Writers, get the most out of your stories

box of lettersbox of lettersIn February, I wrote “Century old love letters go home for Valentine’s Day” for The Daily News, Longview, WA. (See the story on this blogsite.) My writing teacher said it was a great story. I didn’t know how great until, the morning it came out in the paper, Channel 2 News from Portland, OR called and wanted to use the story as its Valentine feature.

My friends and I had purchased these old love letters at an antique shop on the Oregon Coast. How, we wondered, did they get there from Texas? We were intrigued, and set out to find their family. Thank goodness for the Internet, because without it, we wouldn’t have found the family genealogist who had researched that very family for thirty years. After a few emails back and forth, I sent the letters home to Texas, where their new owner reads them to her grown children.

Any of us who write for publication know that when you have a good story, you should write it for more than one magazine or newspaper. Each version should be specifically tailored to the publication receiving it. Today, I called the editor of the newspaper in that small Texas town and told him my idea. He was interested, and asked me to email the story. I got the correct spelling of his name, and found out how he would like me to send the story. He prefers email, but some editors prefer snail mail. You must know what the editor wants and follow his guidelines, and you must know the editor’s name when you send the query. “Dear Sir” doesn’t sell stories.

Once I had sent the email, I packed the copies of the letters back into their brown leather bag and put them away. As soon as I did, I realized I wasn’t done. What about the towns those long-ago lovers lived in, I wondered? Would their newspapers be interested in the stories too?

I looked up the two towns and found that they shared the same newspaper. There, in the center of the newspaper’s web page, was a notice requesting story ideas for the 150th anniversary edition. It seemed a perfect fit…and I almost forgot to try it!

So often, we don’t carry our ideas far enough. It can be hard enough to find a great idea. When you do, don’t waste it. Write it for all it’s worth.

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Filed under Family Memories, love letters, submitting stories, Texas, The Daily News, Valentine's Day, writing, writing for publication

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