Want to Know How I Wrote for Oprah? Everything You Need to Know

The rumors are true… I was recently published in O, The Oprah Magazine! (If you haven’t read my published story yet, you can check it out here.) When I shared the news, several people have messaged me asking, “How did you land that writing gig?” So, I thought I would break it down for you here.

Want to know the simple answer?

I sent an email asking if I could write for them.

Yes, I did spend time writing a well-crafted email, which is called a pitch. Basically, you send a few short paragraphs pitching your idea for a story with a hook that catches the reader’s attention. You set the scene for the story, you tell them how you would write it, and you ask if they would like to partner with you on the journey. (Fun fact: You don’t actually send the fully written piece. That comes later after you sign your contract.)

You give the specifics about what you will deliver: how many words? Will it be a first-person essay? How will you structure the piece? Will it involve outside sources for research? (For me, the research element was a later addition after my OprahMag.com editor suggested it for an added direction!)

And then you end your pitch with a short description about why you’re the one to write this piece. Why are you the one for the job? How are you qualified? Have you written anywhere else before?

There’s a lot more to crafting a solid pitch (do a quick Google search and you’ll find some really helpful articles), but here’s what I learned in this process that really applies to everyone, writer or no writer: You have to ask for the opportunity!

I spent a lot of time researching publications that might accept my story idea about taking a road trip with my empty nester parents and boyfriend. Would this be a good fit for Oprah? It felt like a match for their multi-generational audience.

Then, I spent even more time researching who to send my email to. (This is the hardest part!) I ended up finding a contact in a private Facebook group of editors seeking freelance writers that I was invited into after my time as a regular contributor to Upworthy. But it was still a bit of a shot in the dark. Three other publications turned down my pitch for this same story.

I never really emailed directly with Oprah, but I did like to use the phrase (often): “Oprah emailed me back!!”

Over a three-month period of time, from pitch to publication, I exchanged more than 50 emails with my editor at Oprah Magazine. And many of them were exchanges about the piece before she even accepted it and before I ever signed a contract!

Trust me, I wanted to quit So. Many. Times.

I felt like that annoying person popping up in her email every week to follow up. But I knew she had interest in the angle of my story, so following up paid off in the end.

Want to know the not-so-simple answer to how I wrote for Oprah?

Creativity. Patience. And a little luck.

Maybe my email hit her inbox at exactly the right time. And she liked my creative idea! The idea popped into my head during a regular writing workshop time that I have with my amazing aunt and mentor who writes over at Elegant Country Style. She helped me shape the pitch… and then she said, “Go for it!”

Then, after a BIG YES!, the refining editorial process began. The first draft, second draft, and third draft were not the piece that you see published. A good editor will guide you through the process to the finish line with a final product that will resonate with their audience. Every word counts.

I learned a lot through this process of quieting my doubting voice to persevere, to trust in the nudge to follow my curiosity. Is it weird that I consider my parents my best friends? Let me explore.

Ask for the opportunity.

Believe you’re the one for the job.

And then deliver what you promise. On time!

A little flexibility, patience, and communication through the process will go a long way for achieving that by-line of your dreams.

14 responses to “Want to Know How I Wrote for Oprah? Everything You Need to Know”

  1. All this crazy talk about work and patience. I’m outta here! (Of course, I am kidding).

    Any invitation to keep sending them articles?

    1. Yes! She said to keep pitching. You better not be quitting over there!

      1. Creative writing has slowed, I will agree. I am developing a poetry anthology about the afterlife right now, but that might take the rest of the year to finish (40 poems and songs). Dr. Glahn is culling through my rough drafts right now.

        But what can I say? Copywriting is now my career and it pays better than I would have thought. So, I ain’t messing with a good thing right now. haha

      2. Wow! Can’t wait to see this anthology when you’re “done.” 🙂 A recent grad asked me about advice on becoming a writer… (maybe that’s my next post) My long-winded answer was to keep up with the creative writing on the side. Your most lucrative writing jobs will not be the most exciting.

      3. Did you pitch to a generic submission email? Your story is lovely!

      4. Hi Robin! No, I did some digging on Facebook in groups that share current editors of different publications. I pitched a specific editor at the time. Staffing changes so quickly though, so you’d have to ask around for a current contact!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story! I have debated pitching to Oprah, as it is such a huge platform and my submission can get lost in an inbox. I am the founder and author of Awakened-Woman, a writer for Belatina News, and author of “A Journey to Becoming the Best Self.” I have thick skin and know it will not be easy but it is on my bucket list as a writer and a fan of her platform. This article may have given me the nudge I need to go for it!

    1. Thanks for sharing Yvette! Appreciate you reading and cheering you on 🙂

  3. Great article, thank you! I am also thinking of pitching and I appreciate the advice!

  4. I LOVED your article! How long was the process, from pitch to published?

    1. Thanks Jen! I really appreciate you stopping by and reading. From pitch to publication it took about three months!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing, especially when one understands that you could have kept this a secret!

    I’ve been writing for ten years, and it’s only recently that I found the courage to go for it. I’m currently at a point where I’m doing light research until I’m ready to jump in.

    I appreciate your genuineness!

    1. Of course! Thanks for reading and sharing your story, Marie. Best of luck in your writing journey! (Go for it!)

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