The Observatory

The Truth Shall Set You Laughing

Jeremiah Horrigan

Jeremiah Horrigan
Location
New Paltz, New York, USA
Birthday
February 04
Title
Worker
Company
Working Copy
Bio
Former Knight of the Altar, St. Martin's parish in South Buffalo, NY. Old enough to remember ducking-and-covering from the nukes that Sister Jeanne assured us were coming our way, defending Santa Claus until age 10, hating playing sports, wanting to fly, escaping to Westchester County for three years, re-escaping to Buffalo for most of high school, escaping to Fordham U long enough to drop out, escaping school, getting political, getting arrested, getting tried, convicted and released for crimes against the draft. Husband to Patty, father to Grady and Annie. Housepainter, cab driver, idiot, then newspaper reporter in Poughkeepsie, years of freelancing (Sports Illustrated, New York Times, Negligent Mother Magazine) and shameful indulgence, followed finally by 18 more years of reporting, column-writing, some awards, discoveries large and small along the way, including these: Sister Jeanne was full of beans, writing is good for the soul and I'm the luckiest man alive.

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Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 16, 2012 11:09PM

Confronting the killer inside me; a romance recounted

Rate: 33 Flag

I always wanted to be a writer like my dad. He was a sportswriter. Ever since he was a kid, he was mad about sports. After he got out of the Navy in 1945, and for as long as he lived, he made sportswriting the center of his life.

I hated playing sports as a kid. But I loved reading the newspaper Dad wrote for in the late ‘50s: The Buffalo Evening News. I knew I’d never be a sports reporter. I also knew there were other sections of the paper where I might someday see my byline, followed by reports that I would write and phone in to the office from the field, like Jimmy Stewart in Call  Northside 777.

For my dad, the "field" was sometimes the kitchen table, where I could watch him work. He’d perch himself in front of his gunmetal-gray Smith Corona portable, putting aside his White Owl cigar just long enough to down glass after glass of ice-heavy Pepsi-Cola. He’d scroll a sheet of carbon-papered foolscap into the roller and lean over the typewriter as if walking into a Buffalo headwind. Then, using no more than four fingers, he’d attack the keyboard with the coiled-up grace of a pianist spinning arpeggios out of a concert grand.

Thus began my romance with newspapering.

I conjured that memory when, newly delivered into fatherhood in the early ‘70s, I went looking for a job in the town where I grew up. I wanted to write, and I needed to make a living. Newspapering seemed the perfect solution.

I got my first writing gig working nights at the Buffalo Zoo, where I composed short, terrible sci-fi stories instead of pushing a chemical broom down the dank and chattering hallways of the Monkey House.

Within a year, I got a tryout at the Niagara Falls Gazette, a small-circulation daily downriver from the mighty Evening News.

The Gazette was where I discovered that newspaper reporters don’t just write and file stories. They submit them to copy editors, who submit them to city or section editors, where strange things happen to them—both to the stories and to the reporters.

Back then, those editors were my good shepherds, because there’s no one more in need of shepherding than a cub reporter—especially one whose only experience was writing stories about alien beings who looked and acted a whole lot like mad baboons.

Those early editors kept me on track and out of jail. They challenged my assumptions, corrected my grammar, dug up my buried leads, damned me with faint praise, scared hell out of me, and made impossible demands, some of which I took pride in occasionally achieving.

They pushed me. They shoved me up against deadline walls. They chopped and channeled and squeezed and cut my copy, and they didn’t apologize for their butcheries. They growled at the 50-word ledes I labored to concoct. They demanded facts. Numbers spoke at least as loudly to them as words. Cops spoke even more loudly. They hated big words, numbers that didn’t add up, and any color scheme that wasn’t black-and-white. They said they edited for a guy they called Joe Six-Pack, and they were referencing Joe's abs. They expected reporters to address themselves to that same guy, if only to make their jobs a little bit easier.

If that sounds like a complaint, it’s not. I was a newly enrolled student in the Jack Webb School of Just-the-Facts-Ma’am Journalism that dominated provincial newspapering through the ‘70s and ‘80s. I studied hard at doing Jack. Got good at it. I had to, unless I wanted to go back to pushing broom.

However, when it came to writing stories outside my beat, stories with any depth deeper than a pica, Jack stood ready to keep me in line. He’d not only dug himself under my skin, he’d gotten into my head.

