‘Living Here’ — at a turning point

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Front page teaser from, appropriately, April Fool’s Day 2018.

I may be a relative newcomer to WordPress, but I was blogging well before blogs, blogging software, and many bloggers were born.

We didn’t call it a blog, of course. It was a weekly column for the Republican-American, but it had all the elements. I could speak my alleged mind on whatever I thought our readers would like.

I started in 1993, but it took a while to find a voice and get to know the audience. What I learned is this: Readers knew a lot more than I did. They didn’t like serious background, analysis or slice-of-life pieces. But they did like humor. They especially liked stories from my life that mirrored their own.

So I wrote about our lives as young parents (and later as old parents and empty-nesters). I wrote about the joys of home ownership. I wrote about pet peeves, including the way Memorial Day had become a time to party rather than a time to remember.

And people wrote back — the equivalent of commenting on blogs. Usually, though, these were real letters, first by snail mail and later by email. I would ask these readers for permission to use their comments in a future “mail bag” column.

Over almost 1,300 weeks, I wrote roughly 1,000 original columns, excluding the mail bags and vacation reruns. Most I kept in clip files and scrapbooks, but I was able to recover nearly 1,000 from the newspaper’s digital archive.

‘When are you going to do a book?’

Somewhere around 1995, freelancer Lisa Hoffman asked me when I was going to write a book of the columns. (Note that she asked when, not whether.) I told her I couldn’t because the newspaper owned the rights, not me.

As my years with the newspaper drew to a close, I rethought both parts of that answer. Technology had made self-publishing much easier, and I could do it to benefit the newspaper’s sponsored charity, the Greater Waterbury Campership Fund. As part of my transition plan, the editors and I agreed to give it a try.

I made one miscalculation, however. Unlike some forward-thinking writers, I had never entered my columns in journalism contests. That meant I did not have an inventory of award winners or even essays I had vetted for competition.

So I read all the digital versions, and the best I had in hard copy, in chronological order from 1993. I finished on Sunday with the last one, published April 1, 2018.

The first cut left 793 columns totaling 624,113 words. They broadly fall into four Living Here collections:

  • With the Family, 101 stories about the kids growing up, from toddler to graduation.
  • Home Sweet Home, this time about the joys of home ownership.
  • Red-Letter Days, about holidays, real and imagined, throughout the year.
  • Thoughts from the Hammock, personal musings and funny stories that fit none of the above. This is currently the largest group.

… and there’s a collection of broader social commentary, histories, and the like that I still have to figure out what to do with.

Now what?

So now comes the fun part. I’m taking these, one at a time, and probably in that order. Over the next few weeks I’ll be narrowing the selections and developing the content of the first book. I’m looking for a sounding board of friends and fellow writers and bloggers to help me focus on some of these ideas. If you’re interested, let me know by commenting below or Liking and following my Facebook page.



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