It’s time for a story. It involves you, so stick with me.
It’s the middle of summer, 2015. My friend Chris and I are at a campus pizza place in the afternoon, so it’s just the two of us. Chris is a devoted friend, a fellow writer, former journalist, current teacher, and killer slam poet. He was pressing me to pursue my dream—or what he thought was my dream—to write narrative, investigative articles for magazines. I do love finding and crafting those kinds of stories, but I was about to admit that writing was only part of my Big, Ultimate Dream-with-a-Capital-D.
See, people like Chris and I get story ideas all the time. We talk to waitresses about their past and their future. We find metaphors for life during walks in the woods. We look at maps of prosperity and hunger and ask, “What made these counties so different, and what do peoples’ lives there look like?” It’s not hard to spin our thoughts into stories. You probably do the same thing.
So when Chris started pressing me toward literary stardom, I pushed back. There’s a bigger need at hand: Thousands of important, interesting, inspiring people and issues go unexamined, right here in the middle of the country, and I alone can’t write them all. We need more people to find and record these stories, and we need a place to publish them. While working as a freelance journalist, I wanted to write environmental pieces that were important close to home, but too regionally specific for a national audience. They were too rural for city papers to run, or I wanted to write too artistically for the terse style of daily news. My policy ideas verged on topics too controversial for safe, state-run lifestyle or conservation magazines. I think I have good ideas, but they didn’t have a home.
On top of that, I’ve loved magazines since before I could read. The linear format, the mix of long and short articles, the diversity of topics that a magazine covers creates something timeless, yet it perfectly captures the mood of the time it’s published. When I was little, my grandmother subscribed to Better Homes & Gardens and some kitschy, country-themed magazine that ran a “find the hidden wooden spoon” in every issue. She got me a subscription to a Disney magazine in grade school. And when I got older, I subscribed to SPIN, Rolling Stone and Time, which I’d read and mark up and try to apply its editors’ ideas into our high school newspaper. My capstone class at the University of Missouri School of Journalism was magazine publishing, where we worked with Meredith Corporation to develop a new title. My team chose a remodeling theme. We called our magazine Modify. I think it had potential.
So, when I really assessed my passions, skills and available resources (or lack thereof), the solution to my creative ennui seemed obvious: start a magazine to help emerging and established writers make great work about where we live.
The New Territory is a magazine I would want to write for. It’s founded on the idea that good work will find an audience, and to that end, good work should be honored with good pay and creative freedom. In the months when I started The New Territory, I was steeped in the philosophy of art curator and critic Hans Ulrich Obrist. He talks about the curator’s role—similar, I believe, to that of a publisher—as making the impossible things possible. That’s what I want to do with this magazine. That is how we can push ideas forward in this region. Quality, then, would reflect the passion behind it. Which brings me to…
The (First) Official Call for Your Pitches
While I truly mean that I want to help you experiment and do great things, I also appreciate people who need some structure to get started. Here’s what you need to know:
- We’re running our first few issues in a predictable magazine format: front-of-book, feature well and back-of-book. See our editorial plan for the kind of stuff we’re going to run. Much of the small stuff will be written in-house, but there’s still room for you in the magazine.
- Want to contribute? Here’s who we need and what we need from you:
- Photojournalists: Send us single photos or pitch photo essays
- Columnists: Please send us a page pitching your column idea that would run 2-4 issues, including at least four ideas for article topics.
- Personal essayists: Submit your 300-500 word story for our “Home” section.
- Journalists: In 3-5 paragraphs, pitch us profile stories for “Parsed” and for our longform features (no fewer than 2,000 words of narrative, investigative, or immersion stories)
- Creative writers: Because we’re trying to promote culture in our region, about 20% of our content will be fiction, nonfiction and poetry. If you’re a writer from the Territory, or if your work is related to identity in a place like the Midwest, please direct your submissions to our literary editor firstname.lastname@example.org
- Please direct all other pitches and queries to me at email@example.com.
- If you’ve never written a pitch before, I recommend looking at some guides and samples at The Open Notebook.
- And if you want to get started on a feature story, but don’t know what direction to take it, we’ve named the first few themes to help you get started: “Turning Points,” “Learning on the Fly,” and “Hunger and Hunting.” You can interpret those as literally or as abstractedly as you wish.
- We’d like to start sending contracts on December 16, so the sooner we can let your ideas marinate, the better chance you have for inclusion.
Yes, we will pay you. And if you’re an emerging writer with a great idea, we’ll connect you with an editor who can help make your story sing, so please don’t let experience keep you from pitching.
Thanks for reading, and please send this around to your writer/journalist/photographer networks in the South-Central U.S. I truly look forward to reading your ideas.
Want an example of good narrative journalism about the Territory?
Check out “Landlocked Islanders” by Krista Langlois in Hakai magazine. What’s life like for them away from the sea? The author pursued connections she made while teaching in the Marshall Islands all the way to Oklahoma, where more than 2,000 Marshallese migrants have made new homes.