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Making Money Off Your Family!
by Robyn Conley

Oh sure, you could sell your precious family heirlooms at a public auction after watching Antiques Roadshow. Or to be more discreet, you could market them on eBay and make a mint, but what kind of offspring would do such a thing? What I have in mind is a little sneakier. A little trickier. It takes a writer’s warped... er, I mean, keen imagination.

First, of course, it takes memories. Think back to your childhood and simply lose yourself in images. What sights come to mind? What images? Buildings? Rural settings? What are some of the foods and smells you remember or relatives your mind’s eye still sees around the kitchen table?

Not all memories will be positive. You might recall a horrible supper when passing on the liver and onions was not an option if you wanted that chocolate cake for dessert. Maybe your mom’s favorite sister, a.k.a. “the cheek pincher,” was someone you’d just as soon not see at the dinner table. The important thing to realize is these trips into your past are all worthy moments. And somewhere amidst the menagerie of reminiscing, you’ll find doubloons worth even more than the tugs of smiles they pull from your heart.

For example, my background includes a father who moved us constantly. Most people think we must have been military kids, but not true. We were box office babies. As a theater manager in the sixties, Dad was sent to theater after theater, managing one until it took off and then he’d be sent to another. Amidst all those movie houses and drive-ins, however, one theater stands out.

In a grand old, opera house style theater in Butte, Montana, my brother and I played “hide and seek” in its squeaking seat rows. We rode our banana seat bikes with monkey handlebars in its carpeted lobby and auditorium aisles. Exploring its massive projection booths felt more like prowling through ancient tombs.

Telling some of those stories to my present family instigated a trip back “home,” where we took photos, explored again, and I scribbled note pages full of info. Soon I had ideas for a regional article about that theater, as well as about theaters in general still used today in other capacities. A score of other possible leads bubbled up that one memory. Its main fruition came when I was asked by Scholastic Press to write The History of Motion Pictures. Add in all the moving and all the vehicles included in those trips and I jumped at the chance to also author Scholastic’s The History of the Automobile.

You see, the passion of your memory is your starting point. A writing buddy of mine has sold countless recipes she remembered from listening to and helping relatives cook in the family kitchen during her childhood. Several writers and clients of mine have sold to Reminisce magazine with features stemming from days gone by.

The trick is thinking about the things that meant a great deal to you. For my husband, it was a red Radio Flyer bike he loved, which he had to leave during a move when the family had no room for any extras. Today, we’re researching similar bikes, hoping to materialize a story based on his memory.

Perhaps you and your family worked jigsaw puzzles. What’s the history of those kinds of puzzles? How many are made today? Asking questions starts the marketing wheels turning because those questions lead you to the audience who might be interested in those ideas. Once you start thinking markets, then you start adding up potential sales.

Maybe you can juggle the basic idea into several categories: jigsaw puzzle memories for a nostalgia magazine; jigsaw puzzle history and facts for a kids’ non-fiction article; cross word puzzle history and their popularity along with other word and number games... and the lists just keep mutating and growing.

Allowing your memories to serve as jump starters will find you tap dancing extra fast to keep up with all the ideas flowing from your mind’s projector. Enjoy those films of your life and remember to take lots of notes. And when you make multi-sales off your family, they’ll be proud of you instead appalled like those sods who sold out to antique auctions.

Remember, write, and sell!

© Copyright 2007, Robyn Conley

Robyn's web site is www.robynconley.com

Other articles by Robyn Conley :

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