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Freelancing with Spirit
by Beth Fowler

You don't have to be a spiritual person to write and sell articles to spiritual magazines. Success in this market niche requires that authors know the target markets in order to reflect the magazines' values, write sincerely, and impart information engagingly.

When I lost my salary-woman job, reunited with my estranged husband, and moved 12 time zones away from the place called home, I learned firsthand that Nancy Davidoff Kelton was on to something when she wrote, "Nothing bad happens to writers." (Writing from Personal Experience, Writer's Digest Books, 1997.)

My entire life had been shaken and stirred. To maintain a grip on normalcy, I wrote and sold articles about anger, identity, embracing change, letting go and more to spiritual magazines. When the fountain of topics had seemingly dried up, I wrote an article about boredom, which I sold (after alterations), to three different spiritual magazines. A writer's experiences, struggles and discoveries are the raw stuff from which articles are crafted. Spiritual magazine editors purchase personal experience articles that evoke an emotional response and communicate a fundamental truth with which readers can identify, regardless of their unique situations.

Health food stores; boutiques selling incense, aromatherapy supplies and similar paraphernalia; bookstores and newsstands in university towns and trendy locales stock spiritual magazines. Mind-body-spirit seminars and centers for religious meetings disseminate spiritual magazines and newspapers, too.

Besides looking at magazines listed under the Spiritual heading in writers' media resource books, look under Health and Fitness, Psychology, Self-Improvement, Relationships, Religion, and Women for periodicals eager to receive well-written queries and manuscripts.

On your Internet search engine type in "spiritual magazines." From there, search the same subheadings mentioned above (health and fitness, etc.) and the words lifestyle, New Age, alternative, and other related keywords that spring to mind. The screen will display an array of markets needing more spiritual articles.

A Whole Again Resource Guide (http://www.wholeagain.com), listing 25 categories of magazines, includes articles excerpted from magazines, on-line ordering capability, and magazine editors' postal and email addresses. Go to http://mav.net/guidelines, search religious, lifestyle and health to bring up magazines chock full of spiritual articles, writers' guidelines and links to magazines with their own websites. NBAF Magazine Subscription Publishers Specials at http://www.nbaf.com and 4 Great Magazines at http://www.4greatmagazines.com, two on-line subscription services, don't provide writers' guidelines or information about magazine content. Freelancers specializing in spiritual articles can also search under the category of lifestyle at The Magazine Rack (http://magazine-rack.com). Buying on-line provides a convenient way to scrutinize magazines' contents before submitting queries and unsolicited manuscripts to editors.

When deciding if a magazine's slant, tone and style mesh with your writing goals, read the "Editor's Letter" for references to their visions for their magazines. Hunt for a mission statement, which can be encapsulated in a slogan on the magazine's spine, on the cover or in a paragraph on or near the table of contents. Mission statements are usually outlined in writers' submission guidelines and in resources such as Writer's Market.

Check the table of contents to find out if the magazine allocates articles into regular departments. Familiarity with a magazine's regular departments gives writers ideas for new articles and conveys the scope of the magazine's content. Many magazine editors solicit readers' stories and others, in submission guidelines, state the departments in which freelance writers have the best chance of entree.

Take note of contributing authors' bylines. If Gary Zukav (The Seat of the Soul, Random House 1990) and luminaries of his caliber wrote the articles, move on. Writers lacking advanced degrees and invitations to appear on "Oprah" should aim their articles at periodicals suitable for their level. Find your level. Work in it. Climb up.

And, yes, a few spiritual magazines (and editors) might seem too far-fetched. Before disregarding a magazine as a possible target, inquire about future themes when you send an SASE for submission guidelines. Just because last month's issue was dedicated to alien visitations doesn't mean an upcoming issue can't be a down-to-earth round up of articles about coping with troubled teenagers.

A shuffle through the heap of spiritual magazines on my desk reveals that one refers to the Master, another refers to inner Reality, yet another to Source, whereas a magazine for women mentions goddess, divine self and higher self among other names for the power that is also known in some circles as the Godhead, Jesus Christ, Mother, Creator, Grandfather Spirit, Buddha. Whichever magazine a freelancer chooses to write for, it's important to use the targeted magazine's terminology.

Get a sense of reader demographics. Are readers predominantly single women, vegetarians, gay Christians, recovering substance abusers, agnostic vegetarians, middle-aged baby boomers seeking more meaning lives?

These diverse audiences pursue different lifestyles, even so, virtually all readers face similar challenges and joys in life and are, therefore, interested in reading articles on some of the same, practical day-to-day topics. Editors encourage hopeful contributors to relate to real people with real problems. The social merits of gossiping, meeting spiritual needs on the Internet, finding a good spa, and dealing with geriatric parents are examples of topics featured in those spiritual magazines heaped on my desk.

Successful writers of spiritual articles resist resorting to platitudes and cliches, unless they are used in a fresh, thought-provoking way. Published writers also avoid being preachy and pedantic. They strive to come across as empathetic and inspiring. They add original, heartfelt ideas to the body of thought already existing on a topic.

Researching material for a spiritual article and digging into one's feelings sets the stage for the writer to experience a mini-epiphany. Furthermore, touching people's lives positively through the written word is personally rewarding for freelance writers. Receiving checks in the mail ain't bad either.

© Copyright 2000, Beth Fowler

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