He writes an article about my use of this rifle as his first outdoor-writing assignment.
You can do the same by writing about my adventures with Young Blunderbuss.
As an outdoor writer, one task that I take seriously is to help train younger writers to take the place of us older writers who are facing our mortality. To this end, for the past three years I have taught a one-day introductory course, Becoming an Outdoor Communicator, at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield, Georgia. I now have a Kickstarter project that ends on April 30 to enable me to continue to hold this event. Because many young people who might otherwise want to take advantage of this event could not come because of jobs, families and financial stress, I will occasionally work with would-be writers by correspondence.
One such, I will call John. He lives 500-miles away from me, has two young children and holds down a job in law enforcement where he is on-call. He wanted to attend my seminar, but could not. He had written and published two recipe-type articles in different outdoor magazines, but realized that he needed additional skills to sell articles to this demanding market.
My task was to take him from producing high-school level content to the post-graduate level where he could write compelling stories for today’s editors.
Those of you who know me realize that for several years I have been working with an obscure .75-caliber rifle produced by the British military that had a brief period of use in the 1850s in Europe, on the high seas and in British colonies. This was the two-groove Brunswick rifle that was also made by Nepalese workmen in their shops in Nepal for use by Nepalese troops who were allies of the British during the Sepoy Rebellion.
I have 30-odd YouTube videos showing me working with two of these rifles. One was cleaned and used to take a deer at Hard Labor State Park in Georgia on a population reduction hunt, and the other was restocked from a broken “parts gun” whose barrel was better rifled than the barrel of complete rifle that I owned.
John’s assignment was to look at these videos and write a 1,500-word article as if he had sat down with me for an interview. The title of the piece was to be, “One Man’s Gun: The .75-Caliber Brunswick Rifle,” or something similar. Once the article was completed, I would supply him with the needed photography to submit to potential publishers.
This was a challenging assignment, and I gave him 30 days to complete it. He let a friend review it before sending me his second attempt at the assignment. His first was written in question-answer interview fashion, which I told him no editor I knew would publish. This type of format is often published in celebrity interviews usually done by a magazine staff writer on deadline. What outdoor magazine editors wanted, I informed him, were things in story form that were told in an interesting manner, revealed something of both the interviewer and interviewee and told his readers about something that they did not know.
The second attempt was to full length, sent well before the deadline and adequately reflected my suggested changes in approach. Its problems were more in the mechanics of putting it together and use of quotes, than his selection of content or how the piece was arranged. I had to deconstruct and rewrite only one paragraph. There were also some cases of agreement of verbs or of verbs and subjects that I had to correct. I also changed the word order in a few sentences.
Although John had used my middle name Hovey, by which I am usually called, in the piece; I changed these 30 entries to the more formal Smith. Using the last name after the first use of the full name is the way second references to names are rendered in news writing.
John’s article was a heroic effort, considering where he started from and the amount of material he had to digest, organize and render into only 1,500 words. Thomas Jefferson once famously wrote, “I am sorry for the long letter. I did not have time to write you a short one.” This assignment would have been much easier to produce as a 3,000-word piece than one half that length.
If you think that you want to be an outdoor writer, I give you the same assignment using my videos about the blunderbuss, which I also built from scratch and used on game in several states. If I am not bombarded with too many pieces, I will correct them and send them back with comments. In return, I would like a pledge of any amount you can afford to my Kickstarter project by April 30, 2016 at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hoveysmith/becoming-an-outdoor-communicator-seminar.
You have 15 days to make your pledge and 30 to complete the assignments. If you read this long after April 30, and still want to do it or learn if the seminars will be continued, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.