Column Quest

PunditMom is out to land her own column. It's time for a political mother to add to the national conversation.

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Name: PunditMom
Location: In the shadow of the nation's capital,

I'm a professional writer, recovering attorney, and wanna-be pundit, living in the shadow of D.C. I write for a variety of publications on the law, adoption, culture & lifestyle, and politics.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Brazen Careerist to the rescue!

Well, things have been percolating on Pundit Mom's Column Quest and I've been trying to forumlate my plan on just how to go about self-syndicating.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear -- but today's column from my blogosphere friend Penelope Trunk, also known as Brazen Careerist.

She offers some great tips on going down this road, so I'm going to take them to heart, get my plan in gear and see what happens.

As I try to remind myself when I'm afraid of taking on something new, and at least for my ego, risky, "All they can do is say 'no!' "

If that's the worst thing that can happen, then I'm going to give it a shot!

Monday, December 25, 2006

I know I've been slacking off

Yes, you are right.

The Column Quest has been a bit on hold, what with other freelancing projects and just the stuff of life since mid-October.

I did go to the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism in November, and that was an amazing boost to the creative juices.

I find myself in the holiday season thinking that it's time to take a fresh stab -- self-syndication!

That's my goal for 2007 and I will be keeping a diary here on my efforts to take my writing to the masses!

So hold on, have a Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I'm concocting a plan for the Quest. Whether it works? Who knows, but I'm giving it a shot!

Why the picture of the Grinch and his dog Max? Well, it's just that time of year!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

PunditMom & MojoMom -- A powerful combo!

Author and blogger MojoMom and I have both been wondering where all the women writers are. We've both blogged about it and have both been striving to find ways to get our work out there for more people to read.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, these days one of the main ingredients seems to be "platform." But how to develop that? Is it luck?

MojoMom invited me to be a guest on her podcast this week to talk about motherhood, writing and the elusive "platform."

I hope you'll visit her podcast and take a listen to our conversation. And if you have any good tips on this topic, please share! :)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Missed opportunity

I had lunch this week with one of my "regular" editors. It never hurts to have some face time over some iced-tea and a sandwich!

But my heart sank when she told me that the publication she works for had asked her to write a monthly column and she came up with the idea about doing one on unique issues faced by women lawyers.

That's a topic I write about frequently and would certainly be something I could sink my teeth into, and for which I actually have some expertise, for a regular column.

I sensed she felt a bit sheepish about it. Not that it was really taking anything away from me -- no one offered me a column -- but I think she knew that was a writing opportunity that would have been great for me. But, of course, it's great for her to, so I can't really blame her.

I think a cosmic kick in the pants has just come my way to stop thinking and start really acting on my Column Quest.

Rejection's not so bad!

Even the most accomplished writers get rejections. But prior accomplishments don't necessarily salve the pain of being told, "Thanks, but no thanks."

One of the hardest columns to break into as a writer is Talk of the Town in The New Yorker, so plenty of rejection comes from those editors. But one writer has found a way to ease that ego-bruising experience.

At Silence of the City, one frustrated New Yorker author has created a space for his work that doesn't make it into the pages of the vaunted mag, as well as for others.

Just because the columns didn't make it into the pages next to Eustace Tilly, doesn't mean there isn't some good reading there!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

PunditMom on MojoMom!

I've never been on a podcast before, but my friend MojoMom asked me to be interviewed for hers after we coincidentally blogged about the same topic -- women writers -- within days of each other!

We had a great conversation, and I hope you'll enjoy it, too! It gets posted on her website on Friday, October 13 (I hope that's good luck and not bad)!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Can you say cross-pollination!

I know I'm not posting much these days here. I was feeling a little guilty, so I posted about my Column Quest over at PunditMom.

Things have been a bit hectic with back-to-school and other writing commitments, but I haven't forgetten about this goal!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

More Platform!!

Thanks today to MBToolbox over at mediabistro for interviewing me about breaking into the in-flight magazines.

You never know who is going to be cruising your website and might come across some info that will be useful to them, and, hopefully, you, too.

It was nice to be asked about my writing for Go, especially as I was getting ready to turn in my column for November. Now, on to the Christmas issue! Ho, ho, ho!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hasn't school started yet??