He smiled with approval as I got ood at observing, recording, quoting, enumerating, staying within the delegated inch-count, and never blowing deadline. But I wasn’t writing anything memorable. I was informing people, yeah, and that was important. But the romance was gone. I wanted to enlighten people, or at least entertain them. As far as Jack was concerned, enlightenment was something best left to the church and entertainment was what you did on your own, after work. 

The sunny, tobacco-fragrant kitchen of my youth had become an airless bunker. Every morning, I rose in a state of dread to confront a dully buzzing IBM Selectric, a ream of blank paper, and a coffee cup full of the previous day's dead cigarette butts.

After I’d moved on to another provincial outpost, where Jack's rules were even more rigorously enforced, I came to believe I’d only be rid of him by trying something I’d never done before.

In the early ‘80s, I got my chance: I landed a freelance assignment from a big-deal Sunday magazine to report on a weekend of fun and games at Grossinger's resort, which was once the premier Catskill resort to vacationing New York Jewish families  once famously flocked. Countless stars of the '40s and '50s had made their bones in the Borscht Belt.  Milton Berle! Steve and Edy! Henny Youngman!

Television, air conditioning and cheap air travel changed all that. By the time I got to visit, Grossinger's and the entire Catskill resort industry was on the ropes. To try to go another few rounds, the place was holding a singles weekend. I was neither Jewish nor single. I pitched it as a “fish out of water story,” with me as the fish.

Standing in the decrepit vestibule, I felt immediately out of my depth. I'd expected at least a  touch of old-time glamour and glitz; what I found was the moldy fragrance of bygone glory. There was no flack to hold my hand, no press release to give me some background. The administrators were unhappy to find me prowling their empty hallways. When I tried to buttonhole the few people who were there—standing alone at the edge of the near-empty ballroom floor or seated at the bar—they recoiled in horror. They hadn’t paid good money to spend the weekend talking to a nosy reporter about their mating habits, or lack thereof.

Nothing could have prepared me for this melancholy parade of desperate people, trapped in a broken-down, memory-haunted palace,  like soon-to-be victims in a Stephen King novel.

I arrived home at the end of the weekend exhausted and scared. I hardly knew where to start, or even if I could. When I sat down at the typewriter, Jack collared me and threw me back in the bunker, where he read me my death sentence:

“No lede, no conflict, no story, kid. And they want 2,000 words by Friday.”

Jack knew me well; he knew all my soft spots and he hit them every chance he got. He sweated me day and night, and he loved it. I wrote lede after lede. No single story dominated. There were no happy endings. No happy beginnings. I was out to sea, drowning in an ocean of illegible notes, tossed by endless waves of paranoia. And there was Jack, standing on shore, grinning.

“Told you so, kid. You’re going down, just like I said you would. Hey! What’s today? My, my. Is it Wednesday already?”

Feeling as desperate and alone as the folks I’d spent the weekend trying to schmooz, I started writing snippets. Anecdotes. Descriptions. At the typewriter, and on scraps of paper. I wrote schtick. Dialect. A hundred-word interview. A longer one. I worked the historical angle. Then I reached for the scissors, paper cement, and White-Out. I slapped cut-up revisions on top of revisions. The thick, crinkly manuscript I finally mailed away looked like I’d dipped it in water and let it dry in the sun. Its ten pages must have been two inches thick.

The story made the magazine’s cover. And I didn’t blow deadline.

Since those early days, I’ve written thousands of news and feature stories, opinion pieces, movie and album reviews and humor columns. I’ve written and edited fiction and nonfiction books, magazine pieces, lengthy profiles of celebrities and told hundreds of variations of The Joee  Six-Pack Story. There’s an ancient screenplay sitting in my sock drawer, and a children’s play that’s actually been produced.

But no matter what I write, Jack is always with me. He’s the one responsible for this being the fourth draft of a story I thought I had knocked in draft one, the just-the-facts voice who kept me floating happily on the story’s surface—until my editors at Talkingwriting.com, who initially published this saga, got me to go deeper.

But romance dies hard with me. And, odd as it may seem, Jack Webb is part of my life’s romantic dream: the dream of being a writer like my dad—and like all the others newspaper wordsmiths who took the profession to new and dizzying heights. To name a very few: Woodward and Bernstein, natch. Ernest Hemingway (who started as a reporter for The Kansas City Star). And the immortal Walter Burns, the fast-talking, hard-boiled newspaper editor played by Cary Grant in the movie His Girl Friday, the guy who got the story of a lifetime and the girl.

