By Diane Taylor
As a Las Vegas retiree who is also a free-lance writer, my job is to “pitch” stories to editors. Where do I find stories about individuals in Las Vegas? Sometimes in the most unusual places.
The nail salon on Mother’s Day was where I found a favorite lady of Las Vegas. The nail person mentioned “Happy Mother’s Day” to me and because I am not a mother, I corrected her noting that if I am a mother, it would be to two beagles.
The lady in the next chair said something like, “Me, too”. (Both of us were somewhat bothered at the assumption we were mothers…without asking….but I digress.) The lady in the next chair and I started talking and I discovered she had a great life story – early airline stewardess in the days where young women were single, of a certain weight and wore stockings with seams that had to be straight)., married three times, lived in Europe, cared for “the love of her life” during his final illness, now plays golf regularly with a new gentleman friend, is happy and positive, has a puppy…. and was past 80, but looked like 60.
Another time, I was playing bingo (for another story) and started talking with the middle-aged lady across the table. She relaxes with bingo, she said, because she travels so much. She didn’t look like a traveler, so I kept asking questions. Turns out this woman was retired military and had started a consulting business inspiring young people to stay in school, work hard, etc. She did travel constantly, hired by big companies to speak to employees. I never would have guessed. I lost at bingo, but got a story idea.
Las Vegas poker tables are another story hotbed. Low-limit games are social, and the opportunity exists to chat with neighbors. A man and wife at one table told me about their business, cleaning grease out of the traps used at fast food restaurants. They had a very interesting story as to how their business came to be, their philosophy of taking on numerous small businesses rather than one large customer and how they inexpensively recruit employees (Craig’s list).
Time spent at local entertainment venues on open mic nights introduces audience members to all kinds of possible stories. Every entertainer has a story, even stories of overcoming serious illnesses to take the stage again.
I was in the waiting room at St. Rose Hospital when I met a lady waiting for a husband’s surgery results. We talked, and I found out that in her 50s she discovered that the man she thought was her father wasn’t. Devastated at the news, she then went on a quest to find out about her real father. With the help of the Internet and many hours work, she discovered her real father had died, but she met and established relationships with two, now beloved, half sisters.
At the same hospital, I had lunch in the lunchroom when seating was at a premium, so I sat at a table with three other people. I asked who they were and discovered they were hospital chaplains. Knowing nothing about chaplains, I asked a few questions and was so fascinated that later, I pitched a story about chaplains at that hospital, and that, too, became a story.
Busy freelancers, of course, have stories assigned to them and also are given story recommendations from friends (and PR professionals). But talking with strangers is also a great source. And it’s fun, too.
My father was a great salesman. He often said that most folks like talking about themselves.
All you have to do is ask.