The Takeaway from Detroit

Suzette Martinez StandringBy Suzette Martinez Standring

NSNC Past President

It was a Detroit I had never imagined – re-energized, creative, and hellbent on resurrection.  The conference title, “Rebound in Motown,” was an apt metaphor for both Detroit’s transformation and our own evolution as columnists.

The educational programs were as inspiring as the social activities.  I suspect Conference Chair Brian O’Connor of The Detroit News lopped five years off his life span putting together one superb meeting.  One panel shared how to use one’s column to push for answers, social justice and political reform.  There were programs that offered ideas to generate a positive, full-time cash flow for freelancers, or the how-to of being funny in print.  Also, if we don’t promote or market ourselves, no one else will.  So Motor City was a perfect backdrop for tooting one’s horn in the form of effective branding. TechTown, sponsored by Wayne University, gave a hands-on workshop on entrepreneurism.  Don Fry presented two excellent workshops, “What Makes A Column Good” and “Survival Skills for Columnists,” which offered ways to write faster, better and more persuasively.  If you’re trying to birth a book, agents gave valuable advice, while seasoned political columnists gave tips for election writing and how not to get played.

We caught up with each other while dining on crepes at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.  We drank wines produced by Michigan vintners and supped on stuffed sole and beef tenderloin in a gallery of Diego Rivera’s murals at the Detroit Institute of Art.  We marveled at the street installations of the unique Heidelberg Art Project, and toured the new downtown offices of Quicken Loans and Compuware headquarters, which are leading an impressive drive to create a tech corridor in Detroit. We swayed to blues at PJ’s Lager House, and the world famous American Coney Island gave us a private lunch where we wolfed down hotdogs, burgers and anything else on the menu.

My favorites were the Motown Museum and the optional dinner at The Whitney Restaurant, located in an 1894 mansion that could be described as an American palace.

Every morning a full breakfast – eggs, sausage, bacon, yogurt, fruit and pastries – was offered.  I never spent a dime to eat because sponsors did.  Major donors included Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Group LLC, Strategic Staffing Solutions, Wayne State University and Huntington Bank. The Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau provided transportation and other financial support.

Suzette Standring is a past president and has attended every conference since 2000.  She is the award winning author of The Art of Column Writing, and the TV show host for “It’s All Write With Suzette,” a program about writing.  Visit Email

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: – Suzette concluded her wrapup with a list of ideas that attendees shared — one “Big Idea” that has helped each member in their work.  Members: check your July issue of The Columnist Newsletter for these invaluable columnists’ tips and suggestions, as gleaned by Suzette Martinez and Samantha Bennett. If you did not receive your July newsletter, let us know and we will see that you get a copy.]
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