Sample Query/Pitch Letters

Benjamin Franklin proposes that Parisians save money with his methods. Courtesy Wiki Commons; public domain.

Hi #J361, Winter 2012. Here’s the post, stuck to the top of the blog for two days. Pitch letters due Wednesday by class time! (Email, please.)

Hey y’all

Here are a couple of pitches. In addition to explaining a query/pitch letter, they show you a bit of the range of things you might be researching for freelance writing.

Sample reporting 1 pitch, with [BRACKETS] around info you’ll need to fill in.

[DATE]
Suzi Steffen
Reporting1Blog (or, if you prefer, Eugene Neighborhood News)
School of Journalism and Communication
1275 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
Dear Ms. Steffen:

[NARRATIVE/FEATURE LEAD HERE. Should be a scene or a sensory description that gets us into the head of one family, one person or one experience that will lead us into your longer story.]

I propose a 1250 word feature story about [ STORY TOPIC HERE] for Reporting1Blog. It’s perfect for your publication because [WHY?]. I plan to provide [TWO? THREE? YOU DECIDE] sidebars [DETAILS ABOUT SIDEBARS HERE]. <–Fall 2011 #J361, you’ll also need to decide if you want to do thee option of writing 4-6 stories for the final project instead of one long one. That is completely fine with me; sell it as a package, including at least one profile, at least one Q&A, at least one multimedia feature (photo essay, video or podcast)

As a journalism student at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, I’ve learned to write feature stories in Writing for the Media and Reporting 1. You can find URLs for two clips [HERE YOU CAN USE BLOG STORIES, WRITING FOR THE MEDIA PROFILES, GATEWAY ASSIGNMENTS ETC.] below.

[EXPLAIN YOUR CONNECTION TO THE STORY, i.e. WHILE POUNDING THE PAVEMENT IN THE JEFFERSON WESTSIDE NEIGHBORHOOD, I DISCOVERED THAT SWEET LIFE IS OVERRUN BY HIGH SCHOOL TRACK STARS AT CERTAIN TIMES OF DAY, AND NOW I’M FASCINATED BY THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SPORTS STARS AND SWEET FOOD.]

I have sources who can discuss [NAME YOUR TOPIC].] My sources will include [LIST A FEW].

Thank you for considering this story. I can be reached at the phone number, email address or Twitter account below. I look forward to talking with you about [TOPIC OF YOUR STORY].
Sincerely,
YOUR NAME
YOUR ADDRESS
YOUR PHONE NUMBER
YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS
YOUR TWITTER NAME (i.e. http://twitter.com/reporting1suzi)

CLIP URLS <–Don’t forget this! It’s a key component of any pitch/query!


Remember: A grabby (yes I know it’s a draft) lede, then who you are and what you’re proposing and why you’re qualified.

Please attach clips in your pitch (the URL for online clips and the actual physical clip for print clips).
Enjoy these two samples from my distant past:

Month, Day, Year
Editorial Department
Cobblestone Publishing
Attn: Rosalie Baker
30 Grove Street, Suite C
Peterborough, NH 03458Dear Ms. Baker:

What’s in a pizza? Whether you’re consuming a thick doughy slice of Chicago-style pizza or a folding a grease-dripping triangle of New York-style; whether your toppings consist of pepperoni or organic broccoli; whether you like yours fresh from your parents’ oven or straight out of the delivery person’s hands, pizza has one big advantage over other foods: the  sauce.

Without world trade, pizza sauce might be the same old boring tomato paste you see in the can. But thanks to the devoted spice-loving mavens of Europe, Africa, and China, pizza can be delectably excellent. Basil, thyme, marjoram, salt, pepper, and of course sugar all swirl around in the thicket of history until they settle down…on your slice!

We propose an 800-word nonfiction feature called “What’s on Your Slice?” for Calliope’s Spice Trade issue. Anna [Name] is a high school history teacher with years of experience teaching freshmen how to create graphic novels about Roman history, focus in on China’s contributions to the material goods of the middle ages, and a variety of other world history topics. Suzi Steffen earned her bachelor’s degree in history and has a master’s in literary nonfiction writing from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication; her master’s project centered on the life of eighth-graders at the Eugene Waldorf School, and she teaches sixth through tenth graders in a summer TAG program. Both of us love to write and cook and would be thrilled to write for Calliope.

We can be contacted at the phone numbers and email addresses below. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thank you for your consideration,

Suzi Steffen and Anna [Name]
addresses and phone numbers and email addresses

********

September 2, 2007

Lisen Tammeus
Development Director and Content Editor of Perspectives
UMKC
Kansas City, Mo.

Dear Ms. Tammeus:

When Chris Bolender was managing the Rep’s annual production of A Christmas Carol, making sure that Tiny Tim had his crutch, the lights hit Scrooge just so and the Ghost of Christmas Present didn’t fall afoul of his voluminous costume, he little dreamt of the responsibility he would soon have.

Or perhaps it was a pipe dream –  to stage manage shows at one of the largest regional repertory companies in the country, switching from Molière’s 17th century language in Tartuffe in the afternoon to the Beat-inflected new musical Tracy’s Tiger, set in a 300-seat black box stage at night. That’s a dream Bolender fulfills at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in idyllic Ashland, a theater-dominated town that’s home to a university and hosts hundreds of performers, stage crew and associated educators during the OSF’s February-to-November schedule each year. After directors get the play up and running, the responsibility of the 3 to 8 month run belongs to the stage manager, whom other professional describe as “the god of the show.” That’s Bolender’s job now.

Ashland is 10 miles from California, close to wineries in both states and home to natural beauty as well: It’s mere minutes from mountains, the Pacific coast and the wild torrents of the Rogue River. Unlike Missouri, Ashland boasts of low-to-no humidity summers and winters of startling beauty where a low might be 30 degrees and the snow might reach, oh, an inch before melting in the winter sun. But how did Bolender get to this point?

The story of his career, from KC to Las Vegas to Ashland, is a tale that I believe would inspire UMKC graduates, especially those who toil long hours in the relatively less glamorous world of stagecraft while the actors earn plaudits from the community. I grew up in Kansas City, attended many performances at the Missouri Rep as a child and now serve as the performing arts editor for the Eugene (Ore.) Weekly, where I am close – and lucky – enough to see the productions in Ashland each year. I also freelance for various publications, including Stage Directions and Front of House magazines, and I earned a master’s in journalism from the University of Oregon in 2004.  I have included links to clips available online.

I propose a 1,500 word profile of Bolender for Perspectives. Potential sidebars include other UMKC grads working at various repertory companies on the West Coast, a synopsis of the plays Bolender has managed or pointers from  Chris himself on practical tips for moving from an MFA program to the working world.

Thank you for considering Chris Bolender’s story for Perspectives. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Suzi Steffen
address
phone number
email address

Clips:
Review of UO theater production:  http://www.eugeneweekly.com/ 2007/05/03/theater.html

Feature story on a state-of-the-art sound system in a church:  http://fohonline.com/index. php?option=com_content&task= view&id=965&Itemid=39

Profile of a violinist at the Eugene Symphony (PDF):
http://www.eugeneweekly.com/ 2006/09/28/092806bravo.pdf

About Suzi Steffen

Suzi Steffen teaches, writes, edits, reviews and rides (an adult tricycle named Momo) in Eugene, Oregon. For many years, she taught as an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication. As of fall 2015, she's teaching in Oregon State's New Media and Communications program. Suzi also edits Lane Monthly and works as an arts journalist across the state and country. Email her at suzisteffen at gmail dot com; find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for more info; and check out Lane Monthly in print around Lane County and online at lanemonthly.com.
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