■  A woman building a ballet slipper business, who caught the attention of American Idol’s Randy Jackson.

■  A senior with an astonishingly large collection of moose figurines.

■  A musician creating a ministry of music for those who are dying and the people who love them.

Those are three of the local stories I have written recently, for a Port Perry magazine called Focus on Scugog.

These are not fortune-building stories for me as a writer. I receive a flat fee for each story, and one day I worked out the per word payment. Stupid thing to do.

But they are relationship-building stories as I get out into my own community, and interview local people doing really cool things. These stories also add some variety to my writing life with their often quirky topics. I live in an interesting town full of fascinating people. Usually, the stories I write are long-distance. Having the chance to hop into my car – or even walk! – to an interview with my recorder, notebook and camera is really quite fun.

The other day I spoke with an aspiring writer seeking advice on getting started. Writing local is a great place to begin a writing career. For me, it was the Meadow Lake Progress, sometime back in 1996. The fearless editor welcomed me on board for an occasional column.

My confidence and clippings grew at the same rate, exactly what I needed to happen.

So, if you are a writer who doesn’t write local, look around your own town, city or neighbourhood for community papers and newsletters. And then nab the editor at the post office. That’s what I did.

Why Write Local?

■  Add variety to your own writing life. If I’m in the midst of writing a fundraising campaign to fight malnutrition in sub-saharan African children, writing a story about a moose collection is actually quite a relief!

■  Build relationships, learn about, and contribute to your own community.

■  Create a body of clippings that demonstrate your abilities.

■  Access a whole new world of story ideas. When I was assigned a local story about a global and unique conservation movement that has its headquarters in Port Perry, I knew it probably held broader interest and pitched it to a national magazine.