Art of Column Writing
By Suzette Martinez Standring
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
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:
- When you tell people your fee, do it joyfully, confidently and with expectation.
- Give your fee number and then hold your lips. (Don’t talk the amount down)
- 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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This column first was published in the August 2015 edition of the membership newsletter The Columnist.