Baton Rouge, LAUSA
Hometown: Baton Rouge
May 12, 2012
For over 30 years as a professional journalist, I wrote thousands of stories for newspapers, magazines,TV news & numerous TV documentaries. I specialized in exposing crooked cops & crooked politicians. My work has aired on CNN, CBS & NBC. Some led to a few laws being written or changed. I ran WAFB's first Investigative Team. I fought two years in court to win a $16 million libel lawsuit. During one investigative story, I was held at gunpoint one night for 90 minutes. I taught script writing & libel law at LSU, for news agencies like the Assoc Press & privately for corporate execs. Through my work I've met numerous literary, Hollywood, pop culture & political types, including many movie legends & four presidents. As a news director for 15 years, I supervised & edited the work of some 250 writers & photogs all totaled. I currently write a column for an internet magazine about money, wealth and debt. My column is carried across a number of other websites.
Workshops? My favorite teacher in college was the worst classroom prof you ever saw. Often unprepared, Jim spent half the class shuffling paper before lecturing in a soft, homespun Mississippi drawl that put you straight to sleep. Before taking up teaching, Jim wrote some big stories in his day. He was there on the steps at Little Rock. And on Elm Street in Dallas. He won the Pulitzer covering a Mississippi tornado. Oh, yes, Jim is in the books. I knew I wasn't getting his best in his classroom, so one day I went to his office, closed the door and asked him to tell me his stories. I did that every chance I had. During those private hours over coffee I found Jim a truly great teacher, entirely different than in his classroom. Our coffee visits continued long after my graduation from LSU. After we were retired, Jim and I met for coffee each and every Saturday morning in the two years before he died. I never stopped learning from Jim. Workshops, like great mentors, are lifelong.
I'm always happy to read the work of others and happy to have others read mine, but I do not put my life or my private work on the internet. It's true for me--it works for me personally--that the better I know my subject and the longer I stay with the manuscript, then the more the storytelling improves. I believe re-writing and editing are more important, more creative,than any other phase of putting words to paper. That's where the writer tears his own work apart, questioning every thought, every word, every nuance, every interpretation, and becomes his own toughest and most valuable critic. My profile as an investigative reporter was twice featured on the cover of the BR Sunday Advocate Magazine in the 1980s. Those personal stories were not as helpful to my writing as were critiques of my work in other publications. I still have a nice collection of rejection letters from prominent magazines long ago. That stack of reject slips is one of the best teachers I ever had.
I appreciate great fiction but I am not a fiction writer. Real events described honestly--true stories well told--are more interesting to me than anything I can invent. Creativity comes with telling the truth. Being honest with yourself first and most of all, digging deep, provides the best work, fiction or otherwise. I'm working on 3 books--one on family, a children's book written in rhyme & one on the onrushing, disastrous collapse of the US economy & social fabric. Being published is not a prime concern to me. More than 40 years in print & broadcast taught me public recognition comes with various characteristics, none necessary to the art of writing, and not all are even desirable. Outside recognition--as a goal--is at best secondary to the art of writing itself, and at worst interferes with or destroys creativity. Put another way, the stuff I wrote for money, for others, turned out okay, but would have been better without deadlines. The best I ever wrote is still in my notebooks.
Retired investigative reporter and television news director; LSU grad '73; former LSU faculty; veteran 101st Airborne paratroops, Vietnam; published writer & poet.