Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interview with Jodi Webb

by Gary Blake

Jodi Webb has built an impressive list of writing credentials, including articles in Pennsylvania, PTO Today, Grandparents, Birds and Blooms, American Profile, and GRIT, to name a few. Jodi is also the co-author of Pennsylvania Trivia: Weird, Wacky, and Wild, and a contributor to Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Salutes the Armed Forces, among other publications. Among her many writerly hats, Jodi is also a blog tour editor for WOW At this year's Write It Right conference, Jodi will be giving pointers for The Nuts and Bolts of Magazine Writing and Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket: Freelancing Beyond Magazines. BDWN member Gary Blake chats with the versatile Ms. Webb about writing, blogging, and finding story ideas:

Q: When did you start writing for magazines?

JODI: I had to check up on this first magazine article about the Reading Pagoda was published in Pennsylvania Magazine in February 1994. I had just spent 3 years writing 1 1/2 novels and decided that maybe fiction was not my niche so I decided to give nonfiction a try.

Q: Did they give you leads or article ideas?

JODI: No, I sent them a short letter and the editor Matt Holliday generously agreed to take a chance on me. Because I had been focusing on fiction I knew nothing about the business of nonfiction(queries, SASEs, etc.) aside from what I'd read in Writer's Market. But somehow I managed to produce a printable article and photographs.I'd like to say that after 17 years my favorite editors are always emailing me assignments but, even now, I rarely receive article ideas from editors. I only wrote for one trade magazine, Toy Directory Monthly, where they would contact me each month and say, we want you to write articles on A, B, and C. Occassionally, editors that I have an established relationship with will contact me if they receive a press release about a subject that is similiar to something I've done for them in the past. I've also become the go-to girl for a few editors when the assigned writer has to back out. I don't know if that's a blessing or a curse because working with a short deadline can make life very crazy!

Q: How does copy-writing differ from magazine writing?

JODI: I suppose the end result you're aiming for is different. To me magazine writing feels more entertaining, you're telling a story while copywriting is sales, you're selling a product, a company, a person. They're both interesting in their own way. I think having a lot of different types of jobs is the best way to avoid writer's block. If you get bored with one type of writing you can switch to something else.

Q: Is blogging easier than the other forms of writing you do?

JODI: I do a lot of different types of writing and I can't pinpoint the one that is easiest, each is different and demands different things. Compared to article writing, I'm very new to blogging. So I am still learning. I guess my biggest challenge is blogging is a more personal type of writing and I'm still getting comfortable with interjecting so many personal stories with the facts. I write for three blogs and have different experiences with each. I write for The Muffin about writing 2-3 times a month and I'm assigned my days about a month ahead of time so I have time to think about my post and contact people. That feels more like traditional article writing although sometimes I feel like I can never hit the write length...I'm either too long or too short. I have a personal blog Words by Webb 3-4 times a week that is partly about books and partly about writing. Because it's a non-paying blog, it always ends up at the bottom of the to-do list. I'm always, "Oops, don't I have to write something for my blog?" I'm amazed by bloggers that can come up with a post day in and day out. Then for Schuylkill VISION I write Schuylkill Matters ( ) three times a week on Schuylkill County events, people, and history. That one is fun since I learn about so many county events and people I might never have really noticed before. Occasionally, VISION requests that I write on a specific subject but mostly I just find topics on my own. The best part of blogging is it's so flexible. Short, long, photos, opinions, interviews,'s like having your own little magazine and you can write one section each day. The worst part is when you look at that comments section and no one has commented. Instantly, you're asking yourself "What was wrong with that post? Was it boring? Was it too long? Is it a repeat of someone else?" What has surprised me about blogging is people are so willing to work with you. I have about 20 followers(so sad, follow me!)and I thought if I contacted authors they would be all "Seriously? I don't have time for a pipsqueak like you." but not only have authors been willing to answer interview questions they've also sponsored book giveaways. For little ole me. Imagine that!

Q: Do you do your own research for your articles?

JODI: Definitely. Every once in a blue moon an editor will send me a list, "You might want to contact A, B, and C." But mostly you agree on a topic, a format, a word count and it's "So long, contact us when it's done." I like the discovery of research. For me it's a treasure hunt. I enjoy reading books, visiting historical societies, going on field trips, interviewing people so I love the reserach part almost as much as the actual writing. In fact, I'm teaching an online class about finding experts and interviewing them this January.One of the best research tools I ever learned about was where you can put out a free request for any kind of expert you need. Once I was writing an article about small business write offs and submitted a request and dozens of accountants contacted me. So forget about "write what you know". It's "write what you can learn about". And with opportunities like profnet you can learn about anything.

Q: What can we plan to learn during your conference sessions to help us become a published or better author?

JODI: When I tell people I'm a writer the first thing they want to know is the titles of my books. But truthfully, much more of my time is spent on non-book projects...and that is what my conference sessions will be about. The Nuts and Bolts of Magazine Writing will help everyone avoid all those mistakes I made as a new magazine writer and get some ideas to jumpstart their magazine writing career. I hope Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket will give everyone a good laugh with some of the wild writing jobs I've had and, if you're feeling crazy, some tips on how to get those types of jobs. If you're feeling more tame, I'll also include advice about my tamer copyrighting, blogging, and public relations jobs.

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