Despite having had over 100 bylines, including Huffington Post, Canadaland, etc, I face unique challenges as a fat disabled BIPOC LGBTQIAP+ immigrant woman writer. The reality is that it was the killing of Mr. George Floyd which forced more publications to reckon with the inherent privilege of their lens. Despite this progress, it can still be difficult to get paid writing commissioned when my work challenges white supremacy, cisnormativity, ableism, capitalism, fatphobia, etc.
It can be intimidating for marginalized writers to manage pitching, negotiating rates, reporting, working with editors, etc. Since these tensions are similar to those I navigated as a social worker committed to anti-oppressive practice in a field that is often complicit with the problematic status quo, I was well-equipped with the skills to excel in this process. Especially for those of us who do not have the financial safety nets that are often a direct result of generational wealth from stolen Indigenous land and Black labour, getting published can feel impossible, particularly when those offering recommendations for getting published do not hold our experiences of marginalization.
Pitching as a Marginalized Writer
With that in mind, I have broken down the pitch that is often expected to land paid writing work into a simple 3-sentence formula:
- general related statement, followed by
- the insights you can add, and culminating in
- an outline of how you will write the piece.
For example, when I pitched Auto Trader, here was my 3-sentence pitch:
- The social distancing restrictions of the pandemic put many events on hold, including classic car shows.
- Despite COVID-19 variants on many minds, hobbies such as restoring classic cars may still help to maintain mental health alongside safety precautions.
- For this story, I would interview experts in the field as well as folx who enjoy classic car restoration about how they navigated this year of the pandemic.
For a general related statement, it helps me to think of a sentence I could begin with “Often,” followed by one that I could start with “Personally,” to describe the insights I can add, after which, I end with something like, “For this piece, I would,” to outline what will be written. My first example applies to pitching a reported story, but the same works for essays or roundups.
When I pitched MedTruth, here was my 3-sentence pitch:
- Podcasts can offer unique insight into the lived experience of marginalization.
- Personally, I have learned a great deal regarding the challenges of folx who are trans, Indigenous, disabled, etc, and podcasts are largely accessible online.
- I am interested in delving into this for MedTruth with my top podcast recommendations for Minority Mental Health Month in an article of 1000 words.
Here was my 3-part pitch for the Disabled Writers blog, but I must admit that the last portion necessitated two sentences:
- All too often, health can be viewed as an achievable goal and moral obligation for all folx.
- Unfortunately, I know the reality of how my chronic health concerns of migraines, back pain, and sleep issues make that impossible.
- Especially when I navigate the medical-industrial complex in a fat brown body, this is further complicated by xenophobia, white supremacy, misogyny, fatphobia, etc. As a freelance writer, I often must plan for not feeling well enough on a daily basis to be productive, which impacts my ability to freelance, so I am in a unique position to write this personal essay for the Disabled Writers Blog.
Where to find calls for pitches
In the beginning, I found calls for pitches from Writers of Color, Disabled Writers, and Journo Resources, but have since subscribed to Sonia Weiser’s Opportunities of the Week newsletter, which offers free subscriptions if you cannot afford to pay the $3USD per month she charges. There are also some private Facebook groups for writers who are seeking opportunities. Additionally, cold pitching can work if you are able to understand the publication’s process, as many websites offer instructions like this for writers to pitch them, as in the case of Prism.
As you navigate this process, if you do so alongside a BIPOC background, please remember how rigged against you these systems may be. Unfortunately, that means you may do everything recommended and still not land your pitch with editors who often lack lived experience of racial oppression, as the Canadian Association of Journalists reported that half of this country’s newsrooms were entirely white, based on data analysis from 209 newsrooms. For that reason, it can help a great deal to have a community that understands, which was a large part of why I have facilitated Sustainable Resistance for BIPOC Folx writing workshops since 2020, thanks to the generous support of my local arts organization, Scarborough Arts.