Call Me

I love it when editors call. Some editors call because they want a woman’s perspective on my hobby—aviation. Only six percent of pilots are women, so I’m kind of a novelty. Some editors call for reprints on essays or articles that made them laugh. Some editors call because they want an article on a topic a staffer doesn’t have time to write. In 2003 a call came from an editor representing a magazine that I’d never written for, nor queried. He explained that he was preparing the special annual edition of WaterFlying magazine for the spring and would I consider writing an article on Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base in Winter Haven, Florida? The edition would feature seaplane bases and schools around the world. Okay, so this editor called because he needed a writer in Winter Haven. When asked how he learned about me, he said he’d picked up my business card from a writing colleague who could not accept the assignment. Okay, so I’m the SECOND choice, but not too proud to accept a hand-me-down. He offered $500. I knew the place well enough to avoid the second pot of coffee of the day. I knew the people, like the Japanese pilots who gathered on the back porch to photograph alligators, and the instructor Rennie who wrote THE book on seaplane training. The owner, Jon Brown, lived on my block. I knew the myths and legends and history of the base that was, coincidentally, celebrating its 40th year of operation. Familiar and newsworthy, this place taught stick and rudder flying in cloth-covered, slow-moving aircraft. This place humbled Air Force fighter pilots and thrilled private pilots. Brown’s Seaplane Base sat on the lakeside edge of the Winter Haven airport. It was where I learned to fly. As one of the few, the cheap and the brave who learned to fly a land plane at a seaplane base, this story felt like mine to tell. The editor didn’t care that I had never taken a lesson in a seaplane. He wanted me to capture the people and the place. Astronauts, celebrities and foreign pilots learned to fly seaplanes at Brown’s. Commander Kenneth Bowersox emailed from the International Space Station to his favorite instructor—at Brown’s. The fraternity of instructors at Brown’s connected seaplane pilots from around the globe and many dropped in for coffee and storytelling. Brown’s appeared in the credits of movies. On a trip to Alaska, my husband and I signed up for a seaplane ride over a glacier. The pilot had taught at Brown’s. Who could call such a fun assignment work? The gang gave an odd mix of reactions when interviewed since they knew me as a pilot and friend instead of as a writer. Somewhere between “spell my name right” and “is this on the record?” they shared their passion for the base. The instructors described the “Armstrong” starter on the J3-Cub as I dutifully jotted notes. It was only later when I saw them hand-prop the cub that I knew I’d been had. The dears. These are the same guys who tried to explain to me the tradition of cutting out the back of a shirt when someone solos. For women, they said straight-faced, they cut out the front. After the article appeared in WaterFlying magazine the gang at Brown’s gave me their sign of approval—they asked when the next article would be published. They, too, liked seeing their names in print (anywhere but the Post Office). I queried Pipers magazine because the seaplane base relied on Piper aircraft for 40 years of training. Pipers gladly bought the reprint. With guilty pleasure, I cashed the checks. After these articles were published, hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne all passed within fifteen miles of Brown’s Seaplane Base. Frances took off the roof. Frances is also the name of the owner’s wife. Do you think I’ll let this aviation news pass without reporting on it? I’ve done the background research, I have the clips to show about the base. Lemme see. Now which aviation magazine would pay the best for such a story? Call me shameless, call me published. Call me if you’re an editor. __________________________ Joni M. Fisher, author of South of Justice, is a writer and an instrument-rated private pilot who lives in Central Florida and North Carolina. She is a reporter for General Aviation News when she isn’t working on her Compass Crimes Series. See her website: www.jonimfisher.com.

Finding Your Writing Topics

Jot down a list of every category of topics in which you speak the language, are an expert, know an expert, have an insatiable desire to learn more about, or enjoy as a hobby. The list below comes from the The Writer’s Market. Under each category of topics, The Writer’s Market lists the publications that buy articles on these topics. Use the following list to jog your memory.

  • Advertising, marketing and PR
  • Animals
  • Architecture
  • Art, design and collectibleswriting
  • Astrology, Metaphysics, New Age
  • Automotive and motorcycle
  • Aviation and space
  • Beauty and salon
  • Business and finance
  • Business and management
  • Career, College and Alumni
  • Child care & Parenting
  • Church administration and ministry
  • Clothing
  • Confectionery & snack foods
  • Construction and contracting
  • Consumer Service
  • Contemporary culture
  • Detective and crime
  • Disabilities
  • Drugs, healthcare & medical products
  • Education and counseling
  • Electronics and communication
  • Energy and utilities
  • Engineering and technology
  • Entertainment
  • Ethnic and minority
  • Farming
  • Finance
  • Fishing
  • Florists, nurseries and landscapers
  • Food and drink
  • Games and puzzles
  • Government & public service
  • Health and fitness
  • History
  • Hobby & craft
  • Home and garden
  • Home furnishings and household goods
  • Hospitals, nursing homes and nursing
  • Hotels, motels, clubs, resorts
  • Humor
  • Inflight (magazines for frequent flyers)
  • Information systems
  • Insurance
  • Jewelry
  • Journalism & writing
  • Juvenile
  • Law
  • Literary & Little
  • Machinery and metal
  • Maintenance and safety
  • Management and supervision
  • Marine and maritime industries
  • Medical
  • Men’s
  • Military
  • Music
  • Mystery
  • Nature, Conservation and ecology
  • Office equipment
  • Personal computers
  • Pets
  • Photography
  • Plumbing, heating and Air conditioning
  • Printing
  • Politics and world affairs
  • Psychology & self-improvement
  • Real estate
  • Regional
  • Relationships
  • Religious
  • Resources & water reduction
  • Retirement
  • Romance & confession
  • Rural
  • Science
  • Science fiction, fantasy and horror
  • Selling and merchandising
  • Sex
  • Sports
  • Sport trade
  • Stone, quarry & mining
  • Teen & young adult
  • Toy, novelty and hobby
  • Transportation
  • Travel, camping and trailer
  • Women’s

Have your list in hand? Okay. Here you go. The top 10 most profitable topics to write about are:

  • Business and finance
  • Diet & nutrition
  • Essays
  • Fitness and sports
  • Health
  • Home and garden
  • Parenting
  • Profiles & true-life features
  • Technology & science
  • Travel

Do not despair if your list doesn’t match the top ten! See how you can relate your list of topics to the top ten. Tie in your knowledge base with the big selling topics.

Let’s say you checked off MUSIC as a topic. What do you know about music and fitness? Or music and technology? The business of music? Profiles of musicians? Music as therapy? The best music for working out? Because MUSIC is not one of the most profitable topics—you can be the go-to expert more quickly. Tie music to one of the most profitable topics and you are most likely to catch the editor’s interest and present material from a fresh perspective.

When I took up flying, I started subscribing to aviation magazines. The more I read, the more I realized there were few articles written by women or written from a woman’s perspective. After publishing my first article in an aviation magazine, editors started calling me. Only six percent of pilots are women. As a woman in a male-dominated field, I became something of a novelty. I have since come to know the few other women writers in aviation and we each have our distinctive style. Mine is humor, but I have been called upon for straight reporting work as well. A few examples of my aviation writing are found on the General Aviation News website. Other examples are also on this website.

Writing about a hobby and making money doing it is unfettered joy! I even published an essay about the fun of writing about what you love in an essay titled “Call Me Shameless.”

So what would you LOVE to write about? Brainstorm your topics with tie-ins to the most popular topics editors buy. Work can be fun. Make it so.

Next week:

Generating Story Ideas.

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