Want to write a column? Now's your chance!

Writing is a strange profession - especially when what you write is likely to be tossed in the recycling bin within 24-72 hours of its publication.

And yet, writing is something I've always loved, from the time one of the poems I wrote in elementary school was published in "King Arthur's Court" in the Homewood-Flossmoor Star. The rest, as they say, is history.

Most writers agree the craft isn't something you choose to do - it's something you have to do.

"The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself," Joan Didion says. "I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle."

Her comments get a little dark after that, so I'll stop there.

What make the best subjects for people's prose?

Annie Dillard encourages writers to tackle "that idiosyncratic thought you advert to" - "your fascination with something no one else understands."

Have all these thoughts on writing stirred an urge to pen something?

Then I have the perfect announcement for you. We need four more contributing columnists to begin writing in September, and I'm inviting you to apply.

"Yippee!" you might be saying to yourself right now. "I've always wanted to write a column."

Or your response might be a little more lukewarm.

Either way, please keep reading.

I asked Sally Hartmann, who is finishing up her second two-year stint as a contributing columnist, to share what she enjoyed most about writing for our opinion pages. She pointed to the opportunity to stretch her creative muscles.

"Writing 400+ word columns on whatever topic I dreamed up has been fun, challenging and very satisfying," she said. "Plus, tapping into whatever creativity I have felt great."

I would like to pause for a moment to thank her, and our other retiring writers - our student columnists, Katie Hughes and Cedra Jazayerli. They've all shared some amazing, thought-provoking, touching and humorous pieces over the last 48 months. I'm sure you've enjoyed reading their work as much as I have.

Their departure creates three openings for contributers, including at least one student.

If you are still reading - and still interested - here's what you need to do to apply. Email me a sample column of 450 words along with ideas for three additional columns (a sentence or two about each).

Please include an address and a daytime phone number with your name. I'd also appreciate knowing a little bit about who you are and why you are interested in writing a column.

And, as we note every year, if your primary interest in applying is to get free publicity for your business, nonprofit organization, political cause or fill in the blank, please do not apply.

Elected officials and employees of public bodies are not eligible, either.

I could provide endless examples of all the ways writing this column has enriched my life. But I think the biggest attraction for all the columnists who have written for us is that it's an enjoyable pastime.

As it should be, according to Ray Bradbury.

"Writing is not a serious business," he said. "It's a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it."

Why not give it a try?

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers

can email her at

[email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean