write a technique of playing an instrument driven interview piece, as I usually do idea based sutff and only include technique as a tool for that. he asked me a couple of questions about technical stuff. waiting to see if I passed his test. could I do the story and serve the readers? yes, a bit of a stretch though if strictly technical. it may be a bit different from what I usually do, not a bad thing, or maybe a bit different from their usual approach, not bad either. be interested to see how it plays out, first if I get the gig and then how it goes in practice.