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Free, Take One, and Get Paid
by Patricia Misiuk
They're near civic centers,
post offices and shopping malls. And most of us seldom give them a fleeting
glance or thought.
I once described them as rows of heavy metal
housing mullet wrappers. In reality, though, the enclosed racks contain
newspapers, real estate booklets and various free, take-one publications
targeted at seniors, job seekers, auto shoppers, and even those itching to meet
During my pre-freelance days, I dashed past the
racks without a moment's hesitation.
No more. Several years ago, a glow-in-the-dark
green rack piqued my curiosity and activated my slot machine-pulling arm. The
tabloids stacked inside offered not only ads but also articles. As I thumbed
through the pages, a seed was germinating in the writer's lobe of my brain. The
publication showcasing women who juggled careers, family life and volunteer
activities lacked something. But what?
My analytical gene kicked into gear. Sure, there
were in-depth features and columns focusing on nutrition, finances, travel, and
entertainment. Yet, I wondered if I could amuse female readers with a proven
stress buster: humor.
'Twas time to test the waters. To drag out the
heavy artillery and pitch my proposal. My phone call to the editor verified that
(1) the tabloid considered freelance submissions on speculation and (2) they did
pay, though only pennies a word. She encouraged me to send three
OK, so the tabloid's title wasn't a household
word. And the pay wouldn't boost my income into a higher tax bracket. No matter.
Writing is not a job but what I do, a calling that strengthens with each word.
For the next week, my muse perched on my shoulder and programmed me into my
In my first piece, I described how my husband's
moth-to-a-flame attraction for Christmas decoration sales resulted in our yard
rivaling a four-million light display at Disney World. In another, recalling a
"someday you'll laugh about this" experience, I gave a blow-by-blow account of a
date found through a personals ad. And for my final article, the recent
misplacement of my employee badge triggered a commentary about the laminated
tags that have become an integral component of corporate fashion
Even though I regard anything I write as a work
in perpetual progress, I had fine-tuned the articles to the point of
satisfaction. Then came the point of no return: dropping the envelope into the
I had scoped out the publication in the
oft-repeated mantra- research the market- and had customized the articles to
that audience. Now I waited. Two days later when the editor phoned and offered
me a column, "Musings" was launched. And now five years later, I still examine
the lighter side of "some assembly required" home renovations, audio junk mail
(telemarketers) and employee lounge refrigerators, just to mention a
I've expanded my horizons to include sales to
several senior free, take-one magazines. These days my "Musings" columns appears
in two tabloids. Sure, I've had my share of "does not meet our editorial needs"
rejection slips. And others never respond. But I persist.
Soon I'll probably visit your city. And you'll
know where to find me. I'll be near a shopping area and loading up on free,
Try it sometime. And return often. With each
trip, you'll discover that the articles are more provocative, more informative.
Why? Simply because they'll be personalized with your photo and
Some free advice for those wanting to tap the
free, take-one market.
1. All free, take-one publications are not
created equal. Some magazines are replete with typos and ho-hum,
sleep-inducing writing. Don't compromise your efforts and integrity in
exchange for seeing your name, probably misspelled, in print.
2. Request an editorial calendar. If
February's theme is romance, an article about raising homing pigeons won't
3. Psych out the readers. Even if you don't
live in the area of the free, take-one publication, the chamber of commerce
and Internet are ideal sources for information such as demographics, industry,
amenities and growth potential. Tailor your articles to the area.
4. They want it when? The "dog ate the
homework" excuses don't apply. Don't miss a deadline. If you write a column,
have a few spares in reserve.
5. A little flattery... Did their artwork
capture the essence of your article? If so, mention it. Chances are, they'll
request your input for future ideas.
6. And finally, deliver your personal best.
The "be all than you can be" slogan of the military pertains to writing. The
intangible rewards of a well-written piece go far beyond the
© Copyright 2000, Patricia Misiuk
Patricia Misiuk could have been the sole interviewee for Studs Terkel's "Working." Her jobs have ranged from migrant work in New Zealand to the replenishment of sanitary products in the "Big Apple's" restrooms. When she grows up (she is 61) she wants to be a columnist. She still works at "McJobs" but "writing is what she does."
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