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Q&A for Writers, Editors and Publishers - Thoughts from Your Peers on Life and Work, Part One  
by David Geer

Part One

Answers to questions about the writing life – and work - from your peers – almost entirely unedited but for formatting and [corrections].

Yes, editors commit errors too, especially when communicating via the quick and dirty method we lovingly call e-mail.

Question # One – Editors, how do you find writers?

Tudor Hampton, associate editor, McGraw-Hill’s Engineering News-Record -

“Strange as it may sound, it is very difficult for us to find freelancers who clearly understand what readers are looking for in a publication. For us, it is important to find writers who understand the difference between writing news-driven rather than marketing-driven copy.

Our publication is a 129-year-old, weekly trade magazine with a paid circulation, a rarity, and many freelancers are accustomed to writing for "controlled" circulation trade publications, which typically have a more relaxed editorial ethic and generally serve advertisers more than readers.

Page One

That said, we look to find quality news-savvy stringers who are not heavily involved with competitive publications. The challenge herein lies in a freelancer's ability and quickness to become familiar enough with our readers, the tone of our work, and respond accordingly.

Journalistic associations can be a good source for locating quality
freelancers, but generally speaking, I have found good people through mere luck as well as trial and error.”

Tiffany Owens, managing editor Corporate Logo magazine -

“My favorite resource for finding writers and freelancers are personal recommendations, whether it be someone I've worked with in the past and know to be a strong contributor, or referrals from industry peers whose work I respect.”

Dana Cassell, editor, Cassell Network –

“Because we have our own Network of Writers (, I would go there first to find a writer -- either by posting a notice on the Member Bulletin Board, or doing a search of our Writer Data Bank, or looking in our Guide to CNW Writers.

If none of these located a writer or editor who could do exactly what I needed, then I would likely do a search on Google for the subject or skill (copywriter, brochures, direct mail, ghostwriter) and something like "freelance writer" -- searching for those writers who have their own websites.

In the past, I posted jobs to the better-known general and larger writer-specific job sites, but received too many responses, most of which were not at all what I was looking for. So I've learned to more tightly target and control my searches for freelancers.”

Page Two

Jenny Kasza, editor, NASPA Technical Support -

“In general they are IT magazines and sometimes the Internet. I find great writers by attending shows and conferences and asking people to write.

Sometimes, writers just find me via the Web or they were a previous member of NaSPA and now want to get involved with it again by writing.

Our sales staff also points me to people who may be able to write, as they talk with people in the IT industry, too.”

Anonymous –

“My situation is unique to associations: our audience and our contributors are mostly members. I use very few freelancers.

Freelancers contact me from time to time, and, depending on how they present themselves and how qualified they look, I may follow up. But most of my articles come directly or indirectly from our members.

I'm a publications staff of one--I do all the planning and production myself. I do use an outside proofing service called Editorial Services based in Washington DC.

I keep my job because it suits my needs and provides me with security--I'm confident they would have trouble finding someone else who could do this or who would want to! (I work very hard.)”

Dennis Bridges, publisher/editor ComputerBits magazine –

Page Three

“I get the majority of articles via an email with the editorial calendar to authors who have previously written for Computer Bits. New authors find us either via word of mouth or on the Internet and contact me with their proposals.”

Question # Two – What are your favorite life and work resources?

Lori Widmer, freelance editor, writer and former editor of Risk & Insurance magazine -

“Getaways--This one's weird. I like to go to Ontario, to my parents' fishing camp, and sit by the river with my journal or just sit and read a book.

Oh, and I fish. Nothing soothes the nerves and brings you back down into the earth better than connecting with it on a personal level. Of course, that's only because I like to catch bass and would use any excuse to fish.

Communities--I like participating in either email writing groups or local ones, though I've not had much time until now for either. I also plan to join the Chamber of Commerce and schmooze that way.

“Books--The Well-Fed Writer, Harbrace College Handbook, AP Style Guide, The Synonym Finder (better than Roget's Thesaurus, I think).

Web's freelance [writer] group,,, (do we see a pattern here?),,,,,”

C. Hope Clark, editor, FundsforWriters –

Page Four

“Mine is a constant effort at seeking new sources.

I have few I rely on all the time since I like to keep my work fresh and innovative. I believe in professional lists online from which I glean a massive amount of information. It's like tapping into experts via a daily digest mode.

I love state [of the] art commission/council websites. They are chocked full of new announcements, competitions, grants, as well as instructional ideas and meetings for writers and artists. These groups are underutilized in my opinion.”

