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Wednesday, August 28, 2013


The Hunt for a Great Human-Interest Story

A few years ago, I was working out my frustrations at the gym, trying to figure out where my writing career was going and brainstorming a few new magazine article ideas. As I was leaving through the front lobby, I noticed a flyer about an upcoming swimming fundraiser. For some reason, even though I’m not a big swimmer, I picked it up and skimmed it on my way out to the parking lot. The flyer mentioned that a local woman named Lizi was competing in a series of races in honor of her upcoming 40th birthday. The flyer had her blog address printed on it so I investigated further once I got home.

There, I discovered Lizi had type 1 diabetes and learned more about her birthday challenge. She was signed up to compete in a variety of races, involving swimming, sprint triathlons, cycling and running, by her 40th birthday, which she called “Forty 4 Forty.” I knew I had to somehow get in touch with this woman, because I thought her story would be perfect for one of the regional magazines I had been trying to break into.

But her blog didn’t have any contact information. I figured she was local but still needed more details for a query. On a whim, I e-mailed a personal trainer I had been working with at the time and asked if she knew who the woman was. I was in luck, she did! She quickly e-mailed me back with the woman’s e-mail address. I e-mailed Lizi, who also turned out to be a nurse, to let her know I was interested in pitching a story about her, and she responded happily and graciously. We chatted on the phone so I could get some pertinent details to include in my pitch, and I let her know I’d be in touch.

Not only did the editor I contacted respond to me quickly, but she also complimented me on my story pitch. In the end, I got to meet an inspirational member of the community by contacting Lizi, and as a bonus, my article ended up as the cover story of the magazine a few months later. Lizi called me and laughed about the fact that she had become a local celebrity and all the nurses at her doctor's office were telling her that the magazine with her cover shot was sitting in the waiting room.

These days, I work with several local magazines regularly and have tackled some tough human-interest stories, but I still get a thrill watching the story come alive and to fruition. If you come across a story that intrigues you, I say to always go for it!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who blogs at Renee’s Pages.

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Blogger Margo Dill said...

This is a great example of doing something when you get an idea. So many times we don't. But because you did you helped this lady AND you had a cover story. AWESOME! Thanks for the pick me up today that writing really is something to be proud of (and work hard at!)

11:06 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

I agree with Margo's comments! I'm sure we run into human interest stories every day but seldom do anything about it or maybe don't even recognize the story's potential. Congrats on scooping it and landing the cover story! :) Lizi sounds like an amazing woman.

11:30 AM  
Blogger MP said...

What an inspiring story! I love real life examples of writers making things happen. Good job Renee and thanks for sharing.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Renee Roberson said...

Thank you so much ladies! In all honesty, I think in this case I had the post-workout endorphins working for me. I was feeling good and ready to tackle some new queries. There have been many times I came across a flyer and put it in an ideas folder without ever acting upon it! I forgot to mention that during her Forty 4 Forty, Lizi also raised $3,000 for the American Diabetes Association and now works at a Diabetes Training Camp. She was an inspiration to me in more ways than one!

1:51 PM  
Blogger Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--Just imagine what would have happened if you weren't a little curious...

Curiosity doesn't always kill the cat. Sometimes, it snags the publication...

Great post, Renee. You might have succeeded in prodding me into broaching someone in the community I have been thinking about...

2:26 PM  
Blogger Renee Roberson said...

Sioux -- I don't know if I'd call myself curious or just plain nosy, but whatever works, right? And I urge you to go for it!

6:09 PM  
Blogger LuAnn Schindler said...

These are the kinds of stories I write weekly for regional publications. If you're a journalist, you HAVE to go for it when you find a good story. I sure don't want my editor chewing me out! HA!

A non-fiction writer once told me that human interest stories are puff pieces. I argued (and naturally, I am right) that human interest stories are what keeps me writing because when you write straight news stories - sometimes about topics that are horrific to cover - the human interest story provides a generous dose of humanity in this crazy, mixed up world.

And...aren't cover stories fun?! :)

6:47 AM  
Blogger Renee Roberson said...


I don't know about you, but If it weren't for these human-interest stories, I would be a starving writer! I get to meet so many incredible people through them, too!

7:38 AM  
Blogger Whimsical Tiger said...

I commend you for writing this amazing human interest story. It is heart wrenching when watching the news the majority of what we see and hear is negative. But reading your article is like a breath of fresh air. It is so important that we do not lose sight of the human touch that makes a difference in this world.

Congratulations on your dedication to writing! This blog is in my favorites because whenever I get writer's block I know I can get some inspiration here. The best of luck.

7:10 PM  

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