Tuesday, June 3, 2014
I don’t keep it a secret, but besides writing fiction, I also write about things that aren’t make-believe stories about the imaginary characters in my head.
I write about living, breathing characters. I’m a freelance reporter for my city newspaper and I’ve been doing it for over four years now. What began as answering a simple ad in the paper looking for writers has opened a door, window, or what have you to a local world I didn’t even know about.
Or, care much about until I knew more.
Two years into reporting, the newspaper publishers asked if I’d write a weekly column.
“What does it have to be about?” I asked.
“Anything you want,” was the reply. And so, in May 2012, “My Front Porch” began. That’s when I get to give my opinion, something I can’t insert into a news story, no matter how much I’d like to sometimes.
One thing I’ve learned in being a reporter is that someone, somewhere cares about the person or event I’m writing about. In any given week, I can be reporting about the city council, the school board, interviewing an interesting local person for a feature article, showing up at an accident or crime scene, or covering a school program or a bake sale.
Among my favorite interviews was interviewing a Pearl Harbor survivor who lives in our city, and getting his firsthand perspective on something that’s followed him since he was a 20-year-old soldier stationed in Hawaii.
Another interview special to me was listening to my mayor, who watched our central Texas community grow from a population of 300 when he graduated high school—to over 30,000 residents—more than 100 times the size he once knew.
I’ve interviewed politicians (who always like to talk), met the governor of Texas, rubbed elbows with Congressmen, crashed an Election night after-party, and I’ve interviewed not one, but two NFL players. The limelight is indeed bright and intoxicating if you stand long enough in its glow, and sometimes it’s tempting to name-drop.
My heart broke when I followed the story of a 10-year-old girl who learned she had terminal cancer. I covered her story from fundraisers, to her final arrangements and the family’s efforts to pay for her burial.
I interviewed a woman in our city who finished a mere three minutes before the bombs exploded at the 2013 Boston
Marathon; it brought the tragedy even closer to home.
Another thing I’ve learned in being a reporter is no town is too small to have real news, that all of us have an important story to share. When we stop caring about stories—well, I couldn’t imagine anyone not caring about stories anymore, the real news unfolding in our communities, country and world, or the stories some of us make up because we can’t help NOT making up stories.
So even if you live somewhere you think is quite ordinary, I hope you’ll take a moment and look around you. Get to know your city, really know it. Not just your church and your favorite restaurant and local market. You might be surprised at the treasure trove you find, and if you’re a writer, you’ll find even more characters start clamoring for your attention in your imagination.