Ryan Summerlin July 28, 2014
This is it, dear readers. After nearly seven years together, we come at last to the end of “Open Space.”
As I’ve written many times, change is inevitable. When I started this column nearly seven years ago, in November 2007, I knew the day would come when I was either too tired to go on with it or the newspaper would morph into something else. The Post Independent is now morphing into something else.
Honestly, it comes as a bit of a relief. I’ve been thinking of drawing this chapter to a close to pursue other writing projects, such as a book based on these last 165 “Open Space” columns (and how could I finish a book without a clear stopping point?). However, as a Glenwood Springs native, I’ve been reluctant to sever this connection with the community. The newspaper’s decision rids me of that burden.
When I started this column, I was a 24-year-old copy editor at the PI, fresh out of college. Things were quite different then. The housing market was still a swelling bubble yet to burst, and the newspaper staff was in its golden years (the staff is perhaps now a third the size it was when I came on board). I was lucky to work closely with some of the finest people I’ve ever met in the business. I was also lucky to have the opportunity to start a regular column simply because there was an open space on the opinion page every other Tuesday. Why not have a local voice in there instead of another syndicated thing?
Most of all, I wanted to add a voice where people might find common ground in a section of the paper that is usually dedicated to divisiveness. As a young copy editor, I was routinely overwhelmed by the terrible news and hateful messages that flooded my computer screen on a daily basis (there is a reason why the stereotypical newspaper character is an alcoholic pessimist).
I’m sure plenty of people dismissed “Open Space” as simple fluff, since I shied away from barking tones and buzz words like “God, guns and religion,” though that was pretty much the headline of one column about a year ago. To me, everything I wrote in the column was in recognition that there are plenty of things we will never agree on, but there are also many more things we relate to as fellow human beings. We all want to be loved and accepted, and to have some sense of purpose and stability, for example. You might say this column has documented my struggle with those basic matters in life. I hope my writing here has served as even the tiniest reminder of that commonality.
“Open Space” began as a monthly column. By February 2008, I was eager to make it twice a month, though I wasn’t quite ready. I only missed one deadline, which would have been my seventh, and I stayed up all night agonizing over a worthy topic before throwing in the towel on that one. I never missed a deadline since, so I suppose it was worth it as a learning experience.
I had no idea how long I could keep up this writing when I started. I’m actually amazed it went on this long, through five different editors. Surely it would not have happened without the support of you readers, who rarely sent me any unkind words. I didn’t hear from you directly very often, but when I did those messages were generally very encouraging. Thank you.
Though this marks the end of my involvement with the PI, it does not mark the end of my writing career. Not by a long shot. I recently completed a short fiction trilogy for Alpinist magazine, and I hope you will find my new blog on the web at www.derekfranz.com. There you will find links to projects past and present, and a weekly dose of short fiction, such as “The mountain of rolling heads.” Additionally, it is my goal to release a free anthology of all my “Open Space” columns as an e-reader very soon, and eventually a hardback version with bonus material and a more creative organization akin to the style of a David Sedaris collection. You can also keep up with my work by liking my “Derek Franz” Facebook page.
It has been a pleasure and an honor to write for you in this paper, Garfield County. May you always find an open space in your heart for all the tiny, everyday things that matter so much, especially when the news is too bleak to read or when you feel like an island of the soul.
If you can break on through, I’ll catch up with you on the other side.
— Derek Franz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new Web site is www.derekfranz.com and you can also find his page on Facebook.