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Thursday, April 30, 2015

 

How My Addiction to Celebrity Gossip Has Helped My Writing (Really!)

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I was cleaning up the bathrooms in our home a few weekends ago, and started sorting through the pile of magazines on the floor for recycling.

“Wow,” I thought to myself. “There’s a whole lot of InTouch and Life & Style in this pile. No wonder Noah (my 9-year-old) was asking me the other day why Teresa was in prison.” I used to try and hide the magazines under more respectable publications like House Beautiful and The Writer but I guess I’ve been getting sloppy lately.

When it came time to brainstorm ideas for this post, I thought it might be fun to see if I could come up with some ways my addiction to celebrity gossip has actually helped me in my day job as a freelance writer and magazine editor. Pitiful, I know, but believe it or not, it wasn’t as hard as I originally expected. Here's what I discovered:

Cover blurbs really are important. Part of me groans when the time comes to put cover blurbs on the parenting magazine I edit. After working for the magazine for three plus years, I sometimes struggle with new ways to come up with teasers for evergreen topics like “back to school,” “summer fun,” and “summer camps/birthday parties.” But if I want readers to pick up our magazine, every word on the cover counts. Because let’s face it, I’m not sure I would have picked up the April 6 issue of a certain gossip magazine if the headline “540 Days Without Daddy: Why Tom Has Stayed Away From Suri” hadn’t screamed out at me.

Longer is not always better. I’ve been known to stress myself out when trying to come up with original content pertinent to our magazine. But when I flip through many magazines (and not just the celebrity ones) I find I enjoy the short “filler” pieces just as much as the in-depth articles. A few months ago I was reading a Facebook status from one of our local television news anchors, who often posts cute anecdotes about her kids. She had just picked up an Emmy, and I thought, “I should e-mail her and see if I can interview her for the magazine! I’ll bet our readers would love it.” I sent her a note that day, she responded immediately, and I sent her a few questions. We ran her interview with some snapshots of her kids and titled the short piece “Motherhood Musings.” She was thrilled, our readers enjoyed it, and the whole thing took hardly any time at all. So as silly as the “Night at Home with a Celebrity” column can look at first glance, it’s fun and entertaining for those of us who like to read about “lighter” topics from time to time.

Certain subjects can find a home in almost any magazine. Flipping through any one of my celebrity or women’s magazines, I find multiple articles focusing on nutrition, books, movies, fashion and exercise. Looking over the latest editorial budget for our magazine, we’ve got an article planned on “How to Make a Salad Your Kids Will Eat,” a picture book review, a column on maternity wear from our mommy fashion blogger, and a regular section on “Fit Fun,” which announces local races and sporting events families and kids.

So the next time I’m stumped on article ideas, this means I can head to the grocery store for my celebrity gossip fix and writing research, right? Are you addicted to any specific types of magazines? Do you ever use them to get ideas for your own writing?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who once got to interview celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton, and believes that never would have happened if not for her hopeless addiction to celebrity gossip. She blogs about pop culture, writing, books, and everything else in between at Renee's Pages.

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