Written By Amanda Sue Creasey

How I Became a Regular Columnist for My Local Newspaper

Before I found my gig as a regular freelance contributor for a small local paper, I was working as a high school English teacher who enjoyed some sporadic freelance work on the side. I also maintained a blog all about writing, and I had held one regular, paid (albeit small) role as a contributor on a dog-centric website for slightly over a year, but had recently given the role up as I felt the quality of the subject matter had declined, and I no longer felt stimulated by the material. The rest of my freelance work came in spurts. Sometimes, I had no work at all for several weeks. Other times, I was swamped with anywhere from two to five articles worth between $400 and $500 apiece.

A few years before I began my freelance writing efforts, my neighbor and I had been running buddies. He would sometimes spend our run regaling me with stories of his time in Vietnam. Once, he even stopped by my house with a photo album full of images of him as a young soldier at war. When freelance work began to trickle in during the spring of 2016, I interviewed my neighbor about his experiences as a runner for an article. For another article, I interviewed him about his volunteer work at a local golf course.

This past spring, my neighbor and I happened upon each other while I was out walking my dogs and he was out for a run.

“I have another story idea for you!” he said. “Vietnam.”

The topic was rather broad, and I didn’t have an audience or publication in mind, but I told him I would think on it and research possible homes for his idea, as well as try to think of specific angles. Ultimately what fascinated me about my neighbor was the fact that if I had just seen him out running but never begun talking to him, I would never have guessed at his rich wartime experience. It made me think about all my other neighbors and their hidden stories. I knew so many people with so many stories just from walking my dogs and running around the community. Their lives fascinated me. I decided a sort of “superhero next door” concept would be my angle. I knew our small town had a local paper whose offices were within walking distance of my home, and I figured that would be a fitting venue for my concept.

Below is the e-mail I sent to the newspaper’s generic e-mail address, pitching my idea.


I am a local high school English teacher and freelance writer based out of City, Town, and was wondering whether Newspaper Title ever accepted and published work by freelancers. My work has appeared in The Richmond Times-DispatchThe Christian Science Monitor, and Mother Earth Living, among other publications, both in print and online. Please visit my portfolio here: https://amandasuecreasey.com/publishedworks/.

I am interested in writing about my neighbor, who has lived in City Name for decades. In particular, I want to focus on a story (or several–perhaps a series) about my neighbor’s wartime experience in Vietnam.

His stories differ from other war stories I have heard, in that they focus more on his day-to-day experience than on the horrors of war. He’s told me about a middle-of-the-night attack when he dressed and was at the ready only to become more horrified by the large lizard hiding in his flak jacket than by the bullets whizzing around him.

He’s told me about the pet otter he and his fellow soldiers took care of, as well as about their pet monkey.

Because my neighbor, Larry, appears to be your normal, nice-old-man-next-door, people would never guess at his unique experiences. I believe running a feature story or two about him would open people’s eyes in many ways, providing a new perspective on people and on the Vietnam War.

As I write this, it occurs to me that the addition of a regular “Guy/Girl Next Door” column in The Village News seems the perfect fit for a local publication. It could profile the impressive, noteworthy achievements and experiences of the “normal” neighbors we see every day when we walk our dogs, get our mail, or stoop to pick our paper up out of the driveway–but actually know surprisingly little about.

If you might be interested in either a story about my veteran neighbor or my column idea (or both!), I hope you will be in touch. I would love to discuss these ideas with your further.


Amanda S. Creasey

The editor responded to my message within 24 hours in the following e-mail:


I’m interested in a feature of the neighbor and tales of flak jackets and lizards. Lol sounds interesting. Maybe 400-500 words? We pay $40 per story and ask that you provide one or two up close photos with each story. Maybe a pic of him with some war paraphernalia?

We don’t pay our columnists so not sure if that interests you. However you could produce a guy/girl next door stories once or twice a month for pay.

We would pay once a month and just need a mailing address and phone number.




PS – – we design our paper on Mondays so story submissions should ideally come in by Friday morning. Of course we can hold a story for a week or two depending on space.

I responded in the following manner within five minutes (I was very excited):


Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.

