>What’s the point? Read On

>Papers continue to shut down, go online, consolidate, etc. Last week the Oregonian announced another big cutback and numerous papers are asking their employees to take unpaid leaves. So, you might be wondering what’s the point of trying to do anything for newspapers these days. Indeed Salon.com columnist Cary Tennis considered that very question in a great March 17 posting a friend told me about. A college journalism professor had asked him if there was any point in trying to teach students how to work for a dying industry. The essence of his answer is that no matter what format we use “journalists find things out and tell people about it.” Amen. But I don’t want to steal his words. Go to salon.com and read the rest. Tennis’ answer should offer you some courage and inspiration.

How are we doing on the submission challenge? If it weren’t for you reading this, I probably wouldn’t have submitted much this month. I can always think of a million other things to do, but looking at my records, I see that I have gotten something out every week of March. Whew. J.M. Cornwell is writing rings around the rest of us. Anybody else want to brag?

You are keeping track of what you send out, right? We’ll talk about that next time.

>Networking helps; so does the dog

>A few weeks ago, I attended the monthly Nye Beach Writers series here in Newport, Oregon. Among the attendees was the editor of a local entertainment newspaper. I wrote one story for her 11 years ago when she was editor of another paper. A lot of things have changed since then for both of us. During intermission, she sought me out to tell me she had been reading and enjoying my Unleashed in Oregon blog. She recognized me from the picture on my blog. Nice, I thought. A few days later, I met her at the post office. She lives way up the coast, but she was on her way through my area, and there she was chasing me down in the parking lot. Why? To tell me she would love it if I wanted to write something for her. Her usual pay rate is low, but she’d increase it for me, she said. If I’m interested, all I need to do is pitch her some ideas. No formal query, just an e-mail or phone call.

I may or may not do it because the pay is still quite low, but that just goes to show you how doing things like attending writers’ events and putting out a blog can draw attention to your skills. In fact, many of my better freelance assignments have come through networking rather than the old query method. But don’t stop querying, especially if you aren’t likely to meet an editor at your small-town post office.
A few readers have signed on for my bi-weekly submission challenge. I sent one thing out last week and pledge to do another this week.

Ooh, maybe two. My dog just walked in and gave me another article idea. No, he doesn’t speak English, but he has learned how to jump the fence, and I’m spending far too much time wandering the neighborhood calling, “Here Chico, come on, dude, I’ve got cookies, come on, boy,” etc. I just realized other dog owners probably have the same problem. Query time. Once you open the flood gates, they come pouring in.

>I challenge you to join me

>I am so bummed. An essay that went all the way to the final production stages has been cut from an upcoming anthology. I mean, I signed the contract, approved the edits and was ready to broadcast the news to the world. Then today I received your basic “Dear Sue” e-mail: “I’m sorry to inform you that . . . We encourage you to submit elsewhere . . . ” Blah, blah, blah. Yes, it does happen even to people with lots of publishing credits and books on the library shelves. And it sucks every time.

What’s the cure? Send it out again. And send out other things, too. In fact, while writing this, a Facebook friend sent me a message saying exactly that. It’s a great essay, it deserves to be published, and nothing will happen while it sits on a shelf and I pout. So I promise to send it out again within the week.

Now I have a challenge for you. I need to get more queries and finished pieces out to editors. You probably do, too. Who will join me in pledging to send out a query or finished piece of writing at least once every two weeks and report back here about what it was, where it went and what happened? Show of hands? Come on.

I thought this up in yoga class while I was supposed to be clearing my mind. My original idea was once a week, but then I suspected I wouldn’t be able to keep up that pace. So every two weeks, twice a month. Sending out something that has been rejected or even published before counts. Everything counts as long as you’re sending something to an editor in hope of publication. It doesn’t even have to be a paying market. Just get it out there. Two weeks from now is March 10, the day after my birthday.

I’m doing it. Join me. Let’s make 2009 the year we get published in spite of the economy.