When I was a new writer, I flirted with many kinds of writing before I met the genre of my dreams. Unfortunately, there was no online dating service to match me with compatible writing, so I went on a number of blind dates.
First I dated children’s books. I figured that since I dragged a diaper bag and a book bag to the library three times a week, I could write stories that appealed to the Sesame Street crowd. Plus, I had years of experience reading aloud to first graders as a teacher. Despite these qualifications, I learned that it is surprisingly hard to write a bad children’s book and even harder to write a good one. It wasn’t a match made in heaven and we broke up.
Next, I dated poetry, mostly because I fancy Shel Silverstein . My best poem started like this: Hurray! Hurray!/ The flowers are dead/ No more pollen/ Cloggin’ up my head. After I combed through Poet’s Market and discovered that many of the small publishers had folded or were on vacation indefinitely, I settled for reciting Silverstein to my children instead of publishing my own verse.
Then I had an affair with a 1500-words-or-fewer short story and entered The Writer’s Digest Annual Short Short Story Competition . My wonderfully supportive and encouraging writing group giggled at what were supposed to be my serious passages. Short short story writing was a short short fling.
I was starting to tire of these courtships. I now had a history of serial monogamy with bad children’s books, embarrassing poetry, and laughable fiction. Was there a genre out there for me or would I die a spinster alone with my orphan words?
Naturally, when I was poised to throw in the pen and join a cloister, I met my first published clip: a humorous personal essay about what happens when you combine a cranky two year old and a cheap tent in the middle of nowhere. We went on a second date that was quickly followed by spending all of our time together. I started writing articles for newspapers and magazines and won awards from the Colorado Press Women. It was a labor of love.
The dating game was over! I entered a long-term relationship with nonfiction. I announced our engagement with business cards printed with the title freelance writer.
After I married nonfiction, I shopped for a home for my writing. In my search for more markets, I submitted essays to my local public radio station KUNC. I broke into radio because I was in the right place at the right time after being in the wrong place for a long time.
My advice to writers who want to break into any genre, including radio, is to keep dating. After all, even J.K. Rowling had to kiss a lot of frogs before she found her prince.
Laura Bridgwater is an award-winning journalist and radio commentator from Colorado. To hear Laura's latest radio spot, click here.