I would absolutely love to write a guy/girl next door story once or twice a month for Paper’s Name–beginning with my neighbor and his tales of lizards and flak jackets! I am not very confident that I could have it ready by tomorrow, but I am reasonably sure I could have it ready for you by next Friday, or at the very latest, the following Friday. Would that work for you?

Thanks again!

The editor was comfortable with my response, and since then, I have continued writing between one and three articles a month for the paper at the $40 apiece price initially agreed upon, with checks coming via snail mail at the end of each month. I also continue to teach high school English and seek out other, less regular work, such as feature articles, blog posts, etc., in addition to maintaining my blog.

Recently, I attended the James River Writers Annual Conference, and sat in on a panel about freelance writing. One of the panelists offered some advice that rings true for my experience: Start at home. Look for your stories at home, talk to people older than you are—they have amazing stories to tell. They just need an audience. You can mine stories from your own backyard.

In addition to starting small and starting at home, allowing my voice and writing ability to shine through in my pitch, I believe, was also helpful, as was including my other relevant writing jobs and clients.

While this particular writing gig isn’t going to afford me a life of luxury, I enjoy the steady flow of the work and a sense of fulfillment related to contributing to my community by helping people get to know each other, and being involved in our local, small-town paper. The gig also provides some welcome extra spending money to do what I love to do, anyway: talk to people, get to know my neighbors, and write.

Amanda Sue Creasey is a high school English teacher, freelance writer, and dedicated dog mom based out of Chester, Virginia. She is a board member and contest chair for the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association, co-chair of the James River Writers 2019 Writing Show, and member of the Poetry Society of Virginia. She is also an aspiring novelist. Find her online at Mind the Dog Writing Blog.

Your Comments:

  1. Val Vassay says:

    Very good, informative article. I’m going to try something like this in my part of the world – Marbella, Spain. There should be plenty of stories from the expats from all over the world that live here. Many thanks for your article, Amanda, and I wish you continuing success with your writing.

    • Amanda Creasey says:

      You are so welcome–and so right! I am sure the people around you have FASCINATING stories to tell, and you are just the person to tell them!
      Happy writing!

    • Sheila says:

      Hi Val Vassay

      My family on my mother’s side comes from Spain. They come from Sevilla, a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I was lucky enough to visit Marbella and loved being there. Spain felt like home. Perhaps one day I’ll get to visit and learn more about my family history there.
      Maybe you can learn and write about people who visit family and how Spain or Marbella speak to them.

    • Sheila says:

      Hi Amanda,

      I am very grateful to have people like you share their experiences and advice to others. I have no experience writing other than in college but I love to read and write. Mainly my goal is to work from home so that I may raise my girls and educate them for a bright future.
      Thank you

  2. Patti Cole says:

    Thank you so much, Amanda! I am an English Teacher, as well. Actually, I left the profession, formally, still loving every opportunity to teach, coach, do motivational speaking gigs. I also write and performs music, write poetry, act. It’s a good life! Your piece here has inspired me, however, to actually get on with writing, WRITING. I’ve wanted to start a blog and, in truth, I write a blog piece in my head every livelong day. I am starting now. THANK YOU!~ I mean it. Patti

    • Amanda Creasey says:

      Wow, Patti!
      You must have a LOT of good ideas for blog posts by now! I’m jealous!
      Keep up the creativity!

  3. Theresa St. John says:

    I have done this with a local print magazine, highlighting people of interest. Might be an artist, baker, child, veteran. Anyone that gives back to the community – or has overcome the odds.
    It pays $50-$100 per issue, depending on how long the article is. Stories are all about people and humanity, especially today.
    Great read – thank you for sharing.

    • Amanda Sue Creasey says:

      Agreed! Stories about humanity are so important right now. The world needs a little (A LOT OF!) good news.

  4. Rhonda M Rankin says:

    I am interested in engaging the broken in society with real life experiences and answers to heart wrenching questions from childhood traumas to parenting challenges and relationship woes.

    • Amanda Sue Creasey says:

      Rhonda–please do.
      I try to give all my stories a positive, uplifting, and hopeful angle. People can be so inspiring.

  5. Morgan says:

    What a great idea. So simple and yet, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it! I’m wondering…how could we go about finding these interesting people? Simply knocking on the door? Putting an ad in the paper? Any ideas?

