Tips from the National Geographic Storytellers Summit
"The people that work with us the most are the people that pitch us the most" - National Geographic Story Pitching Workshop
This week, I traveled to the earth’s remotest corners at the National Geographic Storytellers Summit. Although the summit was virtual, it provided a needed break from the relentlessness of the pandemic. Presenters invited us into their worlds, took us spelunking and diving, and gave us tips about how to write grants and pitches. For those of you interested in working with National Geographic, I’m sharing some of my main takeaways from the pitching workshop:
Shoot for 1-2 paragraphs (500 words) in a pitch. Send it in the body of the email & the fewer words in an email, the more approachable it seems.
Give plenty of lead time (think weeks or, more likely, months)
Demonstrate some level of reporting in the pitch
Have you worked with the editor before?
Does your story have a time peg?
State in the pitch email if you need a response by a certain day and provide that date or write “time-sensitive” in the email subject line
Pitches, especially for narrative stories, are honed over weeks or months with the editor
Don’t feel shy to share statistics. National Geographic loves proposals that have facts and numbers to back up their claim.
What languages are your outputs going to be created in?
If you send photos, make a PDF or use a download link. Don’t send attachments.
If you aren’t a photographer - describe what the visuals will be.
If you are applying for a grant, you need a website. And make it easy. If you don’t have a website, make a PDF that showcases your storytelling work.
I remember reading National Geographic as a child and the hunger I felt to explore the world for myself. How I long to be curious and freely out exploring, as I imagine we all do during these pandemic days. At the Summit, photographer Robbie Shone mentioned that when he started out, he saved money for spelunking equipment by only eating pepper sandwiches. I know that many of us who have chosen a strange creative path remember the sacrifices we have made along the way.
May the thrill of exploration always be worth the sacrifice,
Announcements & Events:
I sold a book! Announcement forthcoming from the publisher.
March 26, 2022: I will be speaking about my work on the US-Mexico border in person at Arizona State University and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication