When I had a regular writing freelance gig for a local magazine, sometimes the editor would assign a project and other times I’d pass an idea her way for approval. She always liked my ideas.
One day when I had an idea to interview an organic dairy farmer, the editor suggested I try pitching the article to a farmers’ magazine. She gave me the name of the editor who she knew well. Wow! That was the first time I’d had a writing referral. I’m moving up the ladder, I thought. My article was sure to be a shoe-in since I was recommended.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite the case. To my surprise the editor wanted a hard-nose-in-your-face reporter with a “rise from the depths of despair to glory” story. I’m not a hard-nose-in-your-face reporter. I’m a wimpy yes-please-thank-you writer trying to make it in the freelance writing world, hoping someone will buy my soft happy stories of people’s successes. Everyone liked my stories, except this guy. Not good enough.
I went back to the farmer and asked the pointed personal questions as politely as possible. Questions such as: Was your decision to turn to organic farming methods a last resort because you were about to lose the family farm? How far in debt were you? Did you sell any equipment or a few acres to put food on the table? How sick were the cows? How many cows did you have to destroy? Was your family suffering ill health? Were your children malnourished? Was Children’s Aid about snatch your children and send them to a family who could afford to properly cloth and feed them? It must have taken years of hard work and suffering to get on the organic trail, right?
Well, guess what? This farmer and his wife had foresight and they knew how to read their bank statement. Yes, they were experiencing financial difficulties but before things got out of hand they prayed about their situation and discussed it in detail and then made their move into organic dairy farming. It turned out to be one of their best decisions. The cows became healthier, they lived longer, provided more milk than ever before, veterinarian costs and other expenses went down while profits went up.
Yup, this simple little story of a few bumps in the road of farming turned into a happy ending. I thought it was great! But the editor and I weren’t on the same page. He sent me back to the farmer a few times to dig up dirt. But there wasn’t any dirt to dig up and I refused to fabricate some to please him. After all, it wasn’t a work of fiction. I finally said, 'No sale'! Well, at least not to him. I sold the article to the editor who had referred me. She was glad to publish the article and the photographs.
What a relief!