Anatomy Of An Anita Answer Column Pt. 1

Recently, I’ve received some questions about the nuts and bolts of putting together my weekly Anita Answer column.

Questions like how I choose questions to answer, why I didn’t answer certain questions, where I find my answers, how I’ve come to know so much stuff about the World, etc. These kinds of questions really lend themselves more to blogging than to the column format, so here I go!

I’ll start with some background information that may help you to better understand the process.

I receive an average of 15 – 30 questions per day, every day. Sometimes I can receive as many as 60 in a day, depending on the time of year. That’s a lot of questions, especially when you consider that I only have space to answer 6 questions per week. Sometimes I live dangerously and feature 7 if I need to address something else, although this drives my editor Ditto crazy. The average column takes me 6 – 10 hours or more per week to write. Research can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks to get the information I need to complete an answer.

When readers send me questions I first have to carefully read them all and sort through them, and unfortunately, I also must cull the ones I can’t or won’t answer and file them in an archive.

The rest are re-titled so I know what they are and moved to a file of potential questions for future columns. Currently, there are over 500 questions in that file. Until recently, the number was closer to 1000, but I had to clean that file out in order to find things more easily. I try to clean the file every quarter, and as you can see, it’s necessary, otherwise I’d be drowning in questions!

Reading and sorting questions can take 1 – 2 hours a day or more depending on the time of year. I tend to get more questions when people are planning for summer or holiday trips. I get more questions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays than other days of the week. Tuesdays, because my new columns come out on Mondays; Wednesdays because the All Ears newsletter comes out on Tuesdays, and Sunday because…well, I don’t really know why! It could be because readers have more free time on that day, or perhaps in hope of getting into the next day’s column?

Only rarely do I answer questions that come in just before the column is published. Usually, it will be something that’s newsworthy at that moment, and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. I’ll talk more about that in part 2, when I reveal how I choose which questions to answer. See you next time!

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