By Laura Christman
Sharon Randall’s newspaper column is a form of friendship — a weekly conversation on things like growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, her blind brother Joe, the five grandchildren, backyard quail, thunderstorms and fried-egg sandwiches.
“I write about life and whatever comes along,” said Randall, 68, in an interview from her Las Vegas home. “You stay alive and pay attention, and things keep coming along.”
The Women’s Fund of the Shasta Regional Community Foundation is bringing the popular columnist to Redding in September to benefit its endowment fund. “An Evening with Sharon Randall” begins at 7 p.m. Sept. 22 at David Marr Auditorium (tickets $20 may be purchased here). A $150-per-person catered dinner at The McConnell Foundation is planned for 6 p.m. Sept. 21.
“I’m truly looking forward to it. I promise you we will have a good time,” says Randall. She’s pleased to be part of The Women’s Fund effort to help women and families.
Randall’s self-syndicated column is published in 36 newspapers throughout the country. It’s posted on Redding.com 6 p.m. Saturdays and runs in the Record Searchlight on Sundays.
Women’s Fund cabinet member Jan Kearns pitched the idea of bringing Randall to Redding to fellow cabinet member Bev Stupek, a longtime fan and co-chair of the community engagement committee. Randall recognizes the power of community and has the ability to touch hearts through her words, so she’s an ideal fit for The Women’s Fund, Stupek says.
Randall has a loyal following in the region. It’s not her first time supporting a Redding-area cause. She visited Redding in 2000 for the Northstate Reading Conference and in 2004 and 2005 to help the Shasta Library Foundation.
So, what can those who attend her September talks expect?
“Usually what I do for talks is talk. It’s like sitting on the porch, just the two of us — only I do all the talking,” she says.
She plans to share the story of her mother’s struggles in raising four children and “what an incredible difference it made in our lives to get a helping hand when we needed it from some good and caring people.” She might read a sample from her just-finished-but-yet-to-be-published novel. And she wants to take questions from the audience.
“We’re going to laugh a lot — I hope — and maybe cry a little,” she says.
Randall grew up in the Carolinas in a family of storytellers.
“I grew up with stories. I learned the patterns without trying to,” she says.
She began writing the column in 1991 for the Monterey County Herald, where she was first hired as the newspaper’s librarian and then became a reporter. Her blend of wit and wisdom is delivered in a friendly, genuine voice.
Randall remembers her grandmother’s advice: Never pretend to be someone you aren’t, or to know what you don’t. “People can forgive ignorance, but they never forget a phony,” her grandmother told her.
She took the column assignment reluctantly — thinking life already was busy enough with her teacher/basketball coach husband and their three children. She now sees it as a gift. Readers send emails and letters sharing stories from their lives and letting her know how what she wrote resonated with them.
“The wonderful thing is getting a response from readers. Not only did they read it, but that it had meaning to them,” she says.
When she’s shared difficult times, such as her first husband battling and dying from cancer, readers responded with a cascade of kindness. The connections and caring from readers lead Randall to view the world with optimism.
“There are bad things happening … but there are so many good people,” she says.
Writing is a way to gain perspective on situations. Randall hopes readers who see a piece of their lives in her words are getting a springboard to think things through.
“I think we are all reflective people by nature. We hunger to examine our lives,” she says.
Randall’s writing routine is simple: Put it off for as long as possible, but get it done on time. She tries not to think about what to write until she sits down to write.
“Otherwise I’d be looking at everything that happens as a potential column — like people who go on vacation and see the entire trip through the lens of a video camera or cell phone,” she says.
When she is writing, she is absorbed. “You could burst into flame behind me and, I’m sorry, but I probably wouldn’t notice.”
Through the generosity of sponsors covering costs, all money made from ticket sales to Randall’s talks goes to The Women’s Fund endowment, ultimately increasing the dollar amounts of annual grants. Sponsors are Donald F. Gallino general contractors, The McConnell Foundation, Record Searchlight, Shasta College Foundation and Shasta Regional Medical Center.
NEED TO KNOW
“Dinner with Sharon Randall,” 6 p.m. Sept. 21 at The McConnell Foundation headquarters, 800 Shasta View Drive in Redding. Tickets $150.
“An Evening with Sharon Randall,” 7 p.m. Sept. 22 at David Marr Auditorium, 2200 Eureka Way in Redding. Tickets $20.