About to renew my subscription to The Writer magazine

Thanks to some Christmas money. Hope soon to do the same with my Writer’s Digest subscription. Both magazines are very wonderful.

I joke sometimes that I’d love to save the life of the publisher of both magazines…when they ask how they can say “Thank you”, I’d simply say these three magical words: Free. Lifetime. Subscription.

A journalist’s thoughts on Muntazer al-Saidi, shoe thrower

I’m a journalist. For nearly nine years, I’ve either freelanced as a journalist or have done so full-time. Whenever interviewing someone, I have learned how imperative it is to be professional, polite and to the point.

There have been lots of times where I’ve interviewed someone or written about someone that, personally, I disliked. I remember writing about a minister who used a speech to as a political soap box. There was an artist who had some very outlandish ideas about expression, including not having a problem with allowing children to use profanity. And on and on and on.

So, it really amazes me the lack of outrage over Iraqi “journalist” Muntazer al-Saidi and his throwing of shoes at President Bush. You don’t have to like Bush, but is it asking too much to be a little respectful during a press conference and keep your private views go yourself?

Yes, I’m very aware of the cultural significance of al-Saidi’s shoe throwing. It’s the type of contempt similar to how Americans spit on someone or flash a middle finger to show an insult. But yet if an American reporter did that at a press conference, they’d probably find themselves reduced to selling subscriptions to National Enquirer.

When you’re covering an activity like this as a journalist, you’re there to gather facts, report and let readers decide. Columnists, of course, present facts and write opinions based on that. Either way, al-Saidi’s injecting of his own personal feelings into a press conference like that shows his complete lack of professionalism.

Sometimes I think the same people who cheered him would probably cheer if President Bush were assassinated.

Working on short story for writing contest

I have 750 words to work with. All I can say about the story right now is that it involves a character who’s loosely based on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.

The story has gone through many revisions, and that’s the subject of this blog posting. You know how Strunk and White talk about omitting “needless words”? It’s really amazing–several revisions have involved getting down to 750 words after a rough cut of around 1,200. But even once I got down to the 750 range, I’d still find phrases that seemed superfluous. And by eliminating them, it allowed me to add more to the story as a whole. It made me think that if the story had a 2,000-word limit and I wrote a version at 1,800 words, it would still be best to read carefully to tighten up the loose spots. You know…don’t take five paragraphs to describe something when three will do just fine.

I am reminded of a science fiction novel I once read, or at least tried to read…it devolved into a smutty space opera and must moovvvved….wayyy…tooo….slow…For instance, there was a scene where the author described these alien beings flying through the atmosphere. He spent 20 pages describing their flight patterns. After five, I was bored and ready to move on to the next sequence of events. Maybe I’m slow or unsophisticated, but I just felt the pacing was dreadfully pedantic.

I was reminded of my short story assignment this week as I worked on New Year’s column for the paper I work at. Again, many revisions, along with shortening, tightening and even some deleting of segments deemed irrelevant.

I love long, flowing stories, but I think it makes for well-crafted writing when you make sure your story doesn’t put in needless words.

Show, Don’t Tell

Is it an overused expression?

I’m working on a short story for a contest, and in describing the sounds of the location, I mentioned the “hypnotizing drone of cicadas”. One person thought this phrase was too telling and not enough showing. Problem is, when you have 750 words to work with, there’s really not a lot of room to enter into excessive detail over minor details.

I am reminded of how Jerry B. Jenkins, in one of the Left Behind books, simply described one computer technician as “oily”. Pressed for more detail, he told his editors the guy was not an integral part of the story and that no further detail was needed.

Showing more than has its place and can turn dull stories into brilliant ones, but when taken to extremes it can bog down a story.

Covered a school board meeting last night

As a journalist, my strengths will always be in two areas: writing features and sports. Covering government meetings is always a fun challenge. It tends to get frustrating at times as it seems a 15-minute meeting gets inflated to three hours. A writer must ascertain the relevant comments from the irrelevant ones.

When I first started off in this profession in 2000 and began my first trek into civilian journalism in 2001, here’s how I covered government meetings: take a tape recorder, turn it on and try to take notes on what was said.

Now, I don’t turn my digital recorder on during meetings unless it’s an emergency. I take as copious notes as possible and then save the machine for post-meeting interviews.

Richard Zowie, photographer

Last night, I travelled to Clio High School to get photos of the Oxford versus Clio basketball games. Changed a few settings on the camera, and the results so far look pretty good. We’ll have to see.

One thing I did find disturbing: at the playing of the National Anthem, I saw quite a few people standing at attention and not putting their hand over their heart. Maybe that’s an acceptable protocol…

Writer’s Digest

Received it in the mail today, the February 2009 issue. This issue’s prompt looks like it has the makings of either a suspense/horror story or a very dark comedy. Will be fun to see what my twisted right brain can come up with.

I am reminded a little of getting curious recently and skimming through the movie Wrong Turn 2. The horror genre is in trouble. Far too much is spent on gore and special effects with only a few pennies thrown in for a decent script. Thank goodness for fast forward.

Yet another terrible headline

Normally, I try to keep politics out of this particular blog; it’s devoted to my career as a writer. But now I make an exception.

Headlines are supposed to summarize an article, the reader looking over it and deciding whether or not it’s worth their time to continue reading. There are good ones, and then there are these:

“Rush Limbaugh endorses Clinton for Obama’s cabinet”

If you read the article, you learn Rush’s endorsement is simply a statement that President-Elect Barack Obama made a great move appointing Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State. In the Barbara Walters interview, Rush quotes that old adage: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.

Does that sound like Rush is saying: “I think Hillary Clinton will do a great job as Secretary of State”? No. It’s as ridiculous as when media reports claimed Rush had endorsed Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidency simply by joking that the presidency would give him years of material for his radio show.

Getting to know Richard

I love doing these surveys, and I thought I’d give blog visitors a chance to get to know me a little bit. At the time being, for security reasons, some information on me will be left vague.

Legal name: Richard Paul Zowie

Nicknames: Junior (a childhood family nickname since my Dad’s first name is Richard also), Rick, Rich, and a few my wife calls me that will remain strictly private.

Birthday: February 6

Astrological sign: Yield

State of birth: Louisiana

Grew up in: Kansas and Texas

Favorite colors: royal blue, kelly green, purple and scarlet red

Least favorite colors: burnt orange, black, deep navy blue, burgundy

Favorite books: the Bible, The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451 (both by Ray Bradbury), When God Doesn’t Make Sense by Dr. James Dobson, Left Behind series and three George Orwell classics: Animal Farm, 1984 and A Clergyman’s Daughter

More to follow…