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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Western Writers Panel - Magazine Writing

Oye, the hot, hot, HOT weather has finally arrived in central Arizona. The kind of hot where you don't want to so much as twitch a toe if you don't have to - where the sound of your groaning a/c unit trying to meet cooling demands and the expansion/contraction of your apartment's building materials are the sounds that greet you throughout the day. And worst of all, the kind of heat where even WITH your a/c, it doesn't get really comfortable for sleeping until it's almost time to get up.

But I must remember, the Lord blessed us with a cold winter and a very mild spring and start to the summer before this (yes, I know someone out there is going to argue that it's not officially summer yet, but the Sonoran Desert doesn't know printed calendars).

Is it fall yet? 8-)

But enough of my weather-whining. Let me get on to the good stuff. My next report on the Western Writers of America Conference.

BTW, one factoid I forgot to pass on about Zane Grey - his novels were in the top ten from 1915-1924!

Today's WWA report is from the Magazine Publishing Panel. For the western writer, there are basically two magazines in this market: True West and Wild West. And if you count Civil War magazines as a sub-genre, there are a number of those, whose titles escape me. At any rate, both western magazines and at least some of the Civil War magazines were represented at this panel.

The panel participants were quite knowledgeable and informative. They were Eric Weider, Bob Boze Bell, and Bob Brink. I hope I'm not forgetting someone. Here are a few tidbits from that panel:

Think in terms of universal themes that appeal to a broad audience. They are not publishing their articles for academicians but for the armchair historian. Make it interesting. Make it different.

Tell a story and teach at the same time (there was some discussion about the difficulty some academicians have in transitioning from presentation of facts to telling a story).

One of the most helpful things they discussed at this panel is one of my biggest pet peeves. To be honest, I do not subscribe to True West or Wild West. The main reason is that every time I see them on the news stand, someone like Custer or Jesse James or Wyatt Earp are on the cover. I am so sick of hearing about these people I could scream. And sometimes I think if I have to hear one more thing about these overblown, overdone people, I'm going to throw up. What did I learn at this panel? I may as well swallow some syrup of Ipecac because these nauseating subjects are here to stay. That's what sells to the general public. UGH!!!!!!!

Which is a lead in to the next tip. If Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral doesn't make you barf, and you want to help these magazines with their bread and butter by re-hashing these historical characters over and over, they need writers who can find a fresh approach to these topics - expose new facts, find new pictures or pictures that have not been vastly circulated already.

On magazine articles in general they feel its best to find ways to tie stories about the past in some way to the present.

Sidebars are important.

And remember, magazines in general have shrunk in pages so don't get too lengthy. From the discussion I gathered 2000-3000 words was about average.

Magazines are seeking material for their periodicals at least a couple years in advance, so plan well ahead if you have ideas to submit, particularly when tied to a particular event in history or some anniversary.

Pay for articles is presently low. The publishers would like to see a change in this as most are writers themselves, but the economic status of magazines does not allow for big pay at this time.

The other thing that came up in this and other panels is educating young people. While I do not personally have two-legged children, I have talked to many people either recently graduated or who have children, and it appears little to no history is being taught. This grinds me, as I don't know how a child can possibly figure out where they're going if they have no idea where they've been.

But as writers, we have a responsibility to reach youngsters with history, and for western writers, imbuing them with a sense of life in the old west - of knowing who their pioneering forefathers were. Not to mention interesting a new generation of western writers, readers, and film goers!

That's it for the magazine panel unless I've forgotten something.

I'll post in a day or two on the marketing panel.

1 comment:

Patti Shene said...

Brenda, thank you for the informative posts about WWA. Sounds like you learned a lot.