Yes, we're back from vacation, but it's been a bit challenging to entertain my six-year-old (camp is done, school hasn't started yet), work on the few projects I have at the moment AND focus on the Column Quest.

But I'm hoping that I can get back on that horse shortly, and have more thoughts to offer. I am continuing to blog at PunditMom to try to keep the op-ed-ish juices flowing.

Any helpful hints?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Vacation again?

Yes, but this time to lovely Italy with not only hubby and daughter, but also stepdaughters and significant others for the big family vacation!

I hope to return refreshed and ready to vigorously pursue my Column Quest after next week!

Sunday, August 06, 2006


According to Editor & Publisher, guess who has their own column -- Dr. Laura!!!! How on earth did THAT happen??

According to the Santa Barbara News-Press, they believe the "Dr." reflects that community. Well, I had always liked Santa Barbara before, but now I know that's not a community I would want to live in!

Friday, August 04, 2006

I feel so left out ...

Being a relative newcomer to the blogosphere, I only recently learned of the BlogHer conference -- sort of the anti-Daily Kos gathering for women bloggers.

Apparently, from what I'm seeing on other blogs, every other mom blogger must have attended this event but me. And, it seems, everyone had a fabulous time meeting gal pals, drinking margaritas and getting inspired! :(

THIS would have been a great precursor to Venice and probably would have put me in the right frame of mind to find great blogging subjects, as well as new inspiration for my Column Quest, while I'm trying not to throw my husband's Blackberry in a Venetian canal!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

"Prelude Kids" debuts today!

Well, my latest shot at column writing debuts today. The column that I mentioned earlier on this blog for AirTran Airways' inflight magazine called Go is now in the August issue.

It's more of a nuts and bolts, helpful hint kind of family and kids column, but it's a start! Even if it's not punditry, it can't hurt to be able to say I have a regular column somewhere!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Is self-syndication the way to go?

I've been listening to some CDs I puchased at this year's American Society of Journalists and Authors conference. One I keep coming back to is on going the route of column self-syndication.

It's apparently a hard road, approaching each publication (usually small ones at first) about carrying your column and convincing them to care about what you say.

But I'm thinking, what the heck? It could be worthwhile. And, it could help build that elusive 'platform.'

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Not sure I'm up for the gig

Well, I finished my gig this week doing a guest-blogger try-out for a pretty well visited D.C. media website/blog, and I'm not sure it's my cup of tea.

While it was fun, I'm not sure I have the right 'tone' for the site. I do have a pretty good sense of humor, but it's hard to exercise the dry wit 24/7, cruising the web for choice gossip-y tidbits. Plus, by having that on the forefront of things I do every day (deadlines, you know), I don't think I can also focus on the 'Column Quest' and the other long form writing I want to try my hand at.

Any thoughts on whether the higher profile of writing for a regular, more visited blog (if it gets offered!) would be beneficial to my ultimate goal or just a distraction?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Style blog!

Can't find your copy of the Elements of Style? Fear not! Some writer/bloggers in Washington, D.C. have launched a new site that could come in handy called Fundamentals of Style.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Thanks, MojoMom

There's nothing like bloggers talking about each other's blogs! MojoMom gave me a nice mention today about my post on PunditMom on Katie Couric and whether she's going to cover the Middle East conflict, risking her life as a single mom with two school-aged children.

More readers of the blogs, closer to the column! :)

I think I'm a "Renegade!"

I've been a fan of The Renegade Writers, Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell, for years. They helped give me the courage to get back into writing after practicing law for 15 years and being rusty at more readable prose.

Their philosophy? "Break the rules!" For example, if the common approach to breaking into freelance writing is to start small, they say, "Start big!!" I did, and my first published clip after more than a decade out of journalism was for The Washington Post.

Well, I was very excited that they've decided to link my Column Quest blog to their blog, The Renegade Writer Blog. I know lots of people turn to them for advice, so maybe I'll get some good tips too about moving this column quest forward! Please share them with me if you can and I'll use them to crack that elusive column market.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Yet another avenue ...

