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Writing From Personal Experiences
by Annie Laura Smith

Have you ever considered writing about some of your personal experiences for publication? Our family has been a continuous and inspirational source of topics for my freelance writing. My first personal experience piece was written for an assignment in a course on writing for religious publications. "The Special Names of Our Twins", a humorous article on their nicknames, appeared in Living with Preschoolers and was my first freelance publication. Later, as the children grew older, I realized the importance of spending more time with them. "Love Is Spelled T-I-M-E" was published in Living with Children. I noticed the "generation gap" when they were teenagers and wrote an article comparing the values of my 1950's generation to the values of the 1980's. Living with Teenagers published "A Message for the 1980's from the Class of 1952."

Even the family cat and our friends' dog had their day in the press. Animal Review published a Haiku about our cat "Fluffy", and Look and Listen published a story for preschoolers about our friends' dog "Scruffy".

My love for the seashore resulted in six published poems: "Serenity of the Sea" in Words of Praise; "Sea Oats" in Florida Living; “The Drama of the Ocean”” in the American Poetry Anthology; and “Serenity of the Sea” in Words of Praise. "Sea Oats" was subsequently reprinted in Florida Trail Panhandlers Chapter News and on the cover of Purpose. The Second Thoughts Missionary Oblates Radio Ministry purchased a narrative form of the thoughts in the poem. (Numerous publications will accept reprints of first person articles.)

“Images of the Seashore”, a lyrical essay on the beauty of the seashore, appeared in Hometown Press. An interest in sailing provided background for a children’s story, “Jenny’s Sailing Trip”, published in Look and Listen.

My experiences of growing up in Florida and witnessing hurricanes provided the background information for a children’s cover story, “Hurricane”, published in R-A-D-A-R. These experiences also led to two nonfiction pieces on “How Hurricanes Get Their Names”. One article appeared in Kids Copy and the second was published in Nature Friend Magazine.

A trip to a writers’ conference in Bermuda led to an article about the Sea Venture, Sir George Somers’ British flagship that foundered in 1609 on the barrier reefs off Bermuda, that appeared in Challenge.

Our family's reactions to life's events have been published in the form of devotionals in The Word in Season and "What Child Is This?" 1993 Advent Devotional Guide for the First Baptist Church, Huntsville, Alabama.

My remembrances of growing up in a small town in Central Florida were revealed in two articles: "An Ocala Front Porch" and "Growing Up in Ocala and Silver Springs." Both of these nostalgic articles appeared in Ocala Today.

I expressed the values that my grandmother taught me in our small Southern town in an article, “From the Porch Swing”, that appeared in The Good Old Days. Another piece suggested how important it is for each one of us to record the history and culture of our respective generations as a legacy for our families. Ozarks Senior Living Newspaper published this remembrance, “Capturing Our Past”.

It has not been necessary for me to travel to exotic locations or do extensive research for these articles. Just by observing the family's activities and reactions to life's events and by noting my own feelings, I have had a variety of writing topics. An ad for cotton on television reminds us of the "fabric of our lives". The daily experiences of our lives, the real fabric of our lives, provide more possible topics than we can perhaps ever write about.

In her book Writing the Creative Article Today, Marjorie Holmes, a prolific writer of personal experience articles, notes, "Magazines are publishing more true first-person stories than ever before." She advises that the experiences do not have to be "epic or unique". It the universality of an experience that another person can identify with that sparks reader interest.

Markets include: child care and parental guidance magazines; general interest publications; fraternal journals; special interests such as health and fitness, history, photography, psychology, and self-improvement; regional, religious, retirement, travel, and women's topics; and newspaper supplements and op-ed pages.

You can find those personal article ideas for your own freelance writing by observing more closely the activities and reactions to life's events of your family and friends, and through keeping a journal of your own feelings. And don't forget to keep an eye on the cat (or dog) too!

© Copyright 2006, Annie Laura Smith

Annie Laura Smith has approximately160 publications. She also published a World War II historical trilogy (The Legacy of Bletchley Park, Will Paris Burn? and Saving da Vinci) with OnStage Publishing. A contemporary YA novel, Whispers in the Wind, was published in 2006 by Booklocker.com, Inc.

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