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Open Letter to a Would-Be Current Freelancer, & Some Changes 'Round Here

(Note: this post is partially based on a response I wrote to a high school friend who queried about writing for us. I hope he does.)


“I’ve got this idea I wanna write about for the Current.”



Awesome.

 Because, truly, the Current is always looking for great freelance writers. Writers who know the city, its eateries and nightspots and peccadilloes and politicians and art venues and bands and history and culture. We’re always looking for leads and suggestions, too (write to us at queque@sacurrent.com if you have news tips!). There are only eight of us here, see, and while we’re not looking to hire any full-time writing staff at present*, we’re always looking for backup and fresh voices.

Wanna review art, music, restaurants, or bars? Want to contribute a cover feature on some local celebrity, or obtain a semi-regular column?



Here’s how to go about it.

1. We'd definitely wanna see a writing sample. Most writing, whether it’s bar reviews or celebrity interviews or political opinion essays, hinge absolutely on voice. The Current can forgive obscenity, absurdity, controversy, and heresy—hell, we enjoy it— but we need VOICE.

By this I mean the contrary to (most) daily-paper writing, which for obvious and justifiable reasons, is meant to be as bland, easy, and as digestible as possible. But we at the Current want to read stuff that sounds like somebody specific. Voice is the quality that differentiates David Sedaris from Mark Twain from Joan Didion; you can tell who the hell it is within a few sentences. Voice separates okay writing from memorable writing.  "A Modest Proposal" could’ve been a schlocky, puerile, gross piece of blogger ranting… except that the dry, deeply absurd voice of Jonathan Swift, with its nifty rhythm and simmering, humane anger, makes it one of the most brilliant satirical essays ever.

2. And we'll want an actual pitch: i.e., a proposal letter/e-mail with the very specific idea you have in mind, an idea of word count, and, optimally, a contextualizing of your piece with things we've already published, and where you think yours fits in; i.e., a demonstrated knowledge of the kind of writing the Current publishes, the sections of the book, titles of the columns, etc. Specifics, specifics, specifics whenever and wherever possible. Also, if you have a clip list of published writing, that would be awesome, but not 100% necessary. Just don't make us figure out where your writing fits, we've got our own writing to do.




See, there's Greg Harman, hard at work on the QueQue.

3. Ideally, you'd write a sample piece on spec, too. This would give us an idea of the idea, and an example of your writing skills. What does “on spec” mean? It means “on speculation”, i.e., for free, with zero guarantee that we’d publish it. Neither would we steal the damn thing, we promise. I can hear y'all out there, groaning.
Dude, I know.
Establishing yourself as a freelancer is not easy.
You can find more tips and advice here, here, and here, in fact.

Sorry to sound all formal, but...

4. See, the issue with approaching me (or anyone who works here) in conversation or on Facebook (or whatever) about writing for us: You thereby create more work for already- overworked and criminally-underpaid peeps. Saying “I wanna write something about goats” or “How’sabout something about bagpipe players?” tends to stall out on our end, solely because we don’t have time to come up with actual, farm-out-able stories around these nebulous (and ridiculous, example-for-the-sake-of-this-blog-post) ideas.

We may think, with genuine enthusiasm, “Damn, I'd bet a story about goats would be kick-ASS” ... and then we get back to work. We’re under constant deadline, and if we have to think up ways to sell our editor on your idea, there's got a to be an actual PITCH there, rather than saying  "a person who seems quite bright has this sort of, um, goat notion? But I've never read her writing..."



Does that make sense?

5. And it helps to know what we publish, what we cover and how and by whom, and what we HAVE covered, rather than, say,  “shouldn't the Current cover Liberty Bar's move?” Because, as was planned way ahead of time, we DID do a feature on the Liberty Bar's move ... the feature came out the day before somebody wrote me asking about writing about it.


So, some tips, to sum up:

1. We'd want a pitch (find info on writing pitches here— it's about national magazines, but still applies), with a writing sample (preferably published, a clip list would be awesome, links to work online equally awesome). There is no way we'd commit to running something without ever having read your writing. While being previously-published helps, there’s a chance that even a brand-spankin’ new writer could join our pages. Seriously.

2. We'll next most likely want a spec piece, with a cover letter demonstrating knowledge of the Current and where you think the piece fits in. Once we use you once, then in  order to use you regularly, you need to establish that you're good with deadlines and turn in clean copy (meaning minimal misspellings, grammatical errors, or factual mistakes); again, don’t make extra work for us.

So, wanna send a writing sample/clip list and write a spec piece, with the understanding that we may very well NOT pick it up, and that we pay VERY LITTLE?



Let me know.
I really hope you do. I would like to read it.

You can reach me at sfisch@sacurrent.com.

In all seriousness,
Sarah

*There have been a couple recent changes in this staff-of-8-writers, which I’d like to hep y’all to. We’ve bid a sad and fond adios to our own Gilbert Garcia, an award-winning political and music writer from Edinburg, Texas who even went to Harvard and shit, and who wrote for the Current for six years. Gilbert has decamped for the better-paying pastures of some local daily. Other sources maintain he’s now taking ice core samples in Antarctica. Bundle up, Gilbert!

Also, Mark Jones, our longtime “On the Street” blogger, feature and review writer, calendar editor since this Spring, and originator/writer of our popular “Travels with Frenchie” food series, has left us to become a Physician’s Assistant. Apparently that takes a hell of a lot of schooling. We think he’ll be an excellent PA, and we hope he continues freelancing for us, as he promised.

We’ll miss Gilbert and Mark an awful lot, y'all. We'll always be proud to call them our friends and colleagues.

However, we’ve gained, in the political/music arena, the phenomenally talented Enrique Lopetegui, past contributor to the LA Times and music editor of the late Rumbo, and whose first offerings as a Current full-timer you can read in this week’s issue. He started off by freelancing for us a while back, and impressed us with his intelligence and humor, his knowledge of music and politics, and general awesomeness. He hails from Uruguay, but his firstborn kid (with his wife artist/Say Sí staffer Guillermina Zabala, originally from Argentina, if I'm not mistaken) who's due this Fall, will be a native San Antonian!

We’re also ecstatic about the addition of San Anto's own Bryan Rindfuss, who Jones thinks so much of, he even trained Bryan to replace him. This review Bryan wrote of the Mine Shaft Saloon is hilarious, economical, and chock-full of that elusive quality, voice. That voice recently began animating the calendar and other bar reviews. He’s also a brilliant photographer, having made the image for our Pride Issue in June, below.



And this album-cover worthy uh, cover featuring the Cartographers:



Welcome, Enrique and Bryan.
And potentially-welcome, everybody.

Posted by sarah fisch on 8/12/2009 9:20:27 PM
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