My military husband moved our family to Okinawa early in my writing career. It was a great move for writing! I was finishing up a middle grade novel and planning my next fiction. And there were so many new ideas, places, stories, and events to explore.
I found US children’s magazine hungry for authentic foreign stories. One of my early articles was on Japanese Girl’s Day (Hopscotch Aug/Sep 1998). I saw a fantastic photo I wanted to use for my article on the front cover of Okinawa Today so I called the magazine to see if I could connect with the photographer. When we met and talked, he asked if I’d be interested in writing for Okinawa Today.
I had thought of myself as a children’s writer. I wanted to write fiction… did I want to write for adults and nonfiction? I know you’re thinking, Duh! Jump on the opportunity! And in that way, you’re smarter than I was. I did agree, but it took a little thinking.
It turned out to be a great decision! It was fantastic practice writing LOTS of beginnings, middles, and ends. Nonfiction has a story arc of its own. And my writing skills increased with the practice and the variety.
Matsui-san would say, “Go make nice story about dam.” Oh really? You see in Okinawan culture, there were lots of exchanges of favors. If Matsui-san’s magazine had a nice article about someone, then, somewhere down the line, something good would come her way. So my challenge was to write something that would please the publisher AND be of interest to my English speaking audience. One of those interesting facts was that 90% of our drinking water came from the dams that collected rainwater… and if it didn’t rain for 6 weeks… we were likely to be on water rationing.
I learned about the bushido way of doing business that exists today, of gorgeous hikes to waterfalls, ruins of castles, and of high class resorts. I was to write about each in such glowing terms my readers would jump at the chance to go there. And it was easy to do. They were fun, exciting, interesting, and inviting.
Writing for Okinawa Today started my love of interviewing people and sharing what I learned with readers. I loved unscrambling the complex and making it understandable. In all ways it broadened my writing and my career choices in writing.
So, when you are faced with new choices—with a writing career path that might not be like the one you envisioned… take a chance. Risk. Try it on for size. And see what you can learn from that experience. Likely, there will be times it stinks. But more often, you’ll look back and say, “Duh! That should have been a no-brainer. This was a GREAT experience!”
If you’ve had a time when you tried a new writing path- will you share with us how it went for you?
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