Write about where you live

Wherever you are right now, you can find a story. I’m at a Starbucks in Santa Clara, California, the heart of Silicon Valley, and I can tell you it’s way different from the Starbucks where I live in Oregon. The clothes, the people using computers and smart phones simultaneously, the ethnic diversity, even the drinks they order . . . I could write about how Starbucks stores cater to different geographic areas or how the people are different or why the smallest drink they have is called a “tall.”

What makes your hometown unique? What do tourists come to see? What people, places or events stand out? What problems face your town? Scan the newspaper, take a drive, ask around, gather enough information for an article query, an essay, a commentary or a poem.  What seems ordinary to you might not be to folks who live elsewhere.  Start looking around with the eyes of a writer. What catches your attention or makes you ask, “What is that all about?” For example, in northern California along I-5 between the Oregon border and Yreka, there’s a metal cow in a field next to a barn with a big sign that says “State of Jefferson.” When I looked it up, I discovered that years ago people tried to secede from Oregon and California to form a new state.  It didn’t happen, but there’s a story in it. And where did that cow come from? Another story. There may be other regions that tried to form their own states. If you can find out about them, you could expand this into a piece for a national publication.

Also look locally for publications to write for, especially if you’re just getting started. You can find copies in your local libraries, bookstores and coffee shops.  The editors are nearby, so you can meet in person, and the subject matter they cover is close at hand. They may not pay a lot, but whatever you write for them can be resold as is or revised for other markets.  One of my favorite stories in recent years was a roundup piece about the salt water taffy makers on the Oregon Coast. It ran in Oregon Coast Today, and I earned about $200. I could easily reslant it for Northwest Travel, VIA, newspaper travel sections or candy-making trade publications. I could also write about research being done on wave energy, our mayor who is also an artist, our tsunami preparations, the glass floats manufactured here, and lots of other Oregon coast stories.

What’s happening your neighborhood? There are lots of stories just outside your door. Look around.

And then, go write.


Please forgive my delay in posting. We are having a family emergency this month, and I don’t know when things will get back to “normal.” Also, my online classes scheduled to start Oct. 30 will be delayed until next year. If you want to get started by reading my Freelancing for Newspapers: Writing for an Overlooked Market book, Amazon has a pretty good discount right now.