Query a Day: A Freelancer's Quest for Publication

A blog following a Pennsylvania freelance writer in her quest to become published nationally.

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Location: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States

Cohabitating with boyfriend and cat in the mountains, soon to be graduate of Wilkes University and attending New School University in fall for MA in media studies.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Updates: I'm Back. I survived chemistry.

Sometimes I like to think I am Super Woman.

I'm not. When I started this blog, I was committed to keeping it up to date with my ideas, submissions and other aspects of my writing life. It started off wonderfully! I received such great feedback from fellow writers-- a real show of support from the online writing community. I felt like I was doing something very new and also inspiring.

But-- then I started a new full-time job and also an intense six week long chemistry class. It was one of the toughest months of my life-- super long days. And in order to pass this class, I had to temporarily make a sacrifice. I traded in my laptop and spiral notebook for a periodic table and scientific calculator. After I passed the class with a 2.0, I still was adjusting to getting used to my new work schedule and whatnot.

Oh-- I've still came up with some ideas over this time. I just haven't been able to sit down with a clear mind and bang out query letters. I had been trying to get started back on this blog-- and a few things have inspired me... my boyfriend, Dave got me a laptop for my birthday and it has made things a lot easier. My old computer was on the brink for sometime. More importantly, there is no air in my office at home. So, I can take the laptop to the rooms that do have air, or at least a good breeze! (And, less clutter!)

Second, today has been an inspiring day which is why I am writing this now, pledging to myself to get back in gear. I received two GREAT pieces of mail today in my good old mailbox.

1) A contractor invoice for GAMES Magazine-- for the "Bookends" I submitted in June or July-- see below for the entry when I queried. YAY! All the querying paid off!

2) I received the nicest post card today-- I want to scan it in to share with everyone. A young woman sent me the nicest note-- she is an aspiring writer and found the blog. She said it inspired her to get more active with her writing-- she said that in the past few months she has been actively sending out letters with her own ideas. I've gotten some emails as well-- but getting a postcard from this military PO Box with a beautiful landscape and a handwritten note just made my day and made me feel like this blog was something special. Jennifer-- thank YOU for inspiring me to get back in gear, and best of luck to you!

Ah-- back in the saddle again. I will start with an entry tomorrow.

Donna

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Queries 23-25: Hangovers, Leads and Small Presses

Some updates:

Query 23

While shopping today for cold medication, I came across a hangover patch which you'd wear while you drink. When you wake up the next day, you will not have a hangover. Thought this would make for a cool try-to-buy story, which I am pitching to a woman's magazine, as well as a local publication.

Query 24
A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter of interest to the Career College Association's magazine to gain future assignments. I thought of an idea for a feature story in some unique ways to develop leads for prospective students. The goal is to have the lowest-cost-per-lead-- so many schools try to gain what they call personally developed leads. I have some ideas for that and can present an article for their admissions section of the magazine.

Query 24
A small publishing press is soon relocating its offices to be housed in a local university, as part of their MA in creative program. This is exciting news, as now the program will have a resident imprint. I am pitching this idea to a writing magazine.

Playing Catch-up: Needed a breather

I'm back. For those of you who have been reading, you know that this was the first full week of my new (old) job and also the first week of my condensed, five-week long chemistry class. While I may not have delved into all the subject 'matter' yet, I have come to learn that some elements do not mix: A 9-5 job, a 5:30-10:00 class, freelance writing projects and continuous pitching (which also includes this blog). Oh. And sleep too! Heaven help me! I'm going bezerk. On top of it all, I've developed a cold. I think it is from the AC at work. It is brutally cold in there and it may have been a shock to my system. DayQuil, NyQuil and tissues in tow, I am ready to get down (and back) to business.

So, I slipped a little. I will try not to let it happen again. This first week of this schedule took some adjusting, but I think I can still manage to keep up with everything. July 10, things will be back to normal. So, this weekend I am trying to play catch-up with the days I have missed out on sending queries.

