I answered some of the questions customers frequently ask in the introduction to Home Spun, the collection of my Chronicle columns from Winedale Publishing. The following are just a few of the ones I encounter most often.
Q: How long have you been writing the column?
A: I figure it's around 62 years by now. I did the column at the Houston Post for 32 years before moving to the Chronicle in 1984.
Q: How far ahead do you stay?
A: This is probably the most frequent question I hear. The answer is I don't stay ahead of the deadline at all. The column you see in the paper on a Sunday was written just that week. It probably didn't reach my editor until a little after noon Tuesday. Blog posts are faster, of course. They appear as soon as I hit the publish button.
Some readers imagine that a columnist has a great backlog of pieces in a file, written far in advance. People ask me why I don't write two weeks of columns at once and then loaf, or go fishing. I don't do that because for me it's impossible. My life has been controlled so long by deadlines that I'm unable to accomplish anything without one.
Once in a while I'll dig in and get a couple of columns ahead when I want to go off to some remote place where internet access is spotty. But I don't like to stay very far ahead. If there's too long an interval between the time I send my copy in and the time it appears in the paper, situations can change.
Q: Who is the partner you often refer to in the column?
A: She is my wife. It's journalistic tradition for the writer of a personal essay column to refer to his or her spouse as something other than "my wife" or "my husband." By the way, the details of how we met and became partners are set forth in my book, Supper Time.