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Twenty-eight years ago my first column appeared in the Jamestown Post-Journal. The column is actually a little older than that. Before publishing in the newspaper, I wrote a column for a small gifts magazine and did a word search puzzle for it.

When I started working at the newspaper, I expanded my column and eventually sent it to two other newspapers. It was published for many years in a weekly newspaper that moved from Maine to Virginia. After a few negotiations, she published the Warren Times Observer. My husband always felt bad that it took so long to publish it in his hometown newspaper. My husband at the time was a spelling checker and proofreader. When he died I lost it. I was on my own for seventeen years doing my own proofreading. I managed. My second husband didn’t prove it to me, but he always read it. He told me he should read it because the guys he played with were always talking about it. He had to be informed. Over the years I have written about a lot of things. Last week I got a call from a reader who just wanted to meet me. We talked for a long time. She was from New York and didn’t realize that I grew up not far from where she lives and has family in the area. What most people tell me is that they can relate to what I write. I’m glad so many people are dealing with it. After all, a writer needs a reader so I sincerely thank all the loyal readers who read my article week after week. I diversify what I write about. A former editor told me that the number of male readers equals the number of female readers. I’m always aware of that and am collecting my parts. I don’t want to alienate either gender. It seems my recipes are still popular. The lady who called told me she routinely makes oatmeal honey bread. I have others that link favorite recipes. My favorite was the crock pot tapioca pudding. Since I found this recipe, I haven’t made tapioca any other way. Travel pieces are also common. People like to travel through me in a weird way. I haven’t traveled in the last couple of years due to COVID, but I really enjoyed my travels. Don was seeing somewhere on TV and asking if I was there. Most of the time, I was there. Of course, my family gave me a lot of material. The years my child sat with the grandkids were special. We had a lot of fun and I think the kids learned a lot too. The youngest grandson told me he wished I could be his mentor. He told me I said things in a way he could understand. We did a lot of homework together because he came here after school. I knew early on that he learned differently. Although he learned differently, he learned quickly. I got it. When I do programs for different organizations, he always asks me where to get my ideas from. My standard answer is that I read a lot. I just find a kernel, and go from there. I am also a good listener. When I go somewhere, I listen to different conversations. This often provides a spark for an article.

I recently received an article and a recipe from a reader. She made a copy for me. I haven’t had a chance yet to try the recipe, but I will soon. I’m still collecting recipes. My norm is that all ingredients should be something I routinely have in my pantry. If I have to go out to buy something, chances are good I never will. Most of the recipes in my cookbooks contain regular ingredients that are common to me. When I was teaching the lunchroom, I made a lot of material to write about. I didn’t write about the students, but I wrote about our conversations (the teachers). She’s written about playgrounds, sleighs, Halloween parties, and Valentine’s Day. All of these pieces came from everyday conversation. People keep asking me to keep writing. They look forward week to week to see what my column will be like. I really enjoy writing. This is a revelation because I never dreamed, I had the ability. One of the professors laughed at my writing style. Too bad he isn’t around to see what you’ve done.

Since I can write about anything, it’s always hard to find something new to write about. When I was setting this up, I happened to think of it as an anniversary – of the first column that was posted. I remember the editor telling me to make it about 1,000 words. Then she blinked and told me to just write so I could say whatever I wanted to say. The lengths of the columns vary, but when you’re done, you’re done. I did the same with the sermons I prepared. I did not put an end. I made my point, said what the Lord gave me to say, and it’s over.

So once again, thank you to all my readers. I have met many of you on craft programs and programs. You bring me great joy!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pennsylvania. Contact [email protected]

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