Marlena Ballinger: The joys of column writing
Wednesday, January 05, 2011 5:18 AM
By Marlena Ballinger
This weekend as I was disassembling my Christmas décor I came across part of a December 29, 2007 edition of The Courier.
As I was putting things back into the totes for another year of storage, my mind began to wonder as to the topic of my column this week.
I thought about the process of putting Christmas decorations away, but I already covered Christmas a couple of weeks ago. Then, I thought about a year in review on my life, but it includes too much personal information that I don't want everyone to know.
To my surprise, mid-thought I looked into my Christmas tote and caught glimpse of my ex-coworker, Joy Brown's column titled "Column-writing draws boos, cheers."
You see, I wrap all of my fragile decorations in newspaper and for some reason sat that very un-crumpled, section that seemed to scream COLUMN IDEA. It was uncanny how it was the only un-crumpled newspaper in my tote and her column was staring me in the face.
At the time, Courier reporters took turns writing Saturday opinion columns and Joy is known for writing what's on her mind.
In this particular column, Joy wrote of the nice and not-so-nice things people said or emailed to her in regards to her writing.
My column writing is still in it's infant stages and I really haven't received as frightening or off the wall feedback like Joy has but I have received feedback.
"You are my new Kim Kincade," one supporter told me.
Kincade is a syndicated column writer that appears in newspapers around the area.
"I love your daughter's column's," another supporter told my mother.
"That's how I keep tab's on you," an ex-coworker told me.
"You have got to read your daughter's column this week! It's about you," a lady informed my dad last week after I wrote about his handyman skills.
Unlike Joy, I have not yet tackled serious issues and I have not figured out what gets people's goose in Putnam County.
Not that I want to ruffle any feathers, but Joy brought up a good point when she said she likes column writing because it gets people talking about things they normally wouldn't talk about. Even if the topic is negative.
I've often thought about saving each column to someday put into a book. You hear famous column writers doing the exact same thing.
Although the movie, Marley and Me was really about the untrainable, crazy golden retriever, Marley. The thing that caught my attention was how John Grogan chronicled his columns into a book for his family.
Another well known column that comes to mind is "Ann Landers." I remember hearing my brother say, I can't get through the day without reading "Dear Abby."
Ann Landers was written by Chicago Sun Times advice columnist, Ruth Croley. Croley started the column in 1943. She took a three year break before her column became syndicated and she continued writing the column until her death in 1955.
Croley chose the pen name, Ann Landers, for this column because she did not want people confusing the column with another weekly column she authored.
For three months after Croley's death the column played host to numerous authors before Esther Lederer won a contest to take over the column. Lederer mirrored Croley with her direct writing style and continued the column until her death in 2002.
"Dear Abby was started by Lederer's twin sister about the same time Lederer took over the "Ann Landers" column.
Column writing, just like other writing, is a new found pleasure of mine. I like filling this space on a weekly basis but I do not know how one could do it everyday. It's the topic of choice that takes me a week to ponder.
Some week's I have no problem coming up with a topic, other week's I wake up in a panic on Tuesday mornings trying to come up with something or someone to write about.