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Amy Lou Jenkins is the award-winning author of Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting

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Featured Writer
Jeff Stimpson

Jeff Stimpson's been a working journalist for 14 years. Every success has been hard won. Jeff demonstrates that writers must write and eventually the path should lead to success.

 

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Featured Writer
Jeff Stimpson Jeff Stimpson's been a working journalist for 14 years.

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Every success has been hard won. Jeff demonstrates that writers must write and eventually the path should lead to success. But then staying on the path is the success.

Jeff's essay submission to the library of writers serves as an interesting look into the passion behind writers.

Bio: Jeff Stimpson, 39, lives in New York with his wife Jill and two sons, Alex, 3, and Edwin, 8 months. He has been a working journalist for 14 years, and maintains a site of essays, JeffsLife.

URLs: www.jeffslife.com
http://jeffslife.tripod.com/HOME.HTM

You must have an opinion. Jeff Stimpson does. Jeff Stimpson's story Commentary Father Conned communicated the frustration of bureaucracy against the backdrop of loving paternal protectionism. He took the readers with him from the angst of wanting to protect his child, to a place of competence. In the end Dad found a way.

+++++++ You Make The Call

Weeks ago it seems, I was e-mailed by a journaling magazine that wanted me to write a 1,500-word article on JeffsLife. They wanted to know: How did this site start? How has it developed? Why do I keep it going? What did I get out of it personally? I wanted to know: how much are you paying? Fifty cents a word. Wow. That's gold for opinions. They sent a contract that I signed, faxed back to them, and finally read as I began silently spending the (eventual) $750.

Time, however, has melted away with little word from them. "I was just wondering," I say into the phone, "if the article was still a go, or no?" "Still a go" sounds appropriately hardened and unconcerned, yet professional.

"Yes, well, to tell you the truth," the editor responds, "we've decided to pass on it for right now." Feeling like someone who's saved one shoebox from a house fire, I hear myself ask if it's okay to submit the story somewhere else.

"Oh sure," the editor says, "and please feel free to send us

 

 something else!"

Actually, the editor said no such thing because this conversation has never taken place. And it never will. I will not call. Never ever.

I. Will. Not. Call.

I've been through this before. Almost a year before this site went up, for instance, I mailed essays to newspapers around the country and said here I was, a syndicated columnist! I was floored when somebody answered: a small daily in central Ohio that had a sudden hole on its op-ed page because Mike Royko had suffered a brain aneurysm. Boy, I thought, my time maybe had come. And on top of that Jill and I were about to have our first baby!

Yes, well, time went on and I heard little from central Ohio. So I called. "This is Jeff Stimpson," I said to the editor. "Oh," he replied, as I heard the air go out of his day, "yes."

Alex was born soon after, and about my work I got what my mother used to call "tighter'n the bark on a tree." I put my stuff on the Net and decided to let the world find me. Shortly after that, a big parenting site did come, and an editor sent an e-mail about paying to post some of these essays. I e-mailed back and said fine. She e-mailed back and said good. The following week, I called her. She said they were still interested and just give them time to sort things out. I gave them time, dropping an occasional e-mail between daydreams of how this kind of big-parenting-site leverage could help me get better care for family, which at the time was thrashing in the depths of a NICU.

I sent about an e-mail a month to these people, just wondering how things were going, just looking to cyberchat. I sent four, I guess, that went unanswered. As the corners of my daydreams began to yellow I realized that perhaps contemporary editors say no to writers--even writers they contact first--the same way they say no to homeless who beg on the sidewalk: They ignore them and hope they'll disappear. Not to mention that I had also violated the ancient rule of freelance writing, in that you don't send out one manuscript then stare at your mailbox.

Tighter than ever bark-wise, I wrote essays, filled my site, and left notes on the bulletin boards of other, accommodating parent sites. (I did start e-mailing press releases about the site, and put up a page of book publishers' e-mail addresses so enthusiastic readers--you know who you are--can pester others on my behalf. So far, though, zip from both avenues.) Readers came, and two or three sites offered to post my essays regularly, though they couldn't pay.

"Oh, you're not paid for that?" noted a reporter for Newsday who interviewed me about JeffsLife last summer. "No," I answered. "But they've all been up front about that. Besides, what's my alternative? At least it's exposure of something I'd be doing anyway."

That Newsday reporter e-mailed me last July. Her story started what looks like a chain of progress for this site. Soon after came the journaling mag's e-mail. Soon after that, I linked up with the woman who made that recent for Learning Channel documentary about hospitalized babies.

Maybe things are happening. I'd best continue with this strategy until I can pay somebody to make the first move for me. Then I will be a success.

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