Six days a week our editorial team suits up to wrestle with the dense entanglement of local, state and national issues. But then there’s Monday, the day that we get to learn, be inspired and share a collective “ahhhhh,” alongside our readers, thanks to the weekly column that might as well be called dispatches from real life.
While we don’t make our new roster of six reader columnists place hand over heart and take an official TNT oath, we do let them know that by accepting the year-long commitment, they enter into an unwritten contract with thousands of readers both in print and online.
And these readers deserve the best. Of course it would be unfair to ask our 2017 panel of writers to reach for perfection. But we do ask them to be perfectly themselves.
This year our inbox was flooded with engaging, introspective writing from three dozen would-be columnists all over the South Sound. Winnowing it down to just six writers was no easy task.
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Here’s the new lineup:
▪ Katie Madison of Spanaway has all the exuberance one would expect from a 21-year-old going through exciting transitions. We’re eager to hear more about life with her fiance, an Air Force officer at JBLM, and how she uses humor and hope to contend with a chronic illness. Her first column appears Monday.
▪ Tad Monroe is a 42-year-old North End resident with so many touch points in Tacoma, he could write small and still fill a poster board. He’s a Pacific Lutheran University graduate, nonprofit consultant, Presbyterian minister, former Stadium High football coach, poet and soon-to-be father of two. He won’t run out of material.
▪ Linda Norlander was 10 when she started writing and recalls penning her first line: “I take pen in paw (with a little difficulty) to write my memoirs.” The West Tacoma resident recently retired at age 64 as clinical director for the Franciscan hospice program. She’s written extensively on end-of-life issues and carries volumes of experience from people she met on the journey.
▪ Ted Broussard, 64, recently retired as a vice president at Clover Park Technical College and is enjoying newfound free time exploring interests such as cooking and traveling. The downtown Tacoma condo dweller is eager to discuss everything from his Louisiana background to celebrating his 30th anniversary with partner and now-husband John.
▪ Heidi Fedore, a 55-year-old Lakewood resident, is a self-identified “gym-rat” and middle school principal in Gig Harbor. If you’re looking for someone to inspire you to get off the couch, look for Fedore’s columns. She has enough energy to teach aerobics, run a school and write a principal’s blog.
▪ Tom Llewellyn, 52, is returning to our pages for an encore appearance; this 2010 reader columnist was once described as someone who “specializes in astute observations about Tacoma.” In fact, he is “obsessed” with Tacoma—his word, not ours. This published author of children’s books will undoubtedly help us see familiar surroundings with fresh eyes.
Let’s also take a moment to send off our excellent 2016 class of writers with hearty thanks. Editorial page editor Matt Misterek offers a few parting thoughts on the six:
▪ Zac Smith, who lives in a Hilltop apartment with a coffeemaker named Charlie and works as a water quality technician in Lakewood, consistently delivered laugh-out-loud moments. Who knew a speculative column about dying alone could be so funny?
▪ Barbara Parsons, a Tacoma North Ender and community college English teacher, shared deep educational insights, a passion for Tacoma history and a soul-baring transparency into the darkest days of her life.
▪ Manola Secaira of University Place wrote columns that radiated a college student’s energy and a second-generation Latina’s search for identity. All the best in your boxing pursuits and never outgrow your childish love of monkey wallets.
▪ Stuart Grover, a retired fundraising consultant living in Tacoma’s West Slope neighborhood, dazzled us with eclectic interests, such as falconry and horse racing, and quirky ideas, such as mailing children via Parcel Post circa 1913.
▪ Michelle Ryder of Bonney Lake, a freelance writer and social activist, wrote openly of family pain, death and personal struggles with underemployment, but she spun prose that was light and artful. Godspeed in your move to Olympia.
▪ Steve Jaech of Steilacoom, a retired English and composition teacher, is a first-rate storyteller (and fussbudget) devoted to history’s great wordsmiths. Who else could find Shakespearean inspiration in a shopping mall encounter with Fabio?
If this year’s reader columnists can measure up to the Class of 2016, it will be a year to remember for both them and us.
Karen Irwin is editorial writer for The News Tribune and was a reader columnist in 2004.