In late 2010, I met Ben Sclair for some FREE Starbucks coffee and an exploratory conversation.
We agreed to test my writing skills by having me submit a few columns. Ben agreed to publish my test columns in The Suburban Times (TST).
Our plan allowed Ben to cease publishing my work if he or our readers did not care for my penning. If I did not like writing columns, I was free to quit after the test period.
Just a little over ten years have passed since my first column in November of 2010. Ben Sclair and I created a fun and successful joint effort. Ben has published over 700 of my articles with the byline of Westside Story, several Benny’s & Joey’s Quiz projects, and a number of Susanne Bacon’s and my Double Take columns. It has been a great decade of writing, publishing, and engaging with the public. I certainly have enjoyed my relationship with my readers, including their reactions, questions, comments, and suggestions.
You may have noticed it has been some time since I last energetically published a series of Westside Story columns. This dearth of articles pains me. I have loved the concept, creation, and execution of my effort to communicate with friends, family, and community by harnessing my writing passion and channeling it through Westside Story.
Alas, I have been swamped with packing and unpacking because of a significant geographical change.
My columns included six prominent elements.
(1) Personal opinion.
Before retirement from law enforcement, I was only allowed to use Element (5) Truth in my police reports.
Like Joe Friday on the TV show, Dragnet was known for saying, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts”.
Once retired, my full freedom of speech was restored, allowing me to use all six elements.
My personal opinions, related to various subjects, often stimulated lively conversation and exchanging ideas with our community members.
I used exaggeration, which is a light form of telling a lie and actual lies themselves. I never told a lie that would hurt anyone. Mine were good lies and meant to make my stories more entertaining.
Developing an active imagination allowed me to see familiar things in ways others did not visualize. Imagination is a powerful stimulant to fun storytelling.
Aah, then there is humor. Many readers told me I got their day off to a good start, especially during these trying times, by infusing humor into my storytelling.
Yes, and on some occasions, I even used truth as a storytelling mechanism.
This brings me to my next point. Ben has worked with a publishing concept he calls an “acid test” from the very beginning. Essentially, two criteria determine if a writing submission is suitable for publication.
Criteria #1: The writer is a West Side citizen meaning he or she lives in the area of DuPont, Fircrest, Tillicum, Lakewood, Steilacoom, or University Place.
Criteria #2: Regardless of where the writer lives, the piece is about the Westside communities of DuPont, Fircrest, Tillicum, Lakewood, Steilacoom, or University Place.
A couple of examples:
(1) I submitted a column(s) related to the City of Lakewood establishing a rental inspection program. At the time, I lived in Lakewood, thereby meeting the Acid Test’s first criteria. Additionally, my article related to something happening in Lakewood, thereby meeting Acid Test number two. My columns were published.
(2) If I lived in Eatonville and submitted a breathtaking article with color photos on Eatonville’s 6th Annual Slug Race, popularly known as the Mollusk 500, Ben would not publish my article because neither of the criteria is met.
As of January 9, 2021, at 8:27a, I, like Lakewood City Councilman John Simpson, no longer live in Lakewood.
To get an idea of how far away I moved, check out my photo below, which documents the fact that Governor John Carney warmly welcomed me to the state of Delaware.
A quick study of the preceding sentence demonstrates my innate ability to use all six elements described above in a single sentence; (1) Personal opinion. (2) Exaggeration. (3) Imagination. (4) Humor. (5) Lies. (6) Truth.
Now that I am on the Right Coast instead of the Left Coast, I will have to find another venue for my writing. I could call my next column Rightside Story. Wherever life takes me, I must sadly report that Westside Story has come to an end. It has been outstanding. Thank you, readers, for a great decade. One of my readers subscribes to The New York Times. Maybe she can recommend me.
If appropriate, I could occasionally drop in on The Suburban Times as Writer Emeritus. Then there is still the possibility of the Benny’s & Joey’s Quiz. My writing pal, Susanne Bacon, a world-famous published author, and I might try a Double Take column making it a bi-coastal writing effort.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.