Sunday, January 8, 2017

A New Year

Once again, Gentle Reader, we begin a new year together.
This column began in November, 1995. Together we've seen a lot of Januarys on these pages.
I reviewed some of my columns published on the first weekend of a new year -- and the theme was often the same.
First, I am thankful for the opportunity to visit with you on this page each week. I know it's a privilege, and I'm appreciative of your support, patience, and encouragement for these many years. It is true: I like writing these letters to you each week.
And I'm thankful for the opportunity given me by the many publishers and editors for whom I've written. I'm certain I often exasperate them, but they've been kind and tolerant.
Secondly, in the first column of many of those years I express a concern over the 52 weeks ahead. It often feels like a big stack of blank paper waiting for me, and I've often expressed concern about filling those 52 weeks with something that might interest you.
I expressed this in 1999: " It is that time of year in a columnist's life when a long, blank 52 slotted slate rests ahead, needing to be filled up with words, words approaching style and correctness, and the first column of the year is always a toughy."
That concern still exists today.
In 2001, I shared this: "writing a weekly column is a lot like carrying a canary with you into the mine, and hoping it will sing. In the last year, I’ll admit, the bird sometimes sang flat. Other times, though, she sang true and sweet. As all miners and columnists know, it’s most important that the bird sing. When the bird stops singing, well, that’s when the problems start. For miners, it means the air’s not fit to breathe; for columnists it can mean lots of things, none of them very encouraging."
Likewise, in 2009, I tried to explain it like this: " At the first of the year the contracted-for series of columns looks like a very tall mountain. On the morning I write the first column of the year I feel like my climbing shoes are worn, my rope is frayed, and my supplies are low."
In many of those years, the first column outlined a plan of attack. One year, 2001, I offered a "Chautauqua," telling the story of our community's history, which was a series that ran for several months. The first in the series suggested "the story of Kerr County begins with the land. People have come to live here for thousands of years, and most of them have had one common motivation – the land itself."
In 2010, I offered a history class, to be taught in a series of columns. It began:
"Now class, please take your seats.
"It’s a new year, and I’m glad you’ve signed up for our course in local history. You will find, over the next few months, the story of our area is very remarkable.
"And you’ll find our area was the home to some very interesting characters. Some were scoundrels, some were heroes. One or two have names you might recognize. Some did great, showy things you can’t miss; others did small, quiet things that changed our community."
So what's in store for 2017?
Over the last few weeks, I've been working on a plan for this coming year. I hope you'll find it useful. One of my editors years ago told me my job was to "inform and entertain," a task that isn't as easy as it might seem. That's part of the 2017 plan.
So, then. See you here next week, and we'll get started.
Until then, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who daydreams way too much. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 7, 2017.

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