Are you so busy searching for a great story in exotic places that you don't notice what's going on right under your nose? You may be surprised at the number of good article and book ideas to be discovered in your own hometown. All you need is a keen eye and an inquisitive mind.
Almost all of my published books stem from local events or contacts. Approximately 1/3 of my articles published over the years were generated locally.
Here are some tips for using your friendly neighborhood resources and experts to produce articles and books you can sell internationally.
1. View your business community with a journalistic eye. Notice what's going on around you, attend events, visit new businesses and shop locally. Stop by the Humane Society's grand reopening celebration. Tour nearby historic places. Join a local group for a nature hike next Sunday morning. The article ideas should abound.
I'm not a member of the local Chamber of Commerce but, because of some of my other affiliations, I'm sometimes invited to attend their monthly meetings. At a recent Chamber Mixer, I met a woman who had just developed her own line of skin care products for cancer patients. Of course, I set an appointment for an interview with her.
A few weeks ago, I delivered a supply of my local history books to a quilt shop in town. Before leaving, I looked around the store and found a most unique item for sale there. I interviewed the shop owner, took photos of the products, wrote a query letter and landed an assignment with The Quilter Magazine within a few days.
2. Become a tourist in your hometown. A visit to a local raptor rehabilitation center a few years ago culminated in an article for ASPCA Animal Watch. I met a local artist downtown once who made batik dolls. I sold a story about her to a craft magazine. I produced a piece for the same magazine featuring how to dry flowers in silica sand, per a local florist.
3. Find experts in your town. Whether I'm writing for a local publication or a national magazine, I often solicit the help of local experts. Sometimes this leads to a full-blown article, like the one I did for Silicon2.0 featuring the founder of the highly successful business, Lynda.com. A friend of mine was the regional chapter leader for a stepfamily organization. Of course, she was an expert for my piece on getting along in a stepfamily. The same woman lost her husband unexpectedly. Her little granddaughter was quite devastated. Later, she participated in a story I wrote for The Family Magazine on how to help a child through the grieving process. I also interviewed a few local couples who run businesses together for a piece for Business Start-Ups Magazine. And area Toastmaster members have participated often in articles I've written for The Toastmaster Magazine.
4. Read the newspaper. I'm currently pitching a story about the volunteer corps being used at the local Channel Island Sanctuary. I read about this pilot program in the newspaper. A couple of years ago, I read about two boys who had just written a book about living with child onset diabetes. I've sold their story to Becoming Family and Hope Magazines.
5. Get involved. Join in and reap big writing benefits. My involvement with the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation has resulted in two published books and numerous articles on youth mentoring and journal-keeping. I taught an 8-week writing workshop for a group of homeschooled children a few years ago. The publicity for that effort resulted in two new clients.
Your volunteer work at the museum might prompt an article for National Preservationists Magazine. Maybe you play the ukulele or harmonica in a community orchestra. Write a story expressing your joy in the experience, the benefits of starting a community orchestra, how to organize a band, etc.
6. Network with your ears wide open. Always be on the lookout for potential stories. I frequent a local bookstore that many locals take for granted. It's a unique open air bookstore that even houses books on outside shelves. Folks wanting to purchase books after hours simply select their book and deposit the cover price in a depository. I've written a couple of articles about Bart's Books. I've written articles on improving your neighborhood for a variety of magazines based on our own Neighborhood Watch experiences. My daughter told me about a local couple once who design and manufacture fishing lures in their garage.
Maybe you've heard about a couple in your neighborhood who grow herbs for local gourmet restaurants. Do you know someone who has recipes for cactus apples or who races pigeons? These interesting stories could earn you a publishing credit and a paycheck.
7. Look for local stories with national appeal. We have a center here for search and rescue dogs. These dogs participated in the aftermath of the Oklahoma bombing and at the World Trade Center tragedy. There are several stories tied to this organization and these remarkable dogs.
What goes on in your community that is of national interest? Is there a highly successful drug rehab center in your area? Do you have the winningest pee wee soccer team in the state? Maybe your city has the highest number of exercisers, vegetarians, horse owners, chickens or cocker spaniels.
The next time you can't come up with anything to write about, think locally. The story possibilities in your own community are endless.
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