One SWEET Magazine Article Writing Assignment

My fun interview with a Norwegian Olympic athlete

How in the world did I, a freelance writer in the USA, get the amazing opportunity to interview a Norwegian Olympic athlete? In her own home, about a sport I’d never heard of, in a country I had never visited?

Cover of 1994 Viking Magazine with magazine article written by Laurie Winslow Sargent on Lillehammer athlete Hildegunn Fossen

Think creatively about how to find your next freelance magazine article writing assignment:

In 1990’s, my husband’s company in the USA was bought by Norwegians, so he traveled there frequently on business. When I had an opportunity to visit Norway with him, and I was thrilled!

I wondered if I might be able to garner an article assignment related to the trip. A family member told me about Viking magazine, for Sons of Norway members (people interested in Norwegian heritage) so I called the editor. She was responsive to my experience writing for other national magazines.

The editor asked if I’d be open to interviewing a Lillehammer Olympic athlete. (Of course!) She suggested that I contact the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee. That led me to Hildegunn Fossen, a 24-year-old female biathlon (ski shooting) champion. A dynamite skier and a crack shot with a rifle, she had won the 1993 Norwegian national biathlon competition and was preparing for the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Unbelievably, in Drammen Norway we dined with a coworker who knew Hildegunn. She had been born in his city! I was told exactly where she lived, on a farm several hours away in the mountains. Serendipitously (actually I call it a God-thing), our plans already included a train journey on the Bergen Railway across the country to see the fjords. Hildegunn lived along the way!  I was able to use our preexisting train ticket, but simply hop off for a few hours, then back on. She lived only 12 minutes away from Bromma train station and fetched me to take me to her home.

For those as uniformed as I was: the biathlon for the winter Olympics is combination of skate style skiing (skoyting) and target shooting. In Norwegian, ski shooting is called ski skyting, pronounced “shee sheeting.”

Hildegunn told me that as soon as she had began walking, her folks had put her on skis. At around age twelve she learned to use a rifle. At the time of our interview, she was spending ten days a month on the slopes, practicing or traveling with the national team to competitions in Austria, Yugoslavia, Italy, and Germany. Home training included  jogging, weight lifting, mountain biking, use of road skis (short skis on wheels) on pavement, and target practice.

Curious about ski shooting? Here’s what I learned:

During a 7 1/2 kilometer ski run, the athlete (with a rifle slung over her back) has two opportunities to stop and shoot at targets 50 meters away–once while standing, the other while laying flat on a pad on the snow. The rectangular target has five holes spaced evenly. The athlete, whose rifle is loaded with only five bullets, must shoot through the center of every hole in the target. For each miss a penalty loop of 150 meters must be skied. Finishing times vary from race to race depending on wind, snow and track conditions, and how well the skis are waxed. When it is snowing hard, the athletes wear goggles, raising them to shoot while peering through the swirling snow. A flag near each target helps alter sights on the gun to compensate for wind conditions.

Hildegunn demonstrated her shooting skills for me outside her home, then showed me various interesting awards she’d been given. Most were lovely but practical objects, including a carved clock and a lovely silver goblet from King Harald.

Before I left, I was also given a tour of the farm. Their sheep would graze throughout the summer, in the hills, until rounded up in the fall. The family would shear them, sell the wool, and birth the lambs. I was amused at how when Hildegunn approached the meadow and called out, some lambs came running like puppies, bleating excitedly. One mama had been lost to a lynx so Hildegunn had bottle-fed the weakest lamb.

Bromma NorwayAfter a wonderful visit,  I hopped back on the train to catch up with my husband.

As our journey continued, we got to see the incredible Hardanger Fjord, then traveled on down to Haugesund, Norway.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, we’d later live in Haugesund for two wonderful years and have the adventure of a lifetime.

I realize now how grateful I am that Hildegunn spoke English so well. When we moved to Norway I faced some challenge in not being able to communicate well — especially difficult for a word person! You can read  On Being an Illiterate Writer to see how that temporarily affected my identity as a writer, but it also highly sensitized me to how expats from other countries may feel when they come to the USA if English is not their native language! And they may be even be expert writers in their own language.

