I Write a Weekly Column in Real Newspapers and If I Can Do It, Then You Can Do It Too or Maybe Not
I am going to grow up and marry Judy Garland. Mom said, "Great Son. Dare to dream. Some day you'll marry a dried up alcoholic addicted ballad singer."
I announced at supper that I was the funniest joker in the fifth grade. The part about me being in the fifth grade was correct but I’m sure the part about the funniest joker was my opinion only.
In high school, I spent my two hour study hall writing jokes instead of doing my homework. I owe an apology to Conrad McHugh who sat next to me those two hours a day and had to listen to all the jokes.
In the Navy, I started a weekly newspaper for which I charged a nickel. It was two pages of jokes. Again with the jokes. No one could accuse me of publishing an underground newspaper because I named it The Topsoil.
In 1980, I had a compulsion to write a whole book and I did. Insp. Inspector was page after page of jokes tied loosely together in a vague plot with no real fleshed-out characters and no room for breathers between the jokes. Copyright yes, sold NO.
In 2002, I re-connected with an old friend, Michael Reisig, who played guitar with me in a band in high school and then in another band 7 years later in Key West. By 2004 he was an established writer with several published books. He was writing sports articles and political commentary for newspapers in Arkansas.
In the course of e-mails, I related my early love for Judy Garland. Here is the text of that e-mail:
Speaking (writing) of tornadoes, I did tell my mother
that I was going to grow up and marry Judy Garland.
I had pictured a whirlwind romance.
"Great Son. Dare to dream. Some day you'll marry a
dried up alcoholic addicted ballad singer."
I was 6 and Judy must have been 31 or so. I hadn't
figured out that she kept ageing after the Wizard of
Never been in a tornado, but I did have a Cairn
Terrier. Once I dressed myself up in pigtails and a
sun dress and chased Toto around the apartment with a
Michael Reisig replied, “You should try writing too.” Well that was enough to get me back on the writing track.
That is when I bought this book: You Can Write a Column by Monica McCabe Cardoza.
I wrote a few sample columns and sent them to some local editors. One actually responded and said he liked the style but was looking for articles slanted toward Pinellas County Florida. The Pinellas Informer was published by Lew Phillips.
Lew helped me stay focused with one style and one subject instead of wandering through the universe on flights that would leave the space station every 10 minutes.
He published my first article in Aught 2004 and I was able to pen 6 or 7 more articles published before he sold the newspaper.
The other book I recommend was written by my writer friend in Arkansas: The Fledgling Author’s Handbook by Michael Reisig. Happily, he sent a free copy to me.
These two books had everything I needed to someday write for the Miami Herald. That hasn’t happened … yet.
In 2007 Michael Reisig started a weekly newspaper in Mena Arkansas called The Polk County Pulse. He asked me if I would take a shot at writing a weekly column about a fictitious town in Arkansas. It was to spoof his competitor’s weekly down home column from a real town in Arkansas.
Back and forth a few times, until Michael liked what he read and the weekly humor column, The Community News from Hogspore Arkansas, was born in July 2007.
In June 2008, my column won first place in the humor division of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Michael Reisig sold the newspaper in 2009, pocketed a tidy little profit, and still writes for the paper. Don’t you hate people like that?
The second owner, LeAnn Dilbeck, has continued the success of The Polk County Pulse and graciously kept me on after she purchased the paper.
I received my weekly copy of the newspaper with my column in the mail today. Yes, I live in Florida and the newspaper is published in Arkansas. You can read the latest column at www.hogspore.com.
This is how it happened for me. It will happen for you differently. Hopefully, you have a fair amount of talent and it won’t take you as long as it did for me. Fifth grade seems a long way off from where I now sit.
The two books I have recommended will show you in simple and elegant guidelines the way to your dream of being a published columnist, writer, commentator, blogger, or whatever the next thing they call it. Best of luck. Never give up … Ever.
02-22-2012 Update: We just added another newspaper, the Columbus News-Report in Columbus Kansas. Does 2 newspapers now running the column make it syndercatered?