Thursday, April 26, 2007

Writer's Group recap April 27

Today our small but merry bunch talked about finding stories. The homework assignment was to come with a few story ideas from your commute to work. And let me tell you, there were a lot of cool ideas --- Here are a few:

From Nicki: She noticed a small, rundown orange stand near the railroad tracks downtown, that still sells fruit in the summer and she also wondered if construction traffic is coordinated between municipalities after finding horrendous traffic on both Rt. 30 and 462 --- her main routes to Lancaster.

From Laura: She thought it'd be cool to write about people's favorite fortunes from their fortune cookies. We talked about doing a story about spooky York lore/sites after noticing a tank sticking out of a building on the Rail Trail.

From Brad: On his drive from the boondocks to civilations Brad questioned how many working farms were actually still in the county, versus farms where people have farm animals as pets. After driving past a "cat lady" house, he wondered what the laws were on feeding cats, or having too many cats on your property. Are there any parts of the county where you can go tubing in area creeks? What could you do with a story about back country roads where people living in upscale houses are right next door to people in trailers. What's going on at Duke Assisted Living Facility since it's closed down? There's a lot of trash piling up... Brad's an overachiever, there were more on this list.

From Jeff: Take a walk around nearby Hawk Lake Golf Course and write about how nature has slowly re-claimed the formerly perfectly manicured grounds.

From Melissa: Commuter stories. Create a scavanger hunt for commuters who drive a certain route every day, to keep the trek interesting.

From me: Where are people's favorite fishing holes? I wanted to do a rural life story about a pony (that is obviously a pet) who lives with a bunch of cows, who will eventually be eaten. What is it like to have to make friends with food, and eventually lose them. There is a cross on the rocks near a creek that looks like a memorial to someone who died, what's the story behind that? I noticed a stage setup during the summer where kids in Dover Township seem to congregate, is this there first step to becoming rock stars?

The main point of the excercise was to get people to open their eyes and see something new in a place that you've driven by a thousand times. It was also to show that there are literally story ideas everywhere we turn, which is pretty exciting if you're feeling like you're in a rut. Don't be afraid to step out of your beat every once and a while to do stories that satisfy your curiousity about a certain subject --- I think we all agreed it was important to do this so you can stay passionate about your job and about writing. Reward yourself with a fun challenging story every once and a while. And if you have an idea, but aren't sure where to go with it, ask a neighbor or a couple people. We spent most of the meeting developing entire stories from a simple observation, it helped getting everyone's input.

Which leads me to my last plug: Apparantly this global warming thing is a huge story that's not going away. What can we do to localize it? Look around you on your way to work. Think about your beat. What stories could we do to show how York County is affected? There is a file called YORKGREEN just begging for ideas.

I have handouts from Wilmington a couple of years ago during a session with St. Petersburg Times reporter Lane DeGregory, about finding stories off the beaten path. They're pretty useful and will get you thinking about new ways to approach finding stories.

Finally, Jen asked me to find volunteers to lead the next two Writer's Group Sessions at 3 p.m. May 16 and 2 p.m. May 24. If you have any ideas for topics please feel free to share. That's all for me!