Yes, we all know the old adage to “write what you know,” but sometimes it’s tough to apply in our hum-drum lives. If your day consists of sitting at a desk, with quick trips to the kitchen for Chai tea (as mine does, and yours might, also), there may not seem very many things in your life that editors would be willing to pay for. Still, my career is all about writing what I live.
When I began freelancing in 1990, the first query I wrote landed me a published article. What could a just-fresh-from-high-schooler write about that would interest a national magazine? Antique and vintage clothing, of all things. Historic costume had long been an interest of mine, and I was just beginning to collect the stuff, too. It might seem amazing that there’s an audience for such a topic, but not only did this portion of my life render me my first article, it also led to a column in a national magazine, and over a dozen books, including my first, Victorian & Edwardian Fashions for Women (published by Schiffer in 1995) and the latest, soon to be released by Dover Publications.
I continued to follow my “write what you live” motto and found other markets for my work. An interest in cameos led to several story assignments. This time, I knew little about the subject; I just happened to like this form of jewelry. Careful research (which is enjoyable when you’re interested in something) allowed me to write authoratively on the topic. I’d been sewing since I was in the eighth grade, so articles about sewing techniques helped pay the bills, too. I’d always read lots of books about history, so writing about the people of history came naturally. Gardening is another hobby of mine, and recently I’ve delved into that aspect of my life to find fresh markets.
I’ve been a singer since childhood, and when I took to teaching voice on the side, the urge to write a book on the subject was irresistible. I seriously doubted I could find much of a market for this topic, but I plunged ahead, anyway. The book simply needed to be written! When Singing Secrets came out in early 2005, the response to it (I was even offered a gig as a voice coach on a new TV talent show) surprised me. But it shouldn’t have. Once again, my editors and readers were most enthusiastic when I wrote about what I’d lived.
When I met my husband on the Internet, of course I had to write about that, too. (My future spouse had no idea he’d be fodder for so much of my writing. Poor dear!) This was my entrance into the world of Christian publishing, a new and interesting field for me. The resulting piece is also my all-time most popular article. Over four years after it was published, readers still email me about it.
When I married Poor Dear, I discovered a new treasure trove of possible assignments. Weddings are big business (good news if you want to write about them), and I happened to really enjoy planning mine. So I wrote a new book, Carry Me Over the Threshold, published by Zondervan (a division of HarperCollins) in January of 2006. I may have other wedding books in me yet. Now I have a daughter, born three months early. After 133 days in the hospital, she’s finally home, and after a hiatus while she grew well, I’m beginning to get back into writing again. You can bet I’ll be penning about her premature birth and our experience with the hospital. In fact, throughout her life I’m sure she’ll unwittingly inspire a truckload of articles and books. You see, I’ve learned my lesson well: Write what you live!
Kristina Seleshanko is the author of 16 books; she’s also written scores of articles for such magazines as Woman’s Day, Today’s Christian Woman, and Sew News. Both her books and her articles trace her interests and her life. For more about Kristina and her books, please visit http://www.kristinaseleshanko.com