The OpEd Studio welcomed Ilena Silverman, an editor at the New York Times Magazine, on Thursday, June 2. She offered her advice and experience about pitching and writing for magazines, in addition to individual critiques of pitches written by women in the class. Here are some of the highlights and key points from Thursday evening’s studio:
• Be aware of the magazine you’re pitching to and writing for. Be wary of anything too “message-y.” Depending on the publication, you may want to get your point across without over messaging, and in some cases, without coming off as an advocate for a cause.
• Figure out who’s writing in your area of expertise and interest. Review their work and email those writers directly before sending your pitches to editors.
• Spend a lot of time talking through your pitch. “The best pitches read like stories in terms of voice and presentation,” Silverman said.
• Get to the fundamental tension of the story. Memoirs, for example, are effective when they show a larger picture, as well as the insider’s view.
• The tension is the most interesting part of the piece. If the problem is too easily resolved, people won’t want to read about it.
• If you’re new to magazine writing, it may be better to pitch to other areas of the magazine (the New York Times Magazine’s “You Are Here” section, for example), instead of a full-length feature story.
• If you’re pitching to a literary journal, channel your writing style into the query. Be specific and demonstrate how well versed you are.
• It’s often better to narrow the focus of your story. Don’t write a pitch as if it were a school report. Be conversat
• Pitch to magazines your genuinely enjoy reading!
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