Failed Queries: Here’s one that worked — after a few tries

Since this month boasts five Tuesdays, I offer a query that actually worked in place of the usual Failed Queries feature — albeit not at the first publication I pitched. So, don’t trash a query after the first rejection. And, for freelancers who are curious about how a query might translate into a full-length piece, here is the resulting story. Happy Holidays!

Free photo from morgueFile
Free photo from morgueFile

Dear Ms. Editor:

Although the Man in Black is one of Arkansas’s most famous natives, little more than a roadside sign marks the site of Johnny Cash’s boyhood home in Dyess. Today, there are no attractions or interpretive sites open to the public in the Mississippi County town of 410, but that won’t be true for long. By combining state funds, private donations and proceeds from its first Johnny Cash Music Festival last year, Arkansas State University has raised approximately $1.4 million to restore the Cash family home, renovate the historic Administration Building and rejuvenate the Theater Building in the Dyess Colony Center. As part of its Arkansas Heritage Sites Program, the university will also reconstruct the outbuildings at the Cash farmstead, provide visitor services, install historic markers throughout the town and build a walking trail linking the Cash home and town center. The first phase of the project, including opening the Cash home and Colony Center Administration Building to visitors, is expected to be completed by June of next year.

In addition to its role as a country music pilgrimage site, the Dyess Colony represents a unique window into Depression-era America. The colony was one of the nation’s first agricultural resettlement communities built by the Works Progress Administration and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration to move families from failed farms into model communities. The colony’s Greek-Revival Administration building, dedicated by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1936, lay at the hub of a wagon wheel of farmsteads for 500 colonists. Those early colonists included Ray and Carrie Cash, who relocated from Kingsland, Ark., with three-year-old J.R. Cash and their other children that same year.

As a native of Northeast Arkansas, graduate of Arkansas State University and consummate country music fan, I feel uniquely qualified to write about this new heritage site, which I think would make an excellent subject for a travel feature. If you are interested, I could also expand the story to highlight the other Arkansas Heritage Sites, which include the Lakeport Plantation and the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center. Upcoming events, including this year’s Johnny Cash Music Festival and a creative writing retreat at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum, would also provide some excellent photo opportunities to complete a story package.

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 and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Most recently, I have been working on stories scheduled for publication by national magazines and blogs including SUCCESS, Eating Well 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: https://charleneoldham.com/writing-samples/ should you be interested. Finally, please contact me if you need any additional information or samples to consider this idea.

Best,
Charlene Oldham

“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

On Brazil and Dogs as Economic Indicators

Views from the Pousada in Paraty

 

 

 

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