SOME GUIDELINES FOR NEW WRITERS FOR MNARTISTS.ORG
As you'll glean from looking over some of the earlier profiles, features, essays, interviews, and reviews published on the website, the tone we're aiming for, on the whole, is informal; we love writing that is smart but conversational. We're striving for erudition with a friendly, inviting voice, and with that we're hoping that the arts writing and criticism we publish will serve the needs of both a general, art-curious audience as well as the more niche, professionally oriented interests of the more than 15,000 artists who utilize the site to display their work. We're also aiming for this writing to provide an easily navigable entry point for the artwork and resources available on mnartists.org and, by extension, in the larger regional arts community. You can presume that your readers have some familiarity with and interest in the arts, but please be sure to include enough background information in your stories to acquaint the non-expert with discipline-specific issues, people, and argot.
LOGISTICS TO BEAR IN MIND AS YOU PITCH YOUR STORIES TO US
How to pitch your idea for an article (or yourself as a new writer) for mnartists.org:
A word about simultaneous submissions and writing articles on spec:
We do occasionally pick up a piece for publication sent to us cold -- not often, but sometimes. If you send an unsolicited finished piece to me, allow me two-three weeks to respond to you. On the other hand, if I'm unsure about your topic choice, or angle of approach, or you simply don't have much to show me to give an idea of your writing voice, I may invite you submit an article you pitch to me on spec. That is, if you're game, you go ahead and write the piece you suggest, and send it to me for consideration by an agreed-upon deadline; if I accept the piece for publication, we agree upon a rate of pay and proceed to publish your article on mnartists.org. If I decide to pass on the piece, I'll provide feedback. You can expect a response to invited articles, written on spec, within a week of submission.
About simultaneous submissions: generally, my advice is to avoid submitting the same piece to more than one publication for consideration at the same time. Editors tend to frown on the practice because they don't want to spend time working with a piece-reading it, maybe doing a bit of editing on it-only to find out it's been snapped up already when they're ready to proceed with publication. On the other hand, writers like simultaneous submissions because they figure it improves their chances of seeing their work rewarded with expeditious publication. If you are submitting your piece to a number of publications at the same time, it's good form to make it clear that you're doing so to each of the editors you're approaching for publication.
How much time before you follow up with me on a pitch you've sent?
Editorial types are notoriously harried individuals, with time thinly spread over too many projects. To be honest, I'm no different. If I can use a piece, I'll probably decide to take it relatively quickly. (Refusal notes tend to be longer in coming; they're much less fun to write.) But, even with the best of intentions, your pitch may fall to the bottom of the pile if things get busy. So, if it's been a couple of weeks and you've not gotten a verdict yet, please feel free to follow-up with me. But please do give me a couple of weeks to get back to you; the wheels grind slowly sometimes, especially if you're making an unsolicited submission or pitching me cold.
SOME GENERAL EDITORIAL NOTES TO KEEP IN MIND
Touch base with me frequently, especially if you run into any trouble: Keep me posted as you write a piece. If you run into any logistical trouble, it's especially important to keep the lines of communication open. Potential obstacles for successful completion of a piece run the gamut: the gallery whose show you want to review is never open when they're supposed to be, your comp tickets still haven't arrived the day before the show, your interview subject won't get back to you, you're going to miss a deadline, etc. I can be a valuable ally in overcoming such hurdles, and can often wrangle recalcitrant factors into submission or even adjust your deadline to accommodate unforeseen delays. But I can only help if I know what's going on.
A longtime standby - "Track Changes" and MS Word: It's in your interest to familiarize yourself with Microsoft Word, in all its glory, since it's still the application of choice for many publications' editorial process. Especially, the "track changes" tool is useful-allowing an editor to make changes in your text, but to make them transparently. You can go back through and see precisely what edits were made, switching back and forth between the "final showing markup" and clean, more reader-friendly "final" version via a simple pull-down menu. As editing has migrated from red pencil to email-"track changes" has become invaluable.
Quickly overtaking MS Word, and the platform I've come to prefer for editorial back-and-forth, is the online, "cloud"-based program, Google Drive: This web-based platform for creating/editing/collaborating on text is especially useful for cross-platform publishing and editing (e.g. you have a Mac, I have a PC, and our respective word processing software programs don't play nicely together). I use this frequently with our writers, and it works beautifully - and with less visual mess and HTML coding artifacts than are left by MS Word/Track Changes.
