A year ago this month, my article about Betty Murphy sewing quilts for a unique place on Raquette Lake was published in the Suburban News. The unique place, St. William’s on Long Point, is both an historic site and a soul-replenishing respite nearly in the center of Adirondack Park. The editor encouraged me to pitch an article about St. William’s to Adirondack Life magazine.
It was my first pitch to a national magazine…and they accepted.
What followed was four seasons of getting the article to print:
Season 1: Visiting
The Husband and I visited St. William’s for a long weekend late last July. Raquette Lake, NY, is a tiny town with a long Adirondack history. We soaked in the locale (and the rain), and found both the town and St. William’s on Long Point to be those types of places that leave a permanent mark on a person.
While The Husband took hundreds of pictures, I interviewed the site managers and anyone else who would indulge me. I walked around Long Point with a notepad, jotting my thoughts and putting words to my sensations. I thumbed through photo albums and puttered through rooms and woods. I sat, alone, inside St. William’s Church until the sun began to set. All in hopes of ingraining a deep groove into my memory.
Then, I packed up my notes and recordings and went home.
Season 2: Interviewing
In my experience, interviewing people is either really easy or really difficult. Most of the time, being interviewed for a news or magazine article is the opportunity for a person to tell about their life’s passion.
With just a few well-angled questions, a person can be drawn into talking for well over an hour. The tale they tell will flit around like a butterfly – alighting here, darting there, lingering, swooping out of sight, and then reappearing. I just listen. And write as quickly as possible. Because buried in there will be the story.
Sometimes, though, some people just want to be left alone.
I phone-interviewed, or attempted interviews, from early August until just before Christmas. Some people avoided talking to me, but I respected that they had their reasons, tried not to feel personally slighted, and moved on.
Season 3: Writing
Between the first week of January and the first week of March, I wrote 15 drafts. That includes a mildly panicked complete re-write halfway through, and a grueling editing process to pare down from almost 1,500 words to the editor-requested 1,200 words.
My desk was piled with stylebooks, a dictionary, and my reams of notes. I periodically scrolled though The Husband’s photos, trying to get back to a warm evening on Raquette Lake even as a snowstorm swirled outside my window.
I checked and re-checked quotes. I sent follow up emails to clarify those pesky facts. I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
Then, I submitted the article a month ahead of schedule, because I needed to be done.
Season 4: Editing
You research, you write, and you think it’s perfect. Then, the editor sends a list of questions and a layout of what has been edited so far.
Check your ego at the door. When you send a piece off to an editor, they will edit.
They will take out a turn of phrase that you might think of as the soul of a paragraph. They will shuffle paragraph order so that the sequence now leads to a completely different place. They will do what it takes to make the story fit – with both the magazine’s tone and the space on the pages.
You will smile magnanimously through it all, because the byline is still yours.
One year later, the July/August issue of Adirondack Life is now on newsstands*, with my article on page 17. For months I kept a low profile, knowing that editors can change their minds. Then, I finally had the magazine in my hands. I turn the pages, exhale, and say to myself:
I wrote that.
*See my portfolio to read a PDF.