*We’re interviewing award-wining writer, Meryl Davids Landau, whose work has appeared in Glamour, O The Oprah Magazine, More, U.S. News & World Report, Self, Redbook, The Huffington Post and Whole Living and Reader’s Digest. Her work was nominated for a prestigious National Magazine Award. She is also a certified yoga teacher and recently became a debut author with Downward Dog, Upward Fog!
She’s here to give us the 411 on Magazine Writing! Without further ado, here is the interview:
1. Meryl, you’ve written for national magazines for over 20 years. Why did you decide to pursue a life in writing?
I’ve always loved to write. I adore that feeling when you’re plugged in and the words are flowing out your fingertips, and then (usually after a number of revisions), having something that will interest, inspire or intrigue people who read it. When I first got out of college, though, I figured I should aim for a more “practical” career, so I started in public relations. I found pretty quickly that what I most liked to do in that job was the writing, while the other parts didn’t excite me. After a few years I switched to magazine writing. I freelanced for magazines for more than 15 years before I started my novel. Today I do both fiction and nonfiction writing, plus blogging for Huffington Post and other sites. I think the combination of various types of writing keeps it fresh for me.
2. I think that’s one of the best facets of writing. It’s a a career that allows you to keep trying new things and expand into new areas of interest. Since you’ve written for so many famous publications, do you have any tips for pitching to a magazine like Reader’s Digest or O, The Oprah Magazine?
My advice for people who want to write for large national magazines is to first get experience writing for lesser known publications on the same general topics you want to write about for the big publications. (I often write about health, especially holistic health.) Then read several issues of the magazine so you can see the kinds of stories they favor. Finally, come up with several great ideas that fit their parameters and flesh them each out to several-paragraph queries. Magazine editors often assign articles to writers they don’t know because the ideas they’ve come to them with prove irresistible.
3. And how exactly did you contact these magazines?
The best way to find contacts is by looking at a magazine’s masthead. Editors are usually broken down by the topics they cover. (If they’re not, you can always call the main number for the magazine and ask who edits, say, their parenting or fitness (or whatever) stories. Targeting your query to the right editor is very important, because most are too overworked to forward a wayward idea, no matter how good, to the right editor. On the topic of rejections, it’s important to remember that rejection is part of pretty much every business, and magazine writing is no exception. The biggest scarcity for print magazines is space; they can’t say yes to every great idea because they don’t have the room. Don’t take it personally if a magazine rejects your idea; just send it to other magazines with similar styles and demographics. A “no” from one doesn’t mean a “no” from everyone. Over the years I’ve had ideas rejected from magazine editors I knew well, only to be eventually accepted by other publications where I didn’t have any direct contacts.
4. There are two things a writer is always looking for: how to keep inspired and how to improve their craft. Are there any writing books or websites that you’ve found particularly helpful?
I think reading books on writing (my all-time favorite is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird) is always great, no matter what level of experience you have. I’m a member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors; they have an insightful website, and also hold a really good conference in New York City each spring. But my main advice to anyone who wants their writing published more broadly is to not get discouraged if you get rejections. Just keep at it. That’s as true for novelists as it is for magazine writers.
That’s very true. Rejection is something every writer always has to face whether its in magazine or book writing. Sad but true!
Over the last few months, I’ve recently become more and more in touch with mediation, yoga, and Zen teachings as a part of my job as a Healthy Living writer. I’ve been wondering at the back of my mind, that of it helps a ton for managing stress and daily annoyances, how can it help my writing?
5. I’d love for you to tell me more about your journey into yoga, mediation and Hindu philosophy and how it has helped you as a writer.
Yoga and meditation play a huge role in my novel, and in my life. I personally got into yoga in my twenties, when I was at the gym, and a woman seemed to float by my exercise bike. Someone mentioned that that was the yoga teacher. I didn’t know much about yoga, but I knew I wanted that same serene energy she had, so I went to the class. I was hooked immediately, and eventually studied to become a yoga teacher. Yoga is so much more than physical poses; it brings you beyond your mind into that deep place within. I believe. as my character Lorna comes to see, that when you have a connection to your spiritual essence, life is richer. Lorna finds that mostly through yoga and meditation (and the philosophy behind those practices, which include love, forgiveness, and nonjudgment). But my hope is that readers feel inspired to do any spiritual practices that move them, not necessarily the ones that appeal to Lorna. It is my aim in writing Downward Dog, Upward Fog that women feel both entertained by the fun story and called to bump up whatever practices bring them more inner peace.
*I want to extend a HUGH THANKS to Meryl for visiting us at The Write Stuff!