Write from your Heart – Gill Sherry’s ‘Writing for Magazines’ Workshop – 7 April 2021

I’m a bit worried. Gill Sherry’s excellent advice at her workshop was: articles aimed for general magazines should be engaging, informative, well researched, passionate and unique. Write from your heart, she said. Captivate your readers. Make your readers smile.

Jings, no pressure on your blogger then!

But let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to write articles for a glossy magazine?

Gill’s lucky enough to work for two stylish publications – she’s a columnist and editor for CP Magazine (a Kuwaiti lifestyle, fashion & travel magazine) and also a regular contributor to Ayrshire Magazine.

The evening kicked off with Gill setting out her workshop goals (very appropriate, considering she’s also author of the football themed novel – Serious Foul Play).  By the final whistle, she hoped we would’ve learned at least one thing, or be inspired to write an article then motivated to submit it for publication.

Here’s a small selection of Gill’s useful tips.

  • Most magazines are seasonal – get your timing right. Don’t submit a travel article about your winter skiing holiday in time for summer.
  • People read magazines for leisure, pleasure and escapism. Your article should be uplifting and have your readers aspiring to go and visit / buy / try / do what you’ve written about.
  • Write something fresh if a magazine requires articles on a specific theme. Don’t be tempted to tweak an existing article to fit the theme.
  • Look for an unusual and quirky take on a theme. Don’t opt for the obvious.
  • Remember to use powerful imagery and stimulate your reader’s senses with smells, sounds, tastes etc.
  • Dig deep and research your topic well – don’t just skim the surface.
  • Aim for the right publication for your article. Read back-copies to familiarise yourself with the magazine’s content and style. Submit a three-line pitch – don’t send the entire article.
  • Keep trying. Don’t give up.

Gill provided a list of magazines (paper and online) we might be interested in submitting to – but these came with a caution – some magazines do not pay a fee to the writer. Always check terms in the small print before parting with your work.

No AWC workshop is complete without our pens feverishly scratching paper. Gill had a challenging exercise for us to tackle – choose a heart-warming experience, event or place which excited and moved us and write the beginning of an article. Jeanette took control of the stopwatch and seven minutes later our volunteers shared their scribbles.

Carolyn intrigued us with a piece on Robert Burn’s statue in Central Park, New York., while Fiona A shared her amusing experience of queuing online with 20,000 people vying to click first and win two must-have ‘Egg Chairs’. Jean touched on nature with the tale of kittens found in an abandoned rabbit hole, Nigel transported us to a Swiss glacier and the frightening effects of climate change, Janice contemplated life on a farm during lockdown, Maggie had us covered in dust and cobwebs emptying her attic and, lastly, I was reconnecting with a long-lost school pal thanks to social media. All very different but worth developing further.

Gill shared the first paragraph of her AWC 1st placed Scottish Article. Painting a vivid and very real picture of Girvan harbour and shore it was a perfect example on how to captivate readers.

After all this writing and reading it was time to stretch our legs, boil our kettles and grab a sneaky biscuit.

Ten minutes later, we reconvened for the second half – an informative Q&A session.

We picked Gill’s brain on how far in advance to send seasonal articles, about her process on conducting then writing an interview and how, especially during lockdown, she thought of new subject matter to write about. Should we pitch to more than more publication at a time? Do we need our own images to illustrate our article?  And what about the issue of author’s rights to their own work and expecting fair payment.  Gill answered from her own experience but stressed that all magazines have different policies. She encouraged us to get writing and highlighted that anyone who has a winning SAW or AWC Article/Scottish Article competition entry lurking in their back-catalogue should seriously consider pitching them for publication.

I asked Gill if she’d ever interviewed anyone famous, other than our Club Treasurer Nigel Ward (subject of an interview about the club in the next issue of Ayrshire Magazine) – however it seems her interviewees, so far, have all been interesting and genuinely lovely but unfamous folk.

Chris wondered if Gill (a big Spurs fan) had ever written for a football fanzine – she hasn’t but, good news, she’s busy writing her second novel.

Many thanks to Gill for an enlightening and productive evening.  I hope my blog has ticked all her boxes for the components of a good article. Don’t know if I’ve made my readers smile yet, right enough?

You know, I used to date a guy who obsessively collected magazines, but we split up. He had too many issues.

I’ll get ma coat.

See you next week at the Drabble.

Linda Brown

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