Tenacity Pays Off

After more than twenty-five years in the business, I had to start from scratch. When I quit my job, I couldn’t take any of my clients with me. They belonged to the HMO for which I used to work. I had to find a way to market my private practice as a marriage and family therapist.

A reporter from The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel interviewed me about why I left the HMO. Subsequently the paper published a near-full-page article with a large color picture of me. I thought I would get some referrals from all that coverage. I did, but not enough to sustain a practice over time.

What better way to get my face in the public eye than to write a column in a newspaper? I didn’t expect to bump any current columnists from secure positions at The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, so I started looking into community newspapers. When I found one that didn’t have a column like the one I wanted to write, I got busy writing short articles I hoped would be of interest to the paper. When I had written enough articles to have a pretty decent stash, I started writing letters.

My first letter was an introductory letter, introducing myself, my expertise, and my vision. My second letter included articles and more information on why my column would be a valuable addition to the newspaper. Further letters were shorter, but every letter always included appreciation for her time, my contact information, and (of course) more articles – and I tried to make these articles as timely as possible. When Mother’s Day was approaching, for example, I made sure to include an article about mothers.

One might think that I’d lose hope around the fourth or fifth letter. Not me. I told the editor that I was optimistically assuming that she was interested since I had not heard otherwise. I also asked for feedback, both positive and negative. Whatever I could do to be published, I would do it!

Five months, seven letters, and twenty-five articles later, I had still not heard one word from the editor. I was reluctant to call her because I feared she’d tell me to stop sending letters and articles. My anxiety over getting a negative response, however, took a back seat to my need to know if she had even gotten my letters or my articles.

My hand was shaking when I dialed the number. The polite receptionist informed me that she would give the editor my message.

I waited for four hours, not daring to tie up my phone line. Finally she called.

“Can you give me something in four hundred words or fewer for next week’s paper? We are adding a family page, and I think your stuff is appropriate.”

“You bet I can.” It was June, and Father’s Day would be in a few weeks. While she was still on the phone, I punched up an article that would be appropriate for fathers. I got lucky; it was four hundred words.

She asked if I wanted to get paid for my work.

I said, “Yes, I do.”

She asked if I could get a picture of myself to her in a day or so.

I said, “Yes, I can.”

And there you have it. I’ve been doing the column for three years.

—M. LaCourt

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