Magazine Writing: The Query Letter

Tuesday’s Writing Tips:

Portable MFA in Creative Writing: Magazine Writing

The Query Letter Part 1: 

The Query letter is like a sales tool. You’re trying to convince an editor that you have a good story for her magazine and that you’re the right person for the job. This is especially true for new writers. Some seasoned writers can use samples of their work to win over an editor.

Query letters must be focused and well-defined. It isn’t a mere observation, but you can use your observations to craft a story idea.

For example: If you observe a lot of people walking their dogs in a certain area of town, you may expand on this observation. Why do people gravitate toward certain breeds of dogs.

Query letters must be well-written and well-structured. The query letter should not contain mistakes, misspellings or poor sentence structure.

Query letters should be written in the style of the magazine to which they’re addressed. This is to show you’re familiar with the magazine. Often, you must be a chameleon rather than write in your own style.

Query letters shouldn’t leave much to the imagination. Explain what you’re writing about and be specific.

Query letters should be no longer than one page.

Next week we’ll focus on How to Write the Query Letter.

For now, here is the haiku of the day:

dove and grey skies haiku

Photo credit:


a melancholy sky
squabbles for attention—
warm, silky feathers

How many of you have had success writing a query letter?


Trust in Yourself

trust yourself haiku

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” –Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

Some days it is difficult to remember to let go of the negative thoughts. But it’s crucial to let go of them so you can attrack positive energy.

Today’s Haiku:

look inside your heart
release the hate, anger, guilt—
brighter days ahead



Magazine Writing: The Hook

Tuesday’s Writing Tips:

Portable MFA in Creative Writing: Magazine Writing

Today we are discussing The Hook. This is essential in writing an article. It provides focus for the article. The following information has helped me as a writer create more focused and engaging articles. I hope it helps you as well.

Today I have information from the Portable MFA, and I have some ideas to share from Writer’s Digest.

Writer’s Digest recommends the following examples to creating a hook:

  1. Start with the opposite of where your piece will end
    1. For example, if you’re writing about humiliation, you might start by being arrogant.
  2. Make unlikely comparisons
    1. Elizabeth Rapoport wanted to write an essay about how everybody wants more sleep. So, your angle could be “Sleep has become the sex of the ’90s.”
  3. Bring in opposing viewpoints
    1. “I like, for example, to do what I call piddling—taking time to putter around and check my mail, refold T-shirts, collect pennies from my dresser and drop them in a jar marked “College Fund” and, in general, piddle around with my stuff. By itself, this isn’t all that interesting. But my husband, Bill, is the weekend warrior who doesn’t understand the need to piddle, who wants to go for a bike ride in the park, or buy dowels for the fabric we bought or take cartons of books to the used bookstore. Now there’s conflict—opposing viewpoints on worthwhile ways to spend our shared weekend afternoons. Conflict doesn’t have to be heated or serious to make a piece entertaining or authentic—it simply has to be present.”
  4. Highlight divisions or categories
    1. The world can be divided into those who will let a telephone ring off the hook when they are even mildly indisposed and those who would cheerfully trample small children and flower beds rather than let it hit the third ring.
  5. Contrast your tone and subject
    1. We expect a new mother to talk sentimentally about giving her baby the care he needs. Instead, my student Bernadette Glenn took a tone that highlighted her contrarian point of view:  I had to face the misery of filling the day with a boisterous, self-centered little bully who had no control over his own bowels, never mind his emotions. I had imagined a small period of rest every day, but he was outgrowing naps, and he drooled on the newspaper and punched me if it looked like I was not paying attention to him.
  6. Be topical
    1. The governor of South Carolina is on the Appalachian Trail, and you walked it once yourself.

The hook should also be relevant to something that’s in the news at the moment.

When pitching your idea to an editor, make sure to pitch at the right time. Editors work several months in advance. So, in January, monthly magazines are probably working on their May or June issues.

Next week we will discuss The Query Letter.

don't lose hope haiku

hope disappears…
she walks to the highest point
and jumps from the ledge


Do you have tips for writing a hook?



The Setting Sun

human spirit haiku

Image credit:


“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”

~ Wilma Rudolph, U.S. gold medalist in track and field


the setting sun
reminds us that a new day


Keep dreaming and have a wonderful Monday!