How I Broke Into Zora

I wrote a "headline" she couldn't resist.

I got in on the ground floor with Zora, a Medium magazine written for WOC by WOC.

Someone messaged me their call for pitches, and I quickly tweeted them and then followed up with a pitch. That’s what you need to do: strike when the iron is hot.

(You know, until like a year ago I thought this expression was about a clothes iron. I wondered, why would anyone hit an iron… and a hot one at that?! Then I learned it’s actually about blacksmithing. Someone out there needs to hear this. You’re welcome.)

While I’m pretty rubbish at writing actual headlines, I can write subject lines that make editors open emails. And that’s what’s important at this stage.

This is one of my best. I mean, what Black editor could resist opening an email with this subject: “PITCH: When are white people PoC?”

Here’s the full unedited pitch:

Hi [Editor’s first name],

My name is Ruth Terry and, as I tweeted you, I’m a black/Hispanic woman living in Istanbul. I recently published a piece with Yes! Magazine on the term expat and how it applies to PoC. 

While writing this piece, I learned that a friend (and source), who is ethnically Crimean Tatar, identifies as an “indigenous European of color.” This is a term I was unfamiliar with and one I would like to unpack and explore in greater depth. I have questions: Can any dwindling minority or previously marginalized group be considered “of color”? Who decides who gets to use this term? How do black and brown people feel about it? What does “of color” even mean? This article would include expert sources working in race/ethnic studies, voices from groups who are traditionally considered PoC, and Europeans who identify as indigenous, PoC, or both. Depending on length, this could also be expanded to include non-Europeans, such as white Hispanic Americans—a Census category—who identify as PoC. 

Let me know if this piques your interest. Either way, can you please tell more about your publication and the kinds of stories you are looking for (features, essays, etc?)? You can find additional writing samples on my LinkedIn



What Worked

  • Getting on the editor’s radar via Twitter and then sending her a pitch before she got inundated with emails and/or having an irresistible subject line that cut through the inbox noise.

  • The actual pitch isn’t one of my strongest if we’re honest — that huge block of text! the 83 questions! — but the idea is solid gold. First, it’s tangential to larger conversations of cultural appropriation and Census categories in the U.S. At the same time, European minority groups are not necessarily on the average American’s radar. It’s something, to paraphrase Heidi Klum, that we hadn’t seen before.

  • I called out the value I added to the piece. Living overseas for a decade means I bring a distinctive perspective on race and identity to the page, and I had another article to prove it.

  • I love, Love, LOVED how this article turned out, especially the line from that YouTube video about Miss Jessie’s curl creme. Hot magic!

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