The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 26, 2010


Do you want to be a Forum writer?

But that question jumps too far ahead. First, let me ask, are you a writer? Do you write a diary or blog? With paper and pencil? Keyboard and screen? Or in your head only, as you jog, drive, brush your teeth? Can you put your thoughts, frustrations, beliefs into words that clarify and express what is in your head or in your heart? Do you want to share what is on your mind with your fellow travelers in Carlisle? Do you love Carlisle?

The Forum, a weekly column on page 2, the editorial page, is written in turn by a staff of 12 Forum writers, appointed by the Board of Carlisle Communications, Inc., publisher of the Mosquito. Since there are roughly 44 issues per year, each staff writer contributes three to four columns annually. Forum writers are appointed for four years with no term limits. The Forum is truly the best writing assignment at the Mosquito. You can choose your own topic and speak in your own voice; who/what/when/where/why are not required. We only ask that the topics be of interest to Carlisle citizens and, of course, the writing must be good.

Check out past Forum columns in the archives on the Mosquito website. In the past year, Christy Barbee warned of the dangers of teen parties when parents are not at home (January 15 issue). Kerry Kissinger humorously described a purse-snatching (his wife’s) and the subsequent pursuit of the “perp” (February 2). Parkman Howe celebrated the dog days of August in Carlisle – a “Sirius” event (August 13). “Former libertarian/conservative” Jonathan Beakley satirically suggested that all (liberal) attempts to make Carlisle more inclusive are actually making it more exclusive (October 22). And Priscilla Stevens wrote poignantly about the emotional toll of placing an ailing parent in a nursing home (September 17).

In this week’s Forum John Lee bemoans the scary part of writing a quarterly column. While writing is not an easy process, I don’t need to tell you that there’s a bit of humorous exaggeration in his piece. In fact, John loves words and is a prolific writer. And I’m quite certain that no Forum writer’s house has ever been “egged.”

Each year the CCI Board is looking for new candidates. We pay attention to maintaining the diversity of the Forum staff, such that it represents the demographics of the town and reflects the range of occupations, interests, and political persuasions. (Ladies, if you check the masthead below, you will note that women are under-represented at this time.) If you feel the tug, please contact me (, 978-369-7848) and submit:

• a short bio, including how long you have lived in Carlisle and what connections, besides your address, you have to the Town;
• a 500-word sample Forum essay (which may be published in the Mosquito, as space allows);
• some other writing sample.

I will forward the applications to the CCI Board. Or, you can just call me to chat.

Despite the noise and partying of the holiday season, the last month of the year is a time of reflection and new resolutions. As you ask yourself some important questions in the next few weeks, add to them, “Do I want to be a Forum writer?” ∆

Quarterly Angst (or Keyboard Karma)

About four times a year, it is a privilege to sit down at a desk and try very hard to think of something meaningful to put in this column. Maybe nothing of great import, but nothing trite or exceptionally mundane – at least meaningful (or slightly humorous). I frankly don’t know who reads this column besides other Forum writers (I, for one, want to know what I am up against and whether I measure up) and maybe a few friends who think kindly towards me. Even when I send off a piece that seems as if it should rankle, there is almost never a response. The piece a few years ago about rude bicyclists did elicit a couple of testy and defensive phone calls. The Forum is a little like hanging out one’s literary laundry and wondering if anybody notices, much less likes, what you wear. It is a little vain, a little risqué and a little daring. Of course no one comes knocking to tell you that your ‘laundry’ interests (nevermind, excites) them. That would be way out of line, might even get you a paragraph in the police blotter!

Getting a piece ready for submission is a lengthy and sometimes arduous task. First, there is the ‘process’ otherwise known as the twelve stages of panic – what am I going to write about?, it is due when?? Then there are the ten stages (at least) of rejection both physical and emotional (bad idea, poor articulation, that’s really embarrassing, ‘you can’t say that!’, ‘they won’t accept that’, does anyone besides you care about that issue?, ‘what are you thinking!’. And so on. Sadly pressing the delete button does not give the same negative satisfaction as ripping the paper out of the old Olivetti and backhanding it towards the already overflowing waste basket. Were one to be better organized than I, one would have a sheaf of potential pre-approved pieces in the top drawer, prêt a porter so to speak.

Next, test driving a possible submission through the obstacle course of the domestic advisory service can be a little tricky (see above). However, it generally achieves good results. It has probably saved our house from being egged or the family from personal verbal assault as they conduct their business in sunny downtown Carlisle’s central business district. Fortunately, the in-house editor has a modicum of commonsense and probably saves the ultimate rejection department a lot of work. Nonetheless, there is always the fervent prayer that the worship-worthy keyboard (where else do ideas spring from?) will yield at least one acceptable idea and that late submission will obviate the need for last minute re-writes or the ultimate embarrassment: outright rejection. ∆



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