Don't get it twisted. Longtime syndicated 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 under 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 has proven challenging. Dickinson is looking toward other adventures closer to her home in Freeville, N.Y.

"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 playwright, screenwriter, bestselling author and a former columnist for and His new column will be called "Asking Eric."

Dickinson said 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 insisted.

Dickinson's friend Julia Keller, author of "Quitting: A Life Strategy. The Myth of Perseverance — and How the New Science of Giving Up Can Set You Free," 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, a reader of self-help books, the youngest in her family, a partner in a 16-year marriage and 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.

She got the last laugh

The road to becoming a nationally syndicated advice columnist all "started as a joke that got very out of hand," she said.

"I had written a column for Time magazine for a couple of years, but I'd never written personal advice, Q&A type stuff. Jim Warren, who was the D.C. bureau chief at the Chicago Tribune, had always said to me, 'If you ever want to be a newspaper reporter ...' But I had a young child at home, and there was no way."

But then Ann Landers died. "I wrote Jim an email. The subject line was 'Now there's a job I'd take — ha ha ha.' A few weeks later, he contacted me and said, 'We're going to launch a new column, and we want you to try out for it."'

Now, Dickinson is pivoting to opening a library in her hometown. Remember the " A Book on Every Bed" initiative she kick-started with the Family Reading Partnership 14 years ago? It encourages readers to leave a wrapped book on their children's beds, so kids wake up to the gift of reading.

Dickinson said the library that she is creating, the Freeville Literary Society, is the next step in her childhood literacy campaign.

"I feel so strongly about literacy," Dickinson said. "I grew up in a pretty hardscrabble environment. But we had books and books and books, and we got them from the library."

She envisions the Freeville Literary Society being a safe place where kids in her small town of several hundred residents can visit on their bikes, after school, on Saturday mornings, by themselves, to enjoy board games, puzzles and movie nights with their families.

The building she bought has space for two operations. She plans to rent out the other half to a grocer.

"Like every little town in the world, this is a food desert. If kids could come in and buy a popsicle, that would be amazing. So that's what I'm doing," she said. "I'm going to sell penny candy. I want to be that place where you can feed your mind, rot your teeth."

Dickinson will be continuing an advice newsletter and working on a novel.

"I've never written fiction before. I am finding it incredibly exciting and fulfilling. I've got a lot going on," she said. "When I decide to come back to advice, I'll do it under my own steam."

Early on in her career, she made it a point to win over her haters by replying to negative feedback in ways that were "always very respectful, very measured" — which was not her natural instinct.

"I went into this job as a really scrappy, mouthy, reactive person," Dickinson said. "And I have taught myself to be much more careful, measured. I think I'm a much better listener."

Showcasing her readers' voices in her column is what distinguished her columns from others.

"The thing I have learned to do, which I appreciate, is I let the readers correct me. I have learned to be much less defensive about standing my ground behind my point of view, and I have really been happy to turn part of my column over to readers who want to take issue with or want to correct me. Receiving critique has been a lesson that I needed to learn."

Send questions to R. Eric Thomas at or P.O. Box 22474, Philadelphia, PA 19110. Follow him on Instagram and sign up for his weekly newsletter at