Ready to Write? Consider Adding “Published Writer” to Your Professional Bucket List

Genealogist Mary Penner challenges her colleagues to add "published writing" as part of their genealogy business service in this post at GenBiz Solutions!

Ready to Write? Consider Adding “Published Writer” to Your Professional Bucket List

[Editor’s Note: Mary Penner is the Managing Editor for the quarterly journal of the Association of Professional Genealogists.]

Recently I gave a presentation about writing to a group of about eighty people. I asked how many of them knew how to write. Everyone raised their hands. When I asked how many of them were writers, only about five people tentatively raised their hands. Even then, their hands were just half-raised, with a little side-to-side fluttering wrist action showing they were a little iffy about calling themselves writers. What gives? You know how to write, but you’re not a writer? Are writers a special class of literate people? I don’t think so. If you know how to string words together in a comprehensible way, then you’re a writer. However, are you a published writer? That’s the distinction that seems to be the dividing line between would-be writers and writers.

Professionals in the genealogy world often add a writing component to their toolbox of services and skills. If you want to pump up your writing cred and become a published writer, look around for opportunities to write about the stuff that you know. (Genealogists, by the way, know a lot of stuff!) Genealogical researchers can turn to about a billion pieces of writing that offer all kinds of “how-to” advice on the art and science of genealogy. Okay, maybe not a billion, but there is no shortage of written advice on research tactics.

Where Can Genealogy Professionals Publish Their Writing?

What about the genealogy professional, though? We are a different subset of genealogists in that we are experts at our craft, but we’re also business people. Where can you write and read about our corner of the genealogy world? Easy. Pick up a copy of the journal published by the Association of Professional Genealogists ( I am partial to this publication because I’m the Managing Editor for our journal, Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (APGQ).

Here is a piece of good news: at APGQ we don’t require clips of your previous published work; we do not request a résumé listing all your writing successes. We just want compelling writing on relevant topics.

What is the Nitty Gritty of Writing an Article?

How can you write for APGQ? First, you need to figure out what you want to write. The goal of APGQ is to help our members become better and more accomplished genealogy professionals. What can you share that will help us achieve that? What is your expertise in the professional world? What lessons have you learned along your professional journey? What successes or failures have you had? For more ideas, scan copies of previous journals. The past dozen years or so of our journals are on our website. You have to be a member of APG, though, to access the full copies. We also have a topical index of everything we’ve published in our journal for the past thirty-six years. Check that out at: APGQ Index 1979-2015

Once you have an idea of what you’d like to write, develop a summary and a brief outline (known in the writing world as a query) and email it to me. If it looks like a topic that will interest and help our members, then I’ll recommend that you write a draft.

Shoot for around 2,500 words, more or less. Include images that illustrate your points, and pull together a sidebar or two with pertinent bullet points or examples related to your topic. Have a buddy read it over and offer suggestions. When you are satisfied with the article, attach it as a Word document to an email and hit the send button.

If your article is accepted, it’s not over yet! Our APG team will work with you to develop your ideas and make sure your writing is clear and organized. We will also polish up the grammar, the spelling, the word choices, the sentence structure—all that stuff that your high school English teachers tried to hammer into your teenage brain. Articles are shuffled back and forth between our editing team and the writer several times in order to get the article into the best shape possible.

When the article is ready to publish, we’ll send you a check for your efforts. Yes, we pay for articles.

What are Some Tips to Remember?

Here are some final tips for writing an article for APGQ:

  • Submit a query before you write.
  • Write about what you know or what you have experienced.
  • Write about things that will help professionals be better professionals.
  • Study back issues for ideas.
  • Begin your article with a catchy introduction.
  • Include interesting and relevant high quality images with your article.
  • Contact me anytime with questions or ideas at:

Writing for APGQ will raise your professional profile. We have nearly 3,000 members around the world who devour our journal—or at least we like to think they do! Crossing that barrier from knowing how to write to being a writer is not reserved only for naturally gifted Steinbecks and Hemingways of the world. You, too, can add “published writer” to your professional bag of tricks.


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Mary Penner


About Mary Penner

Mary Penner is the Managing Editor for the quarterly journal of the Association of Professional Genealogists. She also edits the scholarly journal for the New Mexico Genealogical Society. A professional genealogist, writer, editor, and speaker, Mary has published more than 200 articles about genealogical research, and her biography of a WWII Pearl Harbor survivor and submarine sailor won first place in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards competition. A former high school and college English teacher, Mary enjoys helping would-be writers become published writers. Contact Mary at:, or through her website,