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Behind the bylines, real people

How we find our writers.
By Tom Stites
Spring 2006 2.15.06

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It’s easy to jump right into an article without noticing the byline—unless you stop to think that behind the byline is a real person. So let me introduce you to Amy Hassinger, author of this issue’s cover story.

Amy, like almost all writers for UU World, will be sitting in a Unitarian Universalist pew next Sunday. Unlike most, she is a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop—something that caught my eye in a hurry when she inquired last year about a writing assignment. My eye widened when I noted that she had published her first novel, Nina: Adolescence, to glowing reviews, and that a second was on the way. The Priest’s Madonna is scheduled to be published in April by Putnam, not long after her second child is expected to enter this world.

“Welcome to the Ecozoic Era,” Amy’s profile and theological exploration of Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow, the roaming UU evangelists for the idea that evolution is holy, is her first article for UU World—or, for that matter, any magazine. Almost all of her writing has been fiction, so this is a departure for her. What inspired her to propose this?

“I was moved when I heard Dowd and Barlow in church,” she told me by phone from her home in Illinois, where she is a member of the UU Church of Urbana-Champaign, “and I feel passionate about being a UU, and love reading UU World.” She’d been thinking she should try magazine writing, and soon the letter to me was in the mail. The article that resulted begins on page 26. Not surprisingly, it’s a beautiful piece of writing.

For briefer introductions to other writers for this issue—and for a photo and more detailed information about Amy—check out the Contributors listing on the page facing this one. They’re a fascinating group, and together their voices make up the chorus that results in this issue of UU World. Like Amy, several are first-time UU World bylines; one is a UU World staff member, and four are ministers, including an old hand at writing for you—John A. Buehrens, who as UUA president wrote a regular column in these pages for eight years.

The way Amy came into our pages, by proposing a feature article, is atypical. Most often a new writer appears in one of our departments because the editors have found an interesting excerpt from a new book or because a sermon or something else written for another purpose has been submitted to us. But occasionally a UU professional writer like Amy will get in touch to propose an article. However the discovery of a new voice comes about, it’s always a joy for the editors—but it can be frustrating for writers and editors alike because there are so many good ideas for articles and so little space for them. Patience is part of being a magazine writer!

Amy and I have never met—we have yet to find ourselves in the same city—but editors and writers learn a lot about each other as an article makes its way from idea to printed pages. Amy proved herself to be a gentle and patient soul eager to master a new form of writing. And the day I finished this column Amy accepted her second assignment for UU World. Stay tuned.

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