Failed Query: Timely Research Can Kill a Query

This failed query illustrates the dangers of using research (in this case, a survey from November 2012) that may be considered time sensitive as the crux of a pitch to a monthly magazine that could have a six-month lead time.

Dear Ms. Editor:

A survey released in November shows an increasing number of shoppers are willing to pay a premium for American-made goods, even if those consumers call China home. Indeed, more than 60 percent of Chinese consumers said they are willing to pay more for products made in the U.S.A., and 80 percent of American consumers agreed according to recent research from The Boston Consulting Group. These taste trends and other factors lead BCG to estimate the U.S. could add 5 million new jobs in manufacturing and related services by the end of the decade.

Patriotism and cache aren’t the only factors behind those findings. Consumers who buy brands made in the U.S. know more about the wages and working conditions of the people who sew their clothes. And locally sourced clothing carries added benefits for the environment since it doesn’t have to be shipped as far from its factory to store shelves.

I would like to propose a story for XX that examines the resurgence in U.S. manufacturing. I could also provide readers with five to 10 brands that make fashion-forward clothes and accessories domestically. Some suggestions include Prairie Well, Barbara Lesser, School House and Red Ants Pants. I would be happy to provide a longer list of brands depending on what types of clothes you’d like to feature. I can also give you an idea of length, art and sidebars once you decide on a specific angle that best fits your needs.

As for my professional credentials, I have a decade 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 scheduled for publication by national magazines and blogs including SUCCESS, Eating Well, DRAFT Magazine, Poets & Writers and WOW! Women On Writing.

To avoid clogging your inbox with attachments, I have included a link to my resume. You can also find some writing samples at: should you be interested.


Charlene Oldham

Free Photo from MorgueFile

Free Photo from MorgueFile

“If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?”

Views from the Pousada in Paraty

In response to to today’s Daily Post Writing 101 assignment, which asks, “If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?” I am republishing an old entry about Brazil. Although I would not necessarily like to be there in the midst of World Cup madness, I long to go back and am sure I will someday sooner than later.

My boyfriend and I recently spent almost two weeks traveling along the coast of Brazil, making stops in São Paulo, Paraty and Rio de Janeiro before visiting friends in Ubatuba. Along the way, we enjoyed a small cross section of the scenery, culture, and food of the South American country, including a dinner at

Views from the Pousada

Views from the Pousada in Paraty

Caminho do Ouro, an intimate mãe-and-pai restaurant that served some of the most delicious seafood and risotto I have ever encountered. To our surprise, the only other diner at the restaurant spoke fluent English thanks to his time studying art in Denver in the late 1970s. That diner and former Denverite was Aécio Sarti, a well-known painter who, along with the devoted dog waiting against the glass front door of the restaurant, calls Paraty home. Sarti shared stories about his art, his time in America, and the reason so many of the friendly stray dogs on Paraty’s streets enjoy good health and full bellies. Turns out many of the historic town’s residents feed the strays, and some even nab them for periodic visits to the town’s vets, who treat them at a discount. Sarti’s canine bodyguard had been among those ranks, but proved “too sticky” to shake according to the artist who, of course, named him “Glue.”

Used by permission from the artist

In my time there, I was often confronted by the two faces of Brazil, which seemed to be firmly in the first world in some respects and mired in the third in others. It’s a beautiful and resource-rich country struggling to update its infrastructure in time to take the international stage during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics and a fast-growing economic engine where the public schools run in two shifts to combat crowding. And, while it has garnered praise from the World Bank “for progress in reducing social and economic inequality,” considering a third of the population of its two largest cities still live in favelas, it clearly has a long way to go on the path toward parity (as do most nations, including my own). But if Brazilians’ appreciation of good food, innovative art, and stray dogs are any indicator, it’s making some significant strides in that direction.  Personally, I can’t wait to visit again to see just how far it’s come.

Fruit is always on the menu in Brazil

Cleansing the Body, Muddling the Mind

I’m in the middle of a 10-day food cleanse right now and it seems to be going well. I can’t say I’ve adhered to the guidelines without fail. But I have been following the “rules” for the most part, and my body already looks and feels a little different as a result.

This got me thinking about what a 10-day mind cleanse might look like. Would it entail only reading classic literature and cutting out television. Maybe I could add news programming and PBS during the last few days. Should I avoid the computer all together, or just social media sites like Facebook? And what about music? Would a 10-day diet of only classical music leave my mind a more detoxified place?

There are many resources for those who strive to practice clean eating, but what of clean thinking? Too bad there isn’t a list of detailed ingredients on the back of every novel or magazine, something to warn readers the contents were nothing but the literary equivalent of trans fats.

For now, I’m satisfied with my start on detoxifying my body, but I aim to do the same thing for my brain later this summer, before too many deadlines and the specter of school beginning again draw my attention away. Meanwhile, I’m always open to suggestions on how to make my mind a more pure place.