But when I feel the call of that romantic stereotype getting in my way, when Jack strolls back into my life like the killer he is—I have to remind myself that I’ve fulfilled an important part of that early dream of mine.

I’m a writer.

Not, as I once wished, a writer just like my dad. Instead, I’m a writer just like me.
-30-
As I mentioned above, this story initially appeared in the most recent issue of talkingwriting.com, a site that I highly recommend to OSers.  I find bracing to write for and fun -- even enlightening -- to read.

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My daughter and son-in-law, (now with AP in DC) worked for several of the smaller papers in Conn. and then for the Courant. Much of what you describe was similar to their own early stories. I have been tinkering around with Talking Writing...circling the fire...if you will, and am not sure where to start. Wish I had a Jack. Thank you for writing this.
I think all writers need a Jack. I also hate to think that newspapers are dying and the experiences you had will likely not be available for up and coming writers, and I know there will be other types of writing opportunities but the newspaper experience seems like a unique one.
Ande: How's this for coincidence? The Courant was the paper whose Sunday magazine ran the Grossinger's story.

If Jack were for rent, I'd be happy let him come visit. I suspect we've all got some version of Jack kicking around inside us, a character who plays good-cop/bad-cop at the same time, someone whose good advice gets tangled up in the wrong story. I just wish he'd learn his place.

Bell: Agreed. We all need a Jack. But we don't have to like him.

As for newspapering, I hear you. In my dad's day, journalism was a way out of the working class life he grew up in. He never went to college but was able to break into the business because of a de facto apprentice program that existed long before j-schools. That program was still operating when I broke in. Hard to believe it once existed or that it's gone.

Writing has since been democratized by the internet which on balance is a great thing. I take full advantage of it myself; it's saved my creative life. But the discipline and demands of reporting -- the stuff that Jack haunts me with -- is invaluable and increasingly difficult to find.
Jeremiah, I think what makes you such a good writer is far more than the facts. It's your heart that comes through in your voice. Always worth a read.
great story. i'm very partial as a writer myself but had nowhere so glorious a career. i consider myself the most rejected writer of the generation whose still so stupid he won't quit.

when i told my dad, who was a CPA banker I wanted to be a writer, he said: "Don't you know it's all been written?" (I think it was an old Jesuit line.) He later read one of my early novel manuscripts, plopped it on the table when he was done, and shrugged. "At least you do what you say you're going to do."

Yeah, Jack, you can't make the good stuff up.
coincidence: i used to do restaurant reviews set up by one of the Grossinger descendents. she was a hoot--close to mad. mostly we did it for the food and wine.
Wow. This is the single best piece on what it means to write that I've read in a very long time.

See why we need editors? They fix things like my atrocious first sentence.

When I see something this good featured, my faith in salon's decision making is immediatly restored.

Most of all, I'm reminded of my luck. I have a Jack. Named Lisa.
Lea: You've identified my struggle and my effort. And it's gratifying beyond words -- or facts -- to have you recognize that in what I write. Many thanks.

Ben: That's a very sad story about your dad. I don't know how conscious he was of what he was doing, but what he did borders, for me, on child abuse.

Writing anything so vast and challenging as a novel takes guts. It's a rotten shame he couldn't recognize that. I hope you can still his voice.
I started a little earlier than you, but encountered the same kind of obstacles and teachers. The learning curve (I was 20 and so green I needed mowing) was pretty much vertical. But learn I did, and kept at it for 40 years, much of the time chasing hard news. Never regretted getting into the business; never regretted getting out of it.

Congrats on a well-deserved EP.
Fascinating and compelling...and entertaining! (I often want to be Hildy).
Ah, so you think Jack's in charge, Jeremiah.
My "Jack" was an Irishman named O'Keefe. My first story was a "feature" about a masked gunman who held up a convenience store and escaped on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash, injuring no one. My lede went something like this: "It was a dark and windy night in Rock Island when a man entered the 7-Eleven at 4th and Argus. He was wearing a ski mask and brandishing a small, black revolver..." It went on for maybe 10 or 12 grafs, containing lots of detail and atmosphere.

I spiked the story (on a real 10-penny nail embedded in a block of linotype lead) and waited for Bill to read it. He handed it back to me, keeping a straight face and his voice gentle and, fortunately, confiding so that none of the men (oh, yes, just men) on the copy desk or other reporters nearby could hear him. "This is good," he said, "but here's how we do this kind of story here." He'd crossed out my story and penned under it, "A man wearing a ski mask and brandishing a small, black revolver, last night robbed a clerk at the 7-Eleven at 4th and Argus of an undisclosed amount of cash and escaped on foot. No injuries were reported. The robbery occurred at about 8:30 p.m., police said." I retyped it and read it with gratitude and joy in the morning paper.