It’s so odd to think that I can now read news about Hildegunn in Norwegian, and understand a bit of it, something I never dreamed of when I first I picked up that phone to call Viking magazine!

Also, at the time I called to see about a magazine article assignment with Viking, I wasn’t aware of any Norwegian heritage in my own family. And then my youngest daughter was born there, beginning our own heritage there. And to top it off — she’s an athlete too, now heading off to a college in the mountains to run cross-country and looking forward to skiing too.

And of all things, here it is 22 years later and I and Hildegunn, now with her own family, are connected on Facebook. She posts her family news in Norwegian, and thankfully I can understand some.  You just never know where a magazine article assignment will lead you and the long-term connections you may make because of that!

This video from Rick Steves brings back memories of our Norway in a Nutshell train ride on the Bergen Railway! (Makes me crave that brown goat cheese that tastes like caramel–yum!) Enjoy the virtual ride.

5 Minutes to Creating a SlideShare Bio


I’m considering SlideShare as a way to share my tips on how to edit and sell nonfiction writing. However, while exploring various presentations at, I realized it would also be a GREAT way to share author, speaker, or book profiles (with links to author websites and social media pages)!

In the post 15 Mind-Blowing Stats About SlideShare at, I learned that “In Q4 of 2013, the site averaged 60 million unique visitors a month and 215 million page views,” and that it is among the top 120 most-visited Web sites in the world.


When I logged in for free at the site, for starters I was asked if I’d like SlideShare with LinkedIn to auto-create my “professional journey”. Curious, I simply clicked Create, and this was the result (use the scroll bar on the R to scroll down):

That took less than five minutes! You can see that the arrow provides links for Sharing. Note: if you try this yourself, first be sure your LinkedIn content is current as the professional journey simply grabs content from there.

As for real SlideShare presentations, here is a sample of one I think works well, so far garnering 9,132 views in 5 days, from Copyblogger Media:

As you can see, presentations can be relatively simple. This one has 30 slides. But another presentation contained only 18 slides and after a week garnered 26K views! Yet another had 8 slides, but that seemed too few.

Note that each slide contains an image, plus a phrase or sentence or two, and looks much the way a Pinterest pin or PowerPoint page does. However, you can also include links within slides. Like all online tools, keywords in the slideshow title and on slide pages are keys to attracting traffic. I like that we don’t have to include music: it makes creating them seem quick and easily doable.

Take a look at samples at, in the various categories. Some SlideShares garner many views quickly — thousands within minutes — but probably because of the keywords in the titles. Some slides are too wordy, I think ; text would be better broken into additional slides. In one presentation, the title caught my attention . . . but I lost focus mid-stream. Not good if you have a website link at the end.

Author pals, does this post give you ideas for ways you might try to use SlideShare? Or have you already uploaded presentations there and found success with getting them viewed? Note that on the site itself you can track stats, which is nice.

Share your thoughts in a comment, below! Also, if you’d like to sign up to receive email notices about future posts here at CrossConnect Media, the form is to the right.

Always learning,


Childcare Trades with a Work-at-Home Friend

Have you ever considered childcare trades with other moms who write or otherwise work from home?

Here’s how it worked for me, with a few tips on how to make it work out well:

Playtime image by Lisa Runnel

I found it very helpful, when my kids were preschoolers, doing childcare trades one or two days a week with another self-employed mom.  That meant, of course, that one or two days a week I took care of someone else’s child, in exchange. But this had its perks too.

On days I had my friend’s child,  I devoted myself to playing hard with both kids, which benefited us all. And when the kids played together without me, I got caught up on household tasks.

On  days my daughter was at her friend’s home, she got to try different fun things I wouldn’t have thought of.  I think I got more writing done on those days than I do now, even with my kids all grown and the house quiet all day. There is something about being pressured to get writing done in a shorter amount of time that can be very motivating. I think I sold more articles and wrote more book chapters during these times than any other, because I knew I needed to produce writing during those precious workdays!

