Friday, May 21, 2010

How to Break Into Print

(Originally published on Triond)

Despite the Internet, getting into print is still the way most writers get paid for their work.

Getting into print also means the chance to achieve fame. You may hope for fame in your community; "Hey. I saw your article in the paper", or hope a reviewer in The New York Times one day writes: "(Insert your name) is the next Stephen King."

Breaking into print isn't easy. The first steps to breaking into print probably don't involve money. You probably won't get paid, or if you do, it will be a pittance. A few printed articles can go a long way though, in getting editors at paying publications to give a closer look to your submissions.

Editors at larger newspapers and magazines get thousands of submissions. If your cover letter indicates that you're already published, your submission gets a fighting chance.

So how do you get a few clips to send along when you submit an article to a paying magazine or newspaper?

General tips

Only submit your best work. No spelling or grammatical errors-if you have errors, your submission will go straight from the editor’s desk to the garbage can. Ernest Hemingway often revised a single page up to 20 times-that’s a bit much, but revising your writing is a big part of writing well.

Follow the rules. If a newspaper says it accepts columns between 500 and 750 words, don’t submit a column of 950 words.

Submit your work to the right person. A phone call can usually clarify which editor you should send your work to at a newspaper or magazine. Submissions reading: “To whom it may concern”, usually get tossed into the garbage can.

Submit by email or online if possible, it’s just quicker and means your article won’t have to be re-typed or scanned. A few papers and magazines still prefer submissions by hard copy.

Be ready to be edited. Until you have some publishing credits under your belt, try to learn from changes to your work. Once you are an established writer, then you can debate with an editor.


The local newspaper offers good opportunities for getting into print, unless your local paper is The New York Times or The Chicago Tribune or the Times of India. Even big cities, though, often have community newspapers that offer opportunities for unpublished writers.

Are you an expert? Are you a counselor, a crafter, a fishing enthusiast? You might ask about a weekly or monthly column. More and more papers are looking to stringers (non-staff writers) and local columnists to fill their pages. It may pay little or nothing, but it gets you into print and working with an editor. One local paper I worked for had a “Counselor’s Corner” column by a local mental health counselor.

Many newspapers publish local opinion columns-write on local subjects, not the subjects already tackled by well-known national columnists.

Many newspapers also need stringers to cover events their regular reporters can’t make it to-this is a great way to get a few published pieces. You might cover a high school football game, a cricket match or a town council meeting.

Literary magazines

Literary magazines offer another opportunity for writers. Most literary magazines accept personal essays, poetry and short stories.

Many are affiliated with a college or university and are open to submissions to the public. Here is a list of some of the top literary magazines, a larger list is here.

Check around at your local colleges and universities to see if they publish a magazine and whether they take submissions from the public.

Clips from a literary magazine work wonders when the time comes to submit to big paying magazines.

Finally, write for yourself and your readers enjoy the writing. If you are serious about improving, you can and will get into print. It may take time though; editors receive thousands of submissions a year, so luck does have something to do with getting into print.

Believe in yourself and your writing and keep plugging along. If you really work at it, you can break into print.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism is about learning by doing. So perhaps the best way to learn about Zen is to visit a Zen Center or sitting group near you. Here is one directory of such groups.

The focus of Zen Buddhism is sitting Zazen, or a special form of meditation. The historical Buddha sat meditating under the Bodhi tree for a long time to reach enlightenment. Zen believes in emulating the Buddha, you learn about life by focusing on the moment, you learn to do that by sitting meditation, zazen.

Here is a basic introduction to zazen. There’s more than one type of zazen, Soto Zen emphasizes shikan-taza, or just sitting, while Rinzai Zen emphasizes koans, mental puzzles designed to bring a person to enlightenment.

Here are some Zen texts you may want to view. More here.

I visited the Rochester Zen Center years ago for a brief training session and it was a great experience. If you’re interested in Zen, just do it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

George Orwell

George Orwell, whose birth name was Eric Blair, is one of my favorite writers and now considered one of the most important writers of the last century.

Orwell began his adult life as a colonial police officer in Burma and became and became a world-renowned author only shortly before his death from tuberculosis.

The novels Animal Farm and 1984 are his best known works. Both attack totalitarianism of both the communist and fascist variety. Orwell fought for freedom against Gen. Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. When he returned to Britain after being wounded, he told the truth about the war - many on both the left and right did not want to hear that truth.

Don't miss his book "Homage to Catalonia", about the Spanish Civil War, or his essays. Two great essays to start with are "A Hanging", a perfect example of man's inhumanity to man, and "Shooting and Elephant."

The chief character of Orwell's work is honesty and a sense of morality. Albert Camus and Orwell have much in common in their stand against authoritarianism and sense of ethics.

More on Orwell and the Spanish Civil War.


Welcome to Research a Topic, a starting place for research or a place to learn something new. I'll post on topics that I think may be of interest and encourage everyone to keep learning.

After all, education isn't over when you get the diploma.