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Writers and Editors

Edit What You Love

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We’ve had at least two panel discussions in the last five years about what it takes to put anthologies together. As a moderator, I’ve noticed all successful anthologies share one component: a passionate editor who has a deep connection to the book’s topic. Jessica Berger Gross had that special connection topic with the subject of the anthology she edited, About What Was Lost: Twenty Writers on Miscarriage, Healing, and Hope (Plume). The book features contributions from writers like Pam Houston, Joyce Maynard, and Caroline Leavitt.

“When my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage,” says Jessica, “I was shattered by feelings of loss. Although as many as one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, this is something many women didn’t talk openly about. Pregnancy books tend to ignore the topic. I began writing about my experience and an essay turned into an idea for an anthology. About What Was Lost is the book I wanted to find in the bookstore after my miscarriage.”

About the editing process, Jessica says, “It was important for me to respect the deeply personal nature of these pieces when offering my editorial feedback to my contributors. In the end, I became close with many of them because of the intimate nature of the anthology.” Part of her understanding on how to deal with writers comes from her experience on the other side of the desk. She’s contributed essays to the anthologies It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters, edited by Andrea Buchanan, and Why I Stopped Speaking to My Parents, forthcoming from Rebecca Walker.
Jessica credits a 2003 Boot Camp journalism class with some of her success. “Before Boot Camp, I had written for several publications,” says the contributor to Salon and Yoga Journal, among others. “[Instructor] Lew Harris helped me improve the quality of my queries and become more confident in communicating with magazine editors.”
If you’re in New York, you can catch a reading from Jessica’s book on June 12 at McNally Robinson. Details are here.
Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Director of Community Development.

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Mediabistro Job Fair

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Award-Winning Journos Share Their ‘Prize’ Secrets

asdfsdafdsfdsf.jpgWinners of the 2007 Pulitzer Prizes discuss finding the perfect story, reporting it, and reaping the rewards.
Pulitzers Recognize ‘Stubborn Reporting’
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Is Your Blog Exposing You to Legal Liability?

zuckercorn.jpgGee, I hope not. Anyway, from Law.com:

This article will provide a brief overview of some of the major legal issues presented to and which must be considered by those who are or who contemplate operating a blog. Although this article focuses on U.S. law, the global reach of the Internet means that the laws of many jurisdictions may potentially apply, which may not be as protective of certain relevant rights as our law is.

“Holy F, I’m supposed to send my editors a gift??? WTF?? How did I not know this and do I look bad for never having sent one?”

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This was pretty much my reaction when I first heard of freelancers sending gifts to their editors. Allison Winn Scotch addresses the issue of gift-giving and asks writers for their favorite gifts to send on.

When an Editor Screws Up

A newish freelancer writes in to the ever-helpful Ask Allison about an uncomfortable situation: errors were edited into her published piece:
Here are my questions:1. In the future, should I demand to see final copy before it goes to press? 2. Should I mention my discontent (politely) to my editor? Frankly, I don’t want to work for them again if I risk this sort of thing happening. However, it could behoove my career to get a couple of more clips this way. 3. Most importantly, is there any way I can use this clip now? The errors are really glaring from an editor’s perspective (I was an editor, though not an assigning one, for several years). Is there any standard means of saying “these aren’t my fault!” Or is it possible that editors are unlikely to actually read my clips?
Freelancer Allison Winn Scotch’s advice here.

The Shape of Things?

zvinciguy.jpgYou’ve gotten a nice assignment from an editor and have a couple of great ideas for the physical structure of the article–maybe it’s a sidebar, or a unique way to break up the piece. Do you suggest your ideas to your editor, or will that put her off, making her think you’re pushy and trying to do her job?
The short of it is, after speaking with other freelancers and editors, is that it can never hurt to mention your ideas. Headlines are probably the most appreciated suggestions, and if you have a great idea for a sidebar, don’t keep it to yourself (although if you add a sidebar onto the article, clarify if it will be part of the contracted word count–a great sidebar idea is great for the editor but not for you if it ends up that you’re writing for free.) Illustration suggestions from freelancers are rarely taken, but if you have a brilliant idea, why not share it? The worst an editor can do is not use the idea. Sometimes it can make the difference between a piece editors are eh about and one they’re psyched for: “There’s a popular outdoors magazine which has recently changed tone and if you have a good story
they’re barely interested. Have that same story with a beautiful woman and they’re ready to talk. So to that extent, I suggest art when possible. Also, if it’s going to help sell a piece, I’ll also include it. Words only go so far in a short amount of time, so I’m not afraid to include a strong link to an image,” said one writer I spoke with.
And, if a specific format suggests itself to you (Q&A versus a dialogue interview or a piece broken up by subheads), then work with it–unless your editor has specifically told you otherwise.
So, don’t be afraid to weigh in with your thoughts–it won’t make you sound pushy–it’ll most likely make you look good. “I almost always suggest the article format, but then again I draw from the predominant article formats in the magazine. If the suggestions are well executed in the query (or well explained over the phone) I would think it shows you know your topic and the magazine. It makes the working relationship between editor and writer more of a partnership,” said another writer. “Not all of my suggestions have been accepted, but they have all been well received. The editors I’ve worked with have been happy to hear any and all ideas related to the article in the beginning stages.”