by C. LaRene Hall
During the LDStorymakers writers conference, the Breakout #3 class that I attended was taught by Joshua J. Perkey, one of the senior editors for the Ensign magazine.
A reminder – my notes are just that – this is not from the class syllabus. If we jump all over that is because of the many questions asked.
Why write for the magazines?
1. It’s the coolest thing ever
2. To bear testimony to the world.
3. This really needs to be in the magazines.
4. To feel good about making an offering.
Curriculllum Department Mandate: Fill the Earth with the Knowledge of the Lord.
If you write for the Ensign, you will have a chance to have a great impact on the world. There are 900,000 subscriptions to the Ensign, 1.2 million subscriptions with the Liahona, and close to 300,000 to the New Era and Friend. The magazine is translated in up to 46 languages.
Our mission is
1. To bring souls unto Christ.
2. Strengthen testimonies.
3. Strengthen families and individuals.
4. Help parents be better parents.
5. Help spouses be better spouses
How to Beat 90% of the slush pile, and how to write for the magazines
1. Read, read, read the magazine.
2. You need to know what they publish. In The Friend they do true stories.
3. Study the magazine.
4. Know our style, tone, voice and approach.
5. Know the kinds of things we publish.
The magazine is designed to inspire. We aren’t looking for unusual writing. We’re looking for wonderful, compelling, and inviting stories that inspire others to change and come unto Christ. Study articles that are like the ones you would likely write. Look for similar stories that have been printed.
The biggest mistakes writers make:
1. Opening with, “Dear Brothers and Sisters.
2. Not crafting submissions as articles.
3. Sending us sacrament talks. Turn them into articles, first.
4. Getting preach. You can give advice but you can’t tell them what to do.
5. Using 2nd persons: If you do this . . . doesn’t usually work. My patriarchal blessing says . . . or I had a dream . . .
6. Expecting us to fix it for you.
What must every article have?
1. A hook.
2. A message.
3. A thesis statement.
a. Develop a Gospel Centered-Thesis.
b. You’ve got to have a purpose.
c. Why should the entire Church read this?
4. Consider the close line: what will you hang your story on? This should be apparent early on the first page, and should lead to inspiring experience.
5. Develop a story with conflict and resolution.
Write with magazine needs in mind. Review our calls for articles on the website. Features are longer articles. The back page in only one page long, and less than 500 words. We always need powerful articles that testify of the Savior, of this work, and of the Church. Just don’t hit us over the head with it. Use crisp, clear language. Don’t overwrite it’s not a literary journal. It needs to be doctrinally sound, grammatically solid, engaging, intriguing, and inspiring. We don’t do deep topics very often. We look for solid gospel sense. Don’t assume readers understand you.
Are you the right person to author the story? Are you an expert in a specialty field, counseling, parenting? Develop a personal voice within the constraints of the magazine’s voice.
Write an original article that is still relevant to the worldwide church. Pray, pray, pray. Involve the Lord. This is His work.
Ask: Why should the entire church read this? Is it universally applicable, or only relevant to me, my family, my ward, my stake?
So why should you write for the Church magazines?
1. We need you! The ensign receives about 400 submissions a month.
2. We need superior submissions. Everything you do affects someone. You have an impact.
Other magazine writing
1. Do your homework.
2. What do they publish?
3. What are they looking for?
a. Thesis, tone, style, voice.
b. Length, audience appropriate content, and word choice.
c. Arc: purpose, conflict, and resolution.
d. Be as polished as you can, and then follow up