How I Scored My Contributorship for The Huffington Post

How I Scored My Contriburotship to The Huffington PostThose of you who know me well know that I’ve been chasing after this contributorship for a long, long time. It’s taken me forever to get here, but I’m glad to be here.

Now that it’s live, I get asked all the time about how I did it. What was my secret? What did I say, and to whom did I say it?

You’re about to find out.

How I Did It

First of all, I should begin by giving you a bit of backstory.

It all started on November 1st when I began this journey. I had no clue how much my life would change, but every good thing that has happened to me has come from that day.

It’s the day I started Gina Horkey’s course, 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success. In several ways, my life began then. I knew Gina was a HuffPo contributor, and I had an idea of how she got there, but I didn’t know how I could do it or if I would be afforded the same opportunity.

I’ve wanted HuffPo ever since.

What I Learned from My Group

As part of her course, Gina offers a membership to her private Facebook group of other students who have taken and are taking the course. Through my fellow students, I learned that Arianna Huffington checks her own email and was rumored to respond directly to pitches. On November 24th, I crafted a pitch chiseled to perfection. I spent a lot of time on it. And. Never. Heard. From. Her.

Pitch # 2

My first was a colossal waste of time. But I learned from it. I waited until the end of March to pitch her again. This time, it worked! I heard back from her soon, 24 hours later! She wanted my post.

About a week or so later, it was published. I was in.

Curious about how you can do it, too? Here’s what I sent her.

How I Scored My Contributorship to The Huffington Post - PInterestMy Pitch to Arianna Huffington

Want to know about our conversation? Read more below. I’ve posted my actual pitch for you.

Happy Easter, Ms. Huffington! (I actually sent this out on the morning of Easter Sunday/my daughter’s birthday!)
My name is Cruz Santana and I just wanted to reach out and tell you that I love Huffington Post. It’s my first stop every day. You have some phenomenal writers. It’s obvious you’ve been doing a lot to add valuable and actionable content. I love your coverage of the upcoming presidential election best. Thank you for doing such a great job to bring the truth to the people.
I noticed you’ve accepted guest posts in the past. I’d love to the opportunity to contribute if you are it makes sense. I’m the author of Phenomenal Dad and write regularly for my own site, The Freelance Dance. I would love nothing more than to get to write for HuffPo.
My submission can be found by clicking on this link. Or please keep scrolling and you’ll find it in the body of this message. 
Captive Orcas Prove Sitting Is the New Smoking

We designed our own demise, engineered it actually. Every day we make seemingly harmless decisions like taking the elevator over the stairs. Why not? We’re desensitized to effect. Understanding illness and death are skin deep afflictions. Never believing such boogie men could ever get us, we take the elevator.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so terribly screwed up if we had stopped there. But no, we’re plagued with something else, the human condition. It’s diabolical in its hunger for creating discomforts in us. Motivated by it, we want, scheme, and seek out more of what we have – inflicting our pain onto creatures with the misfortune of sharing this planet with us. Enslaved, they catch our disease – our sloth and our gluttony – and die sooner than they would have if we’d we’ve dealt with our shortcomings in other ways.

Captive orcas didn’t ask to swim in pools of their own filth or learn English and obey commands given by beings they could squish with little more than a thought. They’re guilty of only their birthright, a screwed up one at that.

But over the last 40 years, a pattern has emerged. Being boxed in and lazy is killing us. It’s a lesson whales have died to teach us.

Captive Orcas

Somewhere in the last 100,000 years that Homo sapiens have occupied this planet, we became obsessed with this notion that animals need us. Laughable, at best. Instead, the truth is that most species that call the Wild Kingdom home not only don’t need us, they wouldn’t complain if our entire species disappeared. We get in their way and interrupt their existence altogether.

Captive orcas are fed a diet of farm-raised, frozen fish stuffed with vitamins (milled pig and cow bones) and other “nutrients” (gelatin to keep them hydrated) we stupidly think they need. In the wild they feast on seabirds, squid, octopuses, sea turtles, sharks, rays, and fish.  

Like humans, orcas were designed to travel long distances. Their intuition and everything inside them tells them to move and keep moving. You don’t get anywhere in a tank. Floating and remaining stationary for long periods of time are their only options. Guided by instinct, some have been known to swim from one side of their enclosures to the other in a pacing motion.

Then there’s the whole issue of their waste. Incorporated into the very water they live and swim in, they’re prone to illnesses. Sick orcas are given antibiotics to treat infections. The cause of the issue isn’t dealt with. How can it be? Repeated exposure to large doses of antibiotics creates a resistance and more aggressive infections. A never ending cycle ensues that eventually kills the animal.

It’s the proverbial sharp knife of a short life.

SeaWorld officials claim whales actually live longer by swimming in pools of their own ick. On average, a contained cetacean living a sentient life of little exercise, processed food, and constant stressors will live between 25 and 30 years.

It’s a model for our own lives.

Modern People

Remember smoking? Remember how cool you thought you looked with that white cancer stick trapped between your index and middle fingers? Overall, cigarettes kill a third of their customers. Smokers are prone to chronic diseases and shorter life-spans.

We got smart and gave them up. Every day the population of smokers in this country shrinks in size. What isn’t said is we’ve just traded one vice for another. We don’t smoke anymore. Today, in the 21st century. We sit. In chairs parked at cubicles, we sit for decades. Modern humans don’t move any more than that.

