What I learned at Write Canada: Part 1 – Magazine Editor Panel

Several magazine editors attended Write Canada and shared helpful information for freelance writers. Here’s my overview:

Panel Members: Lisa Hall-Wilson (Moderator), Angela Bick – Christian Courier (bi-weekly Reformed; book reviews, analysis), Andrew Faiz – Presbyterian Record, Fazal Karim Jr. – Christian Herald, Susan King – Upper Room, Stephen Kennedy (Testimony – Pentecostal; 6 features/issue) Karen Stiller/Bill Fledderus – Faith Today


General Overview:

Faith Today (Non-denominational): Very conscious of representing a variety of denominations

Testimony (Denominational): A portion has to address denominational needs; We publish 6 feature articles which can be written by anyone; Conscious living fuels writing; writing fuels conscious living. #quote

Upper Room (Non-denominational): Don’t write about a minority opinion

Christian Herald: (650 churches in Toronto area) Ability to speak to the broader church; focus on things that unite.

Presbyterian Record: Denominational loyalty is not as strong as it used to be. This is forcing magazines to look beyond the walls of the church.

Christian Courier: Freedom to write about anything; honest on any issues; Wider spectrum of positions; practicing how to disagree respectfully; no funding from denomination.

What are your lead times and what does that mean for writers?

Christian Courier: 3 weeks or 4-6 weeks for lead features

Presbyterian Record: 6 months (Issue is locked 4 months ahead of time) Feature issues are required 4 months ahead of time

Christian Herald: Newspaper freely distributed. Printed on Wednesday and arrives on Sunday. Pitches 2-3 months in advance (40 days prior). Material deadline = 15 of the month (1 month ahead).

Upper Room: Over 100 countries in 33 languages. Entire issue is done a year ahead. (Need meditations on Advent or Lent)

Faith Today: 3 months ahead

TIP: If you’re pitching for the first time, leave a lot of time to work with.

What queries are you tired of seeing? What do you wish you would see more of?

Faith Today: We don’t publish opinion pieces (rants) by unknown people; Like to work with people who can meet deadlines, write well, and are easy to work with. Topics are negotiable. Our feature articles are not news stories. Instead, these articles need to approach a story from a variety of perspectives and voices so that the story emerges. Do your research and then turn the story on its head. E.g. Instead of writing about how terrible the new sex education curriculum in Ontario is, write about how to engage effectively with school boards and teachers. Aim for 1,200 words.

Testimony: We’d like to find more Arts and Culture feature stories; Also looking for articles about constructive ways of addressing current issues. We are always looking for interesting personal stories that readers can identify with – passionate, honest, real, not preachy.

Upper Room: Please don’t send cover letters or queries; just send devotionals (2 or 3 every 2 months) Devotionals should be 250 words (maybe 300). The purpose of our devotionals is to teach by moving, inspiring, providing humour. Devotionals don’t have to include personal experience, but they must connect the reader to God.

Christian Herald: Be specific in your query – share about your background, including which denomination you belong to. Please check our writer’s guidelines! We’re looking for fresh pieces that go into different categories like business, travel, education.

TIP: Christian Herald is looking for people willing to write about assigned beats like business, travel, and education.

Presbyterian Record: I’m not interested in “attack” articles. A good opinion piece takes a stand. Cynicism is trendy, but it takes skill to take a stand. Great opinion pieces include logical thought with a narrative that builds an idea from line to line. There should be some element of surprise. Find a way to make sense of things that challenge us.

I’ll give you three seconds to catch my interest: Get to the point! I’m looking for stories with a human element – people interacting with their faith and culture. Each of us is on a journey of faith and sometimes we stumble. Be willing to write with vulnerability. Don’t philosophize. Share about your faith journey in the challenging times we are living in.

Christian Courier: Show me you know about our paper. Use my name! One sample is great. I’m looking for people who are articulate on something of interest to Christians. Suggested topics: Truth and Reconciliation Committee and what it means to Christians; Eastern Religion and Christianity; Photo journalism; Sports & Food Obsessions; Homelessness; Sex Trade.

TIP: DO your homework before you send a pitch!

How do you get assignments?

1. Be excellent

2. Be dependable

3. Be consistent

4. Be on time

InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship is gearing up for fall conference from September 24-26, 2015 in Edmonton. I’d love to see you there! Registration details are at http://inscribe.org/events/fall-conference.