As some of you may know, the Globe and Mails’ Facts and Arguments recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. To mark the occasion, the national newspaper held a contest inviting submissions for The Essay that centred on a moment of truth.
As a group, each of the Restless Writers has at one time or another submitted an essay to the Globe and Mail in the hopes of it being published in The Essay. It’s a right of passage for a new writer. We followed the submission guidelines, kept to the word limit, carefully critiqued and then revised our pieces to get them just right. We pressed send on our computers, anxiously awaiting a reply and then zip. Nada. No traction. Among the four of us, we’ve submitted a total of nine essays and have only managed to crack the secret code once with the publication of Maria’s entry about starting a second career.
Despite these terrible odds, some of the Restless Writers decided to once again dust off their keyboards and submit an essay to the moment of truth contest. They were good. One made us cry to read how life can change in an instant when faced with a personal health emergency. The other made us laugh with tales of kicking a serious caffeine habit. Again, we read the criteria, kept to the word limit and worked to polish our drafts. And you know what? That’s right. No dice.
So all of this has got me thinking, what DOES it take for a submission to make it past the steely guards surrounding the desk of the Facts and Arguments editor? In honour of Father’s Day today, I thought I’d ask the one person I know who’s actually had something published in Facts and Arguments – not once, but twice. My dad, Barry.
Writing is something my dad started in his retirement. He’s had some great success with personal essays and travel articles published multiple times in the Toronto Star and travel magazines.
So I asked him.
Me: What advice would you give to a writer looking to have their personal essay published in the Facts and Arguments section?
Dad: I have given it a lot of thought and here are my Top 5 tips.
- The editors are looking for a very good story. It doesn’t have to be “professional” but well written.
- Write about an honest personal topic, something unique. Humour helps too. Be self depreciating, you don’t always have to look good.
- Avoid having an axe to grind or making others look bad.
- Make sure your title is an attention getter. Think of what’s trendy in popular culture, alliteration can work well. In my case, an essay titled “A Wedding Trauma” became “One Wedding and a Trauma.”
- Give your piece a strong closing that puts it all into perspective.
So there you have it, some insider tips from a real life published Facts and Arguments author.
Believe me when I say, the man knows unique personal stories. One of his published essays detailed the time he accidentally walked into a metal sign and split open his forehead 30 minutes before he was due to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day! He ended up with five stitches. Did I mention it was in the middle of the SARS epidemic in Toronto?
Me and my dad on my wedding day. Bandages and all!
While I don’t suggest personal injury as a route to publication, I do hope some of my dad’s tips might inspire you to not give up on the quest to be a part of the exclusive Facts and Arguments club.
In the meantime, for everyone who’s ever had their Facts and Arguments submission passed over, there is now a place where you can share your essay with the world as you intended.
The Restless Writers are proud to introduce a brand new blog called Restless Rejects – the site that will take your Facts and Arguments submission and post it. The only requirements? The essay must have been submitted to and rejected by the Globe and Mail and be under 1,000 words.
If you are still shaking your head wondering how the editors could have passed over your piece, we want it. Read more about the new blog.
P.S. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there and a very special thank you to my dad for lending his support with this blog post and every other single thing I’ve ever done – including making it back from the hospital in time to walk me down the aisle! Now that’s a good dad. Happy Father’s Day.