No, wait. We eat. Food is cheap in this country. Correction, empty calories are cheap. Your local Mickey D’s will gladly sell you a 2,500 calorie meal for what you’d pay for two gallons of milk. Nutrient rich food is expensive, and it requires more effort than we’re willing to exert and more money we’re willing to spend. Ergo, we eat crap. And it makes us sick.

While we don’t swim in tanks full of salt-water-poo, we have massive carbon footprints. In Beijing, the air is so toxic that the government declared breathing while outdoors (that inhaling thing we do) is hazardous to the health of the city’s citizens!

This generation will be the first ever not to outlive the prior one. We’re affecting our lifespans with our habits. Captive orcas have modeled what our current way of thinking leads to.

Wild orcas demonstrate the promise of what life could be like.

Wild Orcas

We have a lot in common with orcas to begin with. It seems natural that we’d become fascinated by them. Sadly, fascination bred obsession and greed. And that’s how we ended up here. But this isn’t where we have to stay.

They have families called pods. Once born, they’ll spend the rest of their lives with their parents. Pods can have 30+ members. We humans leave the nest only to yearn to return to the warmth and carefree life of childhood. Orcas get exactly that.

Each pod functions as a matriarchal society with the oldest female calling the shots. While we like to think we’re more patriarchal, how many of us go to our mothers first?

Pods operate as their own societies and each demonstrates a different version of what we’d call language. Imagine each group has different customs, traditions, names, etcetera. Neat, huh?

They live significantly longer in the wild than they do in salt-water-poo-tanks. Females get up over 100 years. Males average between 50 and 75 years. With plenty of space to swim, less than 1% of all wild killer whales have droopy dorsal fins. In captivity, unused muscles in the fin atrophy and shrink. With no support, the fin droops. The oldest living orca (named Granny) is estimated to be 105 years old! Her dorsal fin stands proud and tall since she’s never known a day in captivity.

Final Thoughts

They’re emotional mammals. We are, too. They weren’t designed to spend their lives parked in boxes. We weren’t either. Reversing what we’ve done to our air, our bodies, and our world won’t be done overnight. But the situation is improving.

Recently, SeaWorld announced they intend to do away with their breeding programs for all whales and phase out performances by 2017. “The Blackfish Effect” (named for the popular Oscar-winning documentary) spawned activism and calls for reform. The animals in captivity won’t be set free. Unfortunately, they’d likely starve to death since they’re little more than domesticated pets at this point.

But what they’ve shown us will linger. Sitting still, boxed in our crap, eating trash, shortens our stay onboard Planet Earth. We’re nomadic mammals who raise our young into adulthood. We’re parents for the rest of our lives. Living in herds, we look to our mothers and grandmothers for truthful, helpful advice.

Spoiled by convenience, most of us lack any survival skills. Modern humans would be less than useless in the wilderness we were designed to call home. But we can improve. By making small changes to our sentient routine (by upping our mobility for example) we change our body’s chemistry for the better. It took forever to get rid of smoking, but we have. We did it. Now, let’s ditch sitting!

Diseases like diabetes and cancer won’t ever be completely gone. I know this because I battle stage four lymphoma every day. As I write this, my mind trails off and thinks of Granny. And I envy her. I’d give almost anything to live as long as she has! If captured whales know about her, they envy her as much as I do! I’m making changes to my diet and lifestyle in hopes of beating the odds. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll live as long as she has.

For all we have in common with them, intelligence included, captive orcas have mastered our language. No matter how hard we try, Humans will never speak whale.

 I hope you have a fantastic holiday! Thank you in advance for your consideration. I eagerly look forward to your reply.
Cruz Santana
What did Arianna answer me with? You know I’m going to tell you!
Dear Cruz, many thanks for thinking of us and for sending me your post. I’m ccing our blog editor Madeline Wahl to follow up. All the best, Arianna
Curious about my response? Gina helped me with it as I was about to hyperventilate and was totally useless with the Qwerty. Here’s my/Gina’s response:
Thanks so much Arianna – I know how busy you must be and REALLY appreciate the fact that you still read your own email. Looking forward to being a regular HuffPo contributor soon – dream come true!!
Pretty rad, right? 
About a week or so later, I heard from Madeline Wahl who gave me my credentials for accessing the site. That was sweet!
Wanna read the finished product? Click here and leave me a comment on there with your thoughts!

In Conclusion

It was a long time in the making. But when it finally happened, I was totally ready for it. I loved every minute of it! Still do!

Will I contribute again?


In fact, if you keep your eyes peeled, you might spot my posts going up at least once per month. It’s the one place I get to write about science. It being my niche, I can’t just leave it alone. I’m excited about doing it again!

Want your own contributorship to The Huffington Post? Go get it! You know what worked for me, and it will work for you! Need help? Shoot me over a message! I’m happy to answer questions!

About Cruz Santana

Cruz Santana is a cancer-fighter, professional writer, editor, and business consultant specializing in web building, content management, bookkeeping, and traffic optimization strategies. A nine-year veteran of the entrepreneurial world, she has a handle on which techniques work and which don't. She isn't afraid to step out of the box to overcome challenges. An alumni of Texas A&M University, she's well-versed in science and medicine. A voracious writer, she's been featured in The Huffington Post and The Write Life. Her VA clients benefit from her experience in content management and bookkeeping. In addition, she is the author of "Phenomenal Dad: Ten Lessons on Single Fatherhood from a Tougher-Than-Nails Single Mom," her first published book! When not developing marketing strategies that flirt with the avant-guard, she loves kicking back on the couch with her small army of seven babies to watch old movies. Hitchcock films are her favorites!
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