From the Pitcher’s Mound: Lessons Learned in Freelancing

I’m not sure if it was steely confidence or complete naivety that sparked my initial foray into freelance writing. I was 18 with dissolved enthusiasm to spend four years at university. Instead, I wanted to move to the west coast and live there, just because. How I would survive and finance the venture was secondary.

I had recently attended an environmental conference in Ottawa with the likes of David Suzuki, Raffi and a young Penan native named Mutang from Malaysia. I knew I wanted to be an eco-warrior-slash-writer of sorts, of Suzuki proportions, and preferably a paid one. At the conference I picked up a skinny magazine called Cockroach that targeted hopeful, earth-conscious youths like me, eager  to put a stop to the bear bile trade, the destruction of Clayoquot Sound and rainforest slaughter worldwide. I wrote to the editor, Sam Roddick (whose mother was the founder of The Body Shop), and begged for a job of any sort. I could write, I could draw. I’d work for free if she could provide accommodations.

And that was my first gig—sometimes all you have to do is ask. Sam provided accommodations in a household of eclectic, empowered sorts, complete with a dog, a Persian that slept in a shoebox, a cross-eyed Siamese and a $400 paycheque to boot. I’d never felt so rich.

The magazine folded some nine months later, but, I had writing chops now! Watch out world!

With my Cockroach experience I was ready to take on the giants: Chatelaine and Maclean’s. I wrote a power piece titled “The Female Who Doesn’t E-mail.” It was 1996, and I thought I was Last of the Mohicans without an email address (I am still a Mohican but changed my moniker to The Female Who Doesn’t Have a Cell Phone). The manuscript wasn’t properly indented or spaced. I had no query letter—I didn’t bother to read the writer’s guidelines (I don’t think I even knew such things existed). I hadn’t even read an issue of either magazine for years. The content was totally inappropriate for both magazines, but, I was on my Cockroach-cocky high and mailed both manuscripts with remarkable novice anticipation.

I was rejected by Chatelaine and Maclean’s. They each sent a polite stock letter saying they appreciated my interest and contribution, but it wasn’t exactly what they were looking for at this time. Or ever, probably.

Fast forward fifteen years or so. I’m sure that initial manuscript is pinned to some corkboard in the Maclean’s lunchroom as an example of what not to do, and, what the hell was she thinking?

Naturally, I’d still like to see my work in Chatelaine, it was a staple in our home for decades. I might need a political science degree to write for Maclean’s though. In star-speckled dreams I see my bylines in Toronto Life, enRoute, gridTO, Zoomer—any magazine that will have me really.  I’m a little savvier with the writer’s guidelines now, having realized that a critical component of writing is researching compatible markets for your style and niche.

For my writerly friends, vets or virgins, who are ready to take a stab at the market, you’ll find the submission guidelines for my favourite mags below.  It is essential to know the magazine intimately, and to have read several issues to grasp the foundation and purpose of the publication. Otherwise, you might as well be on a blind date.

See you in the centrefold?


Toronto Life Editor: Sarah Fulford

A glossy, snappy expose on what makes Toronto vibrate and hum, Toronto Life is the perfect resource for insiders and outsiders who want to know the best places to be and be seen.

Article submissions and questions about articles should be sent to:

Editorial Department
Toronto Life, Urban Group, St. Joseph Media Corp
Queen Richmond Centre
Toronto, ON

Or send an e-mail to:

No simultaneous submissions or material that has been previously published. Not responsible for the return or loss of unsolicited manuscripts. They try to respond to all submissions as quickly as possible. However, due to volume, the process may take several weeks.

ZOOMER Magazine Editor-in-Chief: Suzanne Boyd

My mother keeps the back issues for me (I trade her for my Toronto Life subscription). The intended audience is for the 40+ set, but the focus on lifestyle, retirement and its associated indulgences makes for an engaging read.

Writers guidelines

Please note that you will only hear back from us in the event your query is being considered for publication in Zoomer Magazine.

The Grid Editor-in-Chief: Laas Turnbull

Formerly the eyeweekly, GridTO is a necessary cultural and nocturnal map for Toronto’s scene. You’ll know where to eat, sip, lounge and gather because this mag knows the pulse of the city and all that makes it thrive.

enRoute magazine Editor-in-Chief: Ilana Weitzman

The bible of Air Canada, enRoute introduces our already vacationing minds to other destinations with teasers on fab restos, gadgets, festivals and must-do’s around the world.

Chatelaine Editor: Jane Francisco

As Canadian as apple pie, poutine and Jann Arden, Chatelaine has been with us as long as our best friends from elementary school. It is a best friend—reliable, thought-provoking and all-knowing.

DWELL Editor-in-Chief: Sam Grawe

Pure design and architectural porn that is relevant whether you find sanctuary in an urban condo, rental basement apartment or a palatial pad with acreage. It generates ideas and dreams simultaneously.

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