Well, things could be a bit slow this week on the blogging front. I've been asked to ge a guest blogger on a really good media blog, so I'm hoping that may give me a bit more experience and exposure on my Column Quest.

I'm not allowed to say at this point what the blog is, because the guest gig is anonymous, but it's a media-related blog that focuses on Washington, D.C., so you can probably find it if you try! ;)

Be back later in the week to let you know how this is going and if it helps at all in my attempt to find my elusive column niche!

Friday, July 21, 2006

What to do when sources get cold feet??

I guess I should try to get used to the fact that it's the most innocuous interviews that end up being more than trouble than they're worth!

After a combined 25+ years of being a professional writer(journalist, then attorney, then back to journalist), I take REALLY good notes, especially when I hear "the quote."

I've been hesitant (and cheap) about getting the set up at my home office for taping telephone interviews, especially because I loathe the thought of transcribing them, especially for articles that are going to run only about 1500 words, anyway.

I am now rethinking that decision. Either that, or I'm not confirming quotes anymore and just taking the chance that someone will give me grief down the road. I don't like that option, but when you're interviewing someone for a pretty big, local magazine and they know their friends and family are going to read it, don't you think they'd choose their words carefully about what they're saying? I guess not. Even the most innocent of quotes are causing me hassle these days and I just want to drive to the homes of these interviewees, who are now concerned about how a completely innocuous quote about longing for the days of chatting over the backyard fence, will be perceived by their potential clients!

Is it any wonder I want to stick to column writing! What do you do when your sources change their minds about what they said??

Monday, July 17, 2006

A helping hand from mediabistro

I got a nice mention from mbtoolbox, one of the mediabistro blog's the other week called "How Joanne Got Her Column Back?"

Interestingly, while the mention was about writing a blog to keep track of my efforts to find another column opportunity, I didn't get many hits here. I was surprised, though, that I had close to 100 hits that day at PunditMom, which I guess shows the level of interest in politics and punditry over one's own personal quest! So, hopefully I'm on the right track with the types of things I'm writing about over at PunditMom and maybe once in a while those readers will check in here, too!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Katha's quest

Katha Pollitt, the brilliant columnist for The Nation, is worried about the sales numbers for her new book, Virginity or Death!, a collection of her columns. She writes about how it can be good news to have a bad book review in today's New York Times. Even her troubles are good fun!

Friday, July 07, 2006

A quick visit from Connie Schultz

Connie Schultz is a wonderful columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and a great example of someone who writes a thoughtful column who has no platform other than being a terrific journalist. Her columns have disappeared for a while -- she was forced to take a leave of absence while her husband is running for a Senate seat from Ohio. But she makes a brief appearance today on Huffington Post, talking about an intriguing perspective of Ohio voters on the Bush administration and his handy henchman Karl Rove.

Who the heck are you?

The title of this post paraphrases the column by Jon Friedman of Friedman wrote a great column about and for columnists and writers, examining why we do what we do. He interviewed two of the very best to get their thoughts -- Ken Auletta and Frank Rich. It's a quick read, and worth the effort!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hating columnists

Today's Editor & Publisher newsletter contained some disheartening news. Miami Herald writer Ana Hernandez explains that since becoming a columnist there, she receives massive amounts of hate mail. Apparently, her readers have no compunction about not only E-mailing her about their thoughts on her missives, but they also feel it's part of their readership rights to abuse her with threats and obscenities if they disagree with her views. This is not a woman who writes on topics that are extreme (she's no Ann Coulter); she writes about what many op-ed writers do -- things going on in our world, our country and our communities.

It's scary to know that some people believe that freedom of speech includes the freedom to threaten other people they don't agree with.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


OK ... so this is supposed to be the key to cracking the world of columns. But here's my question ... how did those without a platform find one? Sure, there are "experts" who have written books on a particular topic, and that leads them to their platform and their niche. But what about the likes of Michelle Malkin? Who the heck was she before she became the ultra-conservative pundit and columnist she is today? (As an aside, I find it scary that she lives in the same state as I do ... I hope we're not neighbors). Who decided she had a platform that people wanted to hear about?

