There is very little which is monotonous about writing for a small town paper.
Oh sure, there is the challenge of the spin to use on events that ‘anniversary’ themselves. How to make the current year story on Chocolate Festival, Aca Dec, graduation (the list goes on) still interesting and informative.
The beauty of small town writing lies in the variety of phone calls and emails we receive. Callers with oversized produce, a tree being cut down they’re unhappy about or a book they recently had published and we ‘have to know about it.’
A large number of the book e-mails come either from out of area publishers or self-published authors. Not to make light or dismiss the ‘self-published’ author, they work just as hard, it is however, a much different animal than writing a book which someone else puts their money and name behind.
Last week I shared the story of well-known author and sports journalist Matt Fitzgerald as he completed the Boston Marathon. I’ve had a number of ‘defining’ moments since entering this business 14 years ago, but spending time with Matt offered me one I will not soon forget.
We were informed about Matt by a PR Firm. Convinced they were out to have us talk to him to promote their product, I found him on my own. Oakdale is small and the web is large, with those two things we can just about connect with anyone.
I knew he had written a book, had a website, was an avid and accomplished athlete and was returning to Boston with a really cool story. That was enough.
What I did not realize until after I bought him a coffee and talked shop with him for an hour was that he was more than an ‘accomplished’ athlete. He had penned or co-authored close to 30 books (one of which was currently in my run library prior to meeting him).
To say I should have done my homework better is an understatement, but that wasn’t the defining moment. The defining moment, the lesson I gained from this fellow writer who is paid to write about his passion of fitness, was one in grace and humility.
Listening back to our taped interview, now knowing of his accomplishments, I was both embarrassed and grateful. I was grateful for his poise and patience as I asked questions like ‘so this book is not self-published?’ (insert face palm here) or ‘your parents must be proud that Hyland’s selected you’ (another face palm).
Here I was having coffee with a guy who could have easily paused and schooled me a bit. To some I’m sure this is unthinkable. Yet, I can honestly say I have spent my fair share of time sitting on the other side of a table from educators, businessmen, ranchers and students who feel they have a thing or two to tell me (schooled). This was not that person.
This guy’s ego was nowhere near present. We were simply two writers talking running and what that all entails.
Fortunately, I had an extra opportunity to speak with Matt once he completed the Boston Marathon. You better believe the first thing I did was not just thank him, but acknowledge the lesson he had so graciously reminded me of … stay humble.
Each one of us is special in our own way. Each of us (I believe) were placed here with plan and purpose. There are no coincidences; each place we land offers us opportunity to grow, yes, even the pesky parking ticket.
So last week I was fortunate enough to share the story of well-known endurance sport and fitness writer Matt Fitzgerald. One week later I am blessed with the defining moment of being reminded of the lesson taught to me by my family early in life, yet equally valuable now: Work Hard, Stay Humble.
Can’t get much simpler than that.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.