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    Home Columns

    Are These Really Columns?

    When we think of column writing, an essay, a report, a service article, a humor piece, or even a short story comes to mind. However, what about puzzles, local events, a calendar of happenings, tidbits of news, or Q & A?

    Because these may not be literary masterpieces nor involve the usual 500 words, the writer, and even the editor, may not even think of these as regular columns that can run in a newspaper or magazine. Be creative and come up with unusual, yet appropriate (to the publication) ideas for columns.


    Puzzles For Children

    When I was editor of a regional travel publication, a retired school teacher came to me with the idea of a puzzle column for children. "Something to keep the youngsters occupied while traveling," she described it.

    To make her idea even more appealing and appropriate for our publication, she tied her puzzles in with the history, attractions, and current events of the region our paper covered (the White Mountains and Lakes Region of New Hampshire).

    The mother and teacher in me took over and I thought this a great idea. Fortunately my boss did, too, and we began running "The Puzzle Nook." These consisted of cross word, find the word, rebus, fill in the blanks from a list of words, and others that this teacher had used with children over the years.


    News Notes & More

    Other columns for this publication that I often wrote included a calendar of events. We listed the entertainers appearing at restaurants and clubs, talks given at the science center, plays at the area college, readings and events at local libraries, etc. Instead of merely a listing, I tried to give some interesting information about the event or person involved.

    Much of this was gleaned from press releases that came to my desk. We didn't have space to run the whole release but could include the information on our events calendar.

    Another column, "News Notes", picked up from press releases about news happenings in the area. A ski area had opened a new lift, someone had filled a position at a local business, there was an addition at a restaurant with unique dining area, special classes were offered in skiing, etc.

    Again, we might not have space for a long article. Or we had run an article, but this was a way of letting readers the next week know of this event. (Many of our readers were travelers who visited our area for a week or weekend at a time so only read that particular issue.)


    Other Types of Columns

    These unusual columns for newspapers, magazines, and online publications might have various names and cover different subject matter. Be sure to tie your column in with the publication's needs. (Remember that the puzzle column probably wouldn't have worked if the creator hadn't tied it in with material in the area.)

    Look through publications and see what you might have overlooked for column ideas. Brainstorm and see what other column ideas you might come up with that would be of interest to editors.

    Copyright © 2002 Mary Emma Allen

    Mary Emma Allen has been writing various columns for more than 30 years. She now teaches Column Writing 101 and 201 online and at conferences and the local university. She also has written a manual, "Writing Newspaper, Magazine & Online Columns." To read some of her columns, visit her web site at http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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    For excerpts, reviews and what you need to do to receive the 2 free e-books, Write Memories and sign up for free e-mail courses, just head on to the Weekly Writes Book Official Site. (Clicking on the link will open a new window.)

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