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I was just thinking that it’s not the perfect flower I look for in my photography, it’s the perfect feeling, same with my friends, they all have little flaws just like me but when I close my eyes and think of them I only know the sweet essence of their perfection and see how wonderful life is to let me see them … Love you all !
For example, you’ve found out something fascinating about how train schedules are developed, or how makeup is made, or a unique museum, or a new business that’s just opened its doors.
So you have this amazing idea — why is everyone rejecting it?
This kind of idea is what I like to call an “Isn’t This Cool?” idea. You’ve found something neat, and you want to share it with the world.
But sadly, most publications don’t want to just share random interesting things with their readers. Each magazine has its own slant, and the product, fact, business or person you found needs to fit in with their mission.
For example, let’s take the idea of some weird aspect of how makeup is made. You want to send it to a women’s magazine, of course. What woman wouldn’t be interested in finding out this cool fact about how her mascara is made?
But women’s magazines are service publications, meaning most of their articles offer some kind of advice. So the editors wouldn’t be interested in this fact about makeup unless their readers can actually do something with it.
So if you have an idea where you think, “Isn’t this cool?” — ask yourself, “So what?” Why would readers care? How can you make them care? What can they do with it, or how can they apply the knowledge right now? For most publications, your ideas need to be useful and actionable.
For example, maybe women need to avoid makeup products that are made with this method, and you can round up the types of products this applies to so readers know which ones to look out for. That’s an idea you could pitch to a health magazine.
Or, let’s take the article you want to pitch on the Burnt Food Museum, and yes, this is real. (“Hey, this museum exists. Isn’t it cool?”) Rare is the magazine that would want you to just write about what a weird museum you found. It would do better as, say, a round-up of weird museums in New England readers can visit, complete with info on location, price, and hours. Now, readers can do something with that information.
Some magazines do run “Isn’t This Cool?” articles. For example, magazines for hobbyists love to run interesting facts about their hobby — how it developed, who’s doing interesting things with it, and why some aspects of the hobby are the way they are. Maybe a magazine for train enthusiasts would want to run an interesting fact on how train schedules are developed. And I once wrote an article about the world’s largest marble collection for a collectors’ magazine.
But for most markets, you’ll want to go beyond a cool fact. Dig until you figure out what makes this fact relevant to the readers of the pubs you want to pitch.
Sometimes, this means the idea you pitch will barely resemble the one you first thought of. And that’s okay! That’s how the idea process works. You get what I call the “seed” of an idea, and when you nurture it, it grows into something useful and beautiful that doesn’t look anything like the original seed.
How about you…do you have an “Isn’t That Cool?” idea you’ve tried to pitch? How do you think you can reslant it to be more salable? Let us know in the Comments below!Add a Comment
What Do You Do With An Idea? is about a boy who has an idea, illustrated as a golden crowned egg with legs. The boy wonders about the peculiar golden biped; its origins, its purpose, its place in the world.Add a Comment
I’ll take an idea that’s almost-but-not-quite there (which is almost every idea) and show the student how to play with it, how to experiment with different angles until it’s just right to pitch.
And you know the response I often get?
“Since you didn’t like that idea, here’s another one.”
No, no, no!
Article ideas rarely pop out of a writer’s head fully-formed and ready to pitch. Even someone with 17 years’ experience (ahem) comes out with what I call SEEDS of ideas. A seed is the most basic form of an idea before you nurture it into a fully grown, salable article idea.
When you brainstorm, generate as many ideas as you can without judging them. Then, go through them one by one and start playing with the topics, angles, and markets to turn seeds into fully realized ideas. Like so:
Here are three tactics you can try:
Consider finding three or more similar things and pitching them as a roundup. For example, instead of pitching an article on an historic attraction in your area, find four cool historic attractions and offer a roundup to a regional magazine.
Or, bring in other, similar but distinct topics. Instead of writing a pet health article only for ferret owners, expand it to include cats and dogs and pitch it to a general pets magazine or one of the women’s or health magazines that have pet departments.
