My pitch landed!
A few months ago, I wrote about my first-ever attempt to pitch a personal project onto a major media outlet. Yesterday, my story, Suicide and the Economy, appears on the Atlantic.com. It’s about the suicide of my great-grandfather during the Great Depression, and the thousands of other forgotten men who died over a two-year period, when suicides peaked to their highest levels ever.
On April 12, 1937, the express train to New York roared across the New Jersey countryside. The train, a Pennsy Railroad electric locomotive the color of bull’s blood, usually passed through the station at Elizabeth at about 50 miles per hour. On this particular morning, it came to an unanticipated stop. As the express rounded the curve, my great-grandfather jumped down from the platform, where witnesses reported he had been pacing for 10 minutes, and lay down across the tracks.
When the engineer was finally able to halt the train 100 feet past the platform, Roy Humphrey had disappeared beneath its wheels. His last act: raising his head to look at the oncoming train.
I followed a somewhat circuitous route to get my pitch into the right hands. First, I got in touch with my graduate school advisor, Ralph Eubanks, who put me in touch with John A. Farrell, who contributes to The Atlantic. (His latest book is Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned). He, in turn, sent me on to the magazine’s editor, who sent me to the editor for the health channel.
I spent a while working on the story in my spare time, and the pay isn’t at the scales I’m used to in business media writing and editing … but I’m happy it’s published and hope to do more work for The Atlantic.
I also reached out to a friend of mine, Karen Lee. She is the social media and email strategist at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. She gave me three great tips for tweeting about my article.
• First, get ready with a tweet to announce that the article has been published.
• Second, prepare a series of tweets that talk about the behind-the-scenes of writing my article. That’s not difficult, because it’s a great story – I started writing about my family when I discovered some ancient scrapbooks and a bound set of love letters between my great-grandmother and an American University law school dean.
• Third, watch the comments on the article itself and get in touch with commenters to thank them and start communicating with them via twitter.
If you follow the Stanford GSB’s twitter feed, you’ll see Karen’s mastery at work.