Since many websites list their FAQs, Frequently Asked Questions, I decided this week to write a list for my website, (

Q. How do you spell “chaplin?”
A. C-h-a-p-l-A-i-n. The “A” makes the difference between Charlie Chaplin, the silent actor, and Norris, the opinionated chaplain. Just please don’t ask me how to spell collumnist.

Q. How many of your columns are actually true?
A. I can assure you that only my factual columns are true. But truthfully, you won’t find much truth in today’s column.

Q. How did you become a newspaper columnist?
A. During a serendipitous encounter on a Boy Scout camping trip, I asked Florida Today editor Tom Clifford for a religion reporter’s job. Apparently he was not impressed by my experience in the mid seventies as the pseudo-named columnist “Harvey Hound” for the Atascadero High School Greyhound. He said “No.” But, when I told him I knew of a back door into heaven for editors, he relented and offered me this gig.

Q. How can I become a newspaper columnist?
A. Why, do you know Tom? If not, you can do what I did and send your proposal to the giant syndicates like Tribune Media, Hearst or Creators. The will forward your proposal to Helen Wait. As in, “If you want a columnist job, go to Hell-n-Wait.”

Q. What kind of email do you get?
A. Aside from the chiding one I’ll get from my mother about my previous answer, I mostly get sad ones, mad ones, and lots of sweet ones. The first two are the ones I remember the most. I consider it my privileged responsibility to answer them all, just not always in a timely or coherent manner.

Q. How much do you get paid?
A. An honest answer to this question would likely cause thousands of journalism students to flood the fast food job market.

Q. Do you get money from every paper you appear in?
A. Oh, I wish, I wish, I wish.

Q. Why do your stories always make people cry?
A. I don’t always write sad columns. Today’s column isn’t sad. If it were, I’d have answered the previous two questions.

Q. How long does it take you to write your columns?
A. People asking this question typically see column writing as easy, so I usually answer with a counter question, “Which column do you mean? My first draft? Or the fifteen revisions that follow?” The real answer is, 12-15 hours.

Q. How long have you been writing?
A. Ten years. That’s about the same amount of time I’ve been a sincere reader.

Q. You left your full-time position as a hospital chaplain three years ago to become a freelance writer. How’s that working out for you?
A. Does anybody have a job for a chaplain/writer/nearly-retired-Air Force officer? I have a preference for Colorado.

Q. Are you democrat or republican?
A. People asking this question often assume they know exactly what I am. But the truth is I’ve voted both ways. Full disclosure: Since childhood, I’ve been fairly, apolitical but as an adult, it now takes a burrito and ice cream to buy my vote.

Q. What kind of minister are you?
A. I often tell people that I’m a “recovering Baptist” in a 12-step group where we acknowledge that there’s a higher power than the Baptist Convention, but the truth depends on the day you’re asking. Sometimes, I’m a sad one, a confused one, a happy one, a caring one, and today – I fashion myself as a kind of a wisecracking chaplain.

Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of No Small Miracles. He also serves as an Air National Guard chaplain and is board certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains. You can call him at (321) 549-2500, E-mail him at, visit his website at or write him at P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759.