Failed Queries: Don’t Give Up on a Good Story

Here is another failed query that worked — after two years of trying. My profile based on this pitch, originally drafted in 2012, is scheduled for publication later this month. Its subject is working on a second cookbook, which made for an ideal opportunity to revisit the query and send an updated version to markets I hadn’t tried in the past. For more strategies on following up, you can also check out my recent guest post on Carol Tice’s blog, Make a Living Writing.

Dear Ms. Editor:

Profile Subject began her career as a restaurant entrepreneur at the tender age of 22 when she opened a business in her hometown of Starkville, Miss. The restaurant and catering company specialized in Southern food with global influences. Owning a thriving business was an impressive accomplishment for a woman in her twenties, but it was a request from a catering client who wanted to host a Japanese-inspired party in sushi-starved Starkville that ignited Subject’s true passion and encouraged her to explore far beyond her culinary comfort zone.

That exploration began in earnest when Subject closed her businesses and moved to Memphis to work as a pastry chef before enrolling in the professional sushi chef program at the California Sushi Academy. While there, she studied under respected sushi chefs and sake sommeliers, taught classes, catered events and observed and worked in restaurant kitchens on her way to becoming the first female African American graduate of the school.

Subject then returned to Memphis where she worked at a now-defunct sushi restaurant and refined her specialty of creating sushi with a Southern twist using local and sustainable ingredients. After three years, she decided to leave her position and focus on teaching sushi classes, catering and occasionally creating “tsushi” for the restaurant where she had once worked as a pastry chef. She also shared her passion for Southern-inspired sushi through her book.

Would you be interested in a story about this entrepreneur and author who has created innovative rolls that include Southern staples like pickled okra but also shares basic recipes easy enough for anyone to follow? The story could be expanded to include other restaurateurs creating innovative ethnic cuisine or focus on Subject’s and other authors’ adventures with cookbook publishing and promotion. I would be happy to provide a source list that fits the angle of most interest to you.

As for my professional credentials, I have 15 of experience as a writing teacher as well as years of reporting experience as a freelancer and staff writer at publications around the country, including The Dallas Morning News. Most recently, I have been working on stories for publication by national magazines and blogs including SUCCESS, Eating Well, DRAFT Magazine, The FruitGuys Almanac and Organic Gardening.

Once I know which angles are of most interest to you, I would be happy to provide sidebar ideas, an estimated word count and a working title. Meanwhile, I have included a link to my resume and some writing samples should you be interested.


Charlene Oldham

Free photo from morgueFile
Free photo from morgueFile

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