I traded childcare with both my daughters, at different times (they were born six years apart).  My first  daughter, Aimee, was in preschool with Eric, and really liked playing with him. It turned out his mom worked from home doing drafting and art. (See this recent article about my friend Joanne and her artwork!)  Since the kids loved being together anyway, and we had similar parenting styles, it was a win-win. Free childcare at least one day a week was wonderful for us, and the kids had a blast. We did the trades until the kids entered elementary school.

Six years later I thought it would be fun to do this again, with my youngest daughter Elisa, so I prayed for a good match. We started a church small group and a couple came who had a daughter the same age. As the girls had fun together, and my friend was also interested in writing, we then traded a day a week too, for several years. I also had the pleasure of seeing that friend’s own book published! (See my friend Barbara’s fun book, Growing Toward God: Life Lessons Inspired by the Wonderful Words of Kids.)

With both families we retained long-term friendships, and it is fun now seeing what’s happening with the kids now they are grown.

If you do the math,  one day a week of free childcare for several years adds up to quite a savings, considering typical childcare rates. But the trades also gave me a bit of extra joy each week.

I have so many fun, fond memories of my playtimes with the kids and seeing how my daughters interacted with their buddies. I still remember how Alexandra loved it when I got out the vacuum and I pretended to be a vacuum monster. I got housework done and she would giggle as I periodically swiped the vacuum at her, growling. She would ask me to get out the vacuum monster when she came over!  We also had fun making cornstarch goop. Cheap fun, and easy to clean up. We have many fun videos of the girls playing together.

My other daughter’s friend, Eric was adorable.  Funny how some of his little words and phrases stuck in my mind. He called Tyrannosaurus Rex “Meteors”  (meat-eaters) and I still do that now sometimes and laugh. He also called bad guys “bad doyes” and that also became part of our family’s  vocabulary. The kids are now all out of college yet I caught myself yesterday calling a villain in a movie a bad doye!  And I have the cutest videos of our kids dancing together at three years old.

This kind of arrangement can work out great if/when you:

1)      Pray for a good match of parenting styles and kids’ personalities.

2)      If you have more than one child and so does your friend, consider whether or not you can handle four instead of two kids. Two (my child and theirs) was perfect for me.

3)      Be willing to take a day of the week to play hard – it benefits all. But know too if you play hard and the kids still take naps you can wear them out, then get a little work done during their nap times.

4)      Be realistic about how many days you trade would be right for you without adding stress. One day a week might be perfect, two, too much. But you can alter how much you trade depending on how busy you and your friends’ workloads are at any given time.

5)      Think ahead a bit about activities to do with the kids.  I had a double stroller (a Runabout I could add a second bike seat to) and we often went on walks to town. At home I had fun things handy for the kids to get into, including an ever-expanding dress up box, art supplies, and kids’ music.

6)      Be honest about any issues that come up – keep lines of communication open. If one parent does not approve of certain types of movies, honor that. But it’s ideal if the kids aren’t plugged into the TV all day anyway. You will also want to be sure both kids are safe in each others’ homes, which could be impacted by other family members in the household. It helps to become friends with the families first and become familiar with their parenting styles and family dynamics.

7)      Let it bring out the child in you on the play days! Then on your workdays, work hard!

8)      Honor your commitments, of course, so the relationship doesn’t become lopsided. If it’s not working out, you can always stop the trades while ideally retaining the relationships.

Write on!


[Image by greyerbaby]

Freelance Awakening and Article Sale Dances : Writing for Magazines

Wonder how to start writing  for magazines? Here’s my story:

excited woman imageI still recall, back in 1988 when my son was a toddler, the moment I heard that anybody who put their mind to it could write for magazines. Even me?  It was quite a revelation – for some reason, I’d thought all magazines were staff written. Or at least written by famous writers. What an eye-opener the truth was! I picked up magazines on newsstands with a fresh eye.

Of course, my next question was, “How?”

How do you know what content magazine editors want?  How do you approach them in a professional way? How would I learn to write well enough? And of course: What do they pay?”

