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Blog Hop buttonIt’s day 3 of Collette Cameron’s Blog Hop and Giveaway, which I’m participating in with 23 other authors. There will be lots of giveaways, including a basket of chocolates, gift cards, digital and print books, and a Kindle Paperwhite and a print copy of my book, The Nun and the Narc. To enter the giveaway drawing and see a list of the participants and the prizes click on the Collette Cameron blog hop button at the top of the page. This is a super opportunity to get some great prizes and discover some new authors.

The theme of the blog hop is Thanking and Appreciating All those Who Supported Authors. During the hop, I’ll be posting pieces about the various people and organizations that have helped me on my road to publication. I only hope I don’t forget anyone, because a lot of people have been on this journey with me.

Today I’m going to talk about some editors and journalists who were instrumental in my journey to becoming an author.

Although I’ve considered myself a writer since I was a teenager, I didn’t really think about writing for publication, and go after that goal, until I was in my early 40s. I subscribed to our local weekly newspaper and there was a staff reporter named Jennie Key who wrote the bulk of the articles in the paper. That’s the way it is with most weekly community papers. I noticed that the paper also had people writing for them called contributors.

One day I decided that I could write something as good as the pieces I’d read in the paper. After all, I thought, I have a good grasp of the English language. How hard can it be? (Ah, the confidence of the newbie writer.) So I set about finding a subject that I could write about and would be of interest to the paper. Finding an interesting idea was not as easy as I suspected. Flat out of possibilities, I lucked out when our church launched a building program. I took a picture at the ground breaking, talked to some of the ministerial staff to get information, and then called the newspaper to see if they would be interested in me writing a story. They were, but they said they wouldn’t be able to pay me or give me a byline. Only staff writers and stringers, aka contributing writers, got bylines.

The thought of no byline and no pay almost stopped me, but I figured, what the hey. If they liked what I wrote, maybe they’d ask me to work for them. So, I wrote the piece,catherines first article

turned it in, and was thrilled when they printed it just like I’d written it—not a single correction! Not bad, I thought (not knowing that they never changed the copy for unsolicited articles by community people.) Then I promptly tried to think of something else to write about.

My efforts netted me nada! Zilch! Until the church had its first service the following March. I gathered my courage, called the editor Nancy Daly, and asked if I could do another piece. She agreed. I bargained for a byline, offering this piece free, too, and she gave me the byline. When I saw my name at the top of the article I was hooked. I wanted to see that again and again. The money would be nice, but that byline was paramount to me at that moment in time.

I invited Nancy to come to the Queen City Writer’s meeting, where I was president, and talk to the members about writing for the newspaper. Ulterior motive here, people, because I wanted to know how to become a stringer, and I was too scared to come right out and ask her to hire me. What if she said no because I didn’t have a journalistic degree? That would be humiliating!

When she finished her talk, I asked two questions.

  1. What kind of things was she looking for as articles for the paper?  (Remember I sucked at coming up with ideas back then.)
  2. How did one become a stringer?

She looked at me and said, “Come into the office tomorrow and we can talk about signing a stringer contract for you.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather! (And yes, I know that’s a cliché, but boy, was it true!) My fellow club members teased me for a long time about setting up that meeting just so I could get a contract. I have to admit it was in the back of my mind, but I never in a million years expected her to offer like she did.

I worked for the Community Press for 10 years, writing all kinds of articles. By the time I left their employ I had over 600 articles and hundreds of photos to my credit. I had also branched out into other markets writing for children, seniors, learned how to reslant and reuse my interviews and notes, bargain for rights, and I had begun my journey as a fiction writer. Every editor I ever worked for at any of the Press newspapers was helpful, kind, and encouraging.

I don’t have a background in journalism, but I had a desire to learn how to write a news article. I studied Jennie Key’s stuff like a crazy woman, analyzing what she did. Apparently it worked.

The message I have for aspiring writers is: Study your craft and the writers you admire, and don’t be afraid to give some of your work away, especially when you are beginning. You never know where it might lead.

To Jennie Key of the Press Community Papers I want to say, “Thanks. Without your articles to spur me on, I might not have ever taken that first step.”

To Nancy Daly I want to say, “Thanks for believing in me and taking a chance on someone who didn’t have a journalism background. Without you, I would not have had 10 years of experience that taught me how to find story ideas, which has proved to be invaluable to my career as a writer, and bolstered my confidence.”

Thanks, also, to every editor I ever worked for at the Community Press. Each new assignment in an uncharted area helped make me the writer I am today.

What about you? Do you have a story about an editor who helped you on your writing journey?