Take one thin slice of the idea and blow it up to feature-size. For example, every health writer is pitching about the GMO issue, and frankly, this idea is big enough to fill a book. Is there some small aspect of the topic that hasn’t gotten much press, that readers may not already know about?
Is there a magazine or online publication that caters to an audience to whom your idea WOULD be relevant? For example, if a certain autoimmune disease affects only 2% of women, it won’t be of interest to a women’s magazine. But it WOULD be of interest to a magazine that targets people with autoimmune disorders. (And you’d be surprised at the publications you can find out there.)
Ask yourself, “What ABOUT topic X?” For instance, you want to write about job hunting for seniors. That’s pretty nebulous. What ABOUT job hunting for seniors? How to make your resume relevant for modern jobs, the top 10 best work-at-home jobs for seniors, how to volunteer your way into a paid job?
Consider: What’s the opposite of your idea? Editors love surprising, counterintuitive ideas that surprise readers and make them think.
Years ago I noticed that peanuts were getting a bad rap due to allergies (they had been recently kicked off of airplanes), so I pitched and sold an article called “In Defense of the Peanut” to Oxygen, about the health benefits of the beleaguered nut.
If your idea is about how to save money on groceries (been there, done that), you turn that into an idea on when it makes sense to spend more on food. (I did this for Fitness magazine, in an article called “Splurge or Save.”)
If your idea is on how to market your small business (snooooze), turn that into an article on how to attract customers without marketing.
So from now on, when your brainstorming session produces ideas you fear are stale, overdone, too narrow, or too big, don’t give up in despair. Remember, these are seeds of ideas, and you can nurture them until they grow into perfect pitches.
How about you: Did you recently come up with an idea you thought stunk? Can you apply some of the tips above to make it, well, not stink? Let’s play with your article ideas right here in the comments!
|Slide from a solo Unprogramming presentation |
that acknowledges my co-conspirator
There’s been a lot of hiding around here lately.
A blog post about ME is hiding over at Peace, Love, and Whiskers. Pop over and check it out, if you haven’t already.
The other day, I saw this…
It’s an evil, runaway, red balloon. It’s hiding under the car, waiting to roll out and get me. Mom let me walk by really fast, because she knows that balloons are trying to kill me.
And look what’s back there! Two more balloons. White ones. I know what they have planned…
I have no plans to start liking balloons, but I want to thank my friend Little Binky for sending me this lovely award. I am not afraid of it.
Do you see what else is hiding? In the grass? A feather. It’s from the birds that sit in the trees and laugh at me.
All kinds of things are hiding in all kinds of places. When I try to hide, I always get caught. The other day, I brought my tiny yellow dog and hid on Mom’s bed with it. Somehow, she found out that I was in there.
I don’t know how she does it! She’s a regular Nancy Drew when it comes to figuring things out.
When she was little, Mom was probably Nancy Drew’s biggest fan. She read every one of the Nancy Drew Mysteries, and hung on every word.
Now that she’s a writer, she hardly ever writes mysteries. She wrote one once, and when it was finished, she said, “Ugh. This thing is so lame.” And “Where’s the suspense, the red herring, the foreshadowing!?” and “Seriously? You’re back on the bed again?”
Mom might BE Nancy Drew, and LOVE Nancy Drew, but she has no plans to WRITE Nancy Drew.
Is thinking on international development pulling itself together or tearing itself apart? The phrase ‘international development’ can be problematic, embracing multiple meanings to those inside the business, but often meaningless to those outside of it.
On the surface, the Millennium Development Goals and debates towards a post-2015 agenda imply a move towards consensus. The past 60 years saw the development agenda embrace political independence, economic growth, human needs, sustainability, poverty reduction, and human capabilities. Each represented a particular understanding of what constitutes “development” and how to achieve it. Once dominated by economics and political science, the ideas and concepts used to explain development now draw on insights from across the natural and social sciences. Beyond academic debate, such ideas motivate real-life organizations and practitioners and shape their actions.
