If there’s one song my child loves the most right now, it’s Mr. Rogers’ “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
I’ve got it memorized now, what with him wanting to read a board book about the song over and over and over. I’ll also sing it when he’s having trouble sleeping, along with “It’s You I Like”, though, to be perfectly honest, he’s hardly my favorite person in the world when he wakes us up around midnight for a glass of water.
I never did watch the show (I was more of a Magic School Bus sort of kid) but as I come to understand it, Mr. Rogers was the real deal. He understood how television was going to shape the world, and wanted to make sure it shaped the world right — to teach people to be kind, understanding, and inclusive.
He brought on 10-year-old Jeff Erlanger, who grew up to be a disability rights activist, to talk about being quadriplegic and his electric wheelchair (this was nine years before the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed); he washed his feet with Officer Clemmons, a Black police officer, during a time when people were angry over the desegregation of swimming pools; and he changed the lyrics of “Everybody’s Fancy” from “Only girls can be the mommies. Only boys can be the daddies” to “Girls grow up to be the mommies. Boys grow up to be the daddies” in order to be more sensitive to gender identity issues and the rising trans rights movements.
Though I am starting to enjoy wearing sweaters more and more, I’m no Mr. Rogers (I curse too much for that), but I certainly have similar goals — I want to help people understand each other, and see the world from other points of view.
That’s one of the reasons I started this community columnist program, to get new voices printed in The Courier-Herald and get readers thinking about topics and opinions they may never have considered otherwise.
Our current crop of columnists are fantastic, with Kevin Keane providing us a fresh look at the Pacific Northwest and Enumclaw through his eyes as a New Englander, Sara Sutterfield researching and recounting the storied history of Wilkeson, real estate agents Carlie Hendrickson and Payton Tabert providing advice on buying, flipping, and selling homes, and John Locatelli getting into the nitty-gritty about the weather all around us.
But their time is running short, and in just a few months, I’m going to need another four community writers to step up and take their place. I’m hoping to once again get a wide range of proposals: are you an expert in a field and want to help people understand it better? Excellent. Do you know how to self-publish, and want to help others achieve their dream of becoming an author? That’s meta, and I love it. Are you an adrenaline junkie and want to get people excited to go white-water rafting, sky diving, and rappelling? Let’s get cracking, but you’ve got to promise to take me on a few trips.
So if you’d like to continue these conversations and take the place of a community columnist, here’s everything you need to know.
■ Come up with a theme. What are you going to write about? And more importantly, can you write 12 columns, each being between 800 and 1,000 words, on that topic, and will you be able to submit those columns by deadline every month?
■ Put together an introduction column, which will be published first. Who are you? What’s your history on the Plateau? What does your topic mean to you, and what sort of expertise do you bring to the table? What is your goal for writing a column, and what do you want your readers to get out of it?
■ Complete a finished draft of a column. No matter what your topic is, make sure you list your sources by including them in the body of the piece (not at the bottom, like a bibliography) where relevant. Applicants who do not use or cite sources will not be considered.
■ List out the other 10 potential columns you want to write about. This will be easier to do for some topics than others, but what I want most is to see that you have thought this through for an entire year.
■ Email all the above to me (firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: “Columnist Application”) by June 30, 2023, and set up an appointment to meet in person. If you don’t receive a response, call me (360-802-8220) to ensure I received the email. Interviews will take place over July, with an announcement of our new columnists by the end of the month.
Finally, don’t worry about being a professional writer — I do my best to make myself available to columnists if they have questions or need advice, because my goal it to help you be heard.
That’s pretty much it. If you have any questions, feel free to come talk to me during our monthly Brewskis with a Newsie event (to be held next on March 1 at Cole Street Brewery from 5 to 6 p.m.) or give me a call or email at any time.
So won’t you please… won’t you please… please won’t you be our neighbor?