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Write Now: Without Knowing, I Was Nudged In The Correct Direction

Throughout my years as a journalist, many people have asked me why I chose the profession.

To be truthful, I don’t think I chose it, but rather it chose me.

Since my days at Persell Elementary School I had a yearning to get words down on paper. Storytelling always has piqued my interest.

In fourth grade I was named the editor of my classroom newspaper. Ironically, it was named the Persell Post-Journal. During the spring, my class had a student teacher. She introduced us to the world of journalism.

She connected with us, and, without anyone knowing, she gently cajoled us to be better.

During those days, if you got in trouble, your punishment could have been to write out a sentence 50 times or maybe to write out a definition from a dictionary. Yes, if you are wondering, I have had to do both.

The entry for the word run is very long — in several dictionaries.

I checked.

But during that fourth-grade journalism unit, I was rather vocal about having to write out sentences 50 times, so our student teacher asked me to write about it — another irony — of which I did. I had a lot to say about that writing task. That piece became the newspaper’s editorial.

The look of the newspaper was crisp — blue letters against white, 8 1/2-by-11 inch paper. They were referred to as “dittos” back then. The paper was only distributed to classmates, as the two other classes had their own papers with different names.

In fifth grade I won an essay contest in which first place was to attend the visitation of King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden at Tracy Plaza. And, after learning about me winning, my fifth grade teacher said to me with disdain and sarcasm, “You won? That’s a surprise.” And I didn’t realize it until later in life, that his comment became a badge of honor. Through the years, I have won other writing awards.

The real reason that I love things literary is because of my mother, Nancy.

Since I was young, my mom would relax by reading. Our house was filled with paperback books, and at first I though it odd that so many books were there. But she loved each and every book she read. When I was young, I liked reading, but I didn’t really like reading books. I was more of a newspaper, magazine reader. From fifth to ninth grade, I would read The Post-Journal when I got home from school. It was an afternoon paper then, and some of my friends were paper carriers or back then known as paperboys. My mom always gave a nice weekly tip to our paperboy, and at Christmas, she would give him a card and a tip. She didn’t have to, but that was her way.

She passed on March 26, and recently at her funeral, I realized that she helped shape my writing career. She never forced reading on me, but I thought I was a good reader and during any kind of test, my comprehension was not questioned. During high school, she would see me write, and when I was at Jamestown Community College, she would see me write a lot, as I immersed myself in literature and English classes there. When I transferred to Fredonia State, I took with me a manual typewriter with erasable bond paper. In the spring semester, my mom let me use our electric typewriter. I think it was a Smith Corona. And while there, I took more writing classes, and journalism classes, and journalism for me seemed so familiar because of the seed that was planted in fourth grade.

I maintain, writing is very hard, but for me writing is cathartic. Whether I am writing a feature story, hard news story, or a column, writing helps me focus.

Everyone may have their own pain and stress reliever, but for me it is writing.

Also, I love to study the craft. Having the ability to write for different audiences is something I continuously work on. Scholarly writing, fiction writing, and journalism are not the same.

Each has its own style and to be able to swim in those writing pools, one must learn each style. One doesn’t have to be perfect, merely one has to be able to float and tread water to take on an assignment in those any of those pools.

In the late 1980s, early 1990s, I lived at home, and I would take a remote computer home to write some of my stories for The P-J. My mom would watch me type, and she would sometimes say, “Take your time, and be careful of typos.” I knew she read the paper, and she read my articles, but she did not comment on my work. She didn’t have to because I wasn’t looking for praise.

I know she liked that I worked at the paper because sometimes her friends would ask her why would I work at such a place. Almost every hometown newspaper has its fair share of naysayers, and some of her friends wanted to air their bad comments about the paper.

She told them that she liked it that I worked at the paper.

Even during times at Lutheran Jamestown when I would talk with her and she would ask me what I was doing, and I told her I was at The P-J, she would smile her big smile and say “Good. That’s where you belong.” And that was her way of complimenting me.

If she knew you, then you loved her.

It was that plain. It was that simple.

I’m glad she nudged me in a literary direction.

And I know she is still nudging me.

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