Monday, April 18, 2016

Columnist or Feature Writer? That is the question

I have been writing for the national writing magazine Writers' Forum for over ten years. I started as a freelance author, interviewing other writers I met on courses and conferences, about their writing and writing process and would send these features in with fingers crossed hoping the editor then, John Jenkins, would accept them. More often than not he did.

When the magazine changed hands the new editor, Carl Styants, was not so interested in off-spec features and after a few rejections, follow-up emails and a discussion over the telephone, he asked me to write on a more regular basis on the theme of research, something that has always fascinated me.

So in October 2008, I started to write a monthly double-spread feature on research techniques with tips on researching from successful authors across different genres. The focus is on what works for them and how this could benefit other writers. The column aims to give the reader useful tips on research - specific books and websites, museums and place to go to, etc and to show how the writer being interviewed used their research in their book. The feature is written up as though they are telling me about their research and the questions themselves do not appear.

Since then I have considered myself a columnist with a regular monthly column on writers and their research. However, I have recently been informed I may not be a columnist, I am a regular feature writer. When it comes to the crunch on considering whether I am a ‘columnist’ or ‘featurist’ (I may have just made-up that word) I believe it depends on what your definition is of a column and a feature.

As I found this idea very interesting, I decided to do some research on the topic. There is a lot of confusing and sometimes contradicting definitions. The best explanation for me was Keith Martin’s words on the Quora website. Using his reasoning then, technically I am not a columnist because I interview different people each month and although, the feature is attributed to me the voice and opinions are the writers’ being interviewed. This means I must be a regular feature writer.

This is also true of my new monthly slot in Writers’ Forum on Writing for Children, lunched in the May issue 2016. Although, I have announced it on Facebook and twitter as a new column, technically it isn’t. It is a monthly feature with tips from successful authors, agents, editors and other professionals from the children’s publishing world. The focus is on what works for them and how this could benefit children’s book writers. It is written as if they are talking to me, from their point of view and none of the questions are shown.

After much deliberation though, I have decided I am going to keep the heading ‘My Columns’ in the menu of my website because I think it sounds better than, ‘My Regular Features’.

I would be pleased to hear your thoughts and suggestions about whether you consider me to be a columnist, or a regular feature writer, or even what I should call myself. (Please be polite)


Lynne Hackles said...

So, what am I? And who cares as long as we get paid? I just say I'm a regular and say it clearly so people don't think I said irregular, which maybe I am.

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

I totally agree Lynne. But it was quite an interesting distinction, which I'd never really considered before.

Lynne Hackles said...

Nor me. I say I write regular columns but really only Novel Ideas in Writing Magazine is an actual columnn, t6he others are all pages so, in theory, they must be features.