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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 writing about.
  • 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.

Other articles by Kelly James-Enger :

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