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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Thursday Tip...Your Writing Portfolio

Today's tip is from Mary Ann Diorio.

Artists compile portfolios to display their work when presenting it to an editor. Writers can do the same thing.

What Is a Writing Portfolio?

Most simply put, a writing portfolio is a vehicle for presenting or displaying one's written work. For the professional writer, a portfolio is a marketing tool for presenting writing samples, commonly called clips, to editors or employers.

A portfolio can be as simple as a notebook or a loose-leaf binder with clear plastic page covers for inserting clips. If you prefer something fancier, you can purchase a small, standard artist’s portfolio at a stationery or art supply store.

Whatever you use to display your clips, make sure that it looks professional. The reason for this is that you will be showing your portfolio to editors at writers’ conferences or, perhaps, at their offices. You may also be showing your portfolio to a prospective employer. In either case, you don’t want to carry a shoebox full of unorganized clips. An organized portfolio will say a good deal about you as a writer. Remember: you have only one chance to make a good first impression.

It is important to keep your portfolio up to date. One way to do so is to clip your article, story, or poem as soon as it is published and place it directly into your portfolio. Be sure to write the name of the magazine and the date of publication at the top of the clip. If possible, insert the clip in a plastic page protector. This will prevent the dog-earing and soiling that often result from frequent turning of pages. Using a plastic page protector will also mark you as a professional who respects his work.

For your best articles, I suggest lamination. Because paper, especially newsprint, tends to yellow and tear over the years, laminating your best work can keep it presentable and readable indefinitely. Laminating also allows for frequent handling without damage to your clip. Laminated articles can be hole-punched for direct insertion in your portfolio or slipped into a page protector.

Why Keep a Writing Portfolio?

There are several reasons for having a writing portfolio. Here are some of the most common:

· A writing portfolio serves as a professional way of introducing yourself and your work to editors at writers' conferences. Having a portfolio makes it easier for editors to assess your writing ability. It also demonstrates that you take your writing seriously. Moreover, a portfolio of several clips shows an editor that you are a consistent, working writer.

· A writing portfolio can be presented during a job interview as a visual résumé of your writing skills. It can show your interviewer that you are an effective communicator, a skill that many employers consider a high priority.

· A writing portfolio can serve as a means of publicizing your writing. Writers' conferences often provide a space for displaying one's writing portfolio. Such a practice makes fellow conferees and participating editors aware of your work and may even result in an assignment.

· A writing portfolio provides a single location for the storage of your best clips. No longer will you frantically have to search through files or piles to fulfill an editor's request for a clip. You can simply retrieve one from your portfolio, photocopy it, and send it off. Also, you can carry your writing portfolio with you so that you will always be ready for those serendipitous opportunities that present themselves to those who are prepared.

· A writing portfolio provides a valuable archive that can be passed on to future generations. It can serve as a primary source record of an era and as a presentation of your worldview about that era. In this sense, a writing portfolio provides an original historical document that will influence generations beyond your own.

How to Format Your Writing Portfolio

The first page of your writing portfolio should be your title page. Place your name about one-third of the way down the page, in a large font or in all caps.

Following the title page, include your résumé. If you are presenting your portfolio to an editor, emphasize in your résumé the writing you have done, whether free-lance or job-related. One caveat: Never leave your portfolio with an editor or employer. Instead, photocopy samples of your best writing and attach them to a copy of your résumé. Then leave this packet with an editor or prospective employer.

Your writing portfolio can serve as a major tool in the furtherance of your writing career. Make sure that you assemble it with care and balance. For example, choose writing samples that reflect both your strengths and your versatility as a writer.

In order to have a portfolio, you must have clips. So now that you know what a writing portfolio is, get busy filling it!
Copyright 2003 by Mary Ann Diorio, Ph.D.
Mary Ann is an award-winning writer of short stories, articles, and poems. Her published clips include The Saturday Evening Post, Decision, and Human Events. She is currently working on her first novel.


Jen's Journey said...

Hmmm! Maybe I need to clip out some of my articles from the newspaper for this purpose. Plus, I have some of my old "stuff." Wondering what kind of writing qualifies for a portfolio.

Christine H said...

Me too. Do devotionals in a church newsletter? Other things published for free, like Internet newsletters? Technical writing for work?

Christine H said...

PS what about blog entries, crafted as essays? They are examples of writing, though they haven't gone past an editor.

E Bussey said...

I think that if you've written it and published it, the pay or medium in which it was published does not matter. Use it, but first ask yourself...
1. Does this reflect my best?
2. Is this what I enjoy writing?
3. Does it present me as a professional?

We want to show variety in our abilities, but also realize that we will often get hired according to our strengths.

Amy Jane said...

Are you still answering questions on this one? I just found you :o)

I have been blogging for a year and am working on a novel. I keep hearing about "clips" but only have one article actually published (a local op/ed more than a year ago, and I didn't save a hard-copy).

Since I'm just writing on the side, I don't want to "waste" my writing time fishing for jobs and publications just for clips...

Unless they are somewhat critical to getting my "real" work read.

Sorry for the long intro, but do you think I should pursue (essentially) random publication just to make clips, or stick with my blogging and novel and just see if the novel can carry itself?

Thanks for your time.

Tricia Goyer said...

I think that ANY writing helps you in the long run. Seriously.

It gets you used to working with editors.

Gets your name out there.

Hones your skills.

Plus, you are reaching people with your message!

And ... editors move. And if they like you they will take you with them.

Including to BOOK publishing houses.

Yes, it's happened to me!

Rachael Schultz said...

Why do you say to never leave your portfolio with an editor or employer? If you make a copy just for them, wouldn't they rather have it bound than just copies paperclipped with your resume?