“The Un-Usual Suspects” at the Hotel Monaco – by Georgia Hesse

September’s BATW meeting, an editors’ panel arranged by Board members Carolyn Koenig and Erin Caslavka, was staged at the handsome Hotel Monaco on Geary Street in San Francisco. It starred Avital Binshtock, lifestyle editor of Sierra Magazine; Christine Loomis, editor of Smart Meetings; and Harriot Manley, custom content editor for Sunset Publishing, a division of Time Inc. (Because at the last moment Manley was unable to join us in person, she was “channeled” by Koenig.)
The assignment for the panel was to supply “insider” information on each publication’s wants and needs from freelance writers, as well as to specify how best to contact the publication. This assignment was excellently carried out by each editor.
As ever, writers were encouraged to actually look at a magazine before submitting an idea for an article. (As I recall, the word “study” was employed.)
Binshtock, speaking first, referred to Sierra’s dedication to “living green” and literary excellence as parts of the inheritance of the Sierra Club’s founder John Muir and photographer Ansel Adams. The magazine is published every two months and, contrary to what many people believe, does not restrict its coverage solely to Sierra Nevada country. (The current issue features stories of the dangerous art of exploring the depths of Heaps Canyon in Zion National Park; three American climbers scaling 24,790-foot Mt. Edgar in the Himalayas [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][or attempting to: the mountain killed them]; Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans taking a rock-climbing course in the western Sierra Nevada; and the poisonous coal fields of Montana. Etcetera ad almost-infinitum.
Sierra editors like to work closely with writers, so don’t submit a finished piece expecting it to appear just as first written.
Smart Meetings pays about $700 for 2,500 words, “but it isn’t easy,” Loomis admits. Essential details overlooked in “usual” travel stories must include square footage of meeting rooms, numbers of people to be seated, kinds of meal servings available, and such firm facts. Other stories, “topicals,” might focus on passengers’ rights, how to handle older participants, and a work/life balance. Would-be writers are encouraged to make approaches by e-mail.
A “sister” of Sunset magazine, Sunset Publishing is the umbrella for various client-directed publications, including all print and web content for California’s Official State Visitor’s Guide & Official State Map. It also includes the creation of customized consumer content, including advertorials and specialty publications, for other Sunset clients, such as Wells Fargo and Safeway. Original ideas are not encouraged; instead, Harriot prefers to know a writer’s expertise and background. Although she can draw from Sunset magazine’s staff (and former staff) for assignments, Manley does use other freelancers from time to time.
Thanks are due to the panelists as well as to Sara Nielsen, Kaori Leong and Jason Stone of the Kimpton Group, which represents the Monaco. I don’t know who whipped up the gazpacho shooters, but they were great!
–Georgia Hesse


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