What is Shameless?
Shameless is an independent Canadian voice for smart, strong, sassy young women and trans youth. We publish in a print magazine and online, and we are always looking for new contributors for both sides of Shameless.
Who reads Shameless?
Our readers are people of all ages interested in learning about and engaging with social justice and antioppressive politics, but we focus on writing for young women and trans youth between about 13 and 18.
Who should write for Shameless?
Shameless contributors are a big, diverse bunch. We don’t have any rules about who can or cannot write for the magazine — we try to pick the right person for every article or blog post. But if you fit into one of the categories below we would particularly like to hear from you:
1. You are a young woman or trans youth who wants to get involved with Shameless. Maybe you want to share something you are passionate about with our readers. Maybe you just love to write. We are always looking for young contributors, and we love it when our readers become writers. Get in touch anytime!
2. You are an inexperienced writer of any age with a great idea or perspective to share. We are happy to work with less experienced adults who are passionate about our mandate. Maybe you know a lot about something that our readers would be interested in, or you have a personal experience or perspective to share that is neglected by most of the mainstream media. Drop us a line, and we’ll see what we can do together.
3. You are an experienced writer or journalist of any age. If you are passionate about our work, and file great stories on deadline, we’d love to see your pitches.
Great. Where should I send my final draft?
Hold your horses! We love the enthusiasm, but like most publications, we rarely accept finished pieces. We like to be in touch with our contributors through the reporting and writing process. (There are exceptions to this rule — occasionally, we might be interested in revising and publishing a great piece that you have written for a school paper or a blog.)
Okay, okay. How do I start writing for Shameless?
The short answer is that you should send us a pitch — an email that describes the story you would like to write, and explains why it’s a good fit for Shameless.
Before writing your pitch, you should read our mandate. If your pitch is for the magazine, read through a recent issue, and if you want to write for us online, spend some time reading what we have already published on our site. Then check our detailed guide to writing a great Shameless pitch below.
If you are pitching a story for the magazine that is time-sensitive or seasonal, for example an article to coincide with the next Olympics, or a craft that our readers will want to do in the spring, pitch at least four months ahead of time. We publish three times a year, in April, August and December.
Shameless is a progressive magazine with no religious or political party affiliation. Sexist, racist, ableist, classist, homophobic and other exclusionary language is not tolerated.
If you are pitching something for the magazine, address your email to our Editorial Director, Sheila Sampath, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Usually, it will take us at least six to eight weeks to decide on a magazine or web feature pitch. Sometimes, we accept older pitches because they mesh well with a new issue’s theme, but after six weeks, we won’t mind if you choose to submit your story to another outlet. Unfortunately, we are not always able to send rejections for magazine pitches or web features.
On blog pitches, you should expect a response to your pitch within about a week of submission. You may be asked to submit a draft, you may be asked for more information or clarification on your pitch, or we may let you know that your piece isn't right for Shameless.
Unfortunately Shameless cannot afford to pay contributors. We are a volunteer-run organization and all the money we earn from sales goes toward printing the magazine. We are working to change this and hope to one day pay our contributors. That said, you own the copyright to your article — we only request first publication rights and the right to publish the piece on our website, unless you request otherwise. You are free to try and sell your piece after we publish it.
A note about rejection
Because our time and space is limited, and we are looking for such specific things, many Shameless pitches never become stories. We know that getting rejected is tough — most Shameless editors are also writers, and we have all had stories rejected. It can be hard not to take a rejection personally. Stories are rejected for all kinds of reasons, many of them beyond your control — maybe we recently published a piece about a similar topic, or the section you are pitching to is already packed. Maybe we made a mistake. A rejection doesn’t mean that we don’t like you, or that you’re a bad writer or reporter or person, or that you will never get published.
If your pitch is not accepted, think about turning your pitch into a great post for your own blog, or sending it to another magazine. Keep writing, for us, for another outlet, or at least for yourself. Send us another pitch.
