The making of a columnist

Sandy Holthaus

Last week I was asked to speak about my “writing technique” at the Annandale Improvement Club. Previously I have spoken at the Lutsen Garden Club, Schroeder Heritage Center, Kiwanis Club and the Christian Woman’s Club. I enjoy these engagements because it gives me a chance to tell the story of the column. Being that this fall marks my 11th year as a columnist some of you might not remember how this all started. After more than 300 columns I barely remember myself, but I do remember this, it all started with an idea pitch and someone to take a chance on me. That someone was Steve Prinson.

On the North Shore, I grew up reading a local columnist, Lynn Monson. She had a cooking column for years in the Cook County paper. I always enjoyed her recipes and trying to create them at home for my parents. When we moved to Annandale 15 years ago, we immediately signed up for the Annandale Advocate. I realized there was no cooking column. Four years later I met Steve Prinson and approached him with the idea of a column. He laughed and said, “no one cooks anymore.” He was probably right to a point, but I pushed the idea that I would tie the recipes to fun stories and make it interesting. My first column “Dessert First” was published in the fall of 2006. Later the column was also picked up by the Cook County newspaper thanks to the persistence of my mom and Rhonda Silence, who championed that a column “about” the North Shore should be “published” on the North Shore.

That first column, “Dessert First,” had many readers but the special person close to my heart was Kenny Rudolph. He called me personally to tell me that he had made my hot fudge recipe and he loved it. I thanked him and then asked him to call Steve at the Annandale Advocate and tell him directly. I even gave him Steve’s number. I also handed it out to several neighbors and friends and asked them to call in their support. Thankfully it worked, and through that tiny leap of faith, here I am, a columnist.

This column has introduced me to so many people in the last 11 years. I could share story after story about friends that I have made, recipes that I have received and the many “inside jokes” I have laughed at as I was writing. Copies of this column have been read at two memorial services that I know about. I have shared both my pain and my joy with you and heard your stories in return. I wouldn’t trade this job for anything. I would probably write it for free, but don’t tell Steve that, I like the paycheck. “Writing is an extreme privilege, but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself, and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.”

~Amy Tan

Taste of Home columnist Sandy (Anderson) Holthaus lives on a farm in South Haven, MN with her husband, Michael, and their children Zoe, Jack and Ben. Her heart remains on the North Shore where she grew up with her parents, Art and LaVonne Anderson of Schroeder. She enjoys writing about her childhood and mixes memories with delicious helpings of home-style recipes.

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