Texas Highways Freelancer Guide

The mission of Texas Highways magazine, the official travel magazine of Texas since 1974, is to inspire travel to and within the state of Texas. Implicit in this mission is ensuring our content is welcoming and inclusive of all Texans and anyone who wants to explore Texas. Texas Highways provides readers with a curated guide to the state’s cities, small towns, hidden gems, and natural wonders. Stories focus on Texas’ scenic, recreational, historical, cultural, and ethnic treasures, accompanied by strong photography highlighting the state’s natural beauty. We’re a lifestyle magazine for Texans viewed through the lens of travel.

This is an ambitious mission to deliver on each month considering the state’s physical size, geographic and ecological complexity, cultural diversity, and expansive history. We aim to give readers a genuine Rio-Grande-to-Red-River and El-Paso-to-Texarkana experience of the state. Texas Highways sparks readers’ spirit of adventure and discovery through coverage of backroad destinations and the eccentric characteristics remote corners and less-traveled byways.

In recent years, Texas Highways has tapped notable Texas authors to contribute to the Open Road essay section and forged a partnership with Traces of Texas to highlight the state’s unique history with vintage photos. Our goal is to showcase a range of voices and visuals that represent Texas as a whole so that any reader who picks up our magazine feels it is for them.

HISTORY AND READERSHIP

Texas Highways’ legacy of trusted coverage has created generations of loyal and engaged readers who depend on us to plan their Texas experiences. A majority of the content in each issue is new to our readers, despite the fact that most of them are lifelong Texans. Our average subscription tenure is over 12 years, and two-thirds of our readership uses our content to plan their next trip.

Texas Highways was founded in 1953 when the Texas Department of Transportation changed the name of its employee publication from Maintenance and Construction Bulletin. The magazine originally centered on highway design, construction, and maintenance, but in 1962, editor Frank Lively began adding stories about history and travel. On Lively’s recommendation, the magazine was converted to a travel publication offered to the general public in 1974. One year later, Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe signed a resolution by the state Legislature naming Texas Highways the official travel magazine of Texas. Since 2010, Texas Highways has won 75 awards for editorial and design excellence.

FREQUENCY

The magazine is published monthly, and online content is posted daily.

LEAD TIME

For the print editions, we start working on some features more than a year in advance. For other departments, the lead time can be anywhere from four to eight months. For digital stories, the lead time should be at least one week.

HOW AND WHAT TO PITCH

All pitches should be emailed to letters@texashighways.com. When sending a pitch, please attach or link to at least three published clips (bonus if they’re Texas- or travel-related). The editors will try to respond to all pitches within two weeks.

All photography-related pitches should be sent to photo editor Brandon Jakobeit at brandon.jakobeit@txdot.gov.

Before pitching, please search our archives at texashighways.com to see if we’ve covered your subject before. If we have covered it in the last four years, we probably won’t accept the pitch.

Go to the magazine page on our website, and understand what our sections are.

Pitches should have a travel angle or a strong sense of place and/or Texas culture. Stories with historical focus are also quite popular with our readers. Our brand is known for its focus on small towns and hidden gems, so pitches about major cities in Texas will come under more scrutiny.

Pitches should be well-researched and have a timely angle.

Writers should be based in Texas or have a strong connection to Texas.

WHAT NOT TO PITCH

  • Poetry or fiction—we don’t publish either.
  • Stories from outside of Texas or outside of our coverage areas.
  • Stories about government or politics.
  • Stories about museums, unless there’s an especially interesting angle.
  • Stories about chain hotels or restaurants, or subjects we’ve written about in the past four years.

TYPES OF PRINT STORIES

MY HOMETOWN 

A distinguished local resident takes readers on a tour of their small town. This can be anyone from a local historian (Pat Vargas Morales in Goliad) to a restauranteur (Laura Brown in Rockport-Fulton) to a county commissioner (Phillip White in Shankleville).

Word Count: Intro: 170; Main: 400-450

OPEN ROAD

A longform personal essay with a strong point of view by notable Texas writers and authors exploring the places in Texas that inspire them. Past examples include topics such as groundbreaking female astronomers, the largest public skate park in the country, and growing up as a daughter of migrant truck drivers.

Word Count: 2,750-3,000

DRIVE (Each issue includes 3-4 DRIVE stories)

Made in Texas

The destinations, products, and people that make Texas, Texas. Examples: San Antonio Artist Kathleen Trenchard Creates Memorable Papel Picado Art; Commune with Nature at These Treehouses in the Texas Hill Country; ‘Daddy O’s Book of Big-Ass Art’ Explores the Artist’s Larger Than Life Artworks

Word count: 300 or 1,000-1,500

Savvy Traveler

Travel tips for readers who are budget-conscious or simply looking for fresh travel ideas. Example: Singer-Songwriter Walker Lukens Turns Your Confessions Into Original Songs

Word Count: 300 or 1,000-1,500

Detour

Off-the-beaten-path places that even the most seasoned traveler may not be familiar with. Example: We All Live in Uncertain Now

Word Count: 300 or 1,000-1,500

Souvenir

Texas trinkets, roadside relics, and quirky offerings. Examples: Celebrate Texas’ Spirit with a Coonskin Cap at Presidio La Bahía; The Souvenir You Have to Leave Jefferson With

Word Count: 300

Stay

The best locally owned lodgings across the state. Examples: Say Hi to the Llamas When You Stay at This Historic Blanco River Ranch; The Spirit of a Bandera Dance Hall Lives On

Word Count: 500-1,000

Ticket

Must-see shows, events, and exhibits. Examples: Rodeo Is Like Religion in West Texas; Take in the Beauty of the Night Sky at the Texas Star Party

Word Count: 300 or 1,000-1,500

Wild

Outdoor and adventurous travel destinations and activities. Examples: No Guts, No Glory for Paddlers Who Take on the Texas Water Safari; Go on Safari to See the Wild Animals of Texas

Word Count: 300 or 1,000-1,500

Atlas

A deconstructed story format on a single topic of Texas, featuring graphics, data, history, and more. Examples include a guide to spring-fed swimming holes and how the East Texas oil fields changed the town of Kilgore.

