Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
The Writing Life
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by Rachel Newcombe
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County magazines provide an ideal starting point for anyone wanting to spread their wings, gain more international publishing credits, and write material of interest to a specific area. The good news is that the majority of these magazines are almost entirely written by freelancers, and they are always on the lookout for new and interesting material.
Most counties in the UK have their own magazine dedicated to providing readers with a range of news and views about the area. Although it is true that certain aspects of the magazines, such as current news and events, are likely to be written by people living in the area or familiar with it, there are several other niches that can just as successfully be filled by people living in other locations. County magazines don't just cover current events and local residents; they also focus on famous people, historical events, famous places, unusual local customs, region- specific traditions. and sometimes even poetry and short stories. These are the areas that are available for international freelancers to tackle.
As with any form of writing, research is extremely important; in this case, it is the means by which international writers can successfully break into this market. The Internet provides the ideal research tool for potential county magazine writers, as one can easily search for UK county-specific information from anywhere in the world. A typical information search can produce details of historic events that occurred in the area, famous people, local traditions and customs -- all of which are of interest to readers of the publication. Do remember to ensure you get your geography right: A magazine in Sussex is not going to be interested in an article related to events or people in Suffolk!
Most counties are associated with at least one or two very famous people, as well as many people who are less well-known. Provide profiles of them, what their lives were like, how things have changed since their time. There is no need to restrict yourself to deceased famous people; if you find information relating to living local celebrities, why not try contacting them? If they have access to the Internet and e-mail they can be interviewed by that means, or by telephone. They may also be able to assist you with providing other contacts or photographs that could be used to accompany your article.
Articles covering historic events are also popular. Again, research is imperative and can turn up many interesting possibilities. Maybe a famous battle, a disaster or some other interesting event took place in the area.
Places can become famous as a result of events that occurred there, because a famous person originated there, or merely because they are popular tourist attractions. Whatever the reason, profiles of such places prove of constant interest to many county magazines.
Perhaps you live in a town that is twinned with a location in the UK (e.g., perhaps, it has a UK "sister city"). Find out where that place is located and write an article on your own town: How it differs from its partner or namesake, its traditional trades, anything or anyone it is famous for, local customs, etc. This could provide an interesting contrast, especially if your town is larger or more industrialized than its twin somewhere in the depths of the British countryside.
Local Customs and Traditions
Many places have particular local customs or traditions. For example, the custom of tar-barrel burning is still performed to welcome in the New Year in parts of Northumberland, while many villages in Derbyshire still take part in the annual Well Dressing ceremonies during the summer months. There are also lots of customs and local crafts that have gradually dwindled and died out over the years that can also be considered: How did they start, when were they last practiced, what did they signify?
Poetry and Short Stories
Many of the publications also accept poems and stories, which may offer an opening for anyone who writes in this genre.
Ideas do not have to be limited to these topics. Perhaps you once lived in the UK and could write a piece reminiscing about your time there and the memories you have about a particular area. Perhaps your distant relatives hailed from one of the counties and passed on tales of local traditions. Perhaps you would like to write seasonal material or know of a particular craft or game that is unique to that part of the world. Whatever the case, remember to ensure that it is of relevance to the county and will be of interest to the magazine's readers.
Payment tends to vary. In general, pay rates for this market are not all that high, mainly due to the publications' limited circulation. But if you're interested in building up your writing credits, or enjoy researching new and interesting material, writing for UK county magazines can prove to be a highly rewarding and enjoyable experience.
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Rachel Newcombe is an award-winning UK-based writer, editor and researcher. She contributes news, features and reviews to a wide range of publications, including BUPA, Allergy magazine, Discovery Health, Child Education magazine, Channel 4, UKTV, Families First for Health, Moira Allen's TimeTravel-Britain.com, and Berkshire's County Child. She's currently editor of a women's health website and involved in the launch of a new lifestyle magazine. She can be found on the web at: http://www.newcombe.co.uk/media.