Woman publishes free newsletter

NEWS WITH AN ACCENT ON YOUR CHILD

November 17, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Many people think they'd like to write but never try.

Hampstead resident Kim Eckard felt that way, too -- but she did something about it.

In December 1991, Ms. Eckard founded a free newsletter about child-rearing called Spotlight on Parenting: Carroll's Child.

The newsletter includes calendars of children's events, such as outings at Piney Run Park, displays at the Carroll County Farm Museum and story hours at local libraries. It also offers articles on topics such as how to encourage children to read and how to buy children's shoes.

Publishing the newsletter allows Ms. Eckard to set her own schedule and spend time with her daughter, Aimee, 4.

Carroll's Child began as an eight-page newsletter printed on bond paper with a circulation of 2,000 copies. In two years, it has grown into a larger, newsprint format with photos and a circulation of 10,000.

"I wanted to get into writing," said Ms. Eckard, 29, a former accounting clerk who has lived in Hampstead since she was 13.

An instructor in an English class at Carroll Community College encouraged her to write about what she knows, Ms. Eckard said.

What she knew best, she reasoned, was the search for information on raising small children.

Aimee was 2 1/2 at the time, and Ms. Eckard was trying to find activities for the two of them in the county.

Carroll's Child is published eight times a year from an office in a corner of Ms. Eckard's living room in her Hampstead apartment.

Ms. Eckard recently hired Danielle Weyforth to sell ads part time. Otherwise, except for the photography by Don Kelly Photographer and the printing, Ms. Eckard does the work herself.

She commissions some articles and writes others on a used personal computer that she shares with her husband, Ken, an electrician.

Ms. Eckard learned how to do layout by reading books at the library, which she calls "my research lab." She learned how to sell ads from books and motivational tapes.

Before the first issue of Carroll's Child was published, Ms. Eckard said, she "walked around all over Carroll County" with a mock-up of it, trying to sell ads.

"I got a lot of 'nos' before I got 'yeses,' " she said.

She distributes Carroll's Child from the back of her car at day care centers, schools, libraries and businesses throughout the county. Distributing each issue takes about three days.

Juggling being a parent with the demands of publishing a newsletter is "not easy," Ms. Eckard said.

Two years ago, when Carroll's Child began, Ms. Eckard did all the work at night or while Aimee napped. Aimee now goes to day care two days a week and to preschool two afternoons a week.

"She's gone a certain amount of time, and I've got to get my work done while I can," Ms. Eckard said.

She said distribution days are easier now that Aimee no longer wears diapers or uses a car seat. And Aimee is old enough to occupy herself for 30 or 45 minutes at a stretch, and has learned not to bother her mother while she is working.

Ms. Eckard said she also has learned when to switch off the computer for a while because Aimee needs attention. She said she could easily become a workaholic.

"If it weren't for her [Aimee] making me stop and smell the roses, I wouldn't do it," she said.

Ms. Eckard said she considers Carroll's Child a success. Advertising revenues pay the overhead, along with Aimee's day care and preschool fees.

Ms. Eckard said she has less money than when she worked full time for someone else, but that working for herself has its rewards.

"I've learned so much from doing this," she said. "It's made me grow as a person."

She said she has learned how to take criticism more gracefully, is more comfortable talking with people and has gotten over her dislike of driving unfamiliar roads.

She also writes faster than she once did.

"I don't face that writer's block when I look at the [computer] screen," she said.

It pleased her when someone told her she was a good role model for Aimee -- an example of a strong, successful, independent woman.

And Ms. Eckard said she likes the positive responses she gets, such as the letter from a woman who identified with a column she wrote or letters thanking her for suggestions for activities.

"That kind of keeps me going," she said. "Knowing it's helping other people is what makes it worth it."

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