Twenty years ago, while I was still doing TV news, I was applying for a job in a really big market that I really wanted. I had a nice rapport with the news director during the interview process, but didn't get the job. When I asked why, he said, "You write well, you sound good, and you look good on camera, but there's nothing different about you."

So, the platform needs to be different. It's apparently still the story today. But how does one go about finding that different niche? Are there any left that haven't been taken that I can be genuine about? I'm trying to find it. And I think maybe there is one -- my own voice -- an educated mom and professional who straddles the worlds of the "working mom" and the stay-at-home mother, who is truly concerned about the direction of the country, and what the extremists are doing to it. Hopefully someone will be interested in that voice.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

On vacation!

PunditMom is taking a week of vacation at the beach starting tomorrow, so I'll be back to posting on both blogs on my return. I'm hoping for some serious downtime and renewed energy to pursue my Column Quest!

Touching nerves

As I try to write about column-worthy topics on my blog PunditMom, it's interesting to see what spurs people to leave comments. I can follow the number of hits I get a day, but unless someone leaves a post in the comment section, I don't know what people are thinking about what I write. When I was writing for The Examiner, my former editor told me newspapers really want op-ed topics that will draw criticism from the readers in the Letters to the Editors -- they rarely print those letters if people agree with the writer or the position being taken!

I can tell I touched at least one nerve with my posting yesterday questioning why our nation is so concerned with those who are perceived to be religious extremists in the Muslim world, but aren't very worried about right-wing evangelical extremists here at home. The poster even suggested that I was guilty of intolerance myself! So I guess I'm getting somewhere if someone in cyberspace takes the time to attack my views, though I suspect that when one writes about religion, it doesn't take much to find someone who wants to disagree with you.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Mommy Wars contact

A friend of mine from my daughter's school is an acquaintance of Leslie Morgan Steiner, the author and editor of the recent book Mommy Wars. So I figured I would E-mail Steiner briefly to let her know about my blog PunditMom, mentioning our mutual friend, hoping that might spark her interest to take a look at my blog -- who knows where that kind of contact can lead? Yesterday, I actually got an E-mail back from Steiner, saying she looked forward to reading my blog, and to say "hi" to our mutual friend.

A shot in the dark on the road to column writer, but I figured it couldn't hurt! :)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Women's voices

Tonight's Larry King show is a good example of the fact that there is a need and desire for women's political voices to really be heard in this country. The nine Democratic United States Senators were on his show tonight to talk about the "Checklist for Change."

It's about time the Dems came up with their answer to the Contract with America. They've needed for a long time a shorthand way of getting their message across to voters, or more precisely, to the voting soccer moms of America -- the women who can make or break the 2008 Presidential election. The Checklist for Change is a nine-point agenda of things these women believe need to be done to make us a stronger country -- and things that the GOP has been doing its best to prevent from happening.

This surprisingly unified approach to giving a voice to the Democratic message is not only exactly what the party needs as a shot in the arm, but it's also that no-nonsense women's voice that is missing from the journalistic op-ed realm. We need more women columnists who express why we need more serious attention to issues like homeland security, homeland disasters, making college education more attainable and affordable for more students, really conserving resources and creating new energy alternatives -- that is to say, the stuff that women are all worried about day-to-day, that the men running the show have in recent years stalled on.

This could be the ticket the Dems have been looking for to break through the GOP stronghold on voters. But, also, women op-ed writers should take the lead from these nine Democratic Senators and really start opining and writing about the issues that are important for the long-term survival of the union. And the Iraq war, while obviously worthy of discussion and debate, is not the topic that's going to keep us unified in the long run. Women who read the papers and look for informed opinion columns have other things on their minds, as well -- for their children, for their families and for themselves.


I belong to a variety of professional associations for writers. They are great for networking and getting support, especially for writers like me who work from a home office. One group I belong to is the American News Women's Club, which was formed back in the day when women weren't permitted to be members of the National Press Club. One of the ANWC's claim to fame is that Helen Thomas is a member.