In other news, I did send out the finished manuscript of the children's book. They report back within six months. So that means that between now and December-ish, I will be tackling the mail lady.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Query #22: Soup of the Day, Take 3

Happy Sunday. Just like that, the weekend is over. Gone. Back to work tomorrow. I spent the better part of the weekend working on the manuscript for the children's story. I can't wait to get it off to the publisher, but I want to be sure several people look it over first. I get chills thinking about the possibility of this story being on a shelf one day! (Not sure if those chills are from the excitement, or because the story is set in the winter!)

Since I received a few rejections for the Soup of the Day story, I am going to shop it elsewhere. I sent out a new query to a different publication today on that. I also wrote a query yesterday for Horse Illustrated on a local rescue organization, but they prefer queries to be mailed, not emailed, so I will officially send that one out on Monday. I found out about that magazine through the AbsoluteWrite.com premium markets newsletter, which I would highly recommend. It's only $15 per year to get this wonderful newsletter! Check it out.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Query #21: Hot? Cold? Screw Mother Nature!

Happy Friday! This week flew by. Must have been the holiday. I just pitched an idea to a local magazine which focuses on the "West Side" of the Wyoming Valley (which means across the lovely Susquehanna) of the Greater Wilkes-Barre area. A local career school is getting a new HVAC program, with a construction program to follow. This is targeting a whole new market for the school and also means a brand new building and of course new jobs. I think it may make for a worthy profile. We'll see what happens. My spin? Mother Nature likes to play games with us in NEPA. With more qualified HVAC people, it won't matter. We'll be sure to be cozy either way!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Rejection: But a positive one!

The follow up letters seemed to work. I just received a nice note from one of the editors regarding one of the recent pitches. He stated that the story isn't right for them, but asked to try pitching other ones on (subject he suggested here.)

So, I will be sure to think of some additional ideas! It is just refreshing to know that the queries are being read, responded to and replied to personally rather quickly.

In other news, I am tweaking the children's book manuscript and getting ready to have two editors look it over to be sure it is polished. I cannot get over the fact that I received such a nice letter from the publisher regarding my query. Which brings me to a point. I try very hard to stay positive, and for the most part, this blog has been a very positive experience. I do not want to use this blog as a venting post, as I have one of those at MySpace. However, I do just need to get something off my chest.

There was a very negative post on a freelance writing site's member's only forum about this blog saying it was unprofessional and the writing dreadful. I just wanted to say that first of all, this blog isn't meant to be professional. It is supposed to be a fun way to keep track of my queries, while at the same time being a vehicle to motivate, support and help (and learn from) other writers. As far as the writing being dreadful, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but this blog is not meant to be a judged-by-the-grammar police creative writing sample or article submission. This is just me blogging, blabbing, usually off the top of my head first in the morning when the coffee hasn't set in, or way too late at night when my contacts are starting to stick to my eyelids.

The lesson here: There will always be people who try to discourage you, no matter what. I had an article on these naysayers published once on a motivational website. The best thing to do? Surround yourself with positive people, people who believe in you. Of course there are going to be let downs (as in not being published), but in my experience even editors who do not run with one of your ideas could ask for another. Even enthusiastically. They usually don't tear your stuff apart, not to your face or on a public forum. That's the thing. Thanks to the Internet, we can now network and communicate with other writers and cheer each other on. And, with this blog, I've been thankful for the buzz that was created and the emails I have received and the encouragement from others. Thank you! It is you who make this blog awesome and totally fun to write!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Query #20: Admissions

Today I sent another query selling myself, rather than an idea. Last year, I wrote an article for the Career College Association's The Link. It was a first-person perspective on what inspired me to compile my self-published book while working as an admissions representative at a career school, and how the stories could help other admissions people understand the students they were trying to help. Coincidently, my uncle who works for a financial company with several career school clients was going to the CCA convention in Vegas last year. He invited me along. Mind you, I already had submitted the article and it was accepted. So, I was able to meet CCA people, primarily the publications manager, in person.

