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Make Parenting Pay: Turn your Kids into Article Ideas
by Kelly James-Enger
I knew I was looking forward to becoming a parent. My little boy,
now 2 and a half, has continually amazed and delighted me from his
first smile to his first step to his first time-out. (Well, maybe
not that last one.) What I didn't expect? That he would provide
endless fodder for article ideas.
Before I became a parent, I was happy covering health, nutrition,
and fitness topics. I didn't intend to write about childcare subjects.
However, I've found that Ryan is a steady source of story ideas
that have helped me break into several new markets and sell both
parenting-related essays and articles. If you're a new parent, or
simply a new freelancer looking to break into magazines, parenting
topics are a great place to start—there are hundreds of magazines,
newspapers, and websites constantly searching for parenting pieces
that entertain and inspire as they inform.
Keep these tips in mind when writing for childcare publications:
- Present options, not one answer. When it comes
to parenting, everyone has an opinion. Don’t believe me?
Ask a new mom about the ongoing "breast versus bottle"
debate, or ask another parent about the "best" childcare
option. Moms and dads look to parenting publications for advice,
information, and support—not to be told that they're doing
things the "wrong" way. That's why the most important
rule in writing about parenting is to avoid preaching or implying
that there is only one way to do something.
- Start with yourself, but don't stop there.
Your own experience is a great place to launch your exploration
of a subject, but you shouldn't stop there. Unless you're writing
a personal essay, you’ll need to back up the advice you
offer with more authoritative opinions and quotes. That means
you may have to interview pediatricians, child development experts,
dieticians, or teachers in addition to including real-life anecdotes.
For local markets, you can use local experts, but if you're writing
for national magazines, you'll want someone who is established
or well known in his or her field. Call organizations like the
American Medical Association or the American Dietetic Association,
and ask for referrals to members who specialize in the area you’re
- Celebrate diversity. Parents come in all ages,
both sexes, and are of every race, ethnicity and religion. This
may seem obvious but too often writers simply assume that their
family traditions—such as celebrating Christmas—are
embraced by all readers. Don't make that mistake. On the other
hand, if you’re writing for a publication aimed at a more
narrow audience—say, stay-at-home mothers or parents who
home-school their children, it’s okay to focus your story
on that group of people. Just keep the audience in mind as you
write the piece, and remember that parenting writing is often
service writing. In fact, “how-to” articles are the
most prevalent kind of parenting stories and for good reason.
- Share other parents' experience. Your personal
story is a great place to start. But because there are so many
different approaches to parenting, readers like hearing about
more than one person’s experience or opinion in child care
articles. A wide range of sources helps ensure that readers will
find something in an article than benefits them.
- Come up with new spins. Many parenting stories
cover topics like health, child development, discipline, and nutrition.
While these subjects are covered over and over again, look for
a new angle or new approach to sell your story idea. For example,
instead of a tired piece on dental health for kids, I recently
pitched and sold a piece on dental traumas in preschoolers that
covered appropriate dental hygiene. (I got the idea after my toddler
fell and chipped his front two teeth.)
- Think big, but start small. You may aspire
to be published in national parenting magazines like Parents
and Parenting, there are hundreds of regional parenting
and child care publications as well. The pay rates aren’t
high but these markets are a good place for new freelancers to
get assignments and clips—and build experience before cracking
national magazines. For example, I've had at least a half-dozen
writing students publish their work in Chicago Parent,
before they sold work to national publications. In addition to
articles, regional parenting magazines also use a lot of reader
essays, which is another way to get your work into print, garner
clips, and gain experience.
© Copyright 2008, Kelly James-Enger
Kelly James-Enger has authored more than a dozen books, including Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success (Writers Digest, 2012) and Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writers Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books (CreateSpace, 2010). Check out her blog, Dollars and Deadlines, for practical advice about how you can make more money in less time as a nonfiction freelance writer.
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