    • Amanda Sue Creasey says:

      Hi, Morgan.
      I don’t know why I myself didn’t think of it sooner!
      As for finding people, I meet my neighbors (both familiar and new) when I am out for my run, out walking my dogs (I meet A LOT of people when I’m out walking my dogs), at the grocery store, at my job, through volunteer work, running races, through writing groups, attending networking events. I am very active in my community and at the school where I work, and I am also very nosey–so that helps!

  6. Vanessa says:

    Yes! I’ve been wanting to pitch my local paper for a while now and this article couldn’t be more timely. So informative, and very inspiring. Thank you!

  7. Eva Gordon says:

    Thanks for the article. I can definitely see myself doing this. Howvever, I have not been published in a paper, but an a piece on self-care in a monthly newsletter and some pieces on a website for shoppers. Would that be enough to get noticed.


    • Amanda Sue Creasey says:

      I think most publications know we all have to start somewhere. I have heard from multiple literary agents, at least, at various writing conferences that they are not turned off by writers who have only a few publications under their belt. We all have to build our portfolio somehow.
      I say go for it! It never hurts to try. The more you put yourself out there, the better your chances of getting noticed are.

  8. Adziah Abd Aziz says:

    Hi, I am a freelance tutor and teaching English Grammar. Yes I agreed that we have to look around us to inspire our writing. For me… I rather go for those devorcees and widows to share their heartache and the way they enduring lives and at tge same time caring their kids too.
    People shud know these sort of stories to make them alert abd helps those who needed without waiting something to happen or had emerged to be tended then. Lets help people and our heart will feel free and for sure restless no more 🙂

  9. patt mihailoff says:

    I am so happy that this worked out for you. I’ve been trying to get my local paper to at least entertain an idea about so many neighborhood things. Thanks for sharing what you did, I will try again and hope something works. Kudos to you.

    • Amanda Creasey says:

      I’m surprised your local paper wouldn’t show interest in neighborhood issues and interests. Keep up your efforts. Persist!

  10. Katy Preen says:

    I love this idea! I’m going to pitch it to the local publication I write for (http://www.themeteor.org). Manchester is a diverse, weird and wonderful city, so I’m sure to have plenty of content!

  11. sean babs says:

    Thanks Amanda, your article is an eyes opener for every aspiring writer. Keep the great work going like that. Please how can i write you personally apart from this platform?

    • Amanda Creasey says:

      Hi, Sean!
      If you visit my blog, Mind the Dog Writing Blog (amandasuecreasey.com), you can get in touch with me there. You can also message me on Instagram: @mind_the_dog_writing_blog
      I look forward to hearing from you!

  12. Beth Joseph says:

    I have published nothing. However, i love talking to people and learning the stories of their lives and why they are doing what they are doing. I have two people in mind already that i could very well write about. And i am a good writer, says my college professors and anyone who reads anything i write.
    I wonder if anyone would accept my writing being i am not published at all.

    • Amanda Creasey says:

      Hi, Beth!
      We all have to start somewhere–so someone has to publish you first! Some publications actually like to debut writers. Start sending your work and pitching your ideas, and see what happens! And don’t get discouraged if you meet with a lot of rejection. I, for one, meet with far more rejection than success–but even one little success makes up for any rejection that preceded it!

  13. Barb says:

    Great article, thank you Amanda. I have often thought of doing this but wondered if anyone would be interested in my finished product. Thank for the further inspiration.

Leave a Reply

Add your insights, criticisms, thoughts, opinions, or responses to the article.


We send you writing jobs.

Sign up and we'll send you 3 companies hiring writers now. Plus, we'll send more companies as we find and review them. All in our free email magazine.

We're the magazine for freelance writers.

We send you companies hiring writers.

Subscribe and we'll send you 3 companies hiring right now.

We'll also send you a guide that gets you started.

We're completely free.

Subscribe now. (It's free.)


About Us

We're dedicated to helping freelance writers succeed. We send you reviews of freelance writing companies, assignments, and articles to help build your writing career. You can view our privacy policy here, and our disclaimer. To get started, simply enter your email address in the form on this page.