Free Photo from MorgueFile

Free Photo from MorgueFile

Next Stop: Procrastination Station

I am working on a story right now that I’m having a hard time finishing. And, when I say I am “working” on it, I’m using the verb in the loosest way possible. Fact is, I haven’t lifted a finger to complete this story in weeks, maybe even months. Sure, I’ve had plenty of excuses as to why I couldn’t work on the piece. Grades were due. Other deadlines loomed larger. I had to take my cat to the vet.

The truth is I am a bit stuck on the story, which is a travel feature on the part of the world where I was born. Perhaps the proverbial saying that familiarity breeds contempt is just too true in this case, and I can’t really see why anyone would go out of their way to visit the Arkansas Delta unless there was a Thanksgiving turkey and fat slice of coconut cake waiting for them at the end of the rutted road.

But the assignment — and The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge on list making —  led me to reflect on some of my favorite ways to procrastinate, which I have explored all too thoroughly in recent weeks and also enumerated below.

1. Work on something completely unrelated to the task at hand – I call it productive procrastination. Sure, taking on a 15-day Blogging 201 challenge improved the appearance and content of my blog and I do need to transcribe some notes from that interview project I’ve been researching for more than a year, but is now really the time?

2. Run errands – Although I am not a prolific shopper, I will not hesitate to take a trip to the bank or post office in the middle of the day or even create an elaborate grocery list that can take hours to fill. I think one of the secret pitfalls of working from home is the allure of running weekday errands when destinations are “less crowded.”

3. Exercise – It’s another form of productive procrastination. Days when I want to avoid my desk are the perfect time to double the length of a leisurely walk or add a few reps from one of the workouts in my latest fitness obsession, 30-Day Fitness Challenges.

4. Cook – There is nothing quite as satisfying as concocting an elaborate batch of prosciutto-wrapped, cherry-stuffed chicken breasts or crafting a three-layer cake when a deadline is imminent. After all, why drive to Arkansas when I can bake my own coconut cake right here at home?

5. Let online research devolve into aimless internet surfing – Okay, so I’m on Level 181 of Candy Crush Saga. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?

Please share your favorite ways to procrastinate. I need some new ideas.

Free Photo from Photo Pin

Free Photo from Photo Pin

photo credit: <a href=””>I Believe I Can Fry</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

Come to The Dark Side: Tips on Writing Press Releases

Even Luke Skywalker was tempted by The Dark Side and, at some point in their careers, most reporters and writers will be, too.

“Star Wars” analogies aside, there are many reasons to learn how to write press releases, even if you never do paid public relations work.  Knowing how to write an effective press release can come in handy for the small business owner who wants to get the word out about her company, for organizers of charity events and other fundraising efforts, or for authors and artists who want to publicize their newest self-published book or other work. And, while it can feel odd at first to toot your own horn and bang your own drum, there’s really nothing wrong with being your own one-man band when you’ve got something newsworthy or unique to share.

With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to write an effective press release.

Good Press Releases:

  • are newsworthy.
  • have an attention-getting headline and lead.
  • are accurate, objective, and contain sources for follow-up calls and contacts.
  • take into account impact on the public and classic news values including proximity and timeliness.

So, what can you do to generate a newsworthy press release?

  • emphasize ties with current events
  • conduct a survey
  • issue a report
  • interview a celebrity
  • tie in with a holiday
  • stage a special event
  • organize a tour
  • adapt national reports for the local market
  • hold a contest
  • address a controversy

Once you’ve got something newsworthy to write about:

  • identify your audience and tailor your writing. Would an editor at the local newspaper be interested, or is your news better suited for a trade magazine that specializes on covering your industry?
  • decide whether the release will be news oriented or feature oriented. Are you holding a meatball eating contest or did you just release a blockbuster new product that will double the size of your workforce? Your writing style should reflect the content of the release.
  • write an attention-getting headline, then identify the theme and put it in the lead. Your reader should know immediately what your release is about.
  • include information in the body of the release to support the theme and weave in lots of strong quotes from sources. Even if a reporter develops his or her own story from a press release, these quotes will sometimes be used word for word, making them a great way to get your message out.
  • take the time to send your release to the right person. Don’t just send your press release to the generic email address listed on a newspaper, television station, or magazine’s contact page. Find the address of a specific editor or reporter and send your release directly. That being said, make sure your release is actually worth reading. If it is, you are likely to at least garner some respect for your company or cause, even if you don’t generate positive publicity.

I can say from personal experience that these tips really work. I’ve written or edited a number of press releases on a volunteer basis for everything from my fiance’s country band to a friend’s non-profit wine bar, and each release has generated multiple stories. This semester, some of my students found similar success when their releases resulted in stories or even ran verbatim in the local daily newspaper.

So, feel free to explore The Dark Side, because it might not be so bad after all.


Food Prepared With Love Is a Work of Art

A work of art

A work of art –

Check out The Daily’s Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge to share your own interpretation of what constitutes a work of art.