We’re lucky to have a great crew of regular contributors, but we’re also open to unsolicited submissions from the public at large. Reading these guidelines will greatly improve your chances of acceptance.
Just to be clear, I, your Editor in Chief, do not think that you can do this. I will do my best to give you a fair read and an honest opinion.
We pay at professional rates for prose ($.05/word) and semi-professional rates for poetry ($10/poem).
We publish poetry, fiction, and non-fiction pieces. Really, any written piece is fine, as long as it attempts to better the city of Atlanta with a mixture of compelling information and/or humor. A lack of either may be replaced with an abundance of the other.
Think along the lines of The New Yorker’s “Shouts & Murmurs” or McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, except that with us you have a hope of getting accepted. That said, it is a small hope.
What follows is a helpful primer on how to get accepted from a more magnanimous time in my life. My soul is now a shit-walled hovel of disapproval. Just kidding. It’s not. But I’m leaving the following text out of the sheerest optimism.
You can read this but you probably still won’t be able to write.
Our articles start, and many times end, with the headline, but we don’t do clickbait. It’s a fine line to walk. That said, if a joke is so complex that it needs 600 words to be funny, it gets tough. The writing team spends a lot of time going back and forth on headlines, making them shorter, and funnier. In the comedy business this is known as “punching up,” or “Shoryuken.”
We might like your premise, but want to punch up your headline some.
What’s clickbait? I’ll let Wikipedia answer:
Clickbait is a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks.
We don’t do that. We want people to enjoy our content because it sounds, and is, compelling, not because they were tricked into clicking through.
“Okay, great,” you’re thinking, “But how do I make funny?” Glad I’m pretending you asked!
How Do I Funny Part 1: Premise
I think we can all come up with something of which we want to make fun. Often, it starts with something that annoys us. But how do we make that idea as funny as possible?
There are a couple of ingredients:
1. Big Things Small and Small Things Big
Here’s a great example of this premise, from UK sketch comedy group Mitchell and Webb.
Almost every familiar thing in that sketch that would normally be a big deal is not at all a big deal. Then, at the end, something small is a big deal.
Unfortunately this principle makes it very hard to make fun of crazy people, because if someone will do any crazy thing it’s hard to out crazy them. For example, it’s tough to write a funny sarcastic headline about the Westboro Baptist Church because they are 1. utterly revolting and 2. batshit insane. You can’t out batshit or out revolting them, and if you can, we don’t want to talk to you.
2. Puns and Word Coining
People talk shit about puns, but I, your editor, love them. I also love new words, and we’ve had success with making them up. During the snow storm we got lots of traction on twitter with our hashtag #halfinchalance, and then lots more with Mike Albanese’s article about the “Snowcockalypse.”
As you know from watching the movie “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” Flynt’s case set a legal precedent that something is a joke if it is too outlandish to be believed. It’s also funny.
Here’s an example of outlandish, once again from The Onion:
Macklemore Reminds Grammys Audience About CDs Available For Sale In Lobby
Reach deep for that amazing premise. You can do it.
How To Be Funny Part 2: Headline
Now you’ve got your premise, and you’re ready to bang out a headline. A good headline for us is shaped like a one-liner, which in your editor’s mind is shaped like a ski jump. The first part of the sentence is the downhill. You’re building up speed, and you know basically where you’re headed. All of a sudden you hit the funny part, or the ramp of the jump, and it sends you up into the air (laughter).
The harder the upturn of the ramp of the jump, the higher a skier will go. Similarly, the greater the twist or funnier the punchline, the funnier the joke will be.
This is a Rodney Dangerfield one-liner:
I was so depressed that I decided to jump from the tenth floor. They sent up a priest. He said “On your mark… “
Whenever I meet a pretty girl, the first thing I look for is intelligence; because if she doesn’t have that, then she’s mine.
Dogs are forever in the push up position.
Often, we see a great premise but the headline isn’t ordered the way it needs to be for maximum funniness. If people like the headline, they will come read your content. If they like that, they’ll tell their friends, and the best looking of those friends will sleep with you probably.
