Reaching Beyond the Column

Art of Column Writing

By Suzette Martinez Standring
2004-06 President
National Society of Newspaper Columnists

Suzette Martinez Standring

Suzette Standring

I was jealous of employed columnists. In comparison, the lot of a freelancer felt difficult, scrapping for the next job, doing “other things” while writing a column. In 2000, employed newspaper columnists were the majority in the NSNC.

Now, most are “doing other things” while writing a column, with salaried newspaper columnists in the minority.   Let’s see what “other things” NSNC members are doing.

Author Dave Lieber is at a well-paying pinnacle in public speaking. “The Watchdog” columnist for The Dallas Morning News said transferring the skills of New Journalism to speaking was key.

In 2014 Dave became a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and here some things you need for that credential:

  • A video of you speaking
  • Proof that you earned $50,000 over five years in speaking revenue
  • Expertise and various skills
  • Attend chapter meetings of the National Speakers Association
  • Read the The Epic Keynote by Jane Atkinson about presentation, skills and styles (Atkinson included Dave Lieber in her book as a role model of success)

Asking for a speaker’s fee is awkward. Here’s how Dave does it:

  1. When you tell people your fee, do it joyfully, confidently and with expectation.
  2. Give your fee number and then hold your lips. (Don’t talk the amount down)
  3. Speak with a smile (practice in the mirror)

“People want to be entertained more than they want to learn. Don’t call yourself a speaker. Bill yourself as an author, or storyteller, or an expert in a subject,” he advised.

For Dan St. Yves of Calgary, Canada, humor writing took a detour into the entertainment field, where he made music his specialty.

“I had grown to cover eight theater groups and a folk group. I was writing four columns a week, blogging, and doing humor. A scattergun approach brought a lot of activity, but when you hit a small bird with a scattergun, there’s not much left. I had to let go of something. I decided to focus on music. Now I’m onto a game changer,” said Dan, who sells his pieces to well-paying music magazines.

Rick Horowitz inspires me as a teacher. In addition to his opinion columns and Emmy Award winning TV program, his love of words led him to found Prime Prose, LLC as its Wordsmith-in-Chief. As a writing coach, he is kickass.

For myself, I love teaching as much as writing my syndicated spirituality column. From great role models, I thought why not hold my first-ever, private writing workshop? It would be based on hypnotic recall to capture sights, sounds, and sensations from long ago memories to apply to written stories. I was certified in hypnotherapy in 1990 and have done this program many times, including the Erma Bombeck Writers conference. My maiden launch proved successful, and this may be a game changer for me.

In changing times, the columnist can draw from unique talents that bring equal passion and purpose to the column writing life.

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Email Suzette Standring: suzmar@comcast.net. Follow her on Twitter: @Suzette_Stand. Visit www.readsuzette.com. She is syndicated with GateHouse Media.

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This column first was published in the August 2015 edition of the membership newsletter The Columnist.

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