Creating Seasonal Articles*

Christmas sugar plumsby Jackie Houchin

Does reading all those December magazines with their holiday stories, recipes, tips, traditions, and inspirations make visions of sugar plums, er, I mean, ideas for articles to dance on your head?

“Oh dear! I so wanted to write an article about those fun games we play for identifying Grandma’s tag-less gifts under the tree!” (Family Circle Magazine?)

“And how I wished I’d shared my Mom’s Christmas fruitcake recipe from her recipe box (that I inherited this year when she died), and told all who read the article why they really should try fruitcake again.”  (Reminiscence Magazine?)

But, I forgot to write them.

And now it’s too late – WAY too late.

At least for this year.

But not for next year, if I plan ahead.  Many magazines need seasonal articles. But they need them long before the pub date. Articles with a “time-tag” are a good way for new writers to break into print (or seasoned writers to pick up some pocket money).

It’s all in the timing

Start by picking up Chase’s Calendar Of Events and look ahead to see what holidays will be celebrated in six months to a year. Or you can check the guidelines in the new The Writers Market Guide for specific publications you hope to write for.

Send a query letter with your idea ahead of the suggested time. If you get a go-ahead, be sure to deliver your article on time. And be patient. If it isn’t used in 2018, it may be held till 2019.

Low-profile holidays

Brain storm ideas for the less popular holidays, such as Arbor Day, Grandparents’ Day, Flag Day, Patriot Day, Friendship Day, Bastille Day, Poppy Day, or even…. Cookie Baking Day! (December 18)  Also think about back-to-school and summer vacation themes.

Your special “slant”

If those “sugar plum” ideas aren’t already dancing away up there, then:

  • Leaf through old magazines (yours or at the library).
  • Think about experiences you’ve had during holidays.
  • Write a short biography of a person linked to a holiday.
  • Research a holiday custom.
  • Remember anniversaries. (What happened 5, 10, 500 years ago?)
  • Interview a teacher, a parent, a coach, a Macy’s clerk.
  • Write a holiday short story or poem. (Some magazines are still open to them.)

Christmas funny poem

Before and After Tips

Start an idea folder with clipped articles from magazines or newspapers. Jot notes about ideas on each. Not all will be usable, but many will work. When you’re looking for a certain seasonal theme, these may trigger an idea.

After the original-rights sale, look for reprint markets for next season. Make a list of potential ones and their lead times, and keep your original article with them.

Open a new bank account!

Christmas bank accountJust kidding!  You won’t get rich from these sales, but you will get “writing clips.”  And when magazine editors discover your timely, well-written articles/stories etc., they will approach YOU with their needs.

Okay… do you need some ideas for NEXT Christmas?  Check out these:

  • Favorite Christmas books, movies, musicals/plays (pastiche or true likes)
  • Christmas mishaps (humorous, or coping skills)
  • Christmas trees: cutting your own, uniquely decorating (we knew friends who lit live candles on their tree!), a special nostalgia ornament
  • Family traditions (oldies, or how to start your own)
  • How to make homemade gifts (food, ornaments, clothes, home decor)
  • Holiday baking (how-to, tastes & smells, shipping)
  • Holiday traditions from other countries (foods, decorations, activities)
  • Or…. interview someone with over 3,500 Santa Claus decorations (Hint: I can give you her name.)

Take away

After all the gifts are opened, the holiday meal is eaten (and cleaned up), the kids are playing with new toys (or the boxes), and the older “boys” are watching football, go grab a piece of crumpled wrapping paper, smooth it out, flick open that new expensive gold-plated pen, and start writing up your holiday impressions, experiences, and ideas while they are still “dancing in your head.”

Christmas garland

Merry Christmas &  Happy New Year !


*Inspiration for this post came from Jewell Johnson’s article, Writing Seasonal Articles in the Christian Communicator, Nov-Dec, 2017.

A Boost Up!

By Jackie Houchin

Boost up2“A boost up”….when someone holds their clasped hands together next to a horse, and you put your foot in like a stirrup, and they propel you upward into the saddle.


Sometimes a beginner (or lazy) writer needs a boost up into the writing saddle.  That’s where The Write Practice came into the picture for me. (I’m one of those lazy ones!)

