Local writers — time to pick up your pens!

If you want to be a columnist in the summer of 2021, now’s the time to start writing.

Ray Miller-Still

Hello, readers, and happy holidays to you!

Now, this time of year is often spent crafting New Year’s resolutions — something that I’m not very good at, to be honest.

But 2021 is going to be a different year, because I’m going to tell you all my resolution: to make the Courier-Herald more diverse and better represent the whole of the Plateau!

You may recall last May when I put out a call for new columnists. My goal then was to see if I could get just four people to write one column a month for a whole year. My expectations were surpassed beyond my wildest hopes — nearly two dozen potential columnists applied for those four positions, and I spent two months agonizing over who would fill them.

I realize, though, that many people likely needed a little more time to consider my offer or to prepare their applications, which is why I want to get the ball started rolling now.

So first things first — what exactly are we looking for?

Topic-wise, columnists practically have free reign. Even though I am the editor of the paper, I strongly believe that it’s not my role to gate keep the opinion pages of the Courier-Herald, but to be a moderator. Want to visit and review all of the Plateau’s retail shops? Go straight ahead. Do you have a dozen bread recipes you tried over quarantine and want to share them with the wider community? Brilliant. Do you want to be an advice columnist, but only answer questions when you’ve got a buzz on? Well, OK, I’m going to have to check in with our company lawyers on that one, but I’m sure we can work something out!

Suffice to say, so long as you’re knowledgeable on your topic and you can convince me people want to read what you want to write, you’re good to go.

Now, one further note: while I’m so very pleased at the current spread of topics our columnists currently tackle, I was very surprised that none of last year’s applicants wanted to write about conservative politics. Let me be perfectly clear — I want some conservative opinions. I’m very aware of Enumclaw’s proud history of being a conservative outpost in liberal King County, and it’s more than about time the Courier-Herald’s opinion pages reflected that again.

Of course, I don’t want to limit this opportunity to people who are professional writers. If this will be your first time ever being published in any form, I want you to know I will work with you in any way I can — that’s my job, after all.

If you think this is an opportunity for you, here are the rules to apply:

■ 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?

■ Put together an introduction column (800 – 1,000 words) which will be published first. Who are you? How long have you or your family lived 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? If you’re stuck on how to craft this column, make sure to check out the introduction columns that were published in August 2020.

■ Complete a finished draft of a column on your topic. No matter what you write, 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 when necessary will not be considered. This draft column may or may not be published — it all depends on how timely it is.

■ List out the other 10 potential columns you want to write about. You may stick to your list, or you may wander — what I want most is to see that you have thought this through for an entire year.

■ Email all the above to me (rstill@courierherald.com, subject line: “Columnist Application”) by June 30 and set up an appointment to meet in person (I will request that you wear a mask, if it’s still necessary). If you don’t receive a response, call me (360-802-8220) to ensure I received the email.

From there, I’ll be spending June and July going over the applications and doing my initial edits, with the goal of announcing the four columnists in the last edition of the July paper and publishing their introduction columns in August.

Give me a shout if you have any questions or need something clarified — I’ll respond as quickly as I can.

Otherwise, Happy New Year, and I look forward to seeing what the Plateau has in store for 2021!


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