On Monday, March 20th, Brooks College House and Writers House welcomed back Brooksian and F&M alumna Layne Amerikaner ‘07 for a talk. Speaking to a number of Lancaster community members and F&M students - including many Writing Center tutors - Amerikaner discussed the power of op-eds to ”galvanize a movement” in a time when making sure your voice is heard is increasingly important. The goal of an op-ed, she said, is to “help others see things in a new light” through your own experiences and point of view. If the subject is something you’re passionate about that affects you in some way, then you are the right person to write about it.
Amerikaner, Senior Communications Manager for Writing & Content at People For the American Way, described herself as “passionate about expanding who writes op-eds”; currently, the majority of people writing op-eds are not reflective of the makeup of our country.
In general, an op-ed has to “hinge on a news hook”, but the topic can be “hyper-local (F&M), regional, national, or global”. It’s also helpful for the piece to be related to something facing some sort of approaching action, however, Amerikaner reminded listeners that this is not always necessary. She also stressed how important it is not to let your fears stop you when writing a piece. Fear that people won’t receive it well, or that you’re not the right person to write about this topic, won’t do you any good. As long as you “own your experience”, everything can be backed up with credible sources and the right perspective. Become an expert on your topic and that will show in your writing.
Amerikaner ended her talk with the following tips:
Don’t use jargon or overly technical phrases-it’s an opinion piece, not a research paper
Be accurate-support all facts with legitimate sources
Read other op-ed writers and notice what they do well
- Think outside the top outlets-blogs, online news publications, and hometown newspapers are all great for submissions
- Always follow up on your submission, whether you’ve heard back or not
Layne Amerikaner’s passion was clear throughout the presentation, a passion that will hopefully bring more members of the Lancaster and F&M community to begin to use op-eds to speak out and make their voices heard.
Alex Faccibene ‘16 is the House Coordinator for Writers House.