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'Ask Amy' says goodbye, making way for new advice columnist, R. Eric Thomas

Darcel Rockett, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Lifestyles

Don’t get it twisted. Longtime syndicated Tribune advice columnist Amy Dickinson is not retiring. She’s leaving “Ask Amy,” the writing gig that she’s had for 21 years, on her own terms and with her own “steam.”

Although doing the job she calls “amazing” was not physically taxing — she admits to working on it while in bed on many occasions — the constancy of being a seven-day-a week sage and never really being able to step away from it has proven challenging. Dickinson is looking toward other adventures closer to her home in Freeville, New York.

“Maybe I’ll be the first advice columnist not to die at my desk,” she said jokingly. “Ann Landers (the columnist Dickinson succeeded) — they ran her column after she died. She had banked a bunch of columns. Mad respect for her, but I am not built like that.”

Dickinson will be handing the reins of syndicated column writing to R. Eric Thomas, a Black male playwright, screenwriter, bestselling author and a former columnist for Elle.com and Slate.com. His new column will be called “Asking Eric.”

Dickinson said that as someone who hasn’t ever “left” anything — a person or a job — the decision to walk away from her advice column was not an easy one, especially because people may want to frame her departure as retiring. “I am leaving, not retiring,” she said.

Dickinson’s friend Julia Keller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Chicago Tribune journalist and author of “Quitting: A Life Strategy. The Myth of Perseverance — and How the New Science of Giving Up Can Set You Free,” had offered her these words of wisdom: “You may run out of money, but you may not. But you know you’re gonna run out of days.”

 

“I have incredible ideas and goals,” Dickinson said. “I want to fulfill them.”

Dickinson’s last column will run June 30, and in it she hopes to offer what she calls “big picture” wisdom. She’s learned a few things over the years through her experiences as a single mom, as a reader of self-help books, as the youngest in her family, as a partner in a 16-year marriage whose wedding and Hallmark Channel-esque relationship was covered by The New York Times, and as a bestselling author of “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home” and “The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them: A Memoir.”

Let’s not forget her regular appearances as a panelist on NPR’s weekly news quiz “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” which she plans to continue.

Dickinson’s fascination with human behavior has served her readers well through the years, with some viral moments along the way, including homophobic parents and notable pranks. And it’s the connection with readers that she’s going to miss the most, Dickinson said.

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