The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Acquired Reading: The Love of a Good Magazine

Today I’m tooling around the magazine shelves at Barnes & Noble looking for prospective short-term employers: Who wants to publish (and pay for) an article by me?! There are so many to choose from – shelves upon layered shelves of magazines on every subject; which one will I choose to solicit next? Each magazine is a bright, scrumptious fruit in the jungle of freelance anonymity – pick the right one and I could be famous…I’ll settle for just published!

I like Barnes & Noble for their variety. Want to read a magazine on Colombian coffee? There’s one at Barnes & Noble for you. Want to learn how to knit with only wool from a lamb named Baa-rty living on the side of Blaven in the Isle of Skye? Surprisingly, there’s a magazine at Barnes & Noble for you too. OK, I may have exaggerated on that last one, but you get the picture.

Back to topic: The most productive way to pitch an article is to find the publication that needs your words and ideas the most – if they need you as much as you need them, you are almost guaranteed a job. Once I’ve narrowed it down I get myself to the library and do some major research on a couple particular publications by looking at back issues to see if they’ve already done something similar to my idea. It’s not always bad if they have because you can work off that knowledge and pitch a continuation or more in depth piece; but sometimes it means no, they’ve been there and done that – move on to someone else.

As I’m searching through the jungle laid out in front of me, I can’t help but smile sardonically. Maybe you have to know a little bit about my love/hate relationship with magazines to fully understand the irony of my current situation. And maybe you have to understand me a little more than this blog will let you to understand how utterly fascinating – and truly enjoyable – that knowledge is…and why I wouldn’t trade my current situation at all, not even a little bit. Let’s stick with the magazines for today.

I used to see magazines as reading nuisances. They don’t have the same smell or flavor of books – even textbooks (gasp) are preferable. I can count on one hand the magazine subscriptions I’ve actually had in my life. There are a lot of things I don’t like about magazines. I don’t like the little postcard-sized subscription cards that pop out every time you turn a page. I don’t like the super-concentrated cologne samples that give you a headache and smear the words as you try to read while wiping your hands on the shiny cover in a vain attempt to get the stench off; because inevitably the sample always rips open, spraying you with a blast of something that may have smelled good originally, but is now mixed with paper, glue and other perfume samples into a cacophony of evil potpourri. I also really don’t like the amount of advertisements – from a marketing standpoint I get them, some of them may even work on me – but I don’t have to contend with these attention distracters while reading a book. Mostly, I don’t like the break-up in flow. If I’m into my article on the benefits of yoga and meditation, I don’t want to have to find page 125 in mid-sentence.

At this point you are wondering how I can possibly be a freelancer; right? Why I’ve chosen to make this my career? I can and I do because once you make it past all of the stuff I just talked about (and most people really don’t have a problem with that – just throw the postcards and samples away before you start reading – how lazy are you anyway?) some of the content in magazines far outweighs the content in the latest mystery or YA book I’ve read. It’s uplifting, it’s motivational; it is smaller, intense doses of good literature and it is geared toward a target audience who can’t stop seeking knowledge on the subject at hand: Magazines are pure dead brilliant! How lucky am I?

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