Exciting News on the Writing Front

Well readers, remember how last week in my blog post about getting back to daily obedience with Gilbert, I mentioned that I hadn’t spent enough quality time with him between my internship and pursuing my dream of being a writer? Well for this entry, I thought I would share with you some exciting writing opportunities that have transpired this summer because this blog hasn’t been the only writing I have been doing. Of course, writing for this blog is what I enjoy most as I think I mentioned in a post last summer. With my blog, there are no editors except me, and sometimes my standards are pretty low. Although web sites with advice on how to increase traffic to your blog say you should discipline yourself and write regularly, I am more interested in writing from the heart and having fun than increasing traffic. So my blog has no deadlines. I can write when I want, about whatever I want and it is published instantly. What could be better!

Well, as much as I enjoy this blog and say I don’t care about traffic, the truth is that this summer, I have had an itch to expand my writing to a larger audience. But rather than ruining the casual freedom of this blog, it occurred to me that I ought to look in to writing for other publications or well-known blogs. To my amazement, just after the 4th of July, I got this opportunity.

Shortly after discovering the fun of blogging, I also discovered a passion for reading other blogs. Last May, I was reading Reader’s Digest and every May, Reader’s Digest runs a special “America’s Best” feature where they have featured everything from the best airport (I forget which airport it was but it had an amusement park to play in during layovers), to best cookie recipe which was a recipe for cookies without eggs since many children have allergies to eggs. Well last year, there was a best blogs section. I think there were three or four blogs featured in this section but the one that caught my attention was Free-Range Kids, described as a humorous blog about overprotective parents these days. The blog is written by Lenore Skenazy. She is the New York City mother who made news a few years ago after letting her 9-year-old son ride the subway by himself to the outrage of many parents. I am not a parent yet of course, but for some reason this blog sounded interesting to me so I started following it. The philosophy of this blog is that while safety is good, there is such a thing as being too safe, robbing today’s children of the joy of childhood just a generation ago. The blog has featured everything from satirical articles in The Onion, to ridiculous safety tips put out by companies, like one recently that suggested buying children green notebooks for school as white notebook paper is hard on the eyes (seriously?), to letters sent in by readers which are often about situations where they got yelled at by another parent or police officer for doing innocent things like letting their children walk to a friend’s house alone. Well this summer, I was inspired to contribute my own story to this blog. On a whim, I found Lenore Skenazy’s e-mail address and sent a letter, figuring that since she has been voted most controversial blogger, she probably gets inundated with mail and wouldn’t read my letter, but why not try? To my amazement, she did read it, and published it on her blog the next day! Here is how the story was presented on her blog.

Hi Readers – Just got this poignant note from a young woman who sees life, risk and joy pretty clearly!

Dear Free-Range Kids: I am fortunate to live in a community with several wonderful county parks and, growing up, swimming in the lakes there was a regular part of summer. But then life got hectic and I hadn’t been to the lakes in years, so to celebrate the 4th of July, my parents and I decided it was time to revisit one.

As a child, I never wore my swim shoes in to the water. My siblings and I would stake our claim at a picnic table or lounge chair where we would drop our shoes, run across boiling hot pavement, sink our toes into warm sand and then bounce joyously in the water all afternoon. I could hardly wait to re-live those memories.

Unfortunately, since those days, Mom has heard stories of shards of glass, even needles, piercing children’s feet at the lake, so she did not want me to take off my swim shoes this time. I am 21 years old, so I could have refused to listen, but I decided maybe she had a point. Maybe we DO have to be more careful these days. I kept them on. But then–something just wasn’t right. I couldn’t bounce around the way I remembered or kick my feet to swim, because the shoes weighed me down. I found myself standing sullenly in the water thinking I might as well have just stayed on land.

“Can I please, please PLEASE take off my shoes?”

