Pros: Meaty advice, short engaging articles, showcase for winners
Cons: No flash, ads
The tag line does imply that everything is included that a writer might need. So when I picked up Writers' Journal recently at the bookstore, I wanted to see if it met the mark of what I was looking for in a writing journal given that I will now be devoting more time to the craft. Having taught writing to students and how to teach writing to teachers of writing, my expectations for a journal are rather lofty.
The slick picture on the front cover first allured me to Writers' Journal edited by Leon Ogroske. Before me is the March/April 2008 edition now in its twenty-ninth year. On the enticing cover are the headers advertising the contents. So this edition includes articles dealing with: self publishing, writing memoirs, tax advice based on whether one is writing as a hobby or professionally, and an article on promoting ones writing. In addition there are articles on poetry, marketing help and various contests sponsored by Val-Tech Media, the publisher of the magazine.
The saying charges that you can't judge a book by its cover, but can you judge a magazine by the cover art? Admittedly, when I opened the magazine and saw the format, I wasn't too impressed. But then I began to read the articles. Quickly my opinion started to shift. The magazine opens with ads. Does that surprise you? The paper is a cheap flat bond with all single color print.
On page two (which is actually the third page of print) the editor reviews the selections. All the particulars about the magazine's staff are also included on that page. The journal, I learn, is printed six times a year and has six contributing editors, a poetry editor and associate editor. Pencil sketches of the writer are included with each article. I thought it cheesy at first, but it becomes somewhat endearing as one continues through the articles. One also learns from this page that the subscription rate is $19.97 (see ads at the Epinions site for discounted subscription rates), and that the magazine also has a website at www.writersjournal.com. The website serves more as an advertisement for the journal.
Page three is the Table of Contents. Starting with the next page, the reading writer is off and running. Beginning with an article entitled Marketing Helps by Janet Elaine Smith, the magazine begins giving some solid help to writers. This article provides ideas of how to promote your published writing.
Lynne Pisano has an excellent idea for Massaging the Muse in her advice article by having a team of authors adding a chapter to a concept novel. Novel idea, right? Carolyn Howard-Johnson contributes a Vocabulary Review of the difference between Metaphor and Symbol. Christina Hamlett contributes the first of the longer articles as she writes about screenwriting. Angela Render gives advice on using the internet for promotion from doing simple bios to press kits.
One of the articles that impressed with urgency was the one written by Ronald Kness about selling spring photos. Gary Hensley writes about the difference in writing professionally or as a hobby. Carter Jefferson offers good words on memoir writing. The best article, for my needs, was one written by Rob Loughran. One can buy advice books on self-publishing, but Robs article gave better, more useful advice than most books I have encountered. He really does share the inside view of what it is like to self publish using technology that is available on the internet. I found his advice to be tremendously helpful.
Colleen Reece offers insights on multiple sales opportunities for materials. Spattered throughout the text are poems that have been submitted for poetry contests sponsored by the magazine. Most are in freestyle (sorry traditionalists), but certainly give courage to those who believe they can write publishable poetry.
The next sixteen pages of the magazine are winning entries into the contests sponsored by the magazine. Here I discovered a wonderful jewel. Amanda Dreher submitted a tremendous story called The Tyndale Cemetery. The short fiction piece is gripping. Guidelines for the contests are included. Articles continue after the winning entries including articles on humor writing, another article on promotion of writing, strategies, poetry, reducing word count, using language in characterization, and a marketing report.
As is customary, there are numerous ads included in Writers' Journal from vanity presses, editorial work, printers, etc. These have become common place in writing journals whether print or internet. Taken in totality, however, these ads constitute a very small part of the magazine. While most magazines seem more ads and very little useable information, the Writers Journal seems to be different. The meaty articles are chucked full of helpful information and advice from writers. While I haven't been familiar with this journal in the past, it has certainly impressed me with its heady advice. I look forward to using this journal in the future to promote my writing and helping others as I present workshops on writing. I highly recommend giving it a try.