Here’s a recent The Onion headline:
Real-Life Nancy Drew Traces Source Of Her HPV
A woman tracing the source of her HPV isn’t all that funny, but that headline is funny because it starts “Real-life Nancy Drew,” which builds steam in the “Wow, this lady is going to be boring and irritating because she thinks she’s some kind of detective out of a book” direction, then we hit the HPV ski jump.
How To Be Funny Part 3: Your Article
You’ve checked out Parts 1 and 2. Now all you have to do is write the article. What follows here is a basic outline of a satirical article. If you understand the rules of this framework, you can break them. But understand them first! Understand, then break. Got it? Good.
Now understand that some rules are unbreakable. Those are:
- No dialog tags other than “said” and “asked.” – No one needs to “comment” or “cough” or “guffaw” their spoken words. They either say them, or in the case of a question, ask them. This is so that readers don’t get taken out of the context of our narrative by wondering why someone is verb-ing their dialog rather than just saying it like a normal person.
- When in doubt, Follow AP style. (Yes I know capped headlines are CMOS) – For any punctuation questions like how to mention a political party and state for a senator, or when to capitalize “mayor.”
- No jokes about real people who died – I don’t care how funny it is, I consider it beneath us to laugh when someone has died, regardless of how reviled they were in life. It’s fine to make fun of people who are dead, (e.g. Stalin was “a dick”) but not fine to make a joke about a real person’s death, (e.g. missing Malaysian airliner).
Sample Satirical Article Framework
Your basic article looks kind of like this. Obviously, if you’ve got some kind of crazy avant garde sonnet to a MARTA train in mind, this doesn’t apply to you:
CITY, ST–There will usually be a joke in this line. The rest of the paragraph is supporting information that will help later jokes.
Paragraph two leads up to joke number two, which is slightly crazier than the joke in paragraph one.
Paragraph three turns up the intensity even further.
The final paragraph sums up a bit, but mostly concludes the article with a twist or the most absurd thing imaginable.
Here’s how that might look in article format:
Doraville Man Incarcerated for Biting Dog
ATLANTA, GA — Harry Barker, 31, was taken into custody last night for allegedly biting a neighborhood dog. The dog, Scout, aged 3 years in people time, was seen entering Barker’s yard yesterday when eyewitnesses say Barker rushed out of his home, dropped to hands and knees and delivered a bite to Scout’s hindquarters. Scout, who yelped and left the scene, appears to have no lasting physical damage, but authorities say it’s simply not legal to do violence, regardless of the victims species.
Barker, however, seemed to feel Scout had it coming. Onlookers say Barker was shouting at the time of his arrest, saying, “This is street stuff between me and Scout! I’m just taking care of business, ya hear me?”
Scout’s owners, Fred and Linda Paynels, say they’ve exchanged words with Barker before. “We’ve caught him peeing in our yard over the last few years,” said Fred, 45. “And we’ve found a human turd or two. Pretty sure that was him as well.”
Upon his release on $250 bond this morning, Barker’s lawyer, Wagner Tailman, said he felt confidant that a jury would understand his client’s actions.
“When someone transgresses against us, it is our natural inclination to strike back against that person,” said Tailman. “Scout has a documented history of attempting to mark my client’s yard as his territory using his urine. Obviously, my client had to redraw the boundaries in accordance with municipal records.” Tailman said that Scout then began to defecate in Barker’s lawn, to which Barker had no choice but to respond in kind. The dispute, says Tailman, was escalated from there by Scout.
“There is no doubt that we will be victorious in this matter,” Tailman said in closing. “I can tell because I have sniffed everyone’s butts, and I smell their submissiveness.”
See how easy that is?
If you’re ready after reading all that, submit around 600 hilarious words in the case of a standard satirical article as well as an image with Creative Commons, public domain, or your own license to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: Your image must not be stolen. It has to be credited properly. We use Flickr a lot because their advanced search allows searching for Creative Commons licensed images.
What if I want to help but I don’t live in the Atlanta metropolitan area?
Well, we’re an Atlanta outlet. If you have a great idea and know us well enough to develop it, then let us look at it. We like to think of ourselves as local, though, so we like local details.