Last week’s column on eyebrows raised a few… eyebrows, it seemed. A few people (my husband included) poked some fun at my choice for topic of the week. And while I’ll fully admit that it was a little lighthearted, I’ll also point out that there probably hasn’t ever been any news about eyebrows in this paper.
But mostly, I’d defensively say that I wrote about the socio-economic problem of hunger the week before!
Ah, the life of a newspaper columnist. When people ask me what I do, I cheerfully explain that I “get to write about whatever I want, as long as there’s a recipe at the end of it!” I’m following the tradition started by Dorothy Eedy some 60 years ago — why mess with success? — but there’s more to it than this sound bite.
Coming up with an idea that can validly fill a scant 600 words can be challenging. It’d be one thing if I was forced to write about the goings on at Town Hall or Queen’s Park on a weekly basis; your subject presents itself, if you’re paying attention. But you’ll rarely see me take a hard political line in this space. With all my other hats — wife, mother, business owner — I’m not prepared to write about political issues because I don’t have the time to adequately research them to provide a persuasive argument.
Stew Slater will sigh that he receives my columns on Monday morning, deadline day. It takes a whole week to eke out my subject, and even when I sit down at my computer Sunday night, the idea may not be solidified (and sometimes I need to sleep on it). It would be easy to touch on the big newsmakers of the week — but ultimately, I don’t like beating dead horses, unless there’s a local or personal angle worth exploring. Those old principles of what constitutes news still apply, even in the “community” section.
Throughout the week, I build an idea list in my brain. Perhaps it’s a book I’m reading, or, more often, something I saw online (true story: it took me clicking on a New York Times link on a fashion blog last week to discover that St. Marys’ own Emm Gryner helped create Chris Hadfield’s out-of-this-world David Bowie cover). Maybe Charlotte did something brilliant or silly, or something strange happened to me. A good idea will soon grow a list of sub-points, whereas bad ideas — according to the above criteria or my own whims — will be scrapped.
I try not to be repetitive. Even though I get a lot of feedback from my Charlotte-centric columns, I don’t want to cover her every waking moment; I do other stuff, too. I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m into fashion; I indulge occasionally, but I try to provide some helpful information, like how to prevent blisters or affordable remedies for common skin concerns. Other than those two reliable sources of inspiration, every week it truly is open season on this space.
Any writer’s block comes in the fine tuning of the near-finished column. I like to think that this is where the craft of writing comes in: the re-arranging of paragraphs, the editing of words that aren’t pulling their weight, and adding stylistic flair. There’s also the consideration of my audience. I know my audience, and it’s broad: you may be the retiree who calls hump day “Journal Wednesday,” or you’re the university student back for the summer, leisurely reviewing the hometown rag. I can’t appeal to everyone, but I can write so everyone can understand what I’m talking about.
I don’t expect to please or even enlighten everyone every week. But I do hope that once in a while, I make you laugh, give you a handy tip, or provide you with food for thought. And if I can’t do any of that, at least you now know that women once pasted mouse fur to their foreheads for fashion’s sake… use it wisely!
Local asparagus is starting to trickle into stores and markets. Here’s an unusual take on the seasonal favourite that would work well for a dinner party.
Asparagus and Avocado Salad
Four or five thick asparagus spears
1 avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled
16 fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt per serving
Trim dried base of each asparagus spear. With a vegetable peeler, carefully shave the entire asparagus from bottom to top, forming noodles. Divide asparagus strips among four salad plates. Cut each avocado half into four sections and place two wedges on each salad. Sprinkle with the mint leaves. Squeeze lime juice over the salads, drizzle with the oil, and sprinkle with salt.