Since the first copies of the Senior Perspective were delivered 26 years ago, it has included contributed stories from our readers. And as the newspaper has grown over the years, the number of these contributed stories has also grown. Today, I am receiving more stories than I have ever received before. This month, between the five editions, I received more than 30 contributed articles. Not all of them find their way into the paper, for various reasons, but many will (including a few great ones in this edition). Sometimes it is a matter of space available. Sometimes we get it too close to our print time. And sometimes the content doesn’t work for our paper.
This month, my column is all about helping those people thinking about submitting a story.
Let’s start with the deal breakers… if your story has these, it will not make it into the newspaper.
• It has anything political in it. And I mean anything. We are not a political paper.
• If it promotes a business or organization. We can’t offer free advertising or we would lose our paid advertising. And that would mean no Senior Perspective.
• If it puts down another person, a group of people, or a generation of people. This is a criticism-free publication.
Next, here are some tips that will increase your chances of having your article printed.
• A longer story usually doesn’t mean a better story. While some stories have many important details that you will want to include, most do not. Most have some key details that you should focus on. When we receive a contributed story that is several pages long, it is often very hard to place in the newspaper. And 9 times out of 10, the story could be condensed to less than a page.
• Include a photo or two. While a well-written story can often stand on its own, photos always add life to an article. And it also breaks up all the text. A well-written (short) story with a nice photo will almost always find its way into the newspaper.
• Consider the timing. If you have a funny Halloween story, and you send it to me on Oct. 26, the October edition is likely already printed. So the next edition wouldn’t print until the end of November. In many cases, I would have to hold that article for 11 months, so it would go in the next year’s October edition. For example…. if you had a great story about going to the Minnesota State Fair or school starting or harvesting, now would be a great time to send that in. I’ll be looking for those stories at the end of summer. If you had a story about something that happened at an Easter gathering when you were young, you can wait to send that until next February. In other words, plan ahead. If you think one to two months ahead, you will be just fine.
Finally, some guidelines on the content itself. I mentioned some of the deal breakers earlier. Now let’s get into the nitty gritty… the content of the article. What makes a good story?
There are about a million different stories that any one person could write about their life and their experiences. Sometimes people think that a submitted story needs to be something big and grand. It really doesn’t. It just needs to be interesting.
Let’s say you went on a 10-day trip to Canada. I wouldn’t suggest that you give a blow-by-blow account of your trip (I wouldn’t print it). Instead, maybe there is one part of the trip that was interesting. Maybe there was a small mountain near your resort and you climbed it. And it was the first time you climbed a mountain. That’s a good story.
And maybe it had nothing to do with Canada. Maybe it was a conversation you had with your taxi driver about ringing the dinner bell…which got you thinking about when your mother would ring the dinner bell back on the farm. That’s a good story.
Once you have a topic picked out and you start writing it, be sure to include lots of details and don’t forget to tell people your thoughts and feelings. If the story includes just the facts and no emotion, it probably won’t be very interesting. If the story is about a neighbor who was kind to your family when you were young, don’t just tell us what he/she did, tell us how that person made you feel and how he/she impacted your childhood/life.
Stories can be handwritten or typed and emailed (preferred). Send stories to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is the 15th of each month. That means, if you have something for the August edition, I’ll need it by July 15th to consider it for publication.
If you have a good story but need help writing it, just contact us. We can help you out. Or if you are worried about typos or grammatical errors, don’t sweat it. We will clean it up for you. We edit everything that comes in. We just need your content, and we can do the rest.
Keep those great stories coming!
The next Senior Perspective cookbook is coming out in November, but we have started to ask for contributed photos (and recipes) for the new book. Why do we ask for photos in the July edition? Well, with Fourth of July coming up, that means lots of family get togethers and lots of food. If you have a new recipe or an old reliable recipe that you bring out at a Fourth of July gathering (or any other gathering this summer), snap a few photos of people enjoying it. These will be perfect for our cookbook. And I should also mention… all those who have a photo that make it into the cookbook will receive a free cookbook in November.