Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Be a Pal and Help Your Fellow Writer

In the past week, I've been approached by two writers on opposite ends of the spectrum seeking my assistance. One is a well-entrenched Manhattan journalist seeking my knowledge on a specific region as relates to heavy metal music. The other is a relative newbie looking to get himself back into the music game for a second try and he came to me looking for any sort of "in" I could toss his way.

Where would we all be as professional authors and journalists without a helping hand or two along our way? Frankly, it takes more than just a couple of outstretched hands to make it in writing and therein lies the rub, if you take my meaning.

I gladly welcomed correspondence and text messages from these two writers and I'm more than happy to help them to the best of my ability. In the case of one, I directed him to a good editor friend of mine whom I've written countless pieces for. It was my sincere pleasure to connect them and I hope they develop a healthy editorial relationship. In the other case, I still need to research his query a bit more and I find myself in need of a transcontinental helping hand from a good buddy I know across the seas. JP, I know you're a regular visitor here, so hit me up, mang, I need your counsel.

The point is, everybody needs everybody in this business. Whether you're an editor, an author, a literary agent, a publicist, a radio jock, a photographer, whatever your deal is in the creative and media outlets, helping hands are critical to achieving our respective goals. I can't thank enough the people who threw me a bone when I needed to make some coin, nor can I discount those who nudged me up the totem with their generosity. Yeah, you to have show your chops and you must build your rep from ground zero, but the harder you work, the more connections you make and the more you display an eagerness to please your newfound alliances, they will make all the difference in your career...more so, your life.

Sure, I've spent numerous evenings throwing out article queries to magazine editors and received no responses, not even a rejection notice. I've thrown myself out there to all of my contacts with requests for assistance in getting to viable names who might listen to my pitches or take a handful of manuscript pages for review. More often than not, people won't help or they're just not in the position to do so. It's part and parcel to networking and fighting for what you want. As long as you make friends along the way and keep your intentions pure, there are very few boundaries set before you in requesting future help--so long as you use common sense.

You know, individual goals can become a mutual goal as one path opens to the other. You never know what doors may be revealed if you take a minute to answer a question from a pro instead of silently seething with jealousy and refusing to help just to spite that person's success. Often you won't get an immediate reciprocal benefit from lending your expertise, but rest assured your name is getting out there. How else do you think that journalist from USA Today or The New York Times got to you in the first place?

I'm honored to help other writers and I'm deeply touched when I receive a flattering message from a comrade as I did this afternoon. You can never take for granted when another writer seeks your advice and your help, particularly when they inform you they've been directly influenced by your work. This is a pessimistic society we live in, and most jaded people would call heavy complimenting the fine art of the schmooze. To certain latitudes, there's accuracy in that judgment, but not when you have the opportunity to befriend a rising voice in the literary community. People forget one another on their way to the top, sure, but most of them do remember a good deed and they'll very likely pay it forward, either to yourself or to another writer who seeks their advice. Our craft as a collective only stands to blossom when we take the time to help each other to our best capacity.

So if you ever get contacted by a serious author with a serious request, try to be a pal and take that pivotal moment of connection seriously.

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