Writing a great Shameless pitch
The anatomy of a pitch
A “pitch” is a short email summarizing an article that you want to write for our magazine or website. Like most magazines and web publications, we want you to send us a pitch and wait to hear back from us before reporting or writing your article. Pitches should be short — well under one page.
In general, a pitch should answer three questions:
1. What would your story be about?
2. Why does your story belong with Shameless?
3. Why are you the person to write this story?
The first part is pretty self-explanatory: Tell us what you want to write about. Don’t get bogged down in too much detail. Let us know how long you think your story should be, and if it’s for the magazine what section you think it fits into. (Our sections are listed at the end of this guide.)
If you will have to interview people for your story, tell us roughly who you would try to speak with. Please don’t get in touch with them until we have accepted your story, though.
The second question is much more important than the first. Why is this story important? Why is it important to our readers? Why is it important that Shameless, in particular, publish this story? You may find that it helps to refer to our mandate, which you can read below.
Not everyone has an answer to the third question, and that’s okay. We’d love to hear about any special experience or knowledge you have about your topic, and about your experience writing for publication, but we do accept stories from inexperienced writers.
Your pitch itself is your first and best opportunity to show us how well you can write. If you have writing samples — articles that you have published elsewhere, blog posts you are particularly proud of, or even school papers — send them or links to them with your pitch.
What makes a great Shameless story?
The best way to figure this out is to read past issues of Shameless and visit our website regularly. A few pieces from most of our old issues are available on our website and your local library may have many of our back issues as well. Your pitch is much, much more likely to be accepted if we can tell you’ve read the magazine!
Shameless stories should be interesting and accessible to our core audience, young women and trans youth from about 13 to 18 — but our readers are interested in many, many different things. Focus on stories that you would not expect to see in bigger, more mainstream publications, and try not to pitch stories too similar to articles we have published recently.
Our mandate is also a great place to start:
Shameless is an independent Canadian voice for smart, strong, sassy young women and trans youth. It's a fresh alternative to typical teen magazines, packed with articles about arts, culture and current events, reflecting the neglected diversity of our readers' interests and experiences. Grounded in principles of social justice and anti-oppression, Shameless aims to do more than just publish a magazine: we aim to inspire, inform, and advocate for young women and trans youth.
Shameless strives to practice and develop an inclusive feminism. We understand that many of the obstacles faced by young women and trans youth lie at the intersection of different forms of oppression, based on race, class, ability, immigration status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. As a grassroots magazine, we are committed to supporting and empowering young writers, editors, designers and artists, especially those from communities that are underrepresented in the mainstream media.
What makes a great magazine piece?
Much of the magazine is divided into departments that appear in every issue, so you should be very clear about which parts of the magazine your article could fit into. If you want to write a longer story — a feature — then we can be more flexible, but you should explain why your story deserves several pages.
What makes a great Shameless blog post?
We love to get pitches for guest blog posts. Posts often focus on things that it would be difficult to cover in the magazine because it takes so long to be printed — for example, an opinion piece related to breaking news that our readers may not remember four months from now, or a preview of an event that is coming up soon.
Because they’re on the internet, our blog posts tend to be written for a wider-ranging audience. Many of our readers are older than those who read the print magazine, but it's important to remember that our blog is meant to be accessible to readers who may not have a lot of experience in feminist and anti-oppressive work.
Blog posts tend to be less than 1000 words in length and can include multimedia, links and images. To pitch for the blog, please send a short description of your intended piece and the angle you plan to take.
Including a couple of links to blog posts you've written in the past is a great way to showcase your writing skills.
What makes a great Shameless web feature?
If your web pitch will lead to a story that involves multiple sources, substantial context or background, and images, we encourage you to pitch a feature, rather than a blog post. If your story seems more like a magazine article than a blog post but it is to time-sensitive to get into the print magazine, a web feature may be the right format for you.
Features can focus on socio-political issues, arts and culture, labour, current events, activism, profile interesting people, and more. While we are open to DIY features, we ask that you address the political side of the activity. For example, a feature about sewing could provide instructions, but also discuss some history of the activity, and what it means that it has become popular again in some circles. Think about what visuals – photos, charts or original artwork – might enhance your piece, but remember that you can’t just grab graphics from the web that don’t belong to you.
