writer-return

After a three-year absence, I’m finally getting back to my website and this blog. My goal is to create a community where writers can share good work.

Writers are isolated.

Even in a crowded newsroom, we lose ourselves in our work, grappling with how to build scenes, use dialogue and find ways to lead readers seamlessly from the beginning, through the middle and to an ending that resonates with them.

When I was writing pieces for Reader’s Digest, I never met my editor. Everything was done over the phone, extremely short conversations about word count and deadlines. I couldn’t call him to talk about the story, kick around an opening or figure out why a transition from one section to the next fell flat.

Those who write books have it even worse. I talked with my editor when I received the contract, and then again about a month before the book was due. I truly was alone for a year. I wrote my first book in an office I rented for the project, talking only to the janitor who came by each evening to empty the trash basket, which too often contained drafts I’d printed, read and then tossed out in disgust. My second book was created at the dining room table where I talked only to my cat, Martha, who curled up on a small table I pulled up next to my chair.

My hope is that we can support each other here.

If you have something that you’ve created — a work of fiction, an essay or a feature story — send it my way. I will post it on here, and we can discuss it. I also have some ideas kicking around, maybe a writing contest, and I have some writer friends of mine that I want to introduce to you.

I’ll start it off by sharing a link to a recent piece I wrote about a 92-year-old woman, a retired assistant cook at a school. When I met her, she told me she had an unremarkable life. She was wrong. That’s the beauty of storytelling. We discover something beautiful and powerful in so-called average people.

I’m figuring out how to make links work here — hey, it has been three years. The best way to find the story, for now, is to Google Tom Hallman Jr and CJ.

The story ran Sunday, and on Monday I received this email from a fellow writer: Superbly written and filled with feeling. But what impresses me most is how you remain open and vulnerable in the middle of emotionally uncomfortable things. My impulse is to look away; to leave the room and wash the image out of my head. But you move toward it. And that makes all the difference.

So this is a good place to start.

I’d like to hear from young writers who struggle with emotional stories. And from veterans who can help those younger writers learn some techniques needed to get to the heart of a story.

Tom

7 Comments

  1. Barbara Bate says:

    Good to hear this from you, Tom! I’ve been allowed to write my essays and books not in isolation, because I’ve picked topics that required me to ask people questions and write their answers.
    The book I’m doing now, Tsunami of the Mind, is deeply personal to me. But I’ve talked to others
    who’ve lived through inner tsunamis, and had people say they want to read the book. That keeps me going. I’ll be glad to share some of my writing and read what others write. Thanks so much for coming on line, Tom, and thinking about building and sustaining our community.

    • Tom says:

      Barbara:

      Thanks for being the first to comment. Your project sounds fascinating, and touches on something universal.

      What was the hardest part of writing?

      What did you learn?

      Tom

  2. Mark Johnson says:

    I’m glad you are doing this. I remember working for a Gannett newspaper in the 1990s. We had Gannett seminars about how to inform on colleagues with drug and alcohol problems. We even had a Gannett seminar about phone manners. But we never sat down and talked about reporting and writing. I’ve printed out your story. I’m excited to read it having followed your work for many years. I’ll add in a story of my own from a couple of weeks ago. It’s a story about brain surgery. Though I like the story, I think it presented a structural problem. It begins in the operating room, moves out for the why-is-this-important paragraphs, then goes to almost pure dialogue, a little like a play. I love plays and would have liked to write this as a play, but I couldn’t figure out to do it. Would that have worked? Does the story feel out-of-balance, because the first parts has mostly long paragraphs, the rest of it, dialogue? I’d love to know how I could do this better next time. Here’s the link: http://www.jsonline.com/news/health/powerful-imaging-system-and-patients-voice–help-guide-brain-surgeon-b99448949z1-296323421.html

  3. Tom says:

    Mark:

    Glad you joined the cyber community. I am going to Tweet that you commented, and let readers see your story here. Will be interesting to have other writers and editors read and leave comments on your story. By the way, I admire your work, and we can all learn from it.

    Tom

  4. Mark Johnson says:

    A recommendation. The stories that won this year’s ASNE Award for Nondeadline writing are amazing. They’re Krista Larson of Associated Press. Here’s a link: http://asne.org/files/Krista%20Larson%20Nondeadline%20Writing.pdf

  5. As the editor of a weekly newspaper in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, I am very excited to jump into the dialogue here. We often get scooped on breaking news by Denver TV news outlets, so I often coach my writers to find something local or personal to bring to the table, as the news itself has already been broken. As far as this site is concerned, my first word of advice here … don’t even think about perusing Tom’s blog on deadline (which I am doing today). It’s a glorious rabbit hole of good reading that is impossible to just scroll though. Must get back to work!

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