What’s your top story for today?
I’m currently researching for a piece on custom-built artistic front doors as part of a larger series on local Bay Area craftspeople. I’ve got a couple of artists lined up and am excited to learn about the design process, and am also interested to see how such a specific piece of art can fit in with an architect’s vision of an overall redesign or construction. It’s interesting that one of the first thing one notices when approaching a home is often an afterthought in the whole design process.
Tell us about your dream assignment.
My mother-in-law comes from a remote village in Crete, high in the mountains with little interest in or access to the outside world. I would love to write about the foods and customs of the area, all the while knowing that the information would be impractical to the home cook since most of what they eat is indigenous to the area without substitute. Most dream assignments don’t stem from practicality or financial gain, hence the dream. I can safely say that many working writers today have to take assignments that don’t interest them, but a good writer would never let it show.
Describe the wackiest story you have ever written.
I don’t know if I would call it wacky, but tedious for sure. When I was a copywriter for a virtual home and garden ecommerce site, I had to produce copy for hundreds (thousands?) of outdoor products, while adhering to the ever-changing SEO constraints. For reasons unknown to me, descriptions needed to be hundreds of words in length. There’s really only so much you can say about a wind chime, weather vane or mailbox.
What is your PR pet peeve?
I really don’t have one. I see the connection between the two (pr and writer) integral to today’s information-driven journalism. Especially for a freelance writer like myself, stories originating and/or supported by a PR team are very important.
Top trend in the industry you’re currently covering or are interested in?
I’m finding myself reading an increasing amount of stories that are two-fold, with many having a public service or social activism component. Not that there is anything wrong with social consumerism or social tourism, but I kind of miss the days when you opened a paper or magazine and indulged in someone else’s frivolity without feeling guilty that you weren’t doing your part to change the world. Long ago people helped the underserved, but didn’t position it as a way to gain publicity or promote a business. I love to read stories about the unsung heroes that help others with no other agenda. Those are the stories that inspire, and I think that inspiration is always a better motivator than guilt. There are less and less subtleties in life today. Yet I also find myself looking for stories that have a “do good” component because I know that’s what editors are looking for. My parents are educators, both librarians, so I tend to be interested in stories that are interesting and educational. We’re never too old to learn something new.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’d much rather share a story, be an ear to a friend or learn something new than talk about myself.
Sophia Markoulakis writes weekly gardening articles for the San Francisco Chronicle and contracts regularly for Sunset Publishing. She has also been responsible for publishing the online version of Safeway’s bi-monthly Every Season magazine for the past five years.
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What’s your top story for today?