What happens after I send my pitch?
Shameless is edited by a team of volunteers. We meet regularly and decide together what articles we will publish. If you send us a pitch for the print magazine, our editorial director Sheila Sampath will give it a first read and add it to our database, where all of our section editors can see it. Curious about who edits Shameless? Get to know our staff here.
If we like an idea, we will talk about what section it fits into, and when we might have room to publish it. Sometimes a pitch is interesting, but not exactly right for the magazine. In that case, we might think about whether a slightly different take on the story might work better. Sometimes we set aside strong pitches until they match up with a later issue’s theme, but we understand that by then you may have sent your pitch to another publication. That’s fine with us.
What language and tone does Shameless prefer?
We are looking for diverse, creative, original, thought-provoking, entertaining, challenging, well-researched, engaging stories. We prefer journalistic to academic-style writing. Your story should be more like a letter to a friend than a school essay. We are looking for fresh, witty writing that engages and entertains. Try not to rant, unless it's the best way to handle your topic. If you are older than our target audience, avoid over-the-top attempts at sounding young and hip. Let your natural voice come through.
Shameless is a progressive magazine with no religious or political party affiliation. Sexist, racist, ableist, classist, homophobic and other exclusionary language will not be tolerated.
What sections are in every issue of Shameless magazine?
Features: In-depth articles about everything from questioning our political system to the truth about prom. Insightful, edge and engaging, our features cover socio-political issues, arts and culture, current events, activism and more. (2000+ words)
News Flash: News briefs (about 200 words) from around the world delivered from a progressive point of view.
Activist Report: A brief profile of a person, group or movement doing something good for the world. (300 words)
5 Shameless Things To Do: A to-do list of shameless mischief (500-600 words)
On the Job: A short profile of a woman or trans person with an unusual or exciting career. (650 words)
She’s Shameless: A profile of a teenager who’s totally shameless. We feature young women and trans youth who are making a difference in their communities, whether it’s by volunteering, staging a play or running the local soccer club. (650 words)
Talking Back: Two writers face off on opposite sides of a tricky question related to the issue’s theme. (two 500-750 word pieces)
Body Politics: From body image to the politics of hair, a critical and empowering look at how we understand and navigate our bodies. (500-750 words)
Beyond the Books: Here we talk about things that should be taught in school, but are not – for example, history that you might not find in a textbook. (500-700 words)
Media Savvy: Shifting our gaze to media outlets and setting the record straight. (500-750 words)
Green Scene: Environmental justice, climate change and clean water, we break down all we need to know about saving the planet (500-750 words)
Sporting Goods: Trans-inclusive policies, self-defense and capoeira, this column looks at the politics of sports. (500-750 words)
Show + Tell: Art, poetry and short pieces of writing by our teen readers.
DIY: A step-by-step guide to doing something useful — from silk-screening T-shirts to recording a demo tape. (600-800 words)
Arts Profile: Get to know an awesome musician, artist or arts organization. (800 words) Stir It Up: Problems and solutions with the food system, from farm to table and beyond, along with a great, tested related recipe (500-750 words, plus recipe)
Get-Up: An alternative style guide. Think one-inch buttons, rainbow-coloured tresses and crafty room décor rather than half-naked, size-zero models. (300-500 words)
Geek Chic: The latest in technology and games. (700 words)
Reviews: Music, books, comics and zine reviews. (100 words each)
Counterculture Classic: We look at some piece of art – often a movie or a television show – that is still relevant thanks to its subversive politics, obvious or not. This is a great chance for older contributors to share things they were passionate about as youth with our readers.
What happens if my pitch is accepted?
We’re so glad you asked! There’s a whole other guide about that, coming soon. In the meantime, remember that you can always ask the editor who is working on your piece for advice or guidance — we’d much rather get lots of questions ahead of time than a late or disappointing article. If you want extra guidance, you can also get in touch with Allison Martell, email@example.com, who often works with newer writers.