Wednesday, August 03, 2011

First draft, second draft, third draft - and voila - we have a column

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - My third column for the Finger Lakes Times is off to the editor (12 hours early, thank you very much) but not without some writing angst.

Normally a facil writer, this column was torture for me to put together, torture to rewrite and torture to research.


The column starts with the backdrop of the U.S. economy (ah, examining that is torture enough...), but moves into a positive mode by suggesting that the Finger Lakes economy should lean heavily on promoting the wine industry (which includes agriculture, a big deal here). Then I get into politics - selling wine in grocery stores - verboten by state law right now.

The lessons from writing this column were many: research more (and earlier), let my column voice loose (been writing news all summer) and don't be afraid of draft, redraft and draft again.

It's a good lesson to take into the classroom this fall when I will be asking column writers to do exactly the same. Most college students want to write a quick first draft and turn it is as gold. It usually does not resemble any precious metal.

But moving into column four I have an idea to write about the activist culture here - or perhaps the relentless attacks on school teachers that I seem to read daily.

I am inspired by two videos I saw today of actor Matt Damon. He was raised by a schoolteacher, as was I, and his comments resonated with me.

The column ideas come so easily. But the writing? Jaysus.

Here's two Matt Damon videos, both provocative:

Monday, August 01, 2011

Column ideas buzzing like bees - but which one, which one?

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - Two columns into the new gig with the daily Finger Lakes Times newspaper has prompted a half dozen interesting column ideas. Maybe more.

And as the Wednesday deadline starts to get closer (48 hours minus 11 minutes from this moment), the question bouncing loose is which topic to choose?

We have had carnage on local highways (we need lower speed limits, around the wineries and tourist attractions). There is an environmentally nightmarish project proposed for just up the road to store propane in salt caverns. The movement to sell wine in grocery stores is gaining momentum (and liquor store owner enemies). People are getting more and more politically active here, organizing, fundraising, connecting.

And then there is Adm. Fox's project to raise money for a spay and neuter clinic in Mexico, with local people traveling to Jalisco as part of the deal.

In the meantime, national and state politics are starting to impact things locally. A recently approved New York State cap on property taxes already has school districts and municipalities throwing fits. Can anyone say, California's Proposition 13?

So much to write about, sooooo hard to choose -  the purpose of this blog actually. When teaching column writing, I advise students to use this device, or sometimes a letter or email to a friend, as a way to get the creative juices going.

Juices? That makes me think of wine. And the Finger Lakes Times just wrapped up a long series of articles about the wine industry in New York and how important it is.

Wine it is for this week.

Unless I change my mind in the next 15 minutes.