Saturday, November 24, 2007

And then came the rains...

After two years of slogging uphill alone, people are finally starting to catch on and send in articles and requests to write columns for the local ham club newsletter. I have beaten the bushes for two years and managed to buttonhole only a few people and now the flood gates are opening. I have two new columns in the December issue and a new format for the web version that has been applauded as innovative. I don't know why they're surprised since I mentioned changing things months ago. All I needed were the articles and features that would work well on the web and I finally found them. Editing a club newsletter is nothing like editing a magazine and dealing with professionals who at least know how things work. It looks like my article about free lunches and keeping the lights on had an impact on people and they realize how close they came to having to find someone else to edit their newsletter. Sometimes it takes a wake-up call and a blast of cold water in the face when asleep to make people realize what they could lose.

The up side of all this is that I've managed to dissuade the club members from buying my Xmas dinner at the annual party or giving me a plaque or award. I think they finally understand I don't want recognition but input because that tells me they want to be involved. It's so easy sometimes to sit back and let someone else do the job, especially when the job they're doing is so good no one feels like they have anything to contribute, but if there is one thing I think I have proven it's that everyone has a story to tell and that the story can be interesting and enlightening. The readers have seen how something they thought was insignificant can be made significant and give people something to think and talk about. If this trend continues, I won't have to write too many more editorials and can stick to interviews, profiles and articles.

Out of all this hassle came a couple opportunities to break into completely new markets. A staff writer on the Wall Street Journal suggested I send my work to him to give to his editor to be published. He said I am a very good writer with a flair for profiles. Not too shabby considering it was his article that got me asking questions of one of his profile subjects and getting a different take on the story, but my focus was ham radio and Morse code and his was only peripherally so. He told me he was impressed. Not too shabby.

I also offered a longer version of the article, with pictures, to QST which is the ARRL's magazine and I'll get paid for that, too. One of the things I love most about writing is how accessible some stories can be if you change the slant just a little. I've gotten quite a bit of mileage out of an idea when I turned it around just a little bit or took some information and dug around in a different direction.

I thought about sending some of my articles to QST but ruled it out because I didn't have the time, but I found out it didn't take that much time. So, I'm going to profile a few more interesting people, like the guy who backpacks with his goats when he takes his radios into the field, and the mini-keyer that went to St. Peter's Island on a DXpedition (that's long distance radio expedition for the uninitiated). I have found yet another avenue to market my work and expand my base audience doing what I do best -- writing about people. And that's just one of the things I am so grateful for having, not just at Thanksgiving, but every day.

In many ways, it's like a crab venturing out of a cramped shell in search of a bigger, roomier shell and finding it no longer needs the shell at all and has evolved past the need of confined quarters.

That is all. Disperse.

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