That was 38 years ago. Bill's an editor in Florida now. We've kept in touch.
Oh---and extra points for Dial Northside 777 !
my father was a consequence of his time and his sub-culture. in his case it was irish catholicism. i'm not one of the guys who laughs and beats their chest at the rigors of the priests and nuns. ah, the irish, ya hardly get to know 'em. the poor creatures hardly got a chance to know themselves, but you, my friend, received something rare, something rare indeed. (u think a copy editor would luv me, though, don't yu?"
My Jack, like Matt's, was an Irishman, name of Tom, Editor of a pretty big newspaper in the south. If a prospective hire said he/she wanted to do 'proactive journalism', Tom would not hire them. He hated the word 'proactive' and thought 'journalist' was just a fancy way of saying 'reporter'. He detested phrases such as "an individual was thrown from the vehicle", and would red-line any such inanity, and insert, "a person was thrown from the car".

How ironic, and rather sad, that this fine piece of writing is not more noted by the wannabe writers here on OS, because they're too busy patting themselves on the back, and rating tales they have not read. They should find time to learn something from this helluva fine piece of writing.
@Ben Sen, I think I know which Grossinger descendent you mean. Does her first name start with a T? I have dealt with her many, many times in my travels.
Just to go back to the Courant link. My son-in-law and I set up a paid internship through the Hartford Foundation for giving....at the Courant. Please pass this along..and please write to me for more information. I would be honored. ( If you have a moment, please read my last post entitled: A DAY AT THE BEACH....I plan to do a follow up. Thank you
Emily usually cottons to adverbing but we monkeys appreciate a clean floor. This post would stick to Silly Putty. Nice work.
yes lea, small world.
You may have needed some lessons early on, but you sure don't now. This is a great piece, full of lessons and nostalgia, while also embracing the changes that have come about in reporting. You are indeed a writer. I'm glad OS is one of the places you come to hang out.
(((Sudden, undigested realization: my Dad's name was Jack. But he was known everywhere by a nickname that any sportswriter would kill for: Lefty.))

Roger: Making the cut in your estimation is an honor indeed. I don't believe you've ever been employed by a newspaper, and that's Chicago's loss. But there are very few voices in the neighborhoods I hang in that are more deeply informed by Chicago's past masters. And it strikes me that while there may have been fewer venues back when, there seems to have been a surfeit of great writers. Or, as I prefer to call them, newspapermen.

Boanerges: Spoken like a true newspaperman -- especially "so green I needed mowing." No regrets here about getting in and grateful to still be there. I'm checking out your back pages; suspect we have a lot in common.

dirndl: I never thought much of Rosalind Russell until I saw HGF. But going toe-to-toe with Grant -- matching speeds with him -- remains one of the movie's many pleasures. As you probably know, when Chicago's own Hecht & McArthur wrote "The Front Page," Hildy was a man. But inspiration struck for the movie adaptation, and the rest is history.
Great essay Jeremiah. My good friend is a current feature writer at the Niagara Gazette. I will forward her this piece. She will be inspired by you. :))
Hail, Gail. It sure seems like it sometimes.

Matt: Great story and completely recognizable. Your Jack sounds like a prince and an Irish one at that. I'm glad to see he's still at work and that you're keeping in touch. There's something universal about working in a newsroom -- and it endures. I'm still at it. Here's my lede for a story I filed today: "A house on Holland Lane was destroyed by fire Friday morning." Didn't take much more than five minutes to write the whole thing. Jack was very pleased.

Roger redux: re extra points: I forgot to echo your kudos for editors. I worked with a woman named Karen Ohlson at TW. She did more than shape the story -- she helped me re-cast it, kept me from losing the threads I was trying to twist together into the story that finally emerged.
Jeremiah, I find that you have written somewhere in the same time as I have -- the 'duck and cover' practice drills yet within memory. Your path is one that I find edifying, a real good read.
I have only a limited range in non-fiction, journalism; it is just as demanding as fiction. I am in for the long run here -- can not turn back, as I am more than half way across this rough river.
Thanks for your good piece. I will check out the 'talking writing.com'.
Well sure, facts and nothing but diminished readership, ought not the paradigm be challenged?