I was going through my portfolio yesterday and saw the article. Duh! Now that I am back in admissions-- well, starting tomorrow- and back in the whole career college "thing" I am sure ideas will hit me once I get back into the swing of things. I didn't pitch an idea just yet, but I did let the editor know I was back in the career school industry full-time, still writing on the side and would be interested in contributing again. I let him know I'd be pitching some ideas soon, but was also available on assignment should he need anything. They always say find something you are the expert in to write about, so now that I am back in education (primarily adult) I could also use this knowledge to pitch elsewhere and also seek out ideas from students. Gosh, I feel like I suddenly have ulterior motives to having a 'real' job!

As far as the follow-ups I made yesterday, no bites. Yet. I'm being optimistic that one has to come out of the dozen or so I made the past few weeks!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A day of follow ups

Hello! Hope everyone's Memorial Day weekend was full of fun- and lots of grilling.

Speaking of grilling, I plan on today "grilling" the editors I've e-mailed the past few weeks about my queries. I think instead of sending a new query today, I just want to play catch up before I start sending out the next few weeks of query-a-days! I wasn't around the computer much this week. Over the weekend we finally got the gravel for our driveway. We've been parking in the mud since we've been here. It wouldn't have been too, too bad but one, it's been raining so much and two, Dave has a big, heavy work van which makes ruts that my car gets stuck in. Yeah. Quite comical some mornings! Then, the rest of the weekend was spent going to this family member's place to that family member's place. Good fun. I missed the computer and querying, but I think it was a much-needed calm before the storm.

Monday starts five weeks of hell. At least 20 days of hell. I start working full-time. Yay! But that's not the hell part. I also have to take chemistry at the local community college. That is four days a week from 5:30-8:20, then the lab directly after until 10:30. I am wondering how much writing I can get done during this time, since I will be away from home from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00-ish p.m. (And what is my dear Dave going to do without dinner?!) I am hoping that the labs are quick and painless and the instructor lets us go when done.
I do hope I will have the energy to get up early and get some queries out in the a.m before I leave.

Again, thanks so much for everyone's comments and links. This project is so fun, and I am hoping that it inspires others to get their ideas out there! Wish me luck as I send out my follow-ups and think of some new ideas for later this week!

Cheers!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Success: Best News Yet!

I am so super excited!

Yesterday when I came home, I checked the mail. As usual. With sending out queries by the day, I have been waiting for responses. Not that I am a pessimist, but most of the responses I have received in the past (before this blog project)- especially for book ideas-- have spawned rejection. So you can imagine that when I shuffled through the bills and saw an envelope from the publisher I sent the children's book query to, I expected the worst.

It wasn't. I wanted to scan in the letter and post it here, but I figure that at this point, I don't want to jinx myself. It was a letter that said they read my query with interest, and if the manuscript was not under consideration from someone else, they would like to see it. IT WAS AN INVITE TO SEND THE WHOLE MANUSCRIPT. I know writing in all caps is taboo, but come on! This is exciting news and I'd rather use big letters to show my emotion than a smiley face. So, I am this week going to have some people look over it, polish it and get it out there as soon as possible. I am just thrilled! Let's see what happens.

The sad thing is that I've had this idea for years. If I only had the courage to send it out sooner. Or, with the other ideas, I should have resubmitted them to other houses instead of being discouraged. I just need to find the right place for my ideas!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Query 18 & 19: Wired, Doubled

I was feeling really productive today, so I decided to send tomorrow's query out today. Then, it kind of snowballed into a query for Saturday too.

QUERY 17
See, today in the mail I got my first issue of Wired-- it comes free with an annual membership to mediabistro.com's Avant-Guard. I was flipping through the book and saw many cool front-of-book features. When I happened upon a page in their PLAY section called "SCREEN" and also saw that they featured an internet comedy, I saw an opportunity for another place to pitch the Soup of the Day story. I tweaked a previous pitch letter on the same subject matter to fit Wired.
Within hours, I received a personal response. Not exactly the type I wanted-- but nonetheless, encouraging. The timing was not right, as the show will be over before the August issue comes out. That's the issue they are on. She told me how their calendar works, and that she is currently assigning for the September issue and said I could send in some more ideas. I wasn't sure if that was standard, or if she did take a look at my clips. I hope she did.