After interacting with over 90 writers over three years, I am convinced that thinking on development is tearing apart. Contemporary thinking comes from an increasingly diverse set of locations, with Beijing, New Delhi, and Rio de Janeiro challenging and enriching the ideas emanating from London, New York, and Paris. The rise of regional powers and localized approaches to development are reshaping our understanding of how human societies change over time. Fundamentally, the policy space for “international development” is tearing into three separate dialogues.
Sovereign problems concern the use of national wealth. All polities face real constraints in public finance and our societies face analogous challenges, such as: expanding access to and improving the quality of education and health, designing social protection to ensure a minimum wellbeing for everyone, or encouraging opportunities for entrepreneurs and minorities. Dialogue and action on sovereign problems involve national treasuries, political parties, and (mis)informed citizens. One can be inspired by experience abroad, but solutions must be tailored to fit within local cultural, political, and economic reality. This aspect of international development is growing.
Common problems concern international public goods. A sizable portion of our problems spill across borders and potential solutions require cooperation among different polities. Climate change, emergent diseases, and trade regimes surpass the ability of any one country and are affected by the choices made by others (indeed the nation-state is seldom the most useful unit of analysis). Common problems involve separate actors, ranging from municipalities and hospitals, to trade negotiators and the alphabet soup of international forums (IPCC, WHO, IFIs). After the rise of globalization, this aspect of international development is holding steady given the reality of a multi-polar world.
Foreign problems concern how to respond to troubled places abroad. Six decades of development saw substantial increases in life expectancy, human rights, and literacy. Yet there remains a stubborn set of poverty hotspots, ungoverned spaces, and fragile states where life continues to be nasty, brutish, and short. Dialogue and action involve foreign ministries, aid agencies, and NGOs. There are encouraging signs that this aspect of international development is in decline. The long-term trend witnessed a decrease in inter-state conflict and a dwindling list of low-income countries reliant on foreign aid. As such, the agenda is narrowing towards humanitarian relief, rural development, and state-building in remote locations.
This triad of sovereign-common-foreign offers one potential typology for the future evolution of thinking currently gathered under “international development”. Put more simply, when world leaders meet, the problems they discuss fit into the categories of mine-ours-theirs: those involving dialogue at home, those that require coordinated action across borders, and those related to hotspots beyond our borders.
In short, the label of “international development” has outlived its usefulness and is tearing apart in both academics and practice. For example, in the United Kingdom there is a tension between “development studies” focused on low-and-middle income countries, and “development sciences” applying technology to the needs of the poor. Meanwhile the range of organizations that engage in development has expanded, diversified, and coalesced into specialized communities. Once the exclusive purview of aid agencies and international organizations, there is an increasingly role for national treasuries, domestic charities, and diasporas in addressing different problems.
Looking forward, it seems likely that what is described as “international development” is destined to become a historic juncture, describing a period when we jumbled things together differently.
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Bruce Currie-Alder is Regional Director, based in Cairo, with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). He is an expert in natural resource management, and on the policies that govern public research funding and scientific cooperation with developing countries. His previous experience includes facilitating corporate strategy, contributing to Canada’s foreign policy, and work in the Mexican oil industry. He co-edited International Development: Ideas, Experience and Prospects (Oxford 2014) which traces the evolution of thinking about international development over sixty years. Currie-Alder holds a Master’s in Natural Resource Management from Simon Fraser University and a PhD in Public Policy from Carleton University.
Visualize this thing you want. See it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin. Robert Collier
Visualizing is an important part of a writer’s journey. Mom always visualized opening a letter of acceptance. She walked herself through every bit of how it would feel. The envelope – the weight of it, the uncertainty – that wiggly feeling in the tummy, the zipping it open – the rough edges, and the finally knowing – somebody said yes. Over and over for years and years, she saw it, felt it, and believed it. But guess what. When her first story was sold, no letter came. Her publisher called her on the phone and left a message! That being said, Mom still visualizes getting an acceptance letter. Over and over. Every detail. Every single day. She says, “This will happen.” and “It can’t hurt.” and “What is going on in that tiny brain of yours?”
I visualize, too, of course.
