It's Who You Know

Sunday, December 23, 2012
Writers, especially when beginning in the business, are told repeatedly to write "what you know." And while that adage has its perks, I've discovered that it's not always what I know, but WHO I know.

Think about it. More than likely, you have a lot of friends and those friends have friends. At work, you see colleagues daily. They undoubtedly have lives beyond the office, and I bet if you ponder for just a moment, you'll think about a work associate who would make a great feature subject. Plus, you have family, and somewhere in that cast of colorful characters, a story is waiting to take shape.

Think about the possible story ideas begging to be investigated!

I've made a fair amount of money penning feature stories for local, regional, and even national publications. And many of these stories featured people I know. For example,

  • Our neighbor's teenage son wrote a rap song and entered a contest. He won! His story made the front page of the local newspaper.
  • An 80-year old woman rounded up a group of friends, and together, they send care packages to our troops overseas. She just happened to be a friend of my in-laws. Story printed in a regional newspaper.
  • One day while eating lunch in a local cafe, the owner (friend of mine) let me know about a lady who designed and made the Homecoming crowns for the king and queen every year. The story ran in the local paper, a regional publication, and went out on the AP wire. 
  • Another friend's daughter conducted a major fundraiser to keep the town's swimming pool afloat. You guessed it! Another sale.
And don't forget to count yourself as an expert. Need an example or two?

  • A few years ago, I contracted a severe case of food poisoning - salmonella - that required a hospital stay (three days before my daughter's high school graduation). I told my story to a statewide magazine and received a hefty paycheck.
  • When a regional magazine solicited a Christmas story via Twitter, I jumped at the chance. They were looking for Christmas cooking traditions. I parlayed my family tradition into a double page spread that included multiple photos and three original recipes. 
Think about the people you know, their hobbies, offbeat travel destinations, volunteer experiences.

By writing WHO you know, you'll have a plethora of story ideas.

And that means money in the bank.


Anonymous said...

This is my tried n' true technique as well. I've written about hiking with dogs, culling expertise from a local dog trainer; kayaking and finding spiritual peace, with great input from a local guide; and have an article pending about coaches and kids' sports citing an expert from a local college.

People love to be referenced or highlighted, and I know a lot of smart, interesting and creative people--takes considerable pressure off of me!

Angela Mackintosh said...

This is great advice, and I use this with you all the time, LuAnn! You are my go-to gal for interviewing. If we have a spot open in an issue, I always ask who you know--whether in real life or via social networks--that would make a good expert on a particular topic.

Ugh. Sorry to hear about your salmonella experience. =/ Hubby got it really bad for weeks years ago from eating buffet Chinese food and lost over 40 pounds!

Margo Dill said...

Great ideas here, LuAnn!

LuAnn Schindler said...

Thanks, Angela! And everyone else who has commented also!

I just had an article published today in a regional newspaper about dairy prices - the milk cliff - if a farm bill isn't passed by Tuesday. Lucky I'm married to a dairy farmer. :) And he shared a lot of experts to contact, too.

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