“Okay, but if you hurt yourself—

“I will take full responsibility for it,” I promised.
Instantly, my shoes were off, my day was transformed and my feet were never even scratched. But after that experience, this blog came to mind.     I would say my mom was a Free-Range parent when my three older siblings and I were growing up. When the weather was beautiful, she would not allow us to sit inside, watching television. And although it wasn’t safe for me to do so, being totally blind in a community with no sidewalks, my siblings would frequently bike to the grocery store or walk to a friend’s house. So to learn that even my own mother had become consumed by fear surprised me.     Of course, those stories of children contracting diseases after stepping on a needle at the beach are horrible. [NOTE FROM LENORE: And rarer than shark attacks!] But while I don’t have statistics about this, the fact that this never happened to me or my siblings or anyone I know makes me think that, in the same way kidnapping is so unlikely that it is not worth staying locked in the house, the likelihood of stepping on a needle at the beach is not strong enough to justify missing out on the incredible joy of swimming barefoot. I hope today’s kids don’t.– Allison Nastoff     Well, I had sure found a larger audience. While my blog posts may get one or two comments, this post got 87 comments which were very interesting to read. Some were critical of me which is good because given that I will graduate college in May with a major in journalism and a minor in politics with the hope of combining the two, this letter to Free-Range Kids certainly won’t be the last controversial piece I will write in my life. One of these comments for example criticized the fact that I was 21 years old and yet still asked if I could take off my shoes. I can see where this person was coming from. Generally, 21-year-olds are beyond asking their parents’ permission for anything and maybe I shouldn’t have included that in the letter. I decided I didn’t want to reply to these comments directly, but the point I was trying to make and maybe didn’t make very clearly was that I am the type of kid who tries to be a good kid and respect my parents instead of just blatantly disregarding their well-meaning efforts to keep me safe. But I also got a lot of interesting and rewarding comments as well. My favorite was from a person who said “This is a really poetic post and I can’t thank the writer enough for sharing it with us.” He went on to say how it is easy for sighted people to say wearing shoes doesn’t detract from the experience of the beach, but by wearing shoes, you are essentially binding one of your senses. So well said and so true for me. I read all 87 comments because as the writer of the piece I couldn’t resist. I don’t expect you to do that, but if you want to, the link is

http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/on-swim-shoes-summer-and-seeing-what-matters.

But the writing excitement didn’t stop there. Just a few days after my Free-Range Kids piece was published, I noticed one of you readers had posted a comment about the first post on my internship application saga and said I should think about submitting it to a blindness related publication like the Braille Monitor or Braille Forum. Given my low standards for this blog, I never imagined anyone would suggest that, so I was elated and thought “You know, it cannot hurt to try.” I couldn’t find any information about how to submit to the Braille Forum or Braille Monitor, but I did find information on submitting to Dialogue Magazine which is published out of Oregon by Blindskills Inc. and is dedicated to people who are blind or loosing their vision and their friends and family. For some reason, I had never heard of this magazine until doing this internet search but was very impressed with a couple of sample articles I read. I was even more impressed when upon closer examination of the submission guidelines, I found that writers whose pieces are accepted to the magazine are paid between $15 and $35!

When I did my mentorship experience with the Waukesha Freeman my junior year of high school, the editor who mentored me published an article I had written about the controversy surrounding a referendum to renovate my high school, even giving me my own byline. When I boasted to my brother who also wants to be a writer that this byline officially made me a published writer, he asked “did you get paid?” “Well no,” I said. “Then it doesn’t count,” he said teasingly. So if I get paid for my writing by Dialogue Magazine, what a huge boost that could be for the cause of sibling rivalry! Oh, and it would be good for my resume too.

So on August 19, I sent a query to Dialogue Magazine, asking whether my frustrating experience would be of interest to readers of the magazine. To my delight, I received a reply on Monday from the editor who said it indeed would be of interest and would fit well in their Education Makes a Difference column. And, while the writing guidelines generally preferred articles in the range of 600-800 words, the editor told me I could shoot for 1,200 words! Not bad for my first foray in to the world of paid writing I would say! So I wrote a shortened recount of the saga posted on this blog and sent it off, along with a cover letter (I got advice on writing a cover letter from Stylist, the listserve of the National Federation of the Blind Writer’s Division) Sunday evening.

I shouldn’t get too arrogant because although the editor expressed interest in the topic of my article, I won’t know for awhile whether it will officially be accepted. But the ball is rolling and there is a chance that I will be able to call myself a paid writer soon. I cannot post the article I submitted yet because if it is published, Dialogue has exclusive electronic rights to it for one year. But I will let you know as soon as I find out whether or not it will be accepted and will post a link to it if it is used as a sample article on their web site.

But if this article is published, it may just be the springboard for a writing career that will allow Gilbert and I to live in luxury, hire servants and take leisurely walks along a beach every morning instead of walking to a bus stop in all kinds of weather for an office job! Well most likely, I will still have to have an office job because I’m no J.K. Rowling. But maybe I could become a regular contributor to Dialogue Magazine which could be the first step in earning the respect of editors of other publications and at least have writing as a fun side job. So this summer, between my internship experience and my writing, I have discovered that the world is full of exciting opportunities. I cannot thank the politics professor who recommended the internship and the reader of this blog who encouraged me to submit to a publication, for inspiring me to seek and pursue them.

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