I read market listings in the Writer’s Market (updated annually, usually available in library reference areas, but also available from Writers Digest Books). What a marvel! I found — under each magazine title — what editor to contact, best contact method, and pay rates: 10 cents to a dollar a word, depending on publication and author experience. (Sorry to say, rates haven’t changed much in two decades. But they still pay better than free blog posts, right?)  Some publications give clues about content they need most.

The Writer’s Market is a great tool for finding publications currently purchasing articles. Listings include editors’ names, contact info, themes, and pay rates for articles. The Kindle version may be a good start for you, but if you want to keep up with updates to listings, I recommend the book+online edition. Bear in mind the WM is written the year before publication, so do check to be sure info is current. It helps to visit a publication’s website to verify their current writer’s guidelines.


Still I wondered: although anyone could submit, what were my chances of publication? Some writer’s guidelines tell you your odds of getting in if you are a newbie or mention short sections in their magazines that are most open to less experienced writers.

I was excited to learn that you usually don’t usually submit an article – you submit a query (article proposal), then write the article after you get a contract for it, with a deadline date and expected word count.

Some magazines pay on publication (which could be up to a year after you send in your finished article, but is often four months or so). Others pay after the editors have accepted your article.  A few, if they decide not to use your article after all, pay a “kill fee” giving your rights back. (It’s a merciful death, at least with a consolation prize. And not really a death at all, because you can sell first rights to the article again.)

I tried my hand first at a personal experience story about an answered prayer, and submitted it to Power for Living. I still remember the day I pushed my son in his stroller to the post office in our tiny town, opened up our PO box, and in it was a check! For a whopping $100! I was so thrilled, I jumped up and down screeching. My son shouted “Yay!” too, although he had no idea what had gotten Mommy so excited.

I wrote more queries.  Bombed out a few times. Overshot to big publications with a lot of competition. Got some standard, generic, rejection slips. Ouch. THAT wasn’t fun.

But I think I handled it better than most, because I’d run a different kind of business for the previous dozen years. As a crafts-person, I had created and sold a thousand of my off-loom weavings, to art galleries and via art shows. I’d learned not everyone had the same tastes, and that was OK. So I tried to look at my writing as a product, not an extension of my personality. A product I could improve on, but might not fit every publication or season or theme.

Here’s one analogy: some customers loved my weavings, but ordered colors and designs different from my samples. I figured some magazines might like my writing style, but prefer a different topic or treatment of the topic, or the timing might not be right.

So I pressed on.

I kept hearing from writing sources to “write what you know”. To me, that included what I had learned or was in the process of learning from others. One frustration for me at that time was that my toddler son was outgrowing his clothes WAY too rapidly (within months). I realized it was due to the styles I’d chosen or had been given as gifts. So I informally interviewed other moms to figure out what styles a child could wear for the longest periods of time. I fired off a query to Baby Talk, telling them what I was researching and how I’d present the results. I just figured that if I as a mom had questions, so might other moms.

I was right! And ecstatic when a contract arrived in the mail, offering me a nice per-word rate and a deadline. I had an idea for a second article at the same time, and Baby Talk decided to run them together, in the same issue. The day that glossy magazine arrived in the mail, with my articles illustrated and my own byline, I was over the moon!

I’m a bit sad to say I miss those moments when I danced with excitement on having articles accepted. I must be getting a bit jaded now that I’ve been honored to have 100+ articles sold over the years. I opened an envelope recently with a check for $1100 from one magazine, and shame on me, I just breathed “Whew.” I was just glad it had arrived in time to pay off a bill. I did not dance in the least.

So excuse me.  I need to take a moment to relive that moment. To think about how hard it still can be to make those sales, and …


Have you had a recent success in writing for magazines that made you burst with excitement? Tell us about it in a comment, below! Give some hope to all those new freelancers looking forward to the day they can dance at the mailbox.


[Image courtesy of stockimages/]

Keep reprint rights to articles or stories.