I was suprised when I got a call a few weeks ago asking if I would consider standing for election as President-elect of ANWC! My initial thought was to say no -- I don't have a lot of media connections and wasn't sure what I could really bring to the table. But the more I thought about it, the more I figured this could be a great networking opportunity for me to take my writing, and "column quest" to the next level. It sure couldn't hurt knowing more women writers in this town who can tune me in to new opportunities. So, as of July 1, I'll have to start thinking about what I can contribute to make the ANWC a better club and will look forward to when I take over as President of the club in a couple of years (as long as there are no coups in the interim!). And we'll see if I get any new leads on column possibilities.

In the meantime, I'll have to brush off my parliamentary procedure rules -- I haven't been the president of anything since I was in 4-H in high school!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A little closer

A few weeks after I started PunditMom, on a whim, I started E-mailing the url to the editors I currently write for so they could take a look, hoping maybe it would drum up a little more freelance writing work and maybe a few precious hits on the site to help with that whole "platform" issue.

The starts all must have been aligned, because within a day my editor at the in-flight magazine of one of the smaller airlines E-mailed and asked if I'd be interested in writing a monthly Family/Parenting column for them! Not the op-ed type of gig I'd love to land one day, but a column nonetheless!

One baby step closer to my dream!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

If it worked for Aaron Brown ...

I thought I had stumbled into my path to column-izing when I started writing a weekly essay for the newest Washington, D.C. newspaper about a year-and-a-half ago.

"Write about whatever topics you want," said the then-editor-in-chief when I questioned him numerous times about the topics he might be interested in. It worked for a while -- a newspaper with no following yet, no real identity. But as things unfolded and editors came and went, my writing saw fewer pages in newsprint. I queried, I questioned. "You have a great style and write well," said one editor. But they were starting to get more people from think tanks and other political organizations who wanted to write, and so, less space was available for a good writer without a "platform."

I've learned the hard way that today, platform is WAY more important than the ability to write well or talk about intriguing topics. My weekly essays turned into bi-weekly, then monthly. "Thanks, but we don't have space. Good luck placing your column elsewhere," was the increasing response.

I am thankful for the opportunity I had, even though it was short-lived. The original editor-in-chief is gone, as is the original editorial page editor. Plus, the political landscape has become more clear -- I'm probably way too liberal a voice even for a conservative newspaper that needed to have a token left-winger.

I wrangled a meeting with the new editor-in-chief, but the new editorial page editor hasn't returned my attempts at contact. I haven't given up yet, but the question is, when should I?

On my fridge, I have a quote from Aaron Brown, late of NewsNight on CNN. It took him five years to convince a news director in Seattle that he should hire him to do some menial job in the newsroom, just to get a foot in the door. Even though Brown is currently 'without prtfolio,' he's a newsman's newsman. He didn't give up and made it to the top. Thanks for the example, Aaron. I'm going to stick with it, too.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Give me a break, NYT!

In an effort to drum up interest for my blog PunditMom, and a column of my own somewhere in the MSM or the Internet, I've been told that a helpful tip is to comment on other blogs. You write, you sign off with your url, and hopefully attract more interest to your site.

I've been commenting the last few days at The Opinionator, one of the New York Times' blogs, thinking this would be a good, high-profile place to leave a few opinions of my own. But, alas, when the moderator screens the posts, they remove the url! :(

Can the New York Times reall think there is competition from a little old blogger who gets a few hits a day? As Dr. Evil might say, "Throw me a bone, here!"

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

If Anna Quindlen can do it ...

So many different voices seem to have columns today -- almost every viewpoint is out there in one form or another. But one voice is missing --the voice of the woman columnist who is a political mother. I'm not talking about the Mommy Wars-type of voices. I think we're done with that. Anna Quindlen used to do it, but she doesn't seem to be out there much anymore. There's a unique perspective that isn't being written but has an automatic readership. Editors I've talked to agree, but the question in these days of "platform" is, "Why you?"

Fair enough. But I'm determined to set out on a quest to come up with my own column to add this voice to the national conversation. We have more to talk about than soccer, car pools and play dates. And if our voice is heard, we can have an impact on the direction of the country. Pie in the sky? Maybe ... but why not give it a shot.

I'll keep you posted on my quest and, hopefully, sometime in the not too distant future, you'll be reading my opinion columns.