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Better op-ed guidelines



Last weekend I attended the 2006 Nieman Narrative Conference. There were a lot of great workshops by a lot of thrilling presenters but one of the most inspiring was given by Connie Schultz.

Ms. Schultz is a mom, a wife (to newly elected senator Sherrod Brown) and a Pulitzer-prize winning writer. Her op-eds appear in the pages of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Listening to Ms. Schultz speak about the particular challenges -- and rewards -- of writing was just what I needed to hear as op-ed editor here at Literary Mama. I came to the conference frustrated by a publishing schedule dictated by the lack of great submissions and struggling to write clearer guidelines when soliciting more writers. Her talk clarified my role as an editor here and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

Literary Mama isn't just a great literary magazine; it's also a terrific opportunity for women writers to get a strong and valuable clip. Our reputation as a lit magazine of high standards is always growing and many of our writers and editors are able to use their work with Lit Mama as a stepping stone on their career paths. I left the Nieman Conference knowing that I need to recommit myself to op-ed editorial duties here in order to give more women the opportunity to build a writing portfolio, especially in the competitive world of op-ed and columns. To that end, I'm tightening up my focus:

  • With newspaper space at a premium, op-eds are getting shorter. I've stretched our limits before but now I'm looking for submissions with a very tight 650 to 850 word count.
  • I want to see more narrative. It's understandably easy to get lecture-y when you're arguing your point, but the strongest columns show, don't tell.
  • Speaking of lectures, get down off your soapbox and get conversational. You'll be more convincing when you write to the reader the way you'd talk to a friend.
  • Because we're an online magazine, steer clear of subjects that have been talked to death on blogs. While a print publication's audience may not know that the Internet is already a-buzz about something, our readers do. Exceptions? When what you have to say hasn't gotten any play anywhere and really does cast a new light on what could otherwise be a tired subject.
  • Our publishing schedule (once a month) will continue although I would love to see enough great submissions coming in that we publish every couple of weeks. Until then, please know that if your piece is accepted, it may get bumped further down the schedule if a more timely op-ed happens to come in. Don't worry -- an acceptance is an acceptance but I can't guarantee when things might run.

To see two examples of great op-eds, check out these links. I hope that they will inspire you to submit your work. I am always anxious to hear from new writers!!!!

--Here's a Little Tip About Gratuities (reportage, narrative, and a strong argument -- all in less than 850 words!)
--Who's to Blame for the Decline of Marriage? (personal, conversational and a new take on the issue)



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