Quick Tip:

Are you looking at places to sell your articles or personal experience stories? Pay close attention to listings in your Writer’s Market describing not only how much magazines pay per word, but what rights those publications expect to obtain from you. If you sell only first rights, you can retain reprint rights to resell your articles to other magazines or include in book compilations.

Need more detail? See: “How do magazines pay writers for articles and stories?”

How to Avoid Confusing Your Readers

In both fiction and nonfiction stories, as a writer avoid confusing your readers from the start. Keep their momentum and absorption in your story.

Image:  potowizard /

So… maybe I have too active an imagination. Or I jump to conclusions way too fast. But the moment you, as an author, introduce a person in your story, I immediately picture them as a certain age and with other character traits … unless you tell me otherwise. Not necessarily an exact age — but I at least imagine a middle-aged person, or a teen, preschooler or toddler.

If a few sentences to a few paragraphs later you clarify their age,  and I have to radically correct my original perception, I feel dumb as a reader.

What did I miss? I feel compelled to go back and reread from the beginning. That distracts me from your story and frustrates me a bit.

For example, in the opening sentence of one story, in an otherwise excellent chapter in a very good book, I read something similar to this:

Cindy ran across the lawn at full speed. “Sam!” she yelled.

So…I’m picturing Cindy around my age, for lack of other info. Middle aged. A bit overweight but in OK shape. Then I read:

Sam, her grandfather, turned just as Cindy took a flying leap and landed in his arms. They often played this game.

Then I read that he flings her high over his head. I’m thinking, Wow! That is one strong grandpa! And I can’t recall the last time I took a flying leap!

Oh, wait, this must be a younger person. Then I read, four paragraphs into the story,

’Gin, ‘Gin!” and “Whee!”

OH. This must be a preschooler.

I reread the story from the beginning. Now makes sense, but the author lost my momentum as a reader. Worse yet, I kept a lookout for similar problems in other stories in the book, since I didn’t want to feel dumb again. An unnecessary distraction.

This is a common problem for writers, with natural causes. The writer fully pictures the character/true person in his or her head from the start, in at least a general age range. So it’s assumed the reader will too.

This is where critique groups come in so handy! Your pro-writing friends will catch potential hitches with character traits. That’s because they, too, are readers, and if they themselves feel momentarily confused can tell you so honestly.

And as you become sensitized to this, you’ll be less likely to do it ‘gin.




(Image courtesy of  potowizard /

Answering: “What is Paperli?” for Authors

Pro authors ask me: “What IS Paperli ( An online newspaper or magazine? If I see myself mentioned in a Twitter link, what should I do?”

Are people sharing your links on Twitter? Here's how helps.

Are people sharing your links on Twitter? Here’s how helps.

They’re confused even further when they click a Paperli ( link on Twitter that includes their author Twitter handle, then can’t find where in the paper they were mentioned and why.

So let’s clarify what Paperli ( papers are, and aren’t, including:

* how a  paper like this is created, including how editors choose content,

* how to locate a link in a Paperli  to see how and why you were mentioned,

* if, how and when to thank Paperli editors for mentioning you,

* whether or not to Retweet links on Twitter that mentioned you.


Understand: is an AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED link collector. It simply collects links posted on Twitter.  The “editor” of the paper (a Twitter user) sets parameters for his or her paper, then lets do its thing.
For example, my Family Faith and Writing Friday Post is set to automatically collect links I posted on Twitter the previous week on my Twitter page, @LaurieSargent. My goal is to offer a weekly summary of great links I shared. It shows in a newspaper style format, with headlines linking directly to the articles at their original sites.

Editors can control what links are collected in these 3 ways:

1.  Editors can set Paperli  up to  only gather links directly posted on their own Twitter pages, by them.
2. AND/OR: The site is is given a list of specific Twitter handles to auto-follow and post links from. That means any link that person posts. I, personally, only link my Paperli to a few Twitter handles: literary agents who pretty much always post items of interest to my writing audience.

So, no, author friends: I won’t automatically have Paperli  automatically add all your links to my paper via your Twitter handle. Here’s why: if you are like me, you tweet all sorts of links that may not fit the theme of my paper and my particular audience. My paper would begin to lose focus. HOWEVER, if we are mutual followers on Twitter, and I see great links to your articles, I WILL tweet those links, which WILL end up in my Paperli.

