Say Yes to Opportunity

Saturday, November 11, 2017
Build a platform. Specialize. We’re told to do this so we can build an audience and carve out a niche for ourselves in the world of publishing. And it isn’t bad advice.

But I’d like to suggest that you try something new. Say yes to opportunity. You might just surprise yourself and make a sale. After all, it’s how I built my writing career.

Although I started off writing picture books, it didn’t take me very long to start writing nonfiction. A writing buddy signed on as a magazine editor. She needed writers. I needed credits. I could drop her a note and she’d tell me what she needed. Then I’d bounce a few ideas off her and she’d say yes or no. Before long, I had built a short resume.

Then I saw a market update from READ magazine. The editor needed nonfiction so I pitched an article on distance swimmer Gertrude Ederle. “Can you write it as reader’s theater?” I could have said, “No, I don’t know anything about reader’s theater.” But that’s not how I operate. I said, “Sure!” Then I had to learn how to script a piece of reader’s theater. I studied how many parts there are for students, stage directions, and more. It sold and I had a new market to add to my resume.

The moral of the story: When an editor asks you to make a big change, give it a try. You might surprise yourself.

A few years ago my friend’s editor needed writers. “You’re good at nonfiction. You should give it a try.” The problem was that this was a book editor. I’d never written anything that long. This time my “yes” was a bit more reluctant. But their instructions were clear and I got to put my degrees to work. My first assignment came out in 2015 and I have ten more books in print.

The moral of the story: When someone with an in offers to help you out, give it a try. You might surprise yourself.

Most recently, I was asked to help organize a series of workshops in 2017. I very reluctantly said yes even though the first one was on the poetry in picture book writing. Poetry! Help! I wanted to have a clue what I was getting into so I read through several issues of Highlights Hello! which always features children's poetry. Reading on the treadmill, I got a feel for the rhythm of these super-short poems. By the time I was done rowing, I had an idea for a humorous piece called “Tiger Cat.” It sold this spring to none other than Highlights Hello!

The moral of the story: Don’t write off a form of writing you’ve never done. You might surprise yourself.

I’m not saying that every attempt is going to be met with success. But if you are still struggling to find a place for yourself in the world of publishing, try saying yes. Otherwise, you might miss the niche that's a perfect fit. 

Of course, my husband has made a suggestion. “What about trying a block buster series?”


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins January 8th, 2017.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Great advice, especially for writers like me who have gotten stuck in a rut when submitting. Submitting to only a couple of markets all the time doesn't allow me to grow or branch out.

Your last line had me chuckling. Family members who are not writers are always full of suggestions.

"Why don't you just publish your book yourself since you can't find a publisher?" (Well, I can't find a friend that likes it, either... I don't even like it.)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Excellent advice, Sue. I'm taking a humor writing class right now, and I'm not feeling very funny, so it's kind of weird, forcing myself to write funny. But it's good to step out of your comfort zone because, like you said, you might surprise yourself. Even if I find it hard to write funny, the lessons are helping me to find the humor in things. I love how you said yes to all those different genres. You are such a multi-talented writer who can write anything!

My husband is always suggesting I write a screenplay. Who knows. Maybe I will. :)

Margo Dill said...

I completely agree. This kind of goes along with a theme I was on this past month--what have you written that you never thought you would? That might just happen if you say YES to opportunity!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

He's serious about the series because he knows I have series ideas. Blockbuster is his funny bit. When he really wants to get me, he suggests I write an Oprah book. Sigh.

I don't know about anything. I think a straight up romance might be impossible. Although, I haven't actually tried! Thanks for the compliment and implanting that idea.

Definitely! I still have troubles considering the piece I sold a poem.


Renee Roberson said...

This is a great story of success, Sue. I've had to step outside of my comfort zone so many times over my career but it almost always pays off! I would love to attempt some humor like Angela is right now but I'm not sure that's my bag. I'm working for a theatre company right now and am seeing how different the writing is for plays. Maybe I'll tackle one of those next!

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