The Write Practice

”If you want to become a better writer, you need to practice,” says Joe Bunting, creator of The Write Practice organization and blog. What’s involved? Fifteen minutes a day, five days a week, practicing with fresh writing prompts, unique lessons on technique, and getting feedback from a supportive community.

There are over 1000 practice exercises and lessons on the blog in such categories as; better writing, genre & format, characterization, grammar, journalism, plot & story, writers block, inspirational writing, publishing, and blogging. And it’s free.

I’ve attempted two lessons so far in the Short Story category. The first lesson was to read at least six short stories from the many magazine links supplied. The second lesson was to free-write for at least 15 minutes, post what you wrote in the comments section, read three of what other people wrote, and give them brief feedback.  Simple as that; practice writing and give feedback. It’s really the basis for everything Bunting does.

I wrote a short ditty on ‘Pig, Porcupine & Pineapple.’  It was totally fun!  Now to see with my fellow writers say about it

The Becoming Writer Community & Challenge

 If you are ready to go to the next level and start writing finished pieces (and get published), then the Becoming Writer community is the next step. Bunting compares this with what the “Inklings were for Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the expats in Paris were for Hemingway, and the Bloomsbury group was for Woolf.”

I discovered Becoming Writer because membership in it (yes, it does cost a little) was a requirement to submit to The Write Practice’s quarterly short story writing contest. But what you get with membership is a lot more than the contest.

Like the free practice lessons above, you share your writing with a community of writers to get and give feedback.  Actually giving feedback on another’s work helps you when it comes time to edit your own piece.

The Challenge is to write ONE piece EACH WEEK, submitted on Fridays.  It can be a short story, blog post, poem, essay, or a chapter in a book.  This is what us “lazy” writers call accountability.

And finally, besides actually finishing your pieces (Yay!), you get opportunities to submit to magazines like Short Fiction Break, Wordhaus and others.

The feedback on my first piece, an essay I wrote about Africa, brought a suggestion for submission to a specific online magazine. I submitted it and am waiting to hear.

The Fall Contest

This is what caught my attention at first, a writing contest that promised cash prizes, free books, and publication. The theme was “Let’s Fall in Love.” Stories had to contain the two elements FALL and LOVE and be no longer than 1,500 words.  I told myself, “I can do that.”

The name “Autumn Gold” sprang to my mind and I quizzed my writer friends on Facebook as to how a girl with that name might look. The first answer – a stripper – caused me to cringe because that’s not what I had in mind. But when another person confirmed what he said, it left no doubt.

The story I eventually wrote keeps the title “Autumn Gold,” but the girl’s name is Audrey Gould.  I wrote an outline of sorts, showed it to a friend for her opinion, and then pounded out a story about LOVE that takes place in AUTUMN. It was 1,948 words. Lots of cuts and edits later, I submitted it to the Becoming Writer Contest community.

For the contest (548 entrants) the community is divided into ten groups, A–J, with about 40-50 writers in each. I landed in Group D. There are 46 of us, and we’ve become a close-knit group.

I’ve gotten about nine feedbacks on “Autumn Gold,” and I’ve given at least many more on other stories.  Some are VERY good! Others will need some work.  Reading my story’s feedback and the feedback on the other stories has opened my eyes to what works and what doesn’t, and what readers “get” from what you write, even if it’s not what you intended.


I’m considering rewriting the ending and running it past them one more time. The final deadline to submit the story to the judges is September 4.

Other Programs

The Write Practice offers other programs for writers and authors on building a platform, publishing & marketing, Twitter, and the 100 Day Book challenge.


Now I’m up in the saddle. I’m trotting around and loving it. I can’t wait to press my calves against my steed’s sides and rise into a canter.  I needed that boost up.  Do you?  Perhaps you should consider a writing community.

I suggest The Writing Practice. Take advantage of the discipline and the getting and giving of feedback.  Pick the lessons you are interested in and go for it. They are free! You might also consider Becoming Writer.

Or join a critique group and begin giving your work over to new eyes and opinions.

Get up there and get galloping!


Currently the Becoming Writer and the 100 Day Book programs are closed until next semester.  Future contests in Becoming Writer will be on Flash Fiction, Essay writing, Novels, and Poetry.








