A particular Monday in July was rough. By late afternoon, I waited for my doctor to call with the kind of test results that could send a life careening off the rails depending upon the outcome. But when the phone rang, it was one of my bosses calling to fire me from the best writing gig I’ve ever had.
That first paragraph — all true — is an “opening hook,” a little device writers use to encourage the reader to keep gobbling words. I’ve used such techniques in the decade I’ve written this column. Wonderful readers, please allow the opening hook to lead your curiosity to the last word of this column, my final column for the Coloradoan.
The newspaper has decided to release all of its regular editorial columnists to make room for fresh voices. The announcement reminded me of my ritual of pitching fridge leftovers before stocking the latest from the supermarket — not that I’m comparing the current op-ed cadre to brown lettuce and funky taco meat. It’s just that writers love analogies.
I’m reluctant to relinquish this once-a-month slot, but I understand the Coloradoan’s motivation. Fresh is everything in journalism where publishers, technologies, formats, frequencies and, yes, even voices seem to stay fresh no longer than a quart of half-and-half.
I’ve found my voice here for 10 years — a remarkable experience. Cliché, I know, but you readers have been the best part. Knowing you’ve been out there has kept me going in unexpected ways. I’ll never forget my first column back in 2005. I had advocated for a progressive cause, which pretty much guaranteed raised hackles among half the readers in our purple community. One conservative dissenter wrote, “Welcome to the op-ed world, Rookie. But if this is the best you’ve got, throw in the towel right now.”
Mr. S., I owe you. Your 20 words of snark kept me motivated at the keyboard all these years, no less than the liberal readers, to which I’m also grateful. Thanks even more to the Coloradoan’s Kathleen Duff, now retired, who rolled the dice on a rookie.
Where will my writing take me from here?
One-hundred twenty columns over a decade taught me that my batteries are charged by the written word and how it can change what people feel, believe and do. That realization pushed me to finish my first novel, which now seeks publication. My second novel completes later this year.
To supplement my fiction, I’m on the lookout for a non-fiction way to advocate for progressive causes. Any ideas? With so many recent positives — LGBT rights, universal healthcare, voting rights, the environment — I want to support the momentum toward a better society.
If you’ve enjoyed my writing, or even if you haven’t but value a civilized debate, please stay in touch. Visit www.gmackinney.com to sign up for my mailing list at the bottom of the homepage. I never peddle or spam. Also, you can send me email from the “About Me” page.
As for that opening hook, the doctor never called, so I tracked down the test results myself and learned that my malady is benign. Whew.
Hey, what a great idea for a future op-ed piece, the curse of unresponsive doctors and why patients must relentlessly advocate for themselves.