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June 2012
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Want to be a community columnist?

By STEVE WIILSON Executive Editor The Paducah Sun

Ever happen upon something special and wish you could tell everyone about it? Or have an informed point of view you would like to share with a larger audience?

Here's your chance. The Paducah Sun is creating a panel of community columnists, and you're invited to apply. We're looking to sign on a diverse group of 10-12 local residents who will write every month or so on any topic they choose.

Brilliant writers will be welcome, but you don't need to be one. What matters more is having a strong connection to this region and a good sense of what people will find worth reading.

Though the columnists will be unpaid, the role will have its rewards. You will become a semi-celebrity (at least to the neighbors). You'll have another bullet point for your resume. More importantly, you will have a voice in the dialogue about things that matter in this part of the country.

If you're interested, send me an email or a letter that says who you are and why you would like to join. I will also need a sample of your writing. Ideally, that would be a column draft in the neighborhood of 500-600 words.

Elected officials and political candidates aren't eligible. Spare me if you want to push a social agenda, grind an ax, or write on a topic that presents a conflict of interest. Columnists will be free to express opinions, but I have no appetite for wandering ruminations that are light on facts or replay tired arguments.

What kind of columns are we looking for?

Many kinds. Tributes that tell us about remarkable people and deeds. Thoughtful pieces related to your occupation. Idea columns that offer a fresh take on a thorny problem. Slice-of-life narratives that reflect on personal experiences.

The latter category is rich with possibilities. A favorite column of mine from my years in Arizona told of a horse race of no special consequence on a 107-degree day at the thoroughbred track in Phoenix.

I had been invited by a friend to see his beautiful bay mare, Daily Market, who had a distinctive pink nose. He didn't think she would win that day because two others in the race had faster times, but he expected she would be close because "there's no quit in her."

Before the race, we walked back to the stables and watched the groom attend to her with unusual care. I noticed a pair of small, banged-up fans sending a breeze toward her â “ the only fans I saw in any of the barns. The column ended this way:

"The race was one mile on the turf course. The crowd made Daily Market the third choice at 4-1 behind Miss Pinnacle Peak and Fair and Fabulous.

"She broke alertly and went right for the lead. She ran with fluid ease and held a one-length advantage most of the way until the horses reached the top of the stretch. Then Fair and Fabulous surged on the outside.

"The two thoroughbreds raced head-to-head down the stretch. At one point, Fair and Fabulous edged barely in front, but when Daily Market, wearing green blinkers, saw what was happening, she found more strength and pulled even. She was not going to let another horse pass her. You could sense it.

"They hit the wire in a photo finish. It was not possible to tell who won. The photo showed a separation of just two inches at the finish line. A pink nose had bobbed forward at just the right instant.

"When she entered the winner's circle, I thought about her back in her stall. About the fans making her just a little cooler than the other horses. About groom Javier Meraz sweating in his tack room so she would be more comfortable. About how it's often the smallest detail, the slightest extra effort, separating winners from losers.

"I don't know how much those two small fans cost, but I have a good idea of how much they were worth that hot afternoon:

"One inch apiece."

If you have an interest in becoming a community columnist, please contact me at swilson@paducahsun.com or (270) 575-8666 or 408 Kentucky Ave., Paducah, KY 42003.

Steve Wilson is executive editor of the Paducah Sun.

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