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Tips from the Editors: Columns

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You want to write a column for Literary Mama, but what comes first? How does your work go from a pitch email to monthly publication? This month, Columns editors Whitney Archer and Denise Guibord share insight on what they look for and what they love to see in their inbox.

What's your story? We want to hear it.

We love checking our inbox and reading people's stories. When we can't stop thinking about something we've read, we know it's one that needs to be shared with our readers. And we want to do that for you!

We strive to publish at least one column in every issue of our magazine, but unfortunately, we can't publish everything we receive. So how can you help your pitch stand out? Here are a few tips to show what we're looking for:

Writing that Transcends the Everyday

We get excited when we see writing that transcends. We receive plenty of pitches about writing during a baby's naptime or learning to be a whole person after childbirth, but we love pitches that "go beyond" and cover new ground. How can you look at your life and point to something beyond, something a reader can say, "Hey, me too!" How can your writing transcend the familiar minutiae of everyday life in a way that is powerful and moving?

Two specific examples of columns that accomplish this are Avery Fischer Udagawa's Four Worlds or Violeta Garcia-Mendoza's Multi-Culti Mami.

Writing that Reflects Literary Mama's Tone

The most common reason for a pitch to be denied is that the tone isn't a good fit for Literary Mama. We're looking for a tone that's more thoughtful than flippant, more story than rant, more astute than simple description. We like stark revelations, vivid imagery, literary references. We look for writing that shows you not only can write, but that you write with superior craft.

A complete listing of active and retired columns can be found here.

Writing that Offers a Unique Perspective

Parenting often comes with challenges specific to your life and family. How can you bring a unique perspective to your writing that someone hasn't read about before?

B.L. Pike's column, Senior Mama, for example, not only invites readers into her family and the medical issues they face but offers commentary on issues that are universal to all. In Life Matters, she uses her son's appointment with a cardiologist to contemplate the racial challenges her son may face in the future.

In her column, Calling Home, Ona Gritz relates how she, her son, and her boyfriend eventually found themselves to be a family, a home. In Connection, Not Perfection she plans her wedding in two months and finds that the challenges and "small synchronicities" leading up to their union illustrate her and her husband's love despite a changing world.

Writing that Grabs Us

It's hard to describe powerful writing, but we often know it when we see it. We're seeking witty, sharp writing that incorporates as much humor as it pulls at heart strings. We understand that trials are a big part of the motherhood experience, and we definitely want to see that side, but we also like to see triumph, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

Do you have a column or writer that you read and say, "Wow"? See if you can identify the force behind their words and put it to use in your work.

Writing that Follows Submissions Guidelines

Last, but perhaps most importantly, we are looking for column proposals that follow submission guidelines.

You may have a great column idea, but do you have a roadmap for a year's worth of writing? It's critical that we see an outline for at least six months. Do you have your samples? Do you have a hook, a brief explanation of your proposal, that will catch our attention? These may seem like inconsequential formalities, but it's important. If we don't have to spend time asking for the right attachment, we can focus on the work you've already done. More details on a hook, roadmap, and samples can be found here.

We know that it takes courage and a lot of work to pitch a column. We appreciate the trust you place in us and look forward to reading your story!

The Literary Mama Blog Editor searches for mama-centric news you can use — including information about publishing opportunities and literacy efforts; essays and writing prompts that motivate and inspire; and announcements about events, classes, and workshops. The current blog editor is Bridget Lillethorup; read her bio here

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Whitney Archer is a writer, librarian, and a mother living in northern Virginia. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, AOL, and Salvo Magazine. Denise Guibord is a freelance book editor and a former English Professor who lives in a small town in northern Wisconsin with her husband, three teenagers, and a collie who requires daily walks. When not writing or editing, she knits hats, assists her husband in the garden, and makes travel plans. She gets a lot of work done in the car while waiting in pick-up lines after sports practices and dance lessons.

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