If you’re a student who loves to write, you may not have thought of the opportunities that surround you to break into writing. The academic setting is the perfect place to build your writing resume so by the time graduation rolls around, you have some real writing experience under your belt. If you want to be a full-time writer or journalist, you need to prove you have the chops and many editors aren’t interested in being the one to train you. If you come to them with several pieces already written and published by someone else (even if you wrote them for free), he or she is more likely to take a chance on an unknown writer. Here are five places you might consider approaching to cut your teeth and gain some experience.
Your college newspaper
So what if it’s a tiny publication with only a handful of serious writers? Doesn’t matter. One thing college newspapers have in common is the lack of writers. Here’s your chance to try out different kinds of writing to find your place to shine. Interviews, news stories, features, and opinion—these are all areas you should try.
If you find your favorite thing to write about is book or video game reviews, settle in there but don’t turn down other assignments your editor may ask you to take. If given the chance, it really says something if you are given a position of some kind, say Sports Editor. This is something that local papers take seriously and may be willing to shell out actual money or job offers if you prove you are worth it.
I approached my university paper about writing a humor column and had such a good time. Plus my stories are still online, building up my writing resume. A friend of mine who loves to cook gained valuable experience at our school paper writing a cooking column—and now she’s getting paid by the local paper to do the same thing. Each article published by a legitimate source gives a writer more credibility, and the recommendation of an editor means a lot.
Your college literary arts journal
Many schools, even tiny community colleges, publish a literary arts journal where students can take a shot at publishing poetry, short stories, essays and the like. I wrote a short story that won Best in State. I didn’t even know that the editor had submitted it to the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association writing contest. Having awards attached to your writing never hurts. Later I took the story, revamped it and submitted it to Chicken Soup for the Soul and now it’s read all over the world. I’ve seen my story in Chinese which I’m not going to lie—it’s kind of awesome.
Writing Contests/Call for papers
Have you written a particular research paper that a professor can’t stop raving about? Talk to him or her about the possibility of submitting it to an academic journal. It will most likely take some polishing and you’ll need your professor’s help with that, but it’s a big deal if an undergraduate (or a graduate, for that matter) publishes in one of these journals. It could mean scholarship money.
More and more schools are now posting student blogs on their website in an effort to give prospective students an inside glimpse of what the school has to offer. Plus, it’s usually free advertising. Still, it’s impressive if you are able to add this to your writing resume.
While Vogue may currently not be accepting submissions, your local magazine is always looking for fresh new ideas to write about. If you are able to pitch them something new, or something they obviously need, you might be given a chance to get paid to write. That’s kind of awesome.
I approached a local magazine, telling them I’m a writer and English teacher and that I thought their magazine needed a book review section and they agreed. Now, they pay for books I choose to read, and they pay me to write what I think about them. Ca-ching! It’s kind of a sweet gig. I know that most college students are extremely busy with homework, jobs, family, you name it. But if you really want to be a serious writer, there’s no time like the present to begin the balancing act. So get writing!
About the author:
Tina Bausinger, M.A. in English, lives in East Texas, the land of Old Yeller, with her husband Lee, three children, a well-fed Chihuahua, a German Shepherd with anxiety issues, and an angry angelfish, Sid, who has dreams of world (or at least tank) domination. Tina has published many articles and book reviews and currently writes for IN Magazine, The Tyler Paper, her blog about her adventures in raising a family, teaching and trying to not die from dieting at www.tinabausinger.com, as well as hundreds of quizzes and tests for her lucky composition and world literature students she teaches as a professor. Last fall she published her first novel, War Eagle Women, a Southern gothic style story in the same vein as Steel Magnolias or Fried Green Tomatoes.
Also by Tina Bausinger:
1. Is it Soup Yet? How to Perfect Your Story Recipe for Chicken Soup for the Soul (article)
2. How to Throw Your Own Successful Book Signing (article)