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Meet the Columnist

Columnist, Sheila Moss, is humor writer from  Tennessee. She writes  a weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny things that happen to everyone.

   She has written for  the Daily News of Kingsport,   Griffin Journal, Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton Advocate,  and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. She has been published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks at Guidepost Books.  Her articles have appeared in numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.

    She is a former board member and past  Editor of  the, website of  the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the oldest and largest professional organization for columnists. She is the Web Editor of Southern  and  a founder of the Southern Humorists writers' organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of

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Hasta la vista Ventura

Several weeks ago, I was at the National Society of Newspaper Columnists annual conference in Ventura, California.  Except for exotic palm trees and flowers, which are irrigated, the West Coast is all dry grass and brown hills.  This explains why it is either burning down or buried in mud slides most of the time.   

The hotel had great views of the ocean and of a historic fishing pier.  We went for a long walk on the pier on the first day.  I didnít see anyone catch any fish, but there were many people fishing, so I suppose there will be a lot of fish stories later about the one that got away.

I saw dozens of seals that turned out to be surfers in wetsuits.  I thought they were seals because swimmers wouldnít be out so early in the morning.  Apparently, surfing has nothing to do with time and everything to do with when the surf is up.  Anything that can get a young person out of bed before noon has got to be good. 

Downtown Ventura consists of about three blocks of shops and a historic Spanish mission.  The town appears to have died like most downtowns have, but it is making a successful comeback as a tourist destination.  Many old buildings have found a second life and there were more thrift shops per square foot than anything else except maybe tourists walking dogs.

Dogs are manís best friend and many people apparently bring their best friend on vacation.  The beach was full of dogs and people walked dogs along the streets of the town.  I was most impressed by one small dog that followed his owner closely down the sidewalks and across streets through traffic without a leash and without running away.  He should be a doggie life coach.

The Spanish mission was interesting, although my colleagues from California said that every city in California has an old historic mission.  They were sick of missions and of schoolchildren being required to build models of them.  Lasagna noodles make a great roof for mission models, they said, speaking from the wisdom of experience.

In addition to producing missions, California produces a lot of wine, and everywhere you go, you are offered wine.  Wine tastings are a major pastime.  The only difference I could see between tasting wine and drinking wine was the amount of wine in your glass and whether you could walk away from the party afterwards without assistance.

One wine tasting we went to was in the courtyard of the mission.  I found drinking in the courtyard of a church a bit odd, but apparently this is accepted practice in California.  In addition to wine, we had an assortment of foods from local restaurants, everything from hordourvs wrapped in grape leaves to meatballs made from wild game.  Somehow, it reminded me of the Beverly Hillbillies and how guests were never quite sure what vittles granny might actually be serving. 

The conference itself was the main event with many big name speakers to rub elbows with. Jeff Zaslow, who is writing a book with Capt. Sully, the pilot that landed the plane in the Hudson, was there.  So was Steve Lopez, the subject of a recently released movie, The Soloist, which we all made sure to see so we could ask semi-intelligent questions.

Jon Carroll was honored with an award.  Heís the humor columnist in a black turtleneck who has written five newspaper columns a week for nearly 30 years.  I donít know how anyone could have that many columns in them Ė much less own that many black turtlenecks. 

The theme of the conference was how to survive and thrive in a time when many journalists are being fired due to the crisis in the newspaper industry.  Apparently, the way to do it is to go online and use Twitter and Facebook to promote yourself as an entrepreneur and freelance columnist.  If Iíd known it was that easy, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble building websites and submitting to editors.

Just my luck, Iíve been online trying to get into print for over 10 years.  About the time I start having a bit of success in the newspaper industry, it goes out of business.  

Copyright 2009 Sheila Moss

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