Saturday, February 26, 2022

Of reading and writing, part 2

It appears my local column, about which I shared here in my last installment, still lives -- for now. 

I had an email exchange with my editor, and she apologized for missing one I had sent. She said they are changing some things in regard to "who does what," and "it fell through the cracks." I thanked her and decided not to go into all the time this had happened previously. 

Last week's did not run Monday morning, which is my preference, but Tuesday afternoon, and it was not included in morning and afternoon email newsletters. I have a feeling a lot of regular readers didn't even see it. I dared to write about something somewhat controversial and when I do that (which is rare), I usually receive at least a couple of emails. 

I submitted a column Friday (yesterday) and asked that it be posted Monday. We'll see.

Since I think some folks missed this one, I thought I would post it here. Although this is about local and state issues, some of these matters are being discussed across the country. You might even be reading about something similar in your area. 

(I will definitely post something about the heartbreaking situation in Ukraine in the near future. So stay tuned.)

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Of reading and writing

Because a friend had done it and suggested I do the same, I recently wrote my obituary. 

I feel fine, thanks, and hopefully this will not be used for a few more years.

It was an interesting exercise, and it is probably too long (because I am wordy), but I also wrote instructions to whomever is tasked with taking care of my affairs, giving my permission to edit as he/she sees fit. 

And it's not really the point of today's post, but it gives me a good opening. Because in the obituary I wrote, "his favorite hobbies were reading and writing." 

And that is true. 

The writing is done almost entirely on this blog since 2008 and, since 2011, in a column I write for a local publication. I've posted some of those pieces here from time to time. 

I have a column due every week, but here's the thing: I am not employed by this publication, nor do I have anything other than an oral agreement with the founder and editor who has not been there for a number of years now.  

Although I would notify my current editor by email if I were going to skip a week, I don't think she would send an email asking where my column is if I failed to do so. In fact, if I never sent another column, I'm not sure she would wonder about it. 

The person who started the publication (circa 2009) was a former columnist and reporter for our big city newspaper, focusing on the county where she lived (and where I live). 

She got downsized/laid off, after which she started a blog, extending her column from her former employer and covering news around the area. She took on a partner, and the blog morphed into an online newspaper. 

It caught on.  Having previously worked from their homes, they rented office space. They began to sell advertising and they added some local reporters and columnists.

From the time I was a child, I loved columnists, especially the Everyman, observer and humorous types. 

I knew of the person who started the publication, but I did not know her personally. It so happened, however, that her son and my daughter were friends, and had worked together at a local children's gym.

So, I sent her an email and introduced myself, referencing the connection with her son and my daughter. I congratulated her on her new venture and told her I thought her publication was missing one vital component -- me. I told her I thought I would be a good columnist. I referred her to my blog (this one) for a writing sample. 

She soon replied and thanked me for writing, but said she had a full complement of columnists at the time. She said I could submit a guest column from time to time if I so desired and she would consider running them, and if I wanted to cover occasional news, she could possibly give me some assignments if I wanted to do it for the fun of it. (In other words, without pay). 

Because of my day job, covering news was not going to happen, but I took her up on her offer of submitting a guest column.  Over the next two years, I submitted four and she ran all of them.

By the end of those two years, she had lost a couple of columnists. I had never again mentioned to her that I would like to be a regular, but I thought the time was right again. I sent her another email, touting my qualifications and saying she must agree I can competently put words together, since she had run each of the guest pieces I had submitted. 

While her response was a little more positive this time, she told me people were coming out of the woodwork wanting to be columnists. She said thinking I could do it was easy to say, but not as easy to execute. But she said she would keep me in mind. At that point I put it out of my mind and did not submit anymore guest pieces. 

About six months went by, and out of the blue one day, she sent another email and asked if I would like to come see her and talk about the possibility of my writing a column. By this time, as I recall, only one of the regular columnists was still with her. 

I went in for an "interview" and I left with a column to write the following week. That was 11 years ago this June, and neither she nor her partner ever told me to stop, so I started submitting one every week. The rest is history. 

Over the time she was editor, she would give me helpful suggestions and critiques, which I greatly appreciated. After all, she was a veteran newspaper person, and she knew her stuff. She gently suggested my pieces were too long. I took her advice to heart and over time I think my writing became better.

We met in person a couple of times, and she was encouraging. She also complimented me in her own column on occasion. Mostly, though, I would send her my column each week by email, and we rarely spoke. 


At first, I pretty much engaged in storytelling, similar to some of the things I have written here. I wrote a lot about family life, both the one I was still raising at the time and the one I grew up with. 

Over time I expanded my subject matter to include commentary on local issues, as well as the occasional book review, politics (local, state and national), and some pieces on interesting people. But to this day I also still tell stories, which is what readers seem to enjoy the most. 

I get good feedback from those readers -- not a lot, but enough to keep me going. A few months ago, one of them read my column on the book "The Moviegoer" by Walker Percy, and asked if I would like to meet him and discuss it. 

Turns out he had written his master's thesis on Percy and was thrilled to find another English nerd to discuss him with. We met for a beer and had a great time. 

As I tell anyone who asks, it's a labor of love. I thoroughly enjoy doing it. 


After two or three years (I can't remember the exact timing), the original editor and founder sold out to her partner. I knew nothing of this until I read about it in the publication. Again, I'm not an employee or even a contractor, so they owe me no advance notice about anything. 

The surviving partner served as my editor for perhaps a year or so, until she assumed the role of publisher. After that, I went through several editors. I received very little feedback and never met any of them personally. I continued to send my column by email on Friday, and it would run on Monday. 

Except when it didn't. Sometimes it would not show up on Monday. I might send an email asking the editor about it, and he/she would apologize, and go ahead and run it, or tell me sorry, we'll run it next week. 


A couple of years ago, the partner who bought out my original editor sold to a publishing company that owns some other publications in the area. She stayed with them until late last year, when she retired. 

I had the same editor for about two years, but she left about a month ago. For the first three columns I submitted to my latest editor, things ran smoothly. But the column I submitted last Friday was not posted Monday. 

And I decided not to say anything about it. Tomorrow, when I submit my column for this Monday, I'll tell her last week's piece never ran and I would like to know if there is a problem. I'm almost certain there is not, that it was another oversight, but I would like to make my point. 

The fact is, I now write a column for a publication owned by a publishing company. I don't know any of the people and they don't know me. I am not an employee, and we operate, I suppose, under an assumed agreement based on the one I made with the original editor and founder some 11 years ago. 

I say all this not to complain, as nobody owes me anything, but to summarize where things stand. I still enjoy writing the column, but I don't want to spend the time writing it if I can't count on it being posted. 

Sometimes I think I need to establish a more formal arrangement, but I also don't want to call attention to myself and have someone think I'm not worth the trouble. 

It's been a fun ride for nearly 11 years. It's anybody's guess if there are still years to go.