The job that was the most fun (before I wrote books) was as a feature columnist and reporter for a small town newspaper. I met so many interesting people! The position was one for which I sort of stumbled into innocently. Hero joked that I spent so much time writing for the newspaper that I was making only pennies per hour. I suspect he was right.
We’ve moved several times. Being a “joiner” was how I became acquainted with members of my new community. First, we joined a church, and then I found groups in which I could meet others of mutual interest: newcomers clubs, home extension clubs, book clubs, docent, bridge clubs, and so forth. Our two daughters were (are) severe asthmatics. They were ill too frequently for me to work away from home. As a volunteer and/or club member, I was able to miss a meeting whenever I had a sick child.
Because I loved journalism, I often became the publicist for a group. I took the stories of meetings and events to the newspaper office, complete with photos labeled with captions. One day I took text and photos for three clubs to the local newspaper. The editor came out to speak to me. The woman who wrote a weekly column on local happenings had just told the editor that “nothing happened” and she had no column for the third week in a row.
The editor/co-owner, who was a lovely woman, was understandably upset. She had held space for the weekly column, but there was no content to use. She asked if I would like to become the new weekly columnist. I was flattered, but explained about my daughters’ frequent serious illnesses. So, the editor told me I could work at home and just come into the newspaper one day a week when I could. She pointed out that I’d be getting paid for stories like I’d just submitted. Of course I accepted.
When the previous columnist learned I’d taken her place, she was so angry that she called me. She informed me that she had a masters degree in journalism from Northwestern University and was an excellent writer—and who did I think I was that I could take her place? I listened to her rant, and then explained that I did not ask for the position, I was invited and accepted.
Obviously, I love to write. My only training was three years of journalism in public school, one of which was as editor of the school newspaper. My father had told me that a good writer could create a story about anything. One example he used was a fly on the wall—what had it seen, where had it been, where was it going, etc.?
I wanted to prove myself worthy of the editor’s trust. I filled the column inches set aside for me, but I found so much more that I thought readers would find interesting. I sought and wrote about fascinating people in the community. Subscriptions increased substantially. The editor credited my human interest features as the reason.
Here is my theory. People don’t take the local newspaper for global news—that’s on television and radio 24 hours a day. Instead, they want to be aware of what’s happening in their town/county. Everyone you meet has an interesting story.
Why did I share this anecdote? To let you know that the main character in my latest novel has a similar job. Zoe Wilder is a feature writer for The Spencer’s Ridge Gazette in Winston County, Texas. She has many more adventures than I did (fortunately for me). Although I received a bomb threat via telephone, I was never in actual danger. Zoe has a knack for finding trouble.
I hope you’ll give Zoe (and me) a chance. The cozy mystery series is lighthearted and sweet. You can find the first Zoe Wilder book, DEATH IN THE PERFECT HOUSE, at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RY7G2NW You can find it in e-book and print and enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.
Everyone has a story--what's yours?
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