Karen J. Rinehart is a Charlotte, NC area syndicated columnist, author and speaker. She has been writing her award-winning column, “True To Life”, (a.k.a. The Bus Stop Mommies), since 2002. It is syndicated by Media General newspapers and a regular feature on CatholicLane.com and CatholicExchange.com. Rinehart is a frequent guest humorist and “mommy expert” on many TV and radio shows, sounding off on timeless themes featured in her first book, “Invisible Underwear, Bus Stop Mommies and Other Things True to Life,” published in 2003. She was elected NSNC Vice President in 2010.
In this interview with The Columnist she draws on her personal experiences to relate what belonging to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists means to her and how important – and rewarding – it is to be associated with this organization.
When did you become a member of NSNC? It was 2003. I believe I joined when registering for the Tucson conference.
How did you learn about the organization? Good question! I honestly don’t remember BUT I think I stumbled upon info on the contest.
What led you to join? The conference was a big draw-and of course it was a bargain to join/register at the same time. I’d only been writing my column for barely a year and had just launched my first website-I was dying to learn more about this crazy career into which I stumbled, meet colleagues and hone my craft.
In past years, have you entered the contest? Have you won? I have…and won for the first time last year: 2nd place in Humor under 100,000 circulation. I was unable to attend the Bloomington conference due to a speaking engagement in DC, but made sure everyone in that hospitality suite knew I’d won!
Has being a member of NSNC helped you advance your career as a writer? If so, in what way? I have to say yes. The networking is obviously priceless but beyond that, the fact that these colleagues want each other to succeed and thrive–willing to help each other–is so pleasantly welcomed. Through NSNC contacts I’ve been asked to contribute to books, write jacket copy, gained readers, and much more.
Do you belong to another writers’ group? If so, how does it compare with NSNC? If not, do you view NSNC as being a uniquely different group for writers? Why? I’ve attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and at one time participated in online (both open and invitation-only) writers’ groups but have drastically cut back on such participation. I’ve found my most like-minded fellow writers (encouraging, networking, helpful, fun) are all in the NSNC so I save my extra time and energy for them.
Again, one thing I find unique and “attractive” about NSNC membership is our desire for each other to succeed and thrive. When I was asked to lead a workshop for the Sweet Briar College newspaper staff, I immediately turned to NSNC colleagues who had far more experience than me with both student run newspapers and news-journalism type writing. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Another HUGE thing I could NOT have done without a NSNC colleague/friend was “land” (hire) my Los Angeles based team–including my writing and brand coach/mentor, and website builder.
I needed to refocus my writing/rebrand. A fellow columnist asked one of his L.A. friends if she’d be interested in working with me. She’s an Emmy-winning sitcom writer/producer named Maxine Lapiduss and is a hot commodity in Hollywood. I was so flattered she agreed to work with me! I flew to L.A. and spent several days working with her: restyling my writing, image and then a whole new web presence/website. That involved a celebrity photographer, makeup/hairstylist and documentary filmmaker/graphic artist participating in a photo shoot for my new website and profile pics, and a web designer putting together my new site. Hence, karenjrinehart.com was born.
Once my website was up and running, the graphic artist created high resolution images for my new business cards and note cards. Ironically, my web designer had just had a movie she’d written picked up by Kenny Ortega–whom I had interviewed a year or two earlier in Beverly Hills while on a press junket for “High School Musical 3”. The world keeps getting smaller!
How are you using Facebook, Twitter and other social media to build on your success as a columnist, author, speaker and journalism advisor? I’m not as active on Twitter as I used to be, but I use Facebook daily to gain readership and promote my website as well as keep up with what other NSNC members are doing. You know Facebook works when you post a link to a column on your site and get hundreds of hits within the first hour. It’s also a great source for writing inspiration. I also send my column via e-mail to subscribers. As time goes on and the social media influence grows, I’m finding all of my little writing worlds colliding…readers tell me how they’ve followed me from one source to the next.
I have two YouTube channels where I upload vlogs as a platform to uploading them on my website. I’ve also uploaded videos on the NSNC YouTube channel (something any member can do). I also utilize StumbleOn and Digg via direct share features on my website.
You’re working on a new book. What is it about? It deals with becoming an “instant caregiver”. The phone rings and bam! You’re on a plane, in a hospital, talking to doctors and making life and death decisions for a loved one. It’s a brand new, strange, surreal and scary role forced upon us without warning. I’ve been there, done that and hence, have literally had people ask me to write a “How-To” on surviving it all. It’ll be a brief, easy to digest and useful how-to guide–available, for user convenience, electronically. Thanks to Dave Lieber’s hard work and research, choosing which e-book venues to use was the easy part! (See what I mean about NSNC members helping each other?)
Speaking of social media-while writing this book, I reached out to Facebook friends and got some incredibly useful insight and feedback.
Individual columnists and journalism organizations have had some difficult times in recent years because of the economy and the radical changes in our profession. As vice president of NSNC what kind of message would you like to send to members regarding the role that NSNC can play in their future success? I know I sound like a broken record-but the relationships and attitude of NSNC member/colleagues is not one of individual competition but rather cooperation, support and sharing. The NSNC offers a wealth of professional and personal experiences in a positive and supportive venue that can be, any more, so hard to find in corporate America, newsrooms and the often isolation of home offices.
Any additional comments? Fun story: When I arrived at baggage claim in Tucson (remember, I was a TOTAL newbie in every sense) I saw a small group of folks gathered together. They obviously knew each other and had planned to meet up at this point. I heard some key word that gave me the courage to walk up and ask if they were going to the conference. They were! And would I like to ride with them? It would be a tight fit but they’d take me. The introductions started: Suzette Martinez Standring, Joe Blundo…”Joe Blundo Columbus Dispatch Joe Blundo?” I squealed in my best “omg I just met Justin Bieber voice”. “I grew up reading your column!” Don’t you know he appreciated me making him feel OLD?! But there I was, a bona fide columnist, meeting a bona fide real life grown up columnist I’d read in my hometown paper. I was star struck!
Also, a few individuals I met at that first conference are, to this day, very good friends of mine.