If you’ve been following the Mazama column on the Valley Life page (and who doesn’t?), you know that columnist Mandi Donohue and husband Lliam are planning a move to California at some yet-to-be-determined-but-pretty-soon date. That means we’ll soon be looking for a new columnist to succeed (not replace — she’s irreplaceable) Mandi in the vital reportage of all things Mazama, Lost River and adjacencies.
I’ve heard that the gears are already turning in conversations at the Mazama Store about who might take over for Mandi. At the appropriate time, we’ll ask for applicants — although I suppose it’s not too soon to express an interest, if you have one.
So I’ll offer my usual observations about the demands, challenges and expectations that our columnists face.
If you think it’s a breeze to churn out 400 to 600 or more words a week off the top of your ruminative head, you’re probably not the right candidate. It’s hard work. Ask anyone who does it, or has done it in the past. It includes reporting (there’s a fair amount of that, and we expect it to be accurate), socializing (out and about is part of the deal) and effective writing — all of it done with a certain voice and flair. The columnists also take photos to go with their contributions.
Deadlines are important, although we give some leeway depending on circumstances. Once a week may not seem burdensome until you try it. And maybe you should ask Mandi about the mean ol’ editors who may bounce your work back at you with questions, suggestions or (gentle) critiques. I don’t give the columnists much direction, assuming that they will develop their own personalities and interests. But I’m the gatekeeper for the newspaper’s content, and if I suggest changes it’s usually not discussable.
The public feedback about your work may be generous or less so, and there are times when you’ll need a thick hide. You’ll be giving up whatever anonymity you cling to in the valley. Because you “work” for the paper, you may be asked to defend or explain something or everything we do at the Methow Valley News. You may deflect those questions our way. At the same time, you do represent the paper, and we take that seriously.
Most of the columnists also write separate news or feature stories for us if they are so inclined, and we often need their help with our special publications.
In sum, it’s a commitment to community service. If that appeals to you, I’d love to hear about it.
Let’s face it
I recently emerged from four weeks of hospital confinement with a ratty looking beard that hadn’t been tended to during my entire medical adventure. Once I decided to keep a beard (after proper consultation with the person who would have to live with it), and had it professionally trimmed to be more presentable and less scary, I began to discover that there is a whole world of beard maintenance and trimming protocol that I knew nothing about.
Facial hair just keeps growing, so to avoid that unfortunate derelict appearance it’s necessary to regularly regulate your beard’s length and shape. To that end, I became quickly familiar with, and promptly overwhelmed by, the universe of beard trimming devices. Some are quite elaborate.
Silly me, I really didn’t know how some guys manage to always have a two- or three-day stubble. Turns out there’s a setting for that on any worthwhile beard trimmer.
In fact, there typically is a range of settings you can choose from depending on how bushy or close-cropped you want to appear.
The trimmer I bought has a scale of 1 (shortest cut) to 10 (longest cut). I’ve currently settled on 6 but that could change. Lately, I’ve found myself looking at other men’s beards (clandestinely, so as not to alarm anyone) to see what they look like and what I should perhaps be doing. And I’ve been engaged in several conversations about trimmer settings that I could not have imagined having before I parked my razor for all those weeks.
Although I hadn’t meant it as a disguise, I’ve noticed that some people don’t immediately recognize me with a beard. It will take some time for all of us to get used to it.