Want to pitch a column? Here's how:

Julia O'Malley

It happens at least once a week, in the grocery store, on the treadmill at the gym, at the movies. A stranger comes over and says, "I have a column idea."

I love this (except, maybe, when I'm on the treadmill). Some of my best columns have grown from tips and questions from readers. I'm back from five months on maternity leave, and I'm fueling up my story list. I wanted to invite readers to send column ideas.

What makes a good column idea? Here's the criteria: it has to be interesting and it has to tell readers something they don't know about where we live.

Sometimes it's just a "what's-up-with-that?" question that drives a column, like this one about the derelict Northern Lights Hotel.

Other times, people call with concerns about what's happening their neighborhoods, like this column about covenants in the Sahalee subdivision.

Sometimes readers want to share personal stories that get at larger problems. That's what sparked this series of columns about a family's struggle with heroin addiction.

Once in a while someone calls with what's just a fantastic yarn, like this one about about how a 700-pound Buddha statue found its way to a local coffee shop.

I'm always looking for people who can help flesh-out what happens in the news, like this family, who agreed to talk about how their daughter was recovering after being attacked by a stranger in a Midtown neighborhood.

What isn't a column? An event that is coming up, unless there's an interesting personal story attached to it (though you can upload your event information here.) or an event that has already happened. (Though you can submit your pictures to our various community "RSVP" gallery here).

I rarely write about super delicate personal situations like child custody or divorce cases. And, though I do appreciate the fortitude of people making 50-state, Alaska-is-the-last-stop journeys on their bikes/kayaks/pogo sticks, I usually don't write about those either. It also takes a pretty special case for me to tell a story using an anonymous sources.

That said, I'm happy to hear most any idea.

The best ways to get in touch are email (jomalley@adn.com), phone (257-4591) or using the comment field at the right. I'm also on Facebook and Twitter .

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