I see and feel and believe in tons of treats, piles of toys, long walks, and playtime that never ends. My mental blueprint shows how I will get onto the table, into the garbage, out the window, and through the door. My brain may be tiny, but it’s busy all the time. Visualizing…..
Mom likes sharing. She shares her stories with kids of all ages, every time she goes to an author visit.
She also shares her new stories with agents and editors . Sometimes she shares poems and ideas with her friends.
And Mom even shares me with the kids at the library when we work at Read-to-a-Pet-Night.
On Sundays, Mom sends my picture in to the local weather lady, who shares it with the viewing audience for Big Dog Sunday on TV.
Every Wednesday night, Mom helps me take an #idolselfie to send in to American Idol.
She thinks it’s time to share me with a bigger audience. They haven’t put me on Idol so far, but we’re hopeful.
If Mom ever gets the elusive Book #2 published, she will share with a bigger audience. Nothing, so far, but we’re hopeful.
“Plant-based baby names for girls overall are on the rise, and 10 previously low-profile botanicals – Lily, Violet, Willow, Hazel, Ivy, Olive, Dahlia, Juniper and Azalea – have risen rapidly.
These 10 fast-rising names were given to a total of 19,500 baby girls in 2012 – more babies than received the No. 3 girls’ name, Isabella (18,900), according to data from the Social Security Administration."
(Photo courtesy of Morgue File/mirabbi249-37-0)
A quite lively discussion has blown in from space on a friends Face-postcard about something I forgot because it went a completely different way in short order and is now a history lesson on indigenous peoples.
It was said the “Native “”American”” people” were here first and that they claim to be “Indigenous” and that they have their traditional stories to back up their claim to properties etc.
That got me to thinking (usually leads to minor disasters) that just because someone in your past lived some place and told creation stories doesn’t always mean you have any more rights than the guy who was born there after you lost the battle, in my case way after.
I know, growing up, my mother used to tell me, when I asked how I got here that I came from heaven and perhaps, if I’m a good boy, God will give me land there again though I think he may balk at the casino I want to build even if it is to take all the sinner’s money or credits or what ever the currency of his realm is.
And further more if in the past there was only one super continent, Pangaea or what ever they really called it, then we all have a claim to everywhere cause we are all descendants of the original inhabitants and I’ll bet a dollar to a doughnut there aint anywho who can tell me where they thought they came from even after the break up.
I thought perhaps we are all from Mars via the Pleiades star system but had to leave cause the Marshonians wanted the place back so we moved on as they had come from the Hercules system to Mars first.
To send every one back to where they came from is stupid, you can’t fit that many people on Ellis Island let alone grow enough hemp there to have a trade economy with New York.
I don’t know the answer other than if we don’t start being natives from “EARTH” the little grey men will boot us out and wipe out the myths of our origins from then to eternity.
Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway.
Mary Kay Ash
I would like to fly. Sometimes, I fly around my house – from the floor to the bed and from the ottoman to the sofa and from the chair to the door.
But I’m not allowed to fly outside. If I could, I’d fly up into the trees to catch birds and squirrels.
They are up there laughing at me, so flying would come in handy to put a stop to that.
Mom writes picture books. But sometimes, she goes outside her comfort zone to write other things. Once she wrote a non-fiction story, but she hated it – ALMOST as much as she hated doing the research for it. She said, “This is too much like work.” and “I dread writing time.” and “You cannot climb a tree – you’re a dog, not a bear.”
Last weekend, Mom wrote a song. Her friend needed a little pre-k song for graduation, so Mom made it up and sang it out loud to herself over and over and over and over and over. She said, “That was easier than I thought.” and “I didn’t know I could write a song.” and “You cannot climb a tree – you’re a dog, not a bear.”
Sometimes we need to go out of our comfort zones and TRY to see what we really can do. Mom is no Paul McCartney, but she wrote a song. I may not be a bear, but if Mom would unclip my leash for 5 seconds, I think I can climb a tree. After all, bumblebees fly….Display Comments Add a Comment
Spring is almost here. I mean it’s here on the calendar, but in real life, not so much. Mom and I look for flowers outside, but we’re not seeing a whole lot.
