Quarterlife Mocha Girl

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pitch and Bat

The summer after my sophomore year in college, I interned at a metro newspaper in a nine-week program. The first four weeks, I was a writer's assistant, working on spreadsheets, collecting information for the obituary (deathly boring, no pun intended) and writing two and three-line copy for the weekend dining and gardening events sections.

The last five weeks, I was officially a reporter. I reported and wrote weekly stories that were featured in a special section of the paper. There were several other interns, but I started two weeks after a girl I'll call Tara. Tara was the first one to be at the beck and call of the city editor, Mr. Brown, also known as Jerome. He was stocky black guy with glasses that he wore on the tip of his nose. He was a man of few words. He gave you your assignment and you were off.

Sitting at my desk in the newsroom (still an assistant) I noticed Tara at Mr. Brown's desk. Whatever he was saying was not to Tara's liking. Before I knew it, she had run around the photo editor's desk, made a beeline for the hallway (the interns' refuge). She was in tears. She later told me at lunch that Mr. Brown was cut-throat with his edits. He even told her she might possibly be going into the wrong profession. How could that be? She'd gotten accepted into the program over hundreds others, right? She warned me that he was "terrible" and I should be afraid.

Within the next two weeks, I'd gotten my first assignment, a story about a postman who won some prestigious award for something (damn shame that I can't remember). I drove to the suburbs to meet him on his route. I rushed back to the newsroom to write the story. Within an hour, I was standing behind Mr. Brown at his desk as he pulled my story up. I didn't see a lot of edits at all. A few minor things. He actually liked it. I was in the clear and the next Wednesday, my story (complete with a pic of the postman) was there--in color. Wowww.

What's Tara's deal, I wondered. Ole' Romie Rome wasn't that bad.

Weeks later, another editor (who sat in for Mr. Brown during an illness) ripped my story in two. His writing style was the exact opposite of Mr. Brown's. When I was younger, I despised any criticism of me. Any. Even if it was constructive. But I learned to grow a tougher skin and actually listen to some people because hey, they might be on to something.

In the writing game there are standard rules. I don't know all of them now. Everyone's writing style is different, as are their ways of thinking. Because of that, I'm not afraid of the red pen--or the editor's notes in all caps. How will I get better?

I've been following Aliya S. King's blog since I found it two weeks ago. She has a great section called Pitch Me!. I did. Here's what she and other great editors/writers had to say:


Shout to you, Aliya and the Secret Society. And the anonymous editor.


  • At February 20, 2009 at 10:17:00 AM PST, Blogger Craigjc said…

    Find your style and do it well. You'll be glad you did.


  • At February 20, 2009 at 11:10:00 AM PST, Blogger kimkim said…

    I found the Anon editor the harshest (of course!) but, thinking about all of the magazines that I consume daily (I am a 'zone whore, lol) I saw positives in everything she said (she didn't have to yell though, lol).

    I think your pitch was pretty good considering im a 20 something, but I do think that you should choose a topic that would be specific to us and current times, and have it tie into your overall view of what it's like to be on the cusp of 30. So many magazines have annual 20s/30s/40s so you just need to find a fresh spin. Other than that, I would be interested to read it.

    Have you thought about pitching it to other publications? Redbook, Marie Claire, Glamour, etc? I know Essence is the ONE but I know that other magazines (especially Redbook) deal with topics like this all the time. It's a staple.

  • At February 21, 2009 at 9:51:00 AM PST, Blogger Go B. said…

    okay...I'll go over to her site now :)

    Have a wonderful Weekend!



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