Publishing in Ezines by Kate Thornton

Kate Thornton is a retired US Army officer who enjoys writing both mysteries and science fiction. With over 100 short stories in print, she teaches a short story class and is currently working on a series of romantic suspense novels. She divides her time between Southern California and Tucson, Arizona. You can find out more about Kate at her Amazon page.

From BLUE MURDER, David Firks’ ground-breaking classy online mystery magazine from the late 1990s to FLASHING IN THE GUTTERS, Tribe’s incredible venue for edgy and raw – beyond noir – flash fiction, ezines have come and gone. These two fine ezines have unfortunately gone. But let’s get back to them in a few minutes.


Ezines are online magazines. They range in visual quality from beautifully-designed and finely-illustrated to very plain to so ornate it’s hard to figure out where the writing is. Fiction of all genres, non-fiction, self-help even specialty hobby ezines abound on the net – just Google your favorite phrase and you’re bound to come up with an ezine in your field of interest.


The most obvious advantage is immediacy. Ezines often have a submissions turn-around time measured in minutes or hours rather than months. No SASE required, just electrons. Usually you can submit via email and you can send either in the body of the email – just cut & paste your whole story in – or as an attachment if the ezine permits. Always read the submission guidelines to see what they want.

Archiving is a wonderful thing – most ezines will archive your work online as a matter of routine, allowing you (and your fans) to access your work in past issues. Most ezines will also take down – after the initial publication time –  any work you do not wish to have archived.

They also offer one of the widest readerships possible for your stuff – billions of readers from all over the world can access your writing. This is not to say they necessarily will, only that they can. Many have hit counters or readership statistics available, so you can get an idea of how popular a particular ezine is.

The most popular sites, like SLATE (which no longer publishes fiction) are operated just like a print magazine in many respects. Others are the online presence of actual print magazines, like THE NEW YORKER, and may even share editorial staff, guidelines and publication of submissions with their sister print magazine.

There is a certain amount of prestige accorded many ezines. Literary fiction ezines in particular serve a discriminating community, while many of the genre ezines are also routinely read by prize committees. The Pushcart Prize, Derringer and other prizes have been awarded to fiction published in ezines.


Well, some pay quite well and some do not pay at all. Always check the guidelines for payment.

Some pay in cents-per-word, others in flat rate, still others in merchandise or print copies of sister magazines. Payment can be by check or through electronic funds transfer. I keep a PayPal account just for this.


As in print magazines, the ezine usually copyrights your story for the duration of its run (the current issue) at which time the copyright reverts to you, the writer. As with other magazines, you need to read the contract or guidelines.ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE SOLD! (Back in the late 1990s, I sold all rights to several stories. At the time this sounded good as they paid me $100 per short story. But a few years ago a film company wanted to negotiate the rights to one of my stories and guess what – I didn’t own it!)

Generally, the rights you have sold are First Electronic Rights and sometimes First World Rights which include First Print rights. This means you have reprint rights still in your bag to sell at a later time, either to a print magazine or to another ezine. Usually, with an ezine, you have sold your rights for a specific duration, and then allow archiving.


Let me be very clear – publishing your work online in an ezine does not negate your copyright nor does it put your work in the public domain. That said, I just don’t encounter it very often, and I do a regular net search looking for my materials.


Here are a couple of guides. But Google is your friend when it comes to searching! And use your forums and online writing groups – many of them have market listings.

RALAN’S is one of the best market guides.

NewPages Guide to Online LiteraryMagazines is a good reference for literary fiction


Well, ezines come and go pretty quickly. BLUE MURDER ceased production when the editor, David Firks, suffered a severe illness. FLASHING IN THE GUTTERS was taken down by the editor, Tribe. Others come and go as interest sparks or wanes or as editors shift gears or change directions.

Here’s a current non-paying venue that is particularly friendly to mystery submissions and a joy to read: KINGS RIVER LIFE, Lorie Lewis Ham’s delightful ezine. They publish new issues on Saturdays and always have a short story contest.

I miss the long-gone classic venues, but new ones spring up daily. So best of luck out there – I love the internet and the world it brings me.