Forty some years ago in Journalism 101 I enthusiastically pounded out a pyramidal crime report based on the intersection of Kinnikinnic and Oklahoma and though granted a passing day grade I was surprised to learn I had spelled Oklahoma as Oaklahoma and, laughing inappropriately I got a snort out of the chick next to me when I sang, " where the wind flies down the plain...I ee I ee 00000000000000kalahomaaaaaaaaaa and so forth...."

No journalist. No not I.

Enjoyed the account, sir.

Just sharin', JH!
Thanks for sharing your story here. This writing thing is such a bubbling cauldron. I started out as a sportswriter in high school covering the B-state basketball tournament and sending my scribbles out to AP reporters. I will never forget this exchange on the phone when I read my reports to a pro. I said, " Troy came back from a twelve-point halftime deficit to eek out a one point victory." There was a pause.... "Jesus Christ--What the fuck-- eek out? Just give me the final score and the leading scorers." I will check out the link-thanks for including that.
Always such a pleasure to read about writers writing!
Ben Sen Agen: You're right; I lucked out with the Irish Catholic Sweepstakes and I know it. Growing up in a parish with all kinds of (Catholic) kids to play with was a blessing beyond measure. The church, especially as it hardened into a reactionary tool in the late '60s was another story. The church was ultimately good for providing me with something to rebel against. . . .

BadScot: Tom sounds like a guy after my own heart. Fie on all things proactive! On cars that become "vehicles," on "blazing infernos" on the "chairs" of committees, on all things euphemistic, ("nursing home," anyone?) redundant or unnecessary. And on any writer who calls him or herself a "content provider." All in favor?

Ande: A PAID internship? At a newspaper? That's real news and really good to know. You're helping keep a guttering flame alive. Please send me details I can forward to the journalism students I know. And I'll be glad to visit the beach.

Damon: I'd forgotten -- you could lift images out of newspapers with Silly Putty. What an image. Thanks.
jl: OS is where something close to a new writing life happened for me. There's no room in newspapers these days for stories like what I'm able to write here. And there's never -- I repeat never -- been more or better opportunities for writers to get and give comments like these. The entire process is unique in my experience. The place is alive with talent and effort and plain fun. As you can gather, I'm glad to be here too. Thanks for adding to the story.
Barbara: Please send it along with my good wishes for her. Before I left the Gazette, I used to joke that I broek the "gender barrier" at the paper by becoming the first male member of the features (nee "Lifestyle" section). Jack didn't approve, but features has been my bailiwick ever since.

Inthis: It looks, from a quick glance at your blog, that we do indeed share space & time in this rough river. And yeah, I'm in it for the long run too & glad for the company.

J.P.: If I had been correcting your report, I'd have given you extra credit for correctly spelling "Kinnikinnic." And getting a snort out of any nearby chicks is not to be sneezed at either. Cheers!

Doc: Great story. There's nothing like being a young man with writerly ambitions and running smack up against the AP "style." The guy sounds familair. By any chance was his name Jack?
Hey, I'm tickled that this got an EP, and I'm sorry to be weighing in so late. Jeremiah is one of our contributing writers at Talking Writing, where we're trying to keep the art of long features and personal essays alive in an online magazine format. But OS and Salon have been good to me, and a number of TW's regular writers like Jeremiah have come through the OS connection.

I do find the opportunity to comment on work online a heady thing, and a new animal in the journalistic realm. And I don't mean pushing broom in the Monkey House.

For Ande and others who have been circling Talking Writing, come closer to the fire. You can submit material through Submishmash via the TW site. You can also query me by email on OS.

And Jeremiah: Thanks for the shoutout to your editor for this piece, the intrepid Karen Ohlson. She's one of the best editors I know.
Rated (but you already knew that).
This was fun to read. I really enjoyed it. Your voice is clear and warm and even familiar - as I was a journalist too. I can't wait to read more.
Scott: Man, writing about writing is about ALL I've been doing lately. And, like you, reading anyone else who's writing about it. I could say it's the one thing I know a lot about, but the more I write & read, the less true that statement seems. Which makes me happy.

Martha: I'm glad you dropped by. I've found that on the internet, it's never too late to say hello. I hope everyone who's responded here checks TW out, for obvious reasons.

As for giving Karen her due, it's a pleasure. Too many of us have had lousy experiences at the hands of editors, for the usual multitude of reasons. I don't have to go into detauls. But when a writer can experience an editor who's knowledgeable, smart and eager to help a story develop to its full potential, gratitude is what's due.

