The 'Slice of Life' Author Interview
Musings on completing one year as a columnist.
This week marks a full year that words I have written (perhaps as many as 43,000, but who’s counting?) have appeared in this online space.
To commemorate this anniversary of Tuesday morning offerings, I thought I would answer some questions (that I am frequently asked) about my experiences as a Patch columnist. Here goes.
Q: What were your initial thoughts when asked to write a weekly column in Patch?
A: Honestly, my first thoughts were along the lines of – I’ll write anything that doesn’t fall under the rubric of Meeting Minutes. And: I really hope this is a paid position.
Q: Which writers have influenced you as a columnist?
A: Back in the days of print, I read Anna Quindlen, both her New York Times column and her pieces in Newsweek. I devoured many of Annie Lamott’s submissions in Salon and over the years, I have thoroughly enjoyed the humor of Dave Barry and the wry insights of Bill Bryson.
Q: In some columns, you write about very personal, sometimes painful topics. Other pieces are much lighter. Is the mix up intentional?
A: Absolutely! I strive not only to offer readers a variety of styles but also to vary the topics from the silly to the serious. I’ve been admonished for baring my soul to strangers, however, it’s those same columns that so-called strangers will stop me in CVS and express that what I wrote moved or touched them in some way. And difficult passages are a part of the human experience; we all “suffer the slings and arrows of misfortune.” Most writers, at some point or another, will write about their suffering. As for the silly pieces – well, it’s actually more challenging for me to write humor, than anything else.
Q: You have, on occasion, written about your children. Are they OK with that?
A: Yes. In fact, in most instances, the child in question has read the column and has granted me his/her approval before I’ve sent it off. Contrary to what is believed, my kids are really fine with occasionally finding themselves featured in a column. With that said, I never perceived of this as a “Mom blog” and so I intentionally limit the frequency with which I write about my kids.
Q: What has been the most challenging facet of weekly writing for you?
A: Coming up with an idea each and every week is daunting. Nora Ephron quipped that her ex-husband, Carl Bernstein, who at one time wrote weekly for The Washington Post, would walk around constantly observing everything and asking “Hmm, can I get a column out of that?” I absolutely can relate! There are some weeks when, as the weekend approaches, I begin to panic that I’ll have nothing relevant to write about. This fear sort of hangs over me until Monday morning when the panic hits in earnest. Thus far, it has always worked out in the end.
Q: How long does it take you to bang out a column?
A: Anywhere from an hour to three days. Some pieces just write themselves, others require a fair amount of mulling before I even approach the computer. Then once I get a draft written, there is tweaking, editing, and occasionally a complete overhaul.
Q: In looking over the past year, do you have any favorite columns?
A: Oh sure. I have ones I am proud of and ones that I am, ah, less proud of.
Q: For example?
A: I wrote a piece last May about a neighbor of mine who was dying. His family ended up reading it and were really moved by it. It was the first time that something I had written (for Patch) had touched people in a meaningful way. Last fall, I wrote a column called “Mormonism, Mitt and Me” and the response was overwhelming. I heard from people from as far away as California saying they appreciated the perspective. And as I mentioned earlier, some of the more personal pieces seem to have resonated with readers. One of my favorites, though, is a column I wrote last September exploring the word “grit”.
Q: What will your readers find as you begin your second year writing “Slices of Life”?
A: More of the same, I hope. A variety of musings, observations, and reflections ranging from the serious to the silly.
Q: Is there anything you want to say to your reading audience?
A: Yes! That I am truly, madly, and deeply grateful to you for clicking on the link to this column. Thank you for embarking on this journey with me!