If all else fails: Just cut and paste the text of your piece into the body of an email. That's always fine by me.
The Editorial Dance: Writing for publication is a highly collaborative process, so please try not to bristle if we request a bit of revision, clarification, or a few cosmetic changes. I aim to provide a safety net for our writers, a pair of eyes by which to run your work before it's released into the wild. My aim is simply to make sure you, as the writer, are expressing just what you mean to say; that what you're communicating is as tightly expressed, accurate, and lucidly stated as possible; and that the finished piece is beautiful and relevant to readers by the time it goes on the page.
That said, I do think of this as a back-and-forth process. I just ask that you try to be easygoing about the small stuff and save your counterpoint requests for the bigger, more substantial points of contention. You'll see any major edits before publication, but be aware that time constraints may prevent your seeing every editing change, especially copyediting sorts of modifications.
A word about peripherals - video, images, and hyperlinks (oh my)
Take advantage of the rich reading experience possible with online publishing! Thoughtful hyperlinking is a wonderful tool for offering helpful layers of context and information - I'm happy to add those links for you during the editing process, but I encourage you to begin writing for the medium in which you'll be published on mnartists.org, to begin thinking beyond just putting text on the screen. Web-based writing allows for all manner of cross-media pollination -- images, audio, video, and the like -- and we take advantage of as many of those resources as possible for our articles.
A bit about the larger context for your writing on mnartists.org:
Our hope is that by highlighting an eclectic array of events, writers, and talented artists in every discipline (especially those with intriguing stories and something timely to say) in the articles we publish to the site, we'll help give faces to some of the remarkable people toiling away to create great work in this huge community of artists on mnartists.org. Your audience for writing on mnartists.org is comprised of artists and arts enthusiasts, at every level of expertise, who hail from all over the state. This community of artists and arts organizations has just grown by leaps and bounds in recent years: as of December 2009, over 15,000 artists have webpages on mnartists.org, and they have collectively posted nearly 100,000 pieces of artwork representing every artistic discipline-music, the visual arts, dance, theater, design, architecture, film, and literature. Our arts writing archive is home to hundreds of original articles, dating from the site's inception in 2004 to the present.
With the success of mnartists.org, though, comes the challenge of making this database of artwork and arts resources easily accessible by the audience that needs to find it. We're always aware that as this online community grows and the information available becomes more varied and complex, the danger is that mnartists.org will become so large that it would be frustrating for a nonexpert user to navigate to the kind of work they'll really like. And, at its core, the mnartists.org project is about connecting people with art they'll resonate with, and it's about getting lots of different kinds of artwork displayed in a way that is inviting for the public to browse.
Where the writing comes in: What's needed, then, is a guide through the wealth of offerings that spring from this arts community: we're looking for writing that points out some of the best, most interesting stuff in a way that encourages readers to seek out more; we want arts criticism which brings the work being made locally into a broader public conversation and that facilitates actively engaged, informed discourse about that artwork.
We want our readers to find something in common with the artists in this community and to, most importantly, feel encouraged to come on out and participate themselves. If we do our jobs well, we may end up wooing people into participating in the arts available locally who might otherwise not feel hip enough to join in-we might just get them in theater seats, at gallery openings, and in concerts and arts venues they might not otherwise find.
More than 75,000 unique visitors browse through mnartists.org's articles, artwork, and professional resources each month. We also have content-sharing arrangements with a few small, local media outlets. Those partnerhships have included The Twin Cities Daily Planet, Minnesota Playlist, Rain Taxi Review of Books, MinnPost.com, and a handful of others. You may occasionally see your articles reprinted in those outlets. (Note: If you would like to remove your writing for mnartists.org from being picked up for reprint by our media partners, you may do so; but you'll need to express that to me in writing (email is fine) as soon as the assignment is made so I can make a note of it.)
We welcome new writers to submit pitches or articles to be considered for publication! As much as mnartists.org is committed to providing a professional platform for both seasoned and emerging arts writers, the truth is - we only benefit through the addition of fresh voices! The writing we publish, and the arts community we cover with that writing, is only stronger when a diversity of informed voices enter the conversation. So, please - if you're interested in joining in, don't hesitate to get in touch. I look forward to hearing your story ideas!
Editor, mnartists.org and access+ENGAGE