Sample Becoming a Columnist Worksheet
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Becoming a Columnist
By Brenda B. Covert
1 Making a living as a columnist is the dream of many writers, but it's a tough field to break into. The good news is that there are almost as many categories of columns as there are publications that print them. You can find columns in a multitude of magazines and newspapers- including school papers. If you have a way with words and love to express your own opinions, perhaps you have what it takes to write a weekly column!
2 A column is similar to an essay. Generally speaking, you write from your knowledge base without having to rely on much-if any-research. Columnists typically cover their area of expertise, be it finance, politics, technology, parenting, sports, music, humor, household hints, gossip, gardening, fashion, or advice. Ann Landers and Abigail van Buren are the pen names of two famous advice columnists. Dave Barry is a popular humor columnist. However, you aren't limited to those types of columns. Where do your interests lie? You may be able to create a column based on one of those interests (if there are enough readers with the same interest). Take some time now to come up with three areas of interest, and list them here:
3 Studying other columns may help you work out the details of your own column. Look through a newspaper and identify at least three different columnists. List them here and include the category each falls under:
4 Because columns are allotted a specific amount of space in print form, columnists learn to write within the boundary. (Online columnists often have more freedom regarding length.) The serious writer will prepare 5 or 6 columns to show an editor. If the writer has been published previously, the query letter that accompanies the sample columns will include a list of credits (the title of each piece, the date it was published, and the name of the publication in which it appeared). The letter will also explain why the author is the best person to pen that type of column. For instance, if you propose to write a gardening column, you would explain your background in gardening, including any clubs or classes you've taken and any awards you've won in competition.
5 To make this project different from a personal essay, you're going to use present tense in your column any time you describe a personal experience. Additionally, you're going to write in the viewpoint of the second person. It may seem strange to write the words "you" and "your" in the place of "I" and "my," but this is the way you are going to draw the reader into your column. Of course, the reader will recognize that you-as the author-are writing from your own experience, but the goal is to make the reader feel as if he or she is experiencing the event that you describe.
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