Guest Blogger: Carol Newhouse – The Value of Writing a Newsletter Column

The Value of Writing a Newsletter Column by Carol Newhouse

I write a column, By The Book, that appears in First Draft, a newsletter for the Guppies, an online chapter of Sisters In Crime. Its purpose is to deconstruct mysteries. I alternate writing a second column in First Draft with Nancy Eady. Agent Insight gives the readers the agent’s perspective on questions germane to aspiring authors.

At a lunch with a peer, I described my ideas for the upcoming columns. She asked if I get paid. I do not. She wondered why I would write the columns at all. Wasn’t this a distraction from my avowed ten year and running goal of creating a zookeeper’s mystery series? A good question.

Why indeed?

First, there are benefits to others: I believe my columns help writers. By selecting a different type of mystery to deconstruct in By The Book, I read like a writer and suggest ideas of how to structure a story to fit its genre. In Agent Insight I pose questions to agents that I think will interest their prospective clients.

Second, there are the benefits to me.

Writing the columns pushes me to organize my time. Although I used to think having more free time would increase my output, that has not been the case. For me, less means more, perhaps because it forces me to focus.

Working to deadlines puts my butt in the chair even if I’m not in the mood to write.

Using email to cold call agents has brought me out of my shell. I no longer shy away from contacting people I don’t know. And the most frequent response I get? “Thank you for reaching out…”

Speaking to agents and authors has given me a sense of camaraderie. Despite having several short stories traditionally published, despite being nominated for an Arthur Ellis award and despite belonging to several writing groups, I have always suffered with imposter syndrome. It may have taken me a year of volunteer work, but that syndrome is a thing of the past.

Writing the columns, in addition to working on my zookeeper mystery, increases my creative energy. I joined a beginner watercolor class and am joining a drawing class next month for the same reason.

Choosing a book to deconstruct has widened my reading horizons. In the past I devoured cozies and police procedurals, but now that I’ve worked with a historical mystery, I’m looking forward to reading five others.

Learning new things is always a plus. I have never considered noir structure so am looking forward to deconstructing Eryk Pruitt’s Dirtbags for July’s By The Book. And most of the questions I ask agents are ones where I too seek answers. Often their responses surprise me.
The interesting thing is, when I answered the call for someone to author the Agent Insight column and when I suggested to my editor that I deconstruct mysteries in a new column, I had no idea where it would lead. But I can honestly say spending time away from my zookeeper mystery has not been a distraction. This volunteer work augments all my writing endeavors. I’m having a blast!

******************************************************************************************************************************************

Carol Newhouse is a member of Sisters in Crime, The Guppies, and Sisters in Crime Toronto. She is hard at work on her first book in the Zookeeper Mystery series. Now happily retired from a career as a legal assistant, she spends time dreaming of dead bodies, walking her dogs, chilling in art and exercise classes, playing competitive bridge and hanging out at the Toronto Zoo.

2 comments

  1. Thanks, Carol, for your insight. I’ve been interviewing mystery writers for the Writers Who Kill blog for years, and I discovered that I have learned a lot from the writers I interview. I enjoy helping to promote their books, and I’ve made friends in the mystery writing community.

    • Grace, I so agree with Carol and you about the networking and educational benefits of interviews. There are many volunteer things I have done which have helped me find my way in the writing community because so many mystery writers have proven to be kind and generous with their time and advice. Thanks for stopping by todayl

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *