story and photos by Linda Kaufenberg
After speaking to a group of students about writing, Sharon Randall, syndicated columnist, entertained a sold-out crowd of 175 at a luncheon Wednesday at the Holiday Inn City Center. Her weekly column is distributed to some 400 newspapers and an estimated 6 million readers nationwide. It also appears quarterly in Carmel Magazine. A frequent speaker for conferences and fundraisers, she receives thousands of letters and emails each year from readers who connect with her stories.
Randall began writing “Bay Window,” a personal column about “everyday people and ordinary things,” for The Monterey County Herald in 1991. The column became popular and was picked up for syndication by Scripps Howard in 1994. She has written on topics ranging from violence in schools to the lives of cloistered nuns; profiled celebrities and locals; and reported on news events including the Loma Prieta earthquake, the Clinton inauguration, and the kidnapping of Polly Klaas.
Of course, how could an event be complete without Mayor Ray Baker welcoming Randall to the city? Showering her with many roses, Mayor Baker also presented Randall with the Mayor's Pioneer Award for “blazing new trails in journalism.”
Cindy Long, Fort Smith Library Endowment. introduced Sharon as someone who "feels like your best friend," even though she has 6 million readers. "She writes about what she cares about," Long said.
The first column Randall read to the crowd was published in May of 2008 after her first official trip to Fort Smith. She described Fort Smith as a town of “uncommon grace and hospitality.”
She also noted that many of her columns recall the days of her living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North and South Carolina, particularly Landrum, S.C.
Randall also appeared Thursday at an event hosted by Lynn and Bill Steve Walker at their home in Fort Smith. Randall visited with guests and read a column about her trip back to Landrum, where she was invited to read part of her book at the Landrum Library.
She related how her family was poor and she was introduced to the library by her best friend Jane Christopher's mom who was the librarian. When Randall visited the library she "could not imagine growing up and seeing her name on a book. They say it takes a dreamer to make a dream come true."
She thanked everyone for supporting the Fort Smith Library and for the "generous, good, kind and caring people who live in Fort Smith."
Randall then shared her perspectives on life, writing, family, friends and "Las Vegas of all places" in a talk Thursday night at the Main Library.