writing skills/profession

I can’t imagine a better job than writing a weekly newspaper column. Being paid to comment on life as it swirls around me?  Could employment be more intellectually and creatively stimulating?

Not in my opinion.

For my birthday, Rob gave me a book on the art of writing columns that a columnist I know recommended to me. It is one she uses in the writing course she teaches. I have read just the first few chapters and find it quite helpful.

This same writer friend also urged me to simply begin asking after writing opportunities via my local papers. This is a bit of a problem. There are two local papers. Both are free and more ad than news or other content. The Post is owned, written and published by one man. I have tried to submit to him before and was informed that he only takes letters to the editor. He does not need anyone to help him with content – of which there is precious little. The Post is the newspaper equivalent  of a vanity book. The only difference being that it is read. I think as many people read The Post as read The Record, which is the “official” newspaper of Fort Saskatchewan.

I prefer dealing with the editor of The Record. He is a nice kid. Always happy to get tips on feature stories and never ignores an email.

I needed to find out if The Record would be interested in running a story about my writing group’s anthology project and decided that since I was contacting the editor anyway, I would ask about column opportunities. Specifically I wanted to know how a person went about becoming a columnist.

The book I am reading is a wealth of information on what columnists do but makes the path to a regular column sound a bit like pulling a sword from a stone. Not one of the columnists the author interviewed, and she includes herself, could pinpoint the steps to achieving this lofty thing called “a weekly column”.

The editor responded to my query in less than an hour. They didn’t have money to pay columnists was the first thing he wrote. I wasn’t surprised. It’s a free newspaper. He also went on to inform me they weren’t looking to expand their stable of columnists at the moment but were always open to new ideas and pitches but – isn’t there always one? – they liked columns written by experts.

Experts. Sigh. I am not an expert in any field. Frankly, I don’t read that type of column unless I am in need of information. Usually it is just easier to google information than follow an advice column in the hopes he/she one day writes about what I need to know.

The Record’s columnists include a couple of ministers and a woman who I think works in the mental health field. She is always writing about depression. There are many, many forms of depression and just as many ways to write about it.  Somehow she manages to write nearly the same thing every time however. I don’t know what the holy men write about because neither are very good writers.  Oh, and I’m not holy inclined to waste the minutes required to find out what concerns them enough to write about. Okay, that was unkind.  They are “technically” good, can’t fault their mechanics, but they are boring and that is just wrong.

I am glad I included my query in the email. I am not at all surprised to be politely sent back to my own little corner.  Now I can check this possibility off my list and look for others.

I do think it is a little sad my own local paper errs on the side of informative rather than enlightening or entertaining but when you have only a tiny bit of space for local politics, news and sports between the ads, the stuff which makes people think or smile is often sacrificed.

Sometimes I am informative. Mostly I am just someone whose writing about life is something others can relate to and, in a world where people feel alone more than part of humanity at large, this is important too.

Since I have been posting updates the last few weeks, I decided to again, but mainly because I am a little wrung out creatively speaking. I have written about four pieces over at 50 something Moms and adding pages to the memoir plus written the Christmas letter, a snarky little ditty that says nothing people who truly know us don’t already know and yet manages to remind others they could be keeping in better touch if they tried harder.

I am swamped with “to do’s” and find this amazing because I wasn’t this busy when I was gainfully employed. I have the Strathcona Writers website to try and log on to and update (not to mention create a blog and a Facebook group for) and the Fort writing group anthology is just taking off and is much more work than any of us thought it would be. And isn’t that usually the case?

My brother has been in touch several times this week too. There are things to worry about but not in print. Suffice to say, he is a long way from okay, but not in any danger that anyone in the family is aware of at this point.

Yesterday was my birthday. BabyD gave me a book called The Art of Column Writing that a writing friend and fellow blogger recommended. She is one who thinks I have the makings of a good columnist, one of my goals in the first quarter of the new year.

Yes, my year is now divided into frames of time as though I were a corporation. I am getting ready to map out the coming weeks and even meeting with someone at the bank on Monday to set up a “business account” because even though I have no inflow, I have expenses and, I think, a good business woman keeps those things separate from the household accounts for tax purposes – right?

Like a business card. I have gotten it into my head I need one. Now I just have to figure out what it should look like and say.

Rob gave me a digital voice recorder for my birthday. Instead of stopping in my tracks to pull out my notebook and a  pen (provided I can find them in my stuffed little purse – there is something else I need to “update”), I can whip out my recorder (yeah, definitely gonna need a new purse) and talk to myself. That will provide the locals something to give me “the look” about.

I got “the look” today from the spin instructor at the gym while I was snapping photos of the equipment for a piece I am going to write for 50something Moms.

“What are you doing?”

“Taking pictures for a column I am writing for a blog.”

And then comes the look. The one reserved for those of us who are a little bit off.

Tonight the Christmas Train is stopping here in Jo’berg. Country singers, sleigh rides and a bonfire with eats.

Later tonight the temps plummet and the weekend highs will be in the minus 20 c and colder range with minus 31c by Monday morning. Not cold enough for BabyD to need to be driven to school. Buses will run until minus 40. School, by the way, is never called off. Canadians are incredibly sensible about travel and road conditions. If they feel the roads are too bad to drive, they simply don’t. They don’t go to work. They don’t take their kids to school. There don’t seem to be repercussions for this because everyone from high up to lowest on the pole are of the same mind on the matter.

I am taking the elevation of my age by another year in stride. A thorough assessment reveals that I am not too fat, the skin under my chin is soft but not waddly and the white in my hair can still be camouflaged with minimal intervention. I do have crows feet. I am wearing progressive lens. But overall I appear to be maintaining.