The grass is still kind of brownish and slime-ish in spots. And the wind still turns my ears upside down.
Also, the rain has Mom bringing out my raincoat every couple of days. April showers and all that….
Real, actual spring – street nap spring – takes longer to happen, I guess.
Stories take longer than expected sometimes, too. The calendar says we’re 10 days into the month, but we’re not seeing much of Mom’s April manuscript. The idea is still brownish and slime-ish, and wind and rain in Mom’s head are slowing down the progress. Her ears aren’t upside down or anything, but I’m hearing an awful lot of “Here we go.” and not an awful lot of, “Yay. I’m finished.”
I think the rain wetting the soil and the wind flying the seeds all around are putting down the groundwork for the real season.
Like the rain and the wind, mind-writing and planning are putting down the groundwork for Mom’s story. The daffodils are starting to pop. I hope Mom’s story will pop soon, too.
Spring is finally coming. Things that have been hidden under the snow are coming back. Look! It’s a coffee cup!
Mom’s new story was hidden under the snow in her brain. Every single day, when she started working on it, she gave it a new title, made a list of new characters, decided on a new theme, and gave them new goals to accomplish, new problems to solve, and different obstacles to overcome.
It’s a good thing spring is coming. Mom’s hidden story is coming back. It’s her third day working with the same title, the same theme, the same characters, and they have the same goals, problems, and obstacles as they had yesterday.
I think spring has sprung….
Look! It’s a banana!
And a ginger ale bottle.
And my beehive is back from under the snow!!
Today, Mom and I are counting down about rest.
What I Know About Rest
3. I nap in my bed.
2. I nap on the couch.
16. I nap in the street. (But only in the summer.)
1. I nap on Mom’s bed. I am allowed on her bed when she says the word, “OK” and then we sleep there all night long.
I am not allowed on there when she makes the bed, or when she is sorting out her folders and paperwork for her college job.
What Mom Knows About Rest
3. Waking up super-early in the morning, lazing in bed, drinking tea is a perfect, restful start to the day.
2. After a story is finished it needs to rest. No working on it, no looking at it, no THINKING about it.
Sometimes, a story needs to rest for a week. Sometimes longer.
1. While a story is asleep, it’s difficult to wait for it to finish resting. It’s good to start mind-writing a new story right away. (And all new stories should be about me!)
26. When stories wake up from resting, they sometimes stink.
When I first came here, I had to be fixed. I wasn’t broken, but getting fixed was about not getting any more puppies in my belly. That’s fine with me.
My puppies were adopted at the shelter where I “lived” (and by lived, I mean barely existed) before I was rescued. Nowadays, I feel that puppies would take away some of Mom’s attention – which belongs 100% on ME. Plus, I use my belly for other things, named treats.
Mom’s story for the Highlights Annual Fiction Contest wasn’t broken, either.
But, boy oh boy, did it need to be fixed. Mom’s cyberclassmates and her cyberteacher from the Contest Magic class gave suggestion after suggestion and asked important questions that made Mom think of important answers and make important changes. At the end of it all, the story was a LOT better than it started out. Like me!
Some things Mom learned were:
1. She is a mental case when it comes to commas. (She, kind, of, already, knew, that,,,)
2. The story problem needs to be close to the beginning of the story.
3. Readers need to learn about characters by what they say and what they do.
4. A problem can’t solve itself. Characters need to work at it and make the solution happen. And it can’t be too easy.
5. Conflict and tension are important. (Mom stinks at both of them.)
6. Sometimes, even your favorite parts of a story need to be cut. It might be scary and hurt a little, but it has to be done.
Vision is not enough. It must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.
Mom’s Highlights Contest story is finished resting, and thanks to her Contest Magic classmates giving her tons of help, she revised it – AGAIN – cutting and adding and switching and tightening and tweaking (not twerking – trust me – nobody wants to see that).
Yesterday, we went to the mailbox
and Mom unceremoniously dropped it in. She said, “I could work on this thing for the rest of my life.” and “It’s time to stop staring up the steps and step up the stairs.” and “Where do you think you’re going?”
