Writer resumes column, offers it free to NNA members

May 4, 2018

When Carrie Classon returned to the U.S. after living for four years in Africa, she was middle-aged, unemployed, divorced, with no idea what to do next. The only thing she really wanted to do was write.
“I knew it was ridiculous,” Classon said, “I had never written anything more than a business letter in my life.”
But the idea persisted until one day she showed up at the office of the Inter-County Leader Newspaper with four sample columns she had written. She met with the editor, Gary King. But would he consider running her as a weekly feature?
“It’s always a pleasure to welcome a new columnist, but there’s also some fear of the unknown as in how readers will respond, if at all,” King said. He told her they would take her on for a six-month trial.
Classon was delighted. She told her mother she was going to be writing a newspaper column.
“What will it be about?” her mother asked. Classon said it would be about being a middle-aged divorced woman, living alone in a farmhouse in Wisconsin.
“Who would want to read about that?” her mother asked.
It was a good question, but as it turned out, quite a few people did. Over the next five years, Classon’s 600-word column, “Letters from Home,” became a reader favorite. She wrote about life at middle-age, online dating, her new dog and her aging cat.
“None of it was newsworthy,” Classon insisted, “but readers seemed to enjoy my efforts to find humor and meaning in ordinary events.”
Eventually, Classon decided that perhaps she should take her writing more seriously. She applied to MFA writing programs and was accepted by the University of New Mexico. The program paid her tuition, healthcare, and a stipend in exchange for teaching two days a week.
“I felt so incredibly fortunate,” Classon reports, “I was essentially getting paid to write.”
After her second year in the three-year program, Classon met a literary agent visiting from New York. The agent liked her work and invited her to submit a completed book manuscript when she had one. Classon realized this was the opportunity that most writers never get, so reluctantly, she called King. “I told him that I had a chance to get a book deal and I needed to take time off the column to pursue this.”
King was sorry to see her go but understood. “Out of dozens of columns we’ve run over the years, from syndicated writers to outdoor columnists to political and other offerings, ‘Letters from Home’ turned out to be one of the most popular columns the Leader has ever published,” King said, “I base that on the feedback from readers during its run and from when we no longer ran it. I’m sure we lost subscribers with the loss of ‘Letters From Home.’”
Classon finished her book, “Blue Yarn,” and signed with the agency, Aevitas Creative Management, which handles high profile writers including Amy Schumer, Cheryl Strayed, Tim Conway, and Charles M. Blow of the New York Times. There was only one problem, as Classon saw it. She missed writing her weekly column.
“The weekly interaction with readers was so great. Every week there were people waiting to read it and, over the course of 255 columns, I amassed a lot of material, much of which is finding its way into a second book.”
So, Classon did what she had done to get the whole thing started—she called King again at the newspaper.
“I’d be happy to have you back on board. Let me know when you’re ready,” was all he said.
The new column, “The Postscript,” will debut at the beginning of July.
Classon spoke with the National Newspaper Association about her experience as a weekly columnist and her love of regional papers.
“In this age where news is so fragmented and everyone is getting this narrow perspective from the internet, local papers provide a common language and experience for their readers,” she said.
Because of this, Classon said she is offering her new column, “The Postscript,” free to National Newspaper Association members who contact her before the end of June. You may read some past columns on her website: CarrieClasson.com and contact her directly at CarrieClasson@gmail.com.