>We just adopted a new dog last week, Halle Berry Lick. Obviously black and gorgeous. She cannot replace our beloved Sadie, who died in November, but she has added a new element to our lives. What does that have to do with freelancing for newspapers? Well, since she arrived, I keep thinking of dog-related story ideas. This pooch is young and rambunctious–and big. The Safe Havens shelter from which we got her would make a good story on its own, but there are plenty of other topics: What steps do you need to take to welcome a new dog into the family? How do you keep a big water-loving dog out of the spa and is it okay if she drinks the water? Do you have to take her to school to train her? What chew toys are safest and most durable? How do you keep her from assuming that everything else–your shoes, your headphones, the coasters–are also chew toys? What if she won’t eat what you feed her? Why is crate training so popular now, and how do you do it? Etc.
Whatever’s happening in your own life will provide article ideas, like low-growing fruit that’s easy to grab off the tree. Take an idea and spin it every way you can think of for every possible market.
Now I need to get Halle a treat for giving me something to write about in my blog this morning. See how it works?
>An offhand comment at the dog-training facility where she worked turned Jennifer Keene into a soon-to-be published author. She was in the process of a divorce, which included splitting custody of their two dogs, Moxxy and Sixxy. Her ex noted that she was always talking about writing a book, so maybe she should write about dogs and divorce. When she mentioned it to her friends at Pup-a-Razzi, Deb Wood, author of 10 books and a weekly columnist on pet issues for the Oregonian, said, “That’s a great idea. Do you really want to write a book? I’ll show you how to do it.”
With that, Wood became Keene’s mentor, helping her put together a proposal to pitch to agents at the 2005 Willamette Writers conference. One of the six agents she met referred her to Kate Epstein, who agreed to represent her book. Epstein helped her perfect the manuscript, shopped it around and got a positive response from TFH Publishing, which specializes in dog books. We Can’t Stay Together for the Dogs: a Dog-Friendly Divorce and Break-Up Guide is due out in March 2008.
Keene, who is still working on her English degree at Portland State, can’t believe her good luck. It’s a hot subject that could bring national attention. Once upon a time she wanted to be an actress, and many people have told her she looks like Drew Barrymore. At the suggestion she could end up on the “Oprah” TV show someday, she sighs. “If I could get a national minute on something, I could die happy.”
The moral of this story? Speak up. You never know who might be listening. Be bold and put your ideas out there. After all, how do you think Deb Wood wound up getting that weekly freelance column in the Oregonian with the cute picture of her and her Papillion pup? She said, Hey Oregonian, I’m a pet expert and you need a pet column. Bingo.