Art of Column Writing
By Suzette Martinez Standring
NSNC Past President
Since last June, I’ve hosted “It’s All Write with Suzette,” a 30 minute how-to program on the craft of column writing. The content is based on my book The Art of Column Writing: Insider Secrets from Art Buchwald, Dave Barry, Arianna Huffington, Pete Hamill and Other Great Columnists. Each episode features a guest columnist who offers advice on a particular aspect of writing; for example, point of view, humor, tackling controversial issues, or (my favorite), writing about family and other touchy people.
Helping others to find or to further their writing voices has become my passion, and “It’s All Write With Suzette” is an extension of that pleasurable effort. It occurred to me that you might be carrying around TV content, too.
As columnists, we interview people and ferret out facts. We are storytellers. Often, a columnist becomes an expert or the go-to resource in a particular field because of a keen personal interest. Our rolodexes are full of experts and professional contacts. Why not host a TV show based on your own hard-earned expertise?
Now some columnists already have TV shows that air on large networks. I’m not one of them. My show airs on local Milton (Mass.) community access cable TV. However, now that I’ve uploaded many of the episodes in their entirety onto www.vimelo.com for Internet viewing, my career as a workshop presenter has taken an improved financial turn as a result.
Having a local TV show has cost me nothing. Community cable does all the filming and production for free. I’m not paid to do the show, although I am free to seek sponsorship (but haven’t done so, my bad). The shows are taped at my house and I invest only my time and efforts in coordinating appearances by guest columnists or authors. I tape two half-hour shows on the same day once a month. “It’s All Write with Suzette” airs twice monthly, and each episode runs five times a week for two weeks.
This is how it started. I came across the contact to the programming director of Milton Community Access TV. Acting on a spontaneous whim, I emailed him a pitch for a potential show about writing, telling him that Milton residents had interests in all things literary as evidenced by the resounding support of our local library and the success of its author lecture series. Though the focus of my proposed show would appeal to columnists and bloggers, the writing tips offered could be applied to any genre of writing. “Come talk to me,” was the reply.
We began tapings the following week. I don’t know what was more surprising – the speed by which it all happened, or the discovery that so many people actually watch local access TV.
I’ve featured columnists such as NSNC members Jerry Zezima of The Stamford Advocate (Conn.) and W. Bruce Cameron, NY Times bestselling author of A Dog’s Purpose. My own writing education continues through guests such as columnists Joanna Weiss or Paul Kandarian, both of The Boston Globe.
Book authors and writing professors have been featured, but always with a focus on the how-to aspect of great writing, such as Robert Atwan, the founder and editor of the “Best American Essays” series, now in its 25th year or Hallie Ephron, a notable mystery author, whose suspense thriller, “Never Tell a Lie,” will be made into a Lifetime movie this year. Such guests share insider secrets into their particular craft. But whether the author’s focus is on essay, mystery, memoir or literary writing, all writing tips can be applied to make one’s own column more compelling.
Your own TV show could come about just as easily. Community television is always on the lookout for shows featuring local residents. Who better than you?
Meanwhile, at your viewing leisure, here are three episodes of “It’s All Write with Suzette.”
“On Being Brave”
The show’s focus is on courage in self-revealing columns or when tackling controversial issues, and features guest columnist Joanna Weiss of The Boston Globe.
How to be funny in print is advice given by NSNC member Jerry Zezima, award winning humorist of The Stamford Advocate (Conn.) and author of Leave It To Boomer
“The Creative Spark”
A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans is the NY Times bestseller by NSNC member W. Bruce Cameron, who talks about the creative spark for his new book and how his background as a columnist laid a foundation for success as an author and screenwriter. A movie of his book by DreamWorks is now in the making.