More on crafting winning queries
Published: March 28, 2008
In the May 2008 issue of The Writer, five freelance writers shared, word for word, magazine queries that had successfully moved them into a new pay level or market. Following is another breakthrough query, from freelancer Teri Cettina, of Portland, Ore.|
Better Homes & Gardens, 2005
After almost two years of unsuccessfully querying Better Homes and Gardens, I broke in with the query that follows. It's sort of amazing that I kept pitching them since I never even received a "no" to my queries. It was like sending pitches to a black hole. But I knew I was a good fit for the magazine, so I kept trying. Persistence is one of my strong suits!
It wasn't just this query that earned me the article, I learned later. It was all of my previous queries, too--the ones I assumed were totally off the mark. Stephen George, deputy editor for features, told me that the more queries I sent, the more he paid attention. As a former freelancer himself, he appreciated both my determination and my ideas, even the ones that weren't quite right.
When I sent this query on homework, the timing and subject were finally right for the magazine, and it was the most money I'd ever gotten for a story at that point--$2 a word. This was the beginning of a regular writing relationship with BH&G.
After this initial query, my editor asked for a slightly more detailed outline that included the major points I'd cover and the expert sources I expected to use. I was fairly new to magazine writing at the time, so those oversights were a beginner's mistakes. I now include those details in all of my initial queries.
Whose homework is it, anyway?
Second-grade math. The dawn of addition, subtraction and learning to count beyond your fingers and toes. When our 7-year-old daughter, Sophie, began struggling with these early math challenges, my husband and I did what most first-time parents would do: We sprang into action. We bought math flash cards and colorful workbooks, and spent time every night checking and rechecking Sophie's
After a couple of weeks, however, it began to dawn on us: Whose homework is this, anyway? While it was important for us to show an interest in Sophie's schoolwork and help her with some of her early obstacles, we also felt we needed to be careful. After all, there's a fine line between encouraging a child in her academic pursuits and getting so involved in her homework that she comes to depend on Mom's or Dad's help.
In today's world of overly involved, overanxious parents, most of us know adults who have become their children's official "homework buddies." Yet the experts I will interview in this article will lay it on the line for parents: Homework is still supposed to be for kids, not their parents.
So what's the best way for parents to maintain a healthy balance? And perhaps more important, how can parents gently extricate themselves from their child's homework time if they've already gotten too involved? What happens if a child's grades suffer as a result of Mom's or Dad's decision to back off?
There's also another side to the homework issue: What's a good parent to do when a teacher expects parents to help? Consider the teacher who assigns a science project that obviously requires the electrical skills of an adult or a family history journal that invites lengthy entries from the parents? Just how involved should parents get in these at-home assignments and what's the best way to talk with teachers if the adult roles seem a little too prominent?
"Whose homework is it, anyway?" would include anecdotes from real families who have faced/are facing these challenges. It would also include solid advice from professional educators on a parent's role in their child's learning process and tips on how to keep kids in the driver's seat when it comes to homework.
Ultimately, of course, the experts will underscore that we're talking about more than just homework here. We're discussing important tactics for helping young people become self-motivated individuals who are capable of tackling new challenges throughout their lives--eventually without their parents' help.
With media attention finally turning to the issue of young adults who can't seem to move away from home, get a solid job, or even just make their way through college without their parents' help (per recent articles in Psychology Today and Time, for instance), tackling the issue of homework responsibility while kids are still young might be a wonderful service for your readers.
I look forward to writing "Whose homework is it, anyway?" for you and look forward to talking with you further. ...