Author Archives: Barbara Mantel

Barbara Mantel

About Barbara Mantel

Barbara Mantel (@BJMantel), an independent journalist, is AHCJ’s freelance community correspondent. Her work has appeared in CQ Researcher, Rural Health Quarterly, Undark, Healthline, and NPR, among others. She helps members find the resources they need to succeed as freelancers and welcomes your suggestions.

How to ghostwrite or co-author a book with experts

Wendy Lyons Sunshine is an award-winning writer, editor and collaborator based in Sarasota, Florida, whose byline is in scores of publications including Scientific American and Psychology Today.

Sunshine’s first book, “The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family” (McGraw-Hill), is an award-winner that she co-wrote with two child development experts that has since been translated into multiple languages.

Her most recent book, “Raising the Challenging Child: How to Minimize Meltdowns, Reduce Conflict, and Increase Cooperation (Revell),” is a five-star rated collaboration with leaders of a social services agency.

In this new “How I did It,” Sunshine shares her journey into book authorship and offers tips to journalists interested in collaborating with an expert on a book project. (The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity.)

How did you come up with the idea for your first book, “The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family?”

I began freelancing for some local publications, and that’s how I met the first set of authors, Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross. I was assigned to cover the amazing work they were doing in the community, helping turn around really difficult cases with some adopted children who are struggling. By the end of the process, they felt I really understood them, and so they asked me if I would help them write a book to capture their message to share with more people than they could reach directly.

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Preparing for PitchFest and tips for making the most of Health Journalism 2022

AHCJ Health Journalism 2022 is around the corner, with many opportunities aimed specifically at freelance journalists. Register by March 28 to take advantage of the early bird rate.

Editors meet with independent journalists at PitchFest at Health Journalism 2016. (Photo by Pia Christensen)

One of the most exciting opportunities is PitchFest, which is scheduled for the afternoon of Friday, April 29. Sixteen editors from top publications are coming to the conference to hear your story ideas. They include editors from AARP, WebMD, National Geographic, Everyday Health, Kaiser Health News and NPR. More details about each editor can be found on the Friday event schedule page on the AHCJ website.

You must sign up in advance for each ten-minute appointment with an editor. The online sign-up period opens on Monday, April 4, 10 a.m. CST, allowing for a maximum of three appointments. I would suggest blocking out that time on your calendar now and planning to sign up that morning. Some editors are extremely popular and appointments with them go fast. The link to sign up will appear on the PitchFest page on the AHCJ website that morning.

There is no guarantee that you will get an assignment on the spot at PitchFest, but it does happen. You increase your chances of getting an assignment on the day or through follow-up emails by coming to each appointment with a well-researched pitch.

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Ready for PitchFest? More freelance market guides to help you prepare

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels.

Before you leave for Health Journalism 2022 in Austin at the end of April, be sure to review the Freelance Center’s market guides so you’re prepared to quickly pitch your story ideas at PitchFest.

Since last blogging about the guides, I have added four new ones and one revised guide. Here’s a roundup of the latest additions.

Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News (revised)

This monthly magazine is sent free to every gastroenterologist in the United States and publishes feature stories and meeting coverage. It pays 75 cents per word for a two-source minimum story. New Managing Editor Sarah Tilyou suggests freelancers pitch a feature story because she assigns most meeting coverage. Make sure the pitch has a nut graph.

MindSite News (new)

This digital new outlet, established in September, covers mental health and pays between $1 and $1.50 per word depending on the degree of reporting. Feature stories run from 1,200 to 1,800 words and investigative pieces can be as long as 2,300 words. Founding Editor Rob Waters is looking for stories that expose problems in the mental health system and solutions-focused stories.

Monitor on Psychology (new)

This magazine from the American Psychological Association is published eight times a year and pays writers $1 per word for articles 1,500 to 2,400 words in length. Managing Editor Susan Straight says pitches need to list the experts to be interviewed — at least three — and the scientific journals to be referenced in support of the story’s key points. Ideally the pitch would contain a nut graph.

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Stay in the know: Upcoming awards and fellowships

The Freelance Center will soon be adding a new information tab about non-AHCJ awards, grants and fellowships. (AHCJ fellowship information can be found here.)

I’ll be gathering information from as many relevant sources as I can find. Please email me at with any that I might have missed. This list will grow as application deadlines approach.

I also hope to add articles from experienced journalists with advice on how to apply and win grants and fellowships. In the meantime, here are some opportunities with approaching deadlines.


Sunshine Award

This award from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) “recognizes people and groups making important contributions in the area of open government.” Winners are selected from nominees; self-nomination is allowed. The deadline for nominations is April 15. Winners will be honored at the President’s Installation Banquet during SPJ’s Convention & National Journalism Conference. There is no set number of winners. Last year’s recipients were The City, Documenting COVID-19 project and ProPublica.

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Two writers offer tips for setting up a local writers’ group

Nicole Fauteux                          Tammy Lytle

Freelancing remotely can be isolating. Many independent writers find that joining a local writers’ group helps to build a sense of community. But it can be daunting figuring out how to start and sustain a writers’ group.

Independent writer Nicole Fauteux and writer and editor Tammy Lytle belong to a Washington, DC writers’ group that members call the DC Guild. In a new “How they did it,” the duo explains how the group works, how it has benefited them and offers tips for freelancers looking to start a local group. (Responses have been lightly edited and condensed.)

How does your writers’ group work?

Lytle: The group has evolved and changed over time. Pre-COVID, we met once a month in person. We would rotate between DC, Maryland and Virginia. We would also rotate locations, days of the week and times of the day.

Fauteux: I’ve been with the group for about 15 years. The core consists of people who are journalists or who were journalists with well-known outlets and then transitioned to freelancing when journalism was going digital and news outlets were restructuring. Many people have focused on or transitioned to book writing. It’s a nice, eclectic group.

What do you talk about?

Lytle: People talk about lots of different things. “This is what I’ve been working on. This is what’s great. This is what I’m struggling with and need help with. This is what I just want to scream about. Do you have any ideas about how to deal with this editor? Or here’s an ethical question, or here’s a money question about how to price something.” The focus is to share what we’re working on, share resources and help and provide some social connection and professional networking. And sometimes, it is just a space to vent. It is a very adaptable group. We’re not focused on reading each other’s work very much, although we do that sometimes offline.

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