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Jason asks: "I'm a college senior at an excellent university in Washington, DC. I'm majoring in Literature and I've been wanting to write a column. How would I approach a newspaper or magazine about my idea? How do I build a writing portifolio? Is it okay to photocopy my clips?"

Hi Jason,

As far as internship, that's an excellent idea. It is a fulcrum you can use to initiate a writing career. Do some due diligence on any internship and make sure that you will do something useful and not just pick up papers or do stapling or something of that nature. Check with your advisor on that or go to where they list internships.

DC is a pretty good place for writers. It seems to proliferate in newsletters aimed at something involved with the federal government. You might look at some of those in relation to your subject interest.

The good news is that this is the best time to get out of college and look for a job in a few years. By the time you graduate I would suspect that many publications are going to be expanding their staff. In fact, there may be recruiters looking for you, depending on any number of factors.

As far as writing a column what you do is prepare a cover letter. In the cover letter you write the editor and tell him what the column is about, why you are the one to write it, and why it will add value to his publication. Make it one page, very neat, no mistakes, and make sure you address the right editor. Include some clips with the cover letter. Make sure contact information is on the cover letter. You might tell the editor you will call to follow up to make sure he got the materials. The only problem is that very few columns are published. Editors are very cautious about it. They get good national columns from syndicates. You may as well try but don't get too discouraged.

As far as developing a writing portfolio go to this link from Kennesaw State University.

It's ok to include a paper that is relevant but clips from your college paper or magazine is going to count more. And you can photocopy your clips, yes.

When you leave college, the recruiters and editors know you are getting out of college so they aren't going to expect a lot of clips, a lot of experience. What they are looking for are people committed to the career path, willing to learn and work in teams, and with the basic writing, editing, computer skills.

You shouldn't have a problem finding a job out of college. If you run into resistance just put your head down and keep at it. What you want to do is start to think of a career path and how you can negotiate that through the next ten years.

Good luck in your pursuits!

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