Juicing Up

Art of Column Writing

By Suzette Martinez Standring
2004-06 NSNC president

It’s countdown to the conference, and for me the journey comes full circle. It was the year 2000 when I first tiptoed into a ballroom of columnists in Washington, D.C. That was 14 years ago, and now the NSNC is back in the Capital. It creates an interesting measuring point.

In 2000 I was a newly minted columnist and full of questions. Surely long-time professionals would have the answers. I came to learn, perhaps to emulate, but certainly to find my footing on the path to professional column writing.

To say a lot has happened from Point A to point B — triumphs, failure flux, and career evolution — is the mantra for all of us. Yet it’s ironic the questions remain the same:

  • What is being a columnist all about?
  • How does one make it in this profession?

Today, these questions now include grappling with ever-expanding social media platforms and on-line monetization. To be or not to be? Many struggle to stay on the side of the former.

NSNC 2004-06 President Suzette Martinez Standring addressing the columnists' 2005 conference, in Grapevine, Texas.

NSNC 2004-06 President Suzette Martinez Standring addressing the columnists’ 2005 conference,
in Grapevine, Texas.

It’s a big head cramp. The centrifugal force of demands and challenges wring me out. I try to keep it simple. You can’t mechanize or monetize a relationship, that feeling of familiarity and trust readers have with their favorite columnist.

Sometimes I forget why I got started in the first place. Oh, yeah. Column writing is about connection, how to create one, and how to keep it.

That’s why I’ve never missed a conference in 14 years, and I’m not unusual. Every year I show up feeling like a near-empty cup, and I always leave brimming over.

It’s the endless curiosity about our craft that brings us together shared by high-caliber columnists who share hard-won wisdom. I look forward to this year’s programs, which will offer fresh angles and much needed inspiration.

Our signature playfulness, unique only to a NSNC conference, is what juices up and renews our creativity. Reunion time? It’s a Capital idea!

• • •

Suzette Martinez Standring is the author of The Art of Opinion Writing: Insider Secrets from Top Op-Ed Columnists. Her previous book The Art of Column Writing has been reissued through RRP International. Both are available online or by mail order from bookstores. Suzette is a syndicated columnist with GateHouse Media, a cable TV show host and writing teacher. She will be speaking at on “Politics, Prose and Career Longevity” at the 2014 annual conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists in Washington, June 26-29. Visit www.readsuzette.com or email suzmar@comcast.net.


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