QUERY 18
So, I wanted to be as quick as she was with me. I whipped up another pitch letter, which I sent as a reply to the first e-mail. I told her about a gadget I knew of, sent her to a link for a demo and told her I had an interview lined up with the online business's owner. Business is closed for today, so I hope she responds to the mail quick tomorrow.

So, do I still query tomorrow? Do I still query for Saturday? I mean, I sent out three. I'm ahead of the game. But, perhaps I still should stick with the query-a-day mode-- if I take two days off, I could get lazy. Okay- it's back to brainstorm box!

Query #17: E! Online. Plus, I'm employed!!

Good news. I found a job!

I will begin as an admissions representative at Allied Medical and Technical Institute in Forty Fort on June 1. If anyone who knows me personally is reading this, it may sound familiar. Yep. It is what I did before I went back to school, only I was then at their Scranton location. I will have the same boss, coincidently. I don't think the job ever left my heart-- and I saw an opening advertised. Got a call almost immediately, had two interviews and they gave me an offer I couldn't say no to!

So, why did I go back to school then, you ask? Several reasons:
1. I finished what I started
2. I can say I have a college degree
3. I was opened up to the world and feel more knowledgeable, especially by adding sociology as a second major
4. Now that I have the BA, I am pursuing my master's in media studies. This means I can keep going. And eventually teach.
5. I was able to work side by side with some great people, students and faculty.

I did want to get into journalism full-time, but I am not in a position to up and leave to follow a job. I am tied to this area (read: we just bought a house) and do love Northeast PA and in a way want to be a part of the growth. (There has been an upheaval of young people leaving, and an effort to get local talent to stay. I try to be involved in community things here, so sometimes I feel hypocritical if I speak of leaving....) So, I need to find work here. So, this is what I had to do. The media here is not presenting any full-time opps. But, I will continue to write for the local publications I do (I hope!) and I plan on trying to freelance on a larger scale-- hence this blog! Maybe I'll even try another book.

TODAY'S QUERY
I have an interview with a Survivor alum and need to find a place for it. I saw a posting on MediaBistro for E! Online. They are looking for movie correspondents. (Check it out if you think you have "it"!) I think given my locale, I could not regularly enough get the details on upcoming movies E! craves. However, since they do have a need for writers, I thought a pitch for a single story now may work. So, I pitched to them a story on this Survivor and his latest endeavors. The thing is, I also wrote two stories recently about people who were on E!- Dave Russo, E!'s The Entertainer runner-up graduated from my college, and I wrote an alumni profile for him in the college's alumni magazine. And, I recently interviewed Jonny Fairplay from Survivor about his role in The Scorned and Kill Reality, both which aired on E!. Those were the two clips I attached to my pitch letter. This would just be awesome! Wish me luck! And again- for those of you reading this who live in New York or LA of just have better connections than I, check out that post at mb.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Follow up: Success!

Great news! I wrote a follow up letter to Games Magazine about two puzzles I submitted recently. This morning I receieved a mail back from the editor and she said that she will be using the puzzles but did not know which issue. But, it's progress!

"Although I don't have any publication dates yet, I should be able to use them in GAMES sometime soon."

This is positive news! I am going to keep this up. One out of 16 is not bad so far, considering most of the places I pitched say they respond in 4-6 weeks or longer! Cross your fingers!

Donna

Query #16- On the Prowl

I've decided to title the, well, title "Query #" rather than "Day #." It just makes more sense.

I have a busy day tomorrow, so I already sent out my query of the day around midnight, which technically is a new day. I sent a query to InsiderHigherEd.com for an article on a college guide company. The twist is that these guides are written by students at the respective school. Hope they consider it.

I have also been posting some things that have not found a home-- or things from my "archives"-- on Associated Content. You know, just to get my name out there. There is one pretty cool website I reviewed
called MyHeritage- just throwing it out there incase anyone reading this blog wants to see what celebrity they look like. Of course, this would never count a one of my queries of the day-- just little bonuses.

As far as the full-time job hunt- it's rough. I can't relocate at the moment (tied into a mortgage) and there isn't much in my field locally. I don't want to have to take just any job, as I went back to school for a reason! Oh, the pressure. At least I have time to blog and query!