Four years ago, I responded to an ad in the Observer for a columnist to write about life around Lake Norman's West Shore: Denver, Terrell and Sherrills Ford, where I live.
I have thoroughly enjoyed writing the column, mostly because I enjoy learning more about the community. I've met all kinds of people: students, cancer survivors, other writers, doctors, teachers, preachers - even a gold miner. I've gone places I never thought I'd go, including a tractor pull and an auto-mechanics class.
I never thought this tiny place would be so full of stories.
Writing the column, I have made my mistakes. I think the biggest was when I wrote about a community chorus just before their concert a few years ago. I didn't exactly give them a rave review. I still run into people who are mad about that.
Another mistake - perhaps more of a personal shortcoming - is that I am naturally shy. I can muster confidence for a short while, as many of us do in professional or social situations. But deep down I get nervous even when I have to make a phone call to someone I don't know.
That's what's so weird about this job. I mean, how many writers have reputations for gregariousness? A common image is a grizzled recluse in the woods with an old-fashioned typewriter and a ream of paper.
But that's no way to get to know your community, which is the prerequisite to writing this column.
The truth is, once I'm on the phone with someone new and the conversation gets going, we're no longer strangers. Once I'm out in the community, I really enjoy myself. This is a great place to live.
If you love it, too, maybe you can help me a little.
If you know someone who has a story to tell, or if there's an aspect of the community that you'd like to see in the paper, please let me know. I think a local column like this one should tell about everyday life. It's my job as the writer to find the interesting parts.
Here are some questions to get you started:
What makes you tick?
What is your idea of a fun Friday night?
Why do you live here?
What have you survived?
What gets you involved?
Where's the best place to hang out if you're 20? 40? 60?
How do you go "green" (or not)?
Who's coming to visit?
What do you wish your neighbors knew?
What's bugging you?
What's the history of your street or neighborhood?
Why do you go out on the lake?
Help wanted, West Shore. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you!