Teresa Acosta, editor & publisher, The Romance Rag –

“Writer's Market Online; About Romance, Gila.”

Question # Three - What style manuals do you use and recommend and why?

Tiffany Owens -

“I've only used AP style in my various positions -- seems the most easily accessible and widely used of all.”

Jenny Kasza –

“I consult with my AP Stylebook.”

Dana Cassell –

“I prefer the AP Stylebook because it is easier to use. I also frequently
refer to "One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated?" By Mary Louise Gilman.”

Page Five

Tudor Hampton –

“Regarding style, we should let the academics debate the rules. In the
professional world, good style is something not found in any manual, although every writer should own a worn-out copy of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.

Mechanically speaking, writers should be familiar with all mainstream styles but not get too hung up on them. Telling a good story is paramount.”

Lori Widmer -

“AP Style Guide--absolute must for some of the publications I write for.

Also, a good grammar and sentence-structure primer is essential. I use the Harbrace College Handbook. It answers those nagging questions about where my commas should be.

I would recommend that every writer have a working knowledge (or the appropriate manual sitting on his/her desk) of both AP and Chicago styles.

Depending on the industry you write for, you should also have the APA style or the AMA style down pat, as well. I don't, but that's next on my list.”

Teresa Acosta –

“Chicago Manual of Style; The Elements of Style (Strunk and White); The Elements of Editing (Arthur Plotnik).”

Page Six

Question # Four - How do you deal with the stress of your kind of work in particular?

Jenny Kasza –

“How do I deal with stress? Editing can be stressful, as there is always a deadline. To alleviate stress, I try to take a lunch break where I just sit in the car, read a book, or get out and walk.”

Dana Cassell –

“I think the stress of impending deadlines stimulates both the creative side of the brain and the drive to get at it. Without the stress of those
deadlines, I don't think we would get nearly as much accomplished, so it's not necessarily a bad thing.”

Lori Widmer -

“By being in constant motion. If I'm idle, then I notice the stress.

Oddly, if I'm busy, it calms me down. I finish one project while farming out for two or three others. I keep in contact with my contacts in my part of the industry.

For instance, yesterday a fellow freelancer let me know that a former boss of mine had offered her a story she's not able to do. I sent him a quick email "Hey, how are you--need anything?" and scored an easy assignment.

It's putting your name (and sometimes your face) in front of potential customers that keeps the "happy stress" going and wards off the "bad stress".”

Page Seven

C. Hope Clark -

“I control my schedule. I rarely get stressed in relation to my work because I love it so much.

The biggest stress I face is when I can't deliver a product (i.e., newsletter) to my membership on time. That's happened only twice in 3 1/2 years with a weekly newsletter. Other than that, my stress is limited.”

Teresa Acosta –

“Take short breaks, preferably outside and try to stretch and drink water every hour.”

Question # Five - What are your favorite time savers?

Tudor Hampton –

“"Just Ask" is my mantra. If you have a question and don't know the answer, reliable resources are more likely to help you before you can do it on your own.

Technology can waste a lot of time, too. In my experience, it's faster, not but easier, to make a phone call than to write an email. And without question, people are more important than the Internet.”

Jenny Kasza –

“Don't be afraid to delegate to people. When people ask if you need help with anything, say yes, and give them a project to do.”

Page Eight

Lori Widmer -

“Email! My gawd, it's changed my life. Folks who would normally avoid the phone usually respond much faster to an email (if they're going to respond at all, that is).

Also, I've made templates of my own personal invoice so I only need to pop in the info and not reinvent the wheel each time I send out my invoices.

I'm also a list-maker. I have my Outlook calendar littered with notes telling me what I should work on for that day if I want to remain on schedule.”

Dana Cassell -

“I have several utility software programs that save time with copying,
pasting in frequently used text and passwords, filing, remembering, and backing up -- such as ClipMate, TypeItIn, Second Copy -- all of which I would not like to be without.”

C. Hope Clark -

“Skipping house work, skipping cooking dinner, and never watching television. My work is from home, and that's where I gather my free time.

I also exercise every morning which makes the rest of my day feel better and makes me more efficient.”

Look for Part Two Here at GoArticles.

About the Author
David Geer is chief technology writer, technical journalist and owner of Geer Communications, which helps print and elecontric publications meet their content needs. E-mail him at, call him at 440-964-9832, or check out the Geer Communications Website at



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