Word Count: 600-800

GETAWAY

Getaway highlights excursions that will inspire readers’ next weekend road trip, whether they’ve got an hour, a week, or a month to plan ahead. (NOTE: GETAWAY is temporarily on hold for the remainder of 2020. We are still accepting pitches for the section, but please keep in mind that we are unsure when it will return.)

Examples: There’s a Lot to Cheer About in Corsicana; Spring Getaway: How to Spend a Weekend in Kerrville

Word Count: 1,200

PLATES (Each issue includes 3 PLATES stories)

Dine

A story or profile on a restaurant or café, focused on a sense of place and how this place contributes to its community. The angle has to be more than just “here is a place that exists.” Restaurants featured in PLATES stories must be open for at least a year before they can be covered. Preference is given to stand-alone “mom and pop” establishments, though small local chains may be featured. No national chains. Example: Slowpoke Farm Market in Cisco Serves Farm-Fresh Meals; Tillie’s Is a Dining and Architectural Gem in the Hill Country

Word Count: 600-1,200

Drink

A story about a brewery, distillery, meadery, winery, cidery, or any non-alcoholic beverage. The angle has to be more than just “here is a place that exists.” Example: Slate Mill Wine Collective Is on a Mission to Help Small Wineries; Elk Store in Fredericksburg Models Itself After a Prohibition-Era Speakeasy

Word Count: 400-1,200

Profile

A story focused on a chef, producer, winemaker, farmer, or any other person who takes part in the food industry in Texas. Example: Chef Jonny Rhodes Reinvents Soul Food at His Houston Restaurant; Roosevelt “King Bee” Roberson Has Been a Beekeeper for Over 50 Years

Word Count: 600-1,200

Recipe

A brief story including a recipe. Should be seasonal and beautiful to photograph. Can be a drink or a dish. Example: Recipe: Lavender Pecan Crisps; This Native Bean Can Be Made Into Gluten-Free Flour, Jelly, Coffee, and More

Word Count: 400-600

In the Field

A story on any aspect of food/drink/dining that has more to do with agriculture, ranching, gardening, foraging, or farming. Example: Forage for Rare and Pricey Chanterelle Mushrooms in East Texas; This South Texas Olive Orchard Feels Like a Mediterranean Oasis

Word Count: 600-1,200

Product

A brief story about a Texas-based food or drink product that is available to purchase and has a unique element to it. Example: Fort Worth-based Mrs. Renfro’s Celebrates 80 Years of Saucy Success; Carolina Gold Rice is Making a Comeback Thanks to This Texas Mill

Word Count: 400-600

Event

A story rooted in a food- or drink-related event or festival, but ultimately dives deeper into foodways and food culture relevant to Texas. Example: The Texas Purple Hull Pea Festival in Shankleville Honors the Beloved Legume; How a Catholic Priest Inspired Five German Heritage Festivals in Texas

Word Count: 400-1,200

TEXANA

An in-depth examination of Texas history and culture. Examples: The Texas League Takes the Field for the State’s Oldest Circuit of Pro Baseball; Find the Roots of Cinco de Mayo in the Story of Ignacio Zaragoza

Word Count: 1,200

SPEAKING OF TEXAS

Noteworthy Texans talk about their stories and share their picks for must-see destinations across the state. Examples: Best-Selling Author Shea Serrano Talks Texas; Red Steagall, Country Hit-Maker and Cowboy Poet, Talks Texas Spirit and Overcoming Polio

Word Count: Intro—200-250; Q&A—900-1,100

TEXASHIGHWAYS.COM

Web stories can vary in subject matter, but the pitch should still fit within the usual topics covered by Texas Highways—travel, culture, food, history, etc. We prefer web stories that are timely or have a nuanced angle on a newsy topic. The rate for web stories is $0.50/word up to 500 words.

We do occasionally take special consideration for web-specific features that will not necessarily appear in print. The rate on those is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Examples of successful web stories: Battleship Texas; Comanche SpringsThreadgill’s Closing; Balmorhea State Park

The following are our current web series:

My Favorite Texas Trip

Our readers, staff, and writers share a memorable past trip in Texas that left an impact on them. These are reflections on travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Examples: Pulled Over at Gunpoint on I-10 Outside of Sealy; West Texas with Low Expectations

What the Heck, Texas?

A spotlight and explanation of a dish or drink that fits heavily into Texas culture, but might not be widely known.

Examples: Ranch water; Texas Twinkie; Pepper steak

The October 2020 issue of Texas Highways Magazineq


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The October 2020 issue of Texas Highways Magazineq


Get the Magazine

Save up to 62% off the cover price

True Texas in Your Inbox

Sign up for magazine extras, upcoming events, Mercantile specials, subscription offers, and more.

The October 2020 issue of Texas Highways Magazineq


Get the Magazine

Save up to 62% off the cover price

True Texas in Your Inbox

Sign up for magazine extras, upcoming events, Mercantile specials, subscription offers, and more.