As parents, it’s hard – isn’t it? Especially at this time of year. I remember when my children were little, wanting on the one hand to meet their wish list for Christmas, but wanting also to teach them that too much pestering doesn’t pay.
And yet – the hypocrisy. I got my first job in journalism through pester power of a kind.
I remember so clearly sitting in the office of the first editor who took me on. I had written to him many times throughout my journalism course – enclosing cuttings and updates on my progress. Pestering? I preferred to call it enthusiasm. I saw the door as ajar because although there was no advertised vacancy for a trainee, he hadn’t said “go away”. So what did I have to lose?
At the end of my course he agreed to see me. I remember he opened a drawer, bulging with application letters from wannabe writers. Oh gawd...“And then, these are all yours….” So I had my own file! “ And I’m thinking that if you are half as persistent getting me stories, Teresa…”
He then asked me a tricky legal question – in effect, a contempt- of-court riddle. Thankfully I got it right (phew) – and that was that. Foot in the door.
So when people ask me about a career in journalism, I check the eyes for determination. Sorry - but it’s so very competitive these days that only those who are absolutely determined are going to succeed. It’s not enough to want it. You have almost to smell the “need” in the person. It’s the ones who are reading every paper they can find, watching every news channel and digging out their own stories. Their own tips. Their own contacts. The ones who are willing to put in the flying hours – and learn. They’re the ones that make me think – ah yes. You’ve got it. Good luck.
And I guess in fiction, it’s not so very different. From submitting my first short stories to pitching for an agent, I’ve always had to dig deep for determination (and to bounce back from the set-backs).
So my best tip for pitching? Stand out from the crowd. Keep it short and punchy. Perfect grammar and spelling obviously (she now checks blog nervously for mistakes!). Show enthusiasm and a willingness to learn and grow. Believe in yourself by all means but know the line.
When the answer is a “no” – there's no point trying to tell them they are wrong.
Just try somewhere else.
* Good luck and a very Happy Christmas!