WORDS COME IN HANDY
Friday, February 8, 2019 at 10:16AM
Esther Blumenfeld

After sharing my misadventures on radio, television, on the lecture circuit and in the classroom, I thought it only fair to give you some insight about some of the magazine editors I had to survive. Working for a magazine editor is a whole other kettle of fish, and sometimes as pleasant as encountering the Red Tide in Florida.

When I started out, I was so happy to be published and paid for my work, that I could overlook the eccentricities of many editors, and like P.G. Wodehouse, I’d “just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.” However, as I became more experienced and enjoyed having my name on the masthead of several magazines, I realized that editors often come and go as quickly as hair dressers, and with a bit of patience, I’d outlast them.  Also, it was an “Ah- Ha moment” when I realized that no magazine can go to print if writers don’t meet their deadlines. That is power! And, that is probably one reason I got so much work—consistency counts.

The first article ever accepted by a major magazine was about gathering material for,  “Oh, Lord, I Sound Just Like Mama” (book written with Lynne Alpern). The magazine was Good Housekeeping. Big Time!  Big Check! and Big Disappointment when the editor called for a re-write because “The article is too funny for our readers.”

Several years later, I submitted an article to another major magazine. It was rejected by their editors. However, when it was returned to me, the editors had inadvertently left their notes to each other in the envelope. One editor wrote, “Myrna, this is  a very funny, one page article.  I think we can get it for $500.00. What do you think?” And, Myrna replied, “You are right. It is hilarious, but do we need humor?”

Okay, so now it was time to approach the notorious editor of Business Atlanta Magazine with an idea for a humor column.  He growled, “It will never work! Leave me the column you brought, but know that you have never worked for an editor as good as I am. Now get out!”
He called that afternoon, and said, "I’ll put a contract in the mail today.” To his credit, he did give Lynne and me free rein to write on whatever subjects we wanted to write, and the monthly column became quite popular. Then, he resigned, and the new sweet-young-thing editor told us that she would give us topics to write about in our humor column. The first thing she said, was, “Write something funny about turtles.” As it so happens, turtle lovers don’t have much of a sense of humor, so before we had to write  the one about “ponies”, she was out, but we were still in for several more years, with several more editors, until technology won and the magazine shut down.

Atlanta Magazine was another slick city magazine. However, the editor made the Business Atlanta editor look like a pussycat in comparison. He was a failed writer. To paraphrase H.G. Wells, “There is no passion in the world equal to the passion to alter someone else’s work”
He had good writers, and I was happy to be associated with them and to be awarded a column. This editor wanted a “light touch” to bolster some of the stories in the magazine.

One of my friends, the gifted writer, Tish Sweitzer (who has since written several books and plays) was assigned a story by this editor. She conducted 40 interviews for the article and submitted it to him.  He glanced at it and said, “This is not what I want! But, I don’t know what I want.” She sat in her car and screamed.  Tish had four small children, and her office was in a closet in their house. She was not given to screaming nor claustrophobia.

When, this editor assigned a story to me about Buckhead, a very upscale area in Atlanta, he said, “ Give me a sidebar about a residential street.”  I said, “Which street?”  He said, “What?”  I said, “Tell me which street you want me to write about, so I won’t turn in the story and have you say,  ”Wrong Street!” He resigned and went to work for another magazine.  Not my fault!

An editor for Lions Club Magazine offered lots of money for an article about humor in business, but for political reasons, he didn’t like one of the businesses we had included in the story.  There is an ethical line that journalists should never cross, and that was one of them. The rule is,” Be ethical and spell people’s names right!” So, I turned down the money, and submitted the story to Kiwanis Magazine. They took it, paid an even better fee, and it was reprinted in several  magazines around the Country.

Through the years, my writings seemed to pop up everywhere—even in the National Enquirer, but that’s a story for another time.

 Now I’ll share with you the secret of becoming a writer. “Writing is easy. Just put a sheet in the typewriter and start bleeding.”  Thomas Wolfe 1900-1938)

Esther Blumenfeld


Article originally appeared on Humor Writer (http://www.ebnimble.com/).
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