And Now for a Very Different Kind of Art Form Print
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 15 March 2007 07:58
The Op-Ed.

There is a fascinating article in the New York Times about a course that trains women to successfully write and publish opinion editorials. The teacher of the course, Catherine Orenstein, is concerned that 65 - 75% of unsolicited manuscripts at major newspapers come from men. But imagine the possible impact from lay apostles, men and women, who seriously take up this art form.

“It’s a teachable form,” Ms. Orenstein said recently over coffee and eggs. “It’s not like writing Hemingway. You show people the basics of a good argument, what constitutes good evidence, what’s a news hook, what’s the etiquette of a pitch.”

“I try to convey the idea that there is a responsibility,” she said. “Op-ed pages are so enormously powerful. It’s one of the few places open to the public. Where else is someone like me going to get access? It’s not like I can call up the White House: ‘Hello?’ ”

Ms. Orenstein also makes some observations about women's motivations which I have also noticed on the road.

She asked: Could every woman . . . name one specific subject that she is an expert in and say why?

"Of the next four women who spoke, three started with a qualification or apology. “I’m really too young to be an expert in anything,” said Caitlin Petre, 23.


“Let’s stop,” Ms. Orenstein said. “It happens in every single session I do with women, and it’s never happened with men.” Women tend to back away from “what we know and why we know it,” she said."

In my experience, Catholic women, especially older women, also tend to resist the idea of being specially gifted, of being called in some way that makes them stand apart from the group. They are the ones who tell me "I know what my gift is but I got so much positive feed-back about it that I stopped using it for fear I would become proud." They are the ones who ask "Can I use a charism at work, to make money?"

Answer number one: It's not about you. Really. It is about what God wants to reach that other person through you.

Answer number two. You are a secular apostle, called to evangelize and heal the cultures and structures of the world and one of the primary ways you do that is through your work! So, yes, please use your charisms in the marketplace.

So, fellow apostles - men and women - consider the ministry of the op ed. Help shape the conversation. Where else is someone like you or me going to get access?