Hey Sport!

Dear Miss Snark,

I am an unpublished author of children’s books. I also have been writing short fiction, with the hope of getting a published in a children’s magazine. The idea, of course, is to have publishing credits to make me stand out in the slush.

Now I have a new opportunity. I’m doing freelance sports reporting for a local newspaper. While this isn’t fiction, I am being published and paid (yeah for pay!).

Would an agent look at sports reporting as a writing credit (as in someone besides my mom likes my writing)? Or is journalism such a different animal than fiction that it would be thought of as a nice thing, but not a “real” credit?

I ask because of my limited time. Not that I’m going to stop what I’m doing, but I’m thinking about focus and time allotment.

Reporting isn't a writing credit but it's still a good thing to mention. For starters it tells a prospective agent you've gotten used to editing, working on deadlines and meeting a schedule. It will also make you a better writer I bet.

Some very very good writers did stints at newspapers including one of my favorite authors in the whole entire world Jennifer Weiner. She talks about journalism as a the perfect place for a writer on the "for writers" part of her website here


Anonymous said...

what is UP with all these unpublished authors who want to write CHILDRENS books??

i guess they see all the books they read to their kids, and see how simple they are and think that they can do it - (and they probably can - but those slots are reserved for friends and family)

it reminds me of all these people who suddenly want to be artists after seeing "modern art" - and think that they can draw all those squiggles and spotches of paint.

prove yourself first with some real fiction before you attempt to get one of those few chosen slots for childrens books. (unless your daddy works for the publisher)

sorry for sounding so "snarky"


Anonymous said...

You forget that sports reporting is how Dick Francis started his writing career. From there he went to magazine shorts and then his first "novelette" (which my sister ws nice enough to bring back from England for me, only to get me hooked.) Well, he had to do something, a jump jockey has a very short career in that field.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Reporting isn't a writing credit ... ? Yikes! I guess all those bylines I got years ago meant nothing. I should've listened to my relatives and gotten a real job. Of course, they don't think my being a freelance editor is having a real job either—they think I'm just sitting around in my jammies all day, playing on the computer.

Anonymous said...

I walked into the Newmarket Era after college to ask for a photography job, and I was immediately thrown into the position of Sports Editor for two months to help cover for the Editor who was laid up in the hospital.

It was a real hoot, going to hockey, football and rugby games and interviewing coaches. I wrote my articles on a rickety typewriter in the office late at night with my dog under the desk.

That was twenty-five years ago. Does it still count? I guess not.

Dave Fragments said...

I went to by kids book for my Nephew's eight year old daughter. The plethora of kids books is amazing and glutting the bookshelves. Not that they are bad, just that they are there. Everyone wants to write children's books.
There are all manner of children's books - - chapter books, preteen, that delicate age , just after that delicate age, the age they hate all adults, the age they really despise all adults, then there are sword, sorcery, magic and Hawwy Pahtter books.

Anonymous said...

Kurt Vonnegut started as a sports writer. If I remember correctly, he hated the job.

Anonymous said...

Ummm... anonymous? What on earth was there in this person's question that made you think s/he thought Goodnight Moon was kind of cute and wanted to try his/her own hand at writing children's books, because they're clearly soooo simple? This person didn't even give any indication that s/he had kids. Cool your jets. Not everybody is trying to catch a wave.

Some people actually do want to write children's books because they love them, you know, not because they just think they'll be easy.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Okay, loving Miss Snark even more now that she's shared the tidbit about Jen being one of her favorite authors.

I have a photo of Jen and me at one of her Philly readings taped right above my writing mantra (Talent, Persistence, Timing). I've met her four times; once she even addressed me to the audience as her stalker! So proud for me!

Glad to know you've got exceptionally awesome taste in men and authors!

Niteowl said...

Stephen King and Terry Pratchett both wrote for newspapers at some point. I can't help but thinking "writing and getting paid for it" is always a good thing for your credentials.

Well, maybe not as a paid Forum Poster, but you know what I mean.

Anonymous said...

My local newspaper won't hire or contract anyone without a journalism degree. (I know this, because I've tried to breach this fort for 15 years; same response every time.) This is pretty amusing in light of what they pass off as "journalism" each day.

Ray said...

I imagine a publisher or agent would take journalism as a writing credit, you know, if the publisher or agent has paid attention in high school.

Hemingway, anybody? How about Twain? Hiaasen? Connelly?

I'm sure there are others, lots of others.

It is true that fiction is different from journalism, yet much of it is the same. Who, what, where, when, how and sometimes why has to be in there to make sense. Something of interest has to have happened (not always the case) and people should want to read the story (in any case).

The Gambino Crime Family said...

Yeah, sportswriting has to be one of the best daily newspaper jobs around, along with the cops n' crime beat. You're out of the office all day, have interesting stuff to write about and, if you're near a Division I college, you get to travel with the teams.

And hey, didn't Hemingway do a little sportswriting in Kansas City and Toronto?

Miss Snark said...

some of you are mistaking the specific meaning of "writing credit". Those are generally lists of places your work has been published; the work usually being fiction.

Working as a reporter is a job. Doesn't mean it's not important or worthy of mention (which I said) but it's not a "writing credit" as that phrase is used in the context of constructing a query letter.

"My work has appeared in the New York Times" is much different than "I am a reporter for the New York Times".

Kitty said...

Doing "stints at newspapers" can be a big bonus in your writing. Just ask Michael Connelly: After three years on the crime beat in L.A., Connelly began writing his first novel to feature LAPD Detective Hieronymus Bosch. The novel, The Black Echo, based in part on a true crime that had occurred in Los Angeles, was published in 1992 and won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by the Mystery Writers of America.

Heatheness said...

Hunter S. Thompson, too, began his writing career in sport journalism. Ralph Steadman, HST's illustrating cohort, did a few YA books on his own, and they are the heighth of cool. So I hope HST's estate will find he tried at least one. No Hell's Cherubs, or Fear and Loathing in the Fourth Grade, or Generation of Piglets. Something good. /pointless musing

To chime in on topic, I think a writer's forays into journalism are professional credits but not publishing credits. I was a part-time music journalist before I turned to fiction, and I didn't mention it when querying my novel. Now, if I wrote a novel about music (equivalent to dancing about architecture?) or about writing about music (yawn), I might include my credits in a query. Otherwise, I wouldn't.

Anyway, you can always tell your agent later. Some of them, as Miss Snark mentioned, may feel more secure knowing you can edit and meet deadlines, etc. To them, the information will be icing on the cake (of loving your work in the first place). But, and someone correct me if I'm wrong, I bet there are also a whole slew of agents who won't ever care how you work, as long as you come up with a finished product they love.

As the writer, you can only try to do what seems right for each work you submit. You came to the right place to get your bearings. Good luck!

Nancy Beck said...

Lynn Flewelling (fantasy novelist) was a freelance journalist before launching her fiction writing career.

You can see her query letter here:


It didn't hinder her fiction career at all.

Good luck.


Anonymous said...

What if you are a newspaper book reviewer and have won a couple of state and national awards for that? I do mention this in my queries, because I don't have real fiction credits yet. But I sometimes wonder if there are agents who despise book critics on principle. Many people seem to be of the opinion that critics can't write, have become critics because they are frustrated writers, etc. I'm trying to think of a counterexample, other than the many novelists who are also fine critics, but nothing comes to mind...

Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering how the thought "Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorite authors in the entire world" and Miss Snark's disdain for the genre of chick lit can co-exist in the same brain.