Mary Ellen Aschenbrenner
My published writing career began at the age of fourteen when I penned a Lockport Township High School gossip colummn for The Spectator, a Joliet weekly newspaper.
My editor, fearless Molly Zelko, fought the underworld with brazen headlines and photos. Pinball machines and illegal city contrats were routine copy.
"If 'they' get me--referring to the Mafia--I'll kick off my shoes as a sign," Molly told her staff and friends.
September 25, 1957 was Molly's last day on the job. Molly's shoes were found curbside by her Western Avenue apartment on Joliet's Near West Side.
Unlike her stylish red pumps, Moly was never found. Her disappearance created national news and was investigated by then Attorney General Robert Kennedy and drew the attention of J. Edgar Hoover. Kenedy wrote about the case in his book, "The Enemy Within."
Ottawa Times (retired) Edtor Lonny Cain writes about Molly in his forthcoming book tentatively titled Molly's Missing.
I met Cain when I worked as a correspondent for The Joliet Herald News; He was a full-time reporter. Cain later becdame The Ottawa Times' Managing Editor. He retired in 2015 completing 37 years with the Times.
If anyone reading this website has info on Molly or knew her personally, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
You too can be Published!
Think you're good enough? Maybe you are,
But, if you haven't been back to school lately nor worked with
published writers, you may want to polish your skills.
Take every creative writing and journalism class you can. Join a
writers group whose leader and members (at least one or more of
them) have been published. You will learn something from each
class you take and every group you join.
Once you think you're polished enough for print:
... Volunteer your skills to a school or charity who needs to
promote an event.
... Get a copy of the paper you plan to submit to. Look at similar
articles and follow their patterns. Get full details on the event
you plan to write about before calling the paper.
... Know your subject well.
... Get the name of the editor in charge of features. Don't wing it.
Call the person by name. No exceptions. Have all info about
the event in front of you. Same goes for questions you have
regarding the paper's mandates. Editors are busy people
and don't have time for amateurs. Be professional.
... If you've had previous writing experience, share the info with
... Tell them who and wh.at you are writing about, when the event
will happen. (Of course, you will have obtained all that info from
your source prior to contacting the paper.)
... Once the editor expresses interst in your story idea, ask about
deadlines, lengths and how they prefer submissions.
... Don't miss deadlines!
HALT!! Before you submit copy ...
... Be sure you have time, date and place (in that order)
mentioned high in your copy.
... Before you submit your copy, go over it and eliminate
every unnecessary word. Words cost the paper money. One of
many editors' pet peeves is using the word "that". If your
sentence makes sense without 'that' word, eliminate it .
... Keep active voice and present tense when possible. If you don't
know what 'that' means, take a class or get info from the internet.
... Be sure you have quotes from individuals you are writing about.
... Put copy through spell check and word count. Follow all
guidelines the paper has set.
... Realize you won't get paid for this work and you probably won't
get a by-line. However, down-the-road, when an editor
recognizes your worth, rceiving a by-line will be pay enough --
for starters anyway.
... My first paid job with a by-line was about 300 words and I
received $5. (Makes one wonder if seeing your name in print is
really worth it.) Down-the-road, you'll realize it truly is worth the
effort. My grandmother had a powerful saying, "If you hang a
man long enough, he'll get used to it."
Hang in there!