It’s funny how sometimes you can write something and think it’s so brilliant, witty, and overall completely bulletproof. And you wonder why things didn’t work out. Then, a few years later, you stumble across the same piece of writing, and you can’t stop laughing at its ridiculousness, both in concept and execution. Was I serious? Yes. Yes, I was.
I have one such piece of writing to share. Actually, I have a stack of such writing, but not to share. This is not a joke. The following is an excerpt from a real query I pitched to more than one national food magazine three years ago about a story on vegetable-based party dips:
At any given party, you can be sure of two things. The obligatory crudité platter, jewel-toned and geometrically arranged, will look just as pristine at the end of the party as it did at the start. Meanwhile, the chips and dip that were haphazardly flung into the nearest open containers will appear as though they were ravaged by wolves.
I am interested in submitting a story idea to [redacted] magazine about healthy party dips for the vegetable-averse. The problem with veggie platters is that they’re backwards. Party food has always been about the dip. But ribbony red peppers don’t want to wait in the wings while Hidden Valley Ranch steals the show. Cauliflower doesn’t want to be the wallflower in the crudité chorus line. And, frankly, it shows.
Let’s just stop the insanity right here. Hmmm. I wonder why this idea was rejected? Let’s review.
Rules broken = 32 (but we’ll just focus on the top 5):
1. Highbrow magazines don’t like their writers to drop names like Hidden Valley Ranch.
2. Highbrow magazines try to avoid comparing foodstuffs to chorus girls and/or anything show-tunish.
3. Highbrow magazines don’t like to anthropomorphize food in any other way, either.
Actually, this was corroborated by another source. In an article I wrote for Boston Magazine years ago, my editor axed a suicidal hot dog from my opener. When I asked him why, he said, “Hot dogs don’t commit suicide.”
4. Highbrow magazines think vegetables are swell.
5. Highbrow magazines don’t like it when you act like a dumb-ass in your query letter.
Ah, the hilarious life of a struggling freelance writer.
(It should be noted that one editor of the highbrow magazines in question handled the rejection of said query with great tact and professionalism, free from the spirit-crushing techniques usually associated with the industry. In return, said editor was rewarded with…more of the same.)