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Writing for Parenting Magazines
By Melanie Bowden

You know the old saying: "Write what you know."  If you're a parent, where better to start than writing for parenting magazines?  After first spending close to a year pitching ideas, I've now been published more than 30 times in parenting magazines around the country in the last year.  I've learned what works and what doesn't.

To make your trip to parenting magazine publication (and payment!) a shorter one than mine, here are some shortcuts:

1.  If you want to break into your local parenting regional, propose an idea that is specific to your area, seasonal, and that staff writers are probably sick to death of being assigned every year.  My first published article was called "Summer Fun on a Budget," and contained a detailed list of information on 17 free places to go with kids in my area.  Possibilities of selling as a reprint to other parenting regionals: zilch.  The article was also a pain in the butt to write, but it got me in the door.  Insider Tip: Providing pictures with the article helped.  The photos were nothing fancy - just 35mm prints from my everyday camera.

2.  As soon as you've got some publishing credits to your name, start thinking nationally, not locally.  You can still pitch ideas to your local magazine, but concentrate your queries on articles that will resell outside your area.  In almost every part of the country you can find a parenting regional like San Diego Family, Tucson Family, or South Florida Parenting. A good place to search for them is the Parenting Publications of America website: http://www.parentingpublications.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=MemberSearch. Many of these magazines are open to buying articles from writers outside of their area.  Insider Tip: Don't be afraid to pitch reprints to magazines who state in their guidelines that they only or mostly use local writers.  I've sold plenty to those very magazines.

3.  If you do end up writing an area specific article, see if you can revamp it to sell nationally.  I wrote an article for Bay Area Parent called "How Busy Bay Area Parents Squeeze in Fitness."  At an editor's suggestion (thank you Michele Miller of Western New York Family), I rewrote a more generic version and removed Bay Area from the title.  That article has resold more than anything else I've written.

4.  Keep track of all of your source information.  Although a frazzled local editor might not be too picky about where you got a quote or anecdote, an editor someplace else just might be.  When I resold the Busy Parents/Fitness piece to a national magazine, they wanted a detailed contact list of everyone I quoted.  Thank goodness I still had all of the info saved in a file.  By the way-- I hope someone else out there writes an article on how to organize all of this stuff I'm saving-- it's a mess!

5.  Whenever you sell a piece, whether it's an original or reprint, submit an invoice.  I've never not been paid, but I've definitely been paid later than originally promised.  An invoice shows the editor that you're clear on how much payment will be and when you expect it.  It's also good to have the paperwork to back you up if there's staff turnover at the magazine-- a common occurrence at small regional publications.

So best of luck at the parenting magazines.  They need good writers who are out there in the trenches parenting every day.  Guess what?  That's you! 

Originally appeared in The Writing Parent, January, 2001.  Reprinted with permission.

Melanie Bowden is a freelance writer, postpartum doula, and mother of two based in Davis, California.  Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Shape Magazine, Catholic Digest, and Jugglezine.  She's currently working on a book titled: Honest Mothers: Women Tell the Truth about Postpartum.  Contact Melanie at: melaniebowden@earthlink.net.



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