Mom is hoping to win big, but she is also hoping for her cyberclassmates to win big right along with her. She said, “Their stories are amazing.” and “Can I even compete with these people?” and “There’s nothing up there for you.”Display Comments Add a Comment
Today’s five words are about being happy.
1. King of the Hill – I am happy when I am King of the Hill. Even though the hill is sometimes made of black plow-snow mixed with ice. And stones. And dirt.
2. Great Story Idea – Mom is happy when she gets a great story idea in her head. At first a new idea is all white and fluffy and has unlimited possibilities.
3. Beehive – I was happy when enough snow melted so I could see the broken piece of beehive that fell out of the tree a few months ago.
I TASTED it! Mom said the word, “Oh no you didn’t!” But oh yes, I did.
4. Brand New Story – Mom is happy when she sits down to start writing a brand new story about her brand new idea. Still white, still fluffy, and still filled with unlimited possibilities.
5. On top – I am happy walking on top of a foot of snow covered by a few inches of ice. As long as I stay on top, the snow can’t touch my belly. *shiver* But sometimes, I end up holding on for dear life with my tiny chicken-feet so I don’t slide into the street.
26. Holding On – After Mom works on her story for a while, she feels like she’s holding on for dear life with chicken-feet trying to get to the end and making sure the story isn’t a computer full of nonsense. She is happy when she finishes, though, and sometimes it’s nonsense and sometimes it’s not. But either way, it’s finished.
71. Cutting out nonsense - After the end of the story, Mom has to revise. That does not make her happy, but it has to be done. It helps cut out some of the nonsense and makes the story better. Just do it, Mom. Don’t look back.
Sometimes stories get stuck. Mom likes the rule of three, so if there are only two good obstacles in her story, she can be Stuck-and-Waiting for one more good idea. Her other choice is to use an obstacle that isn’t her favorite and worry about it later. Then she is Stuck-but-Moving.
If a character turns boring halfway through the story, Mom can be Stuck-and-Waiting. A story that is Stuck-and-Waiting can die a miserable death. Her other choice is to go back to her character sketch and add some flaws, quirks, oddities, and traits to bump that character up. Even if he or she isn’t perfect, Mom can go back to work and worry about it later. Then she is Stuck-but-Moving.
When I come inside, I need to get the rock salt (and snow and mud) cleaned off my feet with a baby wipe. Sometimes, I am Stuck-and-Waiting.
When the snow is really deep (and touching my belly *shiver*) my legs can’t reach solid ground. Mom says, “I am not carrying you anymore.” So I get busy – Stuck-but-Moving.
Inside a snow bank, there could be something fun like a ball or something yummy like a piece of bread that the birds dropped. There’s one way to find out - drill my nose in as far as I can. Then I am Stuck-and-Searching. That’s my favorite way to be!
Today is Dr. Seuss’s birthday. He would’ve been 109 years old. He is the Best Doctor Ever on account of no needles, no looking into ears with a flashlight, no sticks stuck into forbidden places, and no touching of my bits and pieces.
Mom also loves Dr. Seuss for a million other reasons – his wild imagination, his silly rhyming, his crazy stories, and the fact that his first book was rejected 27 times before anybody said they liked it. Misery loves company.
Mom’s #1 favorite Dr. Seuss book is The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins from 1938.
Normally, Mom and I steer clear of anything that smacks of numbers, but counting those hats is so much fun and so suspenseful that we can’t resist it. Also, a hundred years ago, Mom’s 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Nelson read that story to her class and Mom and her friends giggled and counted and were afraid for poor little Bartholomew not being able to take his hat off for the king.
As of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, Mom is up to date on her 12×12 Challenge. She has written 2 new stories in the past 2 months. Now it’s a new month and time to start a new story.
In which direction should she go?
Direction? Up, of course.
What will be original?
Original? It doesn’t get any more original than an old dog learning a new trick.
Who will step out of her list of character ideas?
Character? This one.
Or this one.
Or this one.
How will she make the story sparkle?
Sparkle? With a tiara, of course.