Bob Neill Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Neill celebrates 22 years of writing

This month marks the beginning of 22 years of my writing a weekly syndicated newspaper column.  

I prefer to say, “Beginning of my 22nd year,” than to put it, “The end of 21 years.”  Rather like “Is the glass half-full, or half-empty?”  The difference between positive and negative, the latter of which I tend to be sometimes.

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When I started this column, it was a sideline to publishing my first book, THE FLAMING TURKEY. I was farming back then, and when I finished with the early harvest (1986 was the first dry fall in three years!).

I took the dust jacket and hit the road, with the goal of walking into every store that sold books in Mississippi and surrounding states of Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana, to show off my new book and hopefully take orders for it when it was published. I had over 1500 copies sold before the book came out on December 2nd, 1986.

But in going into each town to sell books that weren’t even printed yet, I also walked into each newspaper office, to offer interviews with an aspiring (and hopefully, inspiring!) author.  

After the interview (to be run before the book hit the shops), I gave each paper a dozen columns free, to kind of pave the way for the book. After that first quarter of freebies, I offered to sell the columns, if the reader reaction had been positive.  When I invoiced out for columns in December of 1986, 66 papers sent a check!

I wrote columns for four years like that: write it, print it out, make 66 copies, fold them, address, stamp, seal, and mail 66 envelopes each week. I began to write a month ahead so I could put three weeks in each envelope and save on postage.  

Then Mercury Syndications picked me up for national distribution, which lasted about three years, when Mercury went broke with about nine months of my money. I picked the syndication back up myownself in the original four states, and have continued writing columns (much easier today, with computers and Internet), plus publishing ten books now, and a couple thousand magazine articles.

It was an assigned magazine article which eventually led to my Lyme Disease diagnosis, the treatment of which mostly cured the arthritis I was suffering from during the late ’70s and ’80s.

I have gotten more feedback from readers about Lyme Disease than almost any other subject except the Kairos Prison Ministry that Betsy and I work in. I just got out of the Parchman Prison last Sunday, matter of fact, where I led the music for Unit 29 Kairos No. 22, possibly the most powerful weekend of that kind that I have ever attended.

And that covers a lot of them, since I’ve been involved with Kairos for nearly 14 years now. Want to go to prison, but get out when you are ready? Your Uncle Bob can fix it.

You may get addicted, however, and don’t blame me for that!

Yet the most feedback from readers I have ever experienced was this past month, after I wrote about Betsy’s heart attack, from which she has recovered nicely, thank you.

In the three weeks after that article, I got hundreds of e-mails, phone calls, notes, and even visits from readers who wanted to know how Betsy was doing, and most of all to say that they were praying for her, and for me!

I was in the grocery store, and a couple said their church had prayed for Betsy: how was she doing? A lady two aisles over left her basket and said, “Bob, I’m Polly Pritchett, and we’re praying for Betsy. Can you give me an update on her?”

A man driving by in the parking lot suddenly slammed on the brakes and bailed out, trotting over to my car:

“I recognized you because we’re praying for your wife.  How is she doing now?”

I don’t even know who he was, because he never introduced himself.

 “You don’t know me, but I read your column and feel like I know Betsy. How is she?” was a standard phone call, or message on the answering machine.

When I entered Parchman Unit 29 gym for Kairos No. 22 last week, a group of men in striped britches rushed me immediately.

“Uncle Bob, how is Miss Betsy? We’ve been praying for her every day!” Several of those men hustled me off to the prayer room to lay hands on me and pray both me and Betsy up. WOW!!!

Thank you, readers, for taking us into your lives, even your prayer life!  I hope you will do so for 22 more years. Bless your hearts, for praying for Betsy’s Heart!

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