by 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.
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.)
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!
Just 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.)
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.”
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year !