Guest Blogger: Magazine Editor Jodi Skulley
Today is a very special but bittersweet day! Jodi Skulley, content editor for ParentLife Magazine at LifeWay Christian Resources is hanging up her full-time editing cap and entering into the world of freelance. The best part for Jodi is that she gets to stay home with her adorable three-year-old, Jack!
Jodi and I met years ago when I was editor of ParentLife, and she joined the team as copy editor. We were instantly friends and made a great editing team! (In our humble opinion!) Jodi is highly competent as an editor, and more importantly, she is an amazing friend. There will be many tearful goodbyes in the publishing department at LifeWay as Jodi takes on a new chapter in her life. To honor her on this special day and to share the pearls of wisdom she has gained along the journey in the magazine world, Witty Words is dedicating today’s blog to Jodi. Enjoy this Q&A with Jodi Skulley, editor extraordinaire!
What drew you into the world of publishing?
Working in publishing was never a dream of mine. In fact, English and grammar were two of my least favorite subjects in school. However, my dad works in publishing (at LifeWay Christian Resources) and has for many years. During my high school and college years, he often told me that I would make a good editor. I laughed at him … thinking that would never happen! Not long after graduating from college, a job at LifeWay opened up. It was an entry-level position as a department assistant, but I knew in the long run LifeWay would be a great place to work, so I applied and got the job. I hadn’t been at LifeWay long when a couple of copy editor positions opened up on two different monthly magazine teams. I had seen enough of the publishing world by that time to be somewhat intrigued. My dad gave me the push I needed to apply for both of the positions … and I landed the position as copy editor of ParentLife, a Christian magazine for parents with children 12 and under.
It’s funny looking back now, because I can see how God orchestrated all of the details to put me in the right place at the right time! I’m so glad that God knows what’s best for us … even when we can’t see it. His timing and plans are perfect!
What is the first thing you learned on the job as an editor?
I had an amazing teacher! Christi taught me everything I know! I think the first major thing I learned as copy editor of ParentLife was that editing is all about attention to detail. It is my job to pay attention to every tiny detail and question everything in order to make the finished product as correct and clean as possible for the reader. The funny thing is … I’m terrible with details at home. (Just ask my husband who knows I’m the most unobservant person in the world!) But for some reason, focusing on the details comes naturally to me when editing!
What do you look for in new writers?
I love discovering new, talented writers! I look for writers who are in touch with the real day-to-day life of parents and therefore they pitch practical, creative, and appropriate ideas. I also like to find writers who have a laid-back tone and style that parents can relate to. It’s also nice if they are organized, quick, cool under pressure, and on time!
What is the best thing and the worst thing freelance writers can do when sending in a submission?
The best thing a freelance writer can do is to send an organized, short, but detailed query. Get straight to the facts. Here’s what I like to see in a query:
- Your name and a brief description of why you are qualified to write for ParentLife
- Your address, phone number, and e-mail address (It helps speed up the contracting process to have this information.)
- A proposed or estimated word count
- A proposed title
- A hook to draw the reader in
- A brief summary (or even an outline) of what the article will cover
Every editor is different and looks for different things. But these are the important things that I look for.
The worst thing a freelance writer can do is to send a completely written article that is over 1200 words long and that doesn’t fit the audience of the magazine. You would be surprised how many writers (and publicists) send things that relate only to parents of teenagers or topics that aren’t appropriate for a Christian magazine. ParentLife is a Christian magazine for parents with children 12 and under. It’s an easy mistake to make, but the thing to remember is to do your research. Know the audience you are writing for and don’t waste the editor’s time … because time is something most editors don’t have much of.
What are the top 3 tips you have learned in the realm of parenting while on staff at ParentLife?
- Every child is different and learns and develops at his own pace. Just because the books say he should walk or talk at a certain age, doesn’t mean he will or that something’s wrong if he doesn’t!
- Every family is different. For example, a discipline method that may work for one family, doesn’t work for another. Private school may be the best choice for your family, but homeschooling is the best choice for the family next door. Every family has to seek God’s unique will for their family.
- Spiritual development starts on Day 1. You don’t have to wait until your child can communicate with you or understand difficult concepts. Start early to build a foundation of love, trust, and faith!
Any final thoughts?
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about my job is having friendships develop over time with writers! I think one of the best ways to succeed as a freelance writer is to somehow make a memorable connection with your editor. If you can win her friendship (without forcing it), you will see a lot of assignments come your way without even having to pitch ideas … especially if your writing is good. The best place to be is in a trusted pool of writers for a product. It’s hard to work to get there, but it pays off! A handful of writers are now even my friends on Facebook … and I’m thrilled that I’ll be able to stay in touch with them even after I am no longer an editor!
We wish you the best on your new adventure!
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