Pitching & Writing 101: How I Landed My First Byline at Elle Canada
I had to write on spec.
Pitching & Writing 101 is a new regular series, which will offer a “behind the scenes” look at previous and current pitches of mine that I’ve sold whether through my contributing roles at various publication or a one-off publication. Each post will include a link to the story, the original pitch and subject line, my relationship with the editor, the rate, as well the process from start to finish and my takeaway from the experience, including the energetics behind it all.
My intention is to help demystify the process for fellow writers and editors and offer you a glimpse on how I did it. My process and career has definitely not been linear nor did I do things the “right” way but it worked out! Which goes to show…you can do it too. YOUR WAY.
Moving forward, Pitching & Writing 101 posts will be for paid subscribers. Consider this a little preview. Enjoy!
The original pitch (April 21 2015)
Subject line: Pitch: Lessons Learned From My Aspie Mom
The pitch: Hi [editor’s name]!
Brianne Hogan here. I'm a freelance writer based in Toronto with over five years experience in the writing/editing field. My byline's appeared in a number of North American publications, including The Huffington Post, The Toast, XOJane, and many more.
My pitch has to do with my super close bond with my mom. We're like Grey Gardens meets the Gilmore Girls. But the truth, the heart of our relationship, is something I've always strayed away from...until now.
My mom has Asperger's (although there is some contention with that term, so she's basically high functioning Autistic). She was diagnosed when she was 45, and I was 22. I didn't know what "autism" was back then. There wasn't Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory, no Don Tillman from The Rosie Project, just Rain Man. Plus, I was freshly out of university and, regrettably, self-involved to understand or to care.
When I recently moved back home with my parents, in my 30s, and was living with my mom all over again, the veil was lifted. I suddenly could see how different she was. And how different I was because of her, because of how she raised me. There are cool lessons that I've learned from her (speak your mind!), but there are also less cool patterns (keep people at a distance, no touching) that I've adopted because of my mom.
What prompted me to tell my story was Autism Awareness Month. There is a lot of literature about children with autism and Asperger's, but little first-hand accounts of what it's like to be raised by a parent who suffers from the disorder. I would love to offer a fresh perspective on this topic because I believe it needs to be shared.
The essay that I propose would cover my mom's diagnosis, details about our ridiculously close relationship, and the lessons I've gleaned from being raised by an "Aspie" mom. Also, it would serve to dispel the stigma surrounding the disorder -- that it's possible to learn love and intimacy from someone who's been classified "aloof" and "weird" for her entire life.
Please let me know what you think! Thank you!
The above is all true! And this is something I’ve said countless times to new writers and creators — write what you know. Not only that…write the truth of WHO YOU ARE. What makes you unique? What’s the story that only you can tell?
And…WRITE IT LIKE YOU. My writing voice and style is evident in my pitch. This is who I write. Of course there will always be some crossover in terms of matching the tone of the publication but you always want to show off who you are and your voice. Or else…what’s the point?
My relationship with the editor
In terms of the editor’s contact info…I had a friend/former colleague who worked at Elle Canada and who kindly passed on the editor’s email. For context, I was writing for five years (as I mentioned) and that included working at a local magazine where I met with fellow writers and editors who also had their own contacts and connections. Networking is important! But not in the yucky, gross bullshit way…but in the “be a decent person, make legit connections, and share the wealth” type of way.
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