A Different Approach to Storytelling, Writing for Non-Fiction Publications

A recap of July’s general meeting.

by Tricia Wagner

Chris Linden, editor and writer for Northwest Quarterly Magazine, joined In Printers for the July meeting and shared insights about writing for non-fiction publications. He stressed that, though a non-fiction magazine like Northwest Quarterly showcases true stories, writers should still tap into their creativity and provide pieces that demonstrate the universal qualities of great writing: strong characters, emotion, setting, and conflict.

In reviewing proposals, Chris looks for writers who can tell him a great story. Northwest Quarterly Magazine covers Northern Illinois, Southern Wisconsin, and Northwest Chicagoland, and he looks for content that is local, inspiring, and has good visual appeal. The staff of Northwest Quarterly recognize that negative stories are easy to find. Their mission, by contrast, is to be publishers of relentlessly positive, uplifting, and informative magazines. Chris encouraged In Printers to think differently about the news and take a different approach when capturing non-fiction stories – one that illustrates the rich quality of life that can be experience in the local area. As the magazine is release quarterly, Chris looks for stories that match the season. The topics he accepts are broad, and examples include nature, conservation, animals, people of interest, regional history, tourism activities, home living, and local business and industry.

Northwest Quarterly Magazine, first published in 2004, is a full color publication. Writers are welcome to submit photos along with their written pieces, and if the photos are high quality, they may be included alongside the article. If submitting photos, Chris recommends capturing images with a higher quality camera rather than a smartphone.

To submit a proposal to Chris, contact him at clinden@northwestquarterly.com. Proposals would include a description of the story and the angle. Published pieces generally range from 550 to 2,500 words. To get a taste of the kinds of articles accepted for publication, check out the website: www.NorthwestQuarterly.com.

What would be the wrong way to pitch to Chris? Sending him a story that isn’t local or one that lacks that hook that every writer hopes to master. To illustrate what makes a great piece, Chris quoted John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer of Pixar:

“You have to have a compelling story that keeps people on the edge of their seats; you have to populate the story with memorable and appealing characters; and you have to put that story and those characters in a believable world. Those three things are so vitally important,” ~John Lasseter.

Tricia Wagner is a novelist, poet, and short story writer residing in DeKalb, Illinois. Her writing has appeared in The Write City Magazine, Escarp, and Chicago Newa. She was awarded second place in the 2015 University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute First Page Contest for Mainstream/Literary Fiction, and she was a finalist in the Festival for Poetry 2015 Poetry Contest. When she’s not writing, she serves as the Director of Adult Education at Kishwaukee College in Malta, Illinois. Find out more about Tricia at www.triciawagner.com.