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Volunteering My Way To My First Scribing Paycheck
by Roy A. Barnes

One of the basic tenets for finding ideas to write about is to create works based upon your personal experiences and your fields of expertise. You automatically have more authority to write about a particular subject when you've been in the trenches with it, so to speak. It was this guiding principle that landed my first ever sale as a writer to a travel magazine.

In 2001, I began my first volunteer stint for a program in Spain where English speakers come from all over the globe to interact in English non-stop with Spanish business people for ten days. By the middle of 2003, I had participated in the program three times (though the talk-a-thon is now an eight calendar day intensive retreat). I really wanted to share my experiences in Spain with other travelers. I also desired to see my byline in print for money via a well-known travel publication.

While researching the markets that would be interested in my work abroad as a volunteer, I came upon this publication called Transitions Abroad. I noticed that their readership was made up of travelers who wanted to know about overseas volunteer opportunities. I studied their guidelines and fashioned an article for their web-only submissions department since it offered more compensation than their print medium. In late August 2004, I submitted the article.

Within a week, I got a nice email from the webmaster telling me that he had accepted my article. I felt even more blessed as he went on to say that the editor of their print magazine wanted to publish my piece also! In December, I received a lump-sum check for $100 for future use in some of their print and online mediums. When the March/April 2005 print issue of Transitions Abroad hit newsstands, my article was among the works in the publication! I am in the same company of contributors to their magazine as the European travel guru Rick Steves is. It's a neat feeling to be able to proclaim that I, like Mr. Steves, have written for this travel magazine.

Transitions Abroad's website also features my article from their print edition at: http://tinyurl.com/98eqj

The lessons I've learned from securing my first sale have taught me much, and still help me in the present: I craft articles about the things I know about, whether it be the places I've traveled to, my former employment experiences, etc. I seek out publications that are marketed toward my experiences and knowledge. I make sure to check all the mediums of a publication that accepts submissions like its print, online, anthology, etc., to see which one offers the best chance for an acceptance and bigger paycheck. I do my very best to submit my work according to the writer guidelines.

I had never had my work accepted elsewhere except for letters to the editor, company newsletters, and for teachers. But none of those venues helped me to pay the bills. How ironic that it would take volunteering to garner my first paying job as a writer!

© Copyright 2005, Roy A. Barnes

Roy A. Barnes writes from southeastern Wyoming. Besides Writing for DOLLARS!, his writing-themed works have appeared at The Willamette Writer, Write-from-home.com, Writers Weekly, The Fabulist Flash, The Dabbling Mum, and others. His travel- and literary-themed works have been published by such mediums as Transitions Abroad, The Goblin Reader, The First Line, Northwest Prime Time, The Traveler, The Kids' Ark, Live Life Travel, and Poesia.

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