Monday, November 1, 2010

Writing Experiences: Turtle Bags Earn Writer First Clip

What better way to start the penultimate month of 2010 with a story of cheer and encuoragement.

Turtle Bags Earn Writer First Clip
By Abby Williams
It sounds egotistical but most of my early printed articles were about me and my life.  I'd always read 'write about what you know' and in the beginning my personal experiences were all I had to offer.  Once I'd run out of personal stories I was forced to look outside myself (no bad thing!), and got my first 'real' commission, and proper payment, when by chance I hit upon a topical issue - saving the environment.

Enjoying a coffee one day back in 1996 I noticed the cafe owner was selling 'turtle' bags.  Intrigued by the 'turtle' part, I read that often turtles mistake discarded plastic bags floating on the water for jellyfish.  They eat them, choke and die.  While obviously being very tragic, this also sounded like a great opening for an article to alert readers to our overuse of plastic bags and the havoc they potentially wreak on our environment.

I sent off a pitch to My Weekly, a UK women's weekly magazine who I'd heard were especially supportive of new writers.  The editor responded positively and asked me to submit the full article.  I had to do quite a bit of research and get some 'expert' quotes, but in March 1996 I received a letter saying the editor liked my piece very much and it was duly published 3 months later.  That first feature was heavily edited and I was rather disappointed, but with each new piece (I went on to write a further 15 features for them, mostly commissioned) my style improved and gradually I began to cultivate the art of cutting out needless words.

I was lucky to find the right type of feature at the right time for the right kind of magazine.   After my success with My Weekly I thought it would be just as easy to find new ideas, submit to new magazines and get acceptances.  I have had a few other successes but still consider myself a fledgling writer and still have to work hard to find ideas and compose pitches.  It's a constant challenge especially in today's competitive writing market but I still enjoy it and I still keep trying, and I still get excited by it.  So, never give up and always keep writing.  Sometimes it's just a case of finding the right angle at the right time.
Abby Williams is a UK-based freelance writer. She has contributed features to My Weekly, Collect it! magazine, and Scottish Home & Country as well as written many advertorials for her local county magazine. Although a published writer she still considers herself a newbie and is continuously learning the art of pitching and writing.

TBB credits the Newbie e-newsletter for this piece. Find out more here.

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