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ONeil off deadline: This is not good-bye, but hello

For the past 3 1/ 2 years I have had a window to the world that is Williamson County – a window that was more like an open door to a community that welcomed me with open arms, first as a staff reporter and then as the managing editor of this newspaper.

During that time I have also been an apartment dweller, a commuter and a downtown resident. I have attended many functions in Franklin and throughout the county as a member of the Fourth Estate. As of this time next week, the managing editor title following my name will be somewhat acquire ex officio status. This is my final O’Neil off deadline column as a member of the Williamson Herald.

This may come as a surprise to some, but as a logical next step to others. The decision was not an easy one to make, but it is one I have made with much anticipation. I look back with fond appreciation over these past 3 1/ 2 years for two people who took a chance on a recent transplant from Massachusetts who knew nothing – literally nothing of the area. Former Executive Editor Mindy Tate and Publisher and now owner Derby Jones made me feel welcome from day 1. Mindy imparted the wisdom and knowledge of her tenure here and Derby gave me the opportunity to grow into the position of managing editor when Mindy took on the responsibility of Franklin Tomorrow.

I leave the comfort of a regular paycheck and a life of running from this meeting to that gala and from this deadline to the next to take the next step that most reporters aspire to – the life of an author.

When I moved to Williamson County, from the beautiful northern seaside town of Newburyport, Mass., it was always my intention to pursue the stories of fiction I had started in the comfort of my own hometown, but never found the time to complete. I have found that time is what you make of it and during my tenure here at the Williamson Herald, I have always found something more pressing (no pun intended), more urgent and often more fun than sitting in a room with an uncovered light bulb, no windows and a manual typewriter writing the next best thing. But, that image is long gone and I have a wonderful opportunity to work in a very nicely appointed home office, work from one of many coffee houses or gathering places throughout the county and let’s not forget the fabulous libraries that the county offers. So it is with a little hesitation that I leave the comforts of the nest that has been my proving ground for these last few years to venture out to be my own boss, but it is also with great anticipation that I can finally get my head around these projects and characters I have been living with for so long in my head.

It is not lightly that I go here – it is almost out of necessity that I begin to focus on these projects. A project I never thought I would do – a children’s book – is currently in the more than capable hands of Realtor and Illustrator Donna Brevard. The story features a red pencil, inspired by one given to me by the Franklin Fire Department, whose perspective of life changes when he, appropriately named “Frankie” sees the world from something other than a cup on mother’s desk.

There’s an adult fiction novelette in final edit that is gearing up for an early spring e-release date about a man who goes back to his old stomping grounds to find that his current life looks much better than once thought.

And there’s the story that I am most looking forward to writing, though not a work of fiction. Over the course of the next several months I will be talking with Ms. Jeannie C. Riley to tell the story of her meteoric rise to fame with her rendition of Tom T. Hall’s “Harper Valley PTA.” The story will chronicle the years following that song, her highs and lows, her loves and her latest career path. “Don’t count her out,” she says. She’s got a lot to offer.

So it is with mixed emotion that I say so long from my desk at the Herald. But it is with much anticipation that I launch a career that has been a long-time dream. Thanks for the memories; it has been great getting to know each and everyone of you. I look forward to forging even deeper friendships with you and making new ones. See you around town. It is not good-bye – this is hello.

Follow me on Twitter @offdeadline, on friend me on Facebook, if we aren’t already friends and keep in touch at

Posted on: 1/24/2013


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