3. AND/OR: The paper editor tells to automatically find tweets on specific topics, identified by hashtags.  This too much of a wildcard for  me personally, for my own Paperli, unless I can quickly edit out any oddball stuff picks up for me. I don’t want readers to think I’m endorsing something I’m not. But if I get more active with editing my paper I may add a few hashtags.

Editors also control how often the paper is “published”. I choose weekly, so I can take a few minutes to edit/clean up the paper before it travels too far. Many with daily papers simply can’t keep up with that.


Be sure you are reading the right edition of the paper. If it is a daily paper and the tweet that mentioned you was from three days ago, go to that day’s edition. Click the Archives link (next to “Read current edition”), then the right date.

Also helpful, once in the correct day’s edition, is to click the ALL ARTICLES or STORIES links. There, the articles appear in list view; you might see your Mention more easily.

Note, authors, that your name may show up in a paper ONLY because you shared a link you found interesting. If the link you shared does not go directly to your website, but instead goes to an article on a different site, that’s where a click will take them to read the article. It will include a note that it was “shared by” you. This can still be nice because readers of the paper may then realize you have a tendency to share interesting stuff, so may click to your Twitter handle (linked to your name in the Shared by). They may then Follow you, and click on your website address in your Twitter bio to read about all your great books.

Just remember that Paperli’s focus is on the article shared, not the author of the tweet. If you see articles about other authors mentioned far more often than you, it’s because those authors are active on Twitter, posting great tweets that multiple people like and want to Retweet. Or they are such interesting people, many folks on twitter are tweeting about them. You can’t force this. Get active on Twitter, interact with others, post great stuff, and Paperli papers are bound to pick up your links naturally.


 Well  . . . remember that tweets from are auto-generated. You are thanking the editor for something they may not even realized they did. Since my paper is a weekly (always on Fridays), I usually know who I’ve mentioned and why. But many papers are set to default to daily recreation, and even the editors don’t know what appeared what day. I suggest that you DON’T hit Reply on Twitter asking them why you were mentioned unless it’s a close friend. You will simply be making them do what you can do: go to the paper to find out. Honor their time.

HOWEVER: If someone regularly Retweets your links in their Paperli, it’s nice to send them a direct tweet or message, thanking them for getting your name out there so often.

Or if you find a link directly to your website in their Paperli, yes, thank them! ( If you’re smart, in your thank you, say “Thanks, XYZ for mentioning my article (include link) in your Paperli – I appreciate that. Friends, do Follow & visit XYZ (include their website).” The best way to thank someone is to direct others to them.


Maybe . . . if you trust the content of the paper, trust the editor, and think your followers might be interested in many of the articles in that paper. For example, one paper that often mentions me, which frequently contains other articles I like, is FAYL Parenting Ideas.  Retweeting is a nice favor to the editor.  Also, if a bunch of your author pals are also mentioned in the same automated tweet you are, a Retweet is a nice way to introduce your Twitter followers to them. But I suggest you check the paper first to be sure you truly want to lead your own Followers to that issue of that paper, which may have accidentally picked up a bizarre article via a hashtag.

And yes, do Retweet if the mention of you in the paper connects directly with an article link leading to your site AND you like the rest of the paper’s content. But frankly, it can be laborious to take time to see if my handle @LaurieSargent was in the paper because I shared a link to my own site or elsewhere. So if mentioned somewhere, I am simply grateful, say a prayer of thanks, and let God do His thing to let that Mention of me connect me or help others. I may get to know the editor of the paper, and if we are like-minded, I’ll do what I can to periodically shine the spotlight back on them.

Have you had a positive experience with a paper? Or have a lingering question about this? Leave a Comment below — I’d love to connect with you.

First name only is fine, and I promise not to send unasked for emails 🙂  But click Subscribe if you do want to keep up with my future posts, which will have lots of tips related to marketing and PR for writers.