“They” always say to write about what you know.
And what could you know better than your own hometown?
Where you live can become the source of endless inspiration for your writing, from the quirky characters you see every day to the restaurants you frequent.
You don’t have to live in a massive metropolis to find topics to write about. If you live in San Francisco, New York,or Atlanta, you’ll no doubt have a truly endless array of things to cover. But even in my town of 10,000, I find plenty of stories to cover.
The key is getting to know your community, its residents and businesses. The more you know about your community, the more you’ll find to write about. And the more people you know, the better the odds you’ll get the lead on a hot new restaurant or innovative upcoming festival first.
What types of publications look for hometown stories?
You can write about your hometown for all sorts of publications. Take a look at local publications and see what your options are. Is there a local daily or weekly paper? Or maybe a regional magazine or two?
These types of publications are generally filled with primarily local content, and they are often looking for writers who live nearby to cover stories and issues.
But don’t limit yourself to just local publications.
Major national publications write about people, events, and happenings that occur all over the country and the world. Keep in mind when pitching national publications that it’s often important to tie in broader themes and the national and international implications of your story to appeal to the magazine’s audience.
An article about the local Perfect Pickle Festival is great for the local newspaper, but if you’re pitching The New York Times, they might prefer a story on pickle festivals across the country or world.
Turn into a hometown travel writer
A little known secret of travel writing is that many travel writers write about their hometown more frequently than any other destination.
Sure, you could hop on a jet and spend a week in Aruba and write about the experience, but would you know the bakery with the best breakfast treats or the perfect spot to watch the sun set? Nope.
That’s why travel publications like to use writers who actually live in the destination they are covering and know intimately.
What do people do for fun in your hometown? Whatever you enjoy doing, there’s a chance others would love to do it too, and that’s why it makes a great activity to write about. Does your town have an amazing zoo? How about a first-rate children’s museum? Is the local park’s labyrinth exceptional? Is whitewater rafting on the local river an experience not to be missed?
If your town has a booming tourism scene, it seems obvious that you could sell some travel stories. But if your location is more “up and coming,” don’t count it out. Pitch a regional piece or a round-up article, such as a larger multi-destination “road trip” type piece.
Everyone knows that quirky character who hangs out on Main Street and dances every afternoon. Or the local artist who has an unbelievable (but true) backstory about living for years in the Peruvian rainforest.
When you get to know people, you get to know their stories and you can often see a great story in people who think their own lives are unremarkable.
Consider pitching stories about local personalities, from a charismatic local businesswoman to a beloved youth soccer coach. Find what’s special about community members and convey these stories to publications and show them how their readers would benefit from delving into these people’s lives.
Of course, make sure you don’t have any conflicts of interest in telling these stories. Generally, you shouldn’t write about people who you are close to. If you have any questions about your relationship with a subject, make sure to ask your editor and disclose the relationship when you pitch so they can help you work through any potential conflict of interest and keep your journalistic integrity intact.
Every community is packed with a variety of local businesses. Why not write about them?
You could write about a local antiques shop, mom-and-pop variety store, farm stand, dance studio, consulting firm, hotel, health and wellness business, or just about any other type of enterprise you could imagine.
Look outside of your normal markets, too, and consider writing for trade publications. For example, I’ve written about local supermarkets for trade publications aimed at supermarket executives.
If you enjoy writing about food and dining, why not pitch stories about local restaurants? You could pitch these to niche publications, trade magazines, national travel and food publications, and even the local newspaper. Since you live nearby and can presumably go to the restaurant, taste their cuisine, meet their chef, and write about the food, service and ambiance first-hand.
Editors are likely far more inclined to assign that story to you than to someone who has never set foot in the establishment.
Whatever you choose to write about, you know your hometown far better than people who come in for a day or week or maybe never visit, instead completing research with phone calls and web searches.
This gives you an advantage when it comes to stories about your community. Put that local knowledge to good use and pitch some stories about the place you know best.