How to Assign a Magazine Story: 3 Letters

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Contents:
1. Letter from the editor (heretowith referred to as xxxxxx) to my agent
2. The letter—the one I didn't send
3. Letter actually sent

1.) Letter from the editor

From: xxxxxxx 

Sent: Wednesday, January 06, 2010 3:00 PM

To: Peter Hagan

Subject: Jenny Allen

Hi, Peter,


I'm working on a feature for xxxxxx about things in life that are actually worth your time... This will be a mix of 400-word essays and quick-hits of service, so I'd love to gauge Jenny Allen's interest in pitching an essay topic for this package. I hope she's interested. If so, I'd like to run her quick pitch/concept by my editor-in-chief by the EOD Friday. From there, she'll ultimately choose which five or so essays will be assigned.



Thanks—and happy new year.



xxxxxx
Deputy Editor, xxxxx

2.) The letter—the one I didn't send

Dear Girly,
Let me see if I understand your letter correctly. You are inviting me to "pitch" an idea for a brief essay to your editor, "by the EOD Friday." I first have to ask what an EOD is. I have spent all of my adult life writing for magazines—you were not yet a glint in your mother's eye when I began, I am sure!—but I have never heard of an EOD. Do you mean "OED", as in the Oxford English Dictionary? If so, I'm sorry, but I don't have my own OED—though, with all due respect, something tells me you may not either.

Maybe EOD is a messenger service. Do you want me to send my "pitch" via courier? How classy and exciting, even cloak-and-daggerish! Like a secret message, so the people at rival magazines won't get hold of it!

Or perhaps it is slang for "Extremely Old Dyke," in which case I find the request—and the word "dyke"—in very poor taste. I know several extremely old dykes, but they do not care to be called that unless it is by another lesbian, not even in jest, and I don't blame them. In any event, I am not sending any aging lesbians with my copy. They all have better things to do with their time. At the moment, for example, all of them are reading the new Patricia Highsmith biography, looking for the most lurid parts, as am I.

It just now occurred to me that EOD might, in some horrible, high-handed way, stand for End of Day, as in "by end of day Friday." But then I thought, no, that can't possibly be so: no one uses the phrase EOD in the publishing world, except perhaps in the shipping department ("issues should be shipped by EOD Friday", or "Make certain that Richard, the drunk guy who sent last month's issues to Patagonia by mistake, has been fired by EOD Friday.") Writers are never instructed to hand in pitches "by EOD"; the military, officious ring of the phrase would make them recoil and tempt them to hand in their "pitches" by EOD two or three or 13 EOD's later, or never.

But the real reason why I knew that EOD couldn't mean End of Day is that if it did, you would be "pitching" my "pitch" at end of day Friday—a meeting time that would be impossible in publishing, unless you want everyone over 40 to think you are a big dumbbell. If people in publishing are having meetings at EOD Friday, it tells the world that they are merely in business, like tool-and-dye makers (probably gone now too, silly me! I should say, "like Silicon Valley go-getters"; yes, that's hipper), not in publishing at all, where Friday should end right before lunch. This meal should be long and lingering, and preferably at a French bistro, and involve wine, and should be written off on your corporate credit card--and be followed by leaving the office to inaugurate your weekend with afternoon sex, or a movie, with whomever you enjoy doing those things.

So clue me in, please!

On another, related note, your letter goes on to suggest that after handing in my "pitch," you will then put it in a big pile together with all the other "pitches" you've solicited, and you will walk it down the hall to your editor-in-chief (the EIC, right? I can do this too!). You and your EIC will then review all the pitches (what a lot of work, reading those piles of writing done for you for free by all the writers you have corralled! Maybe you will use a pitch-fork! Sometimes I make myself chuckle!) and then—please do correct me if I misunderstand—she will choose the four or five essay topics from this pile of ideas sent to you free of charge and assign the essays that seem to suit her purposes best.

Again, to clarify: you have written to me—not I to you, in which case I would expect to do a "pitch" as I would be the one who has approached you, eager to get your interest—requesting that I take the time to create an idea for you for free that, given your confines, you may well not use, and that I must do this by some appointed time on Friday, no excuses.

There are no words for what I fear your letter instructs. No words—perhaps only letters. GFY would be one example. You could look it up. But it's not in the OED, I'm afraid.

Presented by

Jenny Allen is a seasoned essayist and magazine writer whose one-woman show, I Got Sick Then I Got Better, was presented by New York Theatre Workshop this fall. Visit her Web site: jennyallenwrites.com. More

Jenny Allen has been writing essays and articles for magazines for many years. Her one-woman show, I Got Sick Then I Got Better, was presented by New York Theatre Workshop this fall. She continues to perform it around the country. Visit her Web site: jennyallenwrites.com.

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