profiling

Posted by & filed under The Right Way to Travel, Travel Writing.

Friends and family often ask why I enjoy writing personal stories about the lives of people around me.

Mostly, I’m a curious writer. I love researching topics—whether it be a local winery, a new restaurant, something that happened during WWII, a historic cemetery, or an up-and-coming art show, I’m an insatiable sleuth.

I want to know everything.

When it comes down to it, people are involved in every subject, and I feel it’s crucial to include that aspect in my storytelling. 

A profile story is a portrait of a person—only using words instead of a paintbrush. They’re supposed to capture the spirit of your character and share what motivates, excites, and moves them.

They’re human-interest stories at their best, delving into the emotions of life and tugging on the heart strings of readers everywhere.

Below are a few reasons you should consider adding them to your travel writing tool belt:

1. Profile pieces can introduce you to fascinating people.

When Hospitality 21 asked if I’d be interested in interviewing actor Eva LaRue for their magazine, I jumped on the opportunity! I’d watched her for years in the soap opera All My Children, and then on CSI: Miami. I thought she was terrific.

I ended up writing not one but two pieces on Eva and had a blast. I felt like I was in my element.

We talked about luxury travel, both domestic and abroad. Eva shared how important it was to bring her daughter along and how key it was to experience the world around them together.

I even landed her famous chocolate chip and bacon cookie recipe—such a delicious treat. Maybe my reward for a job well done? I like to think so.

And when Seychelles politician Alain St. Ange announced his bid for Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organization a few years ago, I interviewed him as well.

It was fascinating to learn how the island felt about hospitality and travel, how they gave back to their communities, and how they believed in sustainability and care for the delicate environment around them.

The phone conversation went so well that the tourism bureau invited me to explore the island anytime. I hope to spend a few weeks there soon—when the world of travel opens up again.  

2. It feels great to introduce interesting folks to the neighborhood.

Recently, a local editor reached out and asked if I could cover a story—that afternoon!

I had several articles I was working on at the time. Deadlines were looming, and I was tempted to say no.

Instead, I met a young man, Jon Dragonette, working on a project around the country—photographing people during the pandemic. Called The Corner of Covid and Main Street, his work is in black and white; he shoots portraits of everyday folks dealing with life in these troubling times.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County heard about the project, got in touch with Jon, and will carry his work in their permanent archives when complete.

Jon had crisscrossed the country, landing in Saratoga for a few days to visit family and photograph locals before leaving once more. 

I was lucky to photograph him as he worked downtown and write a piece about his mission. The article appeared in a local publication in late January.

3. Profile articles cover people from every walk of life.

Profile stories can highlight the lives of so many people from every walk of life. I’ve written stories about local bakers, famous chefs, schoolteachers, small business owners, folks in the travel industry, doctors, and nurses, to name a few.

Profile pieces can cover artists, musicians, veterans, hospice workers, and families who have gone through something extraordinary or horrific.

Human interest stories are hot—especially now when we are sheltering in place, not gathering like we used to. We’re social animals and writing about people in communities across the world helps us connect, to feel that we are not alone.

I’ve become known for covering articles like this. People often get in touch with me to offer ideas. It’s not uncommon to get a phone call that starts with, “You need to meet so-and-so; let me tell you a little bit about them.”

4. Articles like this pay very well.

Besides being able to meet interesting characters and introduce them to others through the written word, articles like these can pay very well. I have cashed checks anywhere from $100 to $300 once published. Not bad for a few hours work.

In my nearly 600 stories, I’d say 100 of them are heart-warming or heart-wrenching articles about people I meet. Their stories need to be told, and I want to be the one to help share them with the world.

5. Editors will count on you to get to the “heart” of the story.

I’ve lost count of the number of times editors I know—even ones I don’t know—call or email to ask if I’ll cover a human-interest story for their publication.

Theresa-St.-John

Usually, they say, “It’s right up your alley.” And they’re right.  

I feel blessed to chat with someone over coffee, learning about their life, mission statement, and what makes them tick.

At the end of the day, I believe it’s all about the human connection. We all want and even need to feel that bond—especially now, in the middle of a pandemic.

So, look around. You have the opportunity to share exciting stories right where you are. I hope you do—I can’t wait to read them. 


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