Men, I think, traditionally tend to write for men’s publications and women for women’s publications. It’s probably in our DNA. But what happens when a guy has the desire, the sensibility, and (one hopes) the skill to break out beyond his gender and into the massive (and potentially lucrative) world of women’s magazines? Basically, you need an “in.”
As a writer and cartoonist I’ve gained a lot of publishing experience through a variety of male-oriented outlets like The Hockey News, Urban Male Magazine and CBC Sports online. It’s been my ability to creatively and humorously express “guy things” to guys that has earned me a respectable living as a freelancer.
Still, my interests and aspirations extend well beyond my requisite knowledge base of sports and women and cars and beer. Quite simply, I’ve always wanted to write for women, too.
Of course, this is much easier said than done, and impressing the editor of a women’s magazine is made that much more difficult when your portfolio includes a myriad of clips like interviews with Playboy models. You can’t, however, dwell on what you don’t have, and you need to concentrate on—and use—what you do. For me, that was two key personal connections.
I live in the very small town of Haliburton, Ontario, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else. One of the people I know is the father of Matt Duchene, a budding hockey star who was about to be drafted into the National Hockey League (big news since the NHL is to Canada what the NFL is to the U.S.). This got me thinking: Wouldn’t it be intriguing to read about what it’s like growing up with a sports star, firsthand from his family?
Another person I know is the editor of The Hockey News, the pre-eminent publication in the sport. For him, another story about another hockey star probably held little interest, but because Canadian Living, a leading women’s magazine in Canada, is under the same corporate umbrella as his magazine, maybe it would be open to the pitch. The trick was to use the existing relationship with my editor to connect with the editor of Canadian Living. Incredibly, after a forwarded e-mail through my hockey editor, my pitch was accepted in one hour!
What I learned
This mini-saga taught me a lot of lessons about freelancing:
• Stories are all around you. I constantly lamented living in a small town—since, of course, nothing ever happens there—but it was my boyhood connection to the hockey star’s father that got me the story and the access I needed.
• Humility. Canadian Living has a distinct style. After some rewrites, they assigned me a cowriter. I felt my stuff was good enough, but they needed more “show” and less “tell.” We completed the work with a double byline. That kind of resumé builder is well worth the occasional pinhole in your ego.
• Don’t burn bridges. I could have been spiteful about being assigned a writing partner, but I gritted my teeth and, ironically, you might say, took it like a man. The editor later told me they were very impressed with my professionalism and would welcome any future pitches from me.
• Network. You might not have a direct link, but often there’s a chain of connections you can make between what you need and where it is. My editor was the link to the other editor. Essentially, he was my credibility.
• All of your work is relevant. Whatever you create—even seemingly minor material like music reviews and interviews with models—is an example of your ability. Don’t do any less than your best with anything you write.
• Big bucks mean big business. High-end magazines get that way for a reason. You’ll get a contract and a story editor and they’re exacting. If you ever feel it’s over your head, take a breath, act professionally, and do what you know you can. It’s what got you there.
Your long-term goal is a combination of your aspirations and abilities. Recognize where you are, envision where you want to be, and determine the path.
Charlie Teljeur’s work has appeared international online and in print in such places as The Hockey News, SportingNews.com, Urban Male Magazine, The Halifax Daily News and Canadian Living. Web: charlieteljeur.com.