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Never Say Never
by Josephine Montgomery
I am a British writer who enjoys writing historical articles, particularly of the Tudor period. I lived near Hampton Court Palace, London, where in the sixteenth century King Henry VIII entertained European kings and foreign ambassadors. It was here I watched Tudor re-enactments and listened to lectures given by learned history professors. A personal goal as a writer in the USA was to compose an article on Henry VIII for an historical magazine, one that took pride in accurately portraying historic fact and also showcased an author’s photographs.
Writing for DOLLARS! offered a magazine name as a resource, I purchased a copy and found it covered the time period from 600 CE to 1603 CE, the end of the Tudor Period. It more than met my requirements, the articles were interesting, well crafted and printed on good quality paper. The illustrations and the photograph on the front cover were beautifully portrayed and the magazine also published author’s photographs. All my requirements for the Henry VIII article were met, until I read the guidelines, “PLEASE DO NOT QUERY US WITH STORY IDEAS ABOUT HENRY VIII.”
As writers we receive disappointing news in the form of rejection letters, for the first time I felt the sting of rejection before querying an editor. I looked at the extensive notes and bibliography in my computer and decided I would not be defeated. What could I do to avoid Henry VIII being banished with one stroke of an editors delete key?
The first requirement was to find a new angle or slant for my article. How could I write about Henry VIII without using his name and invoking the wrath of the editor? A carefully drafted query was also needed, one that would not irritate, but intrigue the editor and persuade him to continue reading.
Kitchens, I decided. Hampton Court Palace kitchens, more specifically the Great Roasting Kitchen where whole swans were roasted on massive iron spits. The swans, after roasting, were re-dressed in their feathers, beaks and legs gilded with twenty four carat gold and then whisked away by servants to the Great Banqueting Hall.
My article and photographs were accepted within two days of emailing, along with a request for further submissions on Hampton court Palace kitchens.
What were the key points to my success? I respected the editor’s decision of No More Henry VIII stories. Found a new angle on an interesting aspect of palace affairs that was rarely written about. Next, I wrote a tightly focused query letter that gave a glimpse into the life of royal cooks and servants below stairs.
These key points apply to fiction also. Take it as a challenge when editors add the proviso, No More Stories On… you may discover a unique feature or point of view that will capture the interest of the most skeptical mind.
Cover letters, query letters and a tightly written outline, even when submitted by email, still play a very important part of any submission. You may come up with a new perspective on a story or article, but if you do not market it correctly your idea will not sell.
In summary, believe and have confidence in your writing. Respect an editor’s request for specific information hone those query letters and never say never.
© Copyright 2010, Josephine Montgomery
Josephine is a contributing writer to NAWC a National Woodcarver’s magazine. She won the Twin Lakes Emery Award in 2009. She has traveled extensively in the Middle East and studied both written and spoken Arabic for two years at Amman University while living in small Arab village. Mr. Farouk and the Petunias, a lighthearted glimpse into gardening in Amman, Jordan will be published, 2011, in GreenPrints magazine. Josephine’s essays, poems and travel articles have been published in the USA and England.