Kristina: Thank you. It's very interesting to me that there are so many former journalists here. Your one of several folks who commented here who I don't know but whose work I intend to discover in coming days. Cheers
Perfect!! How wonderful it is to reach a place where we can claim and proclaim who we are!! The page shines at the end when you say, "I’m a writer. Not, as I once wished, a writer just like my dad. Instead, I’m a writer just like me." Simply shines!
Jersey Girl: Thank you for your kind words. I wish I could claim those last words as my own but they were suggested to me as a sort of target finale by the crack editorial crew at TW. It was ultimately up to me to wend my way round to that conclusion, which, though absolutely true, I couldn't see in the midst of my second or third re-write. But Martha and Karen (see above) had a stronger sense of where I was bound than I did. But that's what good editors do; they just don't get the credit they deserve.
Write on my friend write on.
•.•♥╔╗╦╦╗▄║╔╗╔╗ & ╗╔╗╔╔╗╔╗•(¯ `v´¯ )◦•*✿
•.•♥╚╗║║║╦║╠╝╚╗ & ╠╣║║║╦╚╗(¯` ❤ .¯ )✿
•.•♥╚╝──╚╩╚╚╝╚╝ & ╝╚╚╝╚╝╚╝◦.(_.^._)•*¨✫
❊¸.•*´¨`*•.¸❊¸.•*´¨`*•.¸❊¸.•*´  ¨`*•.¸❊¸.•*´¨`*•.¸❊
Have a beautiful new week with love and happiness❤¸.•*¨✫
Damon Walters sent me. I'm glad I came. Now if you don't mind, I'm going to stick around your tobacco fragrant kitchen and see if I can pick up a thing or too. R
Yes, you can be writer.Only condition to become a writer is you have passionate desire for writing.No need of any training, don't want father figure or mentor to push you.Don't need capital.Only pencil and some paper are essential.My advice start to what may came your mind don't consider about readers or critics throw them in hell.you don't need now publishers, write write till you fully exhausted.Write next day.When you finish what you want say in your writing, read it and you enjoy it publish it on your website,don't care if no one read your writing.Geniune writer writing is greatest reward.
Algis: (((((((thank you)))))))

Trudge: Any friend of Damon's is a friend of mine. Stop by any time.

Naughty Boy: You're absolutely right. Writing is its own reward. Cheers
I LOVE this story. I started as a newspaper reporter, quickly realized that inch count and just the dry facts didn't add up to the writing life I had envisioned for myself, and have been piecing it together ever since. Thanks for this. I'm sharing it far and wide.
Ingrid: Thanks. I wish you luck in piecing a writing life together. It's the only kind of life worth pursuing, for my (scant) money. Keep envisioning that life, try anything that comes your way and go for it, whatever "it" turns out to be.
A little late to the party, but I always love your writing Jeremiah, as I loved this along with all the comments that followed.
I've got to see Dial Northside 777 now. I have my own pantheon of writers who started out as reporters--Ring Lardner and George Ade, Ben Hecht, who wrote the screenplay to His Girl Friday.
You paint wonderful pictures. That, I think, is what separates a writer from a great storyteller. Excellent read!
~R
Marlene: The comments are such a critical part of a post as far as I'm concerned. It's something that writers over the years have never had -- the chance for immediate and thoughtful response to a story. For me it's a continuation of whatever I write, another way of discovering what I was getting at in the first place. Ain't it grand?

Con: Yes. How about William Kennedy in Albany? Pete Hamill. Jimmy Breslin. Tom Wolfe. Thomas McGuane. Hunter S. Thompson (who worked briefly for the paper I now work for. He's famous for having gone berserk on a vending machine and getting fired as a result. He never looked back. )

Willet: Many thanks.

Sheila: That's what I aim to be & I hope I have time to achieve it. Thank you.
I figured I'd be like Jo March . Wonderful essay.
Better a Jo than a Jack, I'd say. More possibilities there. Generosity and care, to name but two. Thanks again Sandra.
I followed you over from jmac's post. This was really intersting, all of the way down through the comments. My only reporting job was on my school newspaper and I don't have any of my articles, but I do enjoy playing with words. I am glad to have found you.
Phyllis: Nice to meet you. I'm glad you read through the comments because as far as I'm concerned, the give-and-take represented there is a whole new & very welcome aspect to writing. I don't know what to